The Early Histories of Joseph Smith, Pt II: “Work to the Money…”

“The Palmyra Peeker” by grindael

by Johnny Stephenson

Part II: “Work to the Money…”

His story about the discovery of the plates sounded like the German legends of the demons of the Harz Mountains, … Brigham Young [said] the people knew there was treasure in the Hill Cumorah. It seems that the time was one of great mental disturbance in that region. There was much religious excitement; chiefly among the Methodists. People felt free to do very queer things in the new country…~Elizabeth Kane


This series of articles was conceived (at first) as simply a couple of parts about the early histories of Joseph Smith, sort of a before (the events as they transpired) and an after (how they were reported by Cowdery and Smith).

But as I started studying all of the material that has been written about the early history of Joseph Smith since the mid 1980’s, I soon realized that I was going to have to expand my original idea. The reason for all the material from Mormon apologists was because of the Mark Hofmann forgeries. When the “Salamander Letter” and other documents appeared, the Mormon community was rocked to its core. They scrambled to try and explain what others knew about for a long time but which the apologists and the church had been obfuscating and denying for years: the occult practices and money-digging obsession of the Smith family in Palmyra and Manchester New York that was going on when young Joseph Smith was supposedly seeing visions of Jesus and heavenly angels and learning how to run “God’s Kingdom”.

In the wake of the Hofmann forgeries a few stepped up to try and come to grips with the letters. No one knew if they were real, but many were fooled though some were not. Ronald Walker explains how he and the church dealt with them:

At 9:00 A.M. on 18 January 1984, I arrived at the home of Leonard Arrington, director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Church History and, more to the point, my supervisor. He had telephoned the day before and asked that I come by. As I entered his living room, Leonard showed me rather matter-of-factly a copy of a recently found document, which I found unsettling. “At face value,” I wrote that evening in my journal “it is explosive. It is a letter from Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps [written in] 1830 describing the early origins of the Church in spiritualistic or cabalistic terms. It confirms several other documents that have been recently found, indicating the ‘treasure-hunting’ activity of Joseph Smith prior to the organization of the Church. These finds I wrote will require a re-examination and rewriting of our origins.

As the Tanners were to explain, those who knew and understood the early history of the Smith’s would be suspicious of what Hofmann produced (as they were). Here is the text of The Salamander Letter [by Mark Hofmann]:

Your letter of yesterday is received & I hasten to answer as fully as I can–Joseph Smith Jr first come to my notice in the year 1824 in the summer of that year I contracted with his father to build a fence on my property in the corse of that work I aproach Joseph & ask how it is in a half day you put up what requires your father & 2 brothers a full day working together he says I have not been with out assistance but can not say more only you better find out the next day I take the older Smith by the arm & he says Joseph can see any thing he wishes by looking at a stone Joseph often sees Spirits here with great kettles of coin money it was Spirits who brought up rock because Joseph made no attempt on their money I latter dream I converse with spirits which let me count their money when I awake I have in my hand a dollar coin which I take for a sign Joseph describes what I seen in every particular says he the spirits are grieved so I through back the dollar in the fall of the year 1827 I hear Joseph found a gold bible I take Joseph aside & he says it is true I found it 4 years ago with my stone but only just got it because of the enchantment the old spirit come to me 3 times in the same dream & says dig up the gold but when I take it up the next morning the spirit transfigured himself from a white salamander in the bottom of the hole & struck me 3 times & held the treasure & would not let me have it because I lay it down to cover over the hole when the spirit says do not lay it down Joseph says when can I have it the spirit says one year from to day if you obay me look to the stone after a few days he looks the spirit says bring your brother Alvin Joseph says he is dead shall I bring what remains but the spirit is gone Joseph goes to get the gold bible but the spirit says you did not bring your brother you can not have it look to the stone Joseph looks but can not see who to bring the spirit says I tricked you again look to the stone Joseph looks & sees his wife on the 22d day of Sept 1827 they get the gold bible–I give Joseph $50 to move him down to Pa Joseph says when you visit me I will give you a sign he gives me some hiroglyphics I take then to Utica Albany & New York in the last place Dr Mitchel gives me a introduction to Professor Anthon says he they are short hand Egyption the same what was used in ancent times bring me the old book & I will translate says I it is made of precious gold & is sealed from view says he I can not read a sealed book–Joseph found some giant silver specticles with the plates he puts them in a old hat & in the darkness reads the words & in this way it is all translated & written down–about the middle of June 1829 Joesph takes me together with Oliver Cowdery & David Whitmer to have a view of the plates our names are appended to the book of Mormon which I had printed with my own money–space and time both prevent me from writing more at presant if there is any thing further you wish to inquire I shall attend to it

Yours Respectfully
Martin Harris

The Tanners saw plagiarism in the letters. It’s not really hard to see if you know the material. For example, David Whitmer once claimed he got help plowing his fields from supernatural beings. Lucy Smith claimed that it was Whitmer given supernatural power to do so. Compare with Hofmann’s story above:

[David] …asked the Lord for a testimony of the fact if it was his will that he should go [help Joseph] he was told by the voice of the spirit to (sow) <(har) inn his wheat> his wheat and then go straightway to Penn In the morning he went to the field and found that he had 2 heavy days work before him He then asked the lord to enable him to do this work sooner than the same work had ever been done on the farm before and he would receive it as an evidence that it was the will of God for him to engage in forwarding the work which was begun by Joseph Smith. he then fastened his horses to the harrow and drove round the whole field he continued on till noon driving all the way round at every circuit but when it came to be time to eat dinner he discov ered to his surprize that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. after dinner he again went on as before and by evening he finnished the whole 2 days work (for both Whitmer and Lucy Smith’s accounts see here, note 284).

Also compare this account from Palmyra neighbor William Stafford in 1833:

I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained. I have heard them tell marvellous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging. They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man’s farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold — bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver — gold candlesticks, swords, &c. &c. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, — that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates — that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress. At certain times, these treasures could be obtained very easily; at others, the obtaining of them was difficult. The facility of approaching them, depended in a great measure on the state of the moon. New moon and good Friday, I believe, were regarded as the most favorable times for obtaining these treasures. (Mormonism Unvailed, 236-7)

Instead of an evil omen toad, (as reported by Willard Chase and another neighbor) Hofmann wrote that it was (according to Quinn) a more beneficial “white salamander”. The point is, most of what Hofmann wrote in his forgeries was gleaned from already existing accounts, which Mormon apologists like Hugh Nibley and others refused to believe and claimed were simply made up by the Smith’s neighbors. The quandary faced by the apologists and their desperation to come up with some kind of explanation is what set this whole “folk magic was really lost Apostolic Christianity farce” in motion.

Ronald Walker continues:

During my interview [with Arrington], I learned that Steven F. Christensen, a Salt Lake City businessman, had quietly purchased the letter and was now asking for my help to prepare the document for publication. … I told him I would take part in the project. …Thus began my intellectual and spiritual journey with Joseph Smith, the Palmyra Seer. Of course, I had known him before. He had been woven in the warp and woof of my Cedar Rapids, Iowa, childhood, when Sunday School lessons and “testimonies” in our small branch declared his ministry. Later while serving a Southern States mission I had acquired my own fervor which my subsequent church service matured and increased. But never previously had I scrutinized the Prophet. I had never submitted him to that careful microscopic autopsy that historians must practice on their subjects.

Actually, it would only have taken picking up a few books, like Fawn Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, or Mormonism Unvailed, or something by Dale Morgan or Richard Van Wagoner, or Michael Marquardt or perhaps reading the original documents that were being churned out by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. It would also take an open mind and not giving undue credence to those like Hugh Nibley and others who were claiming that the money-digging accounts were all made up or coerced by Hurlbut and Howe. Walker continues:

While first holding the Harris letter in my hands in Mr Christensen’s office I sensed such a detailed study would be required. If the letter were authentic I believed it would require all the old Joseph smith sources to be re-read. New sources I thought, should be searched for. Perhaps innovative methods of analysis would be required.

Except the apologists (and many other historians of Mormonism) believed at the time they were authentic letters and acted as if they were. What new sources could Walker be talking about? Simply reading the old ones, like the account of Joseph Knight, Sr., or Lucy Smith’s original manuscript (which he gets around to mentioning below) would certainly be in order. But here we have a key, that it would take “innovative methods of analysis” to try and explain what was there all along but only sensationalized by Hofmann’s putting the evidence in first person accounts. Walker then recalls the dilemma he found himself in:

My journey with Joseph has now taken two years. Perhaps it is time to pause and search for meanings and suggest possible new directions. Were my first excited feelings about historical revisionism justified? How do some of our recently found or refound sources fit into the larger body of evidence, and what are some of their implications? Needless to say answers to these ambitious questions will be partial and tentative and I offer nothing here but a private view. At the outset I admit our task has not been easy. At first there were angry and sometimes petulant letters and phone calls that severely reminded me of my human frailty. Well-meaning friends and relatives conveyed a similar message. …Through all this I confess to having deeply troubled feelings added to the tragic loss of a friend, there was the need to ask hard questions of my personal faith. The Martin Harris letter and its companion piece Joseph Smith’s 1825 letter to Josiah Stowell, speak of a strange world of guardian spirits, magical hazel rods, thrice occurring dreams, seer stones, and even a white salamander. This is not the stereotypical fare of an average Salt Lake City testimony meeting.

Thing is, it was by design that all the occult practices of the Smith family were not the “stereotypical fare” of the average Mormon meeting. The real story was seldom discussed, except perhaps by Quinn writing as Dr. Clandestine to attack the Tanners; or Nibley issuing reprints that scoffed at the 1833 affidavits in his arrogant and sarcastic manner; or an occasional mention in a church magazine. And after learning that Quinn authored the pamphlet about them, here is what the Tanners wrote:

Although Dr. Quinn has almost nothing good to say about us, we will not repay in kind. We feel that he is probably one of the best historians in the Mormon Church. His dissertation written for Yale University is a masterpiece. He has written excellent articles in BYU Studies, the Journal of Mormon History and the Utah Historical Quarterly. It is hard, however, to equate these works with the booklet Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Distorted View of Mormonism.

And Leonard Arrington in his diary was so sure they were going to go all “ad hominem” and attack them personally over it. And this world was strange to the apologists, but not to those who knew about the contemporary news reports and the other accounts the apologists were finally claiming to take seriously. For example, here is Dale Morgan from the 1940’s:

“I do not see things in black and white; rather, I am sensitive to the shades of gray. I am not one of those who think that Joseph Smith must be accounted either the blackest villain or the purest-hearted saint who ever lived, depending on whether Mormonism was or was not an ‘imposture.’ I don’t think he was either. I think he was a man subjected to a singular environmental pressure, and that his behavior must be interpreted as the effect of this pressure upon distinctive psycho-physiological components of his character. It seems to me a fundamental weakness of most Mormon thinking, in any broad sense, that it tends to exhibit this either-or attitude, which really reflects a viewpoint of theoretical ethics, not of personal and social psychology.” —26 April 1943

“Mormonism proceeded out of American life, from millennialism to the evangelical communisms, with religious, political, social, and economic ideas indiscriminately sucked into the vortex to be digested or spewed out, with the central energies and structure of the church always different because of what it experienced or took to itself. I don’t say that Mormonism was at best an aberration of the principal energies involved; I do say that it is an interesting vehicle for some of the social energies of its time, and that something can be learned about the nature of American society from a critical scrutiny of the Mormon phenomenon.” —2 January 1946

In 1943 Morgan wrote this to Juanita Brooks:

Yesterday at the Library of Congress I had a look at a new book by Paul Bailey called Sam Brannan and California Mormons. It gave me a more discouraged feeling about Mormon scholarship than I’ve had for a long time. For hell’s sake, Juanita, what is the matter with these young Mormon scholars? Are they all imbeciles, or just what is wrong? I made only an incidental investigation into Brannan’s life for my own book, but even so I learned enough to know that Bailey bowdlerized some original sources, misquoted others, badly misinterpreted others, didn’t even trouble himself about others, and emerged with a pseudo-documented rehash that was a disgrace even to the pages of the Improvement Era, where the piece seems to have been originally serialized. Books like this are assuming a regular pattern; there are a quantity of them being turned out, also, in the U of Chicago’s Divinity School, as masters’ theses. They have the forewords by [LDS apostle John A.] Widtsoe, who doesn’t know what he’s talking about but unfortunately thinks he does; they have the professional form; they deal in more or less unused materials. But third-rate merchandise is what is being produced. It would be in the interests of the Mormon Church to train a consultant who would bring to bear upon such manuscripts the most rigorous critical standards. The literature that would result would be less extensive in dimensions, and less eulogistic in purpose, and the church would not always appear as a shimmeringly holy thing; but it would be literature having a chance of enduring, and it would establish a confidence in the integrity and honesty of the church such as will never result from a thousand tons of this Bailey bilge.

This was a full forty years before the Hofmann affair, and church’s scramble to try and come to grips with Smith’s early history. But again, Morgan had no such problems:

 Lucy said of him [Joseph Smith Sr.] that “he would not subscribe to any particular system of faith, but contended for the ancient order, as established by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and his Apostles.”Joseph’s daily life was more vividly colored, however, by that common heritage of his society, the [p.221] tenuous but ineluctable realities of magic, witchcraft, and demonology the Mayflower and the Arbella had disgorged so long ago into the gray mists of Massachusetts shore. Good fortune or bad, as Joseph well understood, was not an affair of Providence only; man had to contend with the dark world of the supernatural, penetrable or governable only by the most potent of ritual and incantation. … 

In taking up the quest for buried treasure, which was to give him a first gratifying and then perilous celebrity, and bring him out [p.229] finally upon a high plateau of eminence as prophet, seer, and revelator to a new religion, Joseph Smith displayed not originality so much as a striking ability to compel belief. Desultory digging had been carried on in western New York for a half-generation or more, and the urge to dig in the earth in search of treasure was of greater antiquity still, as old and as widespread as the human race. The feverish digging that distinguished the early twenties in and around Palmyra was, moreover, only a local form taken by a contagion that broke out epidemically across hundreds of miles of country, from the valley of the Connecticut to that of the Susquehanna.

Though the evidence is too slender to justify a firm conclusion, Vermont appears to have been the place of prime infection, the lore of the money-digger and the rural diviner carried from its rocky hills west and south wherever emigrating Vermonters settled-in the Susquehanna Valley, about the Finger Lakes, in the Genesee country, in the Western Reserve of Ohio. The infertile mountain farms held insufficient of wealth to recompense the grueling labor they never ceased to demand. Not honest effort but miracle was the best hope of the farmer; and it is the authentic tones of the Vermonter one hears when the elder Joseph Smith pointed out to one of his neighbors at Palmyra the large stones embedded in the ground of his farm-rocks in appearance, but only in appearance; in reality nothing less than chests of money raised to the surface of the earth by the heat of the sun.

It may be that the elder Joseph had done some treasure-hunting before leaving Vermont; as to this, a Palmyra editor in 1831 was unable to say, but did print it as “a well authenticated fact that soon after his arrival here, he evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasures, and that this section of the country abounded in them. He also revived, or in other words propagated the vulgar, yet popular belief that these treasures were held in charge by some evil spirit, which was supposed to be either the DEVIL himself, or some one of his most trusty favorites.” That the senior Joseph did much to launch his son upon his troubled career as a diviner and peepstone seer, that his unbounded extravagance of statement as to the wonders his son could see contributed largely to his celebrity, is clear from all accounts; the more fantastic stories of Joseph’s early powers and the marvels he discerned are to be traced back to the wagging tongue of his father.

All the influences that worked upon Joseph Smith to make him what he became are difficult now to separate out of the matrix of his history. The social environment was favorable, the whole climate of opinion and belief in which so much more was possible of growth than in another time and place. There was some compulsion working upon him from within the family, the rich lore they had carried with them out of Vermont, and the pressure of their continuing poverty, the more irksome because of their conviction that their rightful state in life was above the common level. Lacking in education and opportunity, which might have afforded him some conventional [p.230] outlet for the energies that drove him, Joseph was all the more reclined to reach out for the rewards that the career of the diviner promised him. (Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism)

You would think, from reading those like Walker, and Ashurst-McGee and Morris that there never was anyone like Dale Morgan or the Tanners or Brodie or the many others who had been writing about the early history of the Smith family for years and understood very well the occult context. The apologists will mention the famous Fawn Brodie, but wave her off as only a hack who caricatures Smith in the worst way. They are all mistaken. But vilifying Brodie and the Tanners has always been the goal of the Mormon apologist. Nibley’s “No Ma’am That’s Not History” is a joke. I’ll defend Brodie in any debate with anyone, anywhere, and they can take Nibley. It’s obvious who has withstood the test of time and it is not Hugh Nibley. Here is more of what Walker wrote in 1986:

The letters [forgeries] have stirred excited comment. Some have asked if we have at last the key for understanding Joseph Smith. Will Christian magic and the occult unravel the man who has been described as an “enigma wrapped within an enigma” and who claimed shortly before his death that “no man knows my history”? Some privately have gone further they speak of the old intellectual moorings of Mormonism being adrift. Are not the new findings they ask, the opposite of our old way of understanding Mormon things?

See how it is “Christian magic”? As if there really is such a thing! People believe in Santa Claus and Leprechauns Bigfoot and the Yeti and Alien abductions too. (More on that below) There is nothing Christian about money-digging, except some of the diggers happened to be Christians. Where is “money is the root of all evil”? Or how hard it is for the rich to get into heaven? It is simply ridiculous to make the claim for “holy treasure hunting”. About as ridiculous as the tales about the “Holy Grail”…

No one knows what every person who dug for treasure believed, if they were active Christians, lapsed Christians, or former Christians. Joseph Smith was not an “enigma”, though how he came up with the Book of Mormon is shrouded somewhat in mystery. But that was by design.

Here is the Stowell Letter [by Mark Hofmann]

Canandagua June 18th 1825

Dear Sir

My father has shown me your letter informing him and me of your Success in locating the mine as you Suppose but we are of the oppinion that since you cannot asertain any particulars you Should not dig more untill you first discover if any valluables remain you know the treasure must be guarded by some clever spirit and if such is discovered so also is the treasure so do this take a hasel stick one yard long being new Cut and cleave it Just in the middle and lay it asunder on the mine so that both inner parts of the stick may look one right against the other one inch distant and if there is treasure after a while you shall see them draw and Join together again of themselves let me know how it is Since you were here I have almost decided to accept your offer and if you can make it convenient to come this way I shall be ready to accompany you if nothing happens more than I know of I am very respectfully

Joseph Smith Jr

Again, it wasn’t a surprise that Joseph Smith was using dowsing rods to those like Dale Morgan and Fawn Brodie. Now read Walker’s rationalizations as he desperately tries to find a way to save his version of Joseph:

While pursuing my study I have often reminded myself that religious truths do not change. Our interpretation of them may change or our understanding of how they have been wrought in [463] time and space may change. But truth is constant, and my faith is that Mormonism is its repository. However my caution regarding the documents springs from something more than personal belief in matters like this, there is always a second step. As quieter perspectives inevitably settle in the breathless antithesis gives way to a more sedate synthesis during this second phase what once seemed so revolutionary is reconciled and merged with the still valid legacies of the past. To illustrate our understanding of Joseph Smith’s encounters with Moroni will not be insightful if we focus narrowly on Martin Harris’s trickster spirit and forget the several contemporaneous statements including Harris’s own that speak of Cumorah’s angel. These apparent conflicts must be weighed, somehow harmonized and molded into a new, more complex understanding.

Except religious truths in Mormonism changed constantly. Do I really need to go into that here? Mormonism went from monotheism to polytheism in a decade. There is no denying this. Concerning the Book of Mormon Greg Prince characterizes it this way:

I don’t see it [The Book of Mormon] as an ancient history. I just don’t see that it has a leg to stand on as being history.  I’ve heard of hybrid explanations. None of them carry any water with me.  I’m content to go with what Denise Hopkins the Professor of Hebrew Bible told me. It’s a book length midrash on the Bible.  And I’m fine with that.

And remember, those who did take the obsession with money-digging and their practice of magic seriously, (like Brodie and Morgan), were rejected by the Church and derided for what they wrote. But the cat was now out of the bag, and the church was inviting the scrutiny it had feared for so long. Somehow, it all must be “harmonized and molded into a new, more complex understanding.”

Because of new documents and similarly minded sources which our traditional histories have ignored we shall eventually draw a new portrait of Joseph and his work. Such a view will doubtless preserve the integrity of Mormonism. It will draw insights from both untraditional and traditional sources. And the result will be fresh.

The approach of Dale Morgan was “fresh” when he started writing his history in the 1930’s. It was when Brodie published No Man Knows My History in 1945. Brodie’s history is not a caricature, it is an insightful and dynamic  magnum opus that has withstood the test of time, and would have been greater than it is, if the church had not rejected and closed its archives to her. And Walker can’t help but chide the apologists:

Those who assert that we do not need to rethink some elements of our past are wrong. Equally true, those who claim that the new documents bring intellectual chaos and require radical changes are also certainly mistaken. We need to pursue the commonsense middle ground. While it is too early to suggest precisely what the new Joseph Smith synthesis will be, there are four dimensions or insights that now seem compelling. First Mormon scholarship will come to terms with the folk culture of the time. The question before scholars is no longer if Joseph and his family participated in the cunning arts but the degree and meaning of their activity.

But the “new documents” did bring “intellectual chaos and requir[ed] radical changes”, and it took until 2013 to get anything close to “official” on it. And then it was the fairy tales thought up in the 1980’s that they put forth (anonymously), not the work of Dale Morgan, H. Michael Marquardt, Dan Vogel, Richard Van Wagoner and others far more credible (as I will show in this series). I’ll have more on the fairy tale that apologists (with the help of some really great non-Mormon historians) concocted in Pt. III.

Bushman to the Rescue?

Walker continues:

Richard Bushman’s fine new survey of the period Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism has already tacitly made this point but if the new documents prove to be authentic they will probably take us further than even Bushman’s study suggests. The Joseph Smith letter to Josiah Stowell places the Smith family in the money digging business and this in the words and handwriting of Joseph Smith himself. The Martin Harris letter in turn is as suggestive Harris places the founding events of Mormonism in a folk religious context and claims Joseph Smith as his source.

Did Bushman “come to grips” with the “folk culture” of the time in a reasonable and adequate way. That’s debatable. The 1825 money-digging agreement with Josiah Stowell placed the Smith’s firmly in that business, and it was signed by both father and son, who went on that wild goose-chase and allowed their farm to be foreclosed on. And looking back at what Bushman wrote in 1984 is very interesting indeed, and notice how he tries to keep Smith aloof from it all:

[W]hen [Joseph] told his family and friends about Moroni and the gold plates [,] [t]he reaction was quite confused. The price Christianity had paid for assimilating the Enlightenment was to forgo belief in all supernatural happenings except the well-attested events of the Bible. Witchcraft, dreams, revelations, even healings were thrown indiscriminately on the scrapheap of superstition. While in 1692 Cotton Mather, the leading intellectual of his day, could discourse learnedly on the manifestation of witchcraft, no leading divine fifty years later would countenance such talk. The Enlightenment drained Christianity of its belief in the miraculous, except for Bible miracles. Everything else was attributed to ignorant credulity. Joseph Smith’s story when it became known was immediately identified as one more example.

A movement among the intellectual elite, of course, could not entirely suppress popular belief in divine and satanic forces affecting everyday life. Common people, surreptitiously to some extent, still entertained traditional beliefs in water-witching and in spells to locate hidden treasure. Many more yearned for a return of the miraculous powers of the original Christian church. A group of practitioners of traditional magic in Palmyra thus reacted quite differently from the newspaper editors to Joseph’s story of the golden plates and a protecting angel. They saw Joseph Smith as one of them, tried to absorb him into their company, and grew angry when he drew back.

Joseph was assaulted from two sides in the struggle between modern rationalism and traditional supernaturalism. He had to answer to demands for proof from the newspaper editors and ministers, on the one hand, and extricate himself from the schemes of the Palmyra magicians and money diggers, on the other. At times his closest followers and his own family were confused. One of Joseph Smith’s tasks in the years before 1830 was to define his calling and mission so as not to be misunderstood, and to set his own course, apart from rationalism or superstition.

The perspective of this work is that Joseph Smith is best understood as a person who outgrew his culture… (Joseph Smith and The Beginnings of Mormonism, 6-7)

Actually, Bushman is wrong that all sects completely discarded belief in all supernatural happenings. He tries to paint an either/or picture here, which was not the case. Jane Shaw has written a fascinating book called “Miracles in Enlightenment England”, and shows how ordinary Christians looked to the miraculous in their lives and attributed such miracles to God, not ghosts and goblins and treasure guardian spirits. She writes,

First, it was a commonplace notion that miracles had ceased with biblical times. This was an idea inherited from sixteenth – and early seventeenth-century Protestants who, when confronted by Roman Catholic claims that their ongoing miracles were signs that they were still the true church, turned their back on miracles and came to regard scripture as the only trustworthy foundation for faith, all that was needed for belief in Jesus Christ. Those Protestant thinkers argued that God no longer needed to work miracles to convince people of the truth of the gospel. They did not question that God might be able to work miracles if he wished; nor did they question the validity of the biblical miracles as revelations that supported Christian doctrines, especially the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ. In that sense, they were not questioning the role of God as miracle-worker, as a God who could intervene – and had intervened – in human affairs, whether in the universe or the human body, to demonstrate his nature, power and existence. They simply suggested that there had been a limited age of miracles. However, they opened the way for more radical thinkers in the Enlightenment, most notably the deists, to ask questions about the very nature of God and whether God had indeed ever been a miracle-worker.

These were the true elites, but they were not persuasive to most Christians. Shaw quotes John Wesley:

And i acknowledge that I have seen with my eyes and hear with my ears several things, to the best of my judgment, cannot be accounted for by the ordinary sense of natural causes, and which I therefore believe ought to be ascribed to the extraordinary interposition of God. If any man choose to study these miracles, I reclaim not. I could not without doing violence to my own reason. Not to go far back, I am clearly persuaded, that the sudden deliverance of John Haydon was one instance of this kind; and my own recovery, on May 10th, another. I cannot account for either of these in a natural way. Therefore I believe they were both supernatural.  I must observe that the truth of these facts is supposed by the same kind of proof as that of all other facts is wont to be – namely, the testimony of competent witnesses; and that testimony here is n as high a degree as any reasonable man can desire. Those witnesses were many in number: they could not be deceived themselves; for the facts in question they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, nor is it credible that so man of them would combine together with a view of deceiving others. (John Wesley, Letter to Thomas Church, 1746).

Jane adds:

Perhaps the main conclusion to be drawn from all this is not so much that there was a distinct elite–popular split, but rather that a range of views on and attitudes towards the miraculous – and all the related questions that had been thrown up by the debates about miracles — co-existed by the middle of the eighteenth century. Susan Juster in her work on prophets in the late eighteenth century has argued that the Age of Reason was oxymoronic; it was a time when prophets tried to make sense of religious beliefs and experiences in the light of rational philosophy. The same might well be said of miracles and those who tried to make sense of them. Through a wide range of religious practices and experiences, the responses to them, and the writings of philosophers and theologians, the Enlightenment opened up a series of questions about experience, reason, the miraculous and the nature of God, which were not resolved in the eighteenth century. Both intellectual debate and lived religion led to a questioning of the category of experience, for example – the French Prophets through their activities, the deists and Hume in their argument that experience and testimony were unreliable. Hume himself, by the very nature of his skeptical argument, suggested that these matters might not be resolved.

The Enlightenment can, then, be described as a watershed with regard to these questions. But the Enlightenment did not provide closure; it did not solve the problem of how the relationship between reason and revelation might be negotiated. It did, however, set the terms for how people thought about that problem in the future. This book has explored three steams of thought and practice within Protestantism, with regard to miracles, first, the doctrine of the cessation of miracles; secondly, the miracle claims that occurred within various Protestant groups and churches, and the responses to them; and thirdly, the attempt to negotiate a middle way between an excessive rationalism or a too-ready “enthusiasm’, by using the experimental method to investigate the evidence for contemporary miracle claims, and appealing to probability rather than certainty. While all three of these “streams” were attacked and challenged by the deists and sceptics in the philosophical debate of the first half of the eighteenth century, all three remained key ingredients in the lively debates about miracles which ensued in the nineteenth century, as theologians and philosophers returned to those seventeenth- and eighteenth-century themes and arguments and reworked them, and new generations of Christians claimed that they too had experienced miracles.(179-80)

It was not either/or as Bushman and other apologists try to make it out to be; Protestant Christians still believed in miracles (as they called them – not magic) as coming from God, though there were many that did participate in many occult practices which were also attributed to God by many who identified as Christians.. But as we see, Christians did not simply turn to the occult/magic because they could not get the satisfaction of the supernatural from their religious experience. That is a gross oversimplification of the argument and disingenuous.

This was a complex time in America, and broad-brushing it as these apologists have done, does nothing but set up a false narrative, a fairy-tale used for the purpose of trying to Christianize a practice that very few looked upon as legitimate or religious. (Money-digging). Some even believed that they could use what they thought were God given powers for sinful purposes such as searching for (as Smith put it) “filthy lucre”.

Walker continues:

However the question of whether the Smith family participated in money digging and magic does not rely on the recently found letters. The weight of evidence with or without them falls on the affirmative side of the question. for instance we have the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits which since 1834 have asserted that the Smiths were involved with money digging. The same story also emerges from other eyewitnesses including the less negatively biased interviews gathered by RLDS churchman William H. Kelley. Nor are these collections our only affidavits. The anti-Mormon and non-Mormon witnesses represent too many viewpoints and their accounts were given in too many circumstances to be dismissed merely as trumped up misrepresentations designed to discredit Joseph Smith and Mormonism.

This was the big goodbye to Hugh Nibley and his “they made it all up”, shtick. (Good riddance, too). I do have to say, that I’m reminded of part of a speech I once read by Bushman about Nibley, given at the Maxwell Institute in 2010:

Nibley portrays Joseph as the simple innocent, assaulted by scornful, arrogant, and ultimately unknowing critics. Joseph Smith did not lay claim to high intellect or worldly might, Nibley reminds us. He simply reported what had happened to him. “He spoke only of what he had seen with his eyes, heard with his ears, and felt with his hands.” Nibley loved for the simple and plain to outfox the clever and wise. He spent his life showing how the ploughboy surpassed them all. He loved it too that the simple prophet was neither pompous or self-aggrandizing about his powers. As he said, “this is a man who was not going to get a big head.” The epitome of humility and plain living himself, Nibley celebrated Joseph’s openhandedness in granting his followers powers like his own. “The Prophet’s advantage over the world lay of course in revelation,” Nibley noted, “but in the Church, every follower has an equal right to revelation.” “Search the scriptures,” he quotes Joseph as saying, “and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you; . . . you will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.” (Richard Bushman, “Hugh Nibley and Joseph Smith,”)

They could throw him under the bus but just couldn’t really let him go. As the work of Dan Vogel, Mike Marquardt, Quinn and others have shown, Nibley was wrong about everything. And what Bushman and Nibley are/were trying to sell (about the character of Smith), is simply a fantasy. And I was trying to think of how I could convey what a fantasy it is with a simple example from Joseph Smith’s life. And I think I can. Bushman should be familiar with what I’m going to relate here, as it appears in the 1842 Journal of Joseph Smith called “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” since Bushman was co-general editor for the Joseph Smith Papers. Here is the entry from Thursday, May 19, 1842:

Thursday 19 [May, 1842] Rain. At home during A.M. 1 oclock P.M. City Council. The Mayor John C. Bennett having resigned his office. Joseph was Elected Mayor & Hyrum Smith Vice Mayor of Nauvoo. While the election was going forward in the council Joseph received and wrote the following Rev—& threw it across the room to Hiram Kimball one of the councillors.

“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph by the voice of my Spirit, Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil & forming evil opinions against you with others & if he continue in them he & they shall be accursed for I am the Lord thy God & will stand by thee & bless thee, Amen.”

After the election Joseph spoke at some length concerning the evil reports which were abroad in the city concerning himself—& the necessity of counteracting the designs of our enemies establishing a night watch, &c. whereupon the Mayor was authorized to establish a night watch by city ordinance,

Dr. John C. Bennet, ExMayor was then called upon by the Mayor [Joseph Smith] to state if he knew ought against him.—When Dr. Bennet replied “I know what I am about & the heads of the church know what they are about, I expect. I have no difficulty with the heads of the church. I publicly avow that anyone who has said that I have stated that General Joseph Smith has given me authority to hold illicit intercourse with women is a liar in the face of God. Those who have said it are damned liars: they are infernal liars. He neither in public or private gave me any such authority or license, & any person who states it is a scoundrel & a liar. I have heard it said that I should become a second [Sampson] Avard by withdrawing from the church & that I was at variance with the heads & should act an influence against them because I resigned the office of Mayor. (The Book of the Law of the Lord, 122-123)

That’s right. And what happened to provoke this? Hiram Kimball was a non-Mormon who was from Illinois and was a very rich merchant. He had married a Mormon girl, Sarah Granger, in 1840. Granger loved the Church, and her husband, and was influential in converting him about a year after this incident. Here is Granger in 1883:

Early in the year 1842, Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach it with commandment, as the Church could travel (progress) no further without the introduction of this principle. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly, and said “Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.” He said, “I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer you will not be led into temptation. (Sarah Kimball, “Auto-Biography,” Woman’s Exponent 12, No. 7, September 1, 1883, 51.

Of course, when Hiram Kimball found out, he was upset and began making inquiries that led to some hard truths about what Joseph was doing. Those were the “evil reports” going around about Smith, his Spiritual Wifeism and his affairs with other men’s wives.

Smith pens the threatening “revelation” in front of Kimball and throws it at him. Take a minute to digest that. Yet, Joseph is, according to Nibley the “simple innocent, assaulted by scornful, arrogant, and ultimately unknowing critics.” This is Nibley’s “humble servant of God?”

Walker in 1986 is going on like this was some kind of new idea that had to be addressed, this money-digging obsession of the Smith family. He then brings up some of the evidence that others knew all about:

Certain pieces of evidence are especially telling there is for example “Uncle” Jesse Smith’s acrid-spirited 1829 letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter suggests that Joseph Sr., possessed a magical rod left the land of Vermont to pursue golden gods and most significantly practiced “necromancy.” Chapter VII of the book of commandments in turn promises Oliver Cowdery a revelatory rod of nature perhaps similar to the Vermont divining rods that once may have attracted his father William. Joseph Knight one of the Church’s first converts told a stylized story of Mormon origins similar in spirit and often similar in detail to Martin Harris’s letter. Finally there are the statements of the Smiths themselves. Lucy Mack Smith’s honest narrative insists that the family never halted their grinding labor simply to “win the faculty of Abrac,” draw “magic circles [or] pursue sooth saying.” Lucy claimed the Smiths “never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation.” The father did more than hint about the family’s interest in the magical arts at young Joseph’s 1826 money-digging trial. Joseph Sr., insisted that both he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given [Joseph Jr.] should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.

Compare that with Morris who later writes that Jesse’s objectijons had nothing to do with treasure seeking, it was all religious. And there is no mention of any visit of an angel, or of God to the young Peeker in 1826. It’s like those things never happened, because God had yet to “illumine” the heart of the boy. And then, of course there is the usual dismissal of Brodie:

Of course, we will not learn too much about Joseph by merely documenting his money digging or by treating it as an epithet. That was the mistake of several post-World War II scholars. Fawn M. Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, for instance, produced a portrait of many hues, but her “Joseph Smith” was ultimately a caricature. One of Brodie’s troubles was that she did not try to understand the culture from which Joseph and the early Mormon converts came a failing, unhappily, that several of her Mormon detractors shared. As a result she saw the Smiths as a neighborhood peculiarity and transformed their religious fervor and folk customs into chicanery Joseph smith the Palmyra seer 465 and fraud in her interpretation Joseph became a skilled confidence man who stumbled onto religion.

Brodie absolutely understood the culture that Smith was raised in. The apologists just don’t like where that evidence leads, somewhere Brodie wasn’t afraid to go. And while the Mormon apologists were struggling to rewrite Mormon history, the Tanners, who actually knew it, were warning people about Mark Hofmann. Here is the late Jerald Tanner:

Our organization, Utah Lighthouse Ministry (ULM) has printed a great deal of material questioning both Hofmann’s documents and his honesty. Beginning as early as 1984, we suggested that the Salamander Letter might be “a forgery” and noted that if this were the case, “it needs to be exposed.” By August 1984, we had printed the first part of the booklet, The Money-Digging Letters, in which Hofmann’s major discoveries were questioned and his document dealings condemned. One of the editors of this paper, Sandra Tanner, distributed copies of this material at the Sunstone Theological Symposium. Hofmann attended this symposium and appeared upset to learn that his integrity was being questioned. The day following the publication of this material (August 23, 1984) Mark Hofmann came to our home and had a long talk with Sandra. He seemed very distressed and hurt that we, of all people, would question his discoveries. He had expected that opposition might come from those in the Mormon Church, but he was amazed that ULM had taken a position critical of him. Hofmann seemed to be almost at the point of tears as he pled his case as to why we should trust him.

We, of course, knew that it was risky business to publicly question any forger, but we had no idea he was capable of murder. In retrospect, we were very fortunate that Hofmann arrived at our house armed only with arguments as to why we should trust his documents rather than a pipe bomb surrounded with nails.

Both the Los Angeles Times and the Deseret News printed that we were questioning the Salamander Letter. Hofmann grew concerned about our investigation and told an associate he was planning another visit to our house to try to make us believe him. We wonder now if we would have been so bold as to call for the public to send any information to us that they had concerning Hofmann’s activities if we had known that he was willing to murder to protect his document-forging operation. When we located him at the August 1985 Sunstone Symposium and began to ask probing questions about the Salamander Letter, he wore a sad and fearful expression — as if he were trying to say, “Please believe what I am telling you.”

At first, the Mormon bishop Steven Christensen trusted Mark Hofmann, and he bought the Salamander Letter. When we published excerpts in the March 1984 issue of the Messenger and indicated the possibility of plagiarism, citing Mormonism Unveiled and Joseph Knight’s account of the discovery of the Book of Mormon plates, Hofmann rejected our suggestion. He even tried to testify in federal court that we had violated his manuscript rights by printing excerpts from the Letter. Although we were all in the courtroom waiting for Christensen to step to the witness stand, the judge made it clear that such testimony was irrelevant to the case at hand and Christensen was not allowed the opportunity of testifying against us.

Christensen continued to believe Mark Hofmann and his stories concerning the discovery of important Mormon documents for more than a year. Although he eventually came to the conclusion that Hofmann was a “crook,” it was too late. When Christensen threatened to expose him, Hofmann retaliated by killing him. It’s a strange twist of fate that the man who tried to defend the Salamander Letter and testify against us in court was the one who later tried to blow the whistle on Hofmann and ended up losing his life. It may very well be that the thing that saved our lives was simply that few people believed what we were publishing.

The folklore fantasy would not be complete without the help of a non-Mormon folklorist, and the apologists had someone in mind, which I’ll discuss below. With that introduction, let’s get back to the ghosts and the money-digging.

The Last Shall be First…

And why would the angel stories come first in 1828-9, and the stories about the ghost and Captain Kidd come later? This is simple, folks. Very simple. Because when Joseph began searching for a printer for his religious manuscript in 1829, people began asking him, and Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, questions about it, and they began telling the story that supported the “religious” Golden Bible, the post 1827 story that Joseph had been developing for years.

As this story got out, others who remembered the events from 1823 and earlier began to speak out about them. And of course Martin Harris and Smith Sr. and Lucy Smith had trouble weeding out the original magical elements of the story that they knew. And Joseph, like his father would get intoxicated and so these earlier magical elements would creep into the narrative, even after the story’s focus became strictly religious.

Who was going to report to the papers the backyard digging escapades of the local money-diggers in Palmyra, New York, and who would publish such yarns? The only mention of such things was if something sensational happened like the murder of Oliver Harper. (See the Josiah Stowell “Agreement” in Pt. I, for more info see Walters & Marquardt here).

Asa Wild claimed in 1823 that he had a religious vision (much like Smith’s later claims) and he had it published in the Wayne Sentinel, and even though E. Grandin was skeptical about it, there is no evidence that the local clergy took notice and went out of their way to persecute him for it as they supposedly did with Smith. So why would Smith have been criticized in 1824? Perhaps for claiming that the ghostly ancestor of one of the native Indians had revealed to him the location of a great treasure which would reveal what happened to the “Lost Ten Tribes”?

Part Time Peeker?

And if Joseph was actually a real “seer” as he claimed to be, why, he would have been finding things for people all the time! A Peeker who actually can find lost items every time? That would have generated some interest in the press I’m sure. But like all the rest, Joseph complained about “slippery treasures” and circumstances that stopped him from being able to perform the tasks he was hired to do, like interrupting his spells with an untimely spoken word. In relation to money-digging Joseph was nothing special, he was a flamboyant con artist who was bilking people of their money just like one of his former compatriots, Luman Walters.

Josiah Stowell was simply another willing victim of a juggler. Because Stowell wanted Smith to look in his stone for treasures was not an excuse for Smith to break the law and do so. Stowell’s son Simpson lived near the Smith’s in Manchester, and I’m sure Joseph and his father arranged to speak with Simpson after hearing about the silver mine. Dan Vogel breaks it down:

That Smith was summoned by the Stowells to Simpson’s house or appeared there by prearrangement implies that his meeting was not entirely cold and that he had a prior acquaintance with Simpson. The younger Stowell may have, at some point, described his family’s comfortable home, barn, and other buildings to someone in Palmyra or Manchester. Maybe a friend accompanied him on a visit to South Bainbridge and then unwittingly passed on information to Smith. A conversation may have been overheard. One could position oneself outside a window and hear Josiah telling his son about various changes made to the farm. If Smith used a form of “hot reading” with Stowell, he would not be the first, nor would he be the last, psychic to do so. This technique was used by spirit mediums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and continues to be employed today. Regardless of the mechanism, it impressed Stowell and he hired Joseph on the spot. (Joseph Smith: Making of a Prophet, 70)

In fact, Smith Sr. seemed to be an expert in the art of eavesdropping, as Lucy Smith recorded in her history:

Mr Smith went over a hill that <lay> east of <us> to see what he could discover among the neighbors there there at the first house he came to he found the conjuror [Luman Walters, and] Willard chase and the company all together this was the house of one Mr Laurence he made an errand and went in and sat down near the door leaving the door ajar for the men were so near that he could hear their conversation… (Lucy’s Book, 381)

(And it is worth noting that Joseph found nothing in Harmony, as usual). I mean, wouldn’t an honest religious Joseph, (since he had such a great ability to see hidden things), simply have told Stowell that there was no silver anywhere in the area? His peep-stone was an all seeing eye, was it not? So why did Smith continue with the obvious charade? To bilk Stowell out of his money? Was that an honest use of the God given talent that young Joseph was supposedly given? Joseph not only searched for “filthy lucre”, he also never found any! I was amazed by this FAIRMORMON presentation from 2002 about Smith’s money-digging. Here is the apologist Russell Anderson with what he claims is evidence of how successful young Jo was at peeking:

But what if you weren’t pretending to discover lost goods. What if you actually had a gift where you “could discern things invisible to the natural eye” Could you then be judged guilty of this statute? …Martin Harris tells us, “I…was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw… We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him–I said, ‘Take your stone.’ … He took it and placed it in his hat–the old white hat–and place his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look to one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.

Martin Harris also tells us that Joseph used the seer stone to find the gold plates. “In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.”

Henry Harris says, “He [Joseph Smith] said he had a revelation from God that told him they [the Book of Mormon plates] were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit.”

A Mr. Wanderhoof reports that Joseph used his seer stone to find a stolen mare for his grandfather.

The “trial” also provides evidences of Joseph’s abilities. Purple tells us that, “Josiah Stowell provides several examples and has absolute faith in his ability.” Now Purple didn’t give us those examples, but he records that Josiah Stowell provided them. (Russell Anderson)

A “Mr. Wanderhoof”? Really? Is he kidding? Well, Perhaps not, he seems to have gotten that name from a paper by Ronald Walker found here, which has as a reference, E. W. Wanderhoof, Historical Sketches of Western New York, (Buffalo N.Y.: Matthews-Northrup Works 1907), 138-39. (The name should be “E. W. Vanderhoof”, so one wonders if Anderson ever saw the original source or was just copying from Ronald Walker, but finding a stolen horse for a “Mr. WanderHOOF” – hilarious!). But seriously, I would have proof read this account, it is filled with many inaccuracies and obvious embellishments.

So why would Joseph change his story that he found the plates with the peep-stone to being shown their location by the angel? These are all parlour tricks not worth bragging about. Smith knew this and knew what the eventual impact of such a story would be.

And at the 1826 Examination, Stowell did provide an example of finding a feather that was supposed to be buried with some lost money that Joseph scryed the location of, but he only found the feather, not the money. (Imagine that! “You almost got the money Josiah! Next time you will, I’m sure of it!”)

And the Stowell boys who were not as credulous as their father, tested Joseph by asking him to find a lost bag of grain, and when Joseph could not find it (as usual) he tried to pay off one of the brothers (not knowing they were working together) to tell him where it was hidden so he could tell the other he found it with his peep-stone. (More on this later)

The Willard Chase peep-stone

This is all that FAIRMORMON can come up with and it’s pretty pathetic. Martin Harris also told a story that he replaced Smith’s stone with a fake and that he was so clever that Smith didn’t know the difference and even tried to “translate” with it. Joseph’s unique stone (with those exact markings and length and width and shape), was replaced by Harris with one he found by a lake? Like the Chase stone was that common? And Joseph would never know? Joseph surely turned that to his advantage when he supposedly tried to “translate” with the bogus stone and cried out “Martin, that did you do? All is dark as Egypt”. Oh that’s right, Smith the “prophet” knew it was Martin that did something, but didn’t know he had switched out the peep-stone. Sure thing. (Deseret News, 30 November 1881).

The Last Shall be First (Continued)

As Joseph’s neighbors learned that the Smith’s were now claiming that an angel appeared to young Joseph and that he was “translating” gold plates, they naturally inquired of the family what was going on. All they knew about was Joseph and his father’s treasure digging; and that some of the family were Presbyterians. Lucy Smith writes that in 1824 after Joseph prayed to know which church was right and told the story about the “treasure” in the hill, he cautioned them not to speak of it:

…by sunset were ready to be seated and give our att undivided attention to Josephs recitals and this pre before he began to explain to us the instructions which he had received he told charged us to not to mention what he told us out of the family as the world was so wicked that if they when they did come to a knoweledge of these things they would try to take our lives and we must be careful not to proclaim these things… that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold…(pg. 343)

By 1829 the public were getting the mixed responses of Smith Sr. and others, who were incorporating the new religious narrative into the earlier treasure digging stories. Joseph Sr. must have been ecstatic that God had finally illumined the heart of his son Joseph Jr., and that he had actually found a golden treasure. The Sr. Smith was vindicated, there actually was treasure to be found in the place where they lived! He just had to write to his brother Jesse and tell him about how rich he was going to be!

And why would Joseph tell his family not to mention that there were gold plates buried under the Manchester Hill, and then afterwards tell a group of money-diggers all about it? Joseph was, after all a part of their “company”.

It is likely that those like Joseph Knight, Sr. and others got information from both Joseph Jr. & Sr., as those stories incorporate elements of both. Both of the Joseph’s would drink… and talk about religion and how the hills surrounding Palmyra were filled with treasure. Oliver Cowdery, who spent many years as Joseph’s bosom companion, told others about a cavern under the hill in Manchester that opened up and was filled with treasure. In 1877, Edward Stevenson wrote:

It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen his room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there. (Edward Stevenson, Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet, and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon)

The Guardian of the Treasure Cave

Brigham Young related a variation of this same story, here. This brings to mind what Abigail Harris was told by Lucy Smith and other accounts (about many treasures under the Manchester hill) which will be explored below. Long after the younger Joseph changed the story, the older Joseph would still speak about digging for treasure and his exploits in the Manchester hills. This went on almost to the end of his life; as we have seen above he would later tell some of the “Saints” in Kirtland that he had been digging for over thirty years, and knew what he was doing. Perhaps he thought with the help of some temple consecrated items, he would do better than any Rochester adventurer, and could unearth what so many others had failed to. And we know how that turned out, don’t we?

It is also important to note that what Brewster wrote was never responded to by Joseph Smith or anyone else (that his father was involved in money-digging in Kirtland). Not one peep.

Post Master Rumors?

In March 1831, David Staats Burnet the editor of the Evangelical Enquirer of Dayton, Ohio (and Baptist Pastor) wrote an article on the new Mormonite Sect which had recently made its appearance in his state. Having learned that the founder of the new sect was from Palmyra, Burnet wrote to the “intelligent Post Master at Palmyra,” and received a letter from him.

According to Richard Troll, Samuel T. Lawrence was an “agent” who collected fees on subscriptions, and these agents were mostly postmasters. Troll writes, “Post master “M.[artin] W. Wilcox” [August 1829 – April 1839] was one agent for Palmyra, the other was “S. T. Lawrence.” It is therefore likely that Burnet received his information about the Smith’s in 1831 from Wilcox or Lawrence or both. Burnet initially hears a religious tale, but upon inquiry learns further details from the Palmyra Post Master:

For a long time in the vicinity of Palmyra, there has existed an impression, especially among certain loose classes of society, that treasures of great amount were concealed near the surface of the earth, probably by the Indians, whom they were taught to consider the descendants of the ten lost Israelitish tribes, by the celebrated Jew who a few years since promised to gather Abraham’s sons on Grand Island, thus to be made a Paradise. The ignorance and superstition of these fanatics soon conjured up a ghost, who they said was often seen and to whom was committed the care of the precious deposit. This tradition made money diggers of many who had neither intelligence nor industry sufficient to obtain a more reputable livelihood. But they did not succeed and as the money was not dug up, something must be dug up to make money. The plan was laid, doubtless, by some person behind the curtain, who selected suitable tools. One Joseph Smith, a perfect ignoramus, is to be a great prophet of the Lord, the fabled ghost the angel of his presence, a few of the accomplices the apostles or witnesses of the imposition, and, to fill up the measure of their wickedness and the absurdity of their proceedings, the hidden golden treasure, is to be a gold bible and a new revelation. This golden bible consisted of metallic plates six or seven inches square, of the thickness of tin and resembling gold, the surface of which was covered with hieroglyphic characters, unintelligible to Smith, the finder, who could not read English. However, the angel (ghost!) that discovered the plates to him, likewise informed him that he would be inspired to translate the inscriptions without looking at the plates, while an amanuensis would record his infallible reading; all which was accordingly done. But now the book must be published, the translation of the inscriptions which Smith was authorized to show to no man save a few accomplices, who subscribe a certificate of these pretended facts at the end of the volume. Truly a wise arrangement! Among the gang none had real estate save one, who mortgaged his property to secure the printer and binder in Palmyra, but who was so unfortunate as not to be able to convert his wife to the new faith, though he flogged her roundly for that purpose several times. The book, an octavo of from 500 to 1000 pages (for when I saw it I did not notice the number) did not meet ready sale and consequently about 500 copies were sent to the eastern part of this state, which was considered a better market. Though at home it had little success, the subjoined pieces will show that in the Western Reserve it found better. 

Mark Ashurst-McGee makes much ado about how Palmyra resident Abner Cole was only printing vague rumors in his paper (The Reflector) about the Smiths:

Did Joseph Smith’s successive narratives eventually transform a treasure guardian into an angel, or did his antagonists’ successive narratives eventually transform an angel into a treasure guardian? …According to the 1834–35 history, which Oliver Cowdery composed with Joseph Smith’s assistance, Moroni had given Joseph a warning: “When it is known that the Lord has shown you these things…they will circulate falsehoods to destroy your reputation.” … Some of these tales found their way to Abner Cole, the editor of the local tabloid. Cole explained his historical methodology on more than one occasion. Cole concluded the article with the offer, “Postmasters and others, who can furnish us with interesting notices on any of the above subjects, shall receive a copy of our paper gratis.” Later, Cole specified the origins of his description of Moroni as a treasure guardian: “This tale in substance, was told at the time the event was said to have happened by both father and son, and is well recollected by many of our citizens.” Tales told by local residents amount to no more than neighborhood gossip. … Philastus Hurlbut collected Willard Chase’s description of Moroni as a treasure guardian in 1833. However, at the same time, Hurlbut collected Abigail Harris’s statement describing Moroni as “the spirit of one of the Saints that was upon this continent” as well as Henry Harris’s statement identifying Moroni as an “angel.” Although the Chase account predates the official history of the Church, it does not predate Joseph Smith’s 1832 history, which describes Moroni as “an angel of the Lord.”  (pg. 51)

Cole’s newspaper was more than a tabloid, but his cryptic admission here about postmasters is most enlightening, if one knows that his brother-in-law Samuel T. Lawrence was an agent for the post office and was involved in going house to house to collect fees. This is the same Lawrence who was so intimate with Joseph Smith (who Smith chose to properly introduce him to Emma) and knew the real story about the “record” (having been considered to accompany Smith to retrieve it from the hill). Lawrence would have known who was involved in the Smith family treasure hunts, and would then relate the stories to Cole, who published them. I’ll have more on Abner Cole and Samuel T. Lawrence below but first, let’s talk about angels, spirits and ghosts.

Angels and Spirits of the Dead

Did Joseph Smith and others from his family consider dead people (ghosts or spirits) as angels in 1823? Unlikely for many reasons.

In 1823 Joseph was partial to the Methodist faith, and was a part time Exhorter. What did the Methodist’s (and the other churches of the day) teach about angels? Angels were considered to be God’s special messengers, winged creatures created by God, and though they were spiritual beings, they were not considered to be deceased, resurrected or “preexistant” humans.

In the Book of Mormon angels are mentioned 145 times, but not one of them is given a name and none of them are identified as dead or resurrected humans. In the Bible this too is the case for most of the appearances of angels, with only a few very important angels being named.

Angels were looked upon as a creation of God different from human beings:

“The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith.  The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition” (#328).  Given that we do believe in angels, we define them as pure spirits and personal beings with intelligence and free will.  They are immortal beings.  As the Bible attests, they appear to humans as apparitions with a human form.

In Psalms we read:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. (Psalms 8:3-5)

This was quoted again in the Book of Hebrews. After quoting the Psalms the author then writes,

…we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2)

There were all kinds of angels in the Bible, angels with wings, angels that looked like men, destroying angels, flying angels, messenger angels, helpful angels, they were everywhere. But there is nothing which claimed that angels were men. John even mistook an angel for God:

 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God! (Revelation 22:8-9)

When Joseph Smith initially went through the New Testament and changed many verses, he passed by this one and left it as it reads in the King James Version. The Manuscript (New Testament Revision 2) has no change for this verse in the Book of Revelation. But he did change it (probably by 1835 or later) to read,

And I, John, saw these things and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See that thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book. Worship God.

Translated Men

It might be a good time to speak about Translated Men and how they fit into the early theology of Mormonism.

In the Book of Mormon there were three Nephites who were “translated”, as John the Disciple of Jesus would be. In the account given in 3rd Nephi it reads,

And behold, they were encircled about as if it were fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and do bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven, and did minister unto them. And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and ministered unto them. (pg. 494)

What is meant by “ministering”? In what way were they attended to? Were they all dancing in the fire? Why wasn’t the “multitude” encircled too? Anyway, three of these “disciples” choose to stay on earth. Jesus tells them:

…ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, which was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me; therefore more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death, but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father, unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled, according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory, with the power of heaven; and ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory, ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, from mortality to immortality… (1830 Book of Mormon, p. 510)

There was also another character from the Book of Mormon (Ether) who may have been “translated”,

Now the last words which are written by Ether, are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh: It mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen (p. 573).

These “translated beings” are not angels, but they are like angels, because, according to the Book of Mormon:

And behold, the heavens were opened, and they were caught up into heaven, and saw and heard unspeakable things. And it was forbidden them that they should utter…and whether they were in the body or out of the body, they could not tell: for it did seem unto them like a transfiguration of them, that they were changed from this body of flesh, into an immortal state, that they could behold the things of God. But it came to pass that they did again minister upon the face of the earth… And now whether they were mortal or immortal, from the day of their transfiguration, I know not; but… they did go forth upon the face of the land, and did minister unto all the people, uniting as many to the church as would believe in their preaching; baptizing them… and they were cast into prison… And the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain, and they were cast down into the earth. But they did smite the earth with the word of God, insomuch that by his power they were delivered out of the depths of the earth; and therefore they could not dig pits sufficiently to hold them. And thrice they were cast into a furnace, and received no harm. And twice were they cast into a den of wild beasts; and behold they did play with the beasts, as a child with a suckling lamb, and received no harm. And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land… And now I, Mormon, make an end of speaking concerning these things, for a time. …But behold I have seen them, and they have ministered unto me; and behold they will be among the Gentiles, and the Gentiles knoweth them not. They will also be among the Jews, and the Jews shall know them not… they shall minister unto all the scattered tribes of Israel, and unto all nations, kindred, tongues and people, and shall bring out of them unto Jesus many souls, that their desire may be fulfilled, and also because of the convincing power of God which is in them; and they are as the angels of God and if they shall pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus they can shew themselves unto whatsoever man it seemeth them good; therefore great and marvellous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day… (p. 510-511)

Here we see that translated beings (in 1829) were not angels, but like them, in that they could do things angels could do. There is no evidence that Moroni or Nephi were translated beings, but later (1835) Smith declared “Moroni” to be a resurrected man.

It appears that due to all these “translated” men, Oliver Cowdery had some question about John from the Bible, and Joseph settled it by looking in his seeing-stone. (He was “translated” and still alive like the “three Nephites”).

“The Spirit of the Lord & Satan”

In the Book of Mormon Smith also had many angels that he mentioned (none with names), and what he called “the Spirit of the Lord’ which could sometimes appear as a man. In the Book of Nephi it is written that:

I [Nephi] was caught away in the spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceeding high mountain … I said unto the spirit, I behold thou hast shewn unto me the tree which is precious above all. And he saith unto me, What desirest thou? And I said unto him, to know the interpretation thereof; for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet, nevertheless, I knew that it was the spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another. (p. 24)

This “spirit of the Lord” was not an angel or a man, it was described as “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, (p. 166) or “the spirit of the Lord, which is in me” (p. 152) “in our fathers”, (p. 36) and “the spirit of the Lord which was in him” (p. 62)

There is also “the spirit of the devil” which has “power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (p. 65), makes people angry (p. 122), and it can “enter into them, and take possession of their house” (p. 334).

The “Devil and his angels” are evil spirits that shall “go away into everlasting fire”. (p. 80) They are never described as men or the children of God.

“The Order”

When Smith was “translating” (a different kind) the Bible, he claims that Adam

“…heard a voice out of heaven, saying, thou art baptized with fire & with the Holy Ghost; this is the Record of the Father & the Son, from hence forth & forever; & thou art after the order of him who was without begining of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity. Behold, thou art one in me, a Son of God; & thus may <​all​> become my Sons: Amen.” (Genesis 6)

This “order” Smith associates with Enoch and Melchizedek in his “translation” of Genesis 14:

Now Melchizedeck was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; & when a child he feared God, And stop[p]ed the Mouths of lyons, & quenched the violence of fire. And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained a high Priest, after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch; it being after the order of the son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man, Neither by Father nor mother; Neither by begining of days, or <​nor​> end of years; but of <​God.> And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will; unto as many as believed on his name; for God having sworn unto Enoch, And unto his seed, with an oath, by himself; that every one being ordained after <​this​> order & calling, should have power, by faith, to break Mountains, to divide the Seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course, to put at defiance the armies of Nations, to divide the Earth, to break evry band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command; subdue principalities & powers, & this by the will of the Son of God, which <​was from before the foundation of the world.> And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated; And taken up into Heaven.

After this, we then we run into the account in Genesis about Lot and his family. In the Bible it is two angels who appear to Lot, and they act and talk like men. So Smith changes the account to read:

And the Angels, which were holy men, & were sent forth after the order of God, turned their faces from thence & went toward Sodom. (Old Testament Revision 2, pg. 46)

Smith makes the angels into “holy men” (since they were seen as men in the KJV account), but according to Smith they were actually not angels, but translated “holy men” of the “order or God”. It would be anachronistic to claim that angels are “holy men” and use this as evidence, as they do at

“Awman’s Anglo-men”

Another document which lends credence that angels were not men in early Mormonism was the “Pure Language Revelation” from March, 1832, which Orson Pratt copied and later spoke about:

Orson Pratt, notebook (circa 1834–36), penultimate leaf (verso), circa 1832–34, MS 4812, Church History Library.

The relevant passages read:

What are the Angels called?
Ans. Awman’s Anglo-men.
What are the meaning of these words?
Ans. Awman’s ministering servants sanctified who are sent from heaven to minister for or to Sons-Awmen the greatest parts of Awman save Sons-Awman, Son-Awman, Awman.

In 1855 Pratt explained the above “revelation”:

There is one revelation that this people are not generally acquainted with. I think it has never been published, but probably it will be in the Church History. It is given in questions and answers. The first question is, “What is the name of God in the pure language?” The answer says, “Ahman.” “What is the name of the Son of God?” Answer, “Son Ahman—the greatest of the parts of God excepting Ahman.” “What is the name of men?” “Sons Ahman,” is the answer. What is the name of angels in the pure language?” “Anglo-man.”

This revelation goes on to say that Sons Ahman are the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Son Ahman and Ahman, and that Anglo-man are the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Sons Ahman, Son Ahman, and Ahman, showing that the angels are a little lower than man. What is the conclusion to be drawn from this? It is, that these intelligent beings are all parts of God, and that those who have the most of the parts of God are the greatest, or next to God, and those who have the next greatest portions of the parts of God, are the next greatest, or nearest to the fulness of God; and so we might go on to trace the scale of intelligences from the highest to the lowest, tracing the parts and portions of God so far as we are made acquainted with them. Hence we see that wherever a great amount of this in(telligent Spirit exists, there is a great amount or proportion of God, which may grow and increase until there is a fulness of the Spirit, and then there is a fulness of God. Orson Pratt, who was there and made his own copy of the “revelation”. (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 2:342-3).

We see that Pratt claims (per the “revelation”) that the angels are a little lower than man. Brent Metcalfe, who directed me to this version of the “revelation”, found it ambiguous evidence, but I think that taking it with the rest, it shows that at that time they were not teaching that angels were men. Pratt mentions “intelligences” but those teachings came later and would not apply to an 1832 theological setting.

One has to wonder why Smith would not just have had one of the three Nephites deliver the plates, since those kind of “holy men” performed such tasks as they did with Lot’s family in Sodom.

Thus when the Book of Mormon was first introduced to the public, it was a generic angel who appeared to Smith, “the spirit of the almighty”. Even in his 1832 History, Smith does not name the angel:

when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold

an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night

and he [the angel] called me by name

and he [the angel] said the Lord had forgiven me my sins

and he [the angel] revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by th[e] commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them

and he [the angel] revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitents of of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations and it was on the 22d day of Sept. AD 1822

and thus he [the angel] appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day and then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being excedingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision but when I considred I knew that it was not therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them

behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made accquainted of with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them (pg. 4, paragraph breaks mine)

Smith speaks of “Maroni”, but only as one of many engravers of the plates. The angel is not identified as none of the angels in the Book of Mormon were. There is no teaching from Smith or anyone else at this time that angels were resurrected humans or pre-mortal spirits. Those teachings came later,  most likely borrowed from those of Emanuel Swedenborg and others. (See, A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell, and of the Wonderful Things Therein, as Heard and Seen by the Honourable and Learned Emanuel Swedenborg (Baltimore: Miltenberger, 1812, 87-90), also, Benjamin E. Park, “A Uniformity So Complete”: Early Mormon Angelology, (Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2010, 1-37).

So when those like Abigail Harris speak about “the spirit of one of the Saints that was upon this continent”, she was describing a ghost, not an angel. Ashurst-McGee claims that she is describing an angel, but Harris goes on to describe the clothes the ghost was wearing: “Old Mrs. Smith observed that she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was dressed very plain.” They were describing what they thought was a dead Quaker, not “the spirit of the Almighty”. Harris then reveals that Lucy told her that,

In the early part of the winter in 1828, I made a visit to Martin Harris and was joined in company by Jos. Smith, sen. and his wife. The Gold Bible business, so called, was the topic of conversation, to which I paid particular attention that I might learn the truth of the whole matter.–They told me that the report that Joseph, jun. had found golden plates, was true, and that he was in Harmony, Pa. translating them–that such plates were in existence, and that Joseph, jun. was to obtain them, was revealed to him by the spirit of one or the Saints that was on this continent, previous to its being discovered by Columbus. Old Mrs. Smith observed that she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was dressed very plain. They said that the plates he then had in possession were but an introduction to the Gold Bible–that all of them upon which the bible was written, were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart–that Joseph had also discovered by looking through his stone, the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled; he also discovered in the bottom of the vessel three balls of gold, each as large as his fist. The old lady said also, that after the book was translated, the plates were to be publicly exhibited–admittance 0-5 cents. She calculated it would bring in annually an enormous sum of money–that money would then be very plenty, and the book would also sell for a great price, as it was something entirely new–that they had been commanded to obtain all the money they could borrow for present necessity, and to repay with gold. The remainder was to be kept in store for the benefit of their family and children. This and the like conversation detained me until about 11 o’clock. Early the next morning, the mystery of the Spirit being like myself (one of the order called Friends) was revealed by the following circumstance: The old lady took me into another room, and after closing the door, she said, “have you four or five dollars in money that you can lend until our business is brought to a close? the spirit has said you shall receive four fold.” I told her that when I gave, I did it not expecting to receive again–as for money I had none to lend. I then asked her what her particular want of money was; to which she replied “Joseph wants to take the stage and come home from Pennsylvania to see what we are all about.” To which I replied, he might look in his stone and save his time and money. The old lady seemed confused, and left the room, and thus ended the visit. (November 28, 1833, Mormonism Unvailed, 253)

Yet Ashurst-McGee claims that Abigail Harris is calling this an angel!  Lucy Smith would ultimately carry out her money making plans by exhibiting not the “gold plates” but the “curiosities”, the mummies and papyri purchased in Kirtland a few years later…

And of course, the Book of Mormon tells us that some claimed that “… the Devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel.” (p. 309)

“NONE doeth good…”

All this apologist blather about folk magic and how it was tied to Christianity is just a smoke screen. Why?

Because of what Joseph himself claimed when he wrote up his histories. In the first claimed vision, (written up in 1838) he stated that God told him that all the churches were wrong, all religion was wrong, and that he was not to “go after” any of it. Smith wrote in 1832:

…<​behold​> the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not <​my​> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <​hath​> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is?] written of me in the cloud <​clothed​> in the glory of my Father (History, 1832)

There were none that did good. That includes the “folk” that the Mormon Apologists are fixated on. In 1842 Joseph added this:

[God] told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me. (Wentworth Letter)

So if we embrace the apologist argument about folk magic, (a Christian subgroup) whether it was the Methodists or Methodist “folk”, the Presbyterians or Presbyterian “folk”, the Universalists or Universalist “folk”, (those who may have believed in magic folklore, peepstones, necromancy or diving rods) – any and all of them were wrong and Joseph was commanded to go not after them

This was in 1820; then Joseph claims he strayed and repents and is put back on track by an angel in 1823. In 1845 Apostle John Taylor wrote this interesting bit for the Times and Seasons,

For once let us say, that Cain, who went to Nod and taught the doctrine of a “plurality of wives” and the giants who practiced the same iniquity; and Nimrod, who practiced the common stock system, and the Jews, who commenced crossing sea and land to make proselytes without revelation; and the christian sects, who have went all lengths in building up churches and multiplying systems without authority from God,-are all co-workers on the same plan:-when the reward for every man’s work is given-this will be the everlasting answer to all sects, sorts, and conditions, from Cain down to Christian Israelites, I NEVER KNEW YOU! (Times & Seasons, “Who are the Christian Israelites,” May 1, 1845, 888).

“What Manner His Kingdom was to be Conducted”

Yet, that’s not what happened. Joseph borrows a peep-stone from Willard Chase in 1822 and returns it, (after previously going on a hunt for his own white stone) but goes back to the money-digging in 1825 for Josiah Stowell and others, using the borrowed peep stone to search for buried treasure and “lost items”, after he was told twice to stop: once by God himself and once by an angel. And then he keeps the stone. So he “translates” the entire Book of Mormon with a stolen peep-stone! (Chase had asked him to return it but he refused). What kind of prophet-in-training does that?

And what about his report to the angel in 1824, 25 & 26, since Joseph claimed that he met with the angel three more times on each successive September 22nd? What did he tell the angel? Joseph writes about those four years after the 1823 visit:

I found the same messenger there and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. . . . (Joseph Smith, History-1)

Joseph is meeting with the angel and talking about “what manner his kingdom was to be conducted” while at the same time dabbling with a peep stone to search for lost objects and find buried treasure and scry dead spirits/treasure guardians? Why is there no mention by Joseph of his return to treasure hunting and his arrest for glass-looking!

Moses vs. Joseph?

In the Bible (since the apologists love to make Old Testament comparisons) there is the account of Moses being raised by Egyptians and being called the Pharaoh’s son. This is not hidden or downplayed. It even has an account of Moses murdering an Egyptian! Moses then contrasts his use of “magic” with that of the Pharaoh’s wizards by having his brother Aaron’s staff gobble up theirs. Moses also had the power to make his hand leprous, and call down all kinds of plagues on Egypt. All this is not hidden in the Bible.

Yet, where is any of Joseph’s power that compares to Moses? When he had his chance during “Zion’s Camp”, he failed miserably. And instead of being able to heal the cholera that was running rampant through the camp, Joseph himself contracted it! Joseph only has a couple of little peep-stones? He saw God and an angel and wasn’t given all the awesome tools that Moses got? Why not? He was doing the things that Moses did, right? Or are they only cherry picking the rod of Aaron? Think of it, if someone tried to take away the plates from Joseph, he could just strike them down with leprosy! And Moses had thousands of grumbling Israelites, and he still parted the Red Sea, and fed them all with manna. Joseph had a few hundred Mormons who grumbled and he blamed his failure on them. Why didn’t God “restore” the power of Moses to Joseph? As Ashurst-McGee wrote,

Unlike Alexander Campbell and the other restorationists of his day, Joseph moved beyond the reestablishment of New Testament Christianity to “the restoration of all things”-including Old Testament elements of patriarchy, polygyny, the declaration of Israelite lineage, a divinely sanctioned kingdom, a temple with ancient ritual, and a prophet. (p. 340)

Where was that prophetic power of Enoch, Elijah, or Moses? And why would Joseph then, feel the need to hide his own dabbling in the occult? He should have been bragging about it! Apologists are not shy about citing these fantastical Biblical stories about the use of  “occult” objects or idols (and how they were “restored”), but the Church either denies them, considers them archaic curiosities (like seeing stones), or is silent about them except as “Bible stories” from the distant past.

What is the purpose of restoring something, if it is almost immediately cast aside? Just to claim that hey, I restored that? It is beyond silly. It seems that all of the things mentioned by Ashurst-McGee have pretty much gone by the wayside… polygamy, Israelite lineage (the lost ten tribes are meaningless now), a divinely sanctioned kingdom where the faithful would “gather”, temple rituals gutted and changed, and yes a token prophet.

Larry Morris also brings up these Biblical stories and then tries to claim that because Joseph claimed to have gotten the plates on September 22, 1827 and that was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Shahanah, that this has some kind of significance. He writes,

Joseph obtained the plates on Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year (which had begun at sundown on 21 September 1827). At Rosh ha-Shanah the faithful were commanded to set a day aside as “a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:24).

One would be hard pressed to not find some kind of holiday or celebration on any of the Equinox days. And if it was so important for the angel to appear on the Jewish New Year, why did he not do so for the first appearance, and every year — because he did not appear on the Jewish New Year in 1823 (September 6), 1824 (September 23), 1825 (September 13) or 1826 (October 2nd). September 22 is a lot closer to the fall equinox than the other dates are to the Jewish New Year. Still Morris claims,

…the details of the plates’ disappearance and the shock, which Joseph acknowledges by describing three unsuccessful attempts to get the plates and the intense fright that followed, appear to have been part of a money-digging tale…

Of course they were and Morris and Ashurst McGee can’t explain them. And,

As for “treasure-seeking” details, Joseph has surely de-emphasized these…

Of course he did. As he did the original treasure guardian who was a ghost, not an angel. And,

In producing the history of the church, Joseph was addressing a generation (and future generations) not well equipped to understand what a divining rod or a seer stone meant to people like the Smiths.

This is simply ad hoc presentism. How would they know this unless there were already problems mixing magic and religion? And aren’t they the ones claiming that religion and magic were so intertwined? If so, why would Smith have any difficulty explaining it? He could simply have used Moses as an example as Morris does! But Smith didn’t even try, not once, he simply denied it all and gave the story that he was a paid laborer. Morris and others try to tell us that we can understand it all, if we have all of this information about religious treasure digging. Then why was it so hard for the church to explain it for so many years?

There is only a decade between when Joseph first started telling the story of the angel to the press, and his writing the history he published a few years later. Morris and the other apologists want to claim that this is so simple once we are educated about folk magic, but that it was so hard for Smith and those who were in his own generation to understand and explain it. It is obvious that those like Brigham Young, Artemisia Beaman and Porter Rockwell had no such problems, they knew all about Captain Kidd and Luman Walters and Samuel Lawrence and the Smith’s treasure digging past. But they too, were reluctant to elaborate on such matters in publications although every now and then we find something in the discourses of Young. Which brings us back to Jesse Smith and why the Smith’s had such problems.

The Necromancy of Infidelity

Everything I’ve discussed so far begs the question, Why should we trust any of Smith’s accounts about what happened in relation to the gold plates? And how are we to believe Morris when he claims that

Almost two years after Jesse Smith wrote [his] letter, individuals such as David Burnett and James Gordon Bennett began to associate the plates with treasure seeking, a ghost, and a vanishing chest.

Morris claims that Jesse Smith was not associating the plates with treasure seeking, yet, this is what Jesse Smith wrote in 1829 (which Morris doesn’t mention but places in an appendix):

…if it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity, & dug from the mines of atheism, … and then has the audacity to say they are; and the angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. …he says your father has a wand or rod like Jannes & Jambres who withstood Moses in Egypt— that he can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia or another fool story, many other things alike ridiculous.

Morris claims that, “Joseph Smith’s uncle Jesse Smith vehemently objected to Joseph’s claims, protesting precisely because they were so thoroughly religious,” but Jesse didn’t think their claims were religious at all! Think about this for a moment. He claims they were “dug from the mines of atheism” and uses the word “necromancy”, which is associated with money-digging and evil spirits. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines necromancy thusly:

NECROMANCY, noun [Gr. Dead, and divination.]

1. The art of revealing future events by means of a pretended communication with the dead. This imposture is prohibited. Deuteronomy 18:1.

2. Enchantment; conjuration

Pretended communication. Pretended. With the dead. Bloody Ghosts. Jesse scoffs at the religiosity that he knows his brother and nephews are trying to cloak their necromancy and treasure digging yarn in. He could not be more clear here that he thinks they are lying, and trying to turn a money-digging yarn into a religious tale and that (to Jesse) would all have come from the Devil. Only an apologist would try to argue that when someone uses the word necromancy and atheism (in the same sentence!) they are describing something religious. It wasn’t religious to claim to get rich from money digging and divining rods. Not according to Jesse Smith.

Dan Vogel, in his landmark biography of Joseph Smith wrote that,

The earliest Smith family treasure quests probably occurred on their newly acquired Manchester land. In 1822 Joseph Sr. told Peter Ingersoll that he saw treasures in a hill behind his house. However, digging did not occur until Joseph Jr. could divine the locations. Despite Joseph Sr.’s invitation to join his money-digging company, Ingersoll resisted until Joseph Jr. became its leading seer. Ingersoll was only too happy to describe in detail his amusement and “disgust” when Joseph Sr. and Alvin demonstrated their scrying technique, but he was completely silent about Joseph Jr. This silence may be due to his belief in the scryer’s gift. According to Pomeroy Tucker, Ingersoll “had believingly taken part in Smith’s money-digging operations, and was at first inclined to put faith in his ‘Golden Bible’ pretension.” (pg. 39-40)

Dan then describes the Smith’s necromantic techniques when they persuaded William Stafford to join them in a midnight dig,

One night William Stafford, who lived about a mile south of the Smiths on Stafford Road, [and who rented part of their land to Porter Rockwell’s family] was visited by Joseph Sr., who invited him to participate in a treasure dig. He informed Stafford that Joseph Jr. had seen in his stone “two or three kegs of gold and silver” located “not many rods from [the Smiths’] house” and that he and Stafford were the only two men who could get the treasure. Making their way through the dark, they arrived at the place of deposit which, from the context of Stafford’s statement, was the same hill previously referred to by Ingersoll. Stafford probably held the lantern as Joseph Sr. drew a circle in the dirt “twelve or fourteen feet in diameter” and then explained that the treasure was located in the center. Joseph Sr. took some witch hazel stakes and drove them into the ground at regular intervals around the circle for “keeping off the evil spirits.” Within this barrier, he drew another inner circle “about eight or ten feet in diameter,” then “walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand,” Stafford recalled. Next, Joseph Sr. drove a steel rod into the center of the circles in order to prevent the treasure from moving. (On such occasions, if the rod hit something, usually a large stone, the seekers generally interpreted this to be the lid of a treasure chest or some other valuable object.) Smith ordered silence “lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures” and then the two men began digging. They continued until they “dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod.” Believing they had isolated the treasure in a cone of earth, they tore into the mound hoping to be faster than the treasure guardian. But the treasure was gone. Puzzled, Joseph Sr. went to the house to ask young Joseph why they had failed. He soon returned, explaining that “Joseph had remained all this time in the house, looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit—that he saw the spirit come up to the ring and as soon as it beheld the cone which we had formed around the rod, it caused the money to sink.” When the two men returned to the house together, father Smith observed that “we had made a mistake in the commencement of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money.” (pg. 40)

Joseph Smith Sr. claimed to be an expert at dowsing for treasure and claimed in the mid 1830’s that he had been so for thirty years. His brother Jesse was probably well aware of what Joseph Sr. was up to, and so scoffed at the religiosity their money digging yarn was cloaked in. Only four years earlier Smith Sr. was lamenting the fact that his son Joseph was using his “God given” gift of peeping only to search for “filthy lucre” but as we have seen, those brief regrets didn’t change much with the Smith family and their obsession with buried treasure.

“It was treasure…”

And how does Morris and other apologists account for the same stories of treasure guardians and Captain Kidd being told by Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell and others? They don’t. Elizabeth Kane, the wife of Thomas Kane visited Utah Territory in the 1870’s and had many conversations with Brigham Young and others which she recorded in her diary. One night, they were speaking of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and this is what she recorded:

Mrs. Artemisia [Beaman] Snow and I [Elizabeth Kane] were accompanied to the parlour by the gentlemen. The lamp on the mantlepiece shed but a faint light compared to the vivid changeful glow of the blazing pine logs on the hearth, and some allusion to the solidity with which the fireplace was built, led to the remark that it was under the hearth at the Beaman [Smith] farm [in New York State] that the [Golden] “Plates” of the Book of Mormon were hidden.

Mrs. Snow was a daughter of Mr. [Alva] Beaman, a wealthy farmer of Livingston Livonia County, New York. She was only a girl when the plates were brought there, but remembered perfectly the anxiety they all felt after the plates were buried, and a fire kindled on the hearth above them, round which the family sat as usual. I asked “Who were searching for the plates?”

She answered “The people of the neighborhood. They did not know what Joseph Smith had found, but that it was treasure, and they wanted to get it away. This was long before there was any dream of religious persecution.”

Mrs. Snow sat knitting a stocking as she talked, like any other homely elderly woman. She certainly seemed to think she had actually gone through the scene she narrated. I know so little of the history of the Mormons that the stories that now followed by the flickering firelight were full of interest to me. I shall write down as much as I can remember, though there must be gaps where allusions were made to things I had never heard of and did not understand enough to remember accurately. The most curious thing was the air of perfect sincerity of all the speakers. I cannot feel doubtful that they believed what they said. …

I forget what came next, but after Mrs. Snow had been mentioned as being Beaman’s daughter, I asked some question respecting the original discovery of the plates which was answered as nearly as I can remember.

A man named [Luman] Walters son of a rich man living on the Hudson South of Albany, received a scientific education, was even sent to Paris. After he came home he lived like a misanthrope, he had come back an infidel, believing neither in man nor God. He used to dress in a fine broadcloth overcoat, but no other coat nor vest, his trousers all slitted up and patched, and sunburnt boots–filthy! He was a sort of fortune teller, though he never stirred off the old place.

For instance, a man I knew rode up, and before he spoke, the fortune teller said, “You needn’t get off your horse, I know what you want. Your mare ain’t stolen.” Says the man “How do you know what I want? Says he, “I’ll give you a sign. You’ve got a respectable wife, and so many children. At this minute your wife has just drawn a bucket of water at the well to wash her dishes. Look at your watch and find out if it ain’t so when you get home. As to your mare, she’s not a dozen miles from home. She strayed into such neighborhood, and as they didn’t know whose she was they put her up till she should be claimed. My fee’s a dollar. Be off!”

This man was sent for three times to go to the hill Cumorah to dig for treasure. People knew there was treasure there. Beman was one of those who sent for him. He came. Each time he said there was treasure there, but that he couldn’t get it; though there was one that could. The last time he came he pointed out Joseph Smith, who was sitting quietly among a group of men in the tavern, and said There was the young man that could find it, and cursed and swore about him in a scientific manner: awful!

I asked where Cumorah was. “In Manchester Township Ontario County New York.” I think this is near Rochester.

I have heard Porter Rockwell, a bronzed seafaring looking man, with long hair tucked behind his ears, in which he wears little gold rings, tell of Joseph Smith’s failures and final success in finding the plates. Rockwell was a schoolmate and friend of Smith’s, and in spite of his intimate knowledge of the humble Yankee settler’s life, the log-house, lit up at night by pine chips because they were too poor to burn candles, the daily trudge to the rude schoolhouse and the association with him when they were “hired men” together, evidently believes in his Prophet and hero, falsifying the proverb about “No man being a hero to his valet de chambre.” His story about the discovery of the plates sounded like the German legends of the demons of the Harz Mountains, but his description of the life of his neighborhood made me understand what Brigham Young meant by saying the people knew there was treasure in the Hill Cumorah. It seems that the time was one of great mental disturbance in that region. There was much religious excitement; chiefly among the Methodists. People felt free to do very queer things in the new country, which the lapse of a single generation has made us consider Old New England…

Not only was there religious excitement, but the phantom treasures of Captain Kidd were sought for far and near, and even in places like Cumorah where the primeval forest still grew undisturbed the gold finders sought for treasure without any traditionary rumor even to guide them. Rockwell said his mother and Mrs. [Lucy] Smith used to spend their Saturday evenings together telling their dreams, and that he was always glad to spend his afternoon holiday gathering pine knots for the evening blaze on the chance that his mother would forget to send him to bed, and that he might listen unnoticed to their talk. The most sober settlers of the district he said were “gropers” though they were ashamed to own it; and stole out to dig of moonlight nights carefully effacing the traces of their ineffectual work before creeping home to bed. He often heard his mother and Mrs. Smith comparing notes, and telling how Such an one’s dream, and Such another’s pointed to the same lucky spot; how the spades often struck the iron sides of the treasure chest, and how it was charmed away, now six inches this side, now four feet deeper, and again completely out of reach. Joseph Smith was no gold seeker by trade; he only did openly what all were doing privately; but he was considered to be “lucky”. (A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie, 1872–73: Elizabeth Kane’s St. George Journal, 69-74, For more on the Harz Mountains, go here).

Notice how many times the word “treasure” is linked to the word “Cumorah” above. Interesting that Kane likens the stories about Cumorah to the legends of the Harz Mountains in Germany which abound with tales of magic, demons, treasure and guardian creatures. Porter Rockwell still remembers how the phantom treasures of Kidd were being sought for far and near in the area of Cumorah. No “traditionary rumors” to guide them, he claims, the Smith’s didn’t need them. And it wasn’t only Joseph Sr., but from Lucy also.

Larry Morris claimed in his article critical of Ron Huggins that he was neither a thorough or systematic investigator, but I can’t find this important account in Morris’ article or new book. He arbitrarily cuts off any accounts after 1850 for some unknown reason. What disturbs me is that Morris doesn’t seem to understand that Huggins focuses on Captain Kidd because of accounts which claim that Joseph did. And so he makes this bizarre statement in his FARMS review:

Focusing on Captain Kidd allows Huggins to ignore the larger context of American treasure seeking and to skew the entire debate. He does this by casting American folk beliefs in a negative light and then linking Joseph Smith to those beliefs. We see this when we contrast Walker’s approach with Huggins’s. For example, Walker points out that “the cutting ritual [of divining rods] was filled with religious imagery” and that a person as prominent as future Massachusetts chief justice Peter Oliver claimed the rod “‘exceeded what I had heard’” and could “locate a single Dollar under ground, at 60 or 70 feet Distance.” Huggins, on the other hand, characterizes the folk culture of the period by telling us of a spirit nicknamed “Mr. Splitfoot” that “began rapping out answers to questions on the farm of John and Margaret Fox in the little village of Hydesville, New York.” As it turned out, two of the Fox daughters admitted forty years later that “they had made the rappings themselves by cracking their toes” (p. 31). This story, of course, has nothing to do with Joseph Smith, but Huggins implies guilt by association by mentioning Joseph Smith in the same paragraph as the Fox daughters. (pg. 15-16)

I wonder about the comprehension skills of Morris, since what he claims, that Ron mentions Joseph Smith and the Fox daughters in the same paragraph is totally false. Fox appears four times in the article, in this paragraph:

The conventional wisdom on ghosts is and has for a long time been that they became what they are by coming to a bad end, by being murdered, or by suffering some other sudden traumatic death. This very kind of story played into the founding of Spiritualism, a movement which, like Mormonism, came to birth in the “burned-over district” of western New York during the first half of the nineteenth century. On the evening of March 31, 1848, a spirit nicknamed “Mr. Splitfoot” began rapping out answers to questions on the farm of John and Margaret Fox in the little village of Hydesville, New York. Mr. Splitfoot revealed that he was the spirit of a man who had been murdered and buried in the Fox’s cellar before they had moved in. Mr. Splitfoot and other spirits like him would only rap, however, when two of the Fox’s daughters, Katie and Margaretta, were present. In 1888 the sisters admitted they had made the rappings themselves by cracking their toes. Nevertheless, the story of Mr. Splitfoot’s untimely end, born in Mrs. Fox’s imagination and confirmed by her children’s cracking toe joints, reflected perfectly conventional ideas about the origin of ghosts. We are all too familiar with this explanation of ghosthood even today.

Joseph Smith’s name is no where to be found. And why would Morris be perturbed by that association, if Ron Huggins had made it? It was all about restoring apostolic Christianity, wasn’t it?

Even Porter Rockwell knew that they didn’t need that larger context; if folk magic wasn’t looked upon in a negative light why did Rockwell claim that Smith’s neighbors were trying to hide the fact that they too, had their nocturnal excursions but wouldn’t admit it? They were deflecting their own involvement from the minute they started reporting about the Smith family.

These “gropers” as Rockwell calls them, (focused on Captain Kidd!) were ashamed to own up to what they were doing, and yet, Morris and others would have us believe that all of this was looked at in a positive light by everyone. It’s simply more of Quinn’s revisionist history that ignores the evidence while cherry picking various authors to make it seem as if they know what they are talking about.

The Oliver Twist

And so, one could ask what Peter Oliver had to do with Joseph Smith? Let’s investigate that because it may shed some light on how this is all just an apologist diversion and another claim of falsely trying to tie Christianity to the folklore culture in some kind of substantial way. The story of Peter Oliver comes to us by way of Benjamin Franklin, who wrote under the pen name “The Busy-body. Franklin gets a letter from one “Titan Pleiades”, who writes about divining rods:

I have read over Scot, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa, above three hundred times; and was in hopes, by my knowledge and industry, to gain enough to have recompensed me for my money expended and time lost in the pursuit of this learning. …there are large sums of money hidden underground in divers places about this town, and in many parts of the country… I have used all the means laid down in the immortal authors before mentioned, and when they failed, the ingenious Mr. P-d-l, with his mercurial wand and magnet, I have still failed in my purpose. (The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume, II, pg. 40-41)

He then proposes an alliance with Franklin to find this treasure. In answering this letter, Franklin makes the observation that Pleiades wasn’t “the only man in the colonies who had faith in the virtues of the Divining Rod,” and gives us this letter from his friend Peter Oliver, for many years the Chief Justice of Massachusetts:

For the present I desist from experiments in natural philosophy and perhaps shall not displease you by relating an experiment in what I call Preternatural Philosophy. It is by what is called the Virgula Divinatoria, long since exploded. Two or three persons have lately been found in Middleborough, and, I suppose, may be found elsewhere, who, by holding a twig of a tree (with some prepared matters in it) in their hands, can find copper, silver, or gold, either in the mine or in substance. When I first heard the fact I disbelieved it … but at last I was induced to make the experiment critically, which exceeded what I had heard. The person holds the twig by its two branches in both hands, and grasps them close, with the upper part erect. If any metal or mine is nigh, its fibres, though never so fast held in the hand, will twist till it points to the object … I have seen it point to a single dollar under ground, at sixty or seventy feet distance; and to a quantity of silver at a mile distance; and, what is more remarkable, when it is in motion to its object, upon the person’s closing his eyes, it will make a full stop, but, if the eyes are turned from the twig and open, it will continue its motion. It is owning to what I call the idiosyncrasy of the person’s body, who holds the twig, for I believe there is not one in five hundred in whose hands it will move. I am apt to think it will occasion as much speculation as electricity, and I believe will tend to public benefit. ~Middleborough, March 31st, 1756. (pg 41-42).

Of course Oliver doesn’t ascribe anything here to God, but to the individual’s idiosyncratic movements of the body, and that not everyone could make it work. What this has to do with Joseph Smith or religion is baffling. Of course Oliver was duped, but then so is everyone who believes in such nonsense (as Franklin points out in his sarcastic reply as the Busy-body).

Walker makes the observation (pg. 443) that for all of Franklin’s poo-pooing of money-digging he still published a popular almanac for years (Poor Richards). But as Franklin explained in the first issue, it was all to make money, and he constantly poked fun at people, joked about things and once even predicted a man’s death to the day and hour, (in mockery of Astrologists), and when the man lived, refused to acknowledge he was still alive! Walker’s comment is strange, because Franklin took none of it seriously. And it made him a lot of money. He knew it was all a humbug but knew how to cash in on it.

A Common Spiritual Gift?

There have been a plethora of Mormon authors who, in the last decade or so have been publishing on “folk magic”, in an effort to reconcile the Smith family’s practice of “the Black Art” with more legitimate religious practices. Over and over I read about how us moderns just don’t comprehend what it was like in nineteenth century America and how hard it is to understand the “folk” and their magical ways. In a desperate attempt to try and legitimize dowsing, Eric A Eliason writes:

The presumption that the difference between magic and proper belief is something intrinsic rather than relational to the definer is still very much alive. But on close analysis, complex definitions distinguishing “magical” from “modern” thinking rarely amount to more than “What you do is superstition, while what I do is science or true religion.” One of the biggest surprises rural students have in American university folklore courses, including at B.Y.U., is discovering their suburban peers need to be taught what divining rods are and how to use them. Today, regardless of class, race, education, wealth, region, or religion, rural students tend to know of holding a forked stick gently in one’s hand to feel for the downward tug that points to underground water and a good spot for a well. Dowsing seems not only understandable, but essential, in rural areas where families are on their own to secure water, and where hired well drillers make no guarantees and charge by the foot. City kids are shocked that their country classmates could be such shameless occult dabblers in a modern age where you don’t have to think about where water comes from. You just turn on the tap and out it comes–like magic. My rural LDS students don’t understand why their suburban counterparts have so little respect for or belief in a common spiritual gift often displayed by their educated and reasonable Bishops and Stake Presidents. It is simply wrong to assume that divining practices are some long-abandoned exotic aspect of America’s frontier past rather than a continuing worldwide phenomenon, used not only by rural Americans, but by soldiers in Vietnam to find enemy tunnels, by oil and precious metal prospecting companies, and even by contemporary salvage professionals to recover, yes, lost treasure. But none of this means that there are not bogus scams, such as the well-developed industry of luring American investors to fund “sure fire” efforts to recover caches of loot hidden by Japanese soldiers retreating from the Philippines at the end of World War II. These always seem to need a little more financing and never seem to produce for investors. (Seer Stones, Salamanders and Early Mormon “Folk Magic”, BYU Studies Quarterly, 4-5-2016, 82)

A common spiritual gift? As proven by scientific experiments it is all bogus and subjective!  It is like believing in the power of prayer and trying to claim that it will work for everyone in the same way every time, because the dowsers claim if there is water they will find it and God promised that if you ask he will answer. But no matter what the promise is, subjective spiritual claims never live up to the hype. Would there be any difference in praying to Jesus or to Beelzebub? Only in the mind of the individual. Another person would never know to who or what anyone prays to if they didn’t tell them or pray out loud. I was truly amused by this effort from Ashurst-McGee to redefine terms in his Pathway to Prophethood thesis:

By the end of his life, Emanuel Swedenborg developed the ability to voluntarily enter and exit an ecstatic divinatory state whenever he wished to.  His visions stand as an example of divination initiated by the diviner, which I term “ascensional divination.” In contrast, while on the road to Damascus the Pharisee Saul was confronted by the risen Christ, commanded to cease his persecutions against the Christians, given an apostolic commission, and renamed Paul. This is an example of divination initiated by God, which I call “descensional divination” or “revelation.”

In other words he calls Swedenborg’s trances “ascensional divination” and when God appears to someone “descensional divination”. These are just gobbledygook words made up by Ashurst-McGee so he can repeat the word “divination” over and over again in some kind of way to try and associate it with Christianity.

First of all, he has no idea what was going on with Swedenborg, or Edgar Cayce (the “sleeping prophet”) or anyone else who went into trances to commune with superior beings or the supernatural. No one does. Brigham Young once taught (As did Swedenborg) that the “Spirit World” is right here with us so claiming that revelation comes from up or down is pretty much in the eye of the beholder and rather silly. And what is “divination”? What did it mean those who lived in the time of Joseph Smith? That’s the key here. The entry in the 1828 Webster’s gives us the meaning:

DIVINATIONnoun [Latin , to foretell. See Divine.]

1. The act of divining; a foretelling future events, or discovering things secret or obscure, by the aid of superior beings, or by other than human means. The ancient heathen philosophers divided divination into two kinds, natural and artificial. Natural divination was supposed to be effected by a kind of inspiration or divine afflatus; artificial divination was effected by certain rites, experiments or observations, as by sacrifices, cakes, flour, wine, observation of entrails, flight of birds, lots, verses, omens, position of the stars, etc.

This word was then associated with the occult and heathens, not the Christian God. If one then looks up “divine” in the 1828 Websters, we see these entries which correspond to the entry above:

DIVINE, verb transitive [Latin]
1. To foreknow; to foretell; to presage.
Darst thou divine his downfall?
2. To deify. [Not in use.]
DIVINE, verb intransitive
1. To use or practice divination.
2. To utter presages or prognostications.
The prophets thereof divine for money. Micah 3:6.
3. To have presages or forebodings.
Suggest but truth to my divining thoughts–
4. To guess or conjecture.

1. One who professes divination; one who pretends to predict events, or to reveal occult things, by the aid of superior beings, or of supernatural means.
These nations hearkened to diviners. Deuteronomy 18:14.
2. One who guesses; a conjecturer.

The Micah 3 cross is very interesting. It is a rebuking of Israel’s prophets and leaders for divining for money:

And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? Who hate the good, and love the evil… Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Prophets divining for money? Oh my! And Deuteronomy 18:14:

For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

Joseph was condemning the clergy of his day of being corrupt, but his practice of divining for money was also corrupt and condemned by God according to the Old Testament that Mormon apologists love to quote. That is why this occult “prophet-in-training” shtick doesn’t make much sense.

And in analyzing the vision of Paul, it really wasn’t Paul trying to divine anything (let alone Jesus) as much as it was Jesus appearing to Paul and complaining because he (and his people) were being persecuted by the obsessive Pharisee. I suggest that a more correct term would be an “arbitrarial non-divination appearance” or better yet an “angry god manifestation”.

And Swedenborg? He didn’t begin with trances, he was sitting in a tavern in 1745 and he saw a personage sitting in the corner of the room who told him not to eat too much. Alarmed, he went home and the same personage again appeared to him and told him he was going to expound on the meaning of the Bible and other things. Swedenborg claimed that this was “the Lord”.

Since “the Lord” supposedly appeared to Swedenborg first, (in a tavern no less) was this an ascentional or a descentional? I’ll let the Mormon apologists sort that out. I’m going for arbitrarial non-divination appearance.

And of course there are those many Bible Dictionaries like this one from Charles Buck published in 1826 that give us a good idea of what people thought about divining and other magical practices at that time:

Is a conjecture or surmise formed concerning some future event from something which is supposed to be a presage of it; but between which there is no real connection, only what the imagination of the diviner is pleased to assign in order to deceive. Divination of all kinds being the offspring of credulity, nursed by imposture, and strengthened by superstition, was necessarily an occult science, retained in the hands of the priests and priestesses, the magi, the soothsayers, the augurs, the visionaries, the priests of the oracles, the false prophets, and other like professors, till the coming of Jesus Christ, when the light of the Gospel dissipated much of this darkness. The vogue for these pretended sciences and arts is nearly past, at least in the enlightened parts of the world. There are nine different kinds of divination mentioned in Scripture. These are,

1. Those whom Moses calls Meonen of Anan, a cloud, Deuteronomy 18:10 .
2. Those whom the prophet calls, in the same place, Menachesch, which the Vulgate and generality of interpreters render Augur.
3. Those who in the same place are called Mecasheph, which the Septuagint and Vulgate translate “a man given to ill practices.”
4. Those whom in the same chapter, ver.11. he calls Hhober.
5. Those who consult the spirits, called Python.
6. Witches, or magicians, called Judeoni.
7. Necromancers, who consult the dead.
8. Such as consult staves, Hosea 4:12 . called by some Rhabdomancy.
9. Hepatoscopy, or the consideration of the liver.

Different kinds of divination which have passed for sciences, we have had:

1. Aeromancy, divining by the air.
2. Astrology, by the heavens.
3. Augury, by the flight and singing of birds, &c.
4. Chiromancy by inspecting the hand.
5. Geomancy, by observing of cracks or clefts in the earth.
6. Haruspicy, by inspecting the bowels of animals.
7. Horoscopy, a branch of astrology, marking the position of the heavens when a man is born.
8. Hydromancy, by water.
9. Physiognomy, by the countenance. (This, however, is considered by some as of a different nature, and worthy of being rescued from the rubbish of superstition, and placed among the useful sciences. Lavater has written a celebrated treatise on it.).
10. Pyromancy, a divination made by fire. Thus we see what arts have been practised to deceive, and how designing men have made use of all the four elements to impose upon weak minds. (Charles Buck’s theological Dictionary (1826), Thanks to Ron Huggins for the reference).

I could not find any Mormon apologists who have cited this entry or any like it. Physiognomy and Phrenology was all the rage with Smith and others in Nauvoo.

“A decisive failure”

Did dowsing work every time? We know it does not. No more than randomly pointing at the ground and saying there is water here. Again, a clock is right twice a day. And one other observation, why would dowsing work with a tree branch for some and metal rods for others? Why wouldn’t the metal rods be pulled down as the branch is? Why do they cross each other instead? Dowsers can’t tell you, or if they do, each one has his own explanation. Oliver had it right long ago that it is due to idiosyncratic movements of the body and nothing more. (Watch some youtube videos and you will see what I mean, especially James Randi’s).

And one more thing before moving on from modern dowsing. This quote (or words like it) is basically all over the internet, and of course it is used to sell Almanacs:

…one study, conducted by the German government in the 1990s, that perplexed the scientific community. During this study’s 10-year research period, researchers paired up experienced geologists and dowsers, sending them to dry regions like Sri Lanka, Kenya and Yemen. Scientists were surprised to find that many of the dowsers were spot-on. In Sri Lanka alone, drill teams drilled 691 wells under the supervision of dowsers and found water 96% of the time. (Farmers Almanac)

Basically, the scientist (Betz) who conducted the experiment referred to above, manipulated the data to favor dowsing as this analysis of the data proves. And his (Enright’s) conclusion?

The Munich dowsing experiments represent the most extensive test ever conducted of the hypothesis that a genuine mysterious ability permits dowsers to detect hidden water sources. The research was conducted in a sympathetic atmosphere, on a highly selected group of candidates, with careful control of many relevant variables. The researchers themselves concluded that the outcome unquestionably demonstrated successful dowsing abilities, but a thoughtful re-examination of the data indicates that such an interpretation can only be regarded as the result of wishful thinking. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a set of experimental results that would represent a more persuasive disproof of the ability of dowsers to do what they claim. The experiments thus can and should be considered a decisive failure by the dowsers.

Are today’s dowsers any different than the Peekers of the 19th century? I would argue they are not and that any religiosity associated with it differs with each person and is based on each person’s personal religious beliefs. But there were clergy who taught the tenets of their respective faiths, and Joseph Smith and his father rejected them all for a mixture of occult and unorthodox Christian beliefs.

In other words, God (“revelation”) doesn’t make dowsing work any more than magnetic fields does or psychic ability does or the plethora of reasons given by those who advocate it — but if people want to pray to God and then claim that he had something to do with it and … if by the law of averages they find water, they have the law of averages to thank for their success. And just for fun google “Is water everywhere underground?” and you will get this answer:

In fact, there is a hundred times more water in the ground than is in all the world’s rivers and lakes. Some water underlies the Earth’s surface almost everywhere, beneath hills, mountains, plains, and deserts. … Groundwater is a part of the water cycle. 

This clock might be right more than two times a day. Because under the Earth’s surface it’s pretty much always water time.

“Work to the Money”

And yet, here is how one of Smith’s neighbors (Peter Ingersol) described Joseph Sr.’s use of a divining rod:

The general employment of the family, was digging for money. I had frequent invitations to join the company, but always declined being one of their number. They used various arguments to induce me to accept of their invitations. I was once ploughing near the house of Joseph Smith, Sen. about noon, he requested me to walk with him a short distance from his house, for the purpose of seeing whether a mineral rod would work in my hand, saying at the same time he was confident it would. As my oxen were eating, and being myself at leisure, I accepted the invitation. — When we arrived near the place at which he thought there was money, he cut a small witch hazle bush and gave me direction how to hold it. He then went off some rods, and told me to say to the rod, “work to the money,” which I did, in an audible voice. He rebuked me severely for speaking it loud, and said it must be spoken in a whisper. This was rare sport for me. While the old man was standing off some rods, throwing himself into various shapes, I told him the rod did not work. He seemed much surprised at this, and said he thought he saw it move in my hand. It was now time for me to return to my labor. On my return, I picked up a small stone and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. Said he, (looking very earnestly) what are you going to do with that stone? Throw it at the birds, I replied. No, said the old man, it is of great worth; and upon this I gave it to him. Now, says he, if you only knew the value there is back of my house (and pointing to a place near) — there, exclaimed he, is one chest of gold and another of silver. He then put the stone which I had given him, into his hat, and stooping forward, he bowed and made sundry maneuvers, quite similar to those of a stool pigeon. At length he took down his hat, and being very much exhausted, said, in a faint voice, “if you knew what I had seen, you would believe.” To see the old man thus try to impose upon me, I confess, rather had a tendency to excite contempt than pity. Yet I thought it best to conceal my feelings, preferring to appear the dupe of my credulity, than to expose myself to his resentment. His son Alvin then went through with the same performance, which was equally disgusting. Another time, the said Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground — we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun. (Mormonism Unvailed, 236).

I grew up in Oregon, and was around farmers all the time; I worked on farms in the summers, drove tractors and combines with my friends every summer, and never heard of one farmer who used divining rods for anything, though I’m sure there must have been some as it is still a part of our culture. This was in the 1970’s. Perhaps in rural Utah it is different.

It has to be remembered that the apologists are claiming that all these neighbors of the Smith’s are making things up. Ingersol’s account doesn’t sound like neighborhood gossip. And if Ingersol is lying, why would he? The Smith’s were long gone by 1833 and there wasn’t any point to lying or making things up about them. And what about the faithful Mormons that tell similar accounts?

This video is instructive, as Richard Dawkins invites some Dowsers to prove their ability, and it is amazing what he uncovers. Not that it doesn’t work, we all know it doesn’t, but that those who failed cannot believe it. One man even said that God (who he claims to get the power from) was pulling a joke on him by not allowing him to find the water. This kind of thing was way more prevalent in Colonial America, because people are superstitious and always will be. To me, it really illustrates what Peter Ingersol must have seen in Joseph Smith, Sr.:

Work To The Money (Modern Style)

Is there a modern day equivalent to the treasure hunting that went on in the 18th & 19th centuries? I had to think about that and yes, I think there is one and its called The Lottery. It has all the get rich quick aspects of treasure digging, and people even pray to God to bless them to “win”. At this website, are some of the prayers that they use. As the article explains,

Then there’s this message board poster, who said there’s a “special prayer” that “always works,” and it not only won him $31 million, it won somebody in New Jersey $300 million. But, sorry, nope, can’t share it, “because then you all will be millionaires.” As if that’s a bad thing? He signs off with two tips: “You, have to make sacrifices to the Lord. You must have Faith and have it in your heart. God Bless.

Kind of like seeing in a peep-stone? It always worked, didn’t it? They just couldn’t get the treasure cause it slipped away. And why share the “special prayer” since everyone would win? Joseph wasn’t teaching people to use peep-stones. Should we now believe that playing the Lottery is a part of lost Apostolic Christianity because so many Christians believe in it? The true way to pay tithing perhaps? Have things really changed that much?

“That money ….is here, now, every dollar of it.”

It was all treasure to the Smith’s, it was all a money making venture. Lucy Smith claimed that she was handed a “breastplate” which was wrapped in cloth, and she later described the experience:

It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal, and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty. It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards, as far as the centre of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders, and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers, (for I measured them,) and they had holes in the ends of them, to be convenient in fastening. The whole plate was worth at least five hundred dollars; after I had examined it, Joseph placed it in the chest with the Urim and Thummim (p. 390)

It seems that Lucy was thinking in terms of monetary gain from the artifacts that her son claimed to have discovered. She was to claim also that the “spectacles” included two “diamonds” that were wrapped in silver wire:

[I] … took the article in my hands and upon after examining it <found> * [* with no covering but a silk handkerchief] that it consisted of 2 smott<ooth> 3 cornered diamonds set in glass and the glass was set in silver bows stones conected with each other in the same way that old fashioned spectacles are made He took them again and left me but did not tell me anything of the record (p. 379)

It begs the question of why these artifacts had to be wrapped up at all. Because it was “instant death” to look at them? Really? What if someone happened to get a glimpse of on of them as Josiah Stowell claimed he did? (More on that below)

And yet there was this breastplate and the “spectacles” were supposed to be attached to it which would enable someone to read the engravings on the plates and “translate” them. But how could they do so if they needed to put the spectacles in a hat? It all makes little sense. Even inthe lost Book of Lehi, a part of which was related to Fayette Lapham by Joseph Smith Sr., it claimed that one must use an animal skin to use the “interpreters”:

After sailing a long time, they [Lehi & Co.] came to land, went on shore, and thence they traveled through boundless forests, until, at length, they came to a country where there were a great many lakes; which country had once been settled by a very large race of men, who were very rich, having a great deal of money. From some unknown cause, this nation had become extinct; “but that money,” said Smith, “is here, now, every dollar of it.” When they, the Jews, first beheld this country, they sent out spies to see what manner of country it was, who reported that the country appeared to have been settled by a very large race of men, and had been, to all appearances, a very rich agricultural and manufacturing nation. They also found something of which they did not know the use, but when they went into the tabernacle, a voice said, “What have you got in your hand, there?” They replied that they did not know, but had come to inquire; when the voice said, “Put it on your face, and put your face in a skin, and you will see what it is.” They did so, and could see everything of the past, present, and future; and it was the same spectacles that Joseph found with the gold plates.

The money was still buried in the Manchester hills, Smith Sr. was sure of it and he was going to get it. The “spectacles” just so happened to have directions for use on the gold plates and it was exactly the same way that Joseph used his peep-stone? Except that was not put back into the Book of Mormon. The account from the Book of Lehi about being able to “see everything of the past, present, and future” is interesting. I had always wondered about why Joseph had dictated the “revelation” on John early in his career as a “seer”, and what better way to show off the power of his stone and to calm those who might have associated it with magic:

A Revelation given to Joseph and Oliver [Cowdery], in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.

Joseph could supposedly “see” into the past and view the parchment that John wrote on. What a neat trick. Notice that Joseph reveals nothing about when it was written or where John hid it.

Smith’s 1838-39 manuscript history mentioned “two stones in silver bows and these put into a breast plate which constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim deposited with the plates … to prepare them for the purpose of translating the book.  (Marquardt, 2016)

We know that “the Urim and Thummim” is just something that was made up later to make Smith’s peep-stone sound more legitimate. The “ancients” never called such a thing a urim and thummim and the fact is that no one knows what the urim and thummim was. (More on his below) But this was really all about money…

Addison Austin (1796-1872) testified that Joseph Smith told him he could not see with the stone. At a time when Josiah Stowell Sr. “was digging for money, he, Austin, was in company with said Smith alone, and asked him to tell him honestly whether he could see this money or not. Smith hesitated some time, but finally replied, ‘to be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way to get a living. (Marquardt, 2016)

Fayette Lapham would later recall:

This Joseph Smith, Senior, we soon learned, from his own lips, was a firm believer in witchcraft and other supernatural things; and had brought up his family in the same belief. He also believed that there was a vast amount of money buried somewhere in the country; that it would some day be found; that he himself had spent both time and money searching for it, with divining rods, but had not succeeded in finding any, though sure that he eventually would. (pg. 306)

Lucy Harris left an affidavit which explained how her husband Martin joined the Smith “Gold Bible Company” to make money:

Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge, for its effects upon Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me. His whole object was to make money by it. I will give one circumstance in proof of it. One day, while at Peter Harris’ house, I told him he had better leave the company of the Smiths, as their religion was false; to which he replied, if you would let me alone, I could make money by it… (Lucy Harris, 29 November, 1833)

And by 1829 Joseph was penning “revelations” to pressure others into giving their money for his new venture:

And again: I command you, that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God (“Revelation” to Martin Harris, 1829)

Martin Harris did just that, signed over his farm. But he would make no profit from book sales, as this agreement Joseph Smith signed in January, 1830 attests:

I hereby agree that Martin Harris shall have an equal privilege with me & my friends of selling the Book of Mormon of the Edition now printing by Egbert B Grandin until enough of them shall be sold to pay for the printing of the same or moruntil such times as the said Grandin shall be paid for the printing the aforesaid Books or copies ~Joseph Smith Jr., Witness: Oliver H.P. Cowdery

Dan Vogel:

If Harris had in fact held some kind of speculative expectation from the Book of Mormon, the 16 January agreement made it clear to him that he would not reap any profits from the sales; rather, he would only be repaid his $3,000. The profits would go to Joseph Sr. and “friends.” Moreover, the agreement outlined a method of payment requiring that the entire run of 5,000 copies would have to be sold before 25 February 1831 to prevent foreclosure on Harris’s farm.

There is no evidence that Harris ever recouped the money for the initial printing costs of the Book of Mormon.

“He will get the treasure”

Brigham Young would claim that the “treasure” located in the Hill Cumorah, was visible to Luman Walters, but he could not get it, only Joseph Smith could:

I well knew a man who, to get the plates, rode over sixty miles [it was 16 miles] three times the same season they were obtained by Joseph Smith. About the time of their being delivered to Joseph by the angel, the friends of this man sent for him, and informed him that they were going to lose that treasure, though they did not know what it was. The man I refer to was a fortune-teller, necromancer, an astrologer, a soothsayer and possessed as much talent as any man that walked on the American soil, and was one of the wickedest men I ever saw. The last time he went to obtain the treasure he knew sure where it was, but did not know its value. Allow me to tell you that a Baptist deacon and others of Joseph’s neighbors were the very men who sent for this necromancer the last time he went for the treasure. I never heard a man who could swear like that astrologer; he swore scientifically, by rule, by note. To those who love swearing, it was musical to hear him, but not so for me, for I would leave his presence. He would call Joseph everything that was bad and say “I believe he will get the treasure after all”. He did get it and the war commenced directly. When Joseph obtained the treasure, the priests the deacons and religionists of every grade, went hand in hand with the fortune-teller, and with every wicked person, to get it out of his hand, and to accomplish this, a part of them came out and persecuted him. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 180-1, 18 Febuary, 1855).

How is it that Brigham Young recounts so vividly these stories about Luman Walters? Perhaps because of his close association with the Beamans and what they told him about those times? Young does not appear to doubt the stories about treasure digging at all. I also can’t find this account in either of Morris’ publications.

(End of Pt. 2, to be continued…)

The Early Histories of Joseph Smith, Part I: Ghosts & Angels

“The Moneydiggers” by John Quidor

by Johnny Stephenson

PART I: Of Ghosts & Angels

“[A] gold book discovered by … necromancy … & dug from the mines of atheism” or “the angel of the Lord has revealed to him …divine revelation”? ~Jesse Smith


When the “Gold Bible” stories began being noised about in August 1829, an interesting story was being relayed by the principle players in the drama which was then unfolding about a mysterious record that some Jo from Palmyra, New York had reportedly unearthed. One of the first accounts about what they were calling The Book of Mormon appeared in the Palmyra Freeman:

In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario county, reported that he had been visited in a dream by the spirit of the Almighty, and informed that in a certain hill in that town, was deposited this Golden Bible, containing an ancient record of a divine nature and origin. After having been thrice thus visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after having penetrating “mother earth” a short distance, the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles! He had directed, however, not to let any mortal being examine them, “under no less penalty” than instant death! They were therefore nicely wrapped up, and excluded from the vulgar gaze of poor wicked mortals!” It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least) interpret these characters. (The Palmyra Freeman, August 11, 1829).

This was the story as told by Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and others, throughout the early years of the new Mormonite religion (and they were totally serious about the “instant death” part). In November of 1830, the Ohio Observer & Telegraph published another detail that was also being told along with the story above:

These men [Oliver Cowdery & Co.] have brought with them copies of a Book, known in this region by the name of the “Golden Bible,” or, as it is learned on its title-page, “The Book of Mormon.” They solemnly affirm, that its contents were given by Divine inspiration; was written by prophets of the Most High from a period of 600 years before, to that of some hundred years after our blessed Saviour’s advent; was deposited by Divine command below the surface of the ground, in or near the township of Palmyra, Ontario Co., N. Y., that an Angel appeared to a certain Joseph Smith residing in that place, who, they say, was a poor, ignorant, illiterate man, and made no pretensions to religion of any kind; — … [section of text illegible] … of this sacred deposit, and directed him forthwith to dig up and bring to light this precious record and prophecy. They affirm that the said Smith obeyed the heavenly messenger, when lo! a new Revelation — the Golden Bible was discovered!

In this account we learn that before Joseph prayed and was answered by the angel, he “made no pretensions to religion of any kind.” This is a detail that the early missionaries were repeating, the same one that Lucy Smith, William Smith, Samuel H. Smith and others recalled: that Joseph was caught up in the religious excitement in Manchester/Palmyra in the fall of 1823 and prayed for an answer to the question of “which church is right” and was answered by an angel, who told him about a “record” -which Joseph failed to acquire because he had selfish thoughts. He then repents, and gets the record four years later, after reporting to the angel every year to receive instructions on how to “restore” God’s kingdom. In August, 1832 William McLellin wrote to relatives about the new religion:

Some time in July 1831, two men [Elders Samuel H. Smith and Reynolds Cahoon] … said that in September 1827 an angel appeared to Joseph Smith (in Ontario Co., New York) and showed to him the confusion on the earth respecting true religion. It also told him to go a few miles distant to a certain hill and there he should find some plates with engravings, which (if he was faithful) he should be enabled to translate. He went as directed and found plates (which had the appearance of fine gold) about 8 inches long, 5 or 6 wide and altogether about 6 inches thick; each one about as thick as thin pasteboard, fastened together and opened in the form of a book containing engravings of reformed Egyptian hieroglyphical characters which he was inspired to translate and the record was published in 1830 and is called the Book of Mormon. It is a record which was kept on this continent by the ancient inhabitants. Those men had this book with them and they told us about it, and also of the rise of the church (which is now called Mormonites from their faith in this book etc…. (William McLellin, Letter to Relatives, August 4, 1832, The Ensign of Liberty, of the Church of Christ . . . Kirtland, Lake County, Ohio 1 (January 1848):60-61)

Painting by Ramsey

Notice that McLellin refers to the unnamed angel as “it”, not “he”. William McLellin had met Joseph in October of 1831 and stayed with him for three weeks. His story didn’t change. If Joseph was telling a different story, McLellin surely would have known and informed his relatives. But this is the account they were giving then. Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt told a similar story almost a year later:

In 1827 a young man called Joseph Smith of the state of New York, of no denomination, but under conviction, [guilt & sorrow leading to repentance] inquired of the Lord what he should do to be saved-he went to bed without any reply, but in the night was awakened by an angel, whiter and shining in greater splendour than the sun at noonday, who gave information where the plates were deposited… (Catholic Telegraph 1 (April 14, 1832):204-205).

In 1830 Peter Bauder had visited with Joseph Smith for a whole day and left this account:

… I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. (Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, p. 16-18).

“A secret treasure” is what he called it, and Joseph’s religious questions were answered by an unnamed angel, not by Jesus. Smith’s followers and family were testifying that Joseph did not make pretensions to religion of any kind, before encountering this angel in the mid 1820’s.

And what about those other stories, the ones also being told by Joseph and his family between 1823-1827? Was the account that Joseph would give later in 1832, that there was a Christian framework (not magical) surrounding his claimed visions the true one? That the only involvement that he had with money-digging was being hired for wages to literally dig for a silver mine? That his involvement with money-digging was only for “nearly a month”?

Why then, did Joseph’s family, neighbors and yes, some early Mormon “saints” claim that he was heavily involved with treasure digging and magical practices for many years, and that the story of the angel and the plates being told in 1828-29 was closely intertwined with those earlier experiences? Why are the plates referred to by those closest to Joseph as “treasure” over and over again? Were the stories about a ghost and buried treasure in the “Mormon Hill” and the Smith’s pursuit of it simply lies made up after the fact by those like Abner Cole, Willard Chase, Peter Ingersol, Martin Harris and dozens of others as some apologists claim?

And then we have the Mormon apologists who argue that one must agree with their view that Christianity and folk magic were inseparable or one cannot grasp what the evidence means and how Smith’s story developed. This is ridiculous for a number of reasons, which I will explore below, along with their other wild speculations about Folk Magic. What was normal or not normal during the Great Awakenings, was subjective and constantly changing and so trying to broad brush the folk magic aspect for all Americans and make the claim that treasure digging was simply an effort to restore primitive Christianity is disingenuous.

When one takes the time to analyze the evidence surrounding the claims made by Joseph of having those two visions (in 1820 & 1823), many problems arise, especially concerning the claimed 1820 “first vision”. I will address those problems below and in a follow up article address the apologist arguments that attempt to explain the inconsistencies, contradictions and conundrums of his first two written histories (1832 & 1834/5); but first let’s address the historical evidence surrounding those early years (1820-1830) and the historical narrative that can be pieced together from the evidence.

Camp Meetings & Revivals

In Joseph’s later narrative, he claims to have been prompted to seek an answer because of a great revival which had swept through the place where he lived in the spring of 1820. It is therefore extremely important to note something here. In 1967 Wesley Walters wrote,

“… the contemporary records [show] that the revival which Smith claimed occurred in 1820 did not really take place until the fall of 1824.” (pg. 61)

Strangely, the anonymously authored essay from 2013 published by the church references a camp-meeting which took place in mid-July of 1820, and they also don’t inform their readers that it was more than 25 miles from Palmyra. They reference the diary of Benajah Williams but don’t quote it:

The journals of an itinerant Methodist preacher document much religious excitement in Joseph’s geographic area in 1819 and 1820. They report that Reverend George Lane, a revivalist Methodist minister, was in that region in both years, speaking “on Gods method in bringing about Reformations.” This historical evidence is consistent with Joseph’s description.

No, the evidence is not consistent. “The place where we lived” is certainly not 25 miles away. Williams wrote:

“Sat. 15th Had a two Days meeting at Sq Bakers in Richmond. Br. Wright being gone to campmeeting on Ridgeway circuit I expected to find Br. J. Hayes at the Meeting & calculated to get him to take the lead of the meeting but when on my way to meeting met him going to conference & tried to get him to return but he thout[sic] not best as his horse was young, he said he could not ride through by conference by the time it commenced Then I thout what shall I do I shall have to take the lead at the meeting & do the p- (preaching) but the Lord prepaired him self a preacher it rained powerfully until 11 o’clock so that I was verry wet I called with some of the Brtheren at Br. Eldredges and took dinner then rode to the place appointed for meeting. & found Br. Lane a Presiding Elder from Susquehanna District with five more preachers. Br. Warner p. on Sat. Br. Griffing exhorted. We had a good prayer meeting at six in the evening.”

“Sab. 16th Our Lovefeast began at 9 & the Lord was present to bless & we had a shout in the camp. Br E Bibbins p- at 11 from…the lord attended the word & the people were satisfied with the Sermons. Br. Lane exhorted and spoke on Gods method in bringing about Reffermations [sic] his word was with as from the authority of God. & not as the Areons. After him Br. Griffin with life & energy & Br. Vose closed the Meeting after with some of the Brethren dined with Br. W. E….” (Diary of Benajah Williams, 15-16 July, 1820).

The story that Joseph told had a revival taking place “in his fifteenth year” in “the place where we lived”, before his claimed vision in the “early spring” and that the whole district of the country was affected also. And the Methodists were not the only ones affected, but the Presbyterians and Baptists were also. The Williams Camp Meeting was a 9 hour walk from the Smith farm. It was not a revival and it doesn’t fit the evidence at all. Here is the footnote from the anonymous essay:

  1. Benajah Williams diary, July 15, 1820, copy in Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling regularized.

What they don’t mention in the body of the essay is that this camp meeting took place in the middle of July not the “early Spring”. Mike Quinn, in a bizarre effort to question the character of Wesley Walters, wrote a paper in 2006 titled, “Joseph Smith’s Experience of a Methodist ‘Camp Meeting’ in 1820”, and for all the attacks on Walters had to admit, according to Dan Vogel that “the First Vision story contains elements from the 1824–25 Palmyra revival,” and so Walter’s “observation about the text and its relationship to verifiable historical facts remains essentially legitimate.”

Quinn calls what he is doing in his paper “conservative revisionism”, and this includes throwing out what Smith himself wrote, that his vision took place in the early spring of 1820. Quinn claims that this is wrong, that it took place in the early summer because of a cold spring… that Joseph essentially mistook the month of July for the month of March. This kind of tortured ad hoc “revisionism” is simply baffling. Quinn also touts this newspaper article as strong evidence that Walter’s was wrong:

Effects of Drunkenness. — DIED at the house of Mr. Robert M’Collum, in this town, on the 26th inst., James Couser, aged about forty years. The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. M’Collum’s house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication. He, with his companion who was also in the same debasing condition, called for supper, which was granted. Both stayed all night — called for breakfast next morning — when notified that it was ready, the deceased was found wrestling with his companion, whom he flung down with the greatest ease, — he suddenly sunk down upon a bench, — was taken with an epileptic fit, and immediately expired. — It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of the community too frequently resort for no better objewct, than to gratify their base propensities. The deceased, who was an Irishman, we understand has left a family, living at Catskill, this state. (Palmyra Register, June 28, 1820)

Again, a camp-meeting months after the claimed “early Spring” vision. So where is the reference to the claimed 1819 “revival”? The anonymous authors don’t provide any. But there is another Methodist preacher the Apologists mention, Aurora Seager, who was in the area in 1818 and this is from his diary:

I received, on the 18th of June, a letter from Brother Hibbard, informing me that I had been received by the New York Conference, and, at my request, had been transferred to the Genesee Conference. On the 19th I attended a camp-meeting at Palmyra. The arrival of Bishop Roberts, who seems to be a man of God, and is apostolic in his appearance, gave a deeper interest to the meeting until it closed. On Monday the sacrament was administered, about twenty were baptized; forty united with the Church, and the meeting closed. I accompanied the Bishop to Brother Hawks, at Phelps, and on the 14th of July I set out with Brother Paddock for the Genesee conference, which was to hold its session at Lansing, N.Y. (Diary of Aurora Seager, 1818, The Three Brothers: Sketches of the Lives of Rev. Aurora Seager, Rev. Micah Seager, Rev. Schuyler Seager, D. D. (New York, 1880), pgs 21-22).

Mormon Apologists love to tout this as evidence of “an unusual excitement .. among all the sects … [with] great multitudes”, but this was two years before the claimed 1820 vision and only speaks of Methodists. There is no mention of George Lane either (this is important). Here is the story the way Smith later crafted it:

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, [1820 according to Smith] there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, a“Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. … I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia. (Joseph Smith, History)

It commenced with the Methodists “in the place where we lived” then expanded (according to Smith) to “all the sects” in “that region of the country”. It wasn’t an isolated camp meeting 25 miles from the place where he lived (Palmyra). It wasn’t a camp meeting in the summer, or two years earlier, it was a great multitudes uniting themselves to the different religious parties, and this did not happen as Joseph describes until 1824. Walters was right, and still is.

The Manchester Mess

The Smith family’s Palmyra residences (approximate locations, top left, bottom left)

Joseph claimed the whole family moved to Manchester in 1820. But this isn’t true, they didn’t all move to Manchester until 1822 after they built a cabin which they completed before starting on a “frame house” the next year. The evidence for this is incontrovertible.

As Walters and Marquardt document in “Inventing Mormonism” the Smith’s moved to Palmyra in 1816-1817 and rented a house on West Main Street. (see map above top left) They lived there for about two years and then moved out to a small log cabin on some land that Samuel Jennings owned just at the southern edge of the Palmyra Township line. (see map above bottom left) This was not Manchester. Walters & Marquardt explain:

Joseph Sr. is first found in Palmyra on the road tax list for April 1817 as a resident on Main Street…. Joseph Sr.’s name occurs again at the same location in District 26 in 1818 and 1819. In April 1820 Alvin Smith’s name appears for the first time on the road tax list among the merchants on Main Street. Alvin had turned twenty-one in February 1819 and his absence from the 1819 road list may indicate he had been hired out. Residing on Main Street may represent the cake and beer shop the Smiths reportedly operated in town. However, Joseph Sr.’s name appears at the end of the list, showing he was now living outside the business district and near the Palmyra-Farmington town line, where the road district ended. The Smith family’s cabin would be mentioned two months later in the “Palmyra Town Book” as “Joseph Smiths dwelling house,” located about fifty feet north of the line dividing Palmyra from Farmington. It stood about two miles south of Main Street on property owned by Samuel Jennings, a merchant with whom the Smiths did business. When the road survey crew on 13 June 1820 laid out the extension of Stafford Road to join Main Street to the north, they used the cabin as a reference point. The survey reads: “Minutes of the survey of a public Highway beginning on the south line … in the town of Palmyra three rods fourteen links southeas[t] of Joseph Smiths dwelling house.” The Smith cabin location is further supported by Orsamus Turner, who in 1818 began work as a young apprentice printer at the office of the local Palmyra Register. He recalled that he first saw the Smith family in the winter of 1819-20 living “in a rude log house, with but a small spot underbrushed around it” near the town line. (pg. 3-4)

Location of Smith frame house & approximate location of log cabin

The fact that the Smith’s were still living in Palmyra in 1821 is supplemented by the birth of Lucy Smith in Palmyra: “Genealogy,” Manuscript History, A-1: 10 [separate section], reads, “Lucy Smith, born in Palmyra, Ontario Co. N.Y. July 18, 1821.” (Walters & Marquardt, pg. 12), and the road tax records.

The Smith’s did not article for the Manchester Farm until 1821, as Walters & Marquardt clearly show:

Lucy subsequently reported that the family contracted for 100 acres of “Everson” (Evertson) land held by the estate of Nicholas Evertson, an attorney in New York City who had acquired considerable land holdings in western New York before his death in 1807. It was June 1820 before Evertson’s executors conveyed to Caspar W. Eddy, a New York City physician, power of attorney to sell his holdings. Eddy traveled to Canandaigua, New York, the seat of Ontario County, and on 14 July 1820 transferred his power of attorney to his friend Zachariah Seymour. Seymour had long been a land agent in the area and was a close associate of Oliver Phelps, who with his partner Nathaniel Gorham had opened a land office in Canandaigua and had instituted the practice of “articling” for real estate. …Joseph Sr. and Alvin would have had to “article” for their land shortly after July 1820. Joseph Sr. is listed in the Farmington (Manchester) 1820 census (which was enrolled between 7 August 1820 and 5 February 1821), suggesting that the articling was completed no later than February 1821. The ages of the male family members were: under 10, 2 (William and Don Carlos); 16-26, 2 (Alvin and Hyrum); and over 45, 1 (Joseph Sr.). Female members were: under 10, 1 (Catherine); 16-26, 1 (Sophronia); and 26-45, 1 (Lucy Mack Smith). Both Joseph Jr. (age fourteen) and his younger brother Samuel Harrison (age twelve) were missing from the census. The new Smith farm encompassed approximately one hundred acres, one third of the original Lot No. 1 in that township. According to the assessment roll for 22 June 1820, the entire three hundred acres of Lot 1 were taxed to the heirs of Nicholas Evertson at that time. In the following year’s assessment (7 July 1821) only two hundred acres were taxed to the Evertson heirs, while the balance was assessed to Joseph Smith. …

Lucy mentions that “in one year’s time” after they contracted for the property, the land agent told them they should build a cabin on their land, which “we did.” However, it cannot be precisely determined from her account when this log house was built. That this refers to their Farmington farm and not the Palmyra property is clear from several key facts. First, the Smiths were living in the Palmyra cabin when the road supervisors mentioned it in June 1820 before the Smiths could have contracted for the Farmington land. In addition, William Smith, Joseph Jr.’s younger brother, declared concerning the Farmington/Manchester property, “The improvements made on this farm was first commenced by building a log house at no small expense, and at a later date a frame house at a cost of several hundred dollars.” William would hardly call a cabin built on Samuel Jennings’s land in Palmyra an improvement on their own farm across the line in Manchester. From the Palmyra road tax list it is clear that at least Joseph Sr. and Alvin were still living in Palmyra as late as April 1822. It is probable that the Smiths did not move to the Manchester farm until after the summer of 1822. It could not be earlier than July 1821 because Smith family genealogy mentions the birth of a daughter named Lucy, the youngest child of the family. The genealogy specifically states that Lucy was “born in Palmyra.” (pgs. 4-7)

There is even more evidence to show that the Smith’s did not move to Manchester until 1822, as Walters & Marquardt document:

When the one hundred acres first went on the assessment roll in July 1821, taxed to Joseph Sr., the parcel was valued at $700, $7 an acre. This was approximately what uncleared land in the area was selling for at the time. The remaining two hundred acres of Lot No. 1 were taxed to the Evertson heirs at a value of $1,400. The same value appeared in the 29 June 1822 assessment. However, by 24 July 1823 the value of the Smith property had jumped to $1,000. This is an increase of over 40 percent, yet the average property value for the whole township rose only 4 percent that year. This indicates that for the first time a cabin had been built and sufficient land had been cleared so that under New York law the assessed value had to be raised. (pg. 7)

So two years from the time they moved to Manchester would be 1824, when the great revival with George Lane took place. We know that Joseph Smith is conflating events, but is it due to memory problems as some suggest? That will be addressed in Pt. II.

Further evidence that Joseph’s timeline is wrong is that members of the Smith family did not join the Presbyterian Church until after the fall/winter of 1824 when George Lane was in the area:

With inexpressible gratitude to the great Head of the church, I am enabled to inform you that the work of the Lord is prospering gloriously on Ontario district…
From Catharine I went to Ontario circuit, where the Lord had already begun a gracious work in Palmyra. This is a pleasant village, situate on the great western canal, about twenty-two miles east of Rochester, and is now in a flourishing condition. In this place the work commenced in the spring, and progressed moderately until the time of the quarterly meeting, which was held on the 25th and 26th of September. About this time it appeared to break out afresh. Monday evening, after the quarterly meeting, there were four converted, and on the following evening, at a prayer meeting at Dr. [Clark] Chase’s, there were seven. Among these was a young woman by the name of Lucy Stoddard… [Was this the Smith’s also? They lived very close to the Chase family & Sophronia married Calvin Stoddard]
December 11th and 12th our quarterly meeting for Ontario circuit was held in Ontario. It was attended with showers of blessings, and we have reason to believe that much good was done. Here I found that the work, which had for some time been going on in Palmyra, had broken out from the village like a mighty flame, and was spreading in every direction. When I left the place, December 22d, there had, in the village and its vicinity, upward of one hundred and fifty joined the society, besides a number that had joined other churches, and many that had joined no church. (Letter of George Lane, The Methodist Magazine, “Revival of Religion on Ontario District”, pg 158-60).

The Smith family joined the Presbyterians during the tenure of Reverand Benjamin Stockton (who was the reason why Joseph Smith Sr. did not join, because of his comments about Alvin):

The installation of the Rev. BENJAMIN B. STOCKTON will take place this day at the Presbyterian Meeting-House in this village. — The exercises to commence at 11 o’clock A.M. (Wayne Sentinel, February 18, 1824).

The local papers proclaimed the revival and the large numbers of people who converted:

Religious.–An article in the Religious Advocate gives the pleasing fact that a revival of religion had taken place in the town of Palmyra, Macedon, Manchester, Phelps, Lyons and Ontario, and that more than 200 souls had become hopeful subjects of Divine Grace, &c. It may be added, that in Palmyra and Macedon, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, more than 400 have already testified that the Lord is good. The work is still progressing. In the neighboring towns, the number is great and fast increasing. Glory be to God on high; and on earth, peace and good will to all men. (Wayne Sentinel, 2 March, 1825)

The large numbers of people converting and joining to the various sects became so commonplace after this that the Sentinel stopped reporting about them.  D. Michael Quinn writes,

…even though New York’s Methodist Magazine reported that “not less than ten thousand people” attended the Sunday session (11 June 1826) of Palmyra’s several  day camp-meeting, the village newspaper ignored this revival in its limited reporting of local events. Titled the Wayne Sentinel at that time, the newspaper’s co-editors Pomeroy Tucker and John H. Gilbert obviously saw no point in telling residents…(pg. 31)

Then, on September 25, 1824 we have this peculiar notice in the Wayne Sentinel by Joseph Smith Sr. (a few days after the Autumn Equinox) and the date Joseph Jr. was supposed to bring his brother Alvin to the hill at the bequest of the Angel/Ghost:

WHEREAS, reports have been industriously put in circulation, that my son Alvin had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected, which reports, every person possessed of human sensibility must know, are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations — therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports, I, with some of my neighbors, this morning, repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body which had not been disturbed.

This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who may have heard the report, and of informing those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested they would desist therefrom; and that it is believed by some, that they have been stimulated more by a desire to injure [the] reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends. JOSEPH SMITH. Palmyra, Sept. 25th, 1824. (Wayne Sentinel, September 29, 1824)

Whose “reputations” would this injure? Why did this happen to the Smith family? There is no evidence that this happened to any other families in Palmyra.

I’ll explore that below. Joseph was “glass looking” in 1826, and there were no revivals in the Palmyra area as described by him in 1820, (with “great multitudes” of many different sects) and the major players in the Smith family narrative like Benjamin Stockton and George Lane were there in 1824, not before the Spring of 1820. Those like Mike Quinn and others want to claim conflation of events (1824 with 1820) but this isn’t reasonable for a number of reasons which will be discussed in Pt. II. Using that excuse is pretty much having your cake and eating it too, as is portraying Joseph as a pious magic using, money-digging prophet-in-training.

Having It Both Ways?

Mormon Apologist Larry E. Morris, in a forthcoming book informs us:

There are no substitutes for the primary documents, but in the case of the Book of Mormon, the “earliest sources” are not nearly as early as one would hope. … a host of crucial Book of Mormon events took place between September of 1823 and the end of 1827, but not a single document–no letter, diary entry, legal record, newspaper article, or anything else–mentioning the Book of Mormon has survived. Even for the crucial year of 1828, only two documents, neither the original, are extant. It is not until 1829 that contemporaneous documents are plentiful, with the June 26 Wayne Sentinel article having the distinction of sending out the first public notice of the Book of Mormon. (pg. 3)

Morris is right above, and yet, he (as others have before him) tries to make the argument that “treasure seeking was part of an attempt to recapture the simplicity and magical power associated with apostolic Christianity.” (pg. 10) This is simply ridiculous, people were treasure seeking because they thought they could get rich quick by doing so.

Morris calls magic and Christianity “inseparable and natural allies.” Morris quotes Alan Taylor over and over again, who claims that “treasure seekers were neither fools nor deceivers”, as if every single treasure seeker was an upstanding Christian who had pure motives for going after the treasure. But those who hired themselves out as “Peekers”, they were the deceivers, and why there were laws passed to stop them from doing so. It is certainly debatable that Joseph Smith Sr. and his namesake was foolish and a deceiver.

Morris also quotes Ronald Walker but leaves out that even Walker knows that the Smith’s were after treasure for their own personal greed and that in 1826 the Sr. Smith called it “filthy lucre”, and hoped that someday God would “illumine” the heart of his son Joseph! This was long after he supposedly had his two religious visions.

It is more like this “attempt” to “recapture … apostolic Christianity” was just an excuse to justify what they were doing, which even Jesse Smith (Joseph Jr’s uncle) scoffed at. And those court documents which accused Joseph of being a “glass looker” in 1826, are the earliest records that have to do with Joseph Smith, Jr. and his treasure digging ever found. These records predate any that mention of the Book of Mormon by at least two years.

The “record” or “gold plates” was called a “treasure” by Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith, Sr., Joseph Knight Sr., Martin Harris, Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young, and others. David Whitmer later claimed that the angel was “the guardian of the plates”. Joseph Jr., was said to have found the plates by looking in a “seeing” or peep-stone. (See Martin Harris interview with Joel Tiffany – “In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.”)

The Stone or the Angel?

Joseph’s first written history (the religious story) claimed that it was an unnamed angel (not Moroni) who told him about the plates – and where they were:

when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold

an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night

and he [the angel] called me by name

and he [the angel] said the Lord had forgiven me my sins

and he [the angel] revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by th[e] commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them

and he [the angel] revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitents of of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations and it was on the 22d day of Sept. AD 1822

and thus he [the angel] appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day and then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being excedingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision but when I considred I knew that it was not therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them

behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made accquainted of with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them (pg. 4, paragraph breaks mine)

One thing stands out in this 1832 History that bears mentioning. In the earlier vision that he claimed to have in his 16th year, Smith doesn’t mention any “adversary” or Satan’s power. It is probably because in the later vision that he claimed to have in his 17th year he is told by the anonymous angel that he couldn’t get the plates because he needed to “be made accquainted of with the power of the advisary”. Later, Smith reverses this and has Satan appear prior to the appearance of the deity in the earlier vision.

Lest there be any doubt, six years later Smith wrote this:

I … went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited, and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there. (pg. 7)

And yet Martin Harris had certain knowledge that Joseph found the gold plates using his peep-stone before the mention of any angel. This was the man who was with Joseph from the beginning of the venture, who helped him with the “translation”, gave him money and sold his farm to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon. It is doubtful that Harris would get this detail wrong. So Joseph is not being truthful in the later versions of his history. And since magical folklore was so Christian according to Morris and other apologists, why would Joseph want to change his story and claim that an angel told him where the plates were? Why would it matter? Henry Harris recorded what Joseph Smith told him about how he discovered the gold plates:

The character of Joseph Smith, Jr. for truth and veracity was such, that I would not believe him under oath. I was once on a jury before a Justice’s Court and the Jury could not, and did not, believe his testimony to be true. After he pretended to have found the gold plates, I had a conversation with him, and asked him where he found them and how he come to know where they were. He said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit; that an angel appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was married, and that when he saw the woman that was to he his wife, he should know her; and she would know him. He then went to Pennsylvania, got his wife, and they both went together and got the gold plates… (Henry Harris, Mormonism Unvailed, 1833, 252.)

Having a “revelation”, and then looking in a peep-stone is not the same as having an angel show you where they were. Astoundingly, FAIRMORMON calls this (angel vs. stone)  a “false dichotomy” because,

Moroni could easily have told Joseph about the plates and interpreters. The vision to Joseph may well have then come through the seer stone, as some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (e.g., Section X) would later be revealed. One account from Henry Harris in Eber D. Howe’s anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed matches this theory well:

I had a conversation with [Joseph], and asked him where he found them [the plates] and how he come to know where they were. he said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his [seer] stone and saw them in the place of deposit.

But Joseph later says that the information came from the angel, (not a “revelation”) and never mentions finding them with a peep-stone. FAIRMORMON has it backwards, and so doesn’t quote the full Harris statement where the angel only appears after Joseph looks in his stone. Harris doesn’t claim that the angel told him about the plates at all; Joseph was claiming that his peep-stones were like the “all seeing eye” of God, cloaking his magical practices in religious terminology as so many others did.  What is rather hilarious is that Harris says that he would not believe Smith under oath! But this still doesn’t give them pause in using him to bolster their erroneous claim.

And yet, in 1832, Samuel H. Smith & Orson Hyde answered the question this way:

Q.-By what means did he discover the golden plates and who was with him when he made the discovery.
A.-The golden plates were discovered through the ministration of an angel of the Lord, by Joseph Smith-no one else was with him at the time of the discovery. (Boston Investigator 2 (Aug. 10, 1832).

And in their 1834/35 History Cowdery & Smith wrote,

An Angel appeared before me; his hands and feet were, naked, pure and white; he stood betwen the floors of the room, clothed with purity inexpressible. He said unto me I am a Messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things. He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham.

And finally, in 1838 Joseph Smith himself answered this:

How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon?…Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me and told me where they were and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon ( Joseph Smith, Jr., Elders’ Journal 1:3 (July 1838): 42–43.)

It is perfectly clear that Smith was later claiming that the angel showed him “in the vision” where they were. Why? Because he was trying to hide the fact that he used a peep-stone and with it claimed to have found the plates and later used it to “translate” them.

So by 1832 Smith’s story had completely changed. This is important to note going forward: Smith’s constantly changing narrative to eliminate or downplay as many treasure-digging/folk magic elements from his later angel narrative as he could. Once again, it begs the question, Why? if folk magic and Christianity were so complimentary and intertwined as the apologists claim. Smith wasn’t “restoring” Christianity for who he deemed the corrupt elites, but for the “folk” who supposedly believed in all that magical stuff. So why would he run away from it? The apologist arguments can’t explain it.

It is also very important to note that Joseph locating the “gold plates” with his stone, is at its heart a treasure digging yarn, and those elements were still being related to Harris and others before he finally changed it to the wholly religious narrative we have today. (The angel told him – there was no peep-stone, only “interpreters’)

Having It Both Ways (Continued)

It seems that the apologists feel making the above argument (treasure seeking = Christianity) clears Joseph and his family of any shenanigans in relation to peep-stones, divining rods, money-digging, magic circles and parchments, incantations, rituals, necromancy and the like. It was all simply a part of their Christian folk lore beliefs and, of course, everybody else was doing it so how bad could it be? And way, way back in Old Testament days (thousands of years ago) they were using strange objects to do things with too! Problem solved!

They even claim that all these occult practices helped prepare the family to accept seeing angels sent from God, and accepting his message to young Joseph!

What it sounds like though, is simply whataboutism run amok: “What about this good Christian fellow/Preacher who used a divining rod” or “they prayed before they tried to contact the spirits of the dead”.. so all such practices were acceptable and promoted by Christians and hence were a normal part of apostolic Christianity! What about those ancient Old Testament Bible stories from thousands of years ago that mention divining cups and rods that turn into snakes, etc.? Problem solved! (They even had talking donkeys back then!)

In a paper Morris wrote, “I Should Have An Eye Single to the Glory of God”, which is critical of Ron Huggins’ Dialogue article, “From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism”, (which he expanded into his new book) Morris goes on and on about sources and then tells his audience that “…since we have no such sources, we have to do the best we can with what we have.” That’s exactly what Ron did. Still, Morris’s biggest criticism of Ron Huggins is that he did not answer point by point all the apologist offerings about folk magic. For example, Morris claims that,

Huggins should have drawn upon relevant scholarship, particularly Ronald W. Walker’s claim that “Mormonism was . . . born within an upstate New York matrix that combined New England folk culture with traditional religion.” And although Huggins is aware of this paper (pp. 27, 33), he fails to respond to Walker’s view that “magical treasure hunting was . . . part of the culture and religion of the folk . . . , a blend of humankind’s deep myths and Christian ideas.” Instead, Huggins narrows his discussion of treasure seeking to tales of Captain Kidd, introducing and concluding his article with mentions of the notorious pirate and his legendary plunder.

In other words, Ron should have presented all the Mormon apologist offerings in his paper, and downplayed any connection to Captain Kidd, the very subject that the paper was all about? Really? Write a Larry E. Morris approved article with sources he thinks are relevant? But hold on… Walker’s full quote reads:

Mormonism was also born within an Upstate New York matrix that combined New England folk culture with traditional religion. Joseph Smith’s family and many of his early New York converts were both treasure diggers and fervent religionists. But there is evidence that the Smiths were not always comfortable mixing the two. At young Joseph’s 1826 money digging trial his father was reported to have claimed that both he and his son “were mortified that this wonderful [seeric] power which God had so miraculously given to the boy should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.” Joseph Smith Sr “trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will concerning him.” (Page 450)

Notice that Walker separates the two, (treasure digging and religionists) and it is the Smith’s who combine them (as do others in that sub culture) and are conflicted about doing so! And if you read Morris’ quote, so full of ellipses, you would never know that Walker believes that even the Smith’s were not comfortable mixing them. So why would Ron Huggins even need to include any of Walker’s opinions in his paper? To support apologist speculations? Is that really relevant scholarship? Let’s see.

Walker quotes Joseph Smith, Sr. giving testimony at his sons 1826 Examination. This was six years after Joseph supposedly saw God and three years after he claimed the angel he later identified as Moroni/Nephi visited him. And then, of course there were the two visits in 1824 and 1825 at the Hill Cumorah. So when was the “Son of Righteousness” going to “illumine the heart of the boy”? And even after this, Joseph went back to looking for treasure! It was like those religious visions never really happened!

Morris wants to have it both ways as do all the apologists who try to justify the Smith’s practicing and believing in magic rituals and practices, the supernatural spirits that supposedly guarded buried treasure, and being able to locate such treasure using various instruments like dowsing rods and peep-stones as somehow being more than a subculture (even a widespread one at times) and therefore acceptable as legitimate Christian practices. (Christianity is not Old Testament Judaism). Didn’t Christ claim he had “fulfilled” the old laws and after the “gift of the Holy Spirit” none of that was necessary any more? That it would be a much simpler gospel, like love your neighbor as yourself?  But I digress. Another time perhaps.

Where is it listed in any of the many Church tenets of the Universalists, or Baptists, or Methodists, or Presbyterians, or other Christian churches of the day, the instructions about divining, or peeping with stones, or necromancy, or other “folk magic” practices?

Even though some individuals might practice such things, there is no evidence that any of the Christian Churches in America were promoting such things in a widespread manner as the apologists want you to believe. It was a subculture that was widespread among all Americans, both religious and non-religious, and as we shall see below, even the Mormons turned against it and claimed such things were ‘not of God’.

And if one wants to call “folk magic” a religion, well, there is the problem that God supposedly told Joseph in 1820 that all the different religions were false and to “go not after them”. And remember, after his claimed 1820 vision Joseph “…frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God.” He claims that stuff (the money-digging) was offensive in the sight of God. Ah, but having it both ways allows Joseph to do all this offensive stuff and still be a legitimate, bona fide occult dabbling prophet-in-training, right? Because he claimed to “repent” then continued to do it. And continued to do it. But now… the apologists are claiming there was nothing wrong with any of it because so many other Christians were doing their own dabbling.

In this tortured paragraph, Eric A. Eliason touts a folklorist to try and show how magic and religion are really just the same thing and that you can demystify it all by realizing that it’s all culture clashes:

Folklorist David Allred reminds scholars how folklorists helped de-exoticize the common magic/religion distinction by showing them to be functionally and structurally very similar concepts whose differences have more to do with culturally constructed notions emerging from relationships of group identity, prestige, and power than they do from any intrinsic qualities of magic or religion. (pg. 80)

But what was Joseph himself saying when he put these words in the mouth of God to him in 1820:

[God said] all their Creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that “they draw near to me to with their lips but their hearts are far from me, They teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof.” He again forbade me to join with any of them and many other thing[s] did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time. (p. 2)

Since magic and religion are not different from one another (according to the apologists), Joseph then continued to ignore the heavenly visitors he claimed he was continually seeing right up until he came to possess the gold plates in 1827. Surely this instruction from God includes Professors of Methodist/magic folklore or Universalist/magic folklore or Presbyterian/magic folklore, etc. Surely it includes practitioners of folk magic who were not affiliated with any of the sects of the day and all the magical “creeds”. If one wants to claim that Smith was commanded to “go not after” only organized religions, what is the reason why God would leave out folk religion/magic? And that begs the question why would God use the abominable “Christian” folk magic to train his prophet? Was the angel directing the young prophet-in-training to go out and peep for treasure? Does that somehow make one more prolific at “translating” ancient languages? Joseph never finds anything with his occult peep-stone but when it becomes a religious “seeing stone” he can “translate” whole books of scripture! Just call it urim and thuimmim and it’s all good. Just picture the angel: Joseph you’re too greedy, go out and work on the treasure hunting some more so you can hone those peep-stone skills and “translate” these gold plates that you won’t really need to have to do the “translating”. Really?

In the claimed vision though, Joseph’s God makes no distinctions. All were wrong according to Joseph though he only mentions three of the most “popular” denominations in his account.

It is certainly of interest to mention that in 1830, when Oliver Cowdery and a few others went to Ohio, Abner Cole published these statements they made to those they were trying to proselyte to the new Mormonite faith:

Our Painesville correspondent informs us, that about the first of Nov. last, Oliver Cowdery, (we shall notice this character in the course of our labors,) and three others arrived at that village with the “New Bible,” on a mission to the notorious Sidney Rigdon, who resides in the adjoining town. Rigdon received them graciously — took the book under advisement, and in a few days declared it to be of “Heavenly origin.” Rigdon, with about 20 of his flock, were dipt immediately. They then proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, — that no one had been authorised to preach &c. for that period, — that Joe Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose, and that all such as did not submit to his authority would speedily be destroyed. The world (except the New Jerusalem) would come to an end in two or three years. The state of New York would (probably) be sunk. Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally — Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels, and had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should “step their feet” upon it. They pretend to heal the sick and work miracles, and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to do so. The Indians were the ten lost tribes — some of them had already been dipt. From 1 to 200 (whites) had already been in the water, and showed great zeal in this new religion — many were converted before they saw the book. Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them — commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!! Cowdery authorised three persons to preach, &c.  and descended the Ohio River. The converts are forming “common stock” families, as most pleasing in the sight of God. They pretend to give the “Holy Spirit” and under its operations they fall upon the floor — see visions, &c. Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem. (The Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831, See also issues of the Painesville Telegraph for this period).

Notice they were preaching that there was no religion on the earth for 1500 years. As we know, Joseph was to later declare that without the proper “authority” anything done in God’s name was invalid and an affront to him. But the Apologists would have you believe that there was an exception for their “Christian” folk magic and the shenanigans of Palmyra’s prophet-in-training.

Magic or Religion?

Joseph’s “official” story about seeing God and then an angel in 1820 and 1823 isn’t based on some magic subculture, because Joseph later denied that he was involved in it; (he was only a paid laborer) but since he was involved (as the evidence shows) he literally was ignoring the commands of both God and the angel according to his own “official” narrative. Three years after he first claimed to see an angel of God, Joseph Jr. testified in a court of law that,

…he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold-mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel several times, and informed him where he could find those treasures, and Mr. Stowel had been engaged in digging for them; that at Palmyra he pretended to tell, by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was, of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account its injuring his health, especially his eyes – made them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having any thing to do with this business.

According to this, Joseph is simply a reluctant Peeker who began his peeking right about the time he claimed that an angel visited him! His mother bragging about how her son “was in possession of certain means, by which he could discern things that could not be seen by the natural eye” was in relation to his use of a peep stone and perhaps a divining rod.

Joseph would later spend many months using that “means”, (his dark stone), to “translate” the Book of Mormon and continued to use it to receive “revelations”, which he claimed came from God — without complaining about it hurting his eyes. Joseph also told this to others (that the stone hurt his eyes):

McMaster sworn: says he went with Arad Stowel, and likewise came away disgusted. Prisoner pretended to him that he could discover objects at a distance by holding this white stone to the sun or candle; that prisoner rather declined looking into a hat at his dark coloured stone, as he said that it hurt his eyes.

He “rather declined looking into a hat” but then “translates” the entire Book of Mormon that way. It doesn’t make much sense that God would use a training method that hurt his eyes and then require him to “translate” that way does it? And then have the young Peeker turned Prophet continue to have to use the stone to get more revelations? Why wouldn’t God just send an angel with the messages? After all, they are messengers and God had to have a lot of those on hand, right? In one of the many versions of his claimed 1820 vision, Smith related that he saw “many angels” at that time. But when he needs one to help him, or protect him they can’t seem to be found.

Joseph also claimed that the “spectacles” or as they are described in the Book of Mormon “interpreters” were even harder to use than his peep-stone! This also confirms Joseph had two stones that he used for such purposes. Yet as Mormonism teaches, the Bible condemns such practices.

“There is no light in them”

In Isaiah we read,

And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

I bring this up because the Mormon Church today (and in Joseph Smith’s day), separates them and condemns such magical practices, and uses the same verses to justify their condemnation:

This is not a revival of the spirituality characteristic of the ancient patriarchs and prophets of Israel, but is a type of magic and spiritualistic wizardry that the true prophets vigorously opposed. …It is clearly seen from the foregoing passages [in Isaiah] that belief in astrology, spirit mediums, etc., did not constitute the true religion taught by the prophets and patriarchs, but was characteristic of the false religions practiced by the surrounding nations that had departed from the Lord.

The above Bible verses contrast seeking out God with those who entertain “familiar spirits” the Peekers who “peep” and “mutter”.  Is using the name of God (in folk magic spells and incantations, etc.) an affirmation that something is approved by God? Basically, “it is because we said so”? Even Christ spoke of the difference when he said:

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly I never knew you… (Matthew 7:22-23)

How many times have you heard Mormons quoting that scripture in relation to “priesthood authority”? And the Mormons aren’t the only Christians who do so. One Bible scholar recommended by Mormon apologists (Cornelius Van Dam) claims that, “there is no convincing evidence that the Urim and Thummim were used after the time of David.” It seems that the prophets of ancient Israel had turned away from such objects and warning others that God no longer sanctioned those practices. (Some claim that it was in anticipation of the Messiah… those pesky other Christians, the “whore” and her “children”) I’ll have more of Van Dam and the “whore” below.

A Counterfeit Prophet?

As I mentioned, Joseph was told in 1820 and in 1823 to go not after them (any religion). Yet he continued to do so for years if, as the apologists inform us, folk magic is actually Christianity. And if it wasn’t, was that any better? As for Joseph’s use of “folk magic”, apostle/prophet Gordon B. Hinckley wrote,

I have no doubt there was folk magic practiced in those days. [of Joseph Smith] Without question there were superstitions and the superstitious. I suppose there was some of this in the days when the Savior walked the earth. There is even some in this age of so-called enlightenment. For instance, some hotels and business buildings skip the numbering of floor thirteen. Does this mean there is something wrong with the building? Of course not. Or with the builders? No.

Similarly, the fact that there were superstitions among the people in the days of Joseph Smith is no evidence whatever that the Church came of such superstition. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Ensign, November 1987, 52-53).

Why do those who are said to have actual authority teach that such things were not of God, and that it is mistake to claim that they are? Apologists are actually going against what church “authorities” claim by promoting what they do about the Smith’s continued practice of magic. Here is how Richard Bushman describes how “magic” was instrumental in getting the Smith family to believe in the angel Moroni:

Traces of a treasure-seeking mentality still appeared in the family’s reactions to the angel. His parents admonished Joseph to be rigorously obedient to the messenger’s instructions, just as exact compliance with prescribed rituals was required for successful money-digging. …When he married Emma Hale in 1827, Joseph was on the eve of realizing himself as a prophet. He may still have been involved in magic, but he was sincere when he told Emma’s father that his treasure-seeking days were over.  Magic had served its purpose in his life. In a sense, it was a preparatory gospel … After 1828, Joseph could no longer see that magic might have prepared him to believe in a revelation of gold plates and translation with a stone. It did not occur to him that without magic his family might have scoffed at his story of Moroni, as did the minister who rejected the First Vision. Magic had played its part and now could be cast aside. Magic and religion melded in the Smith family culture. …It may have taken four years for Joseph to purge himself of his treasure-seeking greed. Joseph Jr. never repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end. (Excerpts from Bushman, Richard L., Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, 51, 53-54, 69,)

Now it seems, the narrative is that folk magic prepared Joseph to become a Christian prophet. And it is important to note that Joseph did not identify the angel who supposedly told him about the gold plates as Moroni until about 1835, so he will be referred to as “the angel” when discussing any earlier accounts.

Larry Morris claims that “Joseph … acknowledges that implements used for supposedly “magical” purposes can also be used for what we call religious purposes—or perhaps it is the other way around.” (pg. 36) Yet, Apostle Dallin Oaks has stated:

Those who define folk magic to include any use of tangible objects to aid in obtaining spiritual guidance confound the real with the counterfeit. They mislead themselves and their readers. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents,” Ensign (October 1987), 63.)

These church members do not agree with either Bushman or Morris in claiming that the Smith’s use of magic was in any way sanctioned by God, or that Joseph would have used such practices to “prepare” himself for his encounters with God and reject the notion that “treasure seeking was part of an attempt to recapture the simplicity and magical power associated with apostolic Christianity.” Yet, it seems that the Church is kind of? sanctioning such use of magic by bringing it in the back door, with the series of Essays that were written to counter the claims of the CES Letter in 2013. The Anonymous Authors write that,

As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture. In a footnote, it says,

According to Martin Harris, an angel commanded Joseph Smith to stop these activities, which he did by 1826.

No, he didn’t stop by then. They get this wrong. Joseph claimed to speak with the angel every year for four years every September. Joseph was arrested in March, 1826. So when did the angel tell him to stop, in September, 1826 after he was arrested? If so, then why did Joseph Smith tell Samuel Lawrence there was a silver mine in Pennsylvania and entice him to go after it in the late fall/winter of 1826? Joseph returned to Palmyra, but soon returned to Pennsylvania and stayed at the farm of Joseph Knight, Sr. Dan Vogel writes,

While on the Knight farm, [November/December 1826]  Joseph participated in at least one extended treasure hunt. Emily Colburn Austin, sister of Newel Knight’s wife, Sally, reported seeing “places where they had dug for money” on the Knight farm. Austin was told that a dog had been sacrificed in the hope of breaking the charm that held “pots of money.” Joel K. Noble, the Colesville justice before whom Smith appeared in July 1830, said that “Jo. and others were digging for a chest of money in [the] night [but] could not obtain it. They procured one thing and another, together with [a] black bitch. The bitch was offered a … sacrifice, [blo]od sprinkled, prayer made at the time. [But] (no money obtained). The above sworn to on trial.” (pg. 89)

No money obtained. You will find that this is always the result of the Smith treasure hunts, except of course for the gold plates that mysteriously disappeared into the hands of an angel. If it was that easy, why didn’t God just have an angel get them from Moroni and then give them to Smith? Really! When Smith lost the Harris transcript an angel appeared and took the plates and “interpreters” from Smith. He then supposedly gave them back and then Smith gave them to him again after that.

It appears that if the angel did tell Joseph to quit money-digging, he didn’t listen. Even after marrying Emma in January, 1827 Joseph continued with his money-digging. Here is Dan Vogel once again describing the events as they transpired the year Joseph claims to have been worthy enough to get the plates:

Within days, [Josiah] Stowell transported the newlyweds to Manchester to board with Joseph’s parents in their frame house. How well Lucy and Emma got along is unknown, but the two undoubtedly shared some of the same attitudes toward their husbands’ drinking and money digging, both of which would become more prominent attributes of the Smith men during Emma’s brief stay in Manchester.

Joseph worked on his father’s farm and hired out as a laborer on other farms during the ensuing year. While he was working for William Stafford, he got into another drunken fight. Barton Stafford, son of William, remembered that on one occasion while working in his father’s field, Joseph “got quite drunk on a composition of cider, molasses and water.” In fact, Stafford said, he was so intoxicated he could barely stand and found it necessary to hold on to a nearby fence. After a while, “he fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him.” Emma, who was in the house visiting, came out and “appeared very much grieved at his conduct, and to protect his back from the rays of the sun, and conceal his nakedness, threw her shawl over his shoulders and in that plight escorted the Prophet home.”

Gordon T. Smith, Lemuel Durfee’s adopted son, related a story about Joseph’s drinking while the latter was working for the senior Durfee. Joseph’s presence at the Durfee farm on at least two unspecified occasions in August 1827 is confirmed in the employer’s account book. When Durfee’s wife discovered that Joseph had been sneaking drinks from the whiskey bottle in her pantry each morning before work, she switched the bottle for one containing pepper-sauce, which caused Joseph considerable discomfort.20

There was no shortage of alcoholic drink at the Smith home during Joseph’s and Emma’s tenancy. One of Lemuel Durfee’s account books records the purchase of large quantities of “liquor cider” by the family during the spring and summer of 1827.

Alcohol elicited more than Joseph’s anger, for Stafford reported that “when intoxicated, he frequently made his religion the topic of conversation.” When inebriated, anything Joseph had tried to repress seemed to bellow up like steam rising from a doused fire.

By the fall of 1827, the Smith men had resumed their treasure-seeking activities in Manchester in company with like-minded neighbors. While little is known about these activities, both Martin Harris and Lorenzo Saunders said that Joseph Jr. directed a treasure-digging company until he received custody of the gold plates Joseph Capron, who lived on the farm immediately south of the Smiths, reported that in 1827 Joseph put a stone in his hat and located “a chest of gold watches … north west of my house.” After performing various magical ceremonies, a company of money diggers, including Samuel Lawrence, attempted to unearth a treasure, but the “evil spirit” guarding the chest succeeded in carrying it off.

These treasure hunts may have been financially supported by Abraham Fish, a neighbor with whom the Smiths had other financial dealings. In a letter dated January 1832, six leading citizens of Canandaigua, some of whom were familiar with Martin Harris, reported having heard that Joseph’s money-digging company in Manchester was “for a time … supported by a Mr. Fish” and that when the gentleman “turned them off,” this was when Joseph turned his attention to finding “a box … containing some gold plates.

Amid her husband’s drinking, fighting, and money digging, Emma may have begun to have second thoughts about their marriage. Lorenzo Saunders, whose sister had become close friends with Emma, said that Emma was “disappointed and used to come down to our house and sit down and cry. Said she was deceived and got into a hard place.” Perhaps Emma was beginning to fear that her parents’ assessment of Joseph had been correct. She may not have been happy having to live with her in-laws and worried that Joseph was doing little to remedy the situation. (ibid, 90-91)

Are these the actions of a person who is supposedly meeting with an angel every year to discuss how to run the kingdom of God? That’s debatable. The Anonymous Church Essay authors also write:

Joseph did not hide his well-known early involvement in treasure seeking. In 1838, he published responses to questions frequently asked of him. “Was not Jo Smith a money digger,” one question read. “Yes,” Joseph answered, “but it was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.” (Selections from Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 43).

Of course he hid it. These anonymous authors can’t get anything right. Joseph claimed (over and over again) that he was only hired to dig, (as he does in his official History) he never mentions using a peep-stone, necromancy and other occult practices to locate the treasure and lost items in any history he was involved with. Smith never admitted any of this except at his Examination under oath and perhaps privately to those who knew about his past when he was drinking.

The Church Essay on “translating” the Book of Mormon is filled with apologist speculations, including footnotes and references to their speculative articles. Is “Gee, I got 14 bucks a month employed as a shovel technician for a silver mine, therefore I was labeled as a money-digger” a real answer? Not by a long shot.

This is how the church is “officially” dealing with this issue. Where is their official declaration or instructions in the priesthood manuals about the use of seeing stones and divining rods (No one would know by simply reading D&C 7 that it was originally about using one) and how to practice necromancy to contact the dead in search of lost treasure? Instructions on how to keep the treasure from slipping back in to the earth after you locate it and “bind” the spirit that is guarding it? How many times do we have to hear that it was OK for Joseph, but for no one else? And yet, this is how it was. And of course there are those who found veins of gold and sliver in Utah and attributed it all to the “priesthood” and to God.

Those who knew Joseph best made the most excuses for his behavior:

I saw Joseph the Prophet do, and heard him say, things which I never expected to see and hear in a Prophet of God, yet I was always able to throw a mantle of charity over improper things. (Lorenzo Snow, Statement, January 29, 1891, as cited in Dennis B. Horne, An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon (Clearfield, UT: Gnolaum Books, 2004), 175).

But some did not. Ezra Booth wrote to Edward Partridge in 1831:

Some suppose his [Joseph’s] weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and ‘were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.’ So Sidney asserted, and many others concurred with him in sentiment. (Letter of Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831).

When is the next Elder, or Seventy, or High Priest going to get up in Sacrament Meeting and explain how to use divining rods and seeing stones and how to contact the dead to find lost items and buried treasure and see who you are going to marry? It was all “Apostolic Christianity” right?

The First Cowdery Conundrum

Early on, Joseph attempted to legitimize the divining rod of Oliver Cowdery by including something in a “revelation”, but it seems that didn’t go over very well. In 1829 Joseph penned this to Cowdery:

A Revelation to Oliver [Cowdery] he being desirous to know whether the Lord would grant him the gift of Revelation & th …Translation given in Harmony Susquehannah Pennsylvania now …this is not all for thou hast another gift which is the gift of working with the sprout Behold it hath told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this thing of Nature to work in your hands for it is the work of God & therefore whatsoever ye shall ask to tell you by that means that will he grant unto you that ye shall know remember that without faith ye can do nothing trifle not with these things do not ask for that which ye had not ought ask that ye may know the mysteries of God & that ye may Translate all those ancient Records which have been hid up which are Sacred & according to your faith shall it be done unto you Behold it is I that have spoken it & I am the same which spake unto you from the begining amen

The Folk Magic Red Herring

At the Joseph Smith papers, they write:

This affirmation of Cowdery’s use of a “rod” as a divine gift illustrates the compatibility some early Americans perceived between biblical religion and popular supernaturalism. “From the outset,” according to historian Robert Fuller, “Americans have had a persistent interest in religious ideas that fall well outside the parameters of Bible-centered theology. . . . In order to meet their spiritual needs . . . [they] switched back and forth between magical and Christian beliefs without any sense of guilt or intellectual inconsistency.” (Robert C. Fuller, Spiritual, but Not Religious, Oxford University Press, 2001,15).

C. George Fitzgerald of Stanford made these comments about Fuller’s work:

The combination of individualism and rationality leads to a third component which is a common factor in each of the spirituality movements: the recurring rejection of established religion for being too doctrinaire and restrictive. His survey is quite comprehensive and includes just about every movement and its seminal founders… My appreciation for this fascinating chronicle of the development of spirituality within the US soured somewhat in the final chapter… Within every category, however, organized religion receives a lower score than spirituality. It felt like, mirabile dictu—Fuller the engrossing historian, morphed into an evangelist for spirituality. Even so, it is one of the best evangelical pamphlets (200 pages) I have seen on spirituality. 

The Joseph Smith Papers editors pretty much cherry picked Fuller because he’s an advocate of “folk magic”, or Spiritualism. The very thing that made Spiritualism appealing to Colonial Americans was that they were not confined by “organized religion” and its rules, but this is where Smith went with his own religion.

Whenever anyone used a peep-stone on their own, (as Hiram Page did) it was from “Satan” and not from God. Only Smith could tap into the divine for the church, all others were pushed aside or failed because they just weren’t Joseph Smith. He did not want to share power with anyone. He would delegate, but always had the final word. He claimed in Nauvoo that Hyrum would be the new “prophet” of the Church, but there is no evidence that Hyrum ever was, or that Smith was going to turn things over to him or anyone else. (See Council of Fifty Minutes of April 1844 where Smith bragged he was a “Committee of Myself“). Here is what Smith said on April 5th 1844:

 I dont want to be ranked with that committee I am a committee of myself, and cannot mingle with any committee in such matters. The station which I hold is an independant one and ought not to be mingled with any thing else. Let the Committee get all the droppings they can from the presence of God and bring it to me, and if it needs correction or enlargement I am ready to give it. The principles by which the world can be governed is the principle of two or three being united. Faith cannot exist without a concentration of two or three. The sun, moon and planets roll on that principle. If God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were to disagree, the worlds would clash together in an instant. He referred to brother Lot [Cornelius P. Lott] and his farming & said God would prosper him because he gets his mind right. When I get any thing from God I shall be alone. I understand the principles of liberty we want. I have had the instructions It is necessary that this council should abide by their instructions. From henceforth let it be understood that I shall not associate with any committee I want every man to get knowledge, search the laws of nations and get all the information they can. There can be no exceptions taken to any thing that any man can say in this council. I dont want any man ever to assent to any thing in this council and then find fault with it.

Fuller claims that, “most people saw magic and Christianity as distinct, but complimentary. Most were aware that Christian clergy urged them to stay clear of unbiblical beliefs about the supernatural. Yet in order to meet their spiritual needs the laity sometimes turned to magic and sometimes to Christian ritual.” (Why did the JSP edit this out of their quote?)

This was anathema in the church that Smith set up. And does this still go on even today? Sure, as we will explore below. But it is not as rampant as it was before the Second Great Awakening and the rise of the Age of Reason. (c. 1790) According to Fuller, this coincided with the decline of folk magic practices among the Christians. It is important to note that Smith hid and rejected his folk magic roots as he organized his church and developed his theology. The period of time between his two visions he characterized as a time of folly and mistakes, which he claimed to have repented of before the second vision of the angel.

And of course if you study what Fuller says, it is obvious that the Mormons are trying to create a red herring here. He writes:

Churched and unchurched religiosity have factored about equally in American’s understanding of the supernatural since the nation’s beginnings. The exact relationship between the two varied person by person. It seems that on the whole most people saw magic and Christianity as distinct, but complimentary.

This is footnoted by Fuller, and in the footnote he writes, “There is considerable scholarly debate about the exact relationship between the churched and unchurched elements of colonial religiosity.”

Of course there is considerable scholarly debate. So claiming that Ron Huggins didn’t use “relevant scholarship” was in the eye of the beholder, or simply Morris’ opinion and irrelevant to what Ron wrote. It would be including speculation that can never be tied to the Smith’s because no one knows exactly how Joseph himself viewed folk magic in relation to Christianity. But what we see in the evidence is that he continued to lie about his youthful involvement in it. And when he was a Methodist Exhorter, was he telling them all about his peep-stone, or when he tried to join the Methodists in Harmony, did he brag about his treasure digging past? – as it should not have been a problem according to Mormon apologists. According to the Lewis brothers, when confronted about his involvement in the occult, Smith walked away from the Methodists.

So really, what the Mormons need to say, (that they won’t say), is treasure digging was, perhaps, in the minds of some individuals (how many we will never know, but there is no evidence it was widespread) an effort to recapture the power of apostolic Christianity. And even this is debatable among historians. So is all this relevant to Smith’s treasure digging? No, because there is absolutely no evidence that the Smith’s connected the two in any meaningful way, and there is actual evidence that Smith rejected all religion (including folk magic) except what he would later “restore”. And precious little of what he was doing in the 1820’s became widespread approved practices in his church.

Treasure digging may have been a widespread subculture in early colonial America, but there is no way to know what the motivation of most individuals was except the obvious (to get rich), and there was so much fraud and conning going on in relation to it that laws were passed making what Smith was doing (“Juggling” or pretending to peep for treasure) illegal.

The Gift of What?

If there was any mixing of folk magic in Mormonism, it was systematically stamped out, changed and downplayed, like the “revelation” to Cowdery in 1829 who was initially told that:

“Shuredly as the Lord liveth which is your God & your Redeemer even so shure shall ye receive a knowledge of whatsoever things ye shall ask with an honest heart believeing that ye Shall receive, a knowledge concerning the engraveings of old Records which are ancient which contain those parts of my Scriptures of which hath been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit yea Behold I will tell you in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost which Shall come upon you & which shall dwell in your heart now Behold this is the spirit of Revelation … whatsoever ye shall ask to tell you by that means [the “sprout”] that will he grant unto you that ye shall know remember that without faith ye can do nothing…

Smith informs Cowdery that all he needs to do is ask with faith and God will “grant unto you”. Just ask, buddy. Just ask. Didn’t Jesus also say that? Smith divined to Cowdery that the “Holy Ghost” would come upon him and “dwell in his heart”. And yet, when Cowdery tried, he failed because he had “not understood”, he actually “supposed that I [God] would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me…”

And yet, that is what Joseph said God would do, he would give it to Cowdery if he simply asked in faith! This shell game by Smith was played with anyone who he deemed was a challenge to his authority or primacy. And we see here Joseph telling Cowdery that the Holy Ghost will come and “dwell in your heart”, but later, in Nauvoo, he contradicted this and said the opposite (correcting Orson Hyde) in 1843:

The Holy Ghost is a personage, and a person cannot have the personage of the Holy Ghost in his heart. A man receive the gifts of the H. G., and the H. G. may descend upon a man but not to tarry with him.

That is because Mormonism agreed with the doctrine of the Trinity in those early days. Today, the “revelation” to Cowdery reads like this:

Now this is not all thy gift for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 8, 2013)

This is so obscured that no one would ever know what the original was all about. And when was this begun? First, in Missouri with the Book of Commandments:

Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God; and therefore whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, that you shall know. (Book of Commandments, Chapter VII, 1833)

Then later, in Kirtland under Joseph Smith’s supervision it was radically changed:

Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron: behold it has told you many things: behold there is no other power save the power of God that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you; therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God, and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands; for it is the work of God. And therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you and you shall have knowledge concerning it (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section XXXIV)

How does the “power of God” cause a sprout “to be with you”? Because that is not what it says in the original. (The “sprout” was already with him) It says that God was the only one who could make this “thing of Nature to work in your hands.” Calling it the “gift of Aaron” is ridiculous.

No one would have any idea what this “revelation” is now talking about. If they were so proud of folk magic and using the implements of it, why was this changed so soon after it was originally given? This is “restoring” Apostolic Christianity?

And today, they do not have the original “revelation” in the current Doctrine and Covenants, (only a note that Sidney Rigdon changed the word “sprout” to “rod”) but instead have a changed, obscure “revelation” in its place.

In no way do they give an adequate explanation for why this “revelation” was changed, (they tell you to go to Fuller’s Book and to Ashurst-Mcgee’s article!) and they have a link to an article that has some of the text of the original “revelation” and pretty much gives the same information that the JSP give (the changes to it, not the reason why it was changed).

The Stone or The Holy Ghost?

In June of 1829 Joseph was calling himself a prophet and giving revelations through his peep-stone. In a revelation given that month Smith wrote,

And I Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it. These words are not of men, nor of man, but of me: Wherefore you shall testify they are of me, and not of man; for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you: For they are given by my Spirit unto you: And by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power, you could not have them: Wherefore you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words (Revelation, June 1829)

Remember though, that in April of 1829 Joseph wrote this revelation to Oliver Cowdery and received it through his stone:

Shuredly as the Lord liveth which is your God & your Redeemer even so shure shall ye receive a knowledge of whatsoever things ye shall ask with an honest heart believeing that ye Shall receive, a knowledge concerning the engraveings of old Records which are ancient which contain those parts of my Scriptures of which hath been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit yea Behold I will tell you in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost which Shall come upon you & which shall dwell in your heart now Behold this is the spirit of Revelation (Revelation Book 1, 11-12)

As David Whitmer explained,

The revelations in the Book of Commandments up to June, 1829, were given through the “stone,” through which the Book of Mormon was translated. …After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more. (David Whitmer, Address, 32, 53).

This begs the question if Joseph/God was instructing others what the “spirit of Revelation” was, (which was being told “in your mind & in your heart by the Holy Ghost,”) then why was Joseph getting revelations by way of his seeing stone and why did he continue to do so and not follow his own instructions? It seems that as soon as someone else had “revelations” through a peep-stone that rivaled Smith’s, he decided that divining rods and peep-stones needn’t be the subject of any “revelations”.

Magic Is “Not of God”

That’s right, (according to Mormon “authorities”) and perhaps a few examples may be enlightening. First, here are Mormon apologists Terryl L. Givens & Phillip L. Barlow:

From a biblical perspective, determining whether Joseph Smith’s treasure seeking, seer-stone gazing, blessing of “magic” handkerchiefs and the like, were proper or not, should not be based on whether moderns see them as weird or similar to pagan practices, but whether or not Joseph Smith was an authorized prophet of God. Presumably, since Joseph Smith claimed to be God’s instrument for restoring biblical priesthood authority, he would have welcomed this basis for determination. …In … Mormondom, the seeming disappearance of “folk magic” either by abandonment or normalization into official practice is partly the result of Max Weber’s routinization of charisma process and partly the result of developing methods of exercising divine authority. What today might be regarded as mixing folk and official practices were seen in the past as an unproblematic unified whole. (The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism, by Terryl L. Givens & Phillip L. Barlow, p. 465)

In Mormonism folk magic and the priesthood was never “an umproblematic unified whole.” As for other so called Christians, I’ve seen those like Peter Popoff hawking his “Miracle Spring Water” which has the power to erase debt on television. So, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as Popoff is God’s spokesman, messenger, or prophet? Using objects to scam people is nothing new with Christians, it is still going on today, as John Oliver exposed a few years ago:

[John] Oliver and Last Week Tonight claimed to have corresponded with televangelist Robert Tilton’s Word of Faith Worldwide Church for seven months, first mailing him $20 in January along with a kindly-worded request to be added to his mailing list.“Within two weeks, he sent me a letter back thanking me for my donation, and claiming, ‘I believe that God has supernaturally brought us together.’” A couple of weeks after that, Oliver received an envelope with a $1 bill in it and a message that read, “Send it back to me with your best Prove God tithes or offering.”“That’s right,” Oliver said, “I had to send the $1 back with an additional recommended offering of $37, which I did. So at this point, we’re just two letters in and it’s like having a pen pal who’s in deep with some loan sharks.”Oliver claims that in March, he was sent three packets of colored oil that he was instructed to pour on letters and send back to Tilton by specific dates, accompanied with more money. He did it. Then in April, Oliver was sent a manila envelope with a check enclosed—only the check was for $5 from Oliver made out to Pastor Tilton’s church. Seven letters later, he received pieces of fabric and was told to mail them back to Tilton with more money, which he did. Oliver later received a letter with a single $1 bill inside, requesting that he place the bill in his Bible overnight, then send it back the next day with $49. In return, he’d receive a $1 bill that had been blessed. “That did not stop him,” Oliver said. “The letters kept coming. I received another oil packet, more prayer cloths, and even—and this is true—an outline of his foot which I was asked to trace my foot on and mail back to him with more money. So, as of tonight, I’ve sent him $319 and received 26 letters—that’s almost one a week. And again, this is all hilarious until you imagine these letters being sent to someone who cannot afford what he’s asking for.”

What was done about these occult practices in the Mormon church was all… arbitrary. If Joseph did it, it was all right. But let others practice “folk magic” and it was very problematic. We all know about Hiram Page, but what about the case of James Brewster, a young boy who claimed he was given a patriarchal blessing that he would be a “Seer, Revelator and Translator” by Joseph Smith, Sr., in the Kirtland Era?

He and his family were condemned by Joseph Smith for using a seeing stone and producing what Brewster called “An Abridgment of the Ninth Book of Esdras”, in the which he claims that the Church needed to remove to California to escape the judgments of God.

The Mormon side of the story was published in the Times and Seasons in December, 1842:

We have lately seen a pamphlet, written, and published by James C. Brewster; purporting to be one of the lost books of Esdras; and to be written by the gift and power of God. We consider it a perfect humbug, and should not have noticed it, had it not been assiduously circulated, in several branches of the church.

This said Brewster is a minor; but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a a stone; and has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, Ohio. His father and some of our weak brethren who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith, about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans, for which they were dealt with by the church. They were at that time suspended, and would have been cut off from the church if they had not promised to desist from their ridiculous and pernicious ways. Since which time the family removed to Springfield, in this state; and contrary to their engagement have been seeing, and writing, and prophecying, &c. for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield church. The father of the boy has very frequently requested an ordination; but has been as frequently denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priesthood.

We have written the above for the information of the brethren, and lest there should be any so weak minded as to believe in it, we insert the following from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,

“But behold, verily, verily I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jr. for he receiveth them even as Moses and thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him., even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.”

“And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hiram Page between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me, and that satan deceiveth him: for behold these things have not been appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants, for all things must be done in order and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.”  (Times & Seasons, Dec 1, 1842, 32)

According to the Times & Seasons notice, the moneydigging stories in relation to Joseph Smith and his family were classed as “ridiculous”, and what the Brewesters were doing was “pernicious”. This is integrating folk magic practices into the church? Hardly. And once again, condemnation of “seeing stones”. And we know that Joseph had a number of stones and that it was claimed that he used one to “translate” the Book of Abraham. Where is the “common consent” in accepting that as a “revelation” from God? When did the church members in Nauvoo ever vote on the Book of Abraham? Why didn’t Joseph present the Book of Esdras to the Church for a vote? Instead, it was immediately dismissed by the prophet and the article in the Times & Seasons ridicules it in the worst way as something beneath notice while the Book of Abraham was touted as a bona fide revelation and printed in the Times & Seasons.

On March 20,1843, James Brewster published a second pamphlet which answered the charges of him getting “revelations” from a seeing stone, and what he reveals about events in Kirtland certainly is very interesting:

As the writer of this notice did not favor the public directly with his name, I shall not pretend to say who it was, although I have good reason to believe it was written by Joseph Smith, or at least by his direction.

Firstly. The writer says he considers it a perfect humbug; but before the pamphlet was printed the manuscript was taken to Joseph Smith; he had it in his possession six days; and, at that time, he stated that he enquired of the Lord concerning it and could not obtain an answer. Since then, he told certain individuals that he did receive an answer that it was not of God.

Secondly. He says Brewster is a minor, but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a stone. Now, as for my “seeing and looking through or into a stone,” it is a perfect falsehood, and Joseph Smith and many of the first presidents of the church know it to be false, and at the same time knowing that they could not bring any thing against our moral character have endeavored to injure us by publishing these falsehoods.

Thirdly. And he has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, his father and some of our weak brethren who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans. This is a little nearer the truth than the second statement. The fact IS that my father ever regarded money diggers with the utmost contempt, but believing in the Gospel as preached by the Mormons, and, becoming a member of that church, removed to Kirtland, Ohio, While residing at that place Joseph Smith Sen’ the Prophet’s father, with others of high standing in the church, came to see us, and stated that they knew there was money hid in the earth, that it was our duty to assist in obtaining it, and if we did not the curse of God would rest upon us. We were foolish enough to believe them, not knowing at that time the weakness and folly of those men.

They also told us concerning their digging for money in the state of N. Y., and that the places where the treasures were deposited were discovered by means of the mineral rods and a seeing stone; likewise to prevent the Devil deceiving them they anointed the mineral rods and seeing stones with consecrated oil, and prayed over them in the house of the Lord in Kirtland, and then sent a man into the state of N. Y. to obtain the money that was supposed the mineral rods pointed out, but they found no treasure and returned empty.

Soon after this interview, I and my father were requested by J. Smith, Sen’r and Eld. Beaman to come to the house of the Lord. We went in and the door was locked; — after some conversation with J. Smith Sen’r, Beaman and Holeman.  Eld. Beaman called upon the Lord — they then proceeded to lay their hands upon my head and pronounced a blessing upon me, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and sealed it up on me by the power of the Holy Priesthood, which they held, J. Smith Sen’r then acting as first President of the Church in Kirtland. The prophetic blessing was that I should be a Prophet, a Seer, a Revelator and Translator, and that I should have power given me of God to discover and obtain the treasures which are hid in the earth.

The men above mentioned, went with me and my father several times in pursuit of the money, but it was not obtained. Joseph Smith Sen’r and Beaman, being old and feeble, thought best to remain in the Temple, while the remainder of the party went to dig. John and Asel Smith joined with those who remained in the Temple to pray and continue their supplications until a very late hour; this was repeated several times, and at length afraid of being discovered in the Temple they retired to a barn in a remote part of the town, and continued there the most part of the night, still no treasure was obtained. By this time my father was convinced that we should not succeed, and then gave up the business entirely. All this was carried on privately, being understood only by those concerned. Soon after this my father and his family, Kid. Norris and his family, in company with several others, members of the church, who were knowing to what had transpired, were dealt with by the High Council and Church in Kirtland— Joseph Smith Sen’r then acting as First President of the Church, and his brother John Smith First President of the High Council in Kirtland.

The Brewsterites, as we were called by the Church, were all condemned, although many of the Counselors by whom they were condemned, had been engaged with us in the money digging business. The writer in the “Times and Seasons” now says that “my father was assisted” by some of ”our weak brethren.” This is true, but he must remember that the names of those weak brethren are as follows: — Joseph Smith sen’r, John and Asel Smith, Eldr Beaman, then President of the Elders’ Quorum, Joshua Holeman, and many others, of high standing in the Mormon Church whose names we can produce if occasion requires. He also says it was those who had “some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging.” The following are the reasons we had for believing the stories. In Kirtland, Joseph Smith sen’r, the Prophet’s father, said in Council: I know more about money digging, than any man in this generation, for I have been in the business more than thirty years.” Father Smith, in private conversation with my father, told many particulars, which happened in N. Y. where the money digging business was carried on to a great extent by the Smith family. The writer of the article in the “Times and Seasons’- calls it a ridiculous and pernicious practice. I would ask him who was the author of this practice among the Mormons? If he has a good memory, he will remember the house that was Tented in the city of Boston, [Salem] with the expectation of find ing a ‘large sum of money buried in or near the cellar. If he has forgotten these things, I have not. And, if he is not satisfied with what I have written, he can have the remainder shortly.

Fourthly. The writer of the article says, that contrary to their engagements they have been seeing, writing, and prophecying, for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield  church. The father of the boy has frequently requested an ordination, but has as frequently been denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priest-hood. We were dealt with by the Springfield church. But the only thing found against us was that we had not joined that branch of the church, and supposed we had not acted wisely in all things. As for the ordination, my father has been ordained by the order of JOSEPH SMITH, without his requesting It, under the hands of J[ames]. Adams, High Priest and Patriarch; Elder Mariam, President — both of the Springfield church.

Fifthly. To close the notice the writer adds “we have written the above for the information of the brethren.'” I would only say that the information it contains is very incorrect, and I would advise the Editors of the “Times and Seasons” not to publish any more information concerning us except it is written by one who regards the truth.

I have written the above that the people may know who the ”weak brethren” are that assisted us in the money digging business. The Mormons may deny it, but every word it contains is true; and I might have written much more, but I think it unnecessary. But if the Mormons publish another line of falsehood concerning us, they shall have the history of the money diggers from the beginning.

Below will be found my father”s certificate, which goes to corroborate the statements I have given.


T, Z. H. Brewster, do hereby certify, that the above account of the money digging business is true. In the year 1837, in the month of May or June, we commenced the money digging under the kind care and protection of Joseph Smith sen’r, then first President of the church of Latter Day Saints. and, according to my best recollection, the foregoing statements are strictly true. I also believe the Gospel that is attended with the power and gifts revealed in the New Testament, and Book of Mormon. I also believe that God works by whomsoever he will, and reveals himself to all who faithfully serve him. I have no reason to believe that Nauvoo is a place of safety, but have every reason to believe that California is. I also believe that the pure in heart, and those who are desirous to serve God, will soon leave Nauvoo, that God may destroy the wicked and ungodly inhabitants thereof. I believe that Joseph Smith was called and chosen of God to bring forth the Book of Mormon, and to establish the church of Latter Day Saints. But I do not believe that the spirit of God will remain with him since he has forsaken the ways of truth and righteousness, and is now preaching and practicing those things which he in the beginning taught to be the works and inventions and secret combinations of the Devil, (see Book of Mormon, 3rd Edition — pages 320 and 538.) I also believe that ail liars, adulterers, fornicators, and whore-mongers shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the anger of the Lord.


Now they are praying over the rods and stones and anointing them with oil and taking them to the temple to help make them work. This (of course) was common to many money-diggers: to claim that their “gifts” were sanctioned by God, and to use some kind of religious ritual or prayer in their incantations or peeping. I found it interesting that Joseph Smith (if he was the one that wrote about the Brewster’s in the Times & Seasons), assumes that James used a seeing stone to get “revelations” or locate treasure, but James denied that he did. It seems that Brewster got his “revelations” through the Holy Ghost.

A mark is a mark and there were many Christians who desired money or were in debt, as well as others. These kinds of “magical” and pseudo Christian practices are still going on even today. (See below about the lottery and the modern use of divining rods).

Treasure Obsession

In 1837, Joseph Smith Sr. gave Wilford Woodruff a patriarchal blessing which stated:

Thou shalt have access to the treasure hid in the sand to assist thy necessities. An angel of God shall show thee the treasures of the earth that thou mayest have riches to assist thee in gathering many orphan Children to Zion. Thou art one of the horns of Joseph to push the people together to the ends of the earth. No power shall stay thee. At thy word the winds shall be stayed. Thou shalt walk upon the waters. At thy command the waters shall be divided. Prisons, chains, and vaults shall not hold thee /for thou shalt rend them in twain. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, April 15, 1837)

It is obvious during the Kirtland Era that Smith Sr. was still thinking about treasures in the earth and even blessing people that they would have access to them! And in Nauvoo, Smith Jr. was urging the “saints” to scout out locations in the far west, (even California) to look for a new place to settle. (Just in case) Some of Smith Sr.’s blessings are quite fantastical, as was this promise of being able to teleport to William Harris in 1836:

…thou shalt have all power, even to translate thyself and change into a shadow; so that if any shall smite at thee they shall only hit thy shadow, and thou shalt be in another place… (William Harris, 2 May 1836)

Sounds like an episode from the X-Files or Fringe. In a blessing given on December 9, 1834, Smith Sr. promised the recipient that they would be alive for the Second Coming of Jesus:

…thou shalt stand on Mount Zion when the tribes of Jacob come shouting from the north, and with thy brethren, the sons of Ephraim, crown them in the name of Jesus Christ: Thou shalt see thy Redeemer come in the clouds of heaven…

The “Saints” at the time were led to believe that these things would actually happen if they were “faithful” and that they were indeed within the realm of possibility. We all know that is was simply invention and false hope, as neither Smith Jr. nor Sr. were actual prophets, which is easily proven by their own pronouncements. (No one can turn into a shadow, or “translate” themselves to other planets and no Latter Day Saint who was promised they would live to see the Second Coming ever did. There are dozens of other examples of these failed prophecies and blessings.

There certainly is no crime in proclaiming to be a prophet or in spouting all the prophecies you can think up, nor in believing in those who claim to be.

A Farm for Revelations

But what about if you are commanded to give up your farm so that it can be given to the prophet’s father and his family? Lucy Smith writes that when they moved to Kirtland:

Mr. Morely gave me the use of a room which we occupied but 2 weeks when we moved onto a farm which was purchased by Joseph and the Church for the on this farm my family were all established…

 An unpublished “revelation” dated May 15, 1831 contains (according to Joseph Smith) Jesus instructions that the Smith family should take over the Williams farm:

let my Servent Joseph [Smith Sr.] & his family go into the House after thine advisary is gone & let my Servent Ezra board with him & let all the Brethren immediately assemble together & put up an house for my Servent Ezra & let my Servents Frederick [G. Williams]’s family remain & let the house be repaired & their wants be supplied & when my Servent Frederick returns from the west Behold he taketh his family to the west Let that which belongeth to my Servent Frederick be secured unto him by deed or bond & thus he willeth that the Brethren reap the good thereof let my Servent Joseph [Smith Sr.] govern the things of the farm & provide for the families & let him have help in as much as he standeth in need let my servent Ezra humble himself & at the conference meeting he shall be ordained unto power from on high & he shall go from thence (if he be obedient unto my commandments) & proclaim my Gospel unto the western regions with my Servents that must go forth even unto the borders of the Lamanit[e]s for Behold I have a great work for them to do & it shall be given unto you to know what ye shall do at the conferenc[e] meeting even so Amen——
What shall the Brethren do with their money——
Ye shall go forth & seek dilligently among the Brethren & obtain lands & save the money that it may be consecrated to purcchase lands in the west for an everlasting enheritance even So Amen

On September 11, 1831 Smith penned another “revelation” from Jesus:

…I say unto you that my servent Isaac [Morley] may not be tempted above that which he is able to bear & council wrongfully to your hurt I gave commandment that this farm should be sold I willeth not that my Servent Frederick should sell his farm for I the Lord willeth to retain a Strong hold in the Land of Kirtland for the space of five years in the which I will not overthrow the wicked that thereby I may save some & after that day I thee [the] Lord will not hold any Guilty that shall go with open hearts up to the Land of Zion for I the Lord requireth the hearts of the Children of men

This “revelation” commands Isaac Morley to sell his farm and turn over the money to the church. Joseph would set the date for the “Redemption of Zion” (according to the Spirit) as September 11, 1836 (after his “Saints” were driven out of Jackson County, Missouri), exactly five years after the 1831 “revelation” was given which claimed that was when time ran out for the “wicked”. Joseph would prophecy “by the authority of Jesus Christ” in 1833 that the only place that would be safe was Zion: which was in Jackson County, Missouri. He claimed that the letter was written by the commandment of God, and that “I declare unto you the warning which the lord has commanded me to declare unto this generation, rembring that the eyes of my maker are upon me and that to him I am accountabl for evry word I say …  imbrace the everlasting Covenant and flee to Zion before the overflowing scourge overtake you, For there are those now living upon the earth whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things which I have spoken fulfilled.”

What Smith prophesied was that in “not many years” the “United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the hystory of our nation pestalence hail famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of this Land to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country—” Of course, this never happened in Smith’s generation nor any generation since then. Zion was never redeemed and the Mormons blamed the people of Missouri, and also the United States Government.

So when a group of immigrants (who were thought to be from Missouri) were making their was through Utah Territory to California were ambushed at Mountain Meadows by Mormons and Indians, they picked September 11, 1857 to murder them.

In that same year 1833, Jesus speaks again about the Williams farm:

Behold I Say unto you my Servent Frederick G. Williams, Listen to the word of Jesu Chrit your Lord and your Redeemer thou hast desired of me to know which would be the most worth unto you, behold blessed art tho[u] for this thing. now I say unto you, my Servant Joseph is called to do a great work and hath need that he may do the work of translation for the salvation of souls— Verily verily I say unto you thou art calld to be a Councillor & scribe unto my servant Joseph Let thy farm be consecrated fr bringing forth of the revelations and tho shalt be blessed and lifted up at the last day even so Amen

The 144 acre farm was deeded over to Joseph Smith in 1834. Most of the “revelations” and “commandments” above were never canonized like a lot of other instructions and mundane items from the same period.

Official Practice?

Joseph Smith Jr. condemns the use of a seeing stone, something he was doing himself and showing to others in private. One must ask, why all the secrecy surrounding the use of such magical practices since they were supposedly absorbed into “official practice”? Why didn’t Joseph publish how he “translated” the Book of Abraham in 1842, and that he used a seeing stone (Urim and Thummim) as Wilford Woodruff claimed?

Truly the Lord has raised up Joseph the Seer of the Seed of Abraham out of the loins of ancient Joseph, & is now clothing him with mighty power & wisdom & knowledge which is more clearly manifest & felt in the midst of his intimate friends than any other class of mankind. The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim Ancient Records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam. which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us. Joseph the Seer has presented us some of the Book of Abraham which was written by his own hand but hid from the knowledge of man for the last four thousand years but has now come to light through the mercy of God. Joseph has had these records in his possession for several years but has never presented them before the world in the english language untill now. But he is now about to publish it to the world or parts of it by publishing it in the Times & Seasons, for Joseph the Seer is not the Editor of that paper & Elder Taylor assists him in writing while it has fallen to my lot to take charge of the Business part of the establishment. I have had the privilege this day of assisting in setting the TIPE for printing the first peace of the BOOK OF ABRAHAM that is to be presented to the inhabitants of the EARTH in the LAST DAYS … (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 2:155-6, 19 February,1842)

The “official” Urim and Thummim (the spectacles)  were supposedly given back to the angel. There are no accounts of Joseph teaching others to use the Urim and Thummim (the “interpreters”) or that it was a sanctioned practice in the church. No one but Smith ever claimed to have used the “interpreters” for anything, and it seems that for all of God’s elaborate preparations, Smith really didn’t need them. It”s almost as if they never existed at all, though he did continue to dabble with peep-stones, but only Joseph could use them to get “revelations” as we shall see even though he said everyone should have one.

We don’t see such practices absorbed into the Mormon Church of Joseph’s day, and when others “peeped” in the Utah Territory, they too, were discouraged, or ostracized or condemned by the “Priesthood”.

The Treasure Hunting Revelation

What are we to make of Joseph’s own treasure hunting side trip to Salem a year before he fled Kirtland, where he believed there was treasure to be found in the basement of a house there? Ebenezer Robinson wrote:

A brother in the Church, by the name of Burgess, had come to Kirtland and stated that a large amount of money had been secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow, and he thought he was the only person now living, who had knowledge of it, or to the location of the house. We saw the brother Burgess, but Don Carlos Smith told us with regard to the hidden treasure. His statement was credited by the brethren, and steps were taken to try and secure the treasure… (Robinson, The Return, pg 106)

Joseph Smith, along with his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery left for Salem on July 25, 1836. Joseph’s Manuscript History reads:

From New York we continued our journey to Providence on board a Steamer, from thence to Boston by steam <​At Salem.​> cars, and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, early in August, where we hired a house and occupied the same during the month, teaching the people from house to house, and preaching publicly as opportunity presented, visiting occasionally, sections of the surrounding cities and Country, which are rich in the history of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, in Indian warfare, Religious Superstition, Bigotry, Persecution, and learned ignorance. The early settlers of Boston, who had fled from their mother Country to avoid persecution and death, soon became so lost to principles of justice and religious liberty as to whip & hang the Baptist and the Quaker, who, like themselves, had fled from tyranny to a land of freedom; and the Fathers of Salem, from 1691 to 1693, whipped, imprisoned, tortured and hung many of their citizens for supposed witchcraft. and quite recently, while boasting of her light and knowledge, of her laws and religion, as surpassed by none on earth, has New England been guilty of burning a Catholic Convent, in the vicinity of Charleston, and of scattering the inmates to the four winds. Yes, in sight of the very spot where the fire of the American Independence was first kindled, where a monument is now erecting in Memory of the Battle of Bunkers Hill, and the fate of the immortal Warren, who bled, who died on those sacred heights to purchase religious liberty for his country, in sight of this very spot, have the religionists of the 19th. century demolished a noble brick edifice, and hurling its inhabitants forth upon a cold unfeeling world for protection and subsistence. Well did the Savior say concerning such “by their fruits you shall know them,” and if the wicked mob who destroyed the Charleston Convent, and the cool calculating, religious, lookers on, who inspired their hearts with deeds of infamy do not arise, and redress the wrong, and restore the injured four fold, they in turn will receive of the measure they have meted out, till the just indignation of a righteous God is satisfied. When will <​August 6​> man cease to war with man, and <​wrest​> from him his sacred right, of worshipping his God according as his conscience dictates? Holy Father, hasten the day… (Manuscript History Book B-1, pg. 749)

In the midst of all their sightseeing, Joseph pens this “revelation” about the treasure to be found in Salem:

I the Lord your God am not displeased with your coming this Journey, notwithstandig your follies. I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion; and many people in this city whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality: Therefore it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be lead, and as it shall be be given you. And it shall come to pass, in due time, that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth, pertaining to gold and silver, shall be yours. Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal merciful with her. Tarry in this place and in the regions round about, and the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of the my Spirit, that shall flow unto you. This place you may obtain by hire, &c . . . And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city, for there are more treasures than one for you, in this city: Therefore be ye as wise as serpents and yet without sin, and I will order all things for your good as fast as ye are able to receive them. Amen. (Revelation, August 6, 1836)

This claims that they are to be given “much treasure” and that there was more treasure than the one they anticipated retrieving from the basement of the house they claimed to have found. God claimed he was going to give them the wealth of the city, all the gold and silver. Robinson continues his narrative:

We were informed that Brother Burgess met them in Salem, evidently according to appointment, but time had wrought such a change that he could not for a certainty point out the house, and soon left. They however, found a house which they felt was the right one, and hired it. It is needless to say they failed to find that treasure, or the other gold and silver spoken of in the revelation.

On August 19, Joseph wrote these words to Emma:

...with regard to the graat [great] object of our mishion you will be anxtiou [anxious] to know, we have found the house since Brother Burjece left us, very luckily and providentialy, as we had one spell been most discouraged, but the house is ocupied and it will require much care and patience to rent or b[u]y it, we think we shall be able to effect it if not now within the course of a few months, we think we shall be at home about the midle of septtember (Letter to Emma Smith, August 19, 1836)

Burgess could not tell them what house it was, but they still found it? How did Joseph find the house? An interesting question. Some have speculated he used his peep-stone, which is possible. And they did rent a house (as Robinson reported) but they never did have the city given into their hands, or it’s wealth of gold and silver. And out of all the things he could have said to Emma about Salem, Joseph mentions to her the “great object of our mission” which was finding buried treasure.  And even if they did not rent the house they thought the treasure was in as Robinson thought, they never went back for the treasure. I mean, God promised them this treasure so why not return in a few months and obtain it? It almost sounds like another peep-stone adventure, with the promised treasure slip, slip, slipping away.

An apt bookend to the Salem venture, is a “Prospectus” about the trip written and published by Oliver Cowdery just a few months later in the Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate. (Where they glean some of the information written in the Manuscript History).

Cowdery begins by telling his readers that, “the end draws near, and that the time is not far distant when a breaking up of corrupt systems will commence, and discordant factions [of religions], at present so mysteriously interwoven, will be severed, preparatory to the universal deluge of misery which must envelop the wicked.”

Cowdery then writes about their journey through New York City (where they absolutely do not consult about their debts in Kirtland) and on to Providence and then Boston and Salem. He then copies and pastes long sections of the Salem Witch Trial accounts and gushes about their sightseeing trip about the town. Cowdery seemed especially perturbed by the ruins of a burned down Catholic Convent, and he laments that,

…our country has come to this, that the weak must be trodden down by the strong, and disorder, confusion and terror, must distract our land and sow the discordant seeds of party strife and party animosity in the hearts of ignorant men, led on by infatuated priests, to overwhelm the continent with blood, and spread destruction and devastation throughout our happy asylum, and expose us to the fire, the sword, the rack and to death! I confess I retired from this scene of mobbery with a heavier heart than from the far-famed Bunker hill, rendered doubly so, by the patriotism, virtue, integrity, connected with the righteousness of the cause in which our fathers died! (pg. 392)

But later in the “Prospectus” Cowdery published this: 

This man turns away from the only church upon earth which was founded upon and is governed by revelation (the rock upon which Christ said he would found it) and says he has no need of it. But perhaps he means that the church which is not founded upon that rock has no need of it, in which I concur. For the Mother of harlots [The Catholic Church] with all her daughters of harlotry, [The Protestant Churches] will never obtain revelations, though they will obtain power of the Devil to work miracles.” (p. 398)

Lest there be any doubt about what they were talking about, here is Apostle John Taylor in 1845:

The present Christian world exists and continues by division. The MYSTERY of Babylon the great, is mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, and it needs no prophetic vision, to unravel such mysteries. The old church [Catholic] is the mother, and the protestants are the lewd daughters. Alas! alas! what doctrine, what principle, or what scheme, in all. What prayers, what devotion, or what faith, `since the fathers have fallen asleep,’ has opened the heavens; has brought men into the presence of God; and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to an innumerable company of angels? The answer is, not any: `There is none in all christendom that doeth good; no, not one. (Times and Seasons, Vol.6, No.1, p.811)

“Party strife and party animosity” to be sure. I admit, the hypocrisy is truly stunning. And as for the great object of their mission to Salem that Smith spoke of to Emma? Cowdery doesn’t mention it at all. If this were all about other treasures besides gold and silver as the apologists claim, why not mention the “revelation”? And of course this important “revelation” about Salem and its treasures was never canonized.

Magic Is Still Not of God? Not Even A Little?

In 1859 Heber C. Kimball recounted a story about how when he returned from England in 1838 that Joseph and the presidency of the Seventies were fooling around with a seeing stone:

Following a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, at a quarter to 12 o’clock H. C. Kimball and D. H. Wells called. H. C. Kimball said this made me think of the time when I returned from England. [1838] Joseph was present and the presidency of the Seventies. They had met with a seer stone to see what they could see when I went in. Z. Pulsipher said, don’t be excited;  Brother Kimball is nothing but a man. They treated me very cooly and I went home and wept and the Twelve all rose up and shook hands with them and received them joyfully.

0. Hyde explained to Brother Kimball and Wells what we had done, and would like to hear from them. Brother Kimball said, I consider every ruling man in the Church that has the Holy Ghost as a prophet, seer and revelator, and he should have the spirit of that office.

February 23, 1859: Same meeting, Brother Kimball said Joseph nominated G. A. Smith to take the place of Thomas B. Marsh, and Lyman Sherman was appointed to take the place of Orson Hyde; but Brother Sherman was very sick and died shortly after. Brother G. A. Smith said when he heard of Brother Sherman’s death, he thought his time would soon come. Brother Kimball said it was not the will of God for a man to take Brother Hyde’s place. The Twelve can ordain men to the apostleship and give them all the power you have and you have all that we have got, but you cannot make a prophet only the natural way and a man cannot be a patriarch and not a prophet, for a man must have the spirit of a prophet before he can bless and prophesy. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. There are thousands of prophets among the gentiles and spiritualists that have not repented or obeyed the gospel. There are natural gifts to man. If they would receive the gospel, their gifts would be made more manifest. G. A. Smith read some in the Doctrine and Covenants. H. C. Kimball said, “I always believed that Lyman Wight would be saved. I never had any but good feelings towards him.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, February 23, 1859)

Of course they would believe that there were “natural” prophets, else how could Joseph Smith have found the treasure of Cumorah with his peep-stone? It appears that when they were trying to “see what they could see”, Kimball interrupted them and Zera Pulsipher had to proclaim that he was only a man, implying that they were trying to contact the dead through the stone. It appears that Kimball wasn’t too thrilled with this story as he told his audience that he considered “every ruling man in the Church that has the Holy Ghost a prophet, seer and revelator and he should have the spirit of that office.” Not a ringing endorsement of peep-stones and perhaps one reason why neither he nor Brigham Young used them.

A few years after the incident in Missouri, Woodruff writes that,

The Twelve or a part of them spent the day with Joseph the Seer and he unfolded unto them many glorious things of the kingdom of God, the privileges and blessings of the priesthood, etc. I had the privilege of seeing for the first time in my day the Urim and Thummim. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Dec. 27, 1841)

This was nothing more than one of Joseph’s seeing stones, which he supposedly used to “translate” the Book of Abraham. Brigham Young described the above meeting in his Manuscript History:

I met with the Twelve at Brother Joseph’s. He conversed with us in a familiar manner on a variety of subjects, and explained to us the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates, called in the Book of Mormon the Interpreters. He said that every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seerstone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it; he showed us his seerstone. (Brigham Young, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844, ed. Elden Jay Watson).

Yet, while Woodruff was in England, he called such practices “not of God”. This is from the journal of Alfred Rolland Cordon:

“Saturday Evening 27th Mar 1841 I attended A council Meeting Elders G. A. Smith and W. Woodruff and a good number of Officers. a charge was brought against bro W Mountford for using Magic, The case was as follows, This bro Mountford had in his posession several Glasses or Chrystals as he called them. they are about the size of a Gooses Egg made flat at each end. he also had a long list of prayers wrote down which he used. The prayer was unto certain Spirits which he said was in the Air which says he when I pray to them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, any thing that I want will come into the Glass. for instance if A Young woman had a desire to know who she would have for an Husband, she came to him and made the case known, and he brought out his Chrystals and prayed unto a certain Spirit then she must peep into the Chrystal and in it she would see the Young man that would become her husband Elder Woodruff made some observations on the subject. when it was moved and Unanimously carried that no such Magic work be allowed in the Church.” (Journal of Alfred Rolland Cordon)

The next day,

Meeting was Opened by Prayer by the President. It was Unanimoulsy carried that no such thing as Magic, Fortunetelling, Witchcraft or any such devices should be allowed in the Church. And that fellowship would be withdrawn from any who used or caused to be used any of the aforesaid things. It was also moved and carried that a letter of recomendation be presented to Elders, W. Woodruff and G. A. Smith. (Sunday, March 28, 1841).

So, where are the guidelines in discerning which peep-stones are a “urim and thummim” and therefore sanctioned by God? Nowhere to be found. What Woodruff and the Council here condemned are the same practices of the Smith family in Palmyra, and which Joseph continued to use throughout his life. Woodruff wrote up the incident this way:

I walked with several Brethren to Hanley & Sat in Council with many of the Officers. Among other business that was brought up was the case of a Brother Mumford who was ingaged in the Magic or Blackart fortune telling &c which prevails to a great extent in this Country. [England] But as he persisted in his course after being laboured with the Council Withdrew fellowship from him. He was holding the office of a Priest & one thing is worthy of notice that while the Priesthood was upon him, he could not see his majic glasses as before untill after he ceased to fill the Priest office & rejected our council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.74)

The President then brought up the case of a Br Moumford, who was holding the office of a Priest, from whome fellowship had been withdrawn by the council of officers in consequence of his practizing fortune Telling, Magic, Black art &c & called upon Elders Woodruff & Cordon to express their feelings upon the subject when Elder Woodruff arose, & spoke Briefly upon the subject, & informed the assembly that we had no such custom or practice in the Church, & that we should not fellowship any individual who Practiced Magic fortune Telling, Black art &c for it was not of God. When It was moved & carried by the whole church that fellowship be withdrawn from Br Moumford. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.75)

He calls what Monford did, “Black Art” which included fortune telling, finding lost things, treasure hunting, etc., He is basically saying that using the peepstone did not work when “the Priesthood was upon him.” Interesting he calls them “magic glasses”. Monford claimed that, “anything that I want will come into the glass.” 

Note that Joseph Smith had claimed, “…but he seamed to think more of the glasses or the urim a and thummem  then than he did of the plates for says he I CAN SEE ANYTHING they are Marvelus” (Joseph Knight Recollection)

What are we to make of this? Why is what Mountford did “the Black Art”? Is it the same as with “revelations’, they can only come through the leader of the church? Then why did Smith claim that everyone has a right to a seeing stone and to use one? Was Mountford claiming to speak for the church anywhere? I don’t see that.

So where are the church instructions on “seeing” or peep-stones? Nowhere to be found, although there is some mention of “white stones” that will be given to people after they are resurrected. (See D&C 130:10). But here on earth, the church made its position clear at a Conference in 1902, in an address by Apostle John W. Taylor:

I want to advise the young ladies, while upon this subject, not to follow after peep-stone women, fortune-tellers, or those claiming to have a familiar spirit, to get them to tell you the kind of a husband you will marry, or you young men the kind of a wife you will get. (Conference Report, Sunday, April 6, 1902).

Taylor continues by quoting the very passage in Isaiah that I quoted above, but adds a bit more:

“And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves and curse their king and their God, and look upward. And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” (Isaiah 8:21-22, KJV)

Practitioners of Folk Magic will be “driven to darkness”. Taylor then tells the “Saints”,

Now my brethren and sisters, this has been literally fulfilled upon the idolatrous nations of the earth. Let us not be deceived, my brethren and sisters, or lead astray by those who are muttering and seeking to give the people a little temporal satisfaction, for it will result in incurring the displeasure of God upon us. (ibid)

He calls it idolatry and claims that the “nations of the earth” were also “driven to darkness” by such occult practices. Taylor actually tells the “Saints” to go to their Patriarch to get such information, but when has a church patriarch ever told anyone which husband or wife they were going to marry? My own patriarchal blessing simply said that I would “leave seed in the earth”, but I never had any children, much to my relief. No wonder people sought out the Peekers. They probably made things much more interesting. But… here’s an interesting response from “Ask Gramps” about this very subject. As you might suspect, he’s not down with the idea that patriarchs do any such thing and advises the young woman who asked to “change your approach”.

And yet, the Apologists go on and on about how we modern folk are getting it all wrong by not accepting “the Black Art” (That evil fortune telling) as part of Christianity and perfectly fine with the “folk” of the 19th century. It seems that as soon as Joseph and his chosen apostles and others got a little power, they also threw magic under the bus. (Unless they were doing it themselves or trying to justify the Smith’s use of it). Their condemnations are as arbitrary as the Apologists wanting to lump it all as lost Christianity. More from the apologists:

Today’s notions of which practices seem magical and which don’t can confuse our understanding of the past more than clarify it. Nineteenth century American aspirants to socially respectable circles might have denigrated glass-looking for lost objects and treasure digging as uneducated superstition. But the same people might have regarded the medicinal balancing of the four humors through blood-letting or timing crop planting by auspicious astrological signs listed in a farmer’s almanac as commonsensical and scientific. Joseph himself, as he moved from being a canny country boy to a cultured urbanite, reported giving up treasure seeking as youthful folly unworthy of his religious calling. Indeed, in court in 1830 it was testified and judicially accepted that Joseph Smith “had not looked in the glass for two years to find money, &c. (Early Mormon Folk Magic, 81)

And did Joseph give up his treasure digging in New York because he felt it was more “cultured”, or because he kept getting hauled before courts of law for doing it? And notice that they also show that the Church Essay is wrong, he didn’t quit doing it in 1826, this has him quitting in 1828! But we know that he didn’t stop looking in his stone, (per multiple accounts) or looking for lost treasure ten years later as the Salem “revelation” shows.

Woodruff was all about using home remedies, which many were in his day, but he wasn’t down with peep-stones and fortune telling; (unless it was Joseph) and Mountford used Christian prayers in the name of the Christian God as he summoned the Spirits of the Almighty with his stones. This shows that the home remedies and other mundane practices some call folk magic were not considered so by Woodruff.

Still Woodruff claimed it was all “not of God”. I suppose poor Wilford was simply confused also and his authority as an Apostle meant nothing (even though he had the ultimate authority overseas). It’s kind of routine for Mormon Apologists to throw former authorities under the bus if they get in the way of their pet theories.

Ghosts and Angels (Continued)

Here is the story that Smith himself told to Nancy Towles in October, 1831 which she put to paper soon after:

A certain man by the name of Smith, trained in the state of New York; and now about twenty-eight years of age: — professes to have seen, and held communion with an Angel from God. That, about four years since, [1827] as he was lying upon his bed, — (having just been reclaimed from a backslidden state,) [after 1823 visit] the room, of a sudden became light as day. When a beautiful personage, was presented to his view, — who requested, That he (Smith) should go to such a place, — as he had something wonderful, he wished to reveal. He accordingly went; and was directed by the angel to a certain spot of ground, where was deposited a “Box:” — which box contained “Plates,” that resembled gold: also, a pair of “interpreters,” (as he called them,) that resembled spectacles: by looking into which, he could read a writing engraven upon the plates, though to himself, — in a tongue unknown. These were delivered to him, as he asserts, to publish to the world. And when the things were committed to paper, “The box, &c. were to be sealed up; and deposited in the earth, — from whence they were taken.”

Smith himself claims that he was visited by the angel and got the plates immediately afterwards in 1827. He was in a “backslidden state” until the visit of the angel in 1827 (four years prior to 1831). It seems that Joseph was condensing his story and obscuring the dual visits of the angel. It is even possible that Joseph was formulating the new story of seeing Jesus when he was sixteen.

Allusion or Confusion?

This accords with his account in the Articles & Covenants of the Church, where Smith claimed to have seen an angel, became “backslidden” and then, four years later receives “power” from the angel to “translate” the record. Notice the similarities:

After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission of his sins, [1823] he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, [1827] whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness; And gave unto him commandments which inspired him; And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon…

This could not be an “allusion” to 1820 or be speaking of the angel’s visit in 1823, because in 1823 Joseph did not get the “power’ to “translate” the Book of Mormon (the interpreters): that happened in 1827, and at this time that was the focus of the story they were all telling, that an angel appeared to Joseph in 1827.

The early missionaries were teaching this same thing, that Smith had no religious experience prior to the first visit of the angel in 1823/24; and they were all conflating events that took place in 1827 with those of the earlier story of his asking for forgiveness in 1823/24. Here are Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt:

Having repented of his sins, but not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse prayer. After retiring to bed one night, he was visited by an Angel and directed to proceed to a hill in the neighborhood where he would find a stone box containing a quantity of Gold plates.

Joseph is “convicted” and prays and is answered by an angel. There is no mention of four years going by, but instead they claim that,

The plates were six or eight inches square, and as many of them as would make them six or eight inches thick, each as thick as a pane of glass. They were filled with characters which the learned of that state were not able to translate. A Mr. Anthony, a professor of one of the colleges, found them to contain something like the Cyrian Chaldena or Hebrew characters. However, Smith with divine aid, was able to translate the plates, and from them we have the Mormon bible, or as they stated it, another Revelation to part of the house of Joseph.

This is not how Smith describes the events in later accounts which we will discuss in Part II. (He adds another, earlier vision and the “backsliding” then takes place between that vision and the one with the angel which is then firmly dated to September 22, 1823). But notice that Smith has every opportunity to relate the story of the claimed 1820 vision to Nancy Towles, but does not. And yet, a few months later (Feb. 1832), Joseph and Sidney Rigdon have a vision in which they claim to see “the glory of the Son” on the “right hand” of the Father. This vision was spoken of openly and published in July of 1832. Joseph continued to change his story, and would continue to do so even after it was published in the Times and Seasons.

“The Glass Looker”

Money-digging, as it was called, or scrying for lost treasure or objects by way of “glass looking” was a crime in New York State in Joseph’s day:

…all persons who go about from door to door, or place themselves in the streets, highways or passages, to beg in the cities or towns where they respectively dwell, and all jugglers and all persons who pretend to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretending to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost goods may be found… shall be deemed and adjudged to be disorderly persons…(pg. 114)

There was a good reason for this, as it was overwhelmingly used to con people out of their money. It’s like anything else, you can believe in dowsing rods and even use them to search for water, or treasure or whatever you like. But when you cross the line and use it to dupe other people, even though you and they might believe in it, is is breaking the law. But Joseph wasn’t doing this to help other people, he was doing it for monetary gain (according to Bushman it was greed) as these articles of agreement from 1825 show:


We, the undersigned, do firmly agree, & by these presents bind ourselves, to fulfill and abide by the hereafter specified articles:

First—That if anything of value should be obtained at a certain place in Pennsylvania near a Wm. Hale’s, supposed to be a valuable mine of either Gold or Silver and also to contain coined money and bars or ingots of Gold or Silver, and at which several hands have been at work during a considerable part of the past summer, we do agree to have it divided in the following manner, viz.: Josiah Stowell, Calvin Stowell and Wm. Hale to take two-thirds, and Charles Newton, Wm. I. Wiley, and the Widow Harper to take the other third. And we further agree that Joseph Smith, Sen. and Joseph Smith Jr. shall be considered as having two shares, two elevenths of all the property that may be obtained, the shares to be taken equally from each third.
Second—And we further agree, that in consideration of the expense and labor to which the following named persons have been at (John F. Shephard, Elihu Stowell and John Grant) to consider them as equal sharers in the mine after all the coined money and bars or ingots are obtained by the undersigned, their shares to be taken out from each share; and we further agree to remunerate all the three above named persons in a handsome manner for all their time, expense and labor which they have been or may be at, until the mine is opened, if anything should be obtained; otherwise they are to lose their time, expense and labor.
Third—And we further agree that all the expense which has or may accrue until the mine is opened, shall be equally borne by the proprietors of each third and that after the mine is opened the expense shall be equally borne by each of the sharers.
Township of Harmony, Pa., Nov. 1, 1825.
In presence of
Isaac Hale, Chas. A. Newton,
David Hale, Jos. Smith, Sen.,
P. Newton. Isaiah [Josiah] Stowell,
Calvin Stowell, Jos. Smith, Jr.,
Wm. I. Wiley.

Joseph signed this document about a month after he supposedly met with the angel at the hill Cumorah for the third time. Joseph was being paid by Stowell and it was to be borne by him and others as an “expense”. And if a treasure happened to be found, the Smith’s would benefit from that, as well. And he was looking for the treasure by means of scrying, which was illegal. This wasn’t religious, this was searching for “filthy lucre” as Joseph Smith Sr. confessed to a judge at the 1826 Examination. Every time that Joseph used his supposed “seeric” power to search for buried treasure or lost objects, he was breaking the law, and the law uses such language as “pretending” for good reason. This means if you went around and claimed to be able to discern things that could not be seen by the natural eye, you were disorderly and breaking the law.

I’ve read so many Mormon apologists argue that well, Josiah Stowell believed that Smith could actually see things in the earth, kind of like Superman with his X-Ray Vision, except he needed the help of a peep-stone. And so Joseph did nothing wrong, it was all Josiah Stowell’s idea. But that’s not how the law works. Stowell’s belief did not give the Smith’s a free pass to break the law.

How much treasure did Joseph ever recover for anyone with his crafty science of peeping in stones? None. As for the articles that he supposedly found for people, we find a good example of what Smith would tell others concerning his lack of success according to Josiah Stowell (who believed Joseph could really see things in his peep-stone):

…that [Joseph Smith] had looked through said stone for Deacon Attelon, for a mine – did not exactly find it, but got a piece of ore, which resembled gold, he thinks; that prisoner had told by means of this stone where a Mr. Bacon had buried money; that he and prisoner had been in search of it; that prisoner said that it was in a certain root of a stump five feet from surface of the earth, and with it would be found a tail-feather; that said Stowel and prisoner thereupon commenced digging, found a tail-feather, but money was gone; that he supposed that money moved down

This is the prophet-in-training who was yearly meeting with an angel of God to learn how to run his kingdom? And this idea that it makes any kind of difference whether Joseph was found guilty in 1826. It doesn’t matter because we know he did what they claimed he did, he pretended to be able to find buried treasure, silver mines, etc. with a peep-stone and was getting paid for it. Smith was breaking the law. Juggling. Claiming that well, everybody else was doing it, matters not at all.

Slipping Away from Reality into the Absurd

Does buried treasure really move through the earth? Is that what apologists are claiming? That angels and demons and ghosts move buried treasure through the earth at their leisure? These stories are absurd, yet, many superstitious people believed them and Joseph reinforced that belief by including it in his Book of Mormon:

And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them. And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say: O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us. Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land. O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. (Helaman  13:31-37)

Is this not a treasure digging yarn written right into the Book of Mormon? It has all those exciting demonic elements of a treasure digging yarn: the disappearing swords and tools, and the slippery treasures that are swallowed up in the ground because of the curse of the land as the demons and angels close in to destroy their souls.

Was Joseph really seeing treasure chests of money that moved every time they dug for them? What an interesting way to solve that problem, if Joseph was confronted later about his money-digging he could simply explain that God had cursed the land and that was why he always failed when he tried. It’s right there on the gold plates! It’s scripture. And where did he learn about this, why from his father:

Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground — we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun.(Peter Ingersoll, Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. Y. Dec. 2d, 1833. )

Was Joseph’s clear practice of necromancy (during the time he was supposedly being taught by an angel of God every year) a restoration of ancient Christian beliefs? Not according to Christians of the day. Ronald Walker writes:

Probably the quality which most distinguished American treasure digger was his acceptance of the old cultural system that rapidly was passing into obsolescence almost from the founding of America’s first settlements, many community leaders rejected money digging. Seventeenth century puritan clerics such as Cotton Mather and John Hale called the wise men “devils’ priests and prophets” and their practices “witchcraft” Following European practice, the clergy’s long-standing opposition was given the force of law. A New York statute, for example, enjoined “all jugglers, and all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy palmistry or like crafty science or pretending to tell fortunes or to discover where lost goods may be found while observed lightly or more often in the breach (Joseph Smith was tried at least once for his money digging but was apparently neither fined nor imprisoned), such laws and the clerical animosity that lay behind them created in the minds of many educated men and women a dark and unsavory image of money-digging that often became caricature.

American literature reinforced this tendency. …Whether in the poetry of John G. C. Brainard, the humorous sketches of Washington Irving, or the satires of Franklin and Forrest, the result was uniformly the same. Though money-digging, like any human endeavor, offered much to scorn and even to pity, the belles-lettres of the period conveyed the prevailing values of the intellectual elite by treating the money-diggers in overblown and often unjustified images. (op.cited above, pgs. 451-2)

Was the treatment of money-diggers really unjustified? It was all a scam. Every time! And they had good reason to pass those laws because unless one was digging for money for one’s own benefit or amusement, those who went around promoting such nonsense were perpetuating a fraud on their neighbors. It is like the holy relics of the Middle Ages. People were persuaded to buy things like the “milk of the Virgin Mary, the teeth, hair, and blood of Christ, pieces of the Cross, and samples of the linen Christ was wrapped in as an infant.

No one ever found any buried treasure by way of peep-stones and divining rods and went around digging and peeping without wanting to be compensated for it. But there is coincidence and a broken clock is correct twice a day, especially when the Three Nephites are on the prowl.

Spiritualism is not Mormonism

Walker goes on to say that “money-digging may have influenced two of the nineteenth century’s major social and religious movements, Mormonism and Spiritualism. Its touch on American society was not light.” (ibid)

And yet, is Spiritualism a restoration of Apostolic Christianity? Apparently not, but there was a Mormon Spiritualist Church, founded by William S. Godbe. Ronald Walker writes,

There was also a spiritual, or spiritualist, dimension to their [The Godbeites] dissent. In October 1868 Godbe and Harrison traveled to New York City, ostensibly for business and recreation. They apparently used the occasion to seek direction from a spiritualist medium, Charles Foster. Fifty seances followed, confirming their religious doubts and mandating a radical restructuring of Mormonism. “The whole superstructure of a grand system of theology was unfolded to our minds,” Harrison later wrote. The system included a devaluation of the Book of Mormon  and Doctrine and Covenants, and the rejection of a personal deity, the literal resurrection, and the doctrine of the atonement.

Spiritualism was almost a perfect solution for the Godbeite doubters. Its parallels with Mormonism eased the pain involved in their transfer of commitment. Both movements affirmed the eternal nature of the individual and taught the validity of spiritual experience. Each had an upstate New York genesis. Moreover, their new spiritualistic view allowed Godbe and Morrison to validate their previous religious experiences. These now seemed mere preliminaries to their new, higher revelation. There also was an additional advantage: nineteenth-century spiritualism had a liberal, intellectual content that fit the Godbeite mood.

Yet the new movement was condemned by Brigham Young who published in the Deseret News that their ideas would “drive the holy priesthood from the earth.” George A. Smith claimed that “A blacker spirit never reigned in the heart of mortals than reigns in those two men.” (Harrison & Godbe). When Godbe asked Young if they were going to get the typical charges of immorality leveled at them as they were excommunicated, Young said that there were none that they knew of, but that “they must have committed some secret crime, or they would not now be found … opposing the policies of the servants of God.” (pgs. 70-71)

And haven’t we come full circle here? Young opposing the spiritualism that Mormonism supposedly sprang from! This is what the Christians of the day (who Walker calls “elites”) were doing with the magic practices embraced by many in New York, including Joseph’s neighbors.

They didn’t accept that magical treasure digging and necromancy was from God, it was all superstition – a counter culture movement that began to decline soon after it began to flourish in places like New York’s burned over district. Yet, they still participated in it, as many do today with the lottery, or by way of prosperity gospels.

The Spiritualism that grew out of such folk beliefs, was rife with fraud, as Ron Huggins points out in his excellent article. And yet, those like Brigham Young, believed that there were actual evil spirits performing such stunts at seances:

Is there any revelation in the world? Yes, plenty of it. We are accused of being nothing more nor less than a people possessing what they term the higher order of Spiritualism. Whenever I see this in print, or hear it spoken, “You are right,” say I. “Yes, we belong to that higher order of Spiritualism; our revelations are from above, yours from beneath. This is the difference. We receive revelation from Heaven, you receive your revelations from every foul spirit that has departed this life, and gone out of the bodies of mobbers, murderers, highwaymen, drunkards, thieves, liars, and every kind of debauched character, whose spirits are floating around here, and searching and seeking whom they can destroy; for they are the servants of the devil, and they are permitted to come now to reveal to the people.” It was not so once, anciently or formerly, when there was no Priesthood on the earth, no revelations from Heaven. Then the Lord Almighty shut up this evidence, and all intercourse between men on the earth and the foul spirits, so that the latter could not deceive and destroy the former with their revelations. But God has spoken now, and so has the devil; Jesus has revealed his Priesthood, so has the devil revealed his, and there is quite a difference between the two. One forms a perfect chain, the links of which cannot be separated; one has perfect order, laws, rules, regulations, organization; it forms, fashions, makes, creates, produces, protects and holds in existence the inhabitants of the earth in a pure and holy form of government, preparatory to their entering the kingdom of Heaven. The other is a rope of sand; it is disjointed, jargon, confusion, discord, everybody receiving revelation to suit himself. If I were disposed to go into their rings I could make every table, every dot, every particle of their revelations prove that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I could lay my hands on the table with them, and if I would consent to have the spirits wrap, I would make them prove every time that Joseph Smith was a prophet; but let me go, and another man come along, a wicked man, and he would have all the evidence he desired that Joseph was not a prophet of God. I could make them say, every time, that this is the Church of Christ; while a wicked man might enter the circle and he would be told that this was not the Church of Christ; and this is their system—it is confusion and discord. It is like a rope of sand. There is no order, no organization; it cannot be reduced to a system, it is uncertainty. That is the difference between the two spiritual systems—yes, this is the higher order of spiritualism, to be led, governed and controlled by law, and that, too, the law of heaven that governs and controls the Gods and the angels. There is no being in heaven that could endure there, that could abide the heavens unless he is sanctified, purified and glorified by law, and lives by law. But take the other party, and it is without law. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:281)

And it must be noted that Young’s point here, is that without the Mormon Priesthood, what was being practiced was counterfeit. Joseph supposedly did not receive the priesthood until 1829, and that is why God supposedly told Joseph to “go not after” them. And of course Young and Kimball had to invent the “natural prophet” who had power outside of the priesthood to account for what Smith was doing before he restored it.

And yet, those like Houdini proved it was all a hoax. Where was Young and others “gift of discernment’? What is very interesting is that when Houdini came up against the Medium Margery, who used all kinds of tricks to try and prove she was a real psychic, she failed when Houdini placed her in a fool proof box where she could not manipulate objects. But they found a way to sabotage Houdini’s precautions, and many people believed she was a true medium. If people want to believe, they will, even when they are proven frauds.

And why would Joseph doing those same things be any different? He didn’t have any priesthood in the 1820’s. He didn’t have any of those laws of God to guide him. And if he did, when he was supposedly talking to the angel every year for four years, he didn’t act like he did. Smith later claimed that the angel (later identified as Moroni) would reveal to him the priesthood, but all we see Smith doing during those four years is digging for buried treasure and getting arrested for doing it and then obfuscating these events in his later histories.

He was actually disobeying God, because he was going after things that he was told not to. Martin Harris later related that Joseph was told to “quit the company of the money-diggers”, but he just couldn’t seem to do so for a good seven years, even after a visit from God and an angel.

“the angels that tell where to find gold books…”

In fact, the very idea of associating buried treasure with angels of God was so repulsive to the Christian brother (Jesse) of Joseph Smith Sr., that he wrote to Hyrum on June 17, 1829:

Once as I thot my promising Nephew, You wrote to my Father long ago, that after struggling thro various scenes of adversity, you and your family, you had at last taught the very solutary lesson that the God that made the heavens and the earth w[o]uld at onc[e] give success to your endeavours, this if true, is very well, exactly as it should be—but alas what is man when left to his own way, he makes his own gods, if a golden calf, he falls down and worships before it, and says this is my god which brought me out of the land of Vermont—if it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity, & dug from the mines of atheism, he writes that the angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom & knowledge, even divine revelation, which has lain in the bowels of the earth for thousands of years [and] is at last made known to him, he says he has eyes to see things that art not, and then has the audacity to say they are; and the angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. 

He goes on to say that,

You say you have God for a witness— to prove the truth of what you write miserable creature, not to say perjured villain, how dare you thus trifle, in taking the name of God in vain, nay far worse than vain— that God with whom you thus trifle, is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity he cannot look on sin with any degree of approbation or complacency it is true he passeth by iniquity transgression and sin in his redeemed ones, he sees their shield, and for his sake recieves them to favour, but to such as make lead books, and declare to the world that they are of the most fine gold, calling on the great & dreadful name of the most High to witness the truth of their assertions, He says “depart from me ye that work iniquity,” and again “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, they shall be cast into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” these are the angels that tell where to find gold books.——

It is obvious that as a Christian, the idea of angels revealing where to find buried treasure or “gold books” was anathema to Jesse Smith, who concluded his letter with this warning:

Your father would not be implicated in this place, but for the message he sent by the hands of a fool to my brother Saml [Smith] this fellow says that you and your father are in this business very deep the fellow also believes all to be a fact, this to be sure, for no one unless predisposed to believe a lie would have heard a syllable from either of you on the subject, he says your father has a wand or rod like Jannes & Jambres who withstood Moses in Egypt— that he can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia or another fool story, many other things alike ridiculous. You state your Father cannot write by reason of a nervous affection this is a poor excuse, worse than none, he can dictate to others and they can write, he can If he knows not what to write, he can get your Brother’s spectacles he would then be as able to write dictate a letter, as Joe is to decypher hieroglyphics, if more should be wanting he can employ the same scoundrel of a scribe, and then not only the matter but manner and style would be correct… (Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, Dan Vogel, EMD 1: 551-52.)

Although there were many like Joseph Smith and members of his family who believed in the occult and that it was somehow sanctioned by God; there was a sharp divide among Christian believers and those that ascribed to folk magic practices – as the letter from Jesse Smith shows. There were also some Christians  who believed in such things as divining rods or treasure guardians, and sought to justify their use by claiming they were “of God”, but Jesse Smith wasn’t one of them. And you know what, people are still doing it today!

But … Everything’s Christian!

This idea that folk magic and Christianity were one and the same, and that Smith’s Latter Day Saints Church sprang out of his folk magic beliefs is an apologist fabrication. Christianity and the folk magic of the day were not the same. It would be like starting a church and claiming that the Christian God was really an alien, and later apologists could justify it because many Christians at the time believed in aliens. In other words Christianity and belief in aliens would basically be one unified whole, right? And isn’t it interesting that someone is teaching that very thing. Meet John Polk:

Hello, my name is Reverend John Polk. I am channeling “Yahweh”, the Judeo-Christian and Islamic creator-god-alien featured in the Bible, the Hebrew Bible and in the Quran. For thousands of years, up to this present day, he has been masquerading as the real God and is pulling a collective veil over the eyes of most of the world. Ancient alien astronaut theorists comprehend this reality, but most of humanity has no idea. Yahweh tells me the time draws near for full alien disclosure, so that we primitive Earthlings can be weaned off of the Mother Universe’s figurative bosom. He wants the world to know that he is an extraterrestrial, that he is not God and that all God-figures in all cultures are ET’s, not God. However, all creator-gods and Yahweh had wanted we humans to keep worshiping those creator-gods just like always. As collective humanity adapts to this knowledge, religion, culture and tradition need not change. For now, you may pray to the alien god you have worshiped all along but now, pray to the real God as well. The real God loves everyone regardless of their religion or belief system and therefore, he is the God for everyone.

Is this really any different than the apologists “folk magic restoration”? One could even say that this is the right time for Polk to come forth, because until the “Roswell Incident” people were just not attuned to aliens. The post Roswell Incident culture allowed more and more people to believe in aliens and for it to become more acceptable. This prepared the world for the prophet of the true God, Enlil, Reverend John Polk. At this website, they claim that,

…Reverend John Polk is a metaphysical minister who can communicate to angels, extraterrestrials, and even the alien-creator-God itself, Yahweh, who he refers to as Enlil (the Sumerian god of the air) and they form a pantheon of aliens, Annunaki, hybrids, and extradimensional entities than inhabit his multiverse. And according to the good Reverend, Jesus was an alien-human hybrid engineered by Yahweh. … And Reverend John Polk might be saying some unusual things, but if we’re going to take religious stories on faith – with burning bushes, water into wine, Joseph Smith’s golden plates, Mohammed and his flying horse, etc… well, then let’s listen to Polk’s message and see what he’s trying to communicate.

“He told so many stories…”

When Ron Huggins wrote his article on Joseph Smith and his fascination with Captain Kidd, he tried to produce a timeline, which is hard to do with Joseph Smith. Morris seizes on this and uses it to try and create a distraction about timelines. But the fact is, Joseph was simply telling different stories to different people. At times it was a religious yarn, and at times it involved a treasure ghost and magic. As Lorenzo Saunders remembered, “Jo. Smith told the story but he told so many stories, it was a hard thing to get the fact in any way or shape…” (Edmund L. Kelley interview with Lorenzo Saunders — read and signed by Lorenzo Saunders, 1884, EMD Vol. II, 159)  Yet Morris claims that,

The pattern is clear: the earliest witnesses emphasized the religious aspects of the story; accounts emphasizing “Captain Kidd” elements were later developments. This is the same pattern revealed with both newspapers and early letters and diaries. In every case, religious elements are included in the first accounts and are more common than the later magical elements. (pg. 33)

Actually, Morris doesn’t know what the “earliest witnesses emphasized”, because there are no extant accounts between 1823 and 1827 except the court documents that claimed Smith was a “glass looker”. So claiming that “the pattern is clear” that the earliest witnesses emphasized the religious aspects is disingenuous. Remember, Morris claims that what Ronald Walker wrote was extremely relevant:

At young Joseph’s 1826 money digging trial his father was reported to have claimed that both he and his son “were mortified that this wonderful [seeric] power which God had so miraculously given to the boy should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures.” Joseph Smith Sr “trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will concerning him.”

The fact that there was a complaint made against Joseph in 1826 and he was “Examined” and found guilty of being a “glass looker” is significant. This is the only evidence from that period (1823-27), six years after he later claimed he saw God and three years after his religious angel story.

And yet a transcript that we have of the Examination, that Walker above quotes from, has Joseph’s father claiming that he hoped God would “some day illumine the heart of the boy and enable him to see his will.” But “the boy” later claimed to have seen God and later claimed he was seeing an angel every year at the hill by their home previous to this Examination. This indicates that the religious elements of the angel story weren’t really emphasized until 1827, and many later accounts bear this out. This evidence is the smoking gun that Joseph’s religious story was invented after 1826.

The corroborating evidence encompasses not only the Smith family neighbors, but close friends and future followers of Joseph’s “restored gospel”.

But what about Ron Huggins? He got things essentially right as we shall see. Morris claims that Huggins does not account for “the complex interweaving of faith and folk culture”, but that has little to do with what Huggins postulates because it is irrelevant. He claims that Huggins is the one “obscuring the timeline” and hiding “crucial details”.  No, this is what Joseph Smith did.

Morris wants to write Huggins paper for him, which I find amusing. He tells us what Huggins should have done, whose Mormon research he should have used. I’ve shown how Morris only quotes selected extracts of Walker’s research, doing the very thing he accuses Ronald Huggins of doing, hiding crucial details. He claims that Huggins focuses on Captiain Kidd and therefore skews the entire debate, but that is what Morris does by claiming that the first person accounts (the ones crafted by the Smith’s) take precedence over others. (I mean, look at the timeline in the beginning of his new book and you will see it is the “faithful history” timeline.) But here is what Morris writes and it’s important to note:

Since Huggins claims that Joseph’s account changed from one thing (a money-digger’s yarn) to another (the religious story of an angel), the best way to test his thesis is to discover when various people talked to Joseph and compare their reports.

And not only Joseph, but Lucy, William, Joseph Sr., etc. It is also important to note that it was Joseph and Oliver who were claiming it was always a religious story, that there were no magical elements to it. But we know this was a lie, hence the apologetic arguments that the “restoration” sprang out of both.

(To be Continued)

The Irrational World of Brian Hales’ Polygamy (Part 2)

By Jeremy Runnells & Johnny Stephenson

Pt. I may be found here.

Part II: Method… Or Madness?

“Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.”  ― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

“Madness breeds madness.” ― Dan Brown, Inferno

Brian Hales mentions that scholars may critique your work.  Some of Hales own work was critiqued by Historian D. Michael Quinn in 2012 and 2013, and what Quinn had to say about Hales’ conclusions isn’t encouraging.  Aside from important weaknesses and incorrect arguments, Hales’ work is full of red herrings, flawed methodology and manipulation of the evidence. And it is important to note that Quinn only reviewed Hales’ conclusions about sexual polyandry in Smith’s marriages.

But Quinn doesn’t treat Brian Hales like Hales treated Jeremy Runnells. He takes what Hales has written and step by step makes his assessment. He doesn’t claim right off the bat that Hales is being deceptive to try and poison the well in advance.  Still, Quinn found a plethora of problems with Hale’s approach as an historian. Here are some of them:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing easily refutable claims” (pg. 6);  quotes secondary sources over primary sources (page 6);  Quinn also writes that “The best evidence is the original record of sealing, not someone’s century later commentary about it” which Hales quoted instead of the original record.

He states that Hales “brushes off the significance of some of the evidence he has cited,” (page 11); makes contradictory assertions (page 11);  conveniently shifts his standards of evidentiary analysis in his own direction (page 18); that Hales “apologetical observations contradict evidence (page 23); uses a red herring, (page 25); makes claims that have no basis whatever (page 27); strains credulity (page 27); uses “presentist bias” (page 33); accuses him of “misrepresentation” (page 64); of not consulting original sources (page 66); that Hales had an “academic obligation” to reveal certain information which he did not (page 66); of using a “vacuous red-herring when Hales does not quote a single exception from the “original records” about which he writes” (page 69); that Hales would not acknowledge crucial evidence that undermined his narrative (page 70 n. 46) which was that Joseph Smith forbid the practice of polygamy in Oct. 1843 (ibid); citing a source critical to his argument without a page number (page 72); uses flawed methodology and closed system of logic (page 73); worse (Quinn’s word) he has failed to acknowledge several of the contrary evidences in publications he has cited, (ibid); he makes “perplexing gaffes” in his use of evidence (page 73-74); he repeatedly questions the memory/accuracy of faithful Mormon witnesses that Hales disagrees with (page 74); does not use equal standards for evidence (page 74); of making “apologetical claims” knowing they were “improbable” (page 75);  that he did not acknowledge critical evidence until forced to by Quinn (page 78); gave “anachronistic assessment”, and “a fallacy of irrelevant proof”, and “chronologically false” assessments (page 80).

He overstates problem in proving a negative, (Hales – “You can’t prove a negative”) to which Quinn writes, “for example it is possible to prove that someone didn’t die on a particular date” (page 82); falsely accusing Quinn of stealing documents (84); another red herring (87); absurdity (87); claimed that Quinn said something he did not say (90); of another fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 90); that Hales wrongly corrected an accurate page citation by Quinn (page 91); of knowing of evidence but ignoring it to support his conclusions (page 94); claimed no documentation existed when it did (page 95); of not acknowledging evidence (page 98); making claims that were wrong (page 98); raising an apologetical smoke-screen by questioning well known facts (page 101); making ridiculous assertions about conspiracies (page 101); of fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 102); that Hales is  an unreasonable researcher (page 102); of using “multiple fallacies” (page 104); the purposeful absence of references (page 105); purposeful non-inclusion of first-person sources that contradict his argument (page 108); using “imprecise and less detailed” evidence to support his argument (page 108); exclusion of evidence (page 108); claims there is no “specific documentation” when Quinn provided it (page 110); wrongly stated something Quinn did not say (page 113) which was a “Stunning gaffe”, again a red herring (page 113); another red herring (page 115); irrelevant statements (page 115); “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes” (page 115).

On page 118 Quinn writes, “NOTHING (Caps in original) can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time” [This speaks for itself]; Also includes Hales in using the “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities” (page 118); of denying and ignoring evidence (pg.  123); using a closed system of logic (God knew Smith would be obedient so he was).

On page 124, Quinn compares Hales to Joseph Smith III, who refused to believe evidence he did not like, (page 124); accuses Hales of playing “a skillful shell game in which premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same” (page 125); ignores contradictions and other problems in evidence (page 126); omits significant facts (page 127); another wrong claim (page 127); does not cite sources he knows of (page 128); makes unqualified conclusions (page 128).[25]

Even with all this criticism, Quinn did agree with some of Hales’ conclusions and even complimented him a few times in his critique. This is something that Hales doesn’t do with Jeremy Runnells. (That is – be fair and acknowledge Jeremy’s sincere concerns or compliment him when he agrees that he got something right).  Instead, Hales goes from irrational to ridiculous. He writes,

Runnells declares early that he has concerns about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, alleging that “three key facts remain unchallenged: (1) Joseph Smith married at least 34 women; (2) he married at least 11 women who were married to other living men; and (3) he married underage girls as young as 14-years-old.”[26]

All of Jeremy’s observations are absolutely accurate, and Hales knows that they are. But here is how Hales ridiculously responds to this:

Runnells seems concerned that Joseph Smith was sealed to “at least 34 women.” It is actually 35 by my count.[27]

Is it a bad thing to be concerned that Smith was sealed/married to at least 34 women? This concerns many people both in and out of the church.  How though, does this show that what Runnells wrote is inaccurate or that he is lying? It simply doesn’t.

It’s obvious that Jeremy qualified his statement with two words, “at least”. With all of the other material that Jeremy includes in the Polygamy Section of “Debunking Fair,” one has to wonder why Hales would even respond to this, which is accurate (based on a consensus of polygamy historians, including Brian Hales).

And there is still debate over how many actual wives Joseph Smith had, ( claims it is “unknown”, Polygamy Essay, text at Note 24) but you don’t hear that from Brian Hales in this hit piece.  Jeremy Runnells cites the many historians that disagree with Hales’ count, but Hales doesn’t mention this either.[28] Hales then writes,

While it [the number of women Smith “married”] is a large number, it is important to note that at least 13, and possibly as many as 20, were non-sexual “eternity only” sealings. As Joseph Smith taught, every woman needs to be sealed to an eternal husband to be eligible for exaltation. Lucy Walker remembered the Prophet’s emphasis: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” None of the women left any complaints regarding their sealings to Joseph. Yet, Runnells seems bothered by this observation.[29]

Hales claim about “non-sexual ‘eternity only’ sealings” simply cannot be substantiated by any evidence that he presents, (which he admits elsewhere) so his comment here to Runnells is curiously disingenuous as is his comment about none of the women complaining. (Many did, as we shall see). And late remembrances by women who were trying to justify Smith’s spiritual wifeism should always be taken for what they are.

First, Hales doesn’t know if is 13 or “possibly as many as 20”, and his claim that “at least 13” were “non-sexual eternity only sealings” isn’t based on any credible evidence. He is simply making these numbers up. It’s an irrational claim. There is absolutely no evidence to prove that there was ever such as thing as a “non-sexual eternity only sealing” during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. (We will show this below).

There are only a few very late statements that are ambiguous at best and second hand stories with no supporting evidence to back up Hales claims. All sealings were for eternity, or for time and eternity (depending on the circumstances of the individuals), or time, but there are no known instances in the Nauvoo Era where sexuality in the marriage was specifically barred by ceremony or even alluded to. This is quite simply wishful thinking on the part of Brian Hales and he has absolutely no credible evidence to show that this was so.

There is credible evidence though, that there were one or two instances of pre-arranged “eternity only sealings” many years later between two living people with the caveat that they would be unconsummated, but that they were extremely rare. (We discuss this below).

Hales may be the only author who has published multiple volumes about Smith’s polygamy devoted to the point of view that he was only “sealed” to a large majority of his “wives” that were specifically set up to be “non-sexual marriages”.[30] This seems to be an obsession with Brian Hales and the reason is obvious, to try and mitigate the damage of Smith’s secretive “marriages” to other men’s wives which was considered adultery by Joseph’s own 1842 First Presidency Address. (Also discussed below).

Michael Quinn put Hales’ obsession with his idealistic version of Joseph Smith this way in relation to his denials of Smith’s obvious polyandry:

NOTHING [Caps and underline in original] can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time”.[31]

Hales then writes at Rational Faiths,

Runnells writes that Joseph “married at least 11 women who were married to other living men.” In fact, I count 14 (Sylvia Sessions, Sarah Ann Whitney, Ruth Vose, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Sarah Kingsley, Presendia Lathrop Huntington, Esther Dutcher, Zina Diantha Huntington, Patty Bartlett, Marinda Nancy Johnson, Elivira Annie Cowles, Elizabeth Davis, Lucinda Pendleton, and Mary Heron). Like many authors before him, Runnells implies sexual polyandry occurred; that is, that the wives were experiencing sexual relations with both their legal husbands and Joseph Smith. Yet, Runnells presents no credible documentation to support his interpretation, and he does not address evidences that contradict it. Joseph taught sexual polyandry was adultery and that a woman could never have two genuine husbands (D&C 22:1, 132:4).[32]

Again, Hales seems to have missed Jeremy’s use of the qualifier “at least”. And Jeremy would be more correct in doing so than Hales is giving an actual number. Hales includes in this list Mary Heron Snider of whom there is no evidence that she was ever a “wife” of Joseph Smith or even “sealed” to him.  There is evidence though, that Smith had sexual intercourse with her in her son-in-law’s house which Joseph E. Johnson (her son-in-law) likened to his own adultery which happened years later. Concerning Mary Heron Snider, Hales writes elsewhere:

Without any additional evidence, it is impossible to conclusively identify the nature of Joseph Smith’s relationship with Mary Heron, if any special relationship ever existed.[33]

But this does not stop Hales from including her in Smith’s list of wives with absolutely no evidence to score rhetorical points against Jeremy. This is another irrational conclusion by Hales, because he claims that she was “married” to Joseph Smith, but that it is “impossible” to identify the relationship she had with Smith. But because she had sex with Smith, she has to be one of his wives, using Hales’ logic.  Johnson likening Smith and Snider’s intercourse to his own adultery still doesn’t stop Hales from making these irrational pronouncements. Therefore including her in his list of wives “married” to Joseph Smith in response to Jeremy is baffling, as is his obvious bragging about numbers of wives he concludes Smith “married”.

There is very good evidence however, that Smith’s relationship with Mary Snider  was an adulterous affair just like the one with Fanny Alger. (See Note #33).

If this is what Hales means by “the latest research”, then his website should be visited with caution and his conclusions discarded for their flawed methodology and closed system of logic, (to use the words of D. Michael Quinn).

Hales also claims that Jeremy provides no credible documentation to support the practice of sexual polyandry by Joseph Smith.  This is astoundingly untrue. Jeremy provides this statement by Ann Eliza Webb, one of Brigham Young’s wives:

One woman [Zina Huntington] said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy: ‘The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.‘ Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph’s declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practiced; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church.[34]

Of course, this is not credible evidence to Brian Hales because as D. Michael Quinn observed, Hales “does not use equal standards for evidence”. According to Hales:

Ann Eliza does not specifically name which of Joseph’s wives she was allegedly quoting [about the polyandry]. However, her mother, Eliza Jane Churchill Webb, repeated the accusation in two private letters a year later specifying  Zina Huntington as the woman:

“There are women living in Utah now who were sealed to Joseph while living with their husbands, and they say it was the greatest trial of their lives to live with two men at the same time.”

Four months afterwards she also penned, “There is Zina,—whose maiden name was Huntington. She says the greatest trial of her life was, to live with her husband and Joseph too at the same time.”

Although it is commonly quoted by writers as primary evidence of sexual polyandry in Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, several problems emerge with Ann Eliza’s statement.

One is the issue of proximity. Ann Eliza did not live in the Lion House with Zina and Brigham Young’s other wives, but lived in her own house a few blocks away. She apostatized in 1872 and subsequently sued Brigham Young for alimony (and lost).

Yet, she claimed that sometime prior to her leaving the Church, Zina Huntington confided to her regarding her “greatest trial,” her frustrations with polyandrous sexuality between her, Joseph Smith, and Henry Jacobs decades before in Nauvoo.

In the nineteenth century, for a woman to mention her personal sexual involvement was rare. To admit to a polyandrous relationship would be rarer, but to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary. The listeners to such admissions would have had no context to evaluate the declarations except to consider the behaviors plainly immoral. Even in the secret teachings of plurality in Nauvoo, no doctrinal foundation for sexual polyandry was ever discussed. At any time during the restoration, such statements would be interpreted as admissions of unchaste behavior.

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young

Zina’s alleged openness concerning such a delicate topic also contrasts her 1898 interview statements. She then remarked that, “It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years.” She declared to the interviewer, “We hardly dared speak of it. The very walls had ears. We spoke of it only in whispers . . . you are speaking on the most sacred experiences of my life.”

In light of her declared reticence to talk about her marriage to Joseph Smith, it seems less likely that she would have suspended her discretion as reported by Ann Eliza.

Importantly, in an 1887 interview, Zina questioned Ann Eliza’s general truthfulness:

The trouble with Ann Eliza . . . was that she was not truthful. She was not grateful, and she was a very bad woman. She has convicted herself out of her own mouth. . . . She never lifted a her [sic] finger to do a bit of work that she didn’t want to do. She had servants and there was no necessity for her doing anything. She has asserted that President Young opened all his wives’ letters, and that they couldn’t visit anywhere or write to anybody, which is ridiculously untrue. President Young was occupied with too many important matters to give attention to such trivial things as his wives’ letters or his wives’ visits. We wrote to whom we pleased. . . . Ann Eliza knew she was misrepresenting the facts.

Zina did not directly dispute Ann Eliza’s claims regarding sexual polyandry probably because the original published statement did not identify her as the “one woman” and few individuals, including perhaps Zina herself, would have assumed her identity. Regardless, it appears Eliza’s assertion is best dismissed as anti-Mormon propaganda unless more credible supportive evidence for sexual polyandry is found.[35]

The first thing that we should mention here in critiquing Hales’ assessment of Ann Eliza is that Hales accuses her of spewing out “Anti-Mormon propaganda” and so she really can’t be trusted as a witness, because after Ann Eliza left the Church a believing Mormon (Zina Young) claimed she was not trustworthy.

To Hales, this is enough to give credence to Zina Young’s claims and cast doubt on Ann Eliza Webb. (Who is just another “Anti-Mormon) . Hales believes what Zina says about Ann Eliza (and polygamy), but not what Ann Eliza says about Zina because it does not fit his idealistic narrative.  (The believing Mormon who says what Hales wants to hear is to be believed, while the person labeled by Hales as an “Anti-Mormon” is not unless they agree with his own personal conclusions).  And there is Hales using that “anti” label again.

It also did not stop Hales from relying on Ann Eliza and her mother’s testimony to support his claims that Fanny Alger was “sealed” or “married” to Joseph Smith.  Also, he does not mention any of these problems (Zina’s claims that Ann Eliza is untrustworthy) in an article he wrote about Fanny Alger because he uses Webb to support  his position there.  This is a hypocritical double standard that Hales employs over and over again.[36]

Hales then tries to tell us that because Ann Eliza apostatized years after she came to know Zina Huntington Young, (Ann Eliza was also Brigham Young’s wife for almost five years) that it makes it less probable that Huntington would have confided in her.  According to Hales, since they only lived a few blocks away from each other, this makes it all the more unlikely! In fact, one of the points that Zina Young makes is that she wasn’t restricted by Young from making visits to whomever she wanted to. But as we shall see, she didn’t need to make any special visits to frequently see Zina.

Hales also claims that he knows it is rare for two women who were married to the same man and were sister wives, to speak to each other about personal matters involving sex. Hales tells us that, “To admit to a polyandrous relationship would be rarer, but to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary.” According to whom? What is Hales basing this speculation on? There is no way to know because it is not based on any evidence in existence outside of Brian Hales’ imagination.  There is evidence that Hales is aware that one of Smith’s “wives” had no qualms about explaining her polyandrous arrangement if she had the chance to do so in private:

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner

I hope you will not think me [Mary Lightner] intrusive, I am sure I do not wish to be- If I could have an oportunity of conversing with you, [John Henry Smith] and Brother Joseph [F. Smith] I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr L,[ightner] after becoming the Wife of another, which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious – and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury. I have done the best I could, and Joseph will sanction my action – I cannot explain things in this Letter – some day you will know all. That is, if I ever have an oportunity of conversing with either of you.[37]

What could Mary tell them that they already didn’t know about? Mary Lightner herself claimed that in February of 1842 “Brigham Young sealed us for time and all eternity.”[38]

What Mary wanted to speak to John Henry Smith and Joseph F. Smith about was something that people had commented on to her injury. This would not be having two husbands, for many of Smith’s wives were already married when they became his wife and they knew this. What would Joseph sanction? Staying with her husband? According to Mary Lightner this is exactly what Joseph told her to do, so this was no secret as she told Emmeline B. Wells years before this time:

“I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.”[39]

She had no problem writing this. But it would be very controversial if she wrote that Joseph told her to share herself with both of them. To say this was a “non-sexual, eternity only sealing,” ignores the evidence, but Hales doesn’t mind doing that because Mary Lightner was having sex with Adam Lightner during this period and gave birth to a son in 1842 and a daughter in 1843 while she was Joseph’s spiritual wife.[40]

What did Mary Lightner mean by “becoming the wife of another?” A simple “eternity only sealing” makes little sense here. People were sealed to one another frequently during this period of time. Men were sealed to men, and women to men, and children to their parents.  It is hard to believe that an “eternity only sealing” to Joseph would have been spoken of to her injury, especially when it was established doctrine and taught for many years that Gentile marriages were not considered authoritative.

Hales claims over and over again that polyandry was “a practice that would have been explosive from a morality perspective and otherwise unknown in their society.“[41] But then, so was polygamy, which the Nauvoo Relief Society denounced in 1842 as being “contrary to the old established morals & virtues & scriptural laws, regulating the habits, customs & conduct of society.”[42] Yet we have many women abandoning their 19th century morals to participate in polygamous marriages; and though some were reluctant to embrace the principle they all trusted that Joseph Smith was teaching them correct doctrine because they believed that he was their “lawgiver”.

So how would Hales know what women spoke of in confidence or in private or how rare that was? How is Zina Huntington “openly” referring to a polyandrous relationship when she is obviously confiding to a sister wife? Zina’s comments about Ann Eliza after she left Young must be taken with caution for obvious reasons. Where is Hales’ evidence that Zina Young considered Ann Eliza untrustworthy while they were both married to Young? That would help bolster his conjectures, but he doesn’t produce any.

This then, would have been a private admission.  Ann Eliza did not reveal the circumstances surrounding the admission by Zina Young to her, only that Young gave Ann Eliza “some of her experiences in polygamy” in which she recounted certain things to her. Describing this as an “open admission” is misleading  and a red herring.

These kinds of fallacious conclusions make up the bulk of Hales arguments in his articles and in his books as we have seen by the analysis of Hales’ work done by D. Michael Quinn.

It may be instructive to provide a little more of Ann Eliza’s comments about this matter from her book so one may understand their true context:

Joseph not only paid his addresses to the young and unmarried women, but he sought “spiritual alliance” with many married ladies who happened to strike his fancy. He taught them that all former marriages were null and void, and that they were at perfect liberty to make another choice of a husband. The marriage covenants were not binding, because they were ratified only by Gentile laws. These laws the Lord did not recognize; consequently all the women were free.

Again, he would appeal to their religious sentiments, and their strong desire to enter into the celestial kingdom. He used often to argue in this manner while endeavoring to convince some wavering or unwilling victim: “Now, my dear sister, it is true that your husband is a good man, a very good man, but you and he are by no means kindred spirits, and he will never be able to save you in the celestial kingdom ; it has been revealed by the Spirit that you ought to belong to me.”

This sophistry, strange as it may seem, had its weight, and scarcely ever failed of its desired results. Many a woman, with a kind, good husband, who loved her and trusted her, and a family of children, would suffer herself to be sealed to Joseph, at the same time living with the husband whom she was wronging so deeply, he believing fondly that her love was all his own.

One woman said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy : “The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.”

This woman, and others, whose experience has been very similar, are among the very best women in the church; they are as pure-minded and virtuous women as any in the world.  They were seduced under the guise of religion, and they submitted as to a cross laid upon them by the divine will. Believing implicitly in the Prophet, they never dreamed of questioning the truth of his revelations, and would have considered themselves on the verge of apostasy, which to a Mormon is a most dangerous and horrible state, from which there is no possible salvation, had they refused to submit to him and to receive his “divine” doctrines.

Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph’s declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practised; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church. Shocking as all this may appear, women that were sealed to Joseph at that time are more highly respected than any others. It is said, as the highest mead of praise which can be given, that they never repudiated any of the Prophet’s teachings, but submitted to all his requirements without a murmur, and eventually they will be exalted to a high position in the celestial kingdom.[43]

What Ann Eliza states here is true. Smith did not consider Gentile marriages (in private teachings) of any significance and certainly not binding upon any individuals at that time. (Before June, 1842).[44]

Smith also taught that in the pre-existence there were some promised to others, “kindred spirits” if you will, to make it more convincing to the woman that they were “meant” to be together.[45]

Hales claims time after time that all of this must have been innocent because the husband in many cases approved of the arrangement. Hales writes:

To answer the question why, [Smith married other men’s wives] is simply that the fourteen women, [Hales’ magic number] when they learned about eternal marriage, they chose Joseph Smith to be their eternal husband. It’s that simple. They chose him over the men that they were married to. Four of the women couldn’t be sealed to their legal husbands because those husbands were not active Latter-day Saints. But the remaining ten, whose husbands were active LDS, chose Joseph. So some observations. It’s kind of weird that a woman would be married to an active LDS but be sealed to Joseph Smith for an eternal marriage. And Joseph could be criticized that he was insensitive to those ten husbands, but none of them ever complained. We have no complaints from any of them. And there could be suspicions that Joseph coerced the women, but these are not supported by any kind of documentation. None of the women complained and we have good documentation that Joseph taught that the woman’s desires should be respected in every case. And there are at least five cases where women turned him down, and the only reason we know about it is that those women later talked about it. Joseph didn’t talk about it. He didn’t try to destroy their reputation. He didn’t castigate them. He just let it go, because that was their choice.[46]

If this is a correct principle, as Hales asserts, then how would this kind of behavior be treated in the Church today? Women could just “choose” another husband and start living with him? Why would this not be a precedent today among monogamous relationships? What the woman wants is what she gets, right? How many Bishops would counsel a woman who was dissatisfied with her “Gentile” marriage and wanted another (married) man that was Mormon, to simply pursue him and try to break up his marriage so that they could be together (because she claimed they were promised to each other in the pre-existence) and not worry about a divorce since the marriage was not really legal or binding? This is simply ludicrous and doesn’t make sense even for Joseph’s time, which is why those like William Law opposed Joseph when they learned of his shenanigans.

This also applies to Smith’s behavior. It is obvious that Smith chose these women and then convinced them to “marry” him, claiming he could “save” them and their families; that they were created for him by God, or whatever other explanation he could think of that would convince them. (Like angels with swords). He had neither the right, nor the authority to do so under the very rules he claimed God gave to him for the Church to abide by, but since he was designated as the “lawgiver” and “prophet” of the Church, everything he said (no matter how contradictory) was to be obeyed by these women and their husbands.

As Smith’s teaching spread that only Mormon men could “save” women in the afterlife, some women were obviously persuaded to go after Mormon men, especially those in high ranking positions who they felt had the most prestige and a better chance of “saving” them. This was also the case with men and the law of adoption, which we will discuss below.

Others like Catherine Lewis, Nancy Rigdon, Martha Brotherton, Sarah Pratt, and Jane Law were repulsed by the doctrine and rejected it. There was a good reason why Smith tried to marry women who were related to each other or were the sisters of wives of his close friends. He could persuade their relatives and friends (who in most cases were members) that helping him (Smith) was helping the family in the next life. They (the members being approached about polygamy) also for the most part had a “testimony” of Smith’s prophetic calling, and would put aside their initial doubts and fears after Smith assured them that they were pursing the right course.

Hales acts like this is something unique, that if no one complained, nothing “wrong” was done. Once again, we have all of history to show us that this is simply not the case; that many are and were fooled by men they put their complete trust in, especially in religious matters.

Zina Young

Hales then tries to muddy the waters by claiming,

Zina’s alleged openness concerning such a delicate topic also contrasts her 1898 interview statements. She then remarked that, “It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years.” She declared to the interviewer, “We hardly dared speak of it. The very walls had ears. We spoke of it only in whispers . . . you are speaking on the most sacred experiences of my life.”[47]

Again there was no alleged “openness” by Zina Young. These were comments made to Ann Eliza Webb that were private since she didn’t claim that the conversation was made in a public setting. We also have Zina herself admitting that she did talk about it. She says, “I never breathed it for years”. This is something that a person would only say after they had “breathed it”. If one does something and does not speak of it, they say “I never spoke of it”. If one did speak of it, eventually, one says, I did not speak of it … for years. If Zina Huntington never spoke of such things, then why did she say, “We spoke of it only in whispers”? This implies that yes, Zina did speak of such matters, but only “in whispers”, (in Nauvoo) and then again years later, perhaps to someone like one of her sister wives (In private, not openly).  Zina’s remarks here are contradictory and Hales’ interpretation of them is contrived to support an argument based on his own red herring.

Also, on his website Hales claims that:

“In light of the contradictory evidence and the inability of historians to examine the described document, the credibility of this story is not established and should be quoted with caution.”[48]

Isn’t it kind of hypocritical of Hales to quote this interview with Zina, when he claims that the RLDS Church (who published the interview) doctored the Temple Lot Case testimony and that they can’t be trusted; and goes after Jeremy for doing so? But without it, Hales’ claims about Zina Huntington fall apart as do his criticisms of Jeremy Runnells.

Concerning Zina Huntington Young, there is no reason to give credence to her “declared reticence” to keep totally silent about her marriage to Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo years because there is a declaration that she spoke of it “only in whispers” because “the walls had ears”. It cannot be both.

It was obviously to protect herself and Smith that she “spoke of it only in whispers” in Nauvoo.  And this could also have been Zina’s own paranoia. For example, this makes far more sense if Zina was approached by Smith early (like in 1840 or 1841), a scenario that Hales rejects, even though Zina’s own descendants affirm this.[49] Later, when Smith was marrying more women, he was more open about it as the testimony of Melissa Lott Willes affirms.[50]  Smith also had many more wives, who obviously helped Smith recruit new ones and supported each other. Helen Mar Kimball claimed later that she was close to Sarah Ann Whitney (another of Smith’s spiritual wives) during the Nauvoo period.[51]

To illustrate this, in all her Temple Lot Testimony, Melissa Lott never once mentions that it was “taboo” to talk about her “marriage” to Joseph which took place on September 20, 1843, and she admitted having sex with Joseph Smith! She also claims that some of her family attended her “wedding” ceremony. This is hardly someone who was worried that “the walls had ears”. For example, here is her testimony about her being “married” to Smith:

Malissa Lott Smith Bernhisel Willes

79 Q:–Now was this marriage public or private? A:–There was quite a number present.

81 Q:–Answer the question,–was it public of [sic] private? A:–It was not very private.
82 Q:–Who was present? A:–I can’t remember all who were there.
83 Q:–Well give us the names of the parties who were present as well as you can remember them? A:–My father and mother were there and several others and they are all in their graves today but myself.
84 Q:–Well who else was present besides yourself, your father and your mother? A:–Joseph Smith was there.
85:–Q:–Well I know that, but who else was there? A:–Well some of my brothers, — one of my brothers, and the witnesses that were necessary.[52]

Though Melissa Lott testified that Emma was notified, she was not present and so that was simply hearsay from Joseph Smith who we know did not inform Emma of any of his “marriages” until he was caught and had to; so there is no reason to believe that Smith informed Emma about this one either.[53]

This of course is long after Smith approached Zina Huntington.  Hales’ assertion that Huntington’s relationship to Smith was non-sexual is troubling when considering what Zina herself wrote later,

When I heard that God had revealed the law of celestial marriag that we would have the privilige of associating in family relationship in \the/ worlds to come I searched the scripture & buy humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for himself that God had required that order to be established in his church. I mad[e] a greater sacrifise than to give my life for I never anticipated again to be look uppon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved could I compremise conscience lay aside the sure testimony of the spirit of God for the Glory of this world. [54]

If these “marriages” were simply a ceremony for the next world, Huntington surely would not have felt that her honor was compromised, since the marriage would not be for “time”, but for the afterlife. Hyrum Smith would later openly preach about being “sealed” to his first (dead) wife while being married to another in April, 1844. Why would it be a greater sacrifice than her life to only be “sealed” to Smith in a marriage that would not affect her at all until the afterlife? Hales’ scenario makes no sense. Yet, according to Hales,

… Zina was undoubtedly aware that the RLDS interviewer was trying to establish that Joseph Smith did not experience conjugal relations with anyone but Emma, his legal wife. An admission by Zina that her marriage was for “eternity only” and without sexual relations played right into Wight’s hands by providing him with the exact evidence he was seeking.

Nonetheless, Zina knew that some of Joseph’s plural marriages were for “time and eternity” and included connubial relations. As a consequence, she may have been reticent to comply with Wight’s designs by providing evidence that might have used to perpetuate a deception.[55]

If she was so savvy about what was going on why does Zina demand to know of John W. Wight near the end of the interview, “what is your object in quizzing me like this?” Zina Young also seemed to not be able to make up her mind if she was married for “time” or “time and eternity”, which casts doubt on Hales’ assertion that some of the “marriages” were eternity only non-sexual sealings.

When Wight asks her at the end of the interview, “Mrs. Young, you have stated that you were married to Joseph Smith for time and eternity. Now, how could you marry Joseph Smith for time when at the same time you were married to Mr. Jacobs?” Zina does not correct Wight, instead she says “I do not wish to reply. I only know that this is the work of God upon the earth…”[56]

This makes little sense since it was known by many for years that Zina had been one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Wight even gives her the perfect opportunity to do so, but she declines! Why would she have so much trouble speaking about what was only (according to Hales) an eternity only non-sexual sealing that took place decades earlier and was well known by the public?  After all, she had been a polygamous wife to Brigham Young for decades. Common sense tells us that this was about more than just a “non-sexual sealing.” Another thing to think about is that Zina did not want to give Wight exactly what he wanted because it would have been a lie.

Instead, we see that Zina’s attitude towards anyone asking her questions about her polygamous “marriage” to Smith was hostile.  She herself claimed that “I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honerable woman by those I dearly loved…” It is obvious that Huntington just doesn’t care about Wight, or his case. In many cases, these women only thought they would have to answer that they were Joseph’s wives, which they were happy to do. They did not anticipate having to be cross examined and resented it. Zina didn’t really want to answer those kinds of questions and dodged most of them.  Hales’ speculations here are absurd.

It would have been much easier for Zina to talk with Ann Eliza Young about such matters, for she was also a spiritual wife.  Wight (an outsider) was asking her the very questions that she had claimed were such a trouble to her conscience. Again, if this was not about sex, why was Zina so troubled by her marriage to Joseph? If it was secret and only for “eternity” and non-sexual then how would her status as an honorable woman come into play, especially so many years after the fact? She had been a polygamous wife to Brigham Young for years as we have mentioned above. Why was the period she spent with Joseph Smith so hard for her to explain? The answer is because it was for time and eternity and involved sexual relations with two men simultaneously just as Ann Eliza was told by Zina herself.

Hales claims that there are problems with Zina’s own family reminiscences because they do not fit the narrative he is promoting, but these family recollections agree with what Ann Eliza Young claimed that Zina Huntington told her.[57]

Hales would rather rely on the evidence from the 1898 interview, given under hostile circumstances which clearly shows Zina Young unwilling to answer even the most innocuous of questions without interjecting “that is none of your concern,” or “that is no matter”.  Hales will even quote this to rebut Jeremy’s claims about Zina Huntington even though he warns on his website that it is a “suspect” interview. Contrast that with Melissa Lott Willes’ testimony during the Temple Lot Case,

227 Q:–Did you ever room with Joseph Smith as his wife? A. Yes sir.

228 Q:– At what place? A:– At Nauvoo
229 Q:– What place in Nauvoo? A:– The Nauvoo Mansion.
230 Q. At what place in the Mansion? A. Do you want to know the number of the room, or what?
231 Q. Well just what part of the house the room was in if you can give it? A. Well I can give it and the number of the room too. It was room number one.
232 [sic] Q. Room number one? A. Yes sir.
233 Q:–Who else roomed there? A:–I don’t know of any one.
234 Q:–Where was Emma Smith at that time? A:–I don’t know I didn’t ask where she was.
235 Q:–Did you know where she was at that time? A:–No sir I didn’t.
236 Q:–Did she know where you were at that time? A:–I did not ask her whether she did or not.
237 Q:–So you roomed with him in the Nauvoo Mansion in room number one? A:–Yes sir.
238 Q:–That was the house that Joseph Smith lived in was it not? A:–Yes sir.
239 Q:–And you don’t know whether Emma Smith was in the house or not? A:–No sir.
240 Q:– And you can’t say whether she knew where you were? A:–No sir. I couldn’t say where she was, and I don’t know that she knew about me, for I did not speak to her.
241 Q:–Well she was at home? A: Yes sir.
242 Q:–How do you know? A:–She was there when I see her last.
243 Q:–What time was that? A:–That I saw her?
244 Q:–Yes madam? A:–I can’t tell you the time, If I had thought I was to be asked all these questions I might have kept a note of all these things, but as I didn’t know anything about this examination I didn’t.
245 Q:–How often did you room there with Joseph Smith? A. Well that is something I can’t tell you.
246 Q:–Well was it more than once? A:–Yes sir, and more than twice.
247 Q:–Well that is something I would like to know? A:–Well there is something I would like to know. If I am to be asked these questions I would like to know if I am to answer them. I have told you all about this thing that I know, and I can’t see any reason in your worrying me with these questions, and I would like to know if I have to answer them?
248 Q:–Well if you decline to answer them say so, and that will do? A:–I don’t decline to answer any question that I know anything about.
249 Q:–Well answer that question then? A:–What is the question?
250 Q:–I asked how many times you had roomed there in the house with Joseph Smith? I do not expect you to answer positively the exact number of times, but I would like to have you tell us the number of times as nearly as you can remember it? A:–Well I can’t tell you. I think I have acted the part of a lady in answering your questions as well as I have, and I don’t think you are acting the part of a gentleman in asking me these questions.
251 Q:–Well I will ask you the question over again in this form, –was it more than twice? A:–Yes sir.
252 Q:–Well How many times? A:–I could not say.
253 Q:–Did you ever at any other place room with him? A:–In what way.
254 Q:– Of course I mean as his wife? A:–Yes sir.
255 Q:– At what places? A:–In my father’s house.[58]

Of course, Willes here is concerned with answering “like a lady”, but her testimony is not near as hostile as Zina Young’s was. Hales has the evidence, but won’t see anything but what he wants to see in it. A good example of this is with the testimony above. If one goes to Hales’ website and reads it, Hales does not list the question numbers (so you have no idea there is a break except for some small ellipsis) and so he leaves out much pertinent information about Emma Smith being in the Mansion and Melissa Lott never seeing her or interacting with her; and that she was frustrated in having to reveal intimate details about her relations with Smith, even though she knew ahead of time that this was why she was called.  She was much better about this though, than Zina Huntington ever was, who was extremely hostile about it and refused to answer any questions with any real clarity except to defend Joseph Smith as a “prophet”. Zina was married to two men, while Malissa Lott was only married to one. Zina’s final “I only know that this is the work of God upon the earth…” is really the only point she wanted to make.

From Wille’s testimony it can be deduced that Emma Smith didn’t know the full purpose of why she was there at the Mansion House, since (according to Willes) the two women never spoke or met there. She saw Emma when she left the Mansion House, but doesn’t remember when that was and after Joseph’s death she even stayed with Emma for awhile. This would not have been all right with Emma if she had known that Malissa had been secretly married to her husband.

This is hardly an open “marriage” that Emma knew all about.  What is interesting is that on another part of his website Hales does provide some of the missing testimony of Melissa Lott, but does not include the testimony about Emma Smith.

The testimony in bold above, is all the testimony that Hales leaves out (on his page about Melissa Lott Willes), which is very relevant in getting a complete picture of her testimony.  Hales claims to have “the latest research” but tries to manipulate that research to his own irrational ends. Also, this “latest research” is scattered over his entire website, with plenty of Hales’ conjectures sandwiched between it. It is not a collection of evidence by topic that one can easily find and read (like the one here at without having to wade through Hales obvious apologetic speculations.[59]

Hales is hardly the person to be judging the correctness of Jeremy Runnell’s conclusions, how he arrived at them, or declaring deception by him because as we can see, more than one historian has arrived at the same conclusions as Jeremy, something Hales does not address or acknowledge in his hit piece on Jeremy. In fact, Jeremy provides ample documentation to show that Hales’ conclusions differ from almost every historian that has published major works on polygamy. Here is one example by Jeremy of a graphic which was included in a presentation by Brian Hales at a FAIRMORMON Conference.[60]

Hales then tries to bring out his same tired argument that D&C 132 isn’t really about polygamy and that sexuality is not needed.  He then claims that “it appears that Runnells is unaware of Joseph Smith’s teachings dealing with plural marriage.” Well, we know that Helen Mar Kimball was “aware” and she completely disagrees with Hales’ forced presentist interpretation of Section 132.[61]

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was pressured into “marrying” Joseph Smith when she was only 14 years old explains on page 7 of a pamphlet she published in 1884 titled Why we practice Plural Marriage, that Smith established polygamy and “all who entered into it in righteousness (including herself) have done so for the purpose of “raising up righteous seed”.[62]

Whitney here admits that polygamy is about the mandate to “raise up righteous seed’.  In fact, the entire pamphlet is all about this, because Joseph Smith taught that there are many choice spirits waiting to take mortal bodies and this is how the bodies are provided for them. (By sex and plural marriage).

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney

Even in Smith’s Book of Mormon it claims that if polygamy is commanded by God it would be done for the purpose of raising up seed.[63]  You can’t raise up righteous seed by not having sex with the women who you marry for that purpose now, can you? Only in Brian Hales’ world is this logical or rational.

Even though Whitney claims that the only reason for polygamy is to raise up righteous seed and that all who “righteously” enter into it do so for that purpose, the conflict in her “marriage” to Joseph Smith was that initially she was lied to about this.[64]

It seems that it is Brian Hales (who references this pamphlet in his writings) who is unaware of Smith’s Nauvoo teachings dealing with polygamy even though he has the evidence right in front of him.

Michael Quinn has spent years in the Church Archives gathering and analyzing original documents that have to do with Joseph Smith’s polygamy and his conclusions are far different than those of Brian Hales. For example, Hales writes at Rational Faiths,

The second woman, Helen Mar Kimball, was offered to Joseph as a plural wife by her father Heber C. Kimball. I agree this seems strange and possibly unfair to Helen. Regardless, there is no evidence the Prophet initiated the process and Helen remained a strong believer in Joseph Smith throughout her life. Importantly, there is strong evidence the sealing was never consummated and no supportive evidence that it was. Joseph was also sealed to a 16 year old (Flora Ann Woodworth) in a plural marriage that probably was not consummated. The pattern in Utah was to allow sealings to younger women, but not to live with the woman until she was 18. I believe this policy began with the Prophet, but there is no way to prove it.[65]

Hales’ “strong evidence” is simply a series of conjectures that he postulates and has no way of knowing could be true.  There is though, “strong evidence” that Helen Mar Kimball had sex with Joseph Smith. Catherine Lewis, who was courted by Heber C. Kimball to become one of his polygamous wives and lived with the Kimballs in Nauvoo, wrote in 1848:

The Twelve took Joseph’s wives after his death. Kimball and Young took most of them; the daughter of Kimball was one of Joseph’s wives. I heard her say to her mother, “I will never be sealed to my Father, (meaning as a wife) as I would never have been sealed (married) to Joseph, had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it. I say again, I will never be sealed to my Father; no, I will sooner be damned and go to hell, if I must. Neither will I be sealed to Brigham Young.” The Apostles said they only took Joseph’s wives to raise up children, carry them through to the next world, there deliver them up to him, by so doing they should gain his approbation, &c.[66]

This is a remarkable statement that has been discounted by those like Brian Hales and Todd Compton as having problems because it was overheard and related by what Hales deems an “anti-Mormon source”, and that there was no doctrine in place about daughters being sealed to their fathers. Some have also claimed that this is hearsay, but actually it is not, since Catherine Lewis actually heard the conversation herself. Catherine Lewis did have direct knowledge that Helen Kimball told this to her mother because she was there and heard it. (See Note #77.)

Then there is the case of Flora Ann Woodworth. Hales writes that her marriage to Joseph Smith was “probably” not consummated. But that is simply wishful thinking and that is the best he can do. So how can Hales condemn Jeremy for his own conclusions, and call them “lyings” from Satan? As Jeremy writes,

Imagine you spent 50 years living with your devoted spouse, fully intending to be married together in heaven for all eternity, just like you have enjoyed on earth for the last 50 years and then the prophet says he wants your wife to be his 33rd wife. So, in the next life you don’t get your devoted wife of 50 years; instead you have to find another. Are we to believe that God actually commanded the prophet to do this? This is even crueler than having someone else have sex with your wife.

What moral justification can possibly be made for marrying other living men’s legally and lawfully married wives? Most of them were good LDS men. Orson Hyde was an Apostle on the Lord’s errand in Palestine to dedicate the land for the gospel when Joseph married his wife Marinda Hyde behind his back. Henry B. Jacobs was a faithful Latter-day Saint who served missions at great hardship. Other men were likewise on missions for the Church giving their time in service to the Church as faithful Latter-day Saints. What a wonderful reward for their service, loyalty, and dedication to the gospel.

How would a married, faithful, LDS man (even if he wasn’t sealed to his wife) feel today if he were to accept a mission call, only to return to find that Thomas S. Monson had secretly married and was sealed to his wife?[67]

Jeremy is right to declare that FAIRMORMON is completely wrong in declaring that polyandrous marriages had “little effect upon the lives of the women involved”. Sixteen year old Flora Woodworth was not happy having to “marry” Joseph Smith, especially when she had to deal with Emma’s unpredictable fury.  It seems that Joseph Smith had given Flora a watch and that Emma saw her with it. Emma then confronted Woodworth and angrily demanded it back. The very next day after this encounter, Woodworth up and married a non member of the Church, Carlos Gove. D. Michael Quinn picks up the story from there:

Hales also acknowledged that (during the week after her legal marriage to non-Mormon Carlos Gove in August 1843 at the nearby town of Warsaw), Joseph Smith’s previously married wife Flora Ann Woodworth met with the Prophet alone at William Clayton’s house in Nauvoo, while Clayton was intentionally absent. Hales argues in today’s presentation that Joseph Smith’s private secretary was too discreet to record these encounters if they were for sexual intercourse.

He also sees significance in the fact that Clayton’s journal did not refer to “bed” or “bedroom” for these solitary appointments of the two at Clayton’s house. However, Clayton’s journal referred to performing a polygamous marriage for the Prophet, referred to Emma Smith’s jealousy about Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives Eliza R.Snow, Eliza Partridge, Emily Partridge, and Flora Woodworth, referred to the Prophet’s suspicions about “familiarity” between his legal wife Emma and Clayton, referred to the polygamous marriages of Joseph B. Noble, Vinson Knight, Parley P. Pratt, and Brigham Young, referred to the Prophet’s performing Clayton’s own polygamous marriage, referred to Clayton sexually consummating it three days afterward (with no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”),referred to his own cohabitation-visits with this plural wife (with no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”), admitted that “I had slept with her” (no reference to “bed” or “bedroom”), referred to her pregnancy, referred to what Joseph said would be the meaningless punishment if they were exposed to public condemnation, and Clayton’s journal referred to the birth of his polygamous wife’s child, as well as to its death.

There is no basis whatever to claim that an alleged “discretion” on Clayton’s part prevented him from also referring obliquely to Joseph Smith’s sexual trysts that were scheduled for Clayton’s house. Flora later said that she “felt condemned for” her “rash” decision “in a reckless moment “to marry this young non-Mormon, a remorse the 16-year-old girl probably experienced the morning after. Two subsequent trysts with the 37-year-old Prophet in Clayton’s house on consecutive days showed how much she regretted marrying a younger man earlier in the week.

William Clayton, Nauvoo

It strains credulity for Hales to claim in today’s presentation that it required those visits–beginning two days after Joseph Smith had already met with her and her mother–for him to inform Flora repeatedly that he was ending their own relationship. By contrast with what Hales asserts about her alleged “DIVORCE,” Joseph actually ended his polygamous marriages with two sisters during the same year by abruptly informing them of the fact.

Although he had previously “roomed” with Emily and Eliza Partridge individually, with whom he had “carnal intercourse,” Joseph Smith didn’t take two consecutive days in Clayton’s otherwise empty house to tell a wife that their polygamous relationship was finished–especially, if he had already announced that fact to Flora and her mother. Emily’s candor (which was “forced out of her under adversarial questioning,” while she was under oath) was as far as middle-class women of Victorian America could go in referring to sexual intercourse.

More typical was the published statement of the Prophet’s polygamous wife Lucy Walker, who married Apostle Heber C. Kimball after she became a widow. I am also able to testify that Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, gave her consent to the marriage of at least four other girls to her husband, and that she was well aware that he associated with them as wives within the meaning of all that word implies.

Her opaque phrase referred to Emily D. Partridge, Eliza M. Partridge, Maria Lawrence, and Sarah Lawrence. Like Lucy Walker, who stated that her own marriage to Joseph involved sex, those four had married him during the spring of 1843. Marrying him in September of that year, Malissa Lott said: “The Prophet … explained it to her, that it was not for voluptuous love”—yet when asked decades later if she had been his wife “in very deed,” Malissa affirmed that she was. Furthermore, even Hales admits: “It seems probable that emotional and physical attraction played a part in some of Joseph’s plural relationships.”[68]

Of course, Hales is the one who knows exactly which relationships were physical and which weren’t. For Hales, everything he contests must be totally spelled out or he simply will not believe it.  He writes,

In the aftermath of her daughter’s marriage to Carlos Gove, Flora’s mother once again entered the picture attempting to assist her strong-willed daughter. On August 26 Clayton wrote: “Joseph met Mrs. W[oo]d[wor]th and F[lora] and conversed some time.” Clayton’s journal also reports two additional visits between Joseph and Flora at Clayton’s home, occurring August 28 and 29.  These meetings were undoubtedly to deal with the future of Flora’s sealing to the Prophet, as well as to consider the theological consequences of her rash decision to marry Gove. Joseph was positioned to judge (D&C 132: 46) and apply needed disciplinary measures, a process that might have included additional meetings beyond August 29 that Clayton did not record.[69]

So Joseph Smith met with Flora Woodworth and her mother on August 26 and “conversed some time”, and then had to meet with her on two more consecutive days to iron out disciplinary details? First, this was one of Smith’s “wives”. She was a sixteen year old girl that Smith decided to “marry” and add to his already large collection of “wives”, who Helen Mar Kimball Whitney said agreed to “raise up righteous seed” when they were married to the “prophet”. This means that every marriage was expected to involve sex, (both in this world or the world to come) period. There are simply no exceptions to this rule. D&C 132 does not allow any exceptions:

…for they [spiritual wives] are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.[70]

Why would this be any different for Joseph’s spiritual wives? Hales has no reasonable answer to this, and no evidence that it would be different for any of his spiritual wives. Hales objects to Quinn’s interpretation that Flora had sex with the “prophet” in those two days because,

“it ignores the moral, emotional, theological, and traditional values that were embraced by most Nauvooans (and probably Flora Ann as well). Those values would have universally labeled such activities as promiscuous. That she would have repeatedly engaged in such low behavior seems less likely.”[71]

Yet, Flora had no problems secretly and illegally “marrying” a man much older than herself and doing so behind the back of his legal wife! This was absolutely considered by society as “low behavior”. So she was already engaging in it! She had no objections to meeting with the prophet alone.  She also had no problem leading on young Orange Wight, who she didn’t tell about her “marriage” to Smith, and who had to find out from Flora’s mother that she was “married” to Smith after getting caught together by the “prophet” who appears to have been stalking her. Smith supposedly spies Wight and Woodworth walking along the street “near his house” and picks them up in his carriage. He drives them all over town and this conveniently allows Smith to question Wight. Wight also says that he had to give Flora “a mild lecture” for leading him on like she did.[72]

This is the person that Hales states had such impeccable 19th Century morals? Self proclaimed “prophets” throughout history have proved that they can easily compromise the morals of almost anyone.[73]  As Dan Vogel writes,

There’s more to historiography than simply collecting document[s]. You should know the difference between a strong and weak argument and what is more or less likely. What does it mean “in accordance with his teachings” when JS frequently changed his teachings? It’s like saying the BOM doesn’t teach a modalistic concept of the Godhead, or the Lectures on Faith don’t teach a binitarian view because that would contradict what he clearly taught in Nauvoo. Or, the BOM can’t be anti-Masonic because he became a Mason in Nauvoo. These are all examples of the Idealist Fallacy, because humans do contradict themselves and violate their own teachings. However, JS may have had a way of rationalizing his polyandrous marriages. He did say that whatever God commands is right no matter what it is—even if it seems abominable to us.

Next, your expectation that some of the dozen women would have complained about JS’s proposals is an attempt at an argument from silence. I say attempt because some women did complain. I can think of two: Sarah Pratt and Jane Law.

You might issue your challenge to prove JS had sex with his polyandrous wives, but do you conclude JS only had sex with his polygamous wives for whom there is evidence? No. Why? Because you assume marriage includes sexual access. You only engage in this sort of special pleading with polyandrous wives because you personally find the notion abhorrent. Nonetheless, you didn’t respond to my counter challenge to produce evidence that JS treated his polyandrous wives different than the other polygamous wives. You are the one with a theory that needs evidence. You are attempting to take advantage of a silence in the historical record where one is expected. Here is a test of your theory: Look at the historical record of other early 19th century childless marriages and see how often you can demonstrate they had sex.[74]

Hales also writes that “The pattern in Utah was to allow sealings to younger women, but not to live with the woman until she was 18. I believe this policy began with the Prophet, but there is no way to prove it.”[75]

Actually that was not any kind of “pattern” but rather, as Todd Compton writes, “there are cases of Mormons in Utah marrying young girls and refraining from sexuality until they were older.”[76]

And how many would that be? Where is the documentation by Hales to prove this was a common practice? Nowhere to be found. This is hardly a “policy” and to even suggest that this “began with the prophet” Joseph Smith has no evidentiary basis, rather, the evidence shows that Smith did indeed have sex with his young wives.[77]

Though Compton says that the evidence for Helen Mar Kimball Whitney is “ambiguous”, we still have the statement by Whitney herself that the only reason women practiced polygamy was to raise up righteous seed.  We also have Catherine Lewis’ recollection made just a few years after Helen claimed that she was “deceived” about polygamy being only a “ceremony”, and that they deceived her (her Father and Joseph Smith).

If Helen Kimball was to be some kind of token wife until she was 18, what was the great “trial” she spoke of? Not going to a few dances? Really? Why did she tell her mother then,  that if she had known it would be more than ceremony she would have backed out? It was obvious that she was not attracted to older men. After Smith died she married a man much closer to her age, rejecting the offer of Smith’s Apostles to be one of their wives.

There is also the letter from her father who stated that he and her mother “seek your welfare for time as well as eternity.” Heber Kimball also states in that letter:

You have done that which will be for your everlasting good for this world and that which is to come.”[78]

Certainly Joseph had lots of other “wives” that he would have needed to spend time with.  Since men and women could be sealed at any time in the Church, what was the hurry for Smith to have these women sealed to him, unless it was to consummate a “marriage” to “raise up seed”? If the “marriages” did not have to involve sex, then why would an angel appear to him with a drawn sword (as he claimed)? To prod him into non-sexual “sealings”? Only in Hales’ irrational world.

Why would Smith have a problem with this idea? Why choose married women when there were lots of single women to choose from? Why arrange “front” husbands, if it were all just for the next life? If God is just, as Smith claimed, then they would have been his in eternity anyway.  This was about convenience for Smith and who could keep secrets, or he simply would have married anyone.

There would certainly be ways of judiciously explaining such a doctrine as Hyrum Smith did in 1844. If, as Brian Hales asserts, polygamy is only some sort of appendage to monogamous “sealing”, and “non-sexual eternity only sealings fulfill the primary purpose”, then why would Smith ever have to consummate any of the spiritual marriages? To fulfill the letter of the law? Since when does God accept only token compliance? This is simply an apologist excuse, and makes little sense, especially when Smith claimed that God promised to give him whatever he asked for.[79]

In fact, what happened to Heber C. Kimball himself casts doubt on the concept of non-sexual sealings, as his first choice to marry after being commanded by Smith was to choose older women that would not involve sexuality. As Helen Mar Kimball later wrote,

“When first hearing the principle taught, believing that he would be called upon to enter into it, he had thought of two elderly ladies named Pitkin, great friends of my mother’s who, he believed, would cause her little, if any, unhappiness. But the woman he was commanded to take was an English lady named Sarah Noon, nearer my mother’s age, who came over with the company of Saints in the same ship in which father and Brother Brigham returned from Europe. She had been married and was the mother of two little girls, but left her husband on account of his drunken and dissolute habits. Father was told to take her as his wife and provide for her and her children, and he did so. [80]

Smith rejected Kimball’s initial choice and told him to take a younger wife he could have sex with, claiming that such an arrangement was “of the devil”. We know this because Kimball had children with her, and Lorenzo Snow affirmed it. (See Note above). Heber C. Kimball’s marriage to Sarah Noon was not a “non-sexual sealing”. Why then, would Smith not be satisfied with Heber C. Kimball’s first choice if this was all about eternity? As for the concept of non-sexual sealings, there is strong evidence that they were very rare and only performed well after Smith’s death.  This, of course is disputed by Mormon apologists, like those of SHIELDS who write in a review of Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness”:

In discussing polyandry, LDS leaders have claimed that Joseph Smith was sealed to other men’s wives for eternity, rather than for time and eternity.  Compton disallows this as implausible, noting “there are no known instances of marriages for ‘eternity only’ in the 19th century.”  While specific instances may not be available, Joseph F. Smith, in his testimony before the senatorial committee investigating Reed Smoot, said that he was personally aware of such marriages occurring until about 20 years previous:

Mr. TAYLER. Living persons have been united for eternity, have they not?

Mr. SMITH. I think there have been some few cases of that kind.

Mr. VANCOTT. To what time, Mr. Tayler, do you limit your question?

Mr. TAYLER. I was going to ask him. How recently have you known that kind of a marriage?

Mr. SMITH. Not very recently.

Mr. TAYLER. Do you mean five years or twenty-five years?

Mr. SMITH. Oh, twenty years or more.

Joseph F. Smith’s testimony in this regard is important in another aspect, for he stated unequivocally, that sealings for eternity did not allow for earthly cohabitation.  After Smith saying that it was possible to be sealed for time, time and eternity, or only for eternity, the committee chairman asked about the possible rights of cohabitation between those sealed only for eternity:

The CHAIRMAN. According to the doctrines of your church, did that carry with it the right of earthly cohabitation?

Mr. SMITH. It was not so understood.

The CHAIRMAN. Then, what is your—

Mr. SMITH. It does not carry that right.

Since such a marriage did not carry rights of cohabitation in 1904, it is plausible that Joseph F. Smith was simply describing a policy that had been in place since the days of Nauvoo.  Evidence that this was also the policy in Nauvoo is found in the one historical document, largely ignored by Compton, specifying the parameters of plural marriage: the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  This document came as the revelation explaining and approving plural marriage, in an effort to justify Joseph Smith’s actions and convince doubters.  If his actions included polyandry, it seems very strange that the revelation does not address that concept.[81]

There are some real problems with this argument, one of which is that Allred does not quote enough of Joseph F. Smith’s testimony to give an accurate picture of what he really said. Here is the testimony of Smith that relates to “sealings” given at the Smoot Hearings,

Mr. TAYLER. And do you have as many different kinds of marriage now as formerly ?

Mr. SMITH. We have as many different kinds of marriage now as formerly.
Mr. TAYLER. Let me call your attention to what I mean, because it will save time: Sealing for time only, sealing for time and eternity, and sealing for eternity only.
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. Do you have those ?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. All three of them ?
Mr. SMITH. All three of them. …[82]
Mr. TAYLER. Do you perform celestial marriage ceremonies now?
Mr. SMITH. That is simply a marriage for time and eternity.
Mr. TAYLER. Time and eternity ?
Mr. SMITH. That is what it means, nothing more and nothing less.
Mr. TAYLER. That, according to the civil or municipal law, is an ordinary marriage, is it not?
Mr. SMITH. Those that are married in that way outside of the temples, it is simply a civil contract for time, but where they have obtained these licenses and go to the temples to be married they are sealed for time and eternity.
Mr. TAYLER. Are there sealings still going on for eternity alone, not for time?
Mr. SMITH. Not that I know of, unless the parties are dead.
Senator FORAKER. Do you marry people for eternity and not for time?
Mr. SMITH. When they are dead; yes, sir.
Senator FORAKER. You marry them after they are dead?
Mr. SMITH. After they are dead; and, Mr. Senator, we do not have to have a license from the court to do that.
Senator FORAKER. That is simply a church marriage?
Mr. SMITH. That is just simply a principle that we believe in, that men and women are immortal beings.
Senator FORAKER. Are both the parties to that marriage dead at the time it is solemnized?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir; they are often dead, and they are represented by their heirs, either their sons or daughters, or some of their kinsmen.
Mr. TAYLER. Living persons have been united for eternity, have they not?
Mr. SMITH. I think there have been some few cases of that kind.
Mr. VAN COTT. To what time, Mr. Tayler, do you limit your question?
Mr. TAYLER. I was going to ask him. How recently have you known that kind of a marriage?
Mr. SMITH. Not very recently.
Mr. TAYLER. Do you mean five years or twenty -five years?
Mr. SMITH. Oh, twenty years or more.
Mr. TAYLER. Is there any rule of the church prohibiting that kind of marriage?
Mr. SMITH. Not that I know of.
Mr. TAYLER. It has merely fallen into disuse; is that all?
Mr. SMITH. It has merely fallen into disuse; that is all. I do not know that it could be said to have fallen absolutely into disuse.
Mr. TAYLER. Or rather, that the principle which still adheres has not been invoked or exercised so often?
Mr. SMITH. No, sir; it has not been invoked.[83]

With further questioning we learn,

Mr. WORTHINGTON. You said you remembered two instances where persons had been sealed by the church for eternity; you said one or two instances?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir; one or two instances.
Mr. WORTHINGTON. How long ago were those?
Mr. SMITH. Twenty-five to thirty years ago.
Taylor then wants everyone to totally understand what Smith is saying and further questions him:
Mr. TAYLER. Just one question. I want to be sure that I understand you correctly. You say that Apostle Teasdale told you that to this wife, from whom he had to obtain a divorce, he had been sealed for eternity only?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. That he had not been married either for time or for time and eternity, but only for that third form eternity only?
Mr. SMITH. Well, now, Mr. Tayler, I could not tell you as to the form of the ceremony.
Mr. TAYLER. I understand that. I am not speaking about that. But it was merely for eternity ?
Mr. SMITH. That is the understanding they had. It was for eternity, and not for time.
Mr. TAYLER. Exactly; and therefore the relations between them as contemplated at the time of the ceremony were that they should never cohabit?
Mr. SMITH. Never cohabit.
Mr. WORTHINGTON. Therefore his relations with her were as chaste as if she were his sister or a stranger to him ?
Mr. SMITH. Perfectly so.[84]

With Smith’s full testimony before us, a completely different picture emerges about these “eternity only sealings.”

First, they were performed almost exclusively for the dead, meaning that a living person was sealed to a dead one, or a dead person to a dead person, since there would be no need to seal them for “time”.

Second, in all his time in the Church Joseph F. Smith had only heard about “one or two” eternity only sealings between two living people.

Third, it is those “one or two instances” that Smith was dating, giving one example of George Teasdale and one of his wives that had occurred a few decades before. They were sealed, but later divorced. According to Smith’s testimony, these kinds of sealings  were very rare, since he had only heard of “one or two” in his entire lifetime. (Remember, Smith had collected as many affidavits from Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives that he could in 1869, so he was familiar with those “marriages” and still claims to only know about only one or two eternity only sealings between living persons).  In fact they were so rare that Angus Cannon who also testified, had never performed or seen one.

Angus M. Cannon (who was the nephew of John Taylor) immigrated to Nauvoo in 1842 with his family and went west with the Church. His older brother was George Q. Cannon. He also served in the mission field with John Taylor and was the President of the Salt Lake City Stake and it was said of him that he “was without equal in the field of Church law.”[85]

At the Reed Smoot hearings Cannon testified about sealings:

Senator OVERMAN. What do you mean by a sealing-for-eternity ceremony?

Mr. CANNON. A marriage for eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. As different from a marriage upon this earth ?

Mr. CANNON. Sir?

Senator OVERMAN. Different from the ordinary marriage?

Mr. CANNON. Oh; there is a ceremony for marriage for time and also for eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. Are your wives sealed to you for time or for eternity?

Mr. CANNON. Time and eternity.

Senator OVERMAN. Time and eternity both all six of them?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir.

Senator OVERMAN. Are there such marriages as sealing for time and sealing for eternity, and some for time’ and some for eternity?

Mr. CANNON. I have witnessed many marriages for time. I never witnessed any for eternity and not for time.

Angus M. Cannon

Senator OVERMAN. Are there such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. I can not say whether there are or not. Of course there are marriages performed between living people and dead people, by having persons act vicariously for the dead.

Senator OVERMAN. There are such marriages, then, with dead people?

Mr. CANNON. That is necessarily for eternity. It cannot be for time.

Senator OVERMAN. I say, you do have such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir.

Senator OVERMAN. A living person marrying a dead person?

Mr. CANNON. By the dead person being represented by a living person.

Senator OVERMAN. By having a representative here on earth he marries a living person here ?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir; vicariously, the same as Paul spoke of baptism for the dead.

Senator OVERMAN. Have you seen such marriages as that?

Mr. CANNON. Yes, sir; acting for the dead.

Mr. TAYLER. That does not result in the marriage for time between the proxy and the person who is married to the other for eternity only, does it?

Mr. CANNON. No; it only relates to the dead.

Mr. TAYLER. Do you recall any instances in the history of the church where the proxy vicariously representing the dead person has insisted that for time the woman was his?

Mr. CANNON. No; I never heard of such a thing. We would cut them off the church if they did.

Mr. TAYLER. I would think so. That is all.[86]

Both of these men testified that they knew of sealings for eternity but they had to do with the dead. Cannon testifies that he never witnessed a marriage for eternity between two living persons and “could not say” if there were marriages only for “eternity” for two living people.

Joseph F. Smith, who only mentions knowing about “one or two” that occurred about twenty to thirty years before, which would be in the 1870-80’s. This testimony shows that “eternity-only” sealings were very rare between two living parties, and not the norm. They were so rare in fact that an expert on Church Law had never heard of one. To claim that Joseph Smith participated in over a dozen of these without any evidence is wishful thinking, given the testimony above.

SHIELDS though, has no qualms about taking this testimony from Joseph F. Smith and selectively quoting it to make it appear that these kinds of sealings were normal until about twenty years before the time when Joseph F. Smith testified.

As for Section 132, as Dan Vogel explains in response to Brian Hales about the similar apologetic interpretation of D&C 132 that Allred makes:

Brian: Your reading of D&C 22[:1] is anachronistic. You are attempting to apply an 1840s definition to an 1830 term. At the time it was given, only the Catholics considered marriage a religious ceremony. Protestants rejected marriage as a sacrament of the church. Mormons were no different. While they insisted that converts be rebaptized, they didn’t require them to be remarried.

“In Joseph Smith’s theology, a woman could never have two husbands.”

You are presumably basing this on the July 1843 revelation (D&C 132:61-62). Yet, you have admitted that JS married at least three women who had living husbands. So, to save your thesis, you propose the following ad hoc hypothesis: “A marriage sealing in the new and everlasting covenant would cause the civil marriage to be done away from a Church standpoint.” However, this interpretation is aided by your anachronistic borrowing from D&C 22, which you haven’t shown that JS applied to marriage in the 1840s. Yours is a private interpretation of scripture since the Church’s position has been that non-Mormon marriage, or Mormon marriage out side the temple for that matter, is valid and binding for this life only but is dissolved at death. This is apparently the view expressed in D&C 132:41-44, which mentions that it is considered adultery if either the husband or wife breaks the marriage “vow” even if their marriage was “not in the new and everlasting covenant”. Indeed, the Church has always treated non-temple marriage as legitimate.

Nevertheless, you have only shown that under a certain semantic construction JS didn’t commit adultery; there still remains the issue of sexual polyandry. In other words, you seem to be arguing two things simultaneously: JS didn’t have sex with married women, but if he did he didn’t consider it adultery. And you say I’m subtle. Polyandry is polyandry. The revelation’s use of the term “virgins” (132: 61-62) would tend to exclude your specialized definition, which would require you to go deeper into semantics and equivocation. I[t] turns out that when you say everyone but you has ignored JS’s theology, you mean they don’t understand it in the unique (and unlikely) way that you do.

Given JS previous marriages to married women, D&C 132 is apparently JS’s repentance from polyandry. Under the definition in verses 61-62, JS had committed adultery, but his salvation was assured as long as he didn’t commit murder or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (D&C 132:19, 26-27). “I seal upon you your exaltation” (v. 49). The revelation warns not to judge JS, “for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions” (v. 60). Makes you wonder what this revelation is really about, doesn’t it? Universal salvation was also part of JS’s secret theology (D&C 19).

[You say], “there is no credible historical evidence for the teaching and practice of sexual polyandry in Nauvoo or afterwards.”

I say, there is. What you mean to say is: there are no explicit teachings or discussions of polyandry. This should not be surprising, especially given the nature of our questions. We therefore must build circumstantial cases and decide which is the most reasonable, which deserves the most respect. Historians do that all the time. Even in the most perfectly documented world, an imaginative apologist can always find a way to escape evidence. Rarely is there a decisive piece of evidence that ends debate. The most that can be hoped for is that an interpretation becomes increasingly ad hoc as it tries to accommodate adverse evidence and eventually falls out of favor. I have a feeling that in responding to Quinn’s evidence, the ad hoc nature of your position will become more apparent.

[You say,]“Quinn has amassed a remarkable volume of alleged evidences, but none of them constitute a clear documentation of the behavior. Not even once.”

Quinn is doing what a historian does.

[You say,]“And, like you, he completely ignores the theology and the reactions of the alleged participants.”

What theology? The theology that shows JS contradicted his own teachings or the one that shows that he couldn’t contradict them? You want Quinn to commit the Idealist Fallacy? We have discussed this. You don’t know how the participants reacted.

[You say,]“What we can document is that there is an important difference theologically: sexual polygamy was acceptable and sexual polyandry was adultery.”

Not according to your definition discussed above. Again, you don’t know that BY and John Taylor knew about polyandry, if they saw it as hypocritical, or how they would have reacted. At what point do you start to question someone you believe is a prophet speaking for God and telling you to reject the norms of society? Being under the influence of a charismatic leader of a religious cult who is sexually abusing some of his followers is probably the clearest example of why the Idealist Fallacy exists. Humans aren’t always rational and do not always behave in predictable ways. None of these follows possessed the qualities of Emma, who was alone in standing up to JS. I hope you see that you are on very shaky ground when you rely on this kind of argument from silence.

I understand that Orson Pratt struggled with the conflicting stories of JS and his wife, nearly lost his mind, but finally decided in JS favor. That was a mistake. JS’s denials about Jane Law and Sarah Pratt are not credible. We know that he was willing to lie to cover up polygamy. On 26 May 1844, JS said: “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one” (DHC 6:411). Given the fact that Orson was so distraught over the incident with his wife, it is really no surprise that he would ultimately side with JS. Regardless, OP’s opinion says nothing about the veracity of Sarah’s claim. Neither does the attempt of JS and some of his followers to malign Sarah in 1842 by claiming she had an illicit sexual affair with John C. Bennett. Not only should those statements be read with skepticism, but they are irrelevant. What possible motivation could Sarah have for falsely accusing JS and drawing certain persecution on herself? Where did she get the idea in 1842 that JS was entering polyandrous marriages?

Given the context, Jane Law is more believable than JS. In fact, JS’s version doesn’t make sense. JS has a reputation for proposing marriage to multiple women, including married women. What in Jane Law’s history tells you she would propose to JS? Where did she get such an idea? JS was denying polygamy in public and trying to keep the church from disintegrating, so why is it so incredible that he would lie about Jane and her husband? It’s a complicated story, but still a clear example of JS’s unsuccessfully trying to enter a sexual polyandrous marriage.[87]

This exchange between Hales and Vogel is very informative, because Hales continues to harp about what he claims is a major problem with Joseph Smith’s critics, that they don’t understand nor address his theology.  For example in a Blog Article about the new Essays (that Hales possibly contributed to) on November 9, 2014, he writes:

In lauding the Church’s effort to explain this difficult topic, some may assume that in defending the essay we are in fact defending polygamy. We are not. On earth, polygamy expands a man’s sexual and emotional opportunities as a husband as it simultaneously fragments a woman’s sexual and emotional opportunities as a wife. The practice is difficult to defend as anything but unfair and at times emotionally cruel.

However, within the context of Joseph Smith’s teachings, a few eternal polygamists are needed. This reality is routinely ignored by almost all critics who often declare or imply that libido drove the process. That is, they allege the implementation of plural marriage occurred because Joseph wanted to expand his sexual opportunities. Those authors seem confident that any of the Prophet’s associated teachings were simply a cover up, so there was no need to take them seriously and it seems none of the critics of the essay do either.

Yet, this may be the greatest weakness of most of the critics’ arguments—they are simply incomplete. Joseph Smith taught that couples who are sealed in eternal marriage, not plural marriage, “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths … and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:19–20). A plurality of wives allows all worthy women to be sealed to a husband on earth and become eligible for these blessings in heaven. Any woman who is not sealed will: “remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (v. 17).

It is easy to denounce polygamy on earth, but for believers, the discussions should also include the importance of plurality in eternity. As described in section 132, it allows all of God’s children to receive His promised blessings by making eternal marriage available to everyone who seeks it. As the essay explains: “Joseph Smith’s revelation on marriage declared the “continuation of the seeds forever and ever” helped to fulfill God’s purposes for His children. This promise was given to all couples who were married by priesthood authority and were faithful to their covenants” (paragraph 12).

It appears that readers of the essay may only be able to appreciate its value if they are able to appreciate Joseph Smith’s teachings about eternal marriage. Without that understanding, they will see only an unjust earthly practice that is easily condemned. The fact that the eternal contributions of plurality have not been addressed by virtually any critic suggests that additional study on the topic might result in different critiques of this watershed essay.[88]

Hales is absolutely defending polygamy no matter how hard he tries to deny this—that is painfully obvious. Hales has deftly tried to refocus what Section 132 is really all about, which we discuss below (See also, Note #61).

And “only a few” eternal polygamists are needed? Where does he get this from? Nowhere does the polygamy revelation stipulate this. This is simply an invention of the Hales.

He also tries to claim (again and again it seems) that “Joseph Smith’s theological teachings regarding plural marriage are universally ignored.” Actually, they are not. Let’s put this to the test with a good example here. Hales claims above that “The practice [of polygamy] is difficult to defend as anything but unfair and at times emotionally cruel.”

If Hales (as he claims) understands Joseph’s theology, then how can he make such a statement and reconcile it with Mormon theology? Especially in the light of this letter by Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon:

Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.”

“God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” at another time He said “Thou shalt utterly destroy.” This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.”

“A parent may whip a child, and justly, too, because he stole an apple; whereas if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite; there would have been no stripes; all the pleasure of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost.”

“This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with His children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant; the proffered good returns to the giver; the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy; for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.”

Be wise today; ’tis madness to defer:

Next day the fatal precedent may plead.

Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time

Into eternity.

“Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. He will be inquired of by His children. He says: “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find;” but, if you will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds; but no good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things—who will listen to my voice and to the voice of my servant whom I have sent; for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the law of my kingdom; for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy.”[89]

Claiming that polygamy is “unfair and emotionally cruel” by its very nature (which we all know it is) directly contradicts what Joseph Smith claimed:  that God would never institute a commandment or ordinance that by its nature is unjust (Hales word) or designed to promote unhappiness or unfairness.

At they write,

God is just, true, and righteous in all things (see Revelation 15:3; Psalm 89:14; Ether 3:12).

The problem with the Hales is that they are not Mormon Authorities. They are simply apologists who promote irrational arguments to defend Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.  What they claim directly contradicts what Joseph Smith taught:  that “happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it…” A foundational Mormon theological concept is that men and women are born on earth that they might experience joy. The Book of Mormon declares:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)

How can one pursue the path to happiness when forced to live a principle that according to Brian Hales is by design “unfair and emotionally cruel”? This makes little sense theologically or otherwise.  As Milton R. Hunter taught to a General Conference audience in 1954:

I believe with all my heart that God the eternal Father wants his children on this earth to have joy, an abundance of joy. I believe, also, that he expects members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, to live an abundant, joyful, happy life. Our lives should be lived in such a way as to bring to us a fulness of joy today, tomorrow, next week, ten years from now, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, and even, throughout the eternities. I want to remind each of us that God has placed within the reach of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ the possibilities of that joy, that perpetual and eternal joy, if we will just obey the laws that bring that joy into our lives.[90]

This is Mormon Doctrine, not the invented doctrine of Brian Hales. How does a practice that is emotionally cruel and unfair at its core bring joy into the lives of those that are commanded to practice it? In the end, was polygamy “joy”? Not for the vast majority of the women involved in it along with many of the men. It may have been joyful to those men who could discard their women at will, like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, (as he did with the Partridge sisters and others) but not for everyone else that was forced to live the principle or pay a hefty $10 divorce fee that Brigham Young charged. Most of them looked at it as an unpleasant duty to their religion.  There were many cases (for example) of men who married more than one woman and then refused to live with any but one (their favorite) and they were condemned for it.

Even marriage according to the Apostle Paul, should never get in the way of the gospel and so he admonished those who were single to stay so, even as he was, but that if you felt the need to be married, do so.[91] Even Paul claimed that,  “…those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”[92]

Yet Joseph gave polygamy as a commandment, not an option as Paul does with marriage.

Hales theological argument about polygamy makes little sense if one looks back historically at the practice.  What does the importance of polygamy in eternity have to do with why Joseph Smith and other church leaders would inflict so much emotional damage on those they commanded to practice it on earth?

What sense does it make for God to command it on earth, if according to Hales, the focus of it is for eternity? (Or only monogamous eternal sealings?) We know why, as both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught, it was to raise up righteous seed.

Hales quotes Brigham Young in an effort to show that polygamy was instituted as some kind of “trial”:

I foresaw, when Joseph first made known this doctrine, that it would be a trial, and a source of great care and anxiety to the brethren, and what of that? We are to gird up our loins and fulfill this, just as we would any other duty.[93]

Yet Young also said in the same speech:

This revelation, which God gave to Joseph, was for the express purpose of providing a channel for the organization of tabernacles, for those spirits to occupy who have been reserved to come forth in the kingdom of God…[94]

But for Brigham Young the answer to those who might be discontented was simple:

Sisters, do you wish to make yourselves happy? Then what is your duty? It is for you to bear children,…are you tormenting yourselves by thinking that your husbands do not love you? I would not care whether they loved a particle or not; but I would cry out, like one of old, in the joy of my heart, ‘I have got a man from the Lord!” ‘Hallelujah! I am a mother–…’[95]

For many women, this was not happiness, although some looked back on their hard lives living with polygamy and were thankful for their children, who ultimately did bring many some measure of joy. This takes the focus off of eternity where Hales wants to exclusively put it, and back on earth where it belongs. That is the true context of Section 132, time and eternity, and this applies to Patriarchal Marriage as well as monogamous ones.

Hales claims that the critics ignore his claim that “within the context of Joseph Smith’s teachings, a few eternal polygamists are needed.“

What, exactly is “a few”? Hales doesn’t explain. That the sealing power was all about what was bound on earth would be bound in heaven is self evident.  That this also applies to marriage was the “revelation” of Joseph Smith to the Mormons in Nauvoo. Hales claims that polygamy is also part of the “restoration of all things”, but then cannot adequately explain why it was discontinued as a practice, given all the statements by Joseph’s disciples who carried on with it after the Nauvoo period.

Hales writes:

Polygamy isn’t fair on earth. But according to Joseph Smith’s theology, every man and every woman must have a spouse in order to be exalted. The promise is that they “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths. . . and a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” (D&C 132:19-20.)

If we can believe this promise, then the need for eternal plural sealings becomes more easy to embrace.

My experience is that instead people just roll their eyes and rant about earthly polygamy. But in doing so, I think they may denigrate the polygamous women of the nineteenth century who practiced it for that reason, because it was commanded.

God commanded it according to the early prophets. Can we call it “damnable”? I guess it is a faith thing.[96]

Easy for whom to embrace? Those who for whatever reason are compelled to defend polygamy, for sure. Yet, the argument isn’t about polygamy in heaven, but on earth and why it was necessary and commanded to be practiced on earth. Hales offers no rational answers here; only that it is a “faith thing”.  One can say that everything is a trial for some. But the object and design of the plan of salvation according to Mormon theology is that we are here to experience joy. Why then, would polygamy really be necessary on earth if God can assign righteous women to men in the afterlife?

And both Jeremy and I are not denigrating the polygamous wives, we are criticizing the practice and those who instigated it: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. And there is no passage in the Bible where God commands polygamy, but he does command any future king of Israel not to practice it:

I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. (Deuteronomy 17:14-17)

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (I Kings 11:4 )

The promise of the celestial kingdom is for all who live righteously, even children who never get married. So what makes polygamy necessary on earth except for raising up “righteous seed”? This is never adequately answered by Hales, given the above. He also writes:

Perhaps another point is that those close to Joseph were just as skeptical as you and me. I’ve often said Fawn Brodie did a hatchet job on Joseph Smith. But she did a bigger hatchet job on those around Joseph because she portrayed them as being too dumb or gullible to figure out the alleged immoralities that Brodie depicted in her book a hundred years later. Brodie wasn’t that smart and Brigham, Eliza, Zina and John (Taylor) were not that gullible.

Recently Alex Beam said Joseph’s hypocrisy was “breathtaking.” How ridiculous. Beam can detect breathtaking hypocrisy 170 years later that none of the Nauvoo polygamists apparently detected because if they had seen ANY hypocrisy, they would have left Joseph.[97]

The only hatchet job being done here is by Hales against the critics of polygamy and Joseph Smith. Then he claims in a subsequent comment:

There is no doubt that plural marriage was taught as necessary for exaltation between 1840s and 1890. And it was required for exaltation for those Latter-day Saints during that span.

However, I have not found any statement that unequivocally declares that all men in the upper degree of the CK are polygamists, irrespective of the time and place they lived.

God issues specialized commandments. Abraham had to live the law of circumcision, the Children of Israel lived the law of Moses, LDS between 1840s and 1890, polygamy. God knows why but He never told us why.

Joseph F. Smith explained it the best: “However, toward the beginning of the talk Joseph F. Smith clarified,

It [plural marriage] is a principle that pertains to eternal life, in other words, to endless lives, or eternal increase. It is a law of the Gospel pertaining to the celestial kingdom, applicable to all gospel dispensations, when commanded and not otherwise, and neither acceptable to God or binding on man unless given by commandment, not only so given in this dispensation, but particularly adapted to the conditions and necessities thereof, and to the circumstances, responsibilities, and personal, as well as vicarious duties of the people of God in this age of the world. God has revealed it as a principle.”

JFS outlines that it can be commanded or not commanded. It is not a law because it didn’t exist in the Book of Mormon–this is certain based upon the text.

Fundamentalists like to quote a few excerpts and then believe their sealings are valid, but God saw this day (see D&C 132:18) and authority is paramount.[98]

In yet another comment Hales claims:

Polygamy is not always commanded and it hasn’t been according to the Bible and Book of Mormon. I think that conclusion is historical. But neither do I find a quote saying every man in the Celestial Kingdom will be a polygamist. Do you have one?[99]

Brigham Young

Actually, we do have one. Brigham Young said:p

It is not polygamy that men fight against when they persecute this people; but, still, if we continue to be faithful to our God, he will defend us in doing what is right. If it is wrong for a man to have more than one wife at a time, the Lord will reveal it by and by, and he will put it away that it will not be known in the Church. I did not ask Him for the revelation upon this subject. When that revelation was first read to me by Joseph Smith, I plainly saw the great trials and the abuse of it that would be made by many of the Elders, and the trouble and the persecution that it would bring upon this whole people. But the Lord revealed it, and it was my business to accept it.

Now, we as Christians desire to be saved in the kingdom of God. We desire to attain to the possession of all the blessings there are for the most faithful man or people that ever lived upon the face of the earth, even him who is said to be the father of the faithful, Abraham of old. We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us. It may be hard for many, and especially for the ladies, yet it is no harder for them than it is for the gentlemen. It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: “We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character, and office, etc.” The man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.

The Lord gave a revelation through Joseph Smith, His servant; and we have believed and practiced it. Now, then, it is said that this must be done away before we are permitted to receive our place as a State in the Union. It may be, or it may not be. One of the twin relics—slavery—they say, is abolished. I do not, however, wish to speak about this; but if slavery and oppression and ironhanded cruelty are not more felt by the blacks today than before, I am glad of it. My heart is pained for that unfortunate race of men. One twin relic having been strangled, the other, they say, must next be destroyed. It is they and God for it, and you will all find that out. It is not Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Daniel H. Wells and the Elders of Israel they are fighting against; but it is the Lord Almighty. What is the Lord going to do? He is going to do just as he pleases, and the world cannot help themselves.

I heard the revelation on polygamy, and I believed it with all my heart, and I know it is from God—I know that he revealed it from heaven; I know that it is true, and understand the bearings of it and why it is. “Do you think that we shall ever be admitted as a State into the Union without denying the principle of polygamy?” If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted. These things will be just as the Lord will. Let us live to take just what he sends to us, and when our enemies rise up against us, we will meet them as we can, and exercise faith and pray for wisdom and power more than they have, and contend continually for the right. Go along, my children, saith the Lord, do all you can, and remember that your blessings come through your faith. Be faithful and cut the corners of your enemies where you can—get the advantage of them by faith and good works, take care of yourselves, and they will destroy themselves. Be what you should be, live as you should, and all will be well.[100]

Mormon apologists claim that this quote is always taken out of context. Well here is the whole quote in context. Young claims that if polygamy is wrong, the Lord would reveal it and it would be put away and not be known in the Church. Well, did this happen? No. Has the principle of polygamy ever been considered or taught as “wrong”? No. Do men still have more than one wife at the same time in the church? Yes, if their wife dies and they marry again for eternity.  So it has not really been “put away”, has it?

Is this practice still known in the Church? Yes it is. Young never believed that polygamy would be revoked. What he predicted about Statehood came to pass and in Young’s prophetic mind, this condemned the Church. His prophetic warning that only those that practice polygamy become gods was ignored over keeping earthly possessions. What Smith died for, what Young left the United States for, and what John Taylor went into hiding for was thrown aside so that the Church could integrate with the Nation and disregard the doctrine of the gathering, something anathema to all of those former “prophets”.  It was the failure of those prophecies by Smith, Young and Taylor that led to Woodruff’s compromise. Their “enemies” did not “destroy themselves.”

We have the statement by Joseph F. Smith (given when there was no First Presidency, therefore authoritative as coming from the ruling body of the church) who claimed that none would be exalted to thrones without practicing polygamy, because those who did deserve it more:

If, then, this principle was of such great importance that the Prophet himself was threatened with destruction, and the best men in the Church with being excluded from the favor of the Almighty, if they did not enter into and establish the practice of it upon the earth, it is useless to tell me that there is no blessing attached to obedience to the law, or that a man with only one wife can obtain as great a reward, glory or kingdom as he can with more than one, being equally faithful.

Patriarchal marriage involves conditions, responsibilities and obligations which do not exist in monogamy, and there are blessings attached to the faithful observance of that law, if viewed only upon natural principles, which must so far exceed those of monogamy as the conditions responsibilities and power of increase are greater. This is my view and testimony in relation to this matter. I believe it is a doctrine that should be taught and understood.[101]

Has the Lord ever revealed that it was wrong for a man to have more wife than one at the same time since the days of Joseph Smith? No. That is not what Wilford Woodruff did. He stopped the practice of having two living wives at the same time. He did not declare the principle wrong. He was afraid they would take away the property of the Church and that the leaders would go to jail.  In a speech he gave in 1891 he explained:

The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people (all of which of themselves would stop the practice), or after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and through doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home, so that they can instruct the people and attend to the duties of the Church, and also leave the Temples in the hands of the Saints, so that they can attend to the ordinances of the Gospel, both for the living and the dead?[102]

Woodruff chose the United States over God. Just a year earlier Woodruff already had a “revelation” concerning the course to take with polygamy. According to Abraham H. Cannon:

Thursday, Dec. 19th: . . .During our meeting a revelation was read which Pres. Woodruff received Sunday evening, Nov. 24th. Propositions had been made for the Church to make some concessions to the Courts in regard to its principles. Both of Pres. Woodruff’s counselors refused to advise him as to the course he should pursue, and he therefore laid the matter before the Lord. The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. He had done and would continue to care for His work and those of the Saints who were faithful, and we need have no fear of our enemies when we were in the line of our duty. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. We were admonished to read and study the Word of God, and to pray often. The whole revelation was filled with words of the greatest encouragement and comfort, and my heart was filled with joy and peace during the entire reading. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue.[103]

Woodruff had done the opposite, he had trusted “in the arm of flesh” and ignored the previous revelation he claimed to have received from God. Woodruff’s previous “revelation” reads:

Revelation given to Wilford Woodruff, Sunday Nov 24, 1889. Thus Saith the Lord, to my Servant Wilford, I the Lord have heard thy prayers and thy request, and will answer thee by the voice of my spirit. Thus Saith the Lord, unto my Servants the Presidency of my church, who hold the Keys of the Kingdom of God on this earth. I the Lord hold the destiny of the courts in your midst, and the destiny of this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands, and all that I have [p.68] revealed, and promised and decreed concerning the generation in which you live, shall come to pass, and no power shall stay my hand.

Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my church, deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men. Let them pray for the Holy Spirit, which shall be given them to guide them in their acts. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise. Your enemies seek your distruction and the distruction of my people. If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my Servants, the wicked shall not prevail.

Let my servants, who officiate as your counselors before the courts, make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy spirit, without any further pledges from the Priesthood. I the Lord will hold the courts, with the officers of government, and the nation responsible for their acts towards the inhabitants of Zion.

I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father. Fear not little flock, it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Fear not the wicked and ungodly. Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me, also those revelations which I have given to my servant Joseph, and to all my servants since the world began, which are recorded in the records of divine truths. Those revelations contain the judgments of God which are to be poured out upon all nations under the heavens which include great Babylon.

These judgments are at the door. They will be fulfilled as God lives. Leave judgment with me, it is mine saith the Lord. Watch the signs of the times, and they will show the fulfillment of the words of the Lord.

Let my servants call upon the Lord in mighty prayer, retain the Holy Ghost as your constant companion, and act as you are moved upon by that spirit, and all will be well with you. The wicked are fast ripening in iniquity, and they will be cut off by the judgments of God. Great events await you and this generation, and are nigh at your doors. Awake, O, Israel, and have faith in God, and His promises, and he will not forsake you. I the Lord will deliver my Saints from the dominion of the wicked, in mine own due time and way. I cannot deny my word, neither in blessing nor judgments. Therefore let mine Anointed gird up their loins, watch and be sober, and keep my commandments. Pray always and faint not, exercise faith in the Lord and in the promises of God; be valient in the testimony of Jesus Christ. The eyes of the Lord and the Heavenly Hosts are watching over you and your acts. Therefore be faithful until I come. I come quickly to reward every man according to the deeds done in the body. Even so, amen.[104]

Nauvoo House c. 1875

A year later when Woodruff realized that trusting in God to fix their problems with polygamy would not work, he wrote up the Manifesto.  Brigham Young gave a prophetic statement which included a scenario he believed would never happen, and it didn’t; but what did happen was that Wilford Woodruff submitted to the U. S. Government and disobeyed a previous “revelation” from God to do so, and did just what Brigham Young prophetically counseled not to do.

There are many statements by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young about the parable of the Talents applied to polygamy, that those who only have one Talent will have that taken away and given to someone that has more. Hales simply ignores this strong evidence.

In fact, according to the statement by Brigham Young (quoted above), Wilford Woodruff abolished the practice of polygamy on earth for just the reasons he counseled against: pressure from the U. S. Government. Young declared that the breaking up of the community was an invalid reason for not practicing polygamy, the very reason that Woodruff gave for forbidding the practice of it.

Brigham Young stated that if the Lord would stop polygamy, he would declare it wrong, or an “abomination” as in the Book of Mormon. There has been no “revelation” at all that polygamy is “wrong”. In fact, Mormons still practice polygamy when they marry someone for eternity after their first wife dies. Is that considered wrong? They say no. They still have two wives at the same time, do they not? Death does not break the marriage covenant in Mormonism.  If you are a polygamist in your faith, then you would practice it. This is what Young meant by that comment. It is the same as baptism. If you only believe in baptism and don’t submit to it and practice it, it does you no good.

Does it make sense to say that if you desire with all your hearts to gain entrance into the Kingdom of God, (the blessing associated with baptism) you will be baptized at least in your faith, and have this mean that baptism is somehow not essential? Young expressly states,

You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: “We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,”—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.

Young is explicitly stating that one cannot avoid entering into polygamy, because there was no good reason to do so. Notice how Young couples the concepts together: “without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order.’

How can one submit and obey [practice] if they do not believe it? Refusing to obey and submit to it and therefore practice it, is the same as disbelieving in it. Young never taught that it was all right to not obey and submit to commandments. If one did, (fail to enter into the practice) it was for “obtaining some earthly honor, character and office.” What sense to say all this if one could simply say, ‘I believe in the principle in my faith, so I don’t have to practice it’ and ‘I’ll get the same blessing that those who do obey and enter get’. Again, it would be like Young claiming that one could obtain the blessings of baptism by only believing in it.  Like baptism, Patriarchal Marriage was called The New and Everlasting Covenant:

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; [baptism] and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning. (D&C 22:1)

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; [Celestial Marriage including Plurality of Wives] and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D&C 132: 4)

In 1868 Young stated that:

You take a woman in this Church who does not believe in the doctrine of celestial marriage or plurality of wives, and she does not believe anything at all about the Gospel, and she will soon manifest this by her unwise course, and by and by she drops off and away she goes. But our sisters believe and know that this doctrine is true, and consequently they feel bound to abide it.[105]

They believe it in their hearts, so they feel bound to abide by, or comply with it. (Practice it).

This is the stated purpose of the new and everlasting covenant (to obtain every blessing that God offers) and why Smith claimed there was to be a “restoration of all things” that would continue until the coming of Christ. Young then claims that,

The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.

By following Woodruff’s Manifesto, Mormons rejected the “blessings” of polygamy, yet, God still “offers” the blessing of polygamy in Section 132. Has he said he does not? This part of the quote makes no sense at all if Brigham Young was claiming that polygamy could be tossed aside because the United States Government said so. This is the very problem that Fundamentalist Mormons have with the Manifesto.  That is why Young taught:

How many of the Children of this people are Entitled to the Holy Priesthood & the Blessings of Abraham? All who are born after their parents have received their Endowments & are sealed & all others will have to be adopted to their parents. All who want the Blessings of Abram Isaac & Jacob go & get your Endowments before you get married. Then all your Children will be heirs to the priesthood. There is no Son has a right to the Priesthood & heirship unless their parents had their Endowments before they were born. Such must be adopted to their Parents or they have no right to heirship. Let no youth get married until they get their Endowments & get sealed at the Altar. If young men knew what was for their good they would go hundreds of miles to get married right before they would do as many have. Our boys who are guided by a right hand will be mighty men /of God/ in the Earth. The Lord instituted Polygamy to raise up a royal Priesthood a kingdom of Priest. It is an institution of heaven. All the blessings that are sealed upon us will do us no good unless we live for them.[106]

“Why do we believe in and practise polygamy?” asked Brigham Young,

…because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. And is that religion popular in heaven? It is the only popular religion there, for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.[107]

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith by Maudsley – restored by grindael

Hales claiming that the “critics” don’t understand or address Joseph’s “theology” is simply another red herring.


[25] “Evidence for the Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”, D. Michael Quinn, (expanded-finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013), pages cited in text. (Hereafter cited as Quinn, “Sexual Side”).  Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn by stating:

I appreciate the references to Mike Quinn’s work. Most historians at some time have benefited from his research and footnotes. However, I would feel much better about your criticism if you instead were not quoting Quinn, but quoting some Nauvoo polygamist or other historical figure who was there. Quoting secondary sources may create the illusion that some scholarly opinion is documented history. (This applies to me as well as Mike.) (Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited, Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others disagreed with Hales’ conclusions. He did not “quote” anyone. Quinn’s (and Richard Bushman’s) conclusions are based on the evidence that they quote in their various books and articles. This seems lost on Hales who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a quotation and a general statement. Hales also does not keep his own advice about “secondary sources” as we shall see.

[26] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.

[27] ibid.

[28] For example, George D. Smith in Nauvoo Polygamy claimed that Smith had 38 wives and did not consider Fanny Alger one of them, but that Joseph Smith committed adultery with her.

George D. Smith presents some very good arguments to document how Joseph Smith’s polygamy evolved from his troubled youth.  To show how Brian Hales manipulates evidence to support his private narrative, we reproduce a portion of his review of George D. Smith’s book (Nauvoo Polygamy):

George D. Smith comments several times that Joseph Smith had polygamy on his mind in the 1820’s, even as a teenager (xiv, 12, 21, 29) but supporting documentation is equivocal. He also provides some psychoanalysis based on limited clinical data, stating that Joseph eventually came “to effectively de-emphasize the feelings of sin and guilt he had once experienced” (21). George D. Smith lays out the following hypothetical reconstruction:

Did young Joseph experience the usual challenges and questions accompanying adolescence? Is there anything to suggest a coming-of-age struggle? A few passages from his autobiography indicate that two years after the family moved to New York State, he confronted some uncertain feelings he later termed “sinful.” At a time when boys begin to experience puberty, “from the age of 12 years to 15,” or 1817-21, he “became convicted [convinced] of my sins.” Seeing his awakened emotions as “sinful” seems to have reflected parental admonitions prior to the age of fifteen or sixteen (1820-22), when he also sought divine assistance for his worries. “I cried unto the Lord for mercy . . . in the 16th year of my age,” he wrote. In response to his prayer, a personage he would later identify as Jesus confronted him and said: “Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.”

Even so, he reported that he again “fell into transgression and sinned in many things . . . there were many things that transpired that cannot be written.” These cryptic words echo in his subsequent statements to friend and counselor Oliver Cowdery, leaving us to suspect that he was referring to the curious thoughts of an intense teenager. . . .

Two years after his initial autobiographical sketch, Smith addressed similar vaguely defined infractions of youth, including “vices and follies,” he wrote. The contemporary definition of “vice” was “every act of intemperance, all falsehood, duplicity, deception, lewdness and the like,” as well as “the excessive indulgence of passions and appetites which in themselves are innocent,” according to Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary. “Folly” was defined as “an absurd act which is highly sinful; and conduct contrary to the laws of God or man; sin; scandalous crimes; that which violates moral precepts and dishonors the offender.” In other words, “vices and follies” implied sins great and small, which conceivably involved sex but were not limited to it. (17-18; brackets George Smith’s)

George Smith reasons that Joseph Smith confessed to “sins great and small, which conceivably involved sex but were not limited to it.”However, the entire quotation, published in December 1834 in the Messenger and Advocate is susceptible of a different reading:

During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark, that, though, as I have said above, “as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies,” I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any manor society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.

The full quotation therefore lends itself to a self-accusation of silliness and light-mindedness, not sexual sin. (Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 42:4, 220-221, Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014).

Unfortunately neither George D. Smith nor Hales employs all of the quotation from the Messenger and Advocate (though Hales erroneously claims that he does). George D. Smith really didn’t need to, but it devastates Hales’ argument that Smith’s self accusation was only about “silliness and light-mindedness”. Here is the rest of the Joseph Smith confession from the 1834 Messenger and Advocate that Hales didn’t quote:

This being all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral  character, I wish to add, that it is not with out a deep feeling of regret that I am thus  called upon in answer to my own conscience,  to fulfill a duty I owe to myself, as well as  to the cause of truth, in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk,  and unchaste conversation: and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those  holy precepts which I knew came from God.  But as the “Articles and Covenants” of this church are plain upon this particular point,  I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that I do not, nor never  have, pretended to be any other than a man  “subject to passion,” and liable, without the  assisting grace of the Savior, to deviate from  that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk! (Joseph Smith, Letter, Kirtland, Ohio, to Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, Ohio, December, 1834; Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 40.  Online here, Accessed October 20, 2014, added emphasis).

Not only does Joseph Smith tell of vices and follies, but he claims that he was guilty of “unchaste conversation” and that he “often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God.” He then claims that he is a man who is “subject to passion” and liable to deviate from “holy precepts” he knew came from God.  This is more than the “curious thoughts of an intense teenager”. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “unchaste” as:  a. Not chaste; not continent; not pure; libidinous; lewd

So Smith here admits to lewd conversation, and that is defined by Webster’s 1828 dictionary as:

LEWD, a. [Heb.]

1.Given to the unlawful indulgence of lust; addicted to fornication or

adultery; dissolute; lustful; libidinous. Ezek 23.

2. Proceeding from unlawful lust; as lewd actions.

3.Wicked; vile; profligate; licentious. Acts 27.

Libidinous isn’t much better,

LIBID’INOUS, a. [L. libidinosus, from libido, lubido, lust, from libeo, libet, lubet, to please, it pleaseth; Eng. love, which see. The root is lib or lub.] Lustful; lewd; having an eager appetite for venereal pleasure.

One must also take into account that the word “conversation” had a different meaning in Smith’s day. In Joseph Smith’s day it meant “course of manners”, or “behavior”, and it was used especially in relation to morals:

CONVERSATION, n. [Webster’s 1828]

1.General course of manners; behavior; deportment; especially as it respects morals.

Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel. Phil 1. Be ye holy in all manner of conversation. 1 Pet 1

2.A keeping company; familiar intercourse; intimate fellowship or association; commerce in social life. Knowledge of men and manners is best acquired by conversation with the best company.

3.Intimate and familiar acquaintance; as a conversation with books, or other object.

4.Familiar discourse; general intercourse of sentiments; chat; unrestrained talk; opposed to a formal conference. What I mentioned in conversation was not a new thought. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, added emphasis).

Today we use the word conversation almost solely when we mean “familiar discourse”. In Smith’s day, this was not the case. When Smith says “unchaste conversation”, he really means lewd behavior. Even though Joseph Smith tries to extricate himself from the charges that were being bandied about throughout his career as both a moneydigger and a self proclaimed “prophet”, he still inadvertently shows us his real character by his choice of words to describe himself in this revealing confession from 1834.

This indeed helps us to understand why Joseph Smith would claim that “adultery was no crime”, and that the charge conveyed by Levi Lewis that he tried to seduce Eliza Winters is credible. In 1835 Smith was also accused of promulgating whoredom:

[At] Rufus Harwood’s near Angelica. Conversed with Anderson a Methodist Priest. He lied and scandalized Brother Joseph the Prophet and said he sanctioned and upheld whoredom and he bore testimony against him. (John Murdock Journal, May 1835, 2:66, Ms 1194, LDS Church History Library, added emphasis).

Whoredom in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary is defined as,

  1. Lewdness; fornication; practice of unlawful commerce with the other sex. It is applied to either sex, and to any kind of illicit commerce.

Smith himself claimed that “I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives.” (History of the Church, Vol. 6, 403, 405, 410-11).

Polygamy would not have been reported in a favorable light at any time in Joseph’s career. It would have been associated with “whoredom”, just as it was in 1840’s Nauvoo. So would saying “adultery was no crime”.

There is a definite pattern here with Smith, he violates “holy precepts”, then repents. This was repeated in 1843 with the polygamy “revelation” (Section 132) where he also claimed to have been forgiven for any adulteries he might have committed.  (Hat tip to Dan Vogel).

Michael Quinn speaks about, “what was known at the time as the “Holy Order of the Holy Priesthood” or the “Quorum of the Anointed” from 1843 to 1844.”(Joseph Smith’s III’s 1844 Blessing and the Mormons of Utah, Dialogue, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 1982, 74, Online here, Accessed January 16, 2016). Quinn adds that,

Joseph had introduced a series of rites and instructions known as the “endowment” in May 1842 to a group of trusted men of the church, and in September 1843 he began admitting women to the anointing and endowment ceremonies which he taught were revealed from God. As a part of these ceremonies, Emma Smith was sealed for time and eternity to Joseph Smith and was anointed to him on 28 September 1843 as an eternal wife, queen, and priestess. (ibid.).

It was before this (in July 1843) that Joseph produced his “revelation” on polygamy and proclaimed in that “revelation”:

And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery. And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery. And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:41-44, added emphasis)

Joseph is claiming here that when a man is married to a wife in the “new and everlasting covenant” and if she has sexual relations with another man and God has not “appointed her by the Holy Anointing”, she has committed adultery. That is an interesting clause in verse 41—which states that if she is “appointed by the Holy Anointing” she would not be committing adultery.

It also states that if the woman is not in the new and everlasting covenant, she is committing adultery.  This also gives Joseph the power to give women whose husbands have committed adultery to other men who were “faithful”.  This was illustrated by Joseph with his parable of the talent. Smith’s “revelation” then states that,

Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac. Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice. And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God. (ibid, vs. 50-52, added emphasis).

Joseph receives a “revelation” about himself that vindicates him. What was Smith escaping from? Why would he need to escape from anything? It appears from the above that Smith was “forgiven” of any sins concerning adultery that he had previously committed.

Still, Joseph was committing adultery by his own First Presidency Address that he made in 1842 with Hyrum Smith, which declared that anyone who married a woman who had a husband and they were not legally divorced, was committing adultery. Joseph did this many times with married women who had not had legal divorces from their husbands. In fact, Joseph sometimes set up his wives with “Front Husbands”, so he facilitated the adultery.

Also, it states that Emma Smith was to “partake not” of something which God had previously commanded Joseph to “offer” Emma, but now this “revelation” states that it was only to “prove you all,” and that he “might require an offering” from Emma “by covenant and sacrifice.” This we believe is the arrangement that was made (as Joseph’s suggestion) for Emma to “offer” him the Partridge sisters, which according to Joseph he never went through with, though Emily Partridge claimed in an 1869 affidavit that they did. (See Note #56)

This is clearly a retraction of Joseph’s previous commandment from God to Emma that she could “indulge herself” with another man (as Joseph was doing with other women) which William Clayton wrote of on July 23, 1843 (See Note #46). Joseph then writes in this “revelation” that,

…I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not my law. (ibid., v. 54, added emphasis).

Clearly Joseph is commanding Emma that she is not to “indulge herself” with anyone but Joseph. Then Joseph tells her that God has further commanded that,

…mine handmaid [Emma] forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice. …Verily, if a man be called of my Father, as was Aaron, by mine own voice, and by the voice of him that sent me, and I have endowed him with the keys of the power of this priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him. Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph; for I will justify him; for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions, saith the Lord your God. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132:56-60, added emphasis).

Who gave the Saints “my law and my word”? Joseph Smith. What transgressions did Joseph commit that have to do with “this law”? We believe it was his so called polyandrous relationships, as spoken of in verses 41-44 above.

Joseph who was “with another woman, and he was under a vow, [to Emma] he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.” But Joseph wrote into the “revelation” a loophole for his polyandry, which is the clause of those “marriages” being “appointed by the holy anointing”. Joseph also has God promising him that if he does anything in the name of God, he cannot sin, for God will justify him. This “revelation” says what it says. Hales can claim all the day long that Joseph could not commit adultery because there were revelations forbidding it, but here it states that Joseph could do anything and not sin.

Even though Joseph wrote this “revelation” for Emma and it appears to be about Joseph’s repentance for his polyandry, Joseph told William Clayton in August of 1843 that, “he should not relinquish” any of his wives, even though he promised Emma that “he would relinquish all for her sake.” Would that include the wives who still had legal husbands? Apparently so.

It is no wonder that Emma, (when she read it) told Joseph that she did not believe a word of it and sent his brother Hyrum packing when he tried to convince her it was from God.

[29] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited.  Even the new Essay at (“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”) claims that “The exact number of women to whom he was sealed in his lifetime is unknown…” (op. cited, above, added emphasis). So what does this say about Hales’ evaluation of the evidence that he can state unequivocally to Jeremy Runnells that Joseph had a specific number of wives? What is ironic is that the footnote to this (in the Essay) reads:

Careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40. See Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2:272–73.”

So Hales contradicts Hales. We are not at all surprised at this. So how is Hales justified in claiming 35 wives to Jeremy Runnells? We can only tell you that such is the irrational world of Brian Hales. Hales also stating that none of the women complained is simply ignoring the evidence at hand. Helen Mar Kimball did complain. Afterwards she accepted polygamy and changed her views about it. This is a favorite mantra of Hales. No one complained, therefore Smith did nothing wrong. (See Note #30 below).  Some of the husbands also complained. D. Michael Quinn writes that Brian Hales (who he claims is an “honest” historian):

…has somewhat reluctantly discovered that another already-married woman (Esther Dutcher Smith) bore a son she named “Joseph” on 21 September 1844, sometime after she was “sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo,” before he died. This pre-death relationship was affirmed in a letter by Daniel H. Wells, an ever-faithful counselor to his successor, Brigham Young. Joseph’s martyrdom on 27 June 1844 occurred when she was six-months pregnant.

In a previous publication, Hales quoted this remarkable letter as saying that Esther” nearly broke his heart by telling him [her legal husband] of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship” with Joseph Smith.

First, this showed that she was sealed at Nauvoo without the knowledge of her legal husband, a faithful Mormon there.

Second, even though Esther’s husband eventually “got to feeling better over it”–seven years after Joseph’s death–and “had her sealed to him, and to himself for time,” this evidence (which Hales quoted) contradicts his claim that there were “No Complaints from Legal Husbands” (his emphasis) of the Prophet’s already-married wives.

Third, even though Hales quoted this source in a published essay that attempted to exonerate the Prophet of “sexual polyandry,” Esther’s” intention of adhering to that relationship” sounds like a reference to a sexual relationship that” nearly broke” her legal husband’s heart, not “adhering” to a “sealing for eternity,” which the letter itself did not allege. At the least, that is one way to interpret the document’s phrase, a possibility for “sexual polyandry” that Hales doesn’t admit.

Agnes Coolbrith Smith

Likewise, concerning John Hyde’s anti-Mormon 1857 book that “paired Joseph Smith with Hannah Ann Dubois Smith Dibble in a story based upon hearsay evidence,” Hales wrote in the same 2010 publication: “I have found no evidence to corroborate Hyde’s assertion” this wife of Philo Dibble. Nonetheless, during the Church trial of Benjamin Winchester in May 1843, a typescript of which was provided to Hales years ago by his research-assistant, Joseph Smith said that Winchester had “told one of the most damnable lies about me. [that I] visited Sister Smith–Sister Dibble … that I was guilty of improper conduct.” To protect himself and the Church, the Prophet dismissed the “lies” about him and his widowed sister-in-law Agnes Coolbrith Smith, yet Hales acknowledged that she was one of Joseph’s polygamous wives. If that 1843 document doesn’t persuade Hales as “evidence” about Hannah Dibble, in 1947 the LDS Church’s Midwest publishing company printed Benjamin F. Johnson’s autobiography, which stated: “At this time [May 1843,] I knew that the Prophet had as his wives… Sisters Lyon and Dibble,” among others he identified. Hales cited that source in this year’s article about “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy.”(Quinn, Sexual Side, op. cited, 3-4).

This constant irrational application of sources is typical of Brian Hales. We do not agree that this is an “honest” approach to the evidence. Here is what Hales writes about the Wells letter at his website:

However, since the single reference [The Wells letter] is from a reliable source, albeit late, she is included here. [As one of his spiritual wives].

Just why Wells is “reliable”, Hales does not explain. The relevant portion of the Daniel H. Wells letter reads,

He [Albert Smith was] also much afflicted with the loss of his first wife. It seems that she was sealed to Joseph the Prophet in the days of Nauvoo, [for time and eternity] though she still remained his wife, and afterwards nearly broke his heart by telling him of it, and expressing her intention of adhering to that relationship. He however got to feeling better over it, and acting for Joseph, had her sealed to him, and to himself for time. (Daniel H. Wells, Letter to Joseph F. Smith, June 25, 1888, added emphasis, brackets ours).

Below this is a section that has been blacked out by the Church, but that H. Michael Marquardt transcribed:

Daniel H. Wells

Now comes the saddest part of the story. It transpired that not long before her death, she committed adultery, the old gentleman [Albert Smith] is sadly grieved over this, and desires to know what can be done for her, he considers that she has paid in the flesh for her crime and hopes that his and her daughter, may be permitted to be baptized for her, and have her former Charges considered as finished as she was an er[r]ing though not a bad woman and still be saved with Joseph as Joseph’s wife, all of which is herewith submitted, and hope that you will send me your conclusion after consulting with Bro. Woodruff, in which case it will not be necessary for me to write to him in relation to this case. (ibid.).

It seems that Hannah was not above committing adultery with Joseph Smith and again at a later date. It is clear from this letter that Albert Smith did complain about his wife’s “marriage” to Joseph Smith, but only later “felt better about it”.  If this were an “eternity only sealing” as Hales claims, then why was Albert Smith so upset? Why did it make him much afflicted and heartbroken? Because his wife told him that she wanted to adhere to her relationship with Joseph Smith. It seems also that Albert Smith may not have felt better about it until after Joseph’s death since he was sealed to her as a proxy for Joseph Smith after Joseph Smith was dead.

And if she was already sealed to Joseph in Nauvoo for time and eternity, (the only kind of sealings we have evidence for) why perform another proxy sealing for eternity? This had to be for Albert’s benefit and was totally superfluous, though there is one reason why they might have. Joseph taught that for something to be “binding in heaven”, one must perform the ceremony with a witness and record it. Since many of those polyandrous marriages were done in secret and no records were kept, they may have felt they were invalid and had to be redone.

What is interesting is that Albert Smith was called on a mission from September 12, 1842 to August 22, 1843. This was during the period of time that Joseph was “marrying” other men’s wives.  On January 9, 1845 Albert Smith wrote in his journal,

January 9, [1845]: My wife [Esther Dutcher Smith] and myself went to Father John Smith in the evening on a visit. Whilst we was there he blessed Joseph, our young son, who was born September 21, the [year] 1844. The following contains the substance:

Joseph Albert, I lay my hands upon thy head by the request of thy parents to bless thee, and I ask my Heavenly Father to bless thee and let a double portion of the spirit of Joseph of old rest on thee that thou mayest live and become a mighty man on the earth. Angels shall have charge of thee from this very hour and thou shall behold them and converse with them and thou shall enjoy the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, and the discerning of spirits and the [page 19] spirit of revelation. Yea, thou shalt become a prophet, seer, and revelator. Thy name shall be had in honorable remembrance, for thou shall do a great work on the earth. Thou shall wield the sword in defense of the innocent blood which has been shed by wicked hands. Thou shall live till thou become old and see the end of wickedness of this generation and behold the coming of the Son of man. (Diary of Albert Smith, Online here, accessed November 5, 2014, added emphasis).

Young Joseph Albert Smith would have been conceived in December of 1843, therefore making it a possibility that he may have been the son of Joseph Smith. It is certainly interesting that John Smith would bless the boy and claim in that blessing that he would become a “prophet, seer and revelator”; that he would “wield the sword in defense of the innocent blood which has been shed,” (Joseph & Hyrum Smith), and live to “behold the coming of the Son of Man” (the Second Coming) which Joseph Smith predicted would happen in his generation.

[30] See Jeremy Runnells, Debunking FAIR, “Joseph Smith Was Married To At Least 34 Women” Section, online here, accessed October 30, 2014.

For example, Todd Compton advocates that the sealing between Helen Mar Kimball and Joseph Smith was a “dynastic” sealing, but that still did not preclude having sexual relations. Although many are persuaded by the “dynastic sealings” theory, we have some doubts. (Even so, we heartily recommend Todd’s book).

Did Joseph choose his spiritual wives specifically to set up dynasties, or was this already a part of the Mormon culture by then? D. Michael Quinn writes:

As Mormonism changed from an individualistic movement to an increasingly organized church, the Mormon Church manifested in the composition of its General Authorities features of dynasticism and corporation. In the sense of dynasticism, family interrelationships became a social subsystem of the Mormon hierarchy by the mid-1830s. In the corporate sense, men were advanced as LDS General Authorities in conscious representation of significant ethnic populations within Church membership.

At the most obvious, the importance of family interrelationships can be seen in the fact that 23.6 percent of the men appointed to the Mormon hierarchy between 1832 and 1932 were sons of other General Authorities. Revelations dictated by Joseph Smith and subsequent pronouncements by his successors in office have indicated that men have the right (or at least the predisposition) to preside in the LDS Church by virtue of their familial lineage. Although only the office of Presiding Patriarch was restricted to patrilineal succession, all other echelons of the Mormon hierarchy demonstrated intricate family interrelationships. … In the Mormon hierarchy, relationships as distant as fifth and sixth cousin were recognized and honored, and the men often referred to one another as “kinsmen” or “cousins.”

Moreover, General Authorities used marriage to bring into the hierarchical family men who were unrelated by kinship, as well as to reinforce distant cousin relationships. For example, Joseph Smith married in polygamy the sister of his fourth cousin, Apostle Willard Richards, and contracted a similar marriage with the sister of Brigham Young ( who was Joseph Smith’s acknowledged sixth cousin). The marriage of children also aligned General Authorities to one another. For example, recent LDS President David O. McKay entered the hierarchy as an apostle in 1906 without being related by kinship or marriage to any other General Authority, yet in 1928 his son married the niece of Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, who was President McKay’s successor in the presidency.

… Although the degree of kinship penetration was extensive for the entire hierarchy, it is also evident that familial relationships were most extensive within the most powerful echelons: the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This study has not probed as extensively the familial relationships of the General Authorities since 1932, but it is my hypothesis that the degree of family interrelationships has remained high in the upper two quorums and has diminished greatly in the First Quorum of Seventy for reasons to be discussed later. (D. Michael Quinn, “From Sacred Grove to Sacral Power Structure,” Dialogue, Vol.17, No.2, p.20-21, Online here, (PDF) accessed July 20, 2017).

Joseph naturally went to the people that were close to him to get his spiritual wives. This kind of intermarrying was not new, it had been going on since the beginning of the restoration.

Joseph used the persuasion of saving the entire family by demanding that the daughter “marry” him. Joseph taught about the sealing power in this way:

Again the doctrin or sealing power of Elijah is as follows: If you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be crafty. The first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory & go ahead and not go back but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven. I will walk through the gate of heaven and Claim what I seal & those that follow me & my Council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.365, March 10, 1844, added emphasis. This quote was changed when it was put into the History of the Church (without ellipsis or any notification) and is still used today in its edited form).

Notice that Joseph claims that you should “use a little craftiness and seal all you can.”

The 1828 definition of “crafty”,

1. Cunning; artful; skillful in devising and pursuing a scheme, by deceiving others, or by taking advantage of their ignorance; wily; sly; fraudulent.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty. Job 5.
2. Artful; cunning; in a good sense, or in a laudable pursuit.
Being crafty, I caught you with guile. 2 Cor 12.

He was indiscriminate about who those should be. Some were relatives or the offspring of his close associates, some were young women that were working in his home.

Those with the most sealed to them (who would be below them) were raised higher in the Celestial order of the gods than the ones they would “seal” to themselves.  Joseph could “save” the entire family, because he could “claim what I seal” in the afterlife. Joseph could approach the father of a young girl, and tell her parents that if they agreed to a marriage, he would then seal or adopt them, and therefore he could “claim” and save them in the afterlife.

Those who had the most sealed to them would naturally rule over their own dynasties in heaven. But this was only a cog in the great “chain” of sealings that Joseph and Brigham Young envisioned. Wilford Woodruff recorded in 1847 that:

While treating upon the principle of adoption he [Brigham Young] said some men were afraid they would loose some glory if they were sealed to one of the Twelve And did not stand alone And have others sealed to them. President Young said there kingdom consisted of their own posterity And it did not diminish that at all by being sealed to one of the Twelve but only bound them by that perfect chain according to the law of God and order of Heaven that will bind the righteous from Adam to the last saint and Adam will claim us all as members of his kingdom we being his children. (Van Wagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 172, cf. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, 117, January 16, 1847, For more on the law of adoption and sealing of families, see Notes, #189 & #191).

According to Young, Adam seems to take precedence over Jesus Christ since Adam would claim all as members of his kingdom.  We believe that this is the earliest reference by Young to what was later called the Adam God Doctrine.

Joseph went to his close associates to get their daughters, or “married” young girls living in his own home. How does one really separate close friends and Church Hierarchy into dynasties when all are sealed together in a “perfect chain”? For example, Helen Kimball later said that all who entered into polygamy did so to bear children and that was the purpose of it.

Catherine Lewis (who Heber C. Kimball asked to be one of his spiritual wives) wrote in 1848:

The Twelve took Joseph’s wives after his death. Kimball and Young took most of them; the daughter of Kimball was one of Joseph’s wives. I heard her say to her mother, “I will never be sealed to my Father, (meaning as a wife) as I would never have been sealed (married) to Joseph, had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it. I say again, I will never be sealed to my Father; no, I will sooner be damned and go to hell, if I must. Neither will I be sealed to Brigham Young.” The Apostles said they only took Joseph’s wives to raise up children, carry them through to the next world, there deliver them up to him, by so doing they should gain his approbation, &c. (Lewis, Narrative, 1848, op. cited)

What Helen said to her mother here, (in 1848) was that Joseph and her father had told her that “the salvation of our whole family depended on it,” her being married to Smith. Helen wrote two reminiscences, a year apart, later in her life. One to her son, and another for the Women’s Exponent. For the Exponent she wrote:

I remember how I felt, but which would be a difficult matter to describe—the various thoughts, fears and temptations that flashed through my mind when the principle was first introduced to me by my father [Heber C. Kimball], who one morning in the summer of 1843, without any preliminaries, asked me if I would believe him if he told me that it was right for married men to take other wives, can be better imagined than told. But suffice it to say the first impulse was anger, for I thought he had only said it to test my virtue as I had heard that tales of this kind had been published by such characters as the Higbees, Foster and Bennett, but which I supposed were without any foundation. My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure for to mention such a thing to me I thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him, short and emphatically, “No, I wouldn’t!” I had always been taught to believe it a heinous crime, improper and unnatural, and I indignantly resented it.

This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him, but I was somewhat surprised at his countenance, as he seemed rather pleased than otherwise. Then he commenced talking seriously, and reasoned and explained the principle, and why it was again to be established upon the earth, etc., but did not tell me then that anyone had yet practiced it, but left me to reflect upon it for the next twenty-four hours, during which time I was filled with various and conflicting ideas. I was skeptical—one minute believed, then doubted. I thought of the love and tenderness that he felt for his only daughter, and I knew that he would not cast her off, and this was the only convincing proof that I had of its being right. I knew that he loved me too well to teach me anything that was not strictly pure, virtuous and exalting in its tendencies; and no one else could have influenced me at that time or brought me to accept of a doctrine so utterly repugnant and so contrary to all of our former ideas and traditions. This was just previous to his starting upon his last mission but one to the eastern states. Fearing that I might hear it from a wrong source, knowing, as he did, that there were those who would run before they were sent, and some would not hesitate to deceive and betray him and the brethren, he thought it best that I should hear it from his own lips.

The next day the Prophet called at our house, and I sat with my father and mother and heard him teach the principle and explain it more fully, and I believed it, but I had no proofs, only his and my father’s testimony. I thought that sufficient, and did not deem it necessary to seek for any further. (“Scenes in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent 11, no. 5, August 1, 1882, 39.)

In this account Kimball claims that her father left out of his explanation that it was being practiced already. Then the next day, Joseph Smith came by the house and he then explained it to her. In an account written to her son a year earlier she writes something totally different:

Just previous to my father’s starting upon his last mission but one, to the Eastern States he taught me the principle of Celestial Marriage, & having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seemed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrafise, but the Lord required more. I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty-four hours after my father introduced to me this principle & asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph who came next morning & with my parents I heard him teach & explain the principle of Celestial marriage – after which he said to me “If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father’s household & all of your kindred. This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart – when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied “If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say.” She had witnessed the sufferings of others who were older & who better understood the step they were taking, to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Autobiography, 30 March, 1881, Ms 744 fd. 2, 1-2, CHL).

Helen writes in one account that she was taught the principle the night before and that was when her father asked her to be one of Smith’s spiritual wives, but in a second account, he omits telling her it was already being practiced. Much has been said about Heber Kimball offering his daughter to Joseph, but where did Helen learn about this? She claims that it was Joseph who told her, not her father.

Did Heber and Vilate on the spur of the moment have a discussion about their daughter, with Heber deciding that he wanted her to marry Joseph at age 14? Even though his wife was clearly reluctant?

We rather believe that it was Joseph who instigated this marriage, since it was his M.O. And using the line “out of the prophet’s own mouth,” was used by two other spiritual wives of Joseph in relation to Emma Smith’s “giving” Joseph four of his spiritual wives. Evidence shows that this also, is questionable.

And which account by Helen are we to believe? Why would Helen feel the need to relate different accounts? She was well known in Utah as being one of Smith’s spiritual wives.

In Helen’s second account we see exactly how it totally this distressed her mother. Would a non-sexual, eternity only sealing have evinced the same reaction? Helen may have initially misunderstood sexually in the marriage, but not Heber and Vilate Kimball. They knew what spiritual marriage entailed. In fact, Helen mentions Sarah Noon, and how that was a great trial for her mother, because Joseph would not allow Heber to marry two older spinsters and made him marry a much younger women and have sex with her. Helen likens her mother’s reaction to that, to her own situation.

The Catherine Lewis account also states that Helen claimed in 1848 that Joseph told them the marriage would save their entire family. Thirty years later, Helen affirms that he indeed told this to her and her parents. Every aspect of what Catherine Lewis wrote above has been verified as accurate. (See Note #66)

Todd Compton also writes that the Smith/Whitney union was a dynastic marriage:

The chief motivation for this [Joseph Smith & Sarah Ann Whitney) marriage was clearly dynastic. Joseph and Newel had a close friendship, and the sealing would link the families of Newel and Elizabeth Whitney and Joseph Smith in this life and in the next. (Compton, Todd M.. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 8127-8129). Signature Books. Kindle Edition).

Yet, all families would be linked together in the afterlife in a “great chain” or “welding link” by the sealing power through baptism for the dead and other ordinances, so what need was there for so called special “dynastic sealings”?

Only later, were these unions thought of as being specifically motivated by a desire for an afterlife dynasty. In reality, all that Joseph sealed to him, would become part of his extended family.  One marriage did not take precedent over another. They were all to be dynastic.

A month after Young gave the comments above he taught:

Those that are adopted into my family and take me for their counselor—If I continue faithful I will preside over them throughout all eternityI will stand at their head, and Joseph will stand at the head of this church and will be their presidentprophet and God to the people in this dispensation—When we locate I will settle my family down in the order and teach them their duty. They will then have to provide temporal blessings for me instead of my boarding from 40 to 50 persons as I now do. I will administer in spiritual blessings to them. I expect to live in the House of the Lord and receive and administer ordinances to my brethren and for the dead all the year round. (ibid., 127-133, 16 February, 1847).

Young taught that Adam would be at the head of the Church (Kingdom of God) a month earlier. Then he teaches that Joseph would be at the head, and that he would be a God to them in the eternities. This begs the question, how does Adam and Christ fit into this hierarchy of the gods?

Todd Compton wrote:

It is significant that the Alger parents felt it a spiritual honor to have their daughter [Fanny] married to Smith, just as the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball did. Fanny Alger’s marriage created a dynastic link not only between Smith and Hancock but between Smith and Fanny’s parents. Smith may also have felt that a woman would probably have been less likely to refuse a polygamous proposal if it came through a close relative rather than from the polygamous suitor himself. (Compton, op. cited)

But really, Fanny was a housemaid that Joseph had an affair with. It is only much later, that this was looked on as some kind of “dynastic” marriage. How else would her parents view the affair years later when it was being claimed as some kind of a marriage by those defending Joseph? Joseph was all about linking large numbers of people. This was done through marriage and adoption and baptism for the dead by the sealing power. It was all the same, as described above by Brigham Young. One reason adoption was discarded by the church was that there would already be a “welding link”  between families through baptism for the dead.

Joseph told Clayton that “you have a right to get all you can.” This about personal aggrandizement in the world to come. That is why you “craftily” seal “all you can,” and then claim what you seal, whether they be wives or not, and you tell “your father” what you have done and that he has no right to deny you.

Joseph first taught about the sealing power in relation to baptism for the dead. He claimed that there must be a “link” from Adam down to the last of his posterity of the earth would be “utterly wasted”. As with marriage, Joseph taught the Saints to baptize by proxy all the friends and family they could, to form this “link” and in doing so they would become “saviors on Mount Zion”.

Smith taught,

For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect. … the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. (See D&C 128)

In January of 1844 Smith gave another speech on Elijah in front of the Temple:

The Bible says “I will send you Elijah before the great & dredful day of the Lord Come that he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the Children…” Now the word turn here should be translated (bind or seal).

Smith further explains that, “The keys are to be delivered and the spirit of Elijah is to come, The gospel to be esstablished … & the Saints to come up as Saviors on mount Zion.” How are they to be “Saviors”? According to Smith it was “By building their temples erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, confirmations, washings anointings ordinations, & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection & be exhalted to thrones of glory with us, & herein is the Chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the Children & the Children to the Fathers which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”

“[T]he Saints,” declared Smith, “have none to[o] much time to save & redeem their dead, & gather together their living relatives that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten & the consumption decreed falls upon the world.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.341-42, January 21, 1844).

Marriage was simply another ordinance which sealed individuals together for eternity. There was already a “welding link” in place that sealed together families and dispensations. That was done through baptism for the dead and other ordinances. According to what Joseph already taught, he could “claim what I seal” in relation to baptism for the dead or adoption, etc., since those were transactions that were recorded on earth and therefore in heaven.

The problem with many of these “marriages” is that we simply do not have enough information to make such blanket assumptions as Hales does, especially that they were to be “non-sexual”. He doesn’t have any evidence to support this, though he says that he does. In his rebuttal to D. Michael Quinn, Hales writes:

Discerning between the “eternity only” and “time and eternity” sealings might be easier if the language used to seal the plural marriages was known. However, only one document has been found that records the wording used by an officiator to seal Joseph Smith to a plural wife, in that case, non-polyandrously.

Also, later recollections may not be helpful. When asked in 1892 if she could remember the words used to seal her to Joseph Smith, Malissa Lott replied: “I don’t know that I can go and tell it right over as it was… I don’t remember the words that were used.”

Similarly, Emily Partridge testified: “I can’t remember the exact words, that he said.”

Another indicator of the type of sealing a woman might have experienced is to discern the presence of sexual relations in the union, which would be consistent with a “time and eternity” sealing. Historical evidence demonstrates the presence of conjugality in twelve of Joseph Smith’s thirty-five sealings with ambiguous documents available regarding three more unions. For all remaining marriages there is no way to know for sure. Proponents of sexual polyandry might affirm that since sexuality was present in some, it is safe to assume it was present in most or all of the remaining plural marriages. However, acknowledging that nonsexual “eternity only” sealings could be performed provides another possible explanation. Accordingly, the reason sexuality is not documented in over half of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages could be because the historical record is incomplete or because they were “eternity only” sealings. In either case, speculation is required to fill in the missing pieces and neither view is based upon reliable documentation. (Hales, op. cited)

Why should anyone acknowledge something that there is absolutely no evidence of ever having existed except as an ad hoc apologist invention? Where is the evidence for Hales’ speculations? There just isn’t any.  On the other hand, there is ample evidence for sexuality in Joseph’s “marriages”.

Hales himself stated in a conversation with Dan Vogel, that, “While I have compiled evidence of sexual relations in twelve of his thirty-five sealings, for all remaining there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.”

The only revelation we have that Joseph gave about the ceremony to be used in relation to polygamous marriages (which Hales mentions above) says:

These are the words which you shall pronounce upon my servant Joseph and your daughter S. A. Whitney. They shall take each other by the hand and you shall say, You both mutually agree, calling them by name, to be each other’s companion so long as you both shall live, preserving yourselves for each other and from all others and also throughout eternity, reserving only those rights which have been given to my servant Joseph by revelation and commandment and by legal authority in times passed. If you both agree to covenant and do this, I then give you, S. A. Whitney, my daughter, to Joseph Smith, to be his wife, to observe all the rights between you both that belong to that condition. I do it in my own name and in the name of my wife, your mother, and in the name of my holy progenitors, by the right of birth which is of priesthood, vested in me by revelation and commandment and promise of the living God, obtained by the Holy Melchisedeck Gethrow [Jethro?] and others of the Holy Fathers, commanding in the name of the Lord all those powers to concentrate in you and through you to your posterity forever. All these things I do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that through this order he may be glorified and that through the power of anointing David may reign King over Israel, which shall hereafter be revealed. Let immortality and eternal life hereafter be sealed upon your heads forever and ever.

(Joseph Smith, “revelation”, July 27, 1842. The complete document with footnotes can be found in H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 315-16.

The ceremony that was in the D&C at the time says,

“You both mutually agree to be each other’s companions, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”

Another marriage ceremony dictated by Joseph Smith in 1835:

You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect to which they assented, I then pronounced them husband & Wife in the name of God and also pronounced the blessings that the Lord confeed upon adam & Eve in the garden of Eden; that is to multiply and replenish the earth, with the addition of long life and prosperity; dismissed them and returned home.

What is the preponderance of the evidence here? As Dan Vogel argued to Hales:

Normally one doesn’t have to discuss what happens in a marriage. It is the default position in this discussion. You are the one asserting a non-normal position, and therefore it is you who needs evidence.

All three of these ceremonies are the default position of what constitutes a marriage. All the “legal rights”, “the duties of husband and wife in every respect”, and “all the rights” that “belong to that condition”. To argue something else, one needs to produce credible evidence that there was some kind of ceremony that specifically includes a non-sex clause. There is none. Not even in the later affidavits from 1869 and beyond which we will discuss below.

So for Hales to claim anywhere (as he continues to do over and over again) that there were “non-sexual eternity only sealings”, is extremely disingenuous, is it not? Hales vacillates back and forth with this, depending on who he is talking to.

In many conversations where we have seen Hales claim this, he states it as if it were a fact, (as he does here in his hit piece on Jeremy,) he doesn’t preface it with any kind of qualifier like “there may have been eternity only sealings between Joseph and many of his wives.”  For example he does so here:

Manuscript documentation supports plural sealings to perhaps thirty-four women, with many of those being for “eternity” only—that is, for the next life.

But Hales claimed to Dan Vogel that “there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.” And here:

it is important to note that at least 13, and possibly as many as 20, were non-sexual “eternity only” sealings.

But Hales claimed to Dan Vogel that “there is no way to know for sure whether they were for “time and eternity” or “eternity only.” And yet he still makes the same contradictory claim to Dan Vogel himself here:


Joseph was sealed to 14 women with legal husbands. Studying polyandry is complicated because the 14 sealings were not of the same type or duration. Contrary to the assertions of several authors, “eternity only” sealings were performed in Nauvoo. That is, a woman like Ruth Vose Sayers, whose husband was a non-member, was allowed to be sealed to another man for eternity only, with no marriage on earth. Sayers was sealed to Joseph Smith for “eternity only” as documented in Andrew Jenson’s handwriting in his notes found in the Church History Library. (“Hales-Vogel”, op. cited, added emphasis).

Notice the Header of Brian Hales (all in caps). No Brian, “non-sexual, eternity only” sealings did not occur and there is no way that you can legitimately claim this because you yourself have said there is there is “no way to know for sure”.  To continue to say so without any evidence at all is simply irrational.

But Hales still presents this as fact based on one unidentified decades later statement compiled by Andrew Jenson; and another hearsay statement from D. Michael Quinn’s research.

This is the best “evidence” he has, (error filled recollections and unidentified hearsay) which he then inexplicitly applies to over a dozen other “marriages”! This is why we claim that Hales is totally irrational when it comes to Smith’s polygamy.

There is also no evidence to support that Ruth Sayers was sealed to Joseph Smith in the presence of his wife Emma. (We consider this highly unlikely for many reasons found in Note #78). Hales thinks it is a fact based on this note written by Andrew Jensen,

\Sister Ruth/ Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr. Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticulturist and florist, and though he was not a member of the Church, yet he willingly joined his fortune with her and they reached Nauvoo together some time in the year 1841;

While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to \the/ theory of a future life insisted that his wife \Ruth/ should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim [page2—the first 3 lines of which are written over illegible erasures] her in this life. She \was/ accordingly the sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus were became numbered among the Prophets plural wives. She however \though she/ \continued to live with Mr. Sayers / remained with her husband \until his death (Hales, “Ruth Vose”, online here, Accessed October 25, 2014, quoting Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives).

Hales has no idea where these notes came from and neither does anyone else. He simply writes in a footnote, at his website:

Andrew Jenson Papers [ca. 1871–1942], LDS Archives. It appears that the documents in these folders were used to compile Jenson’s 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage.

He has no idea if this is hearsay, speculation or someone’s decades later recollection. Yet he will base his entire polygamy narrative on this kind of evidence. That this statement includes her being sealed in the presence of Emma is so unlikely that anyone using this reference must do so with extreme caution. Hales then uses this as a precedent for all of his “non-sexual eternity only sealings”. We find this incredibly disingenuous. This is incredibly bad evidence to base anything on.  The entire document reads,

[Page 1:]

Sayers, (Ruth Daggett Vose,) daughter
of Mark and Sally Vose, was born
in Watertown, Middlesex Co., Mass.,


Feb. 26, 1808, ^ baptized at Boston,
Mo in May, 1832.  Du[r]-
[here the printed text is pasted in, changes in bold]
ing the building of the Kirtland Temple her
aunt Polly Vose and herself were engaged in up-
holstering in Boston, they both felt it was right
and necessary to give liberally towards the erec-
tion of that edifice, and did so to the full ex-
tent of their means, continuing their donations
until the Prophet Joseph sent word to them, “It
is enough.-” The Elders of the Church in trav-
eling in the Eastern States were the recipients
of their unbounded liberality.  Sister Ruth
Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr.
Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticul-
turist and florist, and though he was not a mem-
ber of the Church, yet he willingly joined his
fortune with hers and they reached Nauvoo to-
gether some time in the year 1841; [handwriting resumes:]
While there
the strongest affection sprang
up between the Prophet Joseph
and Mr. Sayers.  The latter not
attaching much importance to ^  theory of
a future life insisted that
his wife ^ should be sealed
to the Prophet for eternity, as
he himself should only claim

[Page 2:]

[The first 3 lines written over]



her in this life.  She accordingly

sealed to the Prophet in Emma


Smith’s presence and thus were

numbered among the Prophets

though she

plural wives.  She however

continued to live with Mr. Sayers

remained with her husband

until his death.

After the Prophet’s death

marty martyrdom of Joseph

and Hyrum Smith Mr. Sayers

and his wife returned to Boston

and remained in that city until

1849, when they came to G.S.L City

locating first on the corner

known as the American Hotel

Corner; the following year they

removed to the Twelfth Ward,

where they both reside3d during

the remainder of their lives.

Mr. Sayers died July 17, 1861,

[Page 3:]


in his sixtieth year. Sister Sayers [Printed text pasted over handwriting crossed out, changes in bold:]

Sister Sayers has remained a widow since the

everafter death of her husband in 1861, and has lived a

very quiet and retired life, yet known to many

as a women worthy to be classed among the no-

^the       ble daughters of earth, simple in her tastes and

habits, honest, liberal, kind and just, faithful

and true, she passed calmly to her rest on the

morning of th [illegible type] August ^ 1884, in the    ^ 18

[Handwriting resumes:]

She was well known among

the early settlers of G. S. L. City [Pasted text continues, handwriting in bold:]

Sister Sayers was well known among the early

setters in this city.  Tall and erect in figure, a

countenance always beaming with human kind-

ness, charitable to the poor and ever ready to

comfort the disconsolate, she endeared herself

to her associates.  She was a woman of brilliant

conversational powers and possessed a ready

fund of valuable information, especially upon

topics of interest to the Saints.  She was never

tired of relating incidents of her Boston life nor

of dwelling upon Gospel themes and the days of    the Prophet

Joseph and Hyrum

his brother Hyrum.  She it

was that (Andrew Jenson Collection, 1850-1941, MS 17956, Box 49, Folder 16, Document 5, CHL).

Hales then tries to corroborate these notes by Jenson with another document that he claims he can’t verify at all. Such is the irrational thinking of Brian Hales. This other document, writes Hales at his website:

…confirms that concerning Joseph’s plural sealing to Ruth Sayers:  “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.

Notice the language. This document doesn’t “confirm” anything. Here is the footnote to that document, (per Hales):

Recorded by D. Michael Quinn Papers, Yale University, Addition—Uncat WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) bx 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation.

In his book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Volume 1b, he discusses Ruth Vose Sayers and uses the same quote:

Another somewhat garbled document apparently dating to 1843 appears to be in the hand of excommunicated Mormon Oliver Olney, whose wife, Phebe Wheeler, worked as a domestic in Hyrum Smith’s home: “What motive has [S]ayers in it—it is the desire of his heart. . . . Joseph did not pick that woman [Ruth Vose Sayers]. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.”43 Evidently, Olney was gathering information through his wife and learned of the episode involving the Sayers and Joseph Smith. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 3560-3564).

Hales used even less of this quote in his FAIRMORMON Presentation. His footnote from his book (43),  reads:

  1. [Oliver Olney], typescript excerpt in Quinn Papers, WA MS 244 (Accession:19990209-c) Box 1. I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation. (ibid., Kindle Locations 4122-4124).

But the full quote adds something that Mike Quinn thought important enough to (initially) assign this quote to someone else, Lucinda Sagers, not Ruth Sayers. The full quote that Don Bradley (who did the research for Hales) gave to Hales reads:

Oct-Nov 1843 document (Yale University) says: “Mrs. Sagers if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives… Joseph did not pick that woman she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”—the document also lists the following plural wives of JS: Louisa Beman, Agnes Smith, Elisa R Snow, Emily Partridge, Elisa Partridge, Mrs Sylvia Lyons, Mrs D. Sessions, Mrs Granger.” (Hales, Document JS0596, 28,, emphasis ours).

Notice all the ellipses! This is extremely important when analyzing this document.

But first, are there any reported children by Ruth and Edward Sayers in 1843? Not that we are aware of. There aren’t any children by her listed that we can find. Is this why Hales doesn’t quote that part of the document?

Concerning the Sagers, in the High Council Minutes from November 25, 1843 we read:

Joseph Smith [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] Nauvoo City[,] November 21st 1843. Brother Marks[.] Dear Sir, I hereby prefer the following charges against Elder Harrison Sagars, namely: 1st. For trying to seduce a young girl, living at his house[,] by the name of Phebe Madison. 2nd. For using my name in a blasphemous manner, by saying that I tolerated such things in which thing he is guilty of lying &c &c. Joseph Smith. The defendant plead not guilty. One [high councilman each] were appointed to speak on [either] side, viz. (7) [Thomas] Grover and (8) [Aaron] Johnson[.] The charge was not sustained, but it appeared that he had taught false doctrine which was corrected by President Joseph Smith, and the defendant was continued in the church. [The] Council adj[ourne]d [un]till Saturday the 9th day of Dec[ember] next at 2 o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Kindle Locations 12620-12629). Signature Books, Kindle Edition).

John Dinger explains:

Phoebe Madison was Sagers’s sister-in-law, who lived with Sagers and his wife, Lucinda. Rumors circulated that Joseph Smith sanctioned a sexual relationship between Sagers and his wife’s sister, and in fact, Sagers would be allowed to marry the sister in a polygamous ceremony a month later. He would also take another three wives in Nauvoo and five more in Utah (George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… But We Called It Celestial Marriage [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008], 346-47, 617-18). (Dinger, John S. (2013-11-26). The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13033-13037).

It is very easy to see Olney’s account being about the Sagers, and the woman that Joseph didn’t pick being Lucinda Sagers or her sister Phoebe Madison. The trial was public and there is an account given of it in the Warsaw Signal:

Mr. Editor—

In all probability, you have heard of the existence of a body in Nauvoo City, called the “High Council” whose business it is; to investigate all the affairs that concern the church, to try all offenders against the laws of said church, and punish accordingly…. I had often heard of this court, and my curiosity was aroused to see it, and I had the fortune to have it perfectly satisfied in the following manner. Being in that city [Nauvoo], last December, I heard considerable talk of the doctrine of Spiritual Wives, which doctrine, I find has been, and is now being taught to a great extent in that place, the proofs of which are daily, presenting themselves, but in what shape, I shall leave you to determine.

Being compelled to remain in that city on account of the closing of the river, I was happy to learn that there was to be a trial of one of their Priests [Harrison Sagers], not for teaching said doctrine, but for teaching it too publicly. Accordingly on the day of the trial, I repaired to the council chamber, and by good luck, obtained a seat, the room being crowded to excess. It was with much difficulty that I could learn the names of all concerned, but shall endeavor to give them as correct as possible: but previous to my going farther, I will say, that before this occurrence transpired, I cared little or nothing about their creed, consequently was not carried away, as others are against them on account of their faith; and therefore I watched their proceedings strictly, but without prejudice. But it was impossible to be there long, without seeing that it was fixed and settled between Smith and the accused, (the trial merely being got up for effect,) that it should all be blown over. The parties concerned, as near as I could find out, were, Joseph Smith, complainant, Harrison Sagers, defendant, and the two principal witnesses were, Lucy Sagers, wife of the said Sagers, and her sister, Miss Mason, to whom he had been teaching this doctrine for the last two years; which fact was clearly proven, and would have been satisfactory to any court but such an accursed Inquisition as this. The evidence here produced, is of too black and despicable a nature to be described; and had the accused have been dealt with according to his crime, he would have been divested of his office, as priest, and cut off from the church. As is common, however, in all cases of importance, that come before this tribunal, instead of meeting his just deserts, after a short address from the Prophet, which was more to screen himself and brother, than to chastise, the said Sagers was discharged by the Prophet, notwithstanding the suit was brought before the said High Council; and that body did not act officially on that subject, no vote being taken. I must say that a more ungallant speech than that of the Prophet, was never spoken in the presence of females—in fact, so lewd and lascivious, that it was with difficulty that I could sit still and hear it…. A TRAVELER. (Warsaw Signal, March 20, 1844, 2, emphasis ours)

Lucinda obviously did not approve of her husband’s spiritual wife, so she brought the matter before the High Council again on March 30, 1844:

Lucinda Sagars [preferred a charge] against [William Henry] Harrison Sagars. Charge[:] To the Presidency and the Twelve. Inasmuch as you have declared officially that you will deal with all persons who teach or have taught the abominable doctrine of Spiritual wive[s], this is to notify you that Harrison Sagars is guilty of that said sin, which thing can be proven by credible witnesses, and if he is not chastized for it by the church the laws of the land will be enforced against him. H[arrison] Sagars left his family in December last[,] since which time he has not provided for them in any way whatever. The cause of the innocent demand action immediately and you are the ones to take the matter in hand. Lucinda Sagars. Brother Harrison Sagars, Dear sir[:] As this complaint has been handed over to the High Council by the First Presidency to act upon, you are requested to appear before [the] Council on Saturday the 13th inst[ant] at my house at 2 o’clock P.M. to answer the within ^above^ charges.

Nauvoo City[,] April 10th 1844. William Marks President of said Council. [The] Defendant plead not guilty. Two were appointed to speak on [each] side to wit[:] (5) D[avid] Fulmer & (7) J[ames] G. Divine on the part of the plaintiff and (6) G[eorge] W. Harris and (8) A[aron] Johnson on the part of the defendant. [It was] decided that ^as^ the first part of the charge had been brought before the Council before (on the 25th of Nov[ember] 1843) and he [being] tried on it; that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item. And that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church. Adjourned till the 27th inst[ant] at one o’clock P.M. Hosea Stout[,] Clerk. (Dinger, John S.,The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13157-13174, emphasis ours).

Notice that Lucinda mentions “his family”, so they had children. John Dinger writes,

Notice that the action against Sagers is driven by his wife, while the high council remains surprisingly lackadaisical in its response to alleged adultery. It appears that they knew Sagers had been given permission to take his sister-in-law as a second wife. If so, considering that the revelation required a man receive his first wife’s permission, the high council was complicit in the transgression (D&C 132:61; but cf. vv. 64-65).

A document in the LDS Church History Library and Archives titled “Trial of Harrison Sagar[s] defendant and his wife Lucinda Sagars” states that Ja[me]s Hadlock — says that he heard the defendant teach the doctrine of spiritual wives, and that he said he believed it to be the order of God[.] It was before he had his trial before this council, that [the] def[endan]t said his whole salvation wd? rested on having 2 certain Girls to wit[,] [seventeen-year-old] Amanda Higbee and [twenty-five-year-old] Phebe Madison[,] and that was the way [he and his first wife] came to part[.] … They seperated last fall … P. Wells testifies [he heard James] Hadlock [speak about the] … spiritual wife doctrine … last fall [but] … thought it was all a joke. Mrs Hadlock says def[endan]t taught[the] spiritual wife doctrine … He frequently comes to see his child [and says] … that he must get an old woman to get young women for him … [The] def[endan]t and wife parted by agreement on the 8th of Dec[ember] … His wife said [the] def[endan]t and his mother all was whores … [It was] decided that as the first part of the charge had been brought up before the Council before (on the 25 Nov[ember] 1843) and he [was] tried on it[,] that the Council had no right to deal with him on that item, and that the second part was not sustained and therefore that he should remain in the Church (Nauvoo Stake High Council Court Papers, Selected Collections, 1:19). (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 13912-13929, emphasis ours).

Notice that Sager’s wife calls them whores, (accusing them of committing whoredom), of which Joseph Smith was also accused in Kirtland.

Again, notice that “He [Sagers] frequently comes to see his child”. In the light of this, the quote makes more sense:

Mrs. [Sagers] if she don’t look out and keep still she will be put aside…she shall keep her child as long as it lives…  Joseph did not pick that woman she went to see whether she should marry her husband for Eternity.”

It is obvious that Lucinda would be “put aside” if she did not “look out”. She had a child, (Ruth Vose Sayers did not) and Lucinda got to keep her child since Harrison Sagers was visiting it after they separated. How could this apply to Ruth Vose? Hales is claiming that Ruth went to Joseph because her husband told her since he didn’t care about a “future life” that he insisted she should be sealed to Joseph. So then why does the transcription say that “she went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity?” Shouldn’t this say she went to see whether she could marry Joseph for eternity? And the Jenson note says that it was Mr. Sayers that went to Joseph, not his wife. And what did Ruth Vose do that she had to “look out and keep still” or she would “be put aside”? This just doesn’t fit the story that Jenson was given. (For more on the Sagers, see Note #212).

Could it be that Lucinda went to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to Harrison Sagers, and he said no because she would not accept the second wife? We agree with Mike Quinn’s initial conclusion that this best fits Lucinda Sagers, not Ruth Vose Sayers. But where is Hales disclosure of these problems? Nowhere to be found on his website or in his books. And why didn’t he reveal the entire quote? Because it raises too many questions? Hales has even convinced Mike Quinn that this is about Ruth Vose Sayers.

Mike Quinn wrote in 2012:

Despite my decades-long expectation for those specific words to be in the written records of sealing, Brian Hales has recently persuaded me that Joseph Smith was sealed during his lifetime to one already-married woman in a ceremony that she, her non-Mormon husband, and the Prophet all regarded as applying only to the eternities after mortal life. This was Ruth Vose Sayers, for whom there was no contemporary record of the ceremony’s wording. However, as Hales affirmed today and in his previous articles, in addition to a recently discovered narrative about this matter by Andrew Jenson, a document written by one of Joseph’s house-girls in late 1843 or early 1844 stated: “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.” …

Regrettably, in his publications about this matter, Hales has misrepresented the fact that my transcription gave the woman’s name as “Sagers” (with a “g,” NOT Sayers). In his 2012 publication, he even pretended that my typescript spelled the surname as “Sayers” (with a “y”). Acknowledging (with brackets) that he made only one change to my transcript, Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220, stated: “Another document apparently dating to 1843 … [stated:] `What motive has [S]ayers in it–it is the desire of his heart,” and Hales claimed on the same page that this 1843 document “names Sayers explicitly.” Also see my Note 4 (last para.)

To the contrary, the surname that Hales allegedly quoted and allegedly paraphrased in 2012 was NOT Sayers (with a “y”) in my transcript, as explained midway into my citation to this document in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1994), 348n39, as follows:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society, 21 [July] 1843, uncataloged manuscripts, Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Nauvoo’s 1842 census showed `Phoebe’ Wheeler as the first of the six girls residing as house servants with the Joseph Smith family.

Despite her marriage to Oliver Olney on 19 October 1843, performed by Patriarch Hyrum Smith, Phebe apparently continued as a servant in the Smith home until 1844. Its unrelated [i.e., unrelated to Origins of Power’s emphasis on the document’s mentioning Robert D. Foster] reference to `Mrs Sagers’ indicates that this entry dates from November 1843 to April 1844, when the marital complaints of Mrs. [William Henry] Harrison Sagers involved the high council. The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison. …” Likewise, Gary James Bergera, “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 (Fall 2005): 3n4 (“Sagers was linked sexually to his sister-in-law, Phebe Madison, in late 1843, but she married civilly shortly before he was tried for adultery and forgiven”). Therefore, since discovering the Olney document in the early 1970s, I regarded the “eternity” reference in the original manuscript as a restatement of William Henry Harrison Sager’s excuse for adultery, and I didn’t realize it applied to a different already-married woman seeking to be sealed to Joseph Smith.

The index of Origins of Power (page 675) also had this entry: “Olney, Phebe Wheeler, 113, 348n39.” Hales cited this book in his 2010 “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,’” 114n39. She had Culbertson’s application in her possession because (from 1842 to 1844) Phebe Wheeler was the assistant secretary of Nauvoo’s Relief Society. See Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 433. However, historians have disagreed about this assistant secretary’s middle initial and marital status: “Miss Phebe M. Wheeler” in Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing, 1941), 696, contrasted with “Phebe J. Wheeler, a widow” in Derr, Cannon, and Beecher, Women of Covenant, 30. If the latter is accurate, then Phebe Wheeler Olney was probably a daughter of the Relief Society’s assistant secretary. However, the LDS Family History Library’s electronic website of has no entries in its Ancestral File or Records Search for “Phebe J. Wheeler” at Nauvoo, while it shows that “Phebe M. Wheeler” married Oliver Olney there in October 1843. With the exception of some minor differences in phrasing (plus giving the document’s recently assigned Yale catalog number as MSS S-1644/F349), this same description appeared in the citation to the Olney manuscript in D. Michael Quinn, “National Culture, Personality, and Theocracy in the Early Mormon Culture of Violence,” John Whitmer Historical Association 2002 Nauvoo Conference Special Edition ([Independence, MO]: John Whitmer Historical Association, 2002), 183n131.

Due to the citations by Hales from Andrew Jenson’s research-notes that Ruth Vose Sayers requested to be sealed “for eternity” to Joseph Smith and that her husband Edward Sayers agreed, I now realize that my original transcription of the surname was probably in error. The 1843-44 manuscript’s handwriting could as easily be read “Sayers” (with a “y”), instead of being read as “Sagers” (with a “g”–the way I transcribed it the 1970s).

However, neither Hales nor his research-assistant Don Bradley (see my Note 44, 2nd para.) consulted the original manuscript at the Beinecke Library. Hales indicated this in his “Puzzlement,” 129n93 (“I have been unable to identify the primary document to verify this quotation”), with identical statement in Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” 220n195.

Therefore, Brian Hales had an academic obligation to tell his readers in 2010 and 2012 that my typescript of the surname did NOT match the way he was allegedly quoting my typescript, but Hales did not make such an admission. Even though Hales should have consulted the original manuscript in the Beinecke Library, his analysis that the document refers to Ruth Vose Sayers (which I now accept) also provides more precise dating for its entries about the polygamous marriages of Joseph Smith and of his brother Hyrum. By my analysis (see the narrative for my Note 274 and within that note itself), those entries were written no earlier than February 1844. That was when Hyrum Smith performed the sealing ceremony for Ruth and his brother Joseph), but also written before the martyrdom of the two brothers on 27 June 1844 (because the document’s entries about polygamy referred to them in the present tense–i.e., while the Smith brothers were still living). (D. Michael Quinn, Evidence For The Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Expanded-Finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013,  5, 64-66).

We are not sure why Mike Quinn was persuaded by Hales’ argument. Also, Don Bradley has informed us that he indeed did consult Quinn’s document at the Beinecke Library. The document cited:

“Phebe Wheeler Olney statement, written between November 1843 and April 1844 on the back of Susan McKee Culbertson’s application for membership in the Nauvoo Relief Society”

Is much more likely to be about Lucinda Sagers. We did consult the original document, and our handwriting analysis below shows it was indeed the name Sagers, not Sayers. Hales just made the change to support his own speculations, not because he studied the original document!

The first trial of Harrison Sagers took place on November 25, 1843, and the second on March 30, 1844 and April 10th. This fits the timeframe perfectly. Yet Quinn’s argument to overturn the evidence that this was indeed about Lucinda Sagers is that “The more likely time period for discussion of the Harrison [Sagers] case in the Smith household was November 1843, the only time Smith’s manuscript diary referred to the complaint against Harrison.” Yet “The Traveler’s” letter was published in the Warsaw Signal on March 20, 1844! Was this enough to cause discussion in the Smith household?

Quinn’s other objection was that Gary Bergera claims that Phoebe Madison had been married in 1843 before the first Sagers trial and so he could not have married her. Yet, Brian Hales affirms George D. Smith (cited above) and states in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy:

Sagers later was sealed to Phoebe Madison with Joseph Smith’s sanction, but the date of this sealing is not documented but was undoubtedly late 1843 or early 1844. George D. Smith affirmed that, on this occasion, the Nauvoo High Council (and by extension, Joseph Smith) showed “indifference toward [Phoebe Madison’s] moral welfare” and apparently Harrison Sagers’s as well. (Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 2a: History, Greg Kofford Books, Kindle Edition,  Locations 5731-5734).

Hales continues to claim that he cannot locate the original document, (As of November, 2016) but we have easily done so, through our friend Joe Geisner. The text in question reads (thanks to Joe Geisner for help with this):

Wait till next week and thou shalt hav an oppo

rtunity – thou shalt go with true[?] persons –

there Stay 3 weeks Olive[r][?] will[?] come in 4 weeks

When he cometh he <if he> goeth to the place he will bring the plates

When he cometh again he will have the plates if he goeth

to the place..; Mrs sagers if she dont look out for and keep still

she will be put aside – __ do not like it but it

is the desire[?] of their hearts & they will do it saith the Lord

what motive has sagers in it – it is the desire? of his heart

he has shed the blood of many man he thinketh it is no

harm  – she shall keep the child as long as it lives

– how long shall the child live – I will tell the[e] in 3 days

Miss V? thou shalt write half a sheet <to>day

that I will tell thee I[n] 3 weeks Mo[??]  shalt have the gift

of tongues – ;; It is to be kept private

There has been man murdered lately by the name of [Monshing?]

by Dr Foster with a Sword on the prair[i]e 6 miles & buried

him in a ditch the cup is double filld with iniquity:–

Joseph did not pick? that woman she went to see Whether she

Should marry her husband for Eternity  The tribe Asthemma?

is comming on the earth – 10000 years ago;  six particular

hyms thou shall sing to day Why Lord – thou shalt fast

to d<a>y and sing–; because thou didst not fast but one day


[sideways:] The heroes shall gather in here—


Still, what about the mention of a child? We don’t see either of them addressing that elephant in the room. It is almost like that part of the quote just doesn’t exist for them. And what about the other part of the quote, ““What motive has [S]agers in it—it is the desire of his heart…?” Where does this come from? Is it a part of the original quote that someone didn’t transcribe? If so, why not? Why are quotes like this so full of ellipsis? Why, if Hales has these original documents, does he not quote them fully, (what Mike Quinn transcribed) in context so the readers can judge for themselves what is relevant?

Susan Cuthbertson Relief Society Document

So what does Hales have here? Andrew Jenson’s decades later notes that we have no provenance for; a “garbled” account of various happenings in Nauvoo that could span months; and an affidavit from 1869 with serious problems that doesn’t mention Emma and has Hyrum Smith marrying Ruth Vose before he accepts polygamy. This is Hales evidence of a non sexual eternity only sealing? This is evidence that there were 13 more such sealings?

In Sayers’ affidavit from 1869 (highly suspect affidavits in many ways) she gets the date wrong, claiming that it was Hyrum Smith who performed the sealing in February of 1843, but Hyrum Smith did not accept Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine until May of that year so it could not have been Hyrum Smith at that time.

We believe that the best date for Sayers becoming one of Smith’s spiritual wives is in 1842 when he was in hiding and often stayed at her house.  Of course, during this time Emma would not have sanctioned such a “wedding” and it certainly would not have been performed by Hyrum Smith.

There is testimony however, by Joseph F. Smith and Angus M. Cannon that “eternity only sealings” between two living individuals were extremely rare and so did not occur in Joseph’s lifetime. We discuss this later in the Essay. As Dan Vogel explains in the same Facebook exchange with Brian Hales that took place in the fall of 2013:

There’s more to historiography than simply collecting documents. You should know the difference between a strong and weak argument and what is more or less likely. What does it mean “in accordance with his teachings” when JS frequently changed his teachings? It’s like saying the BOM doesn’t teach a modalistic concept of the Godhead, or the Lectures on Faith don’t teach a binitarian view because that would contradict what he clearly taught in Nauvoo. Or, the BOM can’t be anti-Masonic because he became a Mason in Nauvoo. These are all examples of the Idealist Fallacy, because humans do contradict themselves and violate their own teachings. However, JS may have had a way of rationalizing his polyandrous marriages. He did say that whatever God commands is right no matter what it is—even if it seems abominable to us.

Next, your expectation that some of the dozen women would have complained about JS’s proposals is an attempt at an argument from silence. I say attempt because some women did complain. I can think of two: Sarah Pratt and Jane Law.

You might issue your challenge to prove JS had sex with his polyandrous wives, but do you conclude JS only had sex with his polygamous wives for whom there is evidence? No. Why? Because you assume marriage includes sexual access. You only engage in this sort of special pleading with polyandrous wives because you personally find the notion abhorrent.

Nonetheless, you didn’t respond to my counter challenge to produce evidence that JS treated his polyandrous wives different than the other polygamous wives. You are the one with a theory that needs evidence. You are attempting to take advantage of a silence in the historical record where one is expected. Here is a test of your theory: Look at the historical record of other early 19th century childless marriages and see how often you can demonstrate they had sex. (Hales-Vogel, op. cited).

In his last response to Dan Vogel, Brian Hales writes,

I probably only have one more comment, unless you wish to revisit something.

You wrote:  “I will read your chapters on Jane and Sarah, but you gave it a shot here and it wasn’t very impressive. Keep in mind, I referred to them as examples of women who rejected JS’s polyandrous marriage proposals, which you claimed didn’t exist. This was in response to your weak argument from silence, which you haven’t overcome.”

At the risk of an “ad hominem”, I mention accounts from several other witnesses that describe a sexual relationship between Sarah Pratt and John C. Bennett in 1840 and early 1841.

Nauvoans Stephen and Zeruiah Goddard signed the affidavit quoted above stating that on October 6, 1840:  “from the first night, until the last, with the exception of one night it being nearly a month, the Dr. was there as sure as the night came, and generally two or three times a day–for the first two or three nights he left about 9 o’clock–after that he remained later, sometimes till after midnight.”    They also claimed that she later moved into a separate house and they were seen there “together, as it were, man and wife.”   Zeruiah Goddard also swore out her own affidavit:  “On one occasion I came suddenly into the room where Mrs. Pratt and the Dr. were; she was lying on the bed and the Dr. was taking his hands out of her bosom; he was in the habit of sitting on the bed where Mrs. Pratt was lying, and lying down over her.”

In August of 1842, Hancock County Sherriff J. B. Backenstos, signed the following affidavit: “some time during last winter, he accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife.”

Ebenezer Robinson reported in 1890:  “In the spring of 1841 Dr. Bennett had a small neat house built for Elder Orson Pratt’s family [Sarah and one male child] and commenced boarding with them.  Elder Pratt was absent on a mission to England.”

John D. Lee recalled:  “He [John C. Bennett] became intimate with Orson Pratt’s wife, while Pratt was on a mission.  That he built her a fine frame house, and lodged with her, and used her as his wife….”

Mary Ettie V. Coray Smith, a sometimes confused informant, related:  “Orson Pratt, then, as now [1858], one of the “Twelve,’ was sent by Joseph Smith on a mission to England.  During his absence, his first (i.e. his lawful) wife, Sarah, occupied a house owned by John C. Bennett, a man of some note, and at that time, quartermaster-general of the Nauvoo Legion.  Sarah was an educated woman, of fine accomplishments, and attracted the attention of the Prophet Joseph, who called upon her one day, and alleged he found John C. Bennett in bed with her.  As we lived but across the street from her house we heard the whole uproar.  After reviewing available evidence, historian D. Michael Quinn concluded it to be a sexual union by referring to her as “Sarah M. Bates (Pratt, Bennett, Pratt).”

Richard Van Wagoner discounts some of this testimony, but his efforts fail to address even half of the testimonies and are problematic from a scholarly perspective.

Is this important?  Perhaps not, but Sarah and Bennett had their own agenda.  The curious thing is to read the different references to a conversation(s) between Joseph and Sarah.  In a meeting of the Twelve Apostles dated January 20, 1843, Joseph Smith told Orson that Sarah “lied about me.” The Prophet continued: “I never made the offer which she said I did.”  According to this statement, Joseph admitted making “an offer.”  What was it?  We don’t know.  Was it sexual tryst? sexual polyandry?  an “eternity only” sealing?  The various accounts from Sarah and her anti-Mormon scribes describe it as a “proposal” and a “dastardly attempt on her virtue.”   Joseph said Sarah “lied.”  The “Workings on Mormonism” that you quoted from earlier contain an interesting citation allegedly from Joseph:  “there was no sin in it as long as she kept it to herself.”  Joseph never said this, but it was John C. Bennett’s bread-and-butter seductive line.

I’ve never been impressed by accusations based upon pure assumption.  If Joseph were as immoral as you depict, it seems you might have more credible witnesses providing less ambiguous allegations.

This has been an excellent exchange.  I hope you don’t mind me sharing it.  You comments have been hard-hitting and probably about as effective as any could be.  Of course I’m nonplussed and your [sic] haven’t been converted yet . (ibid.).

First, We find it odd that Hales claims in the exchange more than once with Dan Vogel that he is “nonplussed”. It means: “to render utterly perplexed; puzzle completely, a state of utter perplexity.” In other words, speechless.  Here is how the  Oxford Dictionary defines it:

In standard use, nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’: the hostility of the new neighbor’s refusal left Mrs. Walker nonplussed.

But there is another definition that is not considered part of Standard English that Hales must think is the actual definition. In the “usage” section below they add:

In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning ‘unperturbed’—more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed. This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. It is not considered part of standard English.

We agree that Hales must have been utterly perplexed at Dan Vogel’s observations about Joseph Smith’s polygamy. He responded to very little of Dan’s conclusions about Smith’s logic in practicing polyandry but instead threw out ad hominems and argumentum ad ignorantiam. Why would anyone care if what Vogel wrote “perturbed” Hales or not? What does Hales’ reaction to Vogel’s comments have to do with Joseph Smith’s logic in practicing what is called polyandry?

Hales continues his idealist fallacy by defending Smith’s adultery and lying (according to church law and the laws of the land he did) and we are to believe Smith over Sarah Pratt, who Hales claims did the same thing (lie and commit adultery). Since Dan did not bother to respond to Hales last comment, we would like to offer a response here.

Hales quotes Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, to support the allegations against Sarah Pratt, but what is very interesting is that Hales edits the quote.  After Mary Smith claims that “we saw and hear the whole uproar,” she adds, “Sarah ordered the Prophet out of the house, and the Prophet used obscene language to her.” (Mary Ettie V. Smith, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith, by Nelson Winch Green, New York, H. Dayton, 1859, 31, Online here, Accessed September 20, 2014).

She also claimed that, “He [Orson Pratt] and his wife, were re-baptized for the remission of their mutual sin, and the Prophet was appeased.”(ibid., 32).

It appears that Mary Smith was simply repeating rumors she had heard in Nauvoo along with some observations that she could see from her house across the street. At best, she heard a fracas from the house across the street and heard Smith and Pratt arguing and then heard Smith use obscene language towards Sarah Pratt.

She says that “Sarah ordered Smith out of the house.” How did “they” even know that Bennett was in the house? She doesn’t say. One has to give credence to the John C. Bennett version of this story if that is the case, for he claimed to be a witness to it. As Van Wagoner writes,

Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph confided to his friend that he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for “one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness” (emphasis in original).

Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett’s sewing to Sarah’s house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.” “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter,” Sarah replied. “Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will.” She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.” But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, “Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it.” “Sister Pratt,” the Prophet responded, “I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?” “If you will never insult me again,” Sarah replied, “I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it.” “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that” (Bennett 1842a, 228-31; emphasis in original) .

According to Bennett, Sarah kept her promise. Even Orson did not know of the incident. Later Sarah recalled that “shortly after Joseph made his propositions to me . . . they enraged me so that I refused to accept any help from the tithing house or the bishop.” She also added that “Bennett, who was of a sarcastic turn of mind, used to come and tell me about Joseph to tease and irritate me” (Wyl 1886, 61) .

Nearly a year after Orson’s return to Nauvoo, in mid-July 1841, another incident, according to Bennett, forced Sarah to tell Orson of the Prophet’s behavior. If one believes Bennett’s account, Joseph kissed Sarah in his counselor’s presence. Sarah caused a commotion that apparently roused at least one neighbor, Mary Ettie V. Smith, who lived across the street from the Pratts. She recalled eighteen years later that during the fracas “Sarah ordered the Prophet out of the house, and the Prophet used obscene language to her” declaring that he had found John C. Bennett “in bed with her” (Green 1859, 31).

Bennett recounts (1842a, 231) that when Sarah told her husband of the Prophet’s behavior, Orson approached Joseph and told him “never to offer an insult of the like again.” Though full details of the confrontation between the two men have not been uncovered, it seems certain from subsequent events that Joseph not only denied Sarah’s allegations, but accused her of being Bennett’s paramour. Orson believed Sarah, however, a position that caused serious difficulties between him and Joseph Smith. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 72-73, Summer 1986).

Why does Mary Smith also use the word “alleged” when Smith supposedly saw Bennett in bed with her? Because she only heard Joseph Smith “use obscene language to her,” which was Joseph claiming that Sarah Pratt had been “in bed” with Bennett. All Mary Smith saw was some kind of an “uproar”.  Yet Hales will latch on to this and use it as evidence, even though he says she was sometimes “confused”. How does he know she was not confused here? The problem is that Mary Smith doesn’t paint a pretty picture of polygamy in Nauvoo nor of Joseph Smith. Hales knows this but wants to have it both ways. Notice again, that Hales (who claims that he doesn’t like to use labels) claims that any accounts that support Sarah Pratt’s version of events are written by “anti-Mormon scribes”.

If Pratt were really the liar with the “agenda” that Hales makes her out to be, then why did Brigham Young allow Orson and Sarah to receive the “fullness of the Priesthood” after she supposedly committed adultery with Bennett? As Richard Van Wagoner writes:

Orson and Sarah were endowed in the Nauvoo temple on 12 December 1845 (the day after Orson’s return) and were again sealed on 8 January 1846–a customary step for sealings that had earlier been performed outside the temple. But on 11 January, during an unusual event in the temple, both Orson and Sarah were evicted by vote because of a conflict with Parley P. Pratt. Parley had been secretly sealed to Belinda Marden by Brigham Young on 20 November 1844, and, on 1 January 1846, she gave birth to a son, Nephi. Though Belinda was living in the Pratt home, Parley’s legal wife Mary Ann did not know of the sealing. Evidently Sarah Pratt told Mary Ann that the baby’s father was Parley, because during the 11 January temple session Parley confronted Sarah, accusing her of “influencing his wife against him, and of ruining and breaking up his family,” as well as “being an apostate, and of speaking against the heads of the Church and against him” (Watson 1975, 495). Orson strongly defended his wife as he had done in 1842, and they were both expelled from the temple.

The next day Orson felt conciliatory though justified in his actions. Apparently unaware of his brother’s sealing to Belinda Marden, Orson criticized Parley when he wrote Brigham Young on 12 January 1846:

Orson & Sarah Pratt, with children

With all the light and knowledge that he has received concerning the law of the priesthood and with all the counsels that he had received from our quorum, if he feels at liberty to go into the city of New York or elsewhere and seduce girls or females and sleep and have connexion with them contrary to the law of God, and the sacred counsels of his brethren, it is something that does not concern me as an individual. And if my quorum and the church can fellowship him, I shall find no fault with him, but leave it between him, the church, and God.

Orson continued by defending Sarah:

When it comes to that, that my wife cannot come into this holy & consecrated temple to enjoy the meetings and society of the saints, without being attacked by [Parley’s] false accusations and hellish lies, and then too in the presence of a large assembly, I feel as though it was too much to be borne. Where is there a person, that was present last evening, that heard my wife say the least thing against him or his family…. And yet she was accused by him, before that respectable company, in the most impudent and mailcious [sic] manner of whispering against him all over the temple. Under these circumstances, brethren, I verily supposed that I had a perfect right to say a few words in defense of my much injured family. I therefore accused him of false accusations and lying. It was my belief at that time, that there was no place nor circumstances, in heaven, on earth, or in hell, too sacred to defend the cause of my innocent family when they were publicly attacked in so unjust and insulting manner.

His letter provides insight into how Church leaders expected him to respond in such situations:

After I learned that it was my duty to stand and hear my family abused in the highest degree without the least provocation, and yet not open my mouth in her defense, I immediately confessed my fault to the counsel, but my confession was rejected. Now brethren, I stand ready and willing to make any further confessions to the counsel, necessary to my restoration from banishment to the enjoyment of your meetings, which you in your wisdom may dictate. And as I frankly & freely confessed the thing pointed out by Prest. as being wrong, namely “The opening of my mouth” (Brigham Young Collection; emphasis in original).

The letter was apparently considered sufficient evidence of remorse, and later that afternoon Orson and Sarah were initiated into the “Fulness of the Priesthood,” a sealing ordinance received through the second anointing and also referred to as “calling and election made sure,” “second endowment,” and “higher blessings” (Buerger 1983) . (Richard S. VanWagoner, Sarah M. Pratt, The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 85-86, PDF Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

It is rather hard to believe that if Sarah Pratt had been having an adulterous affair with John C. Bennett for years, as claimed by the Goddards and others, that Brigham Young would have allowed her to participate in the Second Anointing ritual. They obviously didn’t believe that she was an “apostate” either—as his brother Parley tried to paint her—because Orson and Sarah received their “second endowment” the very next day after Parley did so. What is much more likely is that they believed that Sarah had repented of her accusations against Joseph, and they accepted it.

John C. Bennett

As Van Wagoner mentions in his article, if Pratt and Bennett were having an affair since October of 1840, then,

What about the January 1841 revelation that declared of John C. Bennett, “I have seen the work he hath done, which I accept if he continue and will crown him with blessings and great glory” (D&C 124: 17).

So God accepted John C. Bennett’s adulterous shenanigans up to that time? Not according to what Brian Hales has written. And God wanted him to continue committing adultery so he could crown him with blessings and great glory? This is how FAIRMORMON tries to spin this “revelation”:

Was Bennett, then, ever sincere? An assessment of his lifelong behavior and character would probably lead most to reject this possibility—but, LDS authors have often entertained it because of a revelation addressed to Bennett. Bennett and others have read this as an endorsement of his behavior to that point, and critics have seen it as evidence that Joseph was both uninspired and unaware of Bennett’s nature and actions. B.H. Roberts believed that “his intentions in life at that time were honorable,” and argued that “the Lord” shared this view in D&C 124.

A close reading of both the text and the historical circumstances calls this assumption into question:

Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.

“And for his love he shall be great, for he shall be mine if he do this, saith the Lord. I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue, and will crown him with blessings and great glory. (D&C 124:16–17)

The praise for Bennett is, in fact, rather mild. In the same section, the Lord is “well pleased,” (v. 1, 12) with others, who are described as “blessed” (v. 15), “holy” (v. 19), “without guile” (v. 20), and praised for “integrity of…heart.” No such language is applied to Bennett.

Bennett is instructed to support Joseph in difficulty and receive counsel (rather than give it, as is his wont) if he wishes a reward. Bennett is told he “will be” the Lord’s because of his love if he obeys—he is offered a transformation of his nature, if he will accept it. The Lord promised to accept his work “if he continue” (v. 20, emphasis added). (Polygamy book/John C. Bennett/Rise and Fall of Bennett, FAIRMORMON ANSWERS, Online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

Actually the “revelation” does not say that the Lord promised to accept his work “if he continue”.  It states that “I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continue…”

The “revelation” states that God has seen the work which Bennett has done. That would mean (since this is God we are talking about), all the things Bennett has done up to that time. The “revelation” does not condemn Bennett for the bad things he was supposedly doing at this time, his adulteries, etc. It doesn’t condemn him for anything. It states that God has seen his work and if he continues doing the work he is doing (up to that time and continue doing it) that he will be accepted. God does not tell Bennett that he will accept his good works, but that he has seen his work… which means all Bennett had been doing up to that time. What was Bennett doing? Committing adultery with Sarah Pratt (among other things) according to Joseph’s chosen witnesses, the most damning of which (Stephen Goddard) was a Danite. (See Note #212)

Bennett was then (four months after this “revelation”) ordained Assistant President of the Church. Was he “accepted” by God then? If not then, when?

For faithful Brian Hales, this may be a problem. Did John C. Bennett fool God? Why then would God allow Joseph Smith to ordain John C. Bennett to the First Presidency? Hales waves off Van Wagoner by claiming “his efforts fail to address even half of the testimonies and are problematic from a scholarly perspective.”  As Van Wagoner writes, he pretty much did fool Joseph Smith:

Bennett, a Campbellite minister, self-trained lawyer, doctor, thirty-third-degree Mason, brigadier general in the Illinois Invincible Light Dragoons, and Quartermaster General of Illinois, seemed to be a real catch for Mormonism. With the missionary-apostles in Europe and counselor Sidney Rigdon chronically ill, the Church was experiencing a power vacuum. The glib, bombastic, and seemingly aristocratic John C. Bennett ingratiated himself into the inner circles of the Church; he was appointed “Assistant President” of the Church on 8 April 1841. Joseph Smith was so impressed by his new convert that he adopted many of the doctor’s personal mannerisms, including his oratorical style, his military dress and bearing, and his habit of using foreign phrases in written communications. Bennett boarded in the Prophet’s home, and the two were near-constant companions. William Law, a member of the First Presidency (1841-44) recalled in an 1871 letter that Bennett was “more in the secret confidence of Joseph than perhaps any other man in the city” (Stenhouse 1873, 198). (Van Wagoner, “Sarah Pratt,” Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 71).

There is only one problem with Van Wagoner’s claim that Bennett and Pratt had an affair, and that is Van Wagoner’s assertion that he might have been out of Nauvoo during the month of October, 1840 when the Goddards claim that they were keeping house together. This point is really minor.

Neither Hales nor FAIRMORMON really address the problem of the “revelation” that Smith supposedly received from God praising Bennett in 1841, or why Smith made him Assistant President of the Church, since Bennett’s reputation was built on a house of cards . The best they can do is claim that Bennett wasn’t given any “keys” with his ordination and that Bennett might have been “sincere” for a time. Where was Smith’s much lauded “spirit of discernment”? Brian Hales claims that,

Joseph Smith’s inability to correctly judge character was acknowledged in an earlier revelation, “you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous” (D&C 10:37, quoted by Brian C. Hales, “1842: The Second Year of Nauvoo Polygamy”, Online here, Accessed December 15, 2014)).

Yet this “revelation” was given in April of 1829 right at the beginning of Joseph’s career! Joseph did not progress? Did not receive “keys”?  This was before the “School of the Prophets” and before Smith was given the Priesthood and the “keys” of discernment. On March 8, 1831 Smith claimed in a “revelation” that,

And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God. (D&C 46:27, added emphasis)

It specifically mentions in this “revelation” that one of these gifts is “the discerning of spirits”. (verse 23) Here we see that Hales is being completely disingenuous to cite a “revelation” that was given in 1829 before Smith was given these “gifts”, which allowed him to know if there were “any among you professing and yet be not of God.” If this didn’t apply to Bennett, who then? Hales also claims that,

Even though leaders were aware of Bennett’s licentious history, his public stature expanded and on April 8, 1841, he was presented as an “assistant president, until Pres’t. Rigdon’s health should be restored,” which occurred two months later. It appears that this surprising advancement was the result of Bennett’s immoral antics being privately discovered and then after promising to reform and receiving another chance to regain Joseph’s trust. (Hales, op. cited).

So the “promise” of reformation gets one advanced to the First Presidency of the Mormon Church? Who does Hales think he is kidding here? Then in May, 1842 Joseph does the exact same thing? It seems that the commission of adultery by one of the Church leaders simply did not carry as much weight as Hales claims that it did. What is obvious is that Joseph forgave and rewarded Bennett but only as long as he remained silent about Joseph’s own activities. But Bennett did not, so Joseph finally exposed him.

If Bennett was having an ongoing affair with Pratt, then once again, did he fool God? FAIRMORMON claims,

These two errors [Only one actually: That Bennett was not in Nauvoo because he was completing the Nauvoo Charter in Springfield] weaken Van Wagoner’s analysis irreparably, and raise the plausibility of the Goddards’ accounts, since their timeframe of “about a month” fits neatly between Bennett’s arrival in Nauvoo and his departure to lobby for the charter’s passage. It also matches a later claim made by Joseph in passing which dated Bennett’s first immoralities to October 1840. (FAIRMORMON, Online here, accessed November 1, 2014).

Even if this is true, it does not “weaken Van Wagoner’s analysis irreparably” because Gregory L. Smith does not address the rest of Van Wagoner’s analysis. And what did Smith say to Governor Carlin in 1842? He wrote:

The impression made upon the minds of the public by this event, [Bennett’s suicide attempt] was that he was so ashamed of his base conduct, that he took this course to escape the censure of a justly indignant community. It might have been supposed that after this he would have broken off his adulterous proceedings; but to the contrary, the public consternation had scarcely ceased, before he was again deeply involved in the same wicked proceedings and continued until a knowledge of the fact reached my ears. I immediately charged him with the whole circumstance, and he candidly acknowledged the truth of the whole. (Joseph Smith to Thomas Carlin, Nauvoo, June 24, 1842, History of the Church, Vol. V, 42, added emphasis).

There is no evidence that Bennett attempted suicide in 1841, except what was written later in 1842. Still, if Smith knew about Bennett’s adulteries and forgave him, why elevate him to the First Presidency only on the promise to reform? This makes little sense. The evidence shows that Smith honored and believed in John C. Bennett until he started practicing his version of spiritual wifeism that he learned from Smith in 1842. He was even forgiven as late as May 26, 1842 by Joseph on the condition that he would cease his activities and keep quiet. As Jerald and Sandra Tanner write:

John C. Bennett was elected Mayor of the city of Nauvoo, and was even made an assistant President of the Mormon Church. The following appeared in the minutes of the General Conference held in April of 1841: “John C. Bennett was presented, with the First Presidency, as assistant president until President Rigdon’s health should be restored.” (History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Vol. 4, page 431)

The Mormon publication Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, p. 432 [June 1841], vigorously defended Bennett: “But General Bennett’s character as a gentleman, an officer, a scholar, and physician stands too high to need defending by us,… He has, likewise, been favorably known for upwards of eight years by some of the authorities of the Church,… But being a Mormon, his virtues are construed into defects,…”

On June 23, 1842, after John C. Bennett had left the Church, Joseph Smith admitted that a letter had been received from a “respectable” person warning that Bennett had left a wife and two or three children and that he was a very mean man: “…Dr. John C. Bennett…located himself in the city of Nauvoo, about the month of August, 1840, and soon after joined the Church. Soon after it was known that he had become a member of said Church, a communication was received at Nauvoo from a person of respectable character and residing in the vicinity where Bennett had lived. This letter cautioned us against him, setting forth that he was a very mean man, and had a wife and two or three children…but knowing that it is no uncommon thing for good men to be evil spoken against, the above letter was kept quiet, but held in reserve.” (History of the Church, Vol. 5, pp. 35-36, Mormonism—Shadow or Reality, 217-219).

Joseph Smith seems to have forgotten the facts in his letter to Governor Carlin. Bennett was applauded by the Mormons in the Times and Seasons in June 1841 after the Warsaw Signal wrote that “He came here followed by evil report-he joins a sect and advocates a creed in which no one believes he has any faith-his true character is not known to our citizens, nor have they any confidence in him.” (Warsaw Signal, May 19, 1841)

It was not until 1842 in The Wasp that George Miller claimed that he received a letter about Bennett having a wife and children in April of 1841. That is the same month that Bennet was raised to Assistant President of the Church.

So what Joseph wrote to Carlin is completely false.

Again, if there was such a letter, and Smith knew about Bennett’s adultery, why did they so vigorously defend him and why did Smith claim to have a “revelation” from God who said he saw the works of Bennett and would “accept them if he continued those works? Did this include Bennett’s adultery? Why did Joseph plead for and forgive Bennett on May 26, 1842? The entry reads,

Dr John C. Bennet[t] confessed the  charges preferred again[s]t him concerning. females in Nauvoo. & was  forgiven Joseph plead in his behalf.—

Joseph Smith Journal, May 26, 1842

The only mention of this entry by Hales is that, “The notice dated John C. Bennett’s excommunication as May 11, but Joseph Smith’s diary dates it as May 26, 1842.” (Hales, op. cited)

Actually, Bennett was not excommunicated here, but forgiven, with Joseph pleading in his behalf! Why doesn’t Hales quote this document in full? Because it destroys his narrative. Imagine if Bennett had kept his mouth shut like Joseph’s brother William Smith. He would probably have been completely restored to his former positions in the Church as were so many others. In fact, almost everyone except Higbee and Bennett were restored who were accused in 1842.

In 2015 Hales published an article about John C. Bennett in the Journal of Mormon History. He writes,

On May 8, 1844, Frances Higbee sued Joseph Smith in “plea of cause” claiming five thousand dollars damage. Joseph was taken into custody and told the court: “I want to testify to this court of what occurred a long time before John C. Bennet left his city.”46 The Prophet then described how Higbee had seduced a woman prior to the summer of 1842 when Bennett fled Nauvoo. Next, Joseph lamented, “The only sin I ever committed was in exercising sympathy and covering up their [the Higbees’, Fosters’, Laws’ and Bennett’s] iniquities, on their solemn promise to reform, and of this I am ashamed, and will never do so again.”47 (Manuscript History, Vol. F-1, pg. 15, May 8th 1844, compiled in the 1850’s.)

Hales footnote on his source for this:

47 Manuscript History of the Church, May 8, 1844, in Richard E. Turley Jr., ed., Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, [December] 2002), Vol. 1, DVD #1 (hereafter cited as Selected Collections); see also History of the Church, 6:360. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 144 note 5, summarize: “Bennett’s immoralities had come to the attention of the Prophet [by early 1841], but the latter, acting on a bleak hope of possible reformation of Bennett, deferred publicly exposing his counselor in the First Presidency.”

Thing is, Smith only covered up what Bennett did because he was guilty of the same thing. There is an original source that they used when they compiled the Manuscript History of the Church, the actual minutes from the trial of Joseph Smith on May 8th, 1844 which are found in the Church History Library. Those actual minutes read quite differently from what was supposedly copied into the Manuscript History. What Joseph actually said was,

“I never said any thing about Law, etc. etc. but what was strictly true. I have been placed in — the only sin I ever committed was in covering up their iniquities, etc. that I am ashamed of & will never do it again—“

Nauvoo Municipal Court Document, May 8th 1844

Notice what they had to add to the testimony:

Joseph exercising sympathy

Joseph getting a solemn promise from them to reform

Manuscript History Version

We see that Joseph never testified that he had sympathy for anyone, and that he never tried to get a promise from them to reform.

Joseph only admits that he covered up their “iniquities” and that now (since he was caught) felt bad and wouldn’t do it again.

The reason that we checked this, is that we know that George A. Smith (Church Historian from 1854-1871) was very dishonest when he compiled Joseph Smith’s history. He would doctor diary entries, delete things he didn’t like and add all kinds of bogus statements like with this one above.

Hales complains over and over again that no one but him really understands Joseph Smith’s polygamy because he is the only one that has personally drawn on every known document related to it. Seriously, he actually makes this claim. From the Jacket Cover of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1:

Drawing on every known historical account, whether by supporters or opponents, Volumes 1 and 2 take a fresh look at the chronology and development of Mormon polygamy…

From the Introduction:

At one point it became apparent that, if we continued searching, it might be possible to acquire copies or transcripts of essentially all of the known documents dealing with Joseph Smith’s polygamy…

But the problem is, can anyone take Hales seriously as a researcher when he makes gaffes like the one we detailed above? His article on John C. Bennett was published last year (2016). It’s not like it wasn’t easy to check on. But what is the significance of that statement by Smith above? (The doctored one). Hales makes that clear in his Bennett Essay:

Bennett’s biographer asks: “One wonders why Smith acted against Bennett in mid-June and not earlier. Perhaps Smith expected or at least hoped that Bennett would leave Nauvoo quietly.”82 Another possibility mentioned above is that Joseph was too sympathetic. That is, he still held out hope that Bennett would repent and become obedient. Admittedly, this view is based on accounts that are almost exclusively from Joseph Smith and his supporters, whose biases are clearly shown. However, these and other sources could support a repeating dynamic of Bennett’s transgressions, pleas for forgiveness, and the extension of mercy with the Prophet offering Bennett yet another chance to comply. This pattern would be consistent with Joseph’s 1844 regrets about “exercising sympathy and covering up their [the Higbees’, Fosters’, Laws’, and Bennett’s] iniquities, on their solemn promise to reform.”83

82 Andrew Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel, 91.

83 Manuscript History of the Church, May 8, 1844, in Selected Collections, Vol. 1, DVD #1 [2002]; see also History of the Church, 6:360 [Notice that Hales uses an outdated source here, when the original is at the CHL and open to the public]

There was no condition given by Joseph Smith in the original document. The only regrets that Joseph had in 1844 was that he got caught covering up what Bennett and others did, because they got their ideas from Smith.

As for the rest of the affidavits (Online here) against Sarah Pratt, let’s take a look. Here is the letter to Orson Pratt from Stephen Goddard and the affidavit of his wife Sarah,


ORSON PRATT, Sir: — Considering a duty upon me I now communicate unto you some things relative to Dr. Bennett and your wife, that came under the observation of myself and wife, which I think would be satisfactory to the mind of a man could he but realize the conduct of those two individuals while under my notice. I would have been glad to have kept forever in silence if it could have been so and been just. I took your wife into my house because she was destitute of a house, Oct. 6, 1840, and from the first night, until the last, with the exception of one night it being nearly a month, the Dr. was there as sure as the night came, and generally two or three times a day — for the first three nights he left about 9 o’clock — after that he remained later, sometimes till after midnight; what their conversation was I could not tell, as they sat close together, he leaning on her lap, whispering continually or talking very low — we generally went to bed and had one or two naps before he left. After being at my house nearly a month she was furnished with a house by Dr. Foster, which she lived in until sometime about the first of June, when she was turned out of the house and came to my house again, and the Dr. came as before. One night they took their chairs out of doors and remained there as we supposed until 12 o’clock or after; at another time they went over to the house where you now live and come back after dark, or about that time. We went over several times late in the evening while she lived in the house of Dr. Foster, and were most sure to find Dr. Bennett and your wife together, as it were, man and wife. Two or three times we found little Orson lying on the floor and the bed apparently reserved for the Dr. and herself — she observing that since a certain time he had rather sleep on the floor than with her.

I am surprised to hear of her crying because Bro. Joseph attempted to kiss her as she stated, even if he did do it; for she would let a certain man smack upon her mouth and face half a dozen times or more in my house without making up the first wry face. I will not mention his name at present.

There are many more things which she has stated herself to my wife, which could go to show more strongly the feelings, connexion, and the conduct of the two individuals. I shall not testify of these things at present for certain reasons, but can let you know them if you feel disposed to hear them.

As to the lamb which Dr. Bennett speaks of, I killed it, and kept a hind quarter of it for my own use, and saw the Dr. and Mrs. Pratt eat of the balance; The Dr. told me he would like to have me save enough blood to make a French pudding, which I believe Mrs. Pratt spoke of afterwards and said it looked so that she could not eat it.

I had not instructions to save the entrails, and the Dr. was not present to save them himself, consequently his statement that he burned them on twelve stones is a falsehood, for the hogs eat them.

Your friend,


I certify that the above statement of my husband is true according to the best of my knowledge.


Sworn to before me July 23d 1842.


Alderman of the City of Nauvoo.


Dr. Bennett came to my house one night about 12 o’clock, and sat on or beside the bed where Mrs. Pratt was and cursed and swore very profanely at her; she told me the next day that the Dr. was quick tempered and was mad at her, but gave no other reason. I concluded from circumstances that she had promised to meet him somewhere and had disappointed him; on another night I remonstrated with the Dr. and asked him what Orson Pratt would think, if he could know that you were so fond of his wife, and holding her hand so much; the Dr. replied that he could pull the wool over Orson’s eyes.

Mrs. Pratt stated to me that Dr. Bennett told her, that he could cause abortion with perfect safety to the mother, at any stage of pregnancy, and that he had frequently destroyed and removed infants before their time to prevent exposure of the parties, and that he had instruments for that purpose &c.

My husband and I were frequently at Mrs. Pratt’s and stayed till after 10 o’clock in the night, and Dr. Bennett still remained there with her and her little child alone at that late hour.

On one occasion I came suddenly into the room where Mrs. Pratt and the Dr. were; she was lying on the bed and the Dr. was taking his hands out of her bosom; he was in the habit of sitting on the bed where Mrs. Pratt was lying, and lying down over her.

I would further state that from my own observation, I am satisfied that their conduct was anything but virtuous, and I know Mrs. Pratt is not a woman of truth, and I believe the statements which Dr. Bennett made concerning Joseph Smith are false, and fabricated for the purpose of covering his own iniquities, and enabling him to practice his base designs on the innocent.


Subscribed before me one of the alderman of the City of Nauvoo, and sworn to this 28th day of August 1842.


Alderman of the City of Nauvoo. (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

These affidavits of the Goddards are pretty ridiculous. Sarah Pratt left her baby on the floor? The Goddards happened to catch them at seemingly all hours of the day and night? Didn’t the Goddards have anything else to do but watch that house? Sarah Pratt was “in the habit” of letting Bennett lie on top of her when there was someone else in the house? They mention a nameless man that she allowed to kiss her in their house often? These things defy common sense.  Here is the affidavit of J B. Backenstos,

Affidavit of J. B. Backenstos.

State of Illinois,   ss.

Hancock County.

Personally appeared before me Ebenezer Robinson acting Justice of the Peace, in and for said county, J. B. Backenstos, who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that some time during last winter, he accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife, had I not known to the contrary, and further this deponent saith not.

B. Backenstos

Sworn to, and subscribed, before me the 28th day of July, 1842.

Robinson, J. P. (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

Here is the affidavit of Stephen Markham,

Personally came before me, Ebenezer Robinson, a Justice of the Peace in and for said county, Stephen Markham, who being duly sworn according to law deposeth and saith, that on the __ day of __ A. D. 1842, he was at the house of Sidney Rigdon in the city of Nauvoo, where he saw Miss Nancy Rigdon laying on a bed, and John C. Bennett was sitting by the side of the bed, near the foot, in close conversation with her: deponant also saw many vulgar, unbecoming and indecent sayings and motions pass between them, which satisfied deponant that they were guilty of unlawful and illicit intercourse, with each other.  Stephen Markham.  (The Wasp, July 27, 1842).

And the statement of Ebeneezer Robinson from “The Return”, in 1890:

In the spring of 1841 Dr. Bennett had a small neat house built for Orson Pratt’s family, and commenced boarding with them. Elder Pratt was absent on a mission to England.  (Ebeneezer Robinson, The Return, Vol. 2, No. 11, November, 1890, page 362).

There are some problems with Backenstos affidavit from 1842. Why would Bennett confide this to a close friend of Joseph Smith’s, knowing that it could hurt himself? This makes little sense.  Backenstos had loaned Joseph a large sum of money. You could not get a more biased person to write up an affidavit. Backenstos had also been accused of lying and shady deals.

According to Greg Whitman and James Varner, Backenstos was personal friends with Joseph Smith and in the spring of 1842 loaned Smith $1000. (Orner W. Whitman and James L. Varner, Sheriff Jacob. B. Backenstos: Defender of the Saints, Journal of Mormon History, Volume 29, Issue 1, (Spring, 2003) 153, Online here, Accessed December 20, 2014).

He had political aspirations and he could benefit in them by being friendly with the Mormons. His brother was married to Smith’s niece.  Writing in 1847, Governor Ford characterized the sheriff as a “smart-looking shrewd, cunning, plausible man of such easy manners that he was likely to have great influence.” He also described him as a deadbeat who ran out on his debts in Sangamon County and used accounting tricks to transfer his goods to his brother William. (ibid., 156)

On October 15, 1845 Heber C. Kimball recorded that Backenstos told him “he firmly and positively believed [Mormonism] to be the truth, and he intended to embrace it … and he would go with us the whole extent to the expense of his life and all he possessed.” (ibid., 164)

He was suspended from his army post in 1849 (page 170), and in 1851 was forced out and resigned his commission. (page 172) He petitioned some influential men for political appointments in Oregon, but found no support, (page 172) not even for his reinstatement in the Army (ibid., 173).

He engaged in land speculation and his reputation was viewed as being “exceeding odious”. (ibid., 175) In 1857 he was involved in an altercation over a land deal and attempted to murder an “unarmed neighbor” and when his pistol misfired multiple times the neighbor came after him with an axe. (ibid.) In September of 1857 he was indicted by a grand jury for “assault with attempt to kill.” (ibid.) Before his case could come to trial Backenstos committed suicide by throwing himself in the Willamette River near its powerful waterfalls, something he had mentioned to his wife as a possibility to escape a prison sentence. (ibid., 176)

Also, Backenstos was involved with some of the very women that testified against Bennett in May of 1842. Catherine Fuller testified that,

B. Backenstos has also been at my house – was introduced by Chancy Higby – made request similar as above – gave me two dollars – He accomplished his designs only once – has been there two or three times since.  This happened in the fore part of this winter– (Testimony of Catherine Fuller ^Warren^ before the High Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the City of Nauvoo May 25th 1842).

Catherine Fuller Warren’s testimony was published in the Church owned Nauvoo Neighbor on May 29, 1844, but only this excerpt:

Extract from the testimony of Catharine [Fuller] Warren, vs. Chauncey L. Higbee, before the High Council of the Church, &c.

I have had unlawful connexion with Chauncey L. Higbee. Chauncey Higbee, taught the same doctrine as was taught by J. C. Bennet, and that Joseph Smith, taught and practiced those things, but he [Chauncey] stated that he did not have it from Joseph, but he had his information from Dr. John C. Bennet. He, Chauncey L. Higbee, has gained his object about five or six times, Chauncey L. Higbee, also made propositions to keep me with food if I would submit to his desires.” (Nauvoo Neighbor, May 29, 1844; See also, Millennial Star 23:657­658).

There is no mention of William Smith or J.B. Backenstos. Why? Because he was friends with Joseph Smith. Of course he would have “informed” on Bennett, and it was in his interest to help Joseph.

Stephen Markham’s affidavit is obviously slander.  Carlos Gove, an Aide de Camp (Colonel) in the Nauvoo Legion, who also eloped with one of Joseph’s spiritual wives Flora Woodworth had an affidavit printed up which was printed in the Sangamo Journal which read:

Certificate of Colonel Carlos Gove.

“Nauvoo, September 3, 1842.

“Having been personally acquainted with Miss Nancy Rigdon, for some time, I take pleasure in saying to the public, that I verily believe Miss Rigdon a lady who sustains a virtuous, chaste, moral, and upright character, and that she has never given reason for any one whereon to rest a suspicion to the contrary, –and that the affidavit of Stephen Markham was procured for purposes well known to the public, –and I also believe said Markham to be a liar, disturber of the peace, and what may justly be termed a loafer.

“Carlos Gove.”

Sidney Rigdon produced this affidavit:

“Certificate of Sidney Rigdon, Esq.

“NAUVOO, September 3, 1842.
“‘Personally appeared before me, E. Robinson, a Justice of the Peace, within and for the county of Hancock, and State of Illinois, Sidney Rigdon, who, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith, that he is personally acquainted with Stephen Markham, of this city, and that said Markham is not to be believed; that his word for truth and veracity is not good; that he could not believe said Markham under oath, and that he did on a certain occasion testify under oath to that which deponent knows to be false, and he verily believes said Markham knew the same to be false while testifying; and further this deponent saith not.

George W. Robinson:

Certificate of General George W. Robinson

Nauvoo, September 3, 1842.
Having been acquainted with Stephen Markham, of the city of Nauvoo, for many years, I can safely say that his character for truth and veracity is not good, and that I could not believe him under oath; and that I am personally knowing of his lying, and that his character in general is that of a loafer, disturber of the peace, liar, &c; and that he did come into the house of Sidney Rigdon, as stated in his affidavit, and that Dr. Bennett and Miss Rigdon were present, as well as myself, and that Miss Rigdon was then sick, and Dr. John C. Bennett was the attending physician; and I do further state that no such conversation or gestures as said Markham states, took place or came under my observation; and I do further believe that said Markham did invent, concoct, and put in circulation, said stories with a malicious design and intent to injure the character of Miss Rigdon, and more particularly for the use of the Elders, who are going out preaching to rebut Dr. Bennett’s statements; and further this deponent saith not.
Geo. W. Robinson.
Sworn to before me, L. R, Chaffin, a Justice of the Peace, within and for the county of Hancock, and state of Illinois, this ninth day of September, 1842,
Lewis R. Chaffin, J. P.

Henry Marks:

Certificate of Colonel Henry Marks

Having been acquainted with Miss Nancy Rigdon for nearly six years, I can say that she is a lady of a virtuous, chaste, and upright moral character, and I do not believe she ever gave any occasion for the least suspicion to the contrary; and I do further believe the certificate of Stephen Markham to be false, and given with a malicious design and intent to injure the character of Miss Rigdon unjustly.

Henry Marks.

LaHarpe, Illis., Sept. 10, 1842.

On the same day that these were written, The Wasp (edited by William Smith) printed a notice which read,

We are authorized to say, by Gen. Joseph Smith, that the affidavit of Stephen Markham, relative to Miss Nancy Rigdon, as published in the handbill of affidavits, was unauthorized by him; the certificate of Elder Rigdon relative to the letter, being satisfactory. (The Wasp, September 3, 1842.)

Reading the above, it begs the question of why those affidavits needed to be “authorized” by Smith. We know that Joseph Smith proposed to Nancy Rigdon in 1842 when he wrote her this letter:

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it, and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, thou shalt not kill, — at another time he said, thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted — by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon — first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality, were right, because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation. A parent may whip a child, and justly too, because he stole an apple, whereas if the child had asked for the apple, and the parent had given it, the child would have eaten it with a better appetite, there would have been no stripes — all the pleasure of the apple would have been secured, all the misery of stealing lost. This principle will justly apply to all of God’s dealings with his children. Everything that God gives us is lawful and right, and ’tis proper that we should enjoy his gifts and blessings whenever and wherever he is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed, and as God has designed our happiness, and the happiness of all his creatures, he never has, he never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to his people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which he has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant — the proffered good returns to the giver, the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy, for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had.

“Be wise to-day, ’tis Madness to defer,

“Next day the fatal precedent may plead;

Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time.

Into eternity.”

Our heavenly father is more liberal in his views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive, and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of his punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose him to be. He will [be] enquired of by his children — he says, ask, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, but if you will take that which is not your own, or which I have not given you, you shall be rewarded according to your deeds, but no good thing will I withold from them who walk uprightly before me, and do my will in all things, who will listen to my voice, and to the voice of my servant whom I have sent, for I delight in those who seek diligently to know my precepts, and abide by the law of my kingdom, for all things shall be made known unto them in mine own due time, and in the end they shall have joy.” (Sangamo Journal, August 19, 1842, Online here, Accessed October 31, 2014).

Why would Smith write such a glowing “marriage for eternity” essay in 1842, if he was so reluctant to promulgate polygamy — so reluctant that according to many later reminiscences like this one from Wilford Woodruff:

“An Angel of God Stood by him with a drawn Sword and told him he should be slain & Cut off from the Earth and the kingdom of God if he did not obey that Law.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p. 235)

This doesn’t sound like the “reluctant prophet” that Brian Hales describes in Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. According to Sidney Rigdon, it was Joseph Smith who was the liar, for as Sidney Rigdon swore in 1842:

I would further state that Mr. Smith denied to me the authorship of that letter.  (Sidney Rigdon affidavit, Nauvoo, Aug. 27th, 1842)


Van Wagoner makes a stronger point when he argues that, it seems likely that had Bennett and Sarah been involved in a sexual liaison as public as the Goddard story implies, objections would have been raised when Smith called him to be “assistant president” six months later. Furthermore, despite the numerous cases of church action against sexual sins brought before the Nauvoo High Council, Sarah Pratt’s name is never mentioned.

One should not over-read the public nature of the reported behavior. The Goddards were purportedly aware because Sarah was boarding with them—this does not necessarily mean that Bennett was making a public spectacle of his affair. Van Wagoner’s analysis presumes that any affair between Sarah and Bennett was handled by the high council. We have already seen evidence that Joseph dealt with the initial reports of Bennett’s infidelities privately, without high council involvement.

In a more speculative vein, if this was true of the case involving Sarah’s adultery, he may well have regarded the issue as closed—one wonders what role the Goddards may have played in first alerting Joseph to Bennett’s true nature. (In this case, perhaps Sarah’s role was kept quiet because she promised to reform, and because Joseph wished to spare Orson Pratt pain and embarrassment. When Bennett began accusing Joseph, however, the Goddards may have been given leave to reveal what they knew.)

Goddard was one of Smith’s Danites. Van Wagoner makes many strong points. The only weak one is the one they try and exploit about Bennett possibly being in Springfield in October, 1842. The Goddards claimed that the house was built by Robert Foster, while Mary Smith claimed that the house belonged to John C. Bennett.  Ebeneezer Robinson, who took the Backenstos affidavit, claimed that it was also Bennett’s house as did John D. Lee. So which was it? Someone was mistaken, most likely the Goddards.

And it is simply ludicrous that Bennett could set up Sarah Pratt with a house, carry on an affair with her in it with her for many months and that no other neighbors besides the Goddards would notice. Especially with the way that the Goddards claimed that they flaunted it. Why would they keep it a secret from their friend Orson Pratt and not report it to the church? Van Wagoner’s claims make much more sense than those of FAIRMORMON or Brian Hales.

Brian Hales claims that Sarah Pratt “had an agenda”. What agenda would that be? He doesn’t say. What Hales is doing is presenting Sarah Pratt as an “apostate” in 1842 when she was nothing of the kind. Her later actions prove that this is so. She agreed to rebaptism. She stayed with her husband. She was admitted to the Temple and received the Endowment and the Second Anointing.  She accepted polygamy and went west with the Church. It was not until years later that Sarah Pratt became disillusioned with the Church and polygamy.

To say that in 1842 Sarah Pratt had an agenda is ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. The accusations against her were obviously contrived by Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Hales quotes Smith’s January 20 comments about Sarah Pratt to Orson Pratt and it might be instructive here to give them in their full context,

Nauvoo January 20th 1843

The Quorum of the Twelve assembled at the / home of Elder Brigham Young- present viz, B. Young / H. C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, W. Woodruff, John Taylor/ Geo. A. Smith, & W. Richards. also. President / Joseph Smith. & Hyrum Smith of the first presidency / also Orson Pratt

–the meeting having been / called to investigate his case:–

President Joseph Smith remarked that as there / was not a quorum when Orson Pratt’s case came / up before that he was still a member–he had not/ legally been cut off–/

Pratt remarked that he had rather die / than go to preach in any other standing than I had / before.

Joseph-Let him have the same calling that Paul / had. let him have the keys to the Jews. first unto / the Gentiles then unto the Jews–/Paul held the keys of transfer–that is when / the Gentiles have heard all they will–it shall be / given to the Jews.–/

Jos.–Orson by transgression laid himself liable to have / another ordained in his stead.–and brought Jacob and Esau / were brought for example– (p. 2)

[Brigham] Young. said there was but 3 prsnt. when Amasa / was ordained–/Joseph said that was legal when no / more could be had. Young said all he had against Orson was when he / came home he loved his wife better than David./ [Joseph Smith]

Joseph–She lied about me–I never made the offer / which she said I did.–I will not advise you to break up your / family–unless it were asked of me. then I would / concil you to get a bill from your wife / & marry a virtuous woman–& raise a new family / but if you do not do it shell never throw it in / your teeth.

Joseph Orson I prophesy in the name of the Lord / Jesus Christ that it will not be 6 months before / you learn things which will make you glad you / have not left us.–/

Prest. Joseph said to Orson Hyde–I can make / a swap with Amasa Lyman.–& let him have / the office we were going to give you.–Orson, the latter part of your life shall be more / joyful than the former

— 3 o.clock adjourned to President Josephs. /

4 o.clock Orson Pratt, Sarah Marinda Pratt (p. 3) & Lydia Granger were baptized in the River /

Per Prst–Joseph Smith–& confirmed in the / Court Room–Orson received the Priesthood & / the same power and authority as in former days. (W. Richards [Willard Richards’ hand] B. Young [Willard Richards. hand] (BYU Collection, Ms/f/219/Reel 79; CHO, Ms/d/1234/Bx 47/fd 2; January 20, 1843. These minutes were formerly in a box entitled “High Council Meetings etc, Conference and Public Meetings”, in a folder marked “Minutes of the Council of Twelve,” in the Church Historian’s Office. They were recataloged and placed in the Brigham Young Collection. “/” in this typescript means end of a line in the original minutes. (Typed as in the original. See, History of the Church, V, 253-6; Millennial Star, XX, 27 (Saturday 3 July 1858), 422-3; and Manuscript History of the Church, under date given).

These are very interesting minutes, for they do indicate that Smith made some kind of “offer” to Sarah Pratt and it is the word of Smith (a known liar) over Sarah Pratt who had no reason to lie.  He also accuses Sarah Pratt of being unvirtuous. Sarah Pratt is faulted for having anything to do with Bennett even though Bennett was publicly defended by the Church as an upright and honest man until the summer of 1842. This is simply guilt by association after the fact.

That the affidavits concerning Bennett and Sarah Pratt are contrived is obvious. Still, if those defending Smith want to put forth the notion that the leaders of the Church were so devious that they covered up Bennett’s past simply to use him for his political influence, that is their prerogative. Either way it is a lose-lose situation for the apologists.

We also find it interesting that Brigham Young here refers to Joseph Smith as “David”. It reminds us of something that Ezra Booth once wrote,

Now, permit me to inquire; have you not frequently observed in Joseph, a want of that sobriety, prudence, and stability, which are some of the most prominent traits in the christian character? Have you not often discovered in him, a spirit of lightness and levity, a temper of mind easily irritated, and an habitual proneness to jesting and joking? Have you not repeatedly proved to your own satisfaction, that he says he knows things to be so by the spirit, when they are not so? You most certainly have. Have you not reason then to believe, or at least to suspect, that the revelations which come from him, are something short of infallible, and instead of being the production of divine wisdom, emanate from his own weak mind? Some suppose his weakness, nay, his wickedness, can form no reasonable objection to his revelations; and “were he to get another man’s wife, and seek to kill her husband, it could be no reason why we should not believe revelations through him, for David did the same.” So Sidney asserted, and many others concur with him in sentiment. (Ezra Booth to Edward Partridge, September 20, 1831, The Ohio Star, November 24, 1831).


There are also some other things, the meaning of which, you will not be likely to apprehend, without some explanation. In this, as well as several of the commandments, it is clearly and explicitly stated, that the right of delivering written commandments, and revelations, belong exclusively to Smith, and no other person can interfere, without being guilty of sacrilege. In this office he is to stand, until another is appointed in his place, and no other person can be appointed in his stead, unless he falls through transgression; and in such a case, he himself is authorized to appoint his successor. But how is he to be detected, should he become guilty of transgression. The commandment makes provision for this. His guilt will become manifest by his inability to utter any more revelations, and should he presume “to get another man’s wife,” and commit adultery; and “by the shedding of blood, seek to kill her husband,” if he retains the use of his tongue, so as to be able to utter his jargon, he can continue as long as he pleases in the bed of adultery, and wrap himself with garments stained with blood, shed by his own hands, and still retain the spotless innocence of the holiest among mortals; and must be continued in the office of revelator, and head of the Church. Some others, and especially Cowdery, have earnestly desired to relieve Smith of some part of his burden.  (Ezra Booth to Ira Eddy, November, 29, 1831. The Ohio Star, December 8, 1831).

In 1842 Joseph wrote a short letter to William Clayton which reads,

Oct— 7th 1842 in Solitude for love of Truth
Brother William Clayton Dear Sir I received your short note I reply in short be shure you are right and then go ahead David Crocket like and now Johnathan what shall I write more only that I am well and am your best Friend Joseph Smith
or David
or his mark

Joseph Smith to Wm. Clayton, Oct. 7, 1842

From Wiki,

David (Hebrew: דָּוִד‎; Dāwīḏ or David) and Jonathan (Hebrew: יְהוֹנָתָן‎; Yəhōnāṯān or Yehonatan) were heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, who formed a covenant of friendship recorded in the books of Samuel.

(Thanks to H. Michael Marquardt for bringing this to our attention, Image courtesy of the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers). Here we see Joseph calling himself David and Clayton Jonathan, who had formed a covenant of friendship. This was four months after Smith had “married” Sarah Ann Whitney (July, 1842) and mentioned David and that what it meant would be revealed hereafter.

Yet, Hales writes,

The curious thing is to read the different references to a conversation(s) between Joseph and Sarah.  In a meeting of the Twelve Apostles dated January 20, 1843, Joseph Smith told Orson that Sarah “lied about me.” The Prophet continued: “I never made the offer which she said I did.”  According to this statement, Joseph admitted making “an offer.”  What was it?  We don’t know.  Was it sexual tryst? sexual polyandry?  an “eternity only” sealing?  The various accounts from Sarah and her anti-Mormon scribes describe it as a “proposal” and a “dastardly attempt on her virtue.”   Joseph said Sarah “lied.”  The “Workings on Mormonism” that you quoted from earlier contain an interesting citation allegedly from Joseph:  “there was no sin in it as long as she kept it to herself.”  Joseph never said this, but it was John C. Bennett’s bread-and-butter seductive line. I’ve never been impressed by accusations based upon pure assumption.  If Joseph were as immoral as you depict, it seems you might have more credible witnesses providing less ambiguous.

Bennett’s signature line? This statement by Joseph Smith as recorded by Wilford Woodruff may help clarify why some were convinced that Joseph could not sin when it came to his relations with women:

“…if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He [Joseph] would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him [Joseph] he would not accuse us & if we would throw a cloak of charity over his sins he would over ours. For charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin & he did many things to break down superstition & he would break it down. He spoke of the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah while in his wine but doing no harm.” (Source: Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, November 7, 1841, emphasis mine.)

We have evidence though, that Joseph Smith lied constantly about polygamy and making offers of “marriage” to women in Nauvoo, and had others lie for him. As D. Michael Quinn notes:

Within a year after Joseph Smith began marrying plural wives himself and performing such ceremonies for others at Nauvoo, Illinois, these practices first were counterfeited and then publicly exposed by one of his counselors, John C. Bennett. On 1 August 1842, Apostle Parley P. Pratt published a rebuttal as an editorial: “But for the information of those who may be assailed by those foolish tales about the two wives [p. 73, “that God had given a revelation that men might have two wives”], we would say that no such principle ever existed among the Latter-day Saints, and never will,” yet Pratt’s autobiography later stated that Joseph Smith disclosed to him the revelation on celestial marriage in January 1840. Two months later twelve men and nineteen women signed affidavits that stated in part, “we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” The signers included Apostle John Taylor and Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who had already been taught the doctrine of polygamy by Joseph Smith), Bishop Newel K. Whitney (who had performed a plural marriage ceremony the previous July for his own daughter and Joseph Smith in accordance with a revelation dictated by the Prophet on the occasion), Elizabeth Ann Whitney (who witnessed the plural ceremony), Sarah M. Cleveland (who had become Joseph Smith’s plural wife early in 1842), and Eliza R. Snow (who also married him on 29 June 1842). (D. Michael Quinn, LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1804, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, 21).

If Smith lied (and encouraged others to lie) about practicing polygamy and making marriage proposals to certain women, why not about Sarah Pratt? Hales will use the Goddard’s testimony against Pratt, but even Stephen Goddard states, “I am surprised to hear of her crying because Bro. Joseph attempted to kiss her as she stated, even if he did do it…” This is hardly a ringing endorsement of Smith’s behavior according to the very witnesses called against Pratt.

And it being “no sin as long as she kept it to herself”? We have Orson Pratt  affirming this practice just a few years later that, “…I frankly & freely confessed the thing pointed out by Prest. as being wrong, namely “The opening of my mouth”.

Even Brigham Young claimed that he had no problem with Pratt except for that he chose his wife instead of Smith (David). So what was Pratt’s “transgression”? He didn’t keep the matter to himself but publicly defended his wife against Joseph Smith.

So, as Vogel claims, what did Sarah Pratt have to gain by making herself a target by accusing Joseph Smith of making a polygamous proposal to her if it wasn’t true? Hales has yet to really answer this question, and we don’t think he can.

[31] Quinn, Sexual Side, op. cited, 118.

[32]  Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. Both of Hales references here do not claim what he says they do. D&C 22:1 and D&C 132:4 have nothing to do with adultery or polyandry.

The claim of Smith’s that sexual polyandry was adultery (D&C 132:41) was written in July of 1843, after Smith had taken his last polyandrous “wife”, a year before the “revelation” was produced. (Our timeline for Smith’s Marriages). Dan Vogel in a discussion with Hales about this assertion wrote:

BRIAN HALES Also, Joseph Smith taught that sex out of legal marriage was adultery. Do you believe he taught that a woman having sexual relations with two men was adultery or permitted (even if one is a legal husband and the other is a sealed husband)? It is an important point because to posit that the men and women around Joseph would have tolerated blatant hypocrisy creates some plausibility issues that you and other proponents consistently ignore. The only way to show Joseph Smith didn’t practice sexual polyandry is to demonstrate that is plausibility is extremely low. You portray him as a deceiver that you could detect, but that Brigham Young, John Taylor, ELiza R. Snow, and Zina Huntington could not detect. Or do you suggest they were co-conspirators?

BRIAN HALES I appreciate your respect for the “Idealist Fallacy,” but it doesn’t quite help my focus on evidence as we try to reconstruct the world of Nauvoo polygamy.

DAN VOGEL Brian: I didn’t ask you to prove JS didn’t have sex with his polyandrous wives; I asked you to prove his pre-July 1843 teachings distinguished them from other polygamous wives. That is your thesis, isn’t it? Because your argument is one from silence, it is not my burden to prove that JS treated them differently. That’s your thesis to defend. In my view, you have created an artificial category that I don’t accept. So it is not my burden to prove anything. You only make appeals to sealing only marriages. This is not only an ad hoc escape from an undesirable situation, but it is another fallacy historians call the possible proof or disproof.

DAN VOGEL Brian: If JS taught that sex outside of legal marriage was adultery, then he committed adultery with all his plural wives because they were all illegal. Of course, you mean marriage under God’s law. So if JS was married to his polyandrous wives under God’s law, he didn’t commit adultery under that definition. However, everything wasn’t as compartmentalized in Nauvoo as it was in Utah, and who knew what it all meant and how it was to be conducted in the first years of its practice? Who could tell JS he was wrong or being a hypocrite? The people you name were already doing things they had a hard time accepting but went along with it anyway. Who could confidently say in such a situation that JS had crossed the line? God’s ways were not Brian Hales’ ways.

BRIAN HALES Okay, so you either don’t have any solid evidence of sexual polyandry or you have it but don’t feel compelled to share it. Wouldn’t this be easier if we were simply discussing documentation? I have kinda looked to you and [sic] the King of documentation for the circa 1830 span (think EMD). As you know, there are no “pre-July 1843 teachings” regarding plural marriage, unless we consult Clayton’s journal or use later recollections. Since it is a vacuum, you can fill it any way you want. Segregating the polyandrous wives from the non-polyandrous wives is easy so long as you treat the participants like comic book characters and ignore Joseph Smith’s theology. Section 132: 41-42, 61-63 describe three polyandrous situations labeling them all “adultery.” While you may be willing to believe that Joseph could have been such a hypocrite and no one said anything about it, I don’t think Brigham, John, Zina, Eliza etc. would have tolerated it. By ignoring the theology and the people, we create an unreal world – historical fiction.

I appreciate your not taking a straw man argument. I disagree that Joseph Smith could have been either a stark hypocrite or just wishy-washy on this topic. Sexual polyandry would have been explosive. It is strange even today. No anti-Mormons complained until 1850 (unless you have some other evidence). To believe it might have occurred without someone complaining or more likely defending it, is too implausible for me, but apparently not for you. I can live with that. But I’d still like to talk evidence. I’m even now going through Mike Quinn’s latest response. He’s an remarkable scholar and to have him focus here is great, but I still argue that the evidence is lacking and I will show that in my response (whenever I get it done – I’m getting remarried this week – monogamy .

DAN VOGEL Brian: You can’t shift the burden of proving your thesis to me. Your theory has to be established on its own merits and not rely on the inability of the opposition to disprove it—that would be an Argumentum ad Ignorantiam. The reason I ask for pre-July 1843 teachings is because as you know I see D&C 132 as JS’s possible repentance from his polyandrous marriages under pressure from Emma who was evidently threatening to practice polyandry herself. The revelation was dictated for her benefit and commands her “to cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed” (132:54). Quinn knows the documents better than I do, but I’m only focusing on the logic and arguments of your case and since you admit the documentation is scarce for either side, it becomes imperative to get the thinking right. Historians often argue from the known to the undocumented and build probabilistic cases, and I find your position not only improbable but a reflection of your own preference for how a prophet is supposed to behave. (Hales-Vogel, op. cited)

We will explore Dan’s highly insightful comment that D&C 132 should be viewed as Joseph Smith’s possible repentance from his polyandrous marriages under pressure from Emma. We find that this best fits the evidence that we have, though we believe that Joseph Smith never intended to relinquish any of those women but was forced to (with a handshake and a goodbye) when Emma found out about some of them.

[33] Hales, online here, accessed, November 10, 2014. The way that Hales handles the Joseph E. Johnson account about Mary Heron and Joseph Smith shows a lot about his lack of being able to present the evidence in any kind of rational way. For example if one goes to the link above, and you wish to read the minutes of the Joseph E. Johnson account, you are first presented with another link that provides a “concise summary”.  Here is Hales’ summary:

Joseph Ellis Johnson

Joseph E. Johnson reported that he knew that “the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.” Johnson’s statement represents the only evidence I have been able to identify regarding a polyandrous plural relationship between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron Snider. However, Johnson seems credible so I have included Mary here as a possible conjugal wife. The fact that Mary Heron was not sealed to her legal husband, John Snider during their lifetimes, even though the opportunity was repeatedly available (including by proxy between her 1852 death and John Snider’s 1875 passing), is consistent with a sealing between her and the Prophet. John Snider remained an active Latter-day Saint, suggesting either that he was entirely unaware of the relationship (which is unlikely if his son-in-law, Joseph E. Johnson, knew about it) or that he knew about it and supported it.

Does it even occur to Hales that because the “prophet” had committed adultery with Snider’s wife and she agreed to it that it was his decision not to be sealed to her for that reason? Of course, this throws a wrench into Hales’ assumptions here. Snider was married to another women and was sealed to her in 1855. As Hales notes,

Two weeks later, [After Snider died] Apostle John Taylor, who had joined the Church in Toronto, Canada, in 1836 with John, penned a second obituary that was also published, which stated: “He [John Snider] gathered to Utah in 1851, where he has since continued a steadfast, faithful and honorable member in the Church. … Having been well acquainted with him for upwards of forty years, I thought it proper to give the above short statement.” There is no mention of his marriage to Mary Heron in either obituary notice.

Snider was never sealed to Mary Heron but he was sealed to his second wife.

When you are done reading the summary, by all means read the Mary Heron page and then come back and read the minutes here in their uninterrupted entirety, or read them first, curious reader. Here are the minutes we have been able to find as recorded by D. Michael Quinn:

1850 Sept. 2, 2 P. M

A Council met in WR’s East Room Present—B[righam] Y[oung] – H[eber] C K[imball] – W[illard] R[ichards] – O[rson] H[yde] P[arley] P P[ratt] E[zra] T[aft] B[enson], G[eorge] A. S[mith], O[rson] Spencer, T. B – D[aniel] Carn – A[lexander] Neibaur – J[oel]H. Johnson, B[enjamin] F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly [clerk] –


  1. Hyde [:] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.“

Joseph E. Johnson  [:]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.


“Ansr.  I av not ad connection with Devol’s daur – as God is my judge this is true.  I never herad [heard] any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out – I was aware the thing was wrong.  – had been with – he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging – that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph. “O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrongI never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions.


“J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.”  (Source: Misc Minutes, Brigham Young Collection, d 1234, CHL, Sept. 2, 1850, restricted; excerpts transcribed by D. Michael Quinn, bx 3 fd 2, Quinn Collection, Yale Library.)

[Quinn note:]

Brigham Young reproves him and has him rebaptized.

Now, here is the account from Hales’ Vol. 1 of “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy” which he calls “an isolated source” (it is actually not “isolated”, but restricted by the Mormon Church):

Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Statement

Returning now to their original transgression in April 1849, even at that time with polygamy secretly gaining momentum among Church members, LDS leaders were intolerant of adultery regardless of the setting. Hence, upon learning of Hannah Maria’s pregnancy and the circumstances, Joseph Ellis Johnson’s Church membership was in jeopardy. He attended a council of priesthood leaders in the Salt Lake Valley on September 2, 1850, that discussed the case.70 Brigham Young presided at the meeting, which was also attended by Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Ezra Taft Benson, George A. Smith, Orson Spencer, Daniel Carn, Alexander Neibaur, Joel H. Johnson, Benjamin F. Johnson, and Joseph Kelly (secretary).71 Notes from that council explain:

Hyde [speaking] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot. before Council in Kanesville his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here—a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson—she was living in his house—we deemed it improper for her to be there he sent her away to a retired place—she was delivered of a child—she is again living at his house in Kanesville—he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church. He says he has bro: Snow & he was satisfied.

“Joseph E. Johnson [speaking]—I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done—I av neglected to lay it before you before this—bro Hydes statements r all correct—true—all I can do is beg for mercy—I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the[y] r—I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied—I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.72

During the proceedings, secretary Kelly recorded Joseph Ellis Johnson’s explanatory comments that make it clear he was not attempting to justify his conduct:

I never heard any conversation to say it was right to go to bed to a woman if not found out—I was aware the thing was wrong.—had been with—he sd. He was familiar with the first frigging [slang for sexual relations]—that was done in his house with his mother in law—by Joseph.73

The “mother in law” was Mary Heron Snider

Hales shows his obvious bias by claiming that the source must be considered because it was made by a devout Mormon, so here we have evidence that Hales considers a source by a Mormon who is “devout” to be of greater weight.

Hales also does this in the case of Esther Dutcher, who was said to be sealed to Joseph Smith by her husband Albert Smith per Daniel H. Wells who wrote about it in a letter to Wilford Woodruff in 1888. (He calls Daniel H. Wells “a reliable source”).

Hales also claims that one must provide “context” for the account above. How so? It really speaks for itself.

Notice also, the footnotes. It is not until after Hales presents all of his own conjectures as to what this account means (without just providing the whole account) that he then presents the rest of the account in a footnote (#111) which includes crucial details:

Other pertinent comments in the council meeting, as transcribed by Michael Quinn, are difficult to understand, although it does appear that the secretary, “J. Kelly,” was surprised. Quinn’s transcription reads: “O.H. sd. Kelly told him Johnson knew what he was about—it was done in his house by bro Joseph that the Ch had tried to break down bro. Babbitt & the Ch Therefor—I knew at the time I was doing wrong—I never av taken any body as a excuse—I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions. . . . J. Kelly—It as taken me by surprise—in our conversation—Johnson introduced the subject—as to himself—& many scenes that r familiar in the Ch—he sd. It was a matter of his own concern & interested nobody else but those he wod. av to bow to him.” Miscellaneous Minutes, September 2, 1850.

These minutes are “difficult to understand”, only if you are trying to justify or explain away Smith’s clear adultery here, as some kind of marriage or present them intermixed with your own commentary.

The facts of this case are:

  1. Joseph E. Johnson was accused of committing adultery and was “on trial” for it, and had been required to “lay down his priesthood” until the trial.
  2. Joseph E. Johnson admitted he committed adultery.
  3. Joseph E. Johnson admitted that what he did “was wrong”.
  4. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it is wrong for anyone to “go to bed with a woman if not found out”, and therefore that it was wrong, even if it was kept hidden.
  5. Joseph E. Johnson claimed that it “had been with” and then recalls what Joseph Smith did—that he was familiar with the “first frigging” (or sexual intercourse) between Smith and Johnson’s mother-in-law, Mary Heron that took place in his house by bro. Joseph. It is obvious that he is saying that it was wrong when Joseph did it too.
  6. Joseph E. Johnson claims again that he knew at the time he was doing wrong and that he had never taken anyone else as an “excuse” to do wrong and that he “never plighted my faith on Joseph [Smith’s] transactions” (his sexual escapades). Again, clear evidence that Johnson considered what Smith did as wrong, or adultery. Why would Johnson even have to claim that he didn’t base his faith on Joseph’s “transactions” if they were righteous actions? If Joseph was in a legitimate plural marriage with Mary Heron, why would Johnson use this as an example of what was wrong?
  7. The only person who seems the least bit surprised by this is the clerk Joseph Kelly. What Hales does not tell you except in a footnote is that

Brigham Young reproved Joseph E. Johnson for his adultery and breaking his temple covenants and had him rebaptized. There are no objections or accusations directed at Johnson for lying, or giving false information, (or that Johnson’s comment that what Joseph Smith did with his mother in law was NOT something that he would “plight his faith on”) was anything  most of those in attendance were surprised or offended at.

This proves that those men were not perturbed in the least by Smith’s sexual polyandry or adultery as Brian Hales claims they would be over and over again. The page about Mary Heron Snider at Hales’ website is basically the same as in his book. In attempting to try and mitigate the damage that this account does to Smith’s reputation and credibility Hales writes at his website:

… the faith of Joseph E. Johnson does not seem to have been negatively affected by what he learned about the Prophet and his mother-in-law in 1843. It is probable that, if he viewed the relationship as immoral, his testimony may have been compromised. Similarly, when he discussed his case with the council in 1850, the minutes do not record any reaction from the leaders to his comment about Joseph and his mother-in-law.

That they convened in part to consider Joseph E. Johnson’s membership status due to his adultery (he was disfellowshipped), demonstrates a lack of tolerance of sexual transgressions. That they would have disciplined Johnson but dismissed similar conduct by Joseph Smith without comment seems less likely. If the Prophet was guilty of adultery, Johnson could have claimed hypocrisy, which he was careful to not do.

So Hales can read Johnson’s mind and know what Johnson would have done? Is Hales reading the same document that we are? We have to ask because his comments are baffling. Johnson’s “faith” was not negatively affected even though he knew that Smith committed adultery. Why else would he state that he did not plight his faith on Joseph’s transactions? What transaction? The “frigging” of his mother-in-law by Joseph Smith that was obviously an adulterous affair, just like Joseph E. Johnson’s adultery was (which he freely admitted).

He said he was aware that it was wrong as it had been with… who? He then mentions Joseph Smith and his “frigging” of Mary Heron Snider. He obviously did view this as immoral, but it didn’t matter to him. (Again, “I never plighted my faith on Joseph’s transactions).  If this were some kind of marriage, would Johnson be speaking in this manner? A “frigging and transaction”? There is really no sensible reason for Johnson to bring this up in relation to his own adultery, unless he was comparing what he did to what Joseph did.

Of course Johnson didn’t claim hypocrisy because he knew how those men (and he himself) felt about Joseph Smith. (Whatever he did was right, no matter what it was). But really, why bring it up if he was not subtly trying to make the point that well, Joseph did it too?

This same tired old argument by Hales (that everyone would have been offended at what Joseph did if it was immoral) gets very old after awhile. Even in his response to Mike Quinn on his website, Hales claims that if you only pay attention to those around Smith, you will see that their lack of negative reaction is proof that Smith could never have been practicing sexual polyandry.

Really? Then how could a man like David Whitmer reject Smith and still believe in the Book of Mormon? There are many other examples like this.

But what about those who still believed in Smith? Marvin Hill wrote in 1989:

Joseph told a city council in Nauvoo in 1844 that “the people’s voice should be heard, when their voice was just,” but that when it was not “it was no longer democratic.” He said that “if the minoritys views are more just then Aristocracy should be the governing principle.” For the most part, this meant that Joseph himself would decide what was just.  He told the Saints in Kirtland that “he was authorized by God Almighty to establish his Kingdom–that he was God’s prophet . . . and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had no right to call into question anything he did . . . he was responsible to God Almighty alone.” (Marvin S. Hill, Counter-revolution: The Mormon Reaction To The Coming Of American Democracy, Sunstone 13:3/31 (Jun 89).

This was affirmed by Henry Jacobs — the living husband of Zina Huntington while Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were married to her – for he believed that:

whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God’s authorities bend to the reasoning of any man; for God has called and empowered him, and no man has a right to judge their works. (Oa Jacobs Cannon, “History of Henry Bailey Jacobs,” MS 6891 1, Church History Library).

Think about that statement for a moment. This is how many men that have led religious movements could do whatever they pleased and still be justified in doing so by their followers. It is Hales that must show evidence that Brigham Young or others in the Hierarchy would have condemned Smith for any immoral acts. But Young actually did the opposite. He said:

Many may say, “br. Brigham, perhaps you are mistaken; you are liable to err, and if the mob should not come, after all, and we should burn up our houses and learn that the Government had actually countermanded their orders and that no armies are coming to Utah, it would be a needless destruction. We have all the time felt that there was no need of leaving our houses. How easy it is for men to be mistaken, and we think a Prophet may be mistaken once in a while.” I am just as willing as the Lord, if he is disposed to make me make mistakes, and it is none of the business of any other person. If a people do the best they know, they have the power to ask and receive, and no power can prevent it.

And if the Lord wants me to make a mistake, I would as soon be mistaken as anything else, if that will save the lives of the people and give us the victory. If you get such feelings in your hearts, think of what my conclusion on the subject is, and do not come to my office to ask me whether I am mistaken, for I want to tell you now perhaps I am.

Do I want to save you? Ask that question. But John, what are you doing? Are you not an Elder in Israel? “Yes, I am a High Priest.” What is the office of an High Priest? John replies, “I do not know, without it is to whip my wife, knock down my children and make everybody obey me; and I believe a High Priest presides over an Elder.” You will find some Elders just about that ignorant. Let me tell you what the office of a High Priest and an Elder is. It holds the keys of the revelation of Jesus Christ; it unlocks the gates of heaven. It opens the broad windows of revelation from eternity. John, what are you about, imagining that I may be mistaken? or that br. Heber may be mistaken? Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, “do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?” Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry. (Brigham Young, sermon given on 21 March 1858, Salt Lake Tabernacle, transcribed by George D. Watt, Van Wagoner, Vol. 3, pp. 1417-1418).

Then in the Afternoon Sermon given on the same day,

I have told you what causes apostacy. It arises from neglect of prayers and duties, and the Spirit of the Lord leaves those who are thus negligent and they begin to think that the authorities of the church are wrong. In the days of Joseph the first thing manifested in the case of apostacy was the idea that Joseph was liable to be mistaken, and when a man admits that in his feelings and sets it down as a fact, it is a step towards apostacy, and he only needs to make one step more and he is cut off from the church. That is the case in any man. When several of the Twelve were cut off, the first step was that Joseph was a prophet, but he had fallen from his office and the Lord would suffer him to lead the people wrong. When persons get that idea in their minds, they are taking the first step to apostacy. If the Lord has designed that I should lead you wrong, then let us all go to hell together and, as Joseph used to say, we will take hell by force, turn the devils out and make a heaven of it. (ibid. pg. 1420)

Young and other’s point of view about Joseph was that he would never lead them astray, and that if he made mistakes well, so what? Joseph Smith himself said,

When did I ever teach anything wrong from this stand? When was I ever confounded? I want to triumph in Israel before I depart hence and am no more seen. I never told you I was perfect; but there are no errors in the revelations which I have taught.” [addressing his doctrinal infallibility]. Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught? I enjoin for your consideration—add to your faith virtue, love, &c. I say, in the name of the Lord, if these things are in you, you shall be [p.367] fruitful. I testify that no man has power to reveal it but myself—things in heaven, in earth and hell; and all shut your mouths for the future. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p.367).

Hales’ naïve conjecture that because Joseph Smith committed immoral acts his followers would have left him is not borne out in many historical accounts before and after the time of Smith. We have mentioned Warren Jeffs and David Koresh as two modern examples, but there are many more. Concerning Joseph Smith, Richard S. Van Wagoner wrote,

“Gentile Law,” with its civil marriage, was publicly denounced as early as 1847 by Orson Pratt in a sermon recorded by Wilford Woodruff:

As all the ordinances of the gospel Administered by the world since the Aposticy of the Church was illegal, in like manner was the marriage Cerimony illegal and all the world who had been begotten through the illegal marriage were bastards not Sons & hence they had to enter into the law of adoption & be adopted into the Priesthood in order to become sons & legal heirs to salvation.

Pratt further explained in his 1852 Church-sponsored periodical, The Seer:

Marriages, then among all nations, though legal according to the laws of men, have been illegal according to the laws, authority, and institutions of Heaven.  All the children born during that long period, though legitimate according to the custom.; and laws of nations, are illegitimate according to the order and authority of Heaven.

Even Mormon marriages prior to the fall of 1835, when priest-hood authority began to be evoked in marriage ceremonies, were pronounced invalid.  John D. Lee, member of the secret Council of Fifty and an adopted son of Brigham Young, remembered:

About the same time the doctrine of “sealing” was introduced…. the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid.  That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so.  That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God.  That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessing and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married.

Married women such as Mary Elizabeth Lightner, Marinda Hyde, Sylvia Sessions, Prescendia Buell, Zina D. H. Jacobs, and others were likely persuaded by Joseph Smith himself that even though their marriages may have been “productive of blessing and peace,” he, a prophet of God, could take them to the highest degree of the coveted celestial kingdom whereas their legal husband might not. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, “Joseph and Marriage”, Sunstone 10:9/33 (Jan 86)

Jedidiah Grant would later claim that not everyone did agree that Joseph could do whatever he wanted to and be justified:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven-the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel.  Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?, “I would tell him to go to hell.” This was the spirit of many in the early days of this church.  Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed.  The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, 13-14, Online here, Accessed October 31, 2014).

Unlike what Hales states, there were some that objected to Smith’s behavior and some who did not, but embraced it in all its ugliness (See Note #66 about Catherine Lewis and Augusta Cobb).  Van Wagoner, again:

In some instances, however, the Prophet’s intent went beyond “trying the people,” for he apparently did want the wives of some men.  Despite a canonized statement in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants which recognized that “all legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled,” the Prophet in the 1840s viewed as invalid those marriages not sealed by his blessing.  As God’s earthly agent, he believed he had been given powers that transcended civil law.  Claiming sole responsibility for binding and unbinding marriages on earth and in heaven, he did not view it necessary to obtain civil marriage licenses or divorce decrees.  Whenever he deemed it appropriate he could release a woman from her earthly marriage and seal her to himself or another, thus eliminating in his mind any stigma of adultery.  In an unusual polyandrous twist to such relationships, the Prophet advised each of these married women to continue living with her husband. (Van Wagoner, op. cited)

Yet, others who did what Joseph did, were committing adultery according to Joseph’s own 1842 address (discussed below). This concept of doctrinal and personal infallibility as to sin was explained by Abraham H. Cannon,

The angels who appeared in the Kirtland Temple delivered the keys of power to the Prophet Joseph and they were now with the Priesthood. There is not a man who has the Holy Ghost that the adversary can make him do anything wrong.  (Abraham H. Cannon, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 3, 284).

Therefore, whatever the leadership did was right, and certainly not sin. It didn’t matter if it was in the “scriptures”, the “living oracles” always trumped the scriptures and anyone who would call these men to account were told that they themselves were without the “Holy Ghost”. George Q. Cannon made this perfectly clear in an 1896 Conference Address:

There is one thing that the Lord has warned us about from the beginning, and that is, not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. He has told us that any member of the Church who indulged in this is liable to lose the Spirit of God and go into darkness. The Prophet Joseph said time and again that it was one of the first and strongest symptoms of apostasy. Have we not proved this? Have not his words upon this subject been fulfilled to the very letter? No man can do this without incurring the displeasure of the Lord. It may seem strange, in this age of irreverence and iconoclasm, to talk in this way. Nevertheless, this is the truth. God has chosen His servants. He claims it as His prerogative to condemn them, if they need condemnation. He has not given it to us individually to censure and condenm them. [p.223] No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on the earth without incurring His displeasure. The Holy Spirit will withdraw itself from such a man, and he will go into darkness. This being the case, do you not see how important it is that we should be careful? However difficult it may be for us to understand the reasons for any action of the authorities of the Church, we should not too hastily call their acts in question and pronounce them wrong.  (George Q. Cannon, October 6, 1896, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 5, 223)

Again and again they take this concept back to Joseph Smith. In 1900, Joseph F. Smith claimed:

The question in my mind is this: Who is to judge who are the good men and the wise men? If you leave me to judge, I say one man; if you leave Brother Brigham to judge, he may say another man; or, if we leave it to the people to judge, one says this is the wise man, and another says that is the wise man. The question with me is: Am I in a frame of mind, that when I get the word of the Lord as to who is the right man, will I obey it, no matter if it does come contrary to my convictions or predilections? If I feel that I can obey the word of God on this matter, then I am in harmony with the spirit of the work of God. If I cannot do it, I am not in harmony with that spirit. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October, 1900, 48, Online here, ( Accessed October 31, 2014).

Like with Hales and polygamy being “difficult to understand”, so too Cannon uses this same line of reasoning to justify leaders not being held accountable for their actions. You cannot find fault with “God’s leaders” without incurring his displeasure. So Joseph Smith and Brigham Young could take other men’s wives away from them, commit adultery and break any law because “it is not given to us individually to censure and condemn them.” This was drilled into the heads of the “saints” during the Nauvoo years, and unfortunately many fell victim to this perversion of scripture and by their silence enabled these men to act with impunity in any way they so desired.

Joseph’s mantra, that some sin is really not sin, (See Note #71) was taken up by many and believed when it came to marriage, the law and adultery.  Brian Hales today is a prime example of someone who believes in this way and will go to any length and postulate any silly or illogical excuse to exonerate Smith from his John C. Bennett type spiritual wifery. (polyandry)  As John D. Lee wrote in his memoirs:

During the winter [of 1842], Joseph, the Prophet, set a man by the name of Sidney Hay Jacobs, to select from the Old Bible such scriptures as pertained to polygamy, or celestial marriage, and to write it in pamphlet form, and to advocate that doctrine. This he did as a feeler among the people, to pave the way for, celestial marriage. This, like all other notions, met with opposition, while a few favored it. The excitement among the people became so great that the subject was laid before the Prophet. No one was more opposed to it than his brother Hyrum, who denounced it as from beneath. Joseph saw that it would break up the Church, should he sanction it. So he denounced the pamphlet through the Wasp, a newspaper published at Nauvoo, by E[beneezer] Robinson, as a bundle of nonsense and trash. He said that if he had known its contents he would never have permitted it to be published, while at the same time other confidential men were advocating it on their own responsibility.  Joseph himself said on the stand that should he reveal the will of God concerning them, they—pointing to President W[illiam] Marks, P[arley] P. Pratt and others—would shed his blood. He urged them to surrender themselves to God instead of rebelling against the stepping stone of their exaltation. In this way he worked upon the feelings and minds of the people, until they feared that the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them, and they insisted upon knowing the will of Heaven concerning them. But he dared not proclaim it publicly, so it was taught confidentially to such as were strong enough in the faith to take another step. About the same time, the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles and inspired men of God. That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children, in alienation from each other. There should exist an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.

… After the death of Joseph, Brigham Young told me that Joseph’s time on earth was short, and that the Lord allowed him privileges that we could not have.  (John Doyle Lee, The Writings of John D. Lee, Ed. by Samuel Nyal Henrie, 2001, 2002, 133-34, added emphasis, Online here, (Google Books) Accessed November 5, 2014. Lee probably meant Orson Hyde, who had problems accepting Joseph’s Spiritual Wife Doctrine in Nauvoo).

Notice how Joseph threatens those who were reluctant to embrace his radical teachings. It is no wonder that many did not object to them.  In 1856 Brigham Young made this amazing declaration:

There are many of the men and women now before me who have looked for a pure people, and have supposed that that was a proof of the truth of our doctrines, but they will never find such a people until Satan is bound, and Jesus comes to reign with his Saints. The doctrine we preach is the doctrine of salvation, and it is that which the Elders of this Church take to the world, and not the people of Utah.

Some of the Elders seem to be tripped up in a moment, if the wicked can find any fault with the members of this Church; but bless your souls, I would not yet have this people faultless, for the day of separation has not yet arrived. I have many a time, in this stand, dared the world to produce as mean devils as we can; we can beat them at anything. We have the greatest and smoothest liars in the world, the cunningest and most adroit thieves, and any other shade of character that you can mention.

We can pick out Elders in Israel right here who can beat the world at gambling, who can handle the cards, cut and shuffle them with the smartest rogue on the face of God’s foot-stool. I can produce Elders here who can shave their smartest shavers, and take their money from them. We can beat the world at any game.

We can beat them, because we have men here that live in the light of the Lord, that have the Holy Priesthood, and hold the keys of the kingdom of God. But you may go through all the sectarian world, and you cannot find a man capable of opening the door of the kingdom of God to admit others in. We can do that. We can pray the best, preach the best, and sing the best. We are the best looking and finest set of people on the face of the earth, and they may begin any game they please, and we are on hand, and can beat them at anything they have a mind to begin. They may make sharp their two-edged swords, and I will turn out the Elders of Israel with greased feathers, and whip them to death. We are not to be beat. We expect to be a stumbling block to the whole world, and a rock of offence to them.

I never preached to the world but what the cry was, “That damned old Joe Smith has done thus and so.” I would tell the people that they did not know him, and I did, and that I knew him to be a good man; and that when they spoke against him, they spoke against as good a man as ever lived.

I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against “Joe Smith,” saying, “that he was a mean man, a liar, money-digger, gambler, and a whore-master;” and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor’s wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it. He said, “I have done.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p.77, online here, Accessed December 1, 2014).

The fact that Young was still retelling this story some 25 years later shows that he still felt the same way. Joseph could sleep with his neighbor’s wife every night and  Brigham would not care.  He knew that this was a part of Joseph’s behavior because he warned one of his wives (Augusta Adams Cobb) not to be alone with Joseph lest she be “overcome” by him.

John Snider

It seems that Joseph Smith was also able to deny people the right of their free agency to refuse to go on a mission without being penalized by him acting in his Church leadership role. In 1842 this is what Smith instructed the Twelve to do in relation to John Snider (whose wife Joseph was having sex with):

<1842.> January 28 Joseph decided that Elder John Snider should go out on a mission, and if necessary some one go with him. and raise up a Church. and get means to go to England. & carry the Epistles required in the Revelation109 page 36.— and instructed the Twelve, B[righam] Young H[eber] C. Kimball. W[ilford] Woodruff. &— W[illard] Richards— being present. to call Elder Snider into their council & instruct him in these things, & if he will not do these things he shall be cut off from the Church. & be damned.— (Online here, (Joseph Smith Papers) Accessed November 5, 2014, added emphasis).

Is using threats against someone’s eternal salvation because someone is reluctant to go on a mission the righteous exercise of priesthood authority over them?  Joseph Smith himself wrote that God told him that:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 121:34-39, added emphasis).

Every Mormon knows that it is a fundamental doctrine of the Church that one cannot be “forced” to serve a mission as Joseph Smith tried to do with John Snider. For example, at, “Nick” wrote,

“Required” is an interesting word when it comes to faith and religion. In the Mormon Church no one is “required” to serve a mission. Church membership is not revoked for not serving a mission.

It seems that church membership can be revoked, if the “prophet” wants your wife. As James E. Talmage taught,

It is no more a part of God’s plan to compel men to work righteousness than it is his purpose to permit evil powers to force his children into sin.” (James Talmage, The Great Apostasy, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909, 35, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

David O. McKay also taught this same principle,

Freedom of the will and the responsibility associated with it are fundamental aspects of Jesus’ teachings. Throughout his ministry he emphasized the worth of the individual, and exemplified what is now expressed in modern revelation as the work and glory of God–“To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Only through the divine gift of soul freedom is such progress possible.

Force, on the other hand, emanates from Lucifer himself. Even in man’s preexistent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of mans coming to earth would have been frustrated. Satan’s proposed system of government, therefore, was rejected, and the principle of free agency establish in its place. (Conference Report, April 1950, 34 -35, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

David O. Mckay

So, according to David O. McKay, where did Joseph Smith’s threat to cut off John Snider from the Church if he did not accept a mission come from? Lucifer himself. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Snider “frigging” is how Hales continues to portray it, even though he claims there is no evidence any special relationship existed:

My research supports that Joseph Smith and all of his plural wives obeyed the theology undergirding the practice of polygamy. That is, a wedding ceremony creating a valid priesthood marriage always occurred, they did not engage in sexual polyandry, and adultery was always condemned.

Looking specifically at Joseph Smith’s marriages to women with legal husbands, I conclude that three were for “time and eternity” (Sylvia Sessions, Mary Heron, and Sarah Ann Whitney) and included sexual relations with Joseph Smith (or may have included it). Importantly, documentation of sexual relations with the legal husband during the same period is absent because two of the women were already physically separated from their civil spouses (Windsor Lyon and Joseph Kingsbury) and the third case (of Mary Heron) is too poorly documented. (“Hales-Quinn”, online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

How then, can Hales claim that it is probable that Smith was married to Mary Heron Snider for “time and eternity”? Fact is, he can’t. We do have evidence enough to conclude that it was adultery, but a marriage? That is simply wishful thinking on the part of Hales. But it still did not stop him from correcting Jeremy Runnells and including her as one of Smith’s wives. It is obvious that it is Hales who has problems with the evidence, not Jeremy Runnells.

As for this speculation by Hales concerning John Snider,

A fourth interpretation [of Smith and Mary Heron’s relationship] also acknowledges conjugality between Joseph Smith and Mary Heron and assumes that a plural sealing in the new and everlasting covenant occurred that would have caused the legal marriage to be “done away” (D&C 22:1) with John continuing as a “front husband” to shield Joseph Smith from suspicion.  This explanation absolves Joseph of charges of both adultery and hypocrisy but raises plausibility issues about John Snider’s willingness to give up his wife and to thereafter serve as a “front husband.” In support of this possibility are the observations that John Snider and Mary Heron seem to have endured significant periods of estrangement after 1833, with no pregnancies after Mary turned twenty-nine. Also, the couple’s marriage was apparently never sealed, although the option was available. (Hales, “Mary Heron”, op. cited above).

Hales use of D&C 22 in relation to the polygamy “revelation” is anachronistic. (We discuss this in various places in this Essay) And unfortunately for Hales, it directly contradicts an Address from the First Presidency (in other words a binding “revelation” to the Church) made in November, 1842:



To our well beloved brother, Parley P. Pratt, and to the elders of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and scattered abroad throughout all Europe, and to the Saints,Greeting:

Whereas, in times past persons have been permitted to gather with the Saints at Nauvoo, in North America—such as husbands leaving their wives and children behind; also, such as wives leaving their husbands and children behind; and such as women leaving their husbands, and such as husbands leaving their wives who have no children, and some because their companions are unbelievers. All this kind of proceeding we consider to be erroneous and for want of proper information. And the same should be taught to all the Saints, and not suffer families to be broken up on any account whatever if it be possible to avoid it. Suffer no man to leave his wife because she is an unbeliever, nor any woman to leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. These things are an evil and must be forbidden by the authorities of the church, or they will come under condemnation; for the gathering is not in haste nor by flight, but to prepare all things before you, and you know not but the unbeliever may be converted and the Lord heal him; but let the believers exercise faith in God, and the unbelieving husband shall be sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and families are preserved and saved from a great evil which we have seen verified before our eyes.

Behold this is a wicked generation, full of lyings, and deceit, and craftiness; and the children of the wicked are wiser than the children of light; that is, they are more crafty; and it seems that it has been the case in all ages of the world. And the man who leaves his wife and travels to a foreign nation, has his mind overpowered with darkness, and Satan deceives him and flatters him with the graces of the harlot, and before he is aware he is disgraced forever: and greater is the danger for the woman that leaves her husband. , and there are several instances where women have left their husbands, and [pg. 2] come to this place,& in a few weeks, or months, they have found themselves new husbands, and they are living in adultery; and we are oblige us to cut them off from the church. I presume  There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. We are knowing to their having taken wives here and are credibly informed that they have wives in England.  [red text underlining in original, red text removed when published in the Millennial Star]

 The evils resulting from such proceedings are of such a nature as to oblige us to cut them off from the church.  [Not in original]

There is another evil which exists. There are poor men who come here and leave their families behind in a destitute situation, and beg for assistance to send back after their families. Every man should tarry with his family until providence provides for the whole, for there is no means here to be obtained to send back. Money is scarce and hard to be obtained. The people that gather to this place are generally poor, the gathering being attended with a great sacrifice; and money cannot be obtained by labour, but all kinds of produce is plentiful and can be obtained by labour; therefore the poor man that leaves his family in England, cannot get means, which must be silver and gold, to send for his family; but must remain under the painful sensation, that his family must be cast upon the mercy of the people, and separated and put into the poorhouse.

Therefore, to remedy the evil, we forbid a man to leave his family behind because he has no means to bring them. If the church is not able to bring them, and the parish will not send them, let the man tarry with his family—live with them—and die with them, and not leave them until providence shall open a way for them to come all together. And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation.

These things we have written in plainness, and we desire that they should be publicly known, and request this to be published in the [Millennial] STAR.

May the Lord bestow his blessing upon all the Saints richly, and hasten the gathering, and bring about the fulness of the everlasting covenant are the prayers of your brethren.

Written by Hyrum Smith, patriarch, by the order of Joseph Smith, president over the whole church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. HYRUM SMITH. (“Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star 3 [November 1842]: 115; emphasis added, Online here, Accessed October 30, 2014, original letter online here, accessed July 13, 2015. Thanks to Brent Metcalfe for the link and H. Michael Marquardt for bringing the original letter to our attention).

As you can see, the original letter has more material than what was printed in the Millennial Star. (In red).

We also found it interesting that the First Presidency here should use the word crafty in relation to these things. Joseph Smith himself did so in relation to “sealing” in 1844:

Again the doctrin or sealing power of Elijah is as follows: If you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be crafty. The first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory & go ahead and not go back but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can & when you get to heaven tell your father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven. I will walk through the gate of heaven and Claim what I seal & those that follow me & my Council. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal,  Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.365, March 10, 1844, added emphasis. This quote was drastically changed when it was put into the History of the Church (without ellipsis or any notification)  and is still used today in its edited form. See quote at Note 8 here at, Accessed November 5, 2014).

Here is how they altered the quote in their Manual, Teachings of Joseph Smith,

Again: The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory. (Teachings: Joseph Smith, Chapter 26: Elijah and the Restoration of the Sealing Keys, Online here, Accessed, October 26, 2016, Quote at Note #8).

And their source note reads:

History of the Church, 6:251–53; spelling modernized; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Mar. 10, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff.

Neither the History of the Church nor this modern Manual mentions that the quote was drastically altered by them. And “crafty” does not mean “wise”. What it means is being “clever at achieving one’s aims by indirect or deceitful methods.” It also means “artful” or “cunning” according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary. It reminds us of this Book of Mormon verse from 2 Nephi, Chapter 9:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

What are we to make of Joseph Smith deceitfully using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Why did he ignore his own commandment not to break up marriages and families? Did he misuse this power? From what we see above, yes, it appears that he did and then when his first wife Emma totally rebelled against him wrote the apology “revelation”, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132.

[34] Ann Eliza Webb, Wife No. 19, Or the story of a life in bondage. Being a complete exposé of Mormonism, and revealing the sorrows, sacrifices and sufferings of women in Polygamy, 1876, pages 70-71. Notice that this is not a “secondary source”. The original may be read here, at Accessed, October 30, 2014.

[35] Hales, Rational Faiths, op. cited. Hales uses selective editing when quoting the interview with Zina D. H. Young in 1887, to remove her obvious bias against Ann Eliza Webb. The actual quote reads (from Hales’ website mormonpolygamydocuments):

“The trouble with Ann Eliza,” Aunt Zina answered, “was that she was not truthful. She was not grateful, and she was a very bad woman.  She has convicted herself out of her own mouth. She said she lived in a hovel. The cottage she occupied is still standing on the corner beyond, and it is among the best and prettiest in this part of the city. The fact is it is far too good for her. “Yes,” said Mrs. Wells, “I knew Ann Eliza at school, and she was never fit to be the wife of President Young.”

“She says she was starved,” Aunt Zinah continued; “when the fact is she got more than any of us. Mr. Parks, now with the Z. C. M. I. was President Young’s steward, and he gave each family its monthly allowance of sugar, soap, coffee, etc., and Ann Eliza got more than all the others, because she made Mr. Parks give it to her. She says she made butter for the other wives when she was on President Young’s farm. She never did any such thing. She had her horses and carriages, with which she rode to and from the farm, and it may have been that occasionally some butter was put in her carriage, which she left at the Lion House or Bee Hive, but that was all. She never lifted her finger to do a bit of work that she didn’t want to do. She had servants and there was no necessity for her doing anything. She has asserted that President Young opened all his wives’ letters, and that they couldn’t visit anywhere or write to anybody, which is ridiculously untrue. President Young was occupied with too many important matters to give attention to such trivial things as his wives’ letters or his wives’ visits. We wrote to whom we pleased and went where we wanted to go.” … (“Two Prophets’ Widows, St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 18, 1887, 6, JSP_Book_15, PDF, Online here, Accessed October 14, 2014).

We don’t know why Hales employed those ellipses, but from what we see here, both Zina Young and Emmeline Wells didn’t think that Ann Eliza was fit to be Young’s wife in the first place. This sounds more like petty jealousy.

These wives also state that Ann Eliza made trips to the Lion and Beehive houses, which would have given her ample opportunity to interact with Zina and Young’s other wives. For Hales to claim “proximity” here, is disingenuous. The quote isn’t that long, so why didn’t Hales transcribe it all? Because it doesn’t support his narrative. Many readers will simply not take the trouble to look up the original sources. Hales could also provide links to the pages with the actual sources if he chose to do so, but so far he has not. I am hopeful that he will, since he has gone to the trouble of producing and making public his research.

As for Ann Eliza, she did not say that she lived in a hovel. She wrote,

Such a home it was! A little house, the rent of which would have been extremely moderate had it been a hired house, furnished plainly, even meanly, when the position of the man whose wife was to occupy it was considered. It was the very cheapest pine furniture which could be bought in the city, and the crockery was dishes that Brigham had left when he sold the Globe bakery. There were very few of these, and they were in various stages of dilapidation. My carpet was an old one, taken from the Lion House parlor, all worn out in the centre, and, it being a large room, I took out the edges and pieced out enough to cover two rooms, and the other floors were bare. I had no window curtains of any sort, and there being no blinds to the house, I had to hang up sheets to keep people from looking in.

I told him several times that I was insufficiently supplied; but for a long time he made some excuse or other for not giving me more. At last he sent me a very few additional ones; so that, although there was still a lack of what I actually needed, I managed to get along by a great deal of contriving. (Ann Eliza Young, op. cited, 458).

This is hardly claiming she lived in a “hovel”.  Ann Eliza calls it a “little house”; which is what Zina called it: a “cottage”.  Ann Eliza complained about the sparse furnishings, of which Zina makes no mention. And even this, says Zina, “is far too good for her.” In fact Ann Eliza states on page 533 of her book that “Outwardly, my new home had a lovely appearance.” She adds, “And, indeed, with its somewhat irregular architecture, its wide verandas, vine-draped and shaded, its broad, low windows, and beautiful surroundings, it is one of the pleasantest looking places that one would care to see.” (ibid., 533)

This of course is exactly what Zina Young states. It is obvious that Zina is out to vilify Ann Eliza by putting a derogatory spin on the things that she reported in her book. The author of the article describes it as a “charming little house”, while Ann Eliza called it a lovely … little house. 

For example, Ann Eliza doesn’t claim that she ever made butter. She writes,

My mother made the butter and cheese [at the Farm], and took charge of the cooking. I assisted her with the latter, [cooking] took care of the house, did the washing and ironing, and was allowed the extreme pleasure of carrying the farm supplies to the other wives every week. (ibid., 534, added emphasis).

Again, we see that Zina is mistaken, and only has part of it right. Ann Eliza did claim that she carried supplies (like butter) to the other wives, not that she made the butter herself. It seems that it is Hales who is not really familiar with the research, if he will use such biased witnesses without disclosing them as such. Still, we are troubled by the ellipses he employs that drastically alter the tone of Zina Young’s statements about Ann Eliza. This also destroys Hales “proximity” argument.

Notice also, that Zina claims that she was “sealed” to Joseph for time and eternity, and claims that it was a “marriage”.

[36] Brian Hales, Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 141, 149, 153-54, 156-57, 159-60, online here, accessed October 20, 2014.  If one reads through the references on Ann Eliza Webb Young given by Brian Hales in this article, one curious thing becomes obvious. He never reveals the credibility problems he seems to have with her as he does when Ann Eliza’s reminiscences are used by others who have come to different conclusions than Brian Hales does.

We also see that Hales on the one hand tries to provide evidence for a “sealing”, but then denies that there could be one.  Hales and Gregory L. Smith write in their Interpreter Article,

We do not claim the Fanny Alger plural marriage was a sealing. Joseph possessed priesthood authority that could solemnize marriages. The first such recorded marriage occurred 24 November 1835, when the Prophet performed the monogamous wedding ceremony of Lydia Goldthwaite Bailey and Newell Knight. It is common nowadays to think of plural marriage as always tied to the doctrines of sealing and eternal marriage, but the two concepts are separate. The historical evidence has Joseph discussing plural marriage years prior to expressing ideas about eternal sealings. (Hales-Smith, op. cited)

There is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that Smith possessed a priesthood authority that could solemnize polygamous marriages in 1835. Hales provides no credible evidence that the concepts are “separate”. In his article for the Journal of Mormon History Hales writes,

“An analysis of the various narratives shows that none is contemporary with 1835; thirteen were written at least thirty-seven years after the events occurred; ten of the accounts are second-hand. Seven considered the relationship a plural marriage or sealing …” (Hales, op. cited, 142-3, note 20).

If only “Priesthood Authority” (not having the sealing “keys”) could solemnize celestial/plural marriages, then why does every single “prophet” of the Mormon Church claim that it takes those “keys” to do so, and that anyone who did not have those “keys” could not perform them without express permission? It has always been taught that no one could perform a plural marriage without direct permission of the President of the Church. This is because he is the one that held the “keys” to do so, keys that were not given to the Church (as they claim) until 1836. This is a dilemma for those that wish to turn the Alger affair into a polygamous marriage. That plural marriages were linked with the sealing “keys” and that these were not really valid until performed in a Temple is affirmed by Hales himself:

The belief developed in Nauvoo that all eternal sealing ceremonies performed outside of a temple, whether monogamous or polygamous, would need to be repeated within temple walls (with the same individuals or by proxy) at some point. By this logic, the Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger plural marriage needed to be repeated in a temple to become an eternal marriage. (Hales, ibid., 158)

But why would Joseph marry Fanny Alger only for time, when Hales claims that the polygamy “revelation” is all about the next life and eternal “marriages”? Is he making an exception with this “marriage”? If so, why? Hales advocates time and again that everything to do with Smith is done in a proper order as revealed by God. Hales claims that,

A second applicable theological principle apparently overlooked by proponents including Quinn is found an 1830 revelation, now D&C 22:1, which states: “Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” This revelation was given shortly after the Church was organized in response to a specific question about baptism, which is a new and everlasting covenant between a person and God. The revelation states generally that the new and everlasting covenant causes all old covenants to be done away.

Thirteen years later Joseph recorded another revelation dealing with his question about Old Testament patriarchs who practices a “plurality of wives” (D&C 132:1). As part of the revelatory reply, the Lord proclaimed: “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant…” The revelation continues declaring that this new and everlasting covenant allows the marriage of a man and a woman to be “valid…[and] of force when they are out of the world” (v. 18; see also 19-20). The question is whether the earlier statement that “all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant” (D&C 22:1) applies to all “new and everlasting covenants” mentioned in D&C 132:4.

Isaiah provided a possible hint regarding the teaching methods of the God of the Bible: “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (Isaiah 28:13; see also 2 Nephi 28:30). This instruction was repeated to Joseph Smith in one of his revelations (D&C 98:12, see also 128:21). The 1830 revelation states “all old covenants” are “done away” by “a new and everlasting covenant.” If “all” means “all,” then new and everlasting covenants revealed later in a “line upon line” fashion would be subject to the same constraints as those revealed early. Then sealings in the new and everlasting would cause old legal marriage covenants to be “done away.” In 1854, Jedediah M. Grant recalled that when eternal marriage was revealed in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith taught that “all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants.”

These verses have important ramifications for the practice of sexual polyandry. They support that from a religious standpoint, a woman previously legally married and subsequently sealed would not have two husbands with whom she could experience sexual relations after the sealing ceremony. The new and everlasting covenant of marriage would supersede the legal covenant of marriage causing it to be “done away.” Thereafter, going back to her legal husband would be adultery because in the eyes of the Church, that marriage ended with the sealing. (Hales, op. cited).

There is no evidence at all that a “Celestial Marriage” would void an already existing secular marriage in the Kirtland or Nauvoo Era. According to Hales, Joseph was then guilty of breaking up marriages, which Smith condemned in 1842 in a First Presidency Address. He declared that no one had the right to break up any marriage for any reason. If the wife left the husband she must get a legal divorce and then she could marry again. If she did not, she and any man she took up with were committing adultery. This means that Joseph Smith committed adultery with every one of his polyandrous wives.

And far be it for us to “overlook” any of Hales illogical assertions or private interpretations of Smith’s doctrine. (We are sure that there are many we will not get to even in an Essay of this length). Hales claims that in an 1830 “revelation” Smith claimed,

“Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing;”

What is “this thing”? Hales claims the “revelation” is about baptism, which it is; but he then goes on to say that it is “generally” about all things in the Church. Here is what it actually says,

1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.

3 For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.

4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen. (added emphasis)

“This thing”, is Baptism, not Marriage. As Dan Vogel explained to Hales,

Your reading of D&C 22 is anachronistic. You are attempting to apply an 1840s definition to an 1830 term. At the time it was given, only the Catholics considered marriage a religious ceremony. Protestants rejected marriage as a sacrament of the church. Mormons were no different. While they insisted that converts be rebaptized, they didn’t require them to be remarried.

“In Joseph Smith’s theology, a woman could never have two husbands.” You are presumably basing this on the July 1843 revelation (D&C 132:61-62). Yet, you have admitted that JS married at least three women who had living husbands. So, to save your thesis, you propose the following ad hoc hypothesis: “A marriage sealing in the new and everlasting covenant would cause the civil marriage to be done away from a Church standpoint.” However, this interpretation is aided by your anachronistic borrowing from D&C 22, which you haven’t shown that JS applied to marriage in the 1840s. Yours is a private interpretation of scripture since the Church’s position has been that non-Mormon marriage, or Mormon marriage out side the temple for that matter, is valid and binding for this life only but is dissolved at death. This is apparently the view expressed in D&C 132:41-44, which mentions that it is considered adultery if either the husband or wife breaks the marriage “vow” even if their marriage was “not in the new and everlasting covenant”. Indeed, the Church has always treated non-temple marriage as legitimate.

Nevertheless, you have only shown that under a certain semantic construction JS didn’t commit adultery; there still remains the issue of sexual polyandry. In other words, you seem to be arguing two things simultaneously: JS didn’t have sex with married women, but if he did he didn’t consider it adultery. And you say I’m subtle. Polyandry is polyandry. The revelation’s use of the term “virgins” (132: 61-62) would tend to exclude your specialized definition, which would require you to go deeper into semantics and equivocation. I turns out that when you say everyone but you has ignored JS’s theology, you mean they don’t understand it in the unique (and unlikely) way that you do. (“Hales-Vogel”, op. cited).

“Hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers…”

Another error that Hales makes is applying the quote from Isaiah that he mentions:

9 “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? 10 For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; here a little here, a little there.” 11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, 12 to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen. 13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there— so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured. Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 28:9-14 NIV, added emphasis).

It is obvious that Isaiah was being extremely sarcastic here, and that teaching “line upon line” was not the Lord’s way, it was a curse that would cause the ruling scoffers “to fall backward” and become “injured” and “snared and captured.” In verse 19 Isaiah claims, “The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror.” His message was being delivered to “scoffers” who had “made a lie” of their refuge. This is not about some approved method of teaching doctrine; it is about what happens when wicked men rule and abuse their positions of power.

The 1830 “revelation” absolutely does not apply to the one given in 1843. The binding scripture of the Church in 1835 declared, “All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled.” (1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Section CI:4, added emphasis; Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: FULFILL’ED:  Accomplished; performed; completed; executed).

Yes, Smith did teach in Nauvoo that all Gentile marriages were not binding upon those individuals “in and after the resurrection from the dead”, but that was a doctrinal change without support from earlier scripture, used by Smith to justify his polyandry. Indeed, Smith himself claimed in his 1843 “revelation”,

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7, added emphasis).

The problem with Hales’ logic here, is that the husbands of the women that Smith “married” were not dead when he did so, so their marriage “contracts” were still valid, and as we mentioned above it was a law to the Church:

And we also forbid that a woman leave her husband because he is an unbeliever. We also forbid that a man shall leave his wife because she is an unbeliever. If he be a bad man (i. e. the unbeliever) there is a law to remedy that evil. And if she be a bad woman, there is law to remedy that evil. And if the law divorce them, then they are at liberty; otherwise they are bound as long as they two shall live, and it is not our prerogative to go beyond this; if we do it, it will be at the expense of our reputation. (1842 Address, op.cited above).

Eliza R. Snow wrote a list of Smith’s wives with Andrew Jenson and he penned this about Fanny Alger:

“One of the first wives Joseph married, Emma made such a fuss about –  Sister ER Snow was well acquainted with her and lived with the prophet at the time She afterwards married in Indiana where she became the mother of a large family”(Hales, op. cited)

Hales states that “Eliza’s proximity to the events is important because it provides a chronological marker because she went to live with the Smith family in the “spring of 1836,” so Hales concludes that the “marriage” took place during this period of time. He also makes the conclusion that Eliza was then an “eyewitness to the fuss”, with Emma.

Snow moved to Kirtland in December of 1835. She writes in her “Sketch” in 1885, “In the Spring of 1836, I taught a select school for the young ladies, and boarded with the Prophet’s family: at the close of the term I returned to my parental home…”

This does not say that she moved to Kirtland in “the Spring of 1836”. But I did find this notice in the February Edition of the Messenger and Advocate for 1835:

Notice. — The spring term of the “Kirtland School” will commence on the 20th of April next. Young gentlemen and ladies from a distance can obtain board, in respectable families for $1.00 to $1.25 per week. (Messenger & Advocate, Vol. I. No. 5, February, 1835, 80, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

This would seem to indicate that the Spring Term started in mid April, and this is probably the case for the next year (1836). We learn from Eliza Snow’s journal that her terms lasted for three months so Eliza would have been at the Smith home until mid-July.  Joseph Smith left for Salem, Massachusetts on July 25, 1836.

There are problems with Snow’s account. First, it is too vague. What did she mean by “married”? Did she ever claim to witness a ceremony? Did Alger ever describe herself as Smith’s “wife”? All we have is that Snow was “well acquainted” with Alger, who left Kirtland in the Winter of 1836. What this brief sentence does not say is that Snow and Alger lived with the Smith’s at the same time. “At the time” could just mean the year 1836 when Smith was committing adultery with Alger. Snow doesn’t have to be an “eyewitness” to have known that Emma put up a “fuss”.

Since Snow was in Kirtland since December of 1835 she could have easily learned about the scrape and the “fuss” that Emma put up about it. Snow describing it as a “marriage” later, means nothing because she was an ardent defender of Smith and that is how she viewed it. If Snow really knew all that about Alger, why are there so little details? She doesn’t provide a timeframe for the supposed “marriage”, who performed it,  or who was there, all crucial details that someone who was well acquainted with Fanny Alger would supposedly know.

Hales also can’t answer the problem of a “sealing”. He only uses Smith’s “priesthood authority” to perform marriages and quotes Newell Knight from 1846 to substantiate this claim. Hales admits that “sealing” in Ohio seems to have been used only in “sealing up to everlasting life.”

So Smith had no authority to perform plural marriages or sealings at that time. This is an important point that can’t be stressed enough. Smith’s “priesthood authority” simply did not extend to plural marriages because he did not have the “keys” to perform them, including those for “time”. If he could perform them, then why have Elijah come and why do all subsequent Mormon “authorities” claim that they are needed to do so? Why then, did John C. Bennett not have the authority to perform plural marriages for time only? If Joseph could break the rule, why couldn’t Bennett also?  Remember, Bennett was operating before the “revelation” on polygamy was written that designated that only one man could authorize those “marriages”.

This whole scenario makes little sense except as an apologetic ploy. Therefore, Hales needs to throw out any reference to Smith and Alger being “sealed”, or that Joseph could have performed a plural “marriage” at that time by “priesthood authority”. This cuts way down on his evidence of a marriage, which doesn’t do him any good anyway, because they are all late accounts decades after the event. Even Eliza J. Webb (Ann Eliza Young’s mother) couldn’t say for sure what went on in Kirtland as she wrote on May 4, 1876:

But I am surprised that Emma will testify that Polygamy was not practiced in Joseph’s day. Aunt Fanny Murray [Brigham Young’s sister] was sealed to Joseph. She told me so herself. Mother Granger who your mother will remember, told me she herself was sealed to Hyrum Smith…Helen Kimball and Sarah Ann Whitney were among the ‘victims’ Helen was only fourteen years old when she was given to the “prophet.” Poor girl, and poor Mother, we may also say, for sister Vilate was both shocked and grieved almost beyond measure. Emma Smith knows all this, but I do not wish to quarrel with her about it, for she has no doubt, had trouble enough. I think I could enumerate towards a hundred women who were sealed to Joseph; many of them already having husbands at the time, who the “prophet” said were not competent to save and exalt their wives…I do not know that the “sealing” commenced in Kirtland but I am perfectly satisfied that something similar commenced, and my judgement is principally formed from what Fanny Alger told me herself concerning her reasons for leaving “Sister Emma”. (Eliza J. Webb letter of 4 May 1876, in Myron H. Bond Papers, RLDS Archives, added emphasis).

What would be “similar” to sealing? There is simply no answer to this question, therefore Eliza Webb is simply mistaken and conflating later events with what Alger told her fifty years earlier. Joseph Smith could have told Fanny Alger anything which she may have repeated to Eliza Webb, (about it being some kind of “marriage”) but that doesn’t change the fact that Joseph did not have the authority to perform a plural marriage in 1835. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states,

The Book of Mormon makes clear that, though the Lord will command men through his prophets to live the law of plural marriage at special times for his purposes, monogamy is the general standard (Jacob 2:28-30); unauthorized polygamy was and is viewed as adultery. Another safeguard was that authorized plural marriages could be performed only through the sealing power controlled by the presiding authority of the Church (D&C 132:19). (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Plural Marriage”, 1992, p. 1094).

Joseph did not have the “sealing power” which is supposedly a “safeguard” against what Hales claims he did, and therefore he could not perform any plural marriage at that time. Therefore, what Hales is advocating here, is his own fantasy.

In Smith’s diary from 1835 we have the actual marriage ceremony he used for the Newell Knight marriage:

24 November 1835 • Tuesday

Tuesday 24th at home, spent the fore noon, instructing those that called to inquire concerning the things of God, in the last days: in the after-noon, we translated some of the Egyptian, records; I had an invitation, to attend a wedding at Br. Hiram [Hyrum] Smith’s in the evening also to solemnize the matrimonial ceremony, <between Newell Knights [Newel Knight] & Lydia Goldthwaite [Bailey]> I and my wife, went, when we arrived a conciderable company, had collected, the bridegroom & bride came in, and took their seats, which gave me to understand that they were ready, I requesteded them to arise and join hands, I then remarked that marriage was an institution of h[e]aven institude [instituted] in the garden of Eden, that it was necessary that it should be Solemnized by the authority of the everlasting priesthood, before joining hands however, we attended prayers. I then made the remarks above stated; The ceremony was original <with me> it was in substance as follows, You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect to which they assented, I then pronounced them husband & Wife in the name of God and also pronounced the blessings that the Lord confeed upon adam & Eve in the garden of Eden; that is to multiply and replenish the earth, with the addition of long life and prosperity; dismissed them and returned home.— The weather is freezing cold, some snow on the ground…(Joseph Smith Diary, 1835-1836, 49, Online here, Accessed November 16, 2014).

Notice that even with a monogamous marriage, Smith blesses them to “multiply and replenish the earth”.  It is also important to note that a few months earlier, this was printed in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants which soon after became binding on the entire church (including Joseph Smith):

Section CI.


1. According to the customs of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be there determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2. Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companions, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”
3. The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.
4. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that all persons who exercise control over their fellow beings, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. (Added emphasis)

First, all marriages should be “solemnized” in a public meeting. Second, they should be performed by the presiding officer of the Ward, and they should not be prohibited from being married by “other authority”. Also, this proclamation (which became binding scripture on the church) states that these marriages were to be performed “by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him, whether by Mormon “priesthood” or by “other authority”.

Finally, we have a warning against polygamy, and that the declared belief of the church is “that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband,” and that it is not lawful for any man to influence a woman to leave her husband.

What does it say about a self proclaimed prophet who does not follow the binding scripture of his own church? No wonder Smith did what he did in secret.

This article on marriage says nothing about gentile marriages not being valid or that a woman can just leave her duly married husband because some priesthood holder desired her or she desired him.  As D. Michael Quinn writes,

In October of 1842, twelve men and nineteen women signed affidavits that stated in part, “we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.” The signers included Apostle John Taylor and Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who had already been taught the doctrine of polygamy by Joseph Smith), Bishop Newel K. Whitney (who had performed a plural marriage ceremony the previous July for his own daughter and Joseph Smith in accordance with a revelation dictated by the Prophet on the occasion), Elizabeth Ann Whitney (who witnessed the plural ceremony), Sarah M. Cleveland (who had become Joseph Smith’s plural wife early in 1842), and Eliza R. Snow (who also married him on 29 June 1842). (Quinn, LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, 21. See, Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, 939-40, 1 Oct. 1842, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

In 1842 the Relief Society reiterated the Church’s Marriage Law in an effort to denounce John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wifeism”, (what Joseph called his own system) in this affidavit published in the Times and Seasons:

We have given the above rule of marriage [Section CI] as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-
We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.
N. K. Whitney, (Married daughter Sarah Ann to Joseph Smith)
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon,
John Taylor, (knew of Plural Marriage)
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
Wilford Woodruff, (knew of plural marriage)
Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.
Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor, (Witness to Marriage of Smith to daughter Sarah Ann)
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor, (Plural Wife)
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary, (Plural Wife)
Mary C. Miller,
Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler,
Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon,
Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter,
Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law,
Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks,
Rosannah Marks,
Polly Z. Johnson,
Angeline Robinson,
Abigail Works. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 3, No. 23, 939, October 1, 1842, added emphasis, Online here, Accessed November 5, 2014).

There are further questions that need to  be answered here pertaining to Fanny Alger. If an angel appeared to Joseph Smith in 1834 (as Hales asserts according to very late accounts) why would he command Smith to practice polygamy without the sealing power which was essential to such marriages? Mormon apologists don’t address such questions let alone adequately explain them.

Ann Eliza Webb account:

Mrs. [Emma] Smith had an adopted daughter, a very pretty, pleasing young girl, about seventeen years old. She was extremely fond of her; no own mother could be more devoted, and their affection for each other was a constant object of remark, so absorbing and genuine did it seem. Consequently it was with a shocked surprise that the people heard that sister Emma had turned Fanny out of the house in the night. . . . By degrees it became whispered about that Joseph’s love for his adopted daughter was by no means a paternal affection, and his wife discovering the fact, at once took measures to place the girl beyond his reach. . . . [T]he storm became so furious, that Joseph was obliged to send, at midnight, for Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, to come and endeavor to settle matters between them…The scribe was a worthy servant of his master. He was at the time residing with a certain young woman, and at the same time he had a wife living. . . . The worthy couple—the Prophet and his scribe—were sorely perplexed what to do with the girl, since Emma refused decidedly to allow her to remain in her house; but after some consultation, my mother offered to take her until she could be sent to her relatives. Although her parents were living, they considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the Prophet’s family, and her mother [Clarissa Hancock Alger] has always claimed that she was sealed to Joseph at that time. (Ann Eliza Webb Young, op. cited, 66-67).

It was Fanny Alger’s mother who later claimed that it was a sealing, but as we see above, there were no “sealings” being performed by Joseph then, and we have the text of the first marriage that Joseph performed.

Hales quotes Benjamin F. Johnson in an effort to prove a sealing or marriage:

And now as to your question, “How early did the Prophet Joseph practice polygamy?”. . . In 1835, at Kirtland, I learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, “that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.” This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her. (Hales, op. cited above, added emphasis. Hales is citing Benjamin F. Johnson’s letter to George F. Gibbs, written in 1902 or 1903, added emphasis).

Yet in his autobiography penned years before the Gibbs letter, Johnson writes that in 1843,

…we sat down upon a log he began to tell me that the Lord had revealed to him that plural or patriarchal marriage was according to His law; and that the Lord had not only revealed it to him but had commanded him to obey it; that he was required to take other wives; and that he wanted my Sister Almira for one of them, and wished me to see and talk to her upon the subject. If a thunderbolt had fallen at my feet I could hardly have been more shocked or amazed. He saw the struggle in my mind and went on to explain. But the shock was too great for me to comprehend anything, and in almost an agony of feeling I looked him squarely in the eye, and said, while my heart gushed up before him, “Brother Joseph, this is all new to me; it may all be true—you know, but I do not. To my education it is all wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, with this promise to you—that if ever I know you do this to degrade my sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, Independence, Mo., Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, 94-95, added emphasis).

Notice that Johnson states in his “Review” that in 1843 that “this [polygamy] is all new to me”, but then years later he “remembers” that he was told about plural marriage in 1835.

Oliver Cowdery, by grindael

The evidence closest to the event is of course the letter by Cowdery who wrote that,

I never confessed intimated \or admitted/ that I ever willfully lied about him [Joseph Smith]. When he was here we had some conversation in which in every instance, I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Algers was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself. (Oliver Cowdery, Letter to Warren Cowdery, 1838)

Hales tries to make much about the fact that the word “affair” was written over the word “scrape” above, but if we go to the minutes of the High Council Minutes for April 12, 1838, we read:

The High Council and Bishoprick of Zion met according to appointment in Far-West April  12th 1838 Edward Partridge Presiding…

George W. Harris testifies that one evening last fall O. Cowdery was at his house together with Joseph Smith jr, and Thomas B. Marsh, when a conversation took place between Joseph Smith jr & O. Cowdery, when he seemed to insinuate that Joseph Smith jr was guilty of adultery, but when the question was put, if he (Joseph) had ever acknowledged to him that he was guilty of such a thing; when he [Oliver] answered No…

David W. Patten testifies, that he went to Oliver Cowdery to enquire of him if a certain story was true respecting J. Smith’s committing adultery with a certain girl , when he turned on his heel and insinuated as [p. 123] though he [Joseph] was guilty; he then went on and gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. Also said that Joseph told him, he had confessed to Emma, …

Thomas B. Marsh testifies that while in Kirtland last summer, David W. Patten asked Oliver Cowdery if he Joseph Smith jr had confessed to his wife that he was guilty of adultery with a certain girl, when Oliver Cowdery cocked up his eye very knowingly and hesitated to answer the question, saying he did not know as he was bound to answer the question yet conveyed the idea that it was true. Last fall after Oliver came to this place he heard a conversation take place between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when J. Smith asked him if he [Joseph] had ever confessed to him that he was guilty of adultery, when after a considerable winking &c. he said no. Joseph then asked him if he ever told him that he confessed to any body, when he answered no.

Joseph Smith jr testifies that Oliver Cowdery had been his bosom friend, therefore he intrusted him with many things.

He then gave a history respecting the girl business. (“The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints,” Minute Book 2, (Also known as the “Far West Record”,  118, 123-124, added emphasis, underlines in original. Online here, Accessed November 1, 2014)

Here we see that it is called an “adultery scrape”, and that would be an “affair”.  Thomas B. Marsh relates that when David Patten asked Cowdery if Smith had confessed to his wife that he was guilty of adultery,  Cowdery did not answer but conveyed the idea that it was true. Then in a conversation Marsh overheard between the two in the fall of 1837, Joseph carefully asked Cowdery if he had ever confessed to him that he was guilty of adultery, but that Cowdery with a wink said no, conveying the idea that this was a lie. David Patton claimed that Cowdery insinuated to him that Smith had committed adultery (which he calls a “scrape”) and that “no doubt it was true” and had “confessed to Emma.”

All of the early documents show that this was not a marriage; it was only looked upon as such in later reminiscences. Why, if Joseph gave “a history respecting the girl business”, is there no one that recalls him claiming to be married to the “girl”? Why was Benjamin Johnson so shocked at Smith’s proposing polygamy in 1843 when he supposedly knew that Joseph was going to restore it in 1835?

We support the interpretation of the evidence by George D. Smith who wrote:

Joseph met the daughter of a carpenter, Samuel Alger, who had converted to Mormonism in October 1830 in Mayfield, about fifteen miles east of Cleveland and ten miles southwest of Kirtland. The fourteen-year-old Fanny Alger was the fourth of eleven children. As might be expected from a teenager from such a large family, she was looking for work, and Emma obliged by hiring her to help around the house. This made Fanny the first of many young women who would come to live with the Smiths as domestic workers. Before long, talk about Joseph echoed Fanny’s name, maybe as early as 1832 but certainly from 1833 to 1835. The ensuing scandal contributed to the dissent and excommunication that swept the church in 1837-38, even after Fanny had left town and married someone else. Joseph wrote in his journal on December 4, 1832: “Oh, Lord, deliver thy servant out of temtations and fill his heart with wisdom and understanding.” If this was not in reference to Fanny Alger, it coincided with the report of two of Joseph’s scribes, Warren Parrish and Oliver Cowdery, that Joseph had been “found” in the hay with his housekeeper. Parrish said Joseph and Fanny were discovered together “as wife,” while Cowdery called it a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair.” As a result of having publicly discussed the incident, and for “seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jr by falsly insinuating that he was guilty of adultry &c.,” Cowdery was expelled from the church. …Smith’s relationship with Alger was also mentioned by Benjamin F. Johnson, Smith’s brother-in-law through Smith’s marriage to two of his sisters. In 1835, Alger was living with Delcena Sherman, Benjamin’s married sister, when it was whispered that Alger enjoyed the attention of the prophet: “And I was afterw[a]rds told by Warren Parish That He himself & Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fanny Alger as wife for They were Spied upon & found togather.” It might be important to mention that the testimony here and elsewhere regarding “[ having] Fanny Alger as wife” employs a Victorian euphemism that should not be construed to imply that Fanny was actually married to Joseph. This delicate wording may have later contributed to some of the misunderstanding about their marital status. If she had been sealed to him at the time, it was not mentioned and there is no record of it. Johnson knew that Jared Carter and others criticized the “doings of the Prophet” on the assumption that it was an affair, not a plural marriage. (Smith, George D. (2013-11-24). Nauvoo Polygamy “… But We Called It Celestial Marriage”, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Kindle Locations 860-872, 903-910).

As will be shown below, there is no real credible evidence to overturn Smith’s narrative above. As Gary Bergera (Signature Books) writes:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison, which seems clearly to be Oliver Cowdery’s interpretation of the relationship. In addition, Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40.(Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 38, No. 3, Fall 2005, 30n75).

The biggest problem that Mormon Apologists have is trying to retrofit Joseph’s spiritual wifeism to the Kirtland Era. To try and persuade his readers that this was some kind of polygamous “marriage”, Brian Hales quotes Mosiah Hancock, who was a baby when these events played out. So Hales is basing his narrative on a second hand source who wrote about these events in 1896, more than 60 years later! Hancock’s information about Fanny Alger is found in the autobiography of his father, Levi Ward Hancock, but it is not based on anything written by Levi, it was all added to his autobiography by his son Mosiah in 1896 and is therefore suspect. Mosiah Hancock was only a year old in 1835.

Hales also claims that he has “important new evidence” that “supports that Fanny was a plural wife of Joseph Smith.” This evidence is Andrew Jenson’s research notes about Joseph’s spiritual wives compiled in the 1880’s. First, we don’t really know where Jenson got the information he used in compiling some of those notes about Fanny Alger. Hales claims that Jenson spoke to “several Nauvoo polygamists”, and he names Malissa Lott and Eliza R. Snow. Though Jenson did speak with many polygamists, there is simply no way to link exactly who he got his information from.

Hales also writes,

Eliza’s knowledge of the incident is important because Don Bradley was able to determine that she personally wrote Fanny’s name on a list he was making of Joseph Smith’s wives in 1886. It appears Jenson interviewed Malissa Lott, obtaining information on thirteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, writing their names on a document now called “document 1.”

Sometime thereafter, Jenson met with Eliza R. Snow who apparently took the paper into her own hands and penned thirteen additional names. (ibid)

Since the handwriting on this paper is actually Snow’s, this is an accurate description of the evidence. (That Snow wrote down some women’s names on it). I’m not sure what the importance of this “Document 1” really is. Eliza wrote down the names of some of Joseph Smith’s wives on a piece of paper, names that many were already familiar with. All we can say is, So what?

Though Jenson did interview Malissa Lott, there is no evidence that she was personally familiar with the circumstances of Joseph’s relationship to Fanny, (she was ten years old in 1834) although there is evidence that Eliza Snow knew some things.

This then, is simply a list of Joseph’s spiritual wives compiled by Eliza Snow and Andrew Jenson. Since this information was uncovered by Don Bradley and he has written about it, it would be best to quote Bradley directly:

… Jenson was the first to publish Fanny Alger’s name as that of one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, and others have followed in his footsteps.  What has not been known is why Jenson included her on his list—on what authority he made the identification.  This source was Eliza R. Snow, president of the LDS Relief Society and herself one of the prophet’s plural widows.  At Jenson’s request, Snow recorded for him a handwritten list of her “sister wives,” including Fanny Alger.  When Jenson subsequently interview[ed] Eliza Snow about Fanny’s life and relationship with Joseph Smith, she told him, per his interview notes, that Fanny Alger was “one of the first wives Joseph married,” one whom “Emma made such a fuss about.”  Most significantly, Eliza R. Snow explained how she knew about Fanny Alger and the relationship: Eliza “was well acquainted with her as she lived with the Prophet at the time,” of Emma’s “fuss” on discovering the pair together.

Snow’s presence in the house at the discovery establishes the range for when it could have occurred.  According to her autobiography, Eliza Snow lived in the Smith’s Kirtland home twice, once in mid-1836 while teaching a school term that began in the spring and again at the first of 1837. By 1837 Fanny Alger was living in Indiana and married to Solomon Custer; so it was during the first of these two stays, in mid-1836, that Snow and Alger shared the house and the great “fuss” occurred.

The testimony of a contemporary member of the household that the relationship was discovered during her 1836 residence both confirms that a relationship occurred and effectively nails down the time of its discovery and consequent termination.

This timing for the discovery has important implications for the subject to be addressed next—the nature of Smith and Alger’s relationship. (Don Bradley, Mormon Polygamy Before Nauvoo? The Relationship of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger, pg. 11-12, Online here, accessed October 30, 2016.)

Actually it was not Jenson that first published that Fanny Alger was one of Joseph’s wives, (or sealed to him) it was Ann Eliza Young, who did so ten years earlier in 1876 when she published her expose Wife No. 19. This is mentioned by Bradley in a footnote.

As has been written elsewhere the list and notes by Andrew Jenson and Eliza Snow aren’t really that important since there was already a list of wives collected by Joseph F. Smith in 1869, and the “interview” of Snow by Jenson contains little useful information. The information Jenson collected about Sylvia Lyons for example, is scant, misleading, and omits crucial details about her marriage to Smith. As for Fanny Alger, Bradley claims that these notes were written by Jenson and the information was provided by Eliza R. Snow:

Alger, Fanny
Joseph Smiths wife
one of the first wives Joseph
married, Emma made such a
fuss about~
Sister \E R./ Snow was well acquainted
with her \as she/ and lived with the
Prophet at the time
She afterwards married in
Indiana where she became the
Mother of a large family
A brother Alger lives in
St. George
Write to Pres. McAllister

Here is how Hales interprets this:

Eliza’s proximity to the events is important because it provides a chronological marker because she went to live with the Smith family in the “spring of 1836,” and she “was well acquainted with her [Fanny Alger] as she [Eliza] lived with the Prophet at the time” that “Emma made such a fuss about” her. Thus, it appears Eliza was an eye witness to the “fuss” associated with the discovery of the relationship. (Hales, op. cited above).

We interpret this evidence quite differently. It states:

  1. Fanny Alger was one of the first wives Joseph married who Emma made such a fuss about. (Notice the hyphen (~) after the word “about”. I don’t see this as the word “in” as it has been transcribed by Hales. This indicates a break here. (Notice also that this sentence is crossed out. Why? Did Eliza Snow not have any details about this and so they decided not to mention it?)
  2. Eliza R. Snow was well acquainted with her (Fanny) since she lived with the Prophet during that period of time. (This is quite ambiguous. Eliza lived with the prophet “at the time”. At what time, exactly? All we know is that it was during the Spring of 1836 and then again in the Spring of 1837. And if you want to connect Eliza’s being there at the exact time of the “fuss”, why is that crossed out and more importantly, why are there no details about the “fuss”?)
  3. Fanny Alger afterwards married in Indiana and raised a large family.
  4. Fanny Alger has a brother who lives in St. George, Utah.

These are all separate bare bones summaries, not a narrative or recollection. Where is there any evidence that Eliza R. Snow lived in the Smith home at the same time that Emma discovered Joseph and Fanny together in the barn? Both Hales and Bradley offer only these vague notes by Andrew Jenson. In our search through all of the evidence, we can’t find any that verifies that she did. Is it possible? We suppose so, but it is just as possible that she wasn’t there during the snafu with Emma. And that seems more likely, because of the scantiness of those notes. What unique information does Eliza offer to Jenson here? Nothing, really, that hadn’t already been given by Ann Eliza Young. (The “fuss” with Emma).

As Don Bradley wrote, Eliza Snow boarded at the Smith home twice. The first time in the Spring of 1836 and again in January of 1837. It is entirely possible that Eliza Snow knew nothing about the Fanny Alger/Joseph Smith liason until the second time she boarded with the Smiths. She could actually have known her well, but not know any details about the affair. (Her lack of any details in Jenson’s notes attests to this).  We only know that Eliza boarded at the Smith home “in the Spring” of 1836. When she boarded there the first time, she taught a girl’s school. Since Hales and Bradley date the “fuss” in mid-1836, it is entirely possible that Eliza had already left for home by that time, since her school terms (based on her later terms in Nauvoo, See Beecher 402-403,) were only for three months. That would have her leaving the Smith home in late June, (if she started teaching in late March). And we actually have a window that extends all the way to July 25, 1836, when Joseph left for a trip to Salem, Massachusetts to search for hidden treasure. That means that the “fuss” with Emma could certainly have occurred after Eliza left the Smith residence, and that she learned about it when she next boarded with the Smiths, either from them, someone else, or from rumors. Since Eliza Snow gives absolutely no details about the “fuss”, it leaves room for doubt that she was present when it happened.

While in Salem, Joseph Smith wrote to Emma:

Salem, Mass., August 19th, 1836.

My beloved Wife:—Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we could wish to have it. I thought a line from me by him would be acceptable to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind. With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it; if not now within the course of a few months. We think we shall be at home about the middle of September. I can think of many things concerning our business, but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that involve on you, and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband. In haste. Yours &c., Joseph Smith, Jr (Joseph Smith, Letter to Emma Smith, 19 August, 1836, Online here, accessed October 30, 2016).

The last line of this communication to Emma seems very odd, but not if they had had some kind of blowup before he left Kirtland. (We also found the timing of this trip interesting). Joseph wants Emma to believe him that he is her “sincere friend and husband.” This was quite different from the way he closed a letter to Emma in 1832 which ended, “I Subscribe myself your Husband.” Or one in 1834 which closed with, “O may the blessings of God rest upon you is the prayre of your Husband until death.”

In 1838 while a prisoner of the Missourians, he closed a letter to Emma with, “I am your husband and am in bonds and tribulation &c.” And in a letter to Emma from Liberty Jail in 1839 he closed it with the simple, “Yours forever”. Emma, though, seems to have been concerned about her husband long after the Fanny Alger incident. On the 25 April, 1837 Emma wrote to Joseph that, “I pray that God will keep you in purity and safety  till we all meet again.” On May 3,1837 she wrote,

I shall do the best I can in all things, and I hope that we shall be so humble and  pure before God that he will set us at liberty to be our own masters in a few things at least, Yours for ever.

Would Fanny have confided her secret trysts with Joseph to Eliza Snow? Eliza was new to Mormonism, she did not join the Church until the fall of 1835, and so she would have been a stranger to Alger when she moved into the Smith residence, and Joseph’s M.O. was to have his wives tell no one about his liaisons. In the case of Eliza and Emily Partridge, they were unaware (for a time) that each had become one of Joseph’s spiritual wives.

The biggest problem that we see is that if Eliza knew Fanny Alger so well, why are these notes so scanty? There is virtually nothing here that can’t be gleaned from rumors (that were prevalent in early 1837 when Eliza returned to Kirtland) or what Ann Eliza later wrote in Wife No. 19, ten years before these notes were compiled. Fanny Alger was Smith’s “plural wife”, Emma made a fuss and Eliza was “well acquainted with her”, and she moved to Indiana. That’s it.

Why did Jenson not provide any historical details about Fanny Alger in The Historical Record? There is absolutely nothing there except for him affirming that she was one of Smith’s spiritual wives. He had the “well acquainted” Eliza Snow to get information from, right? If she spoke with Joseph about it, or Emma or even Fanny, where are any reminiscences? If it was a marriage, who performed it? Surely she would have remembered the circumstances of when Fanny (or others) first told her that Joseph had married her. Surely she would have related to Jensen the Levi Hancock story, which is promoted by both Hales and the Church.

Again, Eliza Snow offers us almost nothing here, except for claiming Fanny was a plural wife of Joseph Smith, which is all that Jenson felt comfortable including in the Historical Record. Why? We find it interesting that the actual well acquainted Eliza Jane Churchill had far more information (that she passed on to her daughter) about Fanny Alger than Jenson provides through Eliza Snow, even if she did believe it was some kind of marriage.

What information did Eliza Snow provide that wasn’t already known in relation to Smith’s other “wives”? Here is Snow’s 1886 part of the list from the Jenson document. Notice that except for one or two instances, most of this information was already well known by 1886:

Desdemonda Fullmer (6-17-1869)  Jos. F. Smith Affidavit Book 1&4
Malissa Lott  (5-20-1869)  Affidavit Book 1&4
Ruth Vose (5-1-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Sarah Ann Whitney (6-19-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Mary Lightner (Affidavit, March 23, 1877)
Eliz Durfee  (Not in Affidavit Books)
Sarah Cleveland (Not in Affidavit Books)
Louisa Beaman (Joseph B. Noble, 6-26-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Patty Sessions (Not in Affidavit Books, but signed affidavit 6-1-1867)
Sylvia Sessions (Undated/Unsigned Affidavit, Affidavit Book 1 & 4)
Maria Winchester (family tradition, Helen Kimball, Orson F. Whitney)
Helen M Kimball (Clayton Statement, February 16, 1874, Catherine Lewis, Narrative, 1848)
Alvira Cowles (8-28-1869 Affidavit Book  1&4)
Elmira Johnson (Benjamin F. Johnson Affidavit, Book 2, 3-4-1870)
Fanny Alger (Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, 1876)
Olive Frost (Died in 1845, sister Mary Ann Pratt gave statement to Jenson, James Whitehead to Jos. Smith III, on April 20, 1885)
Rhoda Richards (5-1-1869) Affidavit Book 1&4
Fanny Young (Died in 1859, See Harriet Cook Affidavit, 3-4-1870. Affidavit Book 2&3)
and others

Jenson also includes many of the published 1869 affidavits in the Historical Record. What is interesting is that Eliza Snow provides the name of Maria Winchester, but that was from a second hand source, Orson F. Whitney (the son of Helen Mar Kimball) who published the Life of Heber C. Kimball in 1888 and claimed that Nancy Maria [Winchester] Smith was a widow of Joseph Smith and subsequently married Heber C. Kimball.

Hales writes,

Historians Scott Faulring and Richard L. Anderson argue that the “cumulative evidence argument for such marginal references [supporting Winchester as one of Joseph’s plural wives] does not meet historical guidelines,” and Winchester should not be included. However, they were undoubtedly unaware of the opinion of Eliza R. Snow.

And as we have shown above, why should that matter? So Eliza Snow knew about what Helen Kimball related to her son. These “sister wives” spoke often to each other. It is not a stretch to believe they exchanged information and speculations.

All of the rest of these women had either given affidavits years earlier proclaiming that they were “married” to Smith, or others had already made that assertion. What is interesting are the crossed out names. None of those appear in Joseph F. Smith’s affidavit Books.

We can see only one other person (Olive Frost) whose possible “marriage” to Smith was new information at that time, given to Jenson by Mary Ann Pratt. But even that wasn’t really new since James Whitehead had written to Joseph Smith III a year earlier and mentioned her as one of Smith’s spiritual wives. Still, there is no evidence that Eliza Snow was the one who originally gave all this information to Jenson as firsthand knowledge. So what, exactly did Eliza Snow contribute that wasn’t gotten secondhand, and why would her information about Fanny Alger “help to break the scholarly deadlock about whether Joseph and Fanny were actually married as opposed to having an affair.”?

We really can’t find any, and don’t see how this breaks any scholarly deadlock. Conversely, the evidence that this was an adulterous affair is far stronger. (See the Cowdery Letter and High Council Minutes cited above).

Those are interesting minutes. They tell us a lot, and those that want to claim that Joseph and Fanny were married in some kind of way seldom analyze them in depth. Don Bradley does though, and he writes:

The evidence for an extramarital affair between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger is of varying quality.  While the evidence of contemporaneous behavior provides some direction, the direct testimony, despite surface appearances, is largely ambiguous, failing to distinguish between an extramarital affair and a secret polygamous marriage.

Even the vehement oral accusations and letter by Cowdery, for instance, fall short of stating that Smith’s behavior constituted adultery.  In his trial Cowdery was charged with “insinuating” that Smith’s relationship with Alger was adulterous, accused of this in the testimony, and convicted of making insinuations rather than assertions that Smith had committed adultery.  Though said to have given his verbal answer with incongruous body language, he stated “no” when asked pointblank if Smith’s confessions to him amounted to an admission of adultery.  There is nothing to indicate that “adultery” was his term.  This reluctance to use the term “adultery” seems out of line with his emphatic condemnation of Smith’s “dirty, nasty, filthy” behavior and his insistence that his reports had been “strictly true” and “never deserted from the truth of the matter.”

Because Cowdery was alienated from Joseph Smith at the time of his trial and was being expelled from the church, it is not likely that the best construction was being placed on his words and actions.  And Cowdery was not in attendance at his trial, rendering him unable to defend himself from exagerration and misunderstanding.  The wrong he saw in Smith might thus have not been adultery, but polygamy. (Bradley, op. cited above, 18-19)

We don’t agree with parts of Don’s assessment and here is why we don’t. He first claims that “the direct testimony… is largely ambiguous, failing to distinguish between an extramarital affair and a secret polygamous marriage.”

Actually, the testimony is quite clear that Cowdery had affirmed rumors that Smith had had an adulterous affair.  David W. Patten, who had heard these rumors that were said to be confirmed by Cowdery, confronted him about them. He testified that:

…he went to Oliver Cowdery to enquire of him if a certain story was true respecting J. Smith’s committing adultery with a certain girl , when he turned on his heel and insinuated as though he [Joseph] was guilty; he then went on and gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. Also said that Joseph told him, he had confessed to Emma. (1838 Minutes, op. cited above, added emphasis)

Patton is testifying that Cowdery called it an adultery scrape. What is interesting is that when Oliver wrote to his brother Warren about it on January 21, 1838, he stated:

When he was here we had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matters, and as I supposed was admitted by himself. (Cowdery to Cowdery, op. cited above, added emphasis).

If one observes the word “affair” in the letter above, one can see that the word “scrape” has been written over (as Don Bradley astutely observed). Here we see Cowdery calling it a “dirty, nasty filthy scrape affair.” And what did David W. Patten testify to? That Oliver gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true. How Bradley can come to the conclusion that adultery was not Cowdery’s term is baffling to us. Patten also testified that Cowdery told him that Joseph told him he had confessed the adultery scrape to Emma. We could not find this testimony from Patten in his article.

Patten was so upset by what Cowdery told him that he confronted Joseph about it, who slapped him in anger. This was the Second Elder of the Church accusing/insinuating the First Elder of the church of committing adultery.  As for Cowdery insinuating that Smith committed adultery, it might be instructive to produce the 1828 definition of the word,

INSIN’UATE, verb transitive [Latin insinuo; in and sinus, the bosom, a bay, inlet or recess.]

1. To introduce gently, or into a narrow passage; to wind in. Water insinuates itself into the crevices of rocks.
2. To push or work one’s self into favor; to introduce by slow, gentle or artful means He insinuated himself into the very good grace of the duke of Buckingham.
3. To hint; to suggest by remote allusion.<
And all the fictions bards pursue, Do but insinuate what’s true.
4. To instill; to infuse gently; to introduce artfully.

These men understood that Cowdery was in fact accusing Smith of adultery, he was just introducing the story “gently” or “artfully”. From the testimony above, it is obvious that Cowdery was not just hinting at Smith’s committing adultery. He wasn’t suggesting by remote allusion, (affair, adultery scrape) he was relating the story in an artful way. Notice in the testimony that they claim that Cowdery, “gave a history of some circumstances respecting the adultery scrape stating that no doubt it was true.” This was apparently enough to cause David Patten to confront Joseph about it and elicit a violent response.

Years later, Wilford Woodruff recorded a conversation that took place in Brigham Young’s office on June 25,1857 concerning an altercation between David W. Patten and Joseph Smith:

1837 C. Rich came into the office at 2 oclok & set & conversed upon various things. He said that David Patten & T. B. Marsh Came to kirtland in the fall of 1837. He said as soon as they came I got Marsh to go to Joseph, But Patten would go to W Parrish. He got his mind prejudiced & when He went to see Joseph David insulted Joseph & Joseph slaped him in the face & kicked him out of the yard. This done David good.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 5, p. 63).

What could Smith have told them at that High Council trial?  It only states that Smith testified that Cowdery “had been his bosom friend, therefore he intrusted him with many things. He then gave a history respecting the girl business.” The girl business?

Smith obviously did not tell the High Council that Fanny Alger was a spiritual wife. Too many present on that occasion would later be shocked when Smith revealed the principle a few years later in Nauvoo. For example, Thomas Grover, a member of the High Council would later write to Brigham Young about his experience with polygamy:

“Prest. Brigham Young, Dear Brother: There was something took place when I was commanded by Bro. Joseph to take more wives which I thought it was wisdom to communicate to you. At the time I was in the deepest trouble that I had ever been in in my life. I went before the Lord in prayer and prayed that I might die as I did not wish to disobey his order to me. On a sudden there stood before me my oldest wife that I have now and the voice of the Lord said that ‘This is your companion for time and all Eternity.’ At this time I never had seen her and did not know that there was such a person on this Earth. Days & weeks passed away & I had not seen her. About the time that you came from your mission to the East, she came to my house for an item of counsel, the first time that I ever saw her with my natural eyes. . . .Yours Respectfully in the Gospel, Thomas Grover.”

Bradley writes,

[I]n her autobiography [Eliza R. Snow] expresses the shock and dismay she experienced on learning, in Nauvoo, that polygamy “was to be introduced into the church” and reveals that she first thought this restoration was far off, probably even beyond the term of her natural life. Whatever experience Eliza may have had of polygamy in Kirtland, she did not understand from it that polygamy was to become a church practice, and may not have even recognized it as polygamy at the time (if indeed it was there).

Yet such expressions of shock are a stock theme in the autobiographies of Nauvoo Saints, even when those Saints had prior inklings of polygamy. Benjamin F. Johnson and Brigham Young, who both report prior understanding that polygamy would be practiced, felt thunderstruck when they confronted it up close. The point of such narratives, which undoubtedly express genuine turmoil from the time, is that polygamy was not sought after or chosen, but dropped on the unwilling narrator, who accepts it only because God requires it.

Given this function of the stock “polygamy shock” motif, Snow’s autobiographical use of it tells little about previous encounters she may have had with polygamy, including whether she knew or heard in 1836 that Fanny Alger had been Joseph Smith’s plural wife. — (Bradley, 45–46; emphasis in original).

Yet Johnson wrote in 1885 that when he first learned about polygamy, he told Joseph that “this is all new to me; it may all be true–you know, but I do not. To my education it is all wrong, but I am going, with the help of the Lord to do just what you say, with this promise to you–that if ever I know you do this to degrade my sister I will kill you, as the Lord lives.” (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, Independence, Mo., Zion’s Printing and Publishing Co., 1947, 94-95, added emphasis).

In his long 1870 affidavit about polygamy, Johnson never mentions that polygamy was first revealed in Kirtland, as he did in his 1903 letter. As for Brigham Young, he claimed that,

I knew of the doctrine of polygamy by revelation to myself while I was in England before it was revealed to me by Joseph.[148](Brigham Young, October 8, 1866, SLC Bowery Conference. LJA 12-56-4,2; BYC; BYA 5:52-55, CDBY, 2383, October 8, 1866).

Young doesn’t ever claim to have learned about polygamy in Kirtland, or, for that matter from Joseph Smith until later in Nauvoo. Young didn’t make the voyage to England until 1840. He claims that he had his own revelation about it before Joseph revealed it to him. This means that Brigham did not learn about polygamy from Joseph until after his return from England in the fall of 1841. Since Brigham Young was also at the Trial of Oliver Cowdery, we can therefore be assured that Joseph never told the High Council that Fanny Alger was a spiritual wife or that he was practicing polygamy. What Joseph did was offer them an explanation for the “girl business”. What that was, remains a mystery. But it is evident that it was not that he was practicing any kind of polygamy.

Bradley writes:

Had she [Eliza Snow] felt uncertain or troubled over Fanny’s status as a wife, or feared that including her as a wife might prove embarrassing, she had the option of omitting or removing her name as well.  But she did not. (Bradley, 36).

Eliza might also have included Fanny on the list to counter the stories being circulated that this was an adulterous affair. Ann Eliza’s expose had brought this affair out into the light, and gave it more credence than just unfounded rumors from family traditions. One cannot discount Eliza Snow’s obvious bias for this to be some kind of marriage.

Bradley also notes:

Eliza R. Snow’s confidence that Smith was not an adulterer who had used girls living in his home is also indicated by another, more momentous action she undertook.  Six years after the Alger incident, while again living in the Smith home, she married Joseph Smith.  She then, following a course eerily like Fanny’s, reportedly found herself pregnant with his child and expelled from the home by Emma.  Though there is no doubt that Eliza Snow was taken with Joseph Smith’s charisma and awed by his prophetic mantle, her action bespeaks a degree of trust in both Smith’s revelations and his intentions that reasonably might, and ought, to have been lacking had she observed evidence that he seduced his former boarder Fanny Alger. (ibid).

But not if Eliza didn’t know the details of what went on between Joseph and Fanny. Was Fanny Alger really pregnant? Would Emma Smith have confided details about the affair to Eliza? Would Joseph have? There is no evidence that either did so. It is far easier to discount unfounded rumors, as this was portrayed to be by Joseph, as he himself denied that anyone was practicing polygamy in 1838.

With no other details forthcoming from Eliza Snow about the relationship, it is hard to accept that she was knowledgeable about any claimed Smith/Alger marriage. And another piece of evidence troubles us. Since Andrew Jenson consulted Eliza Snow, and she was so very familiar with Fanny Alger, how does one explain what Jenson wrote in the Historical Record in the Index under Alger, Fanny:

Fanny, a wife of Joseph the Prophet, who since his death married again in Indiana, and became the mother of a large family, 233. (The Historical Record, 1887, Vols. 5-9, pg. 942).

This is an obvious fabrication. She married Solomon Custer almost immediately after leaving Kirtland. If this is not a fabrication, then neither Jenson nor Snow really knew much about Fanny Alger. All they had to do was ask Fanny’s brother, who lived in St. George. If they did know and purposefully mislead with this, then what else might they mislead us about? If they would endeavor to protect Joseph by deliberately misconstruing the facts about when Fanny remarried, how can we trust that they would not do so when claiming it was a marriage?

The evidence that this was a “sealing” or marriage is not credible; while the evidence of an affair is plentiful, with direct contemporary statements from Oliver Cowdery that it was an adulterous affair.

[37] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to John Henry Smith, January 25, 1892, in George A. Smith Family Papers, MS 36, Box 7, Folder 12, emphasis in the original.

[38] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, Affidavit, March 23, 1877, in Scott G. Kenney Collection, MS 587, Box 11, Folder 14; Marriott Library. The Affadavit reads:

Minersvile Beaver County, Utah

March 23rd 1877

I Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner do testify that in the year 1842 in the month of February the Prophet Joseph Smith came to me and said he had received a direct command from God to take me for a wife for time and all eternity; After receiving what I felt to be a witness of the truth of the said statement made to me by the said Joseph Smith the Prophet, I was sealed to the said Joseph Smith by Pres Brigham Young in Nauvoo, Hancock Illinois.  And I have lived and am at this date in full fellowship as a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The said ceremony was solemnly performed in the month of February A.D. 1842 as first above written. [signed:]  Mary E R Lightner

In this early statement by Lightner, (as compared with others) she claims that Joseph Smith first approached her about becoming his spiritual wife in February, 1842. (It was also to be a marriage for time and eternity). There is no mention an angel with a sword, or that she spent weeks and months debating the request. In 1884 Lightner made another statement which may shed light on earlier events from Kirtland that were later interpreted through a polygamous lens:

At a meeting in the first part of the Winter at Kirtland Ohio, at which Father Smith’s family and a few others were present […]

He [the Savior] has given me a commandment to give unto you, to seal you up unto everlasting life.  he has given you to me to be with me in His Kingdom even as He is in the Father’s Kingdom. […]

Sister Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, wife of Adam Lightner, was present at this meeting and she made this statement concerning it to Presidents John Taylor and Geo. Q. Cannon at her house in Minersvile, Beaver Co., Utah, on Friday, April 18th, 1884. (Rollins Lightner, Mary Elizabeth, “Statement,” 1884 Apr 18, LDS Church Archives, MS 4638).

[39] Excerpts from a letter from Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner dated November 21, either 1870 or 1880, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner Collection; MS 752, Folder 4; LDS CHL.

[40] Todd Compton writes,

Mary was twenty-three years old and pregnant with her third child by Adam Lightner during the ceremony [with Joseph S