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

“The Palmyra Peeker” by grindael

by Johnny Stephenson

Pt I (Ghosts & Angels) may be found here.

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

Introduction

“A new portrait of Joseph and his work…”

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 (mostly 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 the young Joseph Smith, Jr., was supposedly seeing visions of Jesus and heavenly angels and learning how to run “God’s Kingdom”. (See an official church version of his history here and see if anything has really changed, pg. 37ff)

Mark Hofmann with Mormon First Presidency

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, 237-8)

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”. Changing what Joseph saw in the stone box from a toad to a white salamander was an ingenious idea.

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. But the Church discouraged people from reading books like that (labeling them “anti-Mormon”, encouraging them to stay with those who wrote “faithful” histories. But I can’t fault Walker, when I was a member I stayed away from all those “evil anti-Mormons” too. It wasn’t anti-Mormons who opened my eyes to the real history of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, it was the Fundamental Mormons who lived in southern Utah. They gave me a list of material and I went right to B.Y.U and started looking things up. The way things were back then, you could “scrutinize’ the life of Joseph Smith and never know about the money-digging. 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 simply his own wishful thinking. I’ll defend Brodie in any debate with anyone, anywhere, and they can try and defend Nibley’s claim that the 1833 affidavits were all coerced. 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, the abominable Yeti and in Alien abductions too. (More on that below) There is nothing Christian about money-digging, except some of the diggers who happened to be Christians. What happened to “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. We have the testimony of friend and foe, of believers and apostates; neighbors and journalists; speeches and diaries and court records. There is a very extensive record of the life of Joseph Smith. That is why those like the Tanner’s warned about Hofmann and that he might be perpetuating a hoax on everyone.

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 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 have 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.

It certainly would solve a lot of problems if all Mormons accepted the Book of Mormon for what it is, a midrash or pseudepigrapha. Prince accepts what it is and still has kept his faith in the church, and everyone should be able to make such an informed choice. It is important to realize that the so called servants of God that comprise the leadership of the church (past and present) lied on a regular basis about its history.

Prince is also truthful about the Mormon Priesthood and the development of its theology. He wrote a simply stellar article in 2015 published in the Journal of Mormon History on the First Vision, and chronicles the changes to Smith’s theology:

Smith’s earliest understanding of Deity is contained in the Book of Mormon. If one reads the 1830 edition of the book, instead of the current edition, several verses stand out as differing from current LDS orthodoxy:

    • “Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh” (p. 25, line 3). Th e 1830 edition was not divided into verses at all, nor do the chapter divisions correspond completely to the current (2013) edition.
    • “And the Angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God yea, even the Eternal Father!” (p. 25, line 10).
    • “Yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world” (p. 26, line 9).
    • “The Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world” (p. 32, line 9).

Such a view of Deity is termed modalism, or the belief that there is “one God, in one part or person at a time, performing various offices, but not simultaneously.” It is consistent with 1832, wherein only one personage was described. It is also consistent with a verse in the “Articles and Covenants” (the source of 1831): “ . . . which Father & Son & Holy Ghost is one God.” This wording was preserved in the first published version of the revelation in 1832 and in the 1833 Book of Commandments 24:18.

In 1835, however, a shift in theology occurred, moving the Church to binitarianism, which took the position of “one God only (the Father), with a god-like, literal Son created in premortal existence, and fully divine through that inheritance. Only the Son (as Jesus) had a physical body. The Holy Spirit was an influence rather than a being, operating from the Father through the Son.” That same year, the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, was published, superseding the Book of Commandments. The Preface, signed by Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, was dated February 17, 1835. Its first part, “Theology,” consisted of what became known as the “Lectures on Faith,” and the second, titled “Covenants and Commandments,” consisted of a collection of revelations to Joseph Smith. The fifth lecture reflected the shift:

We shall, in this lecture speak of the Godhead: we mean the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things. . . . They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness [sic]: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man . . . possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit . . . How many personages are there in the Godhead? Two: the Father and the Son. (1835 D&C pp. 52–53, 55).

Several weeks after the publication of Doctrine and Covenants, Smith met with Robert Matthews and related the account of the First Vision contained in 1835a, an account that described the appearance of one personage, who did not speak, followed by the appearance of a second personage, who said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee”—in contrast to 1832, which described only one personage. The sequential, rather than simultaneous appearance of the two personages is consistent with their different natures—the Father being a personage of spirit, and the Son being a personage of tabernacle (flesh)—albeit not proof.

The shift to binitarian theology was further signaled when the second edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1837. The four previously cited verses from the book of 1 Nephi, which had reflected a modalistic theology, were changed to reflect a binitarian understanding (changes in italics):

    • “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (p. 27).
    • “And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (p. 27).
    • “Yea, the Son of the Everlasting God was judged of the world” (p. 29).
    • “Th e Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world” (p. 35).

Other verses in the 1837 Book of Mormon were not similarly revised, leaving the careful reader of the current edition with a confusing, patchwork theology of Deity that incorporates both modalism and binitarianism.

The final step in Smith’s evolving doctrine of Deity was tritheism, a belief in three separate personages comprising the Godhead. 1839 [History] describes two personages who appear simultaneously, both of whom speak to Smith. Since 1839 was not published for years thereafter and since there is no record that Smith spoke of it publicly, word of a shifting theology was slow to spread. In the first issue of the Gospel Reflector, the LDS newspaper published in Philadelphia beginning in 1841, Benjamin Winchester, “Presiding Elder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Philadelphia,” restated the binitarian doctrine from the “Lectures on Faith”:

As this is the first number of the Gospel Reflector, it will not be amiss to give a few outlines of some of the leading principles of our faith, which will all be treated upon in their proper time, and scripture and reason be adduced to authenticate them.

First, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, believe that the scriptures contain the words of God, and that they are true and faithful.

Second, the Godhead, i.e., The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power; possessing all perfection and fullness; The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or, rather, man was framed after his likeness, and in his image;—he also possesses all the fullness with the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, these three are one, or in other words, these three constitute the godhead.

The following year, perhaps in response to diverse teachings on the subject, the Church newspaper in Nauvoo clarified that the Father and the Son are separate persons and also that both have physical bodies. This statement contradicts the 1835 “Lectures on Faith” that described the Father as having a spiritual, but not a physical, body. Although the author of this article is not identified, the fact that Smith is listed in the quoted issue of the newspaper as editor, printer, and publisher makes it likely that he wrote it. This theological statement declares defensively: “The idea that Joseph Smith adapts his conversation to the company, is an error. Joseph Smith opposes vice and error, and supports his positions from revelation: no odds whether there be two, three, or ‘Gods many.’ The Father, and the Son are persons of Tabernacle; and the Holy Ghost a spirit.”

A similar statement the following year (1843) became part of the Doctrine and Covenants, thus canonizing the LDS doctrine of Deity: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man[’]s. The Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart. He may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It may descend upon him but not to tarry with him.”

***References (all links current to the articles Gregory Prince references ~grindael) that are helpful in understanding the complex development of the contemporary LDS doctrine of Deity include Dan Vogel, “The Earliest Mormon Concept of God,” in Gary James Bergera, ed., Line upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1989), 17–34; Melodie Moench Charles, “Book of Mormon Christology,” in Brent Lee Metcalf, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1993), 81–114; and Rick Grunder, “Statement on Deity,” in Grunder, Mormon Parallels, 1929–62.(Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2015, 89-91, See also, What Happened to the Trinity in Mormonism, by grindael)

We see that Smith’s theology contradicts itself many times over. Prince characterizes this as “line upon line” learning and teaching, but that doesn’t make much sense at all given that Smith claimed to have seen the Father and the Son in physical bodies long before he ever taught the concept of them having such bodies. I will address this in Part V.

Joseph was then lying in his 1839 History, because he never saw what he claimed to in 1820, and made this false statement in 1844:

“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” (Joseph Smith, June 16, 1844)

This is a knowing lie as Joseph prior to the late 1830’s simply had not conceived of God that way. This same concept (changing teachings about their nature) is true about angels, as I will explore below.

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 because it seriously challenges the motives of Joseph Smith and his credibility. 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.” An “understanding” to reconcile the occult with Christianity or the invention of a new fairy tale. As Walker explains:

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.

But why would we need a “new portrait” of Smith, when he was (according to himself and others) a true blue prophet of God who gave us his history; which was canonized by those who claimed to have the Holy Spirit of God, making Smith’s 1839 History the actual Word of God! And yet, as we have seen it is full of falsehoods. Did God sanction these falsehoods as scripture? It appears in Mormonism that he did. It begs the question, What kind of integrity is that?

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 wants to chide everyone it seems as he tries to come up with a suitable fairy tale:

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.

Making a whole “new portrait” of Smith is not radical? And the “new documents” did bring “intellectual chaos and requir[ed] radical changes”, and it still took until 2013 to get anything close to an “official” acknowledgement about the extent  of Smith’s practice of  magic in Palmyra and Manchester.

And then it was the fairy tales thought up in the 1980’s that they put forth (anonymously) not the fresh work of Dale Morgan, H. Michael Marquardt, Dan Vogel, Richard Van Wagoner, Fawn Brodie 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 as their farm was foreclosed on. And looking back at what Bushman wrote in 1984 is as confused as he claimed Smith was:

[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)

He outgrew his culture? The phony one that Bushman makes up? Because 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 that take rods and stones to commune with. 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. (pg. 2)

These were the true elites, but they were not persuasive to most Christians. Shaw quotes John Wesley (fifty years after Cotton Mather):

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 this false dilemma fallacy 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, or that it was the only option left for them. That is a gross oversimplification of the argument and disingenuous.

This was a complex time in America, and creating a false alternative as these apologists have done, does nothing but create a fairy-tale used for the purpose of trying to Christianize a practice that very few looked upon as legitimate or religious. (Money-digging, scrying with peepstones, juggling). 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”. There is absolutely no evidence that money-diggers were some kind of lost souls searching for Christian fulfillment with shovel and peep-stone. I have heard some really wacky things from Mormon apologists but this one is right up there at the top. And some very good Mormon historians have fed into this fairy-tale.

Walker continues to elaborate about the Smith’s magical money-digging:

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 and his “mythmakes” BS under the bus, but just couldn’t really let him go, even though his work on the Book of Mormon and Abraham are just as dismal. As the work of Dan Vogel, Mike Marquardt, Quinn and others have shown, Nibley was wrong about everything. Everyone had an equal right to revelation as long as you kept your own to yourself. We see what happened to Hiram Page and the Brewsters.

And what Bushman and Nibley are/were trying to sell (about the character of Smith), is simply another fantasy. This caused me to think about how I could convey what a fantasy it is with an 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, pgs. 122-123)

And what happened to provoke this? Hiram Kimball was a non-Mormon 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.

Joseph Smith wanted Sarah to become one of his Spiritual Wives. 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. I don’t find that a humble act at all. 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?” Humility wasn’t Smith’s strong suit.

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. Joseph Smith could have done so a hundred and fifty years earlier, but he didn’t.

Walker 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 [Salamander] 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.

Except the two Joseph’s did allow the pursuit of buried treasure get in the way of honest work that could have paid off their mortgage. Instead, they lost their house in the fall of 1826. Compare what Walker writes with Morris who wrote that Jesse’s objections had nothing to do with treasure seeking, he was angry because their claims were all religious! And there is no mention of any visit of an angel, or of God to the peep stone prophet 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. In review after review it is claimed that Brodie’s work is shortsighted because she believed Smith was a fraud. This, to me, is the great strength of her work. The critics of her work are frustrated because No Man Knows My History is vouchsafed by its skilled and accurate use of primary sources and her stellar prose, not to mention her psycho-analysis of Smith. What Prince calls learning line upon line, Brodie calls invention. Smith fails as a prophet because he wasn’t a prophet, or a linguist/translator of ancient languages, his primary claim to fame. He was a fraud in every instance. And even when he does accomplish something marvelous, like writing the Book of Mormon (no matter what you think of the religious material in it) he mars it with his silly magic tricks and constant lies. What Brodie wrote about Joseph and his practice of Spiritual Wifeism wasn’t even close to how bad it actually was.

We live in the age of Donald Trump and seeing how his followers stick to him like glue  no matter what he does (committing adultery, paying off women, along with his racism and xenophobia, to name a few) should give us a clue about how Smith’s relationship to his “saints” worked in the same kind of way. Like Trump, Smith filled a perceived void in people’s lives and came along at just the right time to make the most of it. This is, after all, America.

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 fairy tale would not be complete without the help of a non-Mormon folklorist, and the apologists had someone in mind, which I’ll discuss in Pt. III’s Introduction. For now, let’s get back to the Manchester ghosts and how the Smith’s would work to the money…

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, Martin Harris, and others close to Joseph 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 tribes 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. Looking in his stone and then weeping in frustration because “the enchantment was too strong” for him to find what he was paid to find. 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 he even making any money if he wasn’t digging? 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! If Joseph was some kind of prophet-in-training, then why was it so easy for the “spirits” to defeat his “all-seeing-eye” with their “enchantments”? If the Joseph’s were going out every day for Stowell, that would mean they (since Smith Sr. was an expert with the rod) tried over thirty times to find the lost silver mine and could not. Joseph Knight later wrote that,

joseph then went to mr stowels whare he had lived sometime before but mr stowel could not pay him money for his work very well and he came to me perhaps in November and worked for me until about the time that he was married which I think was in February and I paid him the money and I furnished him with a horse and cutter to go and see his girl down to mr hails and soon after this he was married and mr stowel moved him and his wife to his fathers in Palmyra Ontario County

It seems that Stowell wasn’t made of money, so it probably wasn’t Joseph who persuaded Stowell to quit looking for the mine, Joseph just couldn’t find it and he couldn’t pay them anymore so he went to work for Knight. And there is no indication that the Smith’s returned to Palmyra with any amount of money at all. After all, they could not pay off their mortgage and had to indenture Harrison to Lemuel Durfee as a condition to continue to live in the Manchester house. (More on this below)

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, but finding a stolen horse for a “Mr. WANDERhoof” – hilarious!). I would have proof read this account, (by his grandson) it is filled with many inaccuracies and obvious embellishments. And yeah, I have to go with Vanderhoof who said that Smith claimed it would be in this vague area to the north and of course it was found by Lake Erie, a natural barrier for all animals that would wander from home.

And as a bookend to this, here is what Mormon apologist Brant Gardner wants us to believe about those who claim to have these kinds of supernatural powers:

… it isn’t the effectiveness that is important—it is the nature of the consultation.

Really? The only accounts in which Smith appears to be accurate are those in which it is an obvious parlor trick, or from vague accounts handed down well after the fact. There is not one credible account of Smith ever finding anything like a silver mine, chest of money or coins, or anything of that nature. And the story of the gold plates is so fraught with contradiction that it is useless as evidence of anything, except that Smith had quite an imagination.

Like the dowsers that came before and after him, Smith’s successes fall into the law of averages, and a broken clock is right twice a day. It was worth it to them to often be wrong because if they could be right even once, it would bolster their reputation with the superstitious, and they would get them to come back for more. Even those that doubted Smith were sometimes desperate enough to consult him again.

Still, the apologists try and try to transform Joseph from a lawless juggler to a “village seer” or “cunning man” or some other obscure title that has nothing to do with what Smith was actually doing, first, being manipulated by his father to scry for imaginary treasure and then conning people of his own volition. Luman Walters was a true “village seer” in the sense that he lived in the same place for a long time and practiced a form of medicine and had clients and would consult or “divine” for them. (More on this in Pt. III)

So why would Joseph change his story that he found the plates using 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! I can picture the young Peeker with his mark, “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. Magic! (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 [we] 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. Neighbor Lorenzo Saunders answered some questions about the Smiths, and his recollection mixes the two narratives:

I saw them dig in a [Miner’s] hill, said to be for that purpose; that young Joe could look in his peep stone and see a man sitting in a gold chair. Old Joe said he was king i.e. the man in the chair; a king of one of the tribes who was shut in there in the time of one of their big battles. This digging was a mile from Smiths. Don’t know as there was ever anything in the cave. The cave was on our place. This was in 1826. The cave had a door to it. We tore it off and sunk it in a pit of water where they got dirt to cover a cole pit. …[Joseph Smith, Jr.,] made the statement and gave the account in my father’s house. He said he was in the woods at prayer and the angel touched him on the shoulders and he arose, and the angel told him where the plates were and he could take his oldest Brother with him in a year from that time and go and get them. But his oldest Brother died before the year was out. At the end of the time he went to the place to get the plates the angel asked where his Brother was. I told him he was dead. The angel told him there would be an other appointed. Joseph chose Samuel Lawrence. But he did not go. (William H. Kelley Interview, 17 September 1884)

At the time of them digging the cave on Miner’s hill they had procured the services of Luman Walters. And where did they get the idea that there was a king of one of the tribes buried under a hill by their home? From their son, of course. (Joseph would later tell the story of another king like person “Onandagus”, when he spoke of Zelph, years later)

Joseph didn’t give out the location of the buried plates, and he and his son were both engaged in trying to find any treasure that might have been buried with them. Smith even writes in his history that he was tempted to find more when he supposedly dug up the stone box.

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 (as Smith Jr. claimed). 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? And go out searching for treasure with his father over and over again? 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 (1829)

This is simply an elaboration of the Miner’s Hill story told by Smith, Sr. 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. 

The Palmyra Reflector

The Post Master who wrote to Burnet was well aware that it was a treasure digging ghost who was later transformed into an angel. The pushback by the Mormon apologists is almost comical. For example, 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.

Angels then, would never identify themselves as a former inhabitant of this earth, even though they would appear in 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.

The angel does not claim that he is one of the former prophets of the Bible, as some have attested. The angel claimed that he was a “fellow servant” of God, along with those “brethren the prophets”. Other translations besides the KJV make this clear:

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!” (NIV)

Matthew Gill writes that the angels were only brethren in a spiritual sense:

“…if this was one of the ministering spirits, he was a servant of the same Lord as John; and if he was a minister of the Gospel, he was still more literally a fellow servant of his, and of the apostles, and preachers of the Gospel; which is meant by the testimony of Jesus, that bearing testimony to the person, office, grace, obedience, sufferings, and death of Christ, and the glory following; and therefore being but a servant, and a servant in common with John and his brethren, was by no means to be worshipped; not the servant, but master; not the creature, but the Creator” (Commentary on Revelation 19:10)

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. 493)

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. 509)

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. 509-511)

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. 23)

This “spirit of the Lord” was not an angel or a man, it was described as “the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, (p. 165) or “the spirit of the Lord, which is in me” (p. 151) “in our fathers”, (p. 35) and “the spirit of the Lord which was in him” (p. 65)

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. 64), makes people angry (p. 121), and it can “enter into them, and take possession of their house” (p. 333).

The “Devil and his angels” are evil spirits that shall “go away into everlasting fire”. (p. 79) They are never described as men or the spirit 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. 45)

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 lds.org.

“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. (I’m grateful to Brent Metcalfe for help with this, even though he feels this evidence is ambiguous)

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 of what I present here, shows that at that time they were not conceived of angels as being 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. Perhaps because they were invented during the actual “translation”?

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 spirit children of God. 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 the ghost of a Quaker, not “the spirit of the Almighty” or an angel. 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. 308)

“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” or “cunning men” or “cunning women”, or “village seers” 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. (Ya can’t have it both ways apologists even though you desperately want to!)

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).

The above could just as well be titled, “Who are the Cunning Men”? Or “Who are the Village Seers”? Or “Who are the Practitioners of Folk Magic”?

“What Manner His Kingdom was to be Conducted”

Yet, that’s not what happened. Joseph did “go after them”. In a big way. This is why the apologists are so flustered. 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” (stolen now) 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 refuses to return 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? How does that work, exactly? Why don’t we have any explanations about this from the apologists?

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 ghosts/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 written in the Bible.

Yet, where is any of Joseph’s “restored” power that seriously compares to Moses? Before or after he started up his church. When Joseph had his chance during “Zion’s Camp”, he failed miserably. How would Joshua have fared with the Missourians? (Just sayin’)

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? (Where is Cowdery’s budding rod of Aaron?)

Think of it, if someone tried to take away the plates from Joseph, he could just strike them down with leprosy! (That would teach them!) And Moses had thousands of grumbling Israelites, and he still parted the Red Sea, and fed them all with manna. Did their unbelief affect what Moses could do?Joseph had a few hundred Mormons who grumbled and he blamed his failure on them. It was their unbelief that ruined the “redemption of Zion”! 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)

A prophet with no teeth, it seems. A big talking prophet to be sure, who Wilford Woodruff found practicing with a gun when he first met him and quipped that he wanted to be sure he could hit something when he went to Missouri. But that too, never happened. Why would a prophet would should be able to call down lightening from heaven like Elijah, even need a gun? It seemed to be all just “run away, run away!” with Smith.Again, where was that prophetic power of Enoch, Elijah, or Moses or even Nephi & Lehi for that matter? In for a penny, in for a pound? Not in this case. So 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. (But they will brag about the second hand stories of Joseph’s day of healing in Commerce, or his being able to understand the Lamanite/Indians when a real translator was supposedly messing with him, or his 1842 prophecy of the Rocky Mountains that was cobbled together after his death.

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 who doesn’t prophesy or have any real power except that he’s rich and can buy a lot of stuff.

Larry Morris also brings up these Biblical stories and then tries to persuade us 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? And when they try, they come up with this:

Some people have balked at this claim of physical instruments used in the divine translation process, but such aids to facilitate the communication of God’s power and inspiration are consistent with accounts in scripture. In addition to the Urim and Thummim, the Bible mentions other physical instruments used to access God’s power: the rod of Aaron, a brass serpent, holy anointing oils, the Ark of the Covenant, and even dirt from the ground mixed with saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man.

I’ve discussed most of the Old Testament examples, but what about the one from the New Testament, the spit and dirt that Jesus made and used when he healed a blind man. Actually the New Testament gives us the answer:

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.  Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath. (John 9:13-16)

It was against the Law of Moses to make “clay” on the Sabbath and that is what the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing, breaking the Sabbath by mixing the spit with dirt to make “clay”. Jesus didn’t need to use spit and dirt, he did so to make a point to the Pharisees about what should be considered work. Let’s throw this apologist example in the trash bin with the others, where it belongs.

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 money-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.

Walker, as we have seen, does mention this. 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 and the majority of Americans from that period. It was simply wishful thinking.

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 the other apologists account for the same stories of treasure guardians and Captain Kidd being told by Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell and others? I can’t find anything about this from Morris or others, though Ashurst-Mcgee mentions the Harz Mountains, but only as a historical reference and Brigham Young’s account not at all. 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, guardian spirits and other 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. Ashurst-McGee mentions Porter Rockwell and Lucy Smith a couple of times in relation to Catherine Kane, but doesn’t quote her much, only a few excerpts.

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 even though they are credible and relevant. 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 Huggins’ 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. Did he mean Mormonism and the Fox sisters in the same paragraph? 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? I’m sure if he tried real hard he could figure out a way that Mr. Splitfoot was some lost Apostle of Christianity. And here is Ronald Walker doing the same thing that Huggins did:

A fourth dimension of our study involves the historical setting of early Mormonism. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, upstate New York was to borrow Carl Carmer’s phrase, “a broad psychic highway, a thoroughfare of the occult.” Rachel Baker amazed neighbors by preaching in her sleep. Jemima Wilkinson announced herself as the reincarnated “Publick Universal Friend.” The rappings of the Fox sisters whose home was less than thirty miles from Palmyra provided the impetus for American spiritualism. The area was known for its “isms.” (pg. 469)

This is exactly the point that Ron Huggins was making! Where is Morris’ ire about that? Mormonism and the Fox sisters in the same paragraph, oh my! 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. It wasn’t religious, it was superstitious.

These superstitious “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

Since Morris is asking what has one thing to do with the other, we can ask just what has Peter Oliver 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 magic 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).

Ronald 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 their admonitions 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, pg. 82)

Everyone defends their own beliefs. Tell us something we don’t know. But dowsing 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.

DIVINER, noun
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. Interesting that 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 be water here”. Again, a broken 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 (or “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. It’s really not too hard to stumble on to something that is pretty much literally everywhere, is it?

“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 more prevalent.

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 is why many have changed their tune by changing the station from the Hugh Nibley channel.

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 February, 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 or in Ashurst-McGee’s thesis, he only mentions Walters a few times and dismisses his connection to the Smith’s as an invention of Abner Cole. I will have more on Luman Walters and Saumel T. Lawrence in the next installment.

“trying to win he faculty of Abrac … to the neglect of all other business”

Before I finish Part II, I would like to address the account of Lucy Smith taken from her Biographical Sketches manuscript. Here is what she wrote about the events leading up to Joseph claiming to see an angel in 1823/24:

We still continued felling timber and clearing land and about this time we began to make preparations for building a house—

In the spring after we moved onto the farm we commenced making Mapel sugar of which we averaged each season 1000 lbs per year

we then began to make preparations for building a house as the Land Agent of whom we [p.323] purchased our farm was dead and we could not make the last payment

we also planted a large orchard and made every possible preparation for ease as when advanced age should deprive us of the ability to make those physical exertions which we were then capable of

Now I shall change my theme for the present but let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor [to build the house] and went <at> trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying ==>> to the neglect of all kinds of buisness <== we never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation but whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remmember the service of & the welfare of our souls.

[Which would have been by trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circled and sooth saying, as they were not Presbyterians yet, and Joseph had had no visions of God or angels]

About this The 3 harvest time had now arrived [circa 1823] since we opened our new farm and all the our sons were actively employed in assisting their Father to cut down the grain and storing it away in order, for winter 

One evening we were sitting till quite late conversing upon the subject of the diversity of churches that had risen up in the world and the many thousand opinions in existence as to the truths contained in scripture.

Joseph who never said many words upon any subject but always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature.

This After we ceased conversation he went to bed <and was pondering in his mind which of the churches were the true one> an but he had not laid there long till <he saw> a bright <light> entered the room where he lay he looked up and saw an angel of the Lord stood <standing> by him 

The angel spoke I perceive that you are enquiring in your mind which is the true church there is not a true church on Earth 

[anachronistic] No not one Nor <and> has not been since Peter took the Keys <of the Melchesidec priesthood after the order of God> into the Kingdom of Heaven The churches that are now upon the Earth are all man made churches

[There was no talk of “Melchizedek Priesthood” until the early 1830’s ]

Joseph there is a record for you and you must get it one day get it 

[anachroistic] There is a record for you and Joseph when you have learned to keep the commandments of God but you cannot get it untill you learn to keep the commandments of God <For it is not to get gain>

[If Joseph wasn’t keeping the commandments why did the angel tell him to go and get the record?]

But it is [p.336] to bring forth that light and intelligence which has been long lost in the Earth

[anachronistic] Now Joseph <or> beware <or> when you go to get the plates your mind will be filld with darkness and all maner of evil will rush into your mind To keep <prevent> you from keeping the commandments of God <that you may not succed in doing his work>

and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars—<of cement> then the angel left him

This is not the story Joseph originally told about finding the treasure hill, he claimed to find the hill with the Chase peep-stone]

The argument, originally made by William Hamblin goes like this (FAIRMORMON)

Critics generally neglect to provide the entire quote from Lucy. Dr. William J. Hamblin notes that there is “an ambiguously phrased statement of Lucy Mack Smith in which she denied that her family was involved in drawing “Magic circles.”

They then quote Hamblin:

Although the phrasing is a bit ambiguous, the matter can easily be resolved by reference to the rest of Lucy’s narrative. Contra Quinn, Lucy Smith’s text provides no other mention of the supposedly “important interest” of magical activities but does deal prominently with their religious and business concerns. If magic activities were such an important part of Joseph Smith’s life and Lucy was speaking of them in a positive sense as “important interests,” why did she not talk about them further in any unambiguous passage?

But she does! FAIRMORMON claims that,

Joseph’s mother also indicated that Joseph was sought out by some, including Josiah Stoal, to use the stone to find hidden valuables. He

came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye

This is obviously important magic activity that Joseph was involved with, (scrying) and she speaks of it in a positive sense. Joseph had not gotten the “spectacles” yet. The “key” would be his peep stone operated by the use of magic.

Joseph & Lucy Mack Smith (circa 1825)

Lucy is relating that the family was clearing timber and planting orchards, and beginning to make preparations to build a house. Then she claims that she was going to change the subject and speak about matters other than manual labor. She begins by asking the “reader” that because she is going to talk about “another topic for a season” that they stopped  with the manual labor and started doing other non manual/business things like “trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles or soothsaying” and therefore neglecting business. She assures her “reader” that the family never let one important interest (Abrac, magic circles, soothsaying) “swallow up every other obligation” but while they were performing the manual labors the family “endeavored to remember the service of and welfare of our souls.”

It appears that Lucy was setting the stage for what happened in 1826 with Josiah Stoal and the two Joseph’s, but obviously Lucy did not want to put that incident in her history, the Stoal insert that FAIRMORMON writes about above was a later emendation to the original manuscript. Why would Lucy want to claim that soothsaying and pursuing other occult activities did not stop them from taking care of business? Perhaps because that is what happened when the two Joseph’s went to Pennsylvania and did not return with the money to pay the mortgage and their land was taken from them. This was obviously a painful incident to Lucy, so she simply skipped over it. Why?

Leading up to this part of her history, Lucy tells a story about going to have tea with some neighbors who mentioned to her that she should have a nice house to live in. Lucy replied,

“I have never prayed for riches <​of this world​> as perhaps you have but I have always desired that God would enable me to use enough wisdom and forbearance in my family to set good precepts [p. [8], bk. 3] & examples before my children …”

She then adds,

“there is none present who have this kind of wea[l]th that have not lately met with a loss of chidren or othe[r] friends (which really was the case) and now as for Mr Mrs. the minister’s lady I ask you how many nights of the week you are kept awake with anxiety about your Sons who are in habitual attendance on the Grog Shop & gambling house— they all said with a melancholly look that showed conviction Mrs. S. you have established the fact <​>reader​> I merely relate this that you may draw a moral therefrom that may be useful to you…”

In leading up to the soothsaying comments, Lucy claims that she never wanted the “riches of this world”. But her husband did, and encouraged their fourth child to follow in his footsteps. Then she makes the comment that the family never let their occult practices get in the way of doing business. It wasn’t a denial, it was trying to downplay its importance in their lives, exactly as it is written by Lucy. She then leaves out the arrest of her son on charges of glass looking. Lucy had gone on and on about how her children were so righteous, so how would it look to be recounting that Joseph had gotten arrested for juggling? This was an aside by Lucy, to claim that the entire family wasn’t doing what the two Joseph’s were doing – not taking care of business. Lucy, who knew that Smith Sr., had accompanied his son to Pennsylvania to dig for treasure, wrote,

Having just made the acquaintance of a couple of gentlemen from Pensylvania who were desirous of purchasing a quantity of wheat which we had Sown on the place this We agreed with them that if they would furnish us with the sum of money requisite for the liquidation of this debt that the wheat should be carried to them the ensueing season in flour Mr <Smith> having made this arrangement sent Hyrum to the new Agent at Canandaguia to inform him that the money should be forthcoming as soon as the 25th of Septem Decber which the Agent said would answer every purpose and agreed to wi retain the land untill that time thus assured that all was safe we gave ourselves no <further> uneasiness about the matter

There was no Alvin to bail out his father with the mortgage as he had been. Smith Sr., had over a year to get up the required funds, yet failed to do so, instead going off on a lark and taking young Jo with him to go money-digging. There was no wheat deal. Lucy then writes,

When the time <had nearly> come that rendered it necessary for my Husband to set out for Pensylvania to get the money Joseph one day called Mr Smith and myself aside and told us that he had felt so lonely ever since Alvin’s death that he had come to the conclusion of getting married…

Except that Smith Sr., was already in Pennsylvania with young Jo! And while they were gone the house was sold to someone that wanted to evict the family out into the cold. (It was winter). If not for their kind Quaker neighbors and most likely the local Presbyterian church they would have had to go back to the small log cabin.

So what do we have here? Lucy having tea with the neighbor ladies and claiming that her children are better than theirs. And what happens? Alvin dies, and her husband continues to obsess over buried treasure and drags his son into it with him. Smith Sr., doesn’t come back with any money, as when Lemuel Durfee bought the farm and let the Smith’s stay they had nothing to pay him with and had to indenture their son Harrison for six months to the new landlord. Lucy chooses to exclude her husband from all his money-digging fanaticism, and downplay their involvement with the occult, claiming that it never got in the way of business when obviously it did.

This idea that Lucy is not saying what she is in reality saying has been making inroads in the Mormon apologist community. Apologist Samuel M. Brown writes,

Lucy sparred with the family’s critics in her brief aside about three “magical” practices. Though she was attempting to deny her family’s involvement in such activities, Lucy’s list of three sample practices provides useful insights into the nature of folk esotericism and its intersections with established religion. That hers was an attempted denial is clear from both close attention to the text and to the third of the practices she listed. The third activity to which Lucy alludes makes quite clear that she was disclaiming involvement in folk rites. “Soothsaying,” a pejorative term for predicting the future or certain forms of supernatural sight, is not a word that a Protestant (or sectarian ex-Protestant) would use to describe her own or her family’s activities. (Samuel M. Brown, Reconsidering Lucy Mack Smith’s Folk Magic Confession)

This is simply wishful thinking. It is easy to understand Lucy’s text and there are other reasons why she would have mentioned their involvement in the occult only briefly and in the way that she did, as I documented above. And the word “soothsayer” is pretty much synonymous with “astrologer”. In their book Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore, by Jane Garry and Hasan El-Shamy they write:

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe, soothsayers like astrologers and alchemists were considered scientists, relying on visions and movements of the stars to make their predictions. Paracelsus and his teacher Tritemius were examples of this type of soothsayer (D1712.01, “Astrologer-Magician”). Also at this time, chapbooks and almanacs provided popular prophecies and astrological readings. For example, the prophecies of Nostradamus remain widely known even today. … The so called Warlock of the Glen, for example, divined by peering through a hole in a round white stone (Motif D1712.1, “Soothsayer at work by various means of divination”). 

In 1840 Charles Pickering wrote that “It appears further, that the profession of “astrology and soothsaying” had likewise reached the Hawaiian Islands.” (United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, Volume 9, 93)

Brown’s argument is ludicrous. He writes,

In a Bible-drenched culture like that of early America, soothsaying recalled capital crimes within the Hebrew Bible. Soothsayers included the much-maligned Balaam (Josh. 13:22), so obtuse that he was outclassed (and reprimanded) by his famously garrulous ass; the Philistines (Isa. 2:6), whose mighty giant the mythically powerful first king of united Israel slew with a sling; the courtiers of the Babylonian king whom Daniel put to shame (Dan. 2:27; 4:7; 5:7; 11); or the corrupted state of Israel whom Micah (Micah 5:12) denounced. In the sole explicit New Testament reference, soothsaying was a lucrative sequela of demonic possession (Acts 16:16). Joseph Jr.’s scripture employed biblical citations to confirm the rejection of soothsaying (2 Ne. 12:6 and 3 Ne. 21:16). Simply put, soothsaying is not a category that exists other than as a denunciatory epithet. Even people who might accept “magic” as a self-reference would not accept “soothsaying.” (Brown, op. cited, )

Except, as I mentioned above, astrology and soothsaying went hand in hand and people had no problems buying almanacs and believing in astrological prognostications. And yet, the Book of Daniel condemns the Astrologers along with the Soothsayers as do other prophets in the Bible:

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latterdays. (Daniel 2:27-28)

Brown’s presentism here, (along with his anachronistic insertions) doesn’t serve him or his argument well. (The Book of Mormon didn’t come along until almost seven years after the period Lucy describes, and astrology is condemned far more often than the word “soothsayer” in the Bible. Keith A. Cerniglia documents that:

Ames’ almanac series, firmly rooted in judicial astrology, sold between 50,000 and 60,000 copies annually. A careful review of the sources indicates the scholars have been too hasty to write an obituary for the application of astrology, irrespective of its natural or judicial disposition. Late in the eighteenth century — during which the researchers have sounded the death knell for astrology — women, blacks and foreign-born printers had already made their incursions into the world of almanacs and astrology. This appears to reflect even further diversity in, at the very least, basic exposure of astrology. To use another example, Stephen Row Bradley’s Astronomical Diary of 1775 almost outsold (2,000 copies) the second-largest circulating colonial newspaper of 1770, William Goddard’s Pennsylvania Chronicle (which had 2,500 subscribers).(The American Almanac and the Astrology Factor)

Yes, the Christian churches were denouncing Astrology and Soothsaying, but that did not have as much of an impact as Brown would lead one to believe. The lower classes and superstitious and many of the upper echelon were interested in astrology and those who claimed to be able to foretell the future.

Like with many other things those who were practicing and believed in such things often denounced others who did. As we have learned so far, the folk magic culture was pervasive in 18th and 19th century America and wasn’t part of Christianity though there were many Christians who practiced some kind of folk magic.

End of Pt. 2

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

Introduction

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 MormonJoseph 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.

JAMES COLIN BREWSTER

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.

Z. H. BREWSTER.

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:

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT.

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)

Dustin Phelps & The House of Lies He Built For Jeremy Runnells

ANTI-MORMONISM (ad nauseam)

This article was written before Dustin Phelps changed his title and edited out some material. The original article may be found here.

There is an old adage that I’m sure all of you have heard at one time or another that goes, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. “ No one wants to be fooled but really, it happens all the time especially when it comes to religious matters.  The historical record is replete with false prophets and teachers who have duped people into believing their claims of a special connection to God, who then gives them special “authority” that puts them in positions of power over others.  When men make religious claims though, they should have evidence to back up those claims. Let’s not fool ourselves that it isn’t all about the evidence. It is.

When it comes to Joseph Smith and his creation of Mormonism, there is an abundance of evidence that one can actually analyze to see if the claims that Joseph Smith made bear up under close examination. As Fawn Brodie astutely observed over 70 years ago,

In official Mormon biographies he [Joseph Smith] has been made a prophet of greater stature than Moses. Nineteenth-century preachers made him a lecherous rogue; and twentieth-century chroniclers have been bemused with what they diagnosed as paranoiac delusions. The reason for these disparate opinions is by no means lack of biographical data, for Joseph Smith dared to found a new religion in the age of printing. When he said “Thus saith the Lord!” the words were copied down by secretaries and congealed forever into print. (Brodie, Fawn M.. No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith , )

The continuing scrutiny of the Mormon “prophet” and his Latter-day Kingdom of God is nothing new. It has been going on for almost two hundred years now.  The word “anti-Mormon” is nothing new either; it has been wielded like a cudgel against anyone critical of Joseph Smith from the time that Eber D. Howe published Mormonism Unvailed in 1834 to the present. Even Joseph Smith made the term his own.  For example, he used it when speaking of his plans for Texas if he were to win the 1844 Presidential nomination. His diary entry for March 7th reads:

On the annexation of Texas, some object. The anti-Mormons are good fellows. I say it in anticipation they will repent. Object to Texas [being admitted into the Union] on account of slavery. [Texas was pro slavery] Tis the very reason why she should be received.

“[Sam] Houston says, ‘Gentleman, if you refuse to receive us we must go to the British’ [who objected to slavery] and the first thing they will do will be to set the negroes and indians [against us] and they will use us up. British officers running all over Texas to pick a quarrel with us[. It would be] more honorable for us [as a nation] to receive them and set the negroes free and use the negro and indians against our foes.

“Don’t let Texas go lest our Mother and the daughters of the land will laugh us in the teeth. If these things are not so God never spoke by any prophet since the world began. I have been [two blank lines] south hold the balance of power &c. by annexing Texas –  I can do away [with] this evil [and] liberate 2 or 3 states and if that was not sufficient, call in Canida – –

Send the negroes to Texas from Texas to Mexico where all colors are alike. Notice was given for the Relief Society to meet Saturday 2 P.M. to adopt “the voice of Innocence from Nauvoo” (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.456-7).

Even then, if others (even politically) didn’t agree with Joseph’s views, they were “anti-Mormons”.  Smith thought that Houston would run to the British and that they would create problems for the United States (as he did in his Civil War “prophecy”), but it was the Mexicans who went to war with the U. S. over the annexation of Texas. Joseph simply wanted to free the slaves to use as cannon fodder for the U.S. in his imagined war with the British, and then instead of accepting them as citizens, send them to Mexico where he claimed “all colors are alike”.  At least Joseph could joke about anti-Mormons being “good fellows” and call them that in the hope that they would repent; but he also said that about his enemies— that he was reluctant to ask God to kill them (because God told him he could have anything he asked for) perchance they did repent.

A month after calling his perceived political enemies anti-Mormons; William Law and other church members were unlawfully excommunicated for objecting to Joseph’s practice of polygamy and other doctrines that they would later publish in the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph spoke about their activities and his scribe Willard Richards recorded that,

There was a meeting at Gen[eral] W[illia]m and Wilson Law’s near the saw mill of those who had been cut off from the Church and their dupes. Several affidavits were taken and read against Joseph and others. W[illia]m Law, Wilson Law, Austin D. Cowles, John Scott Sen[ior]., Francis M. Higbee, R[obert] D. Foster, and Robert Pierce were appointed a committee to visit the different families of the city and see who would join the new Church (IE) it was decided that Joseph was [a] fallen prophet &c. and W[illia]m Law was appointed in his place. Austin Cowles and Wilson Law Councillors. R[obert] D. Foster and F[rancis] M. Higbee to the 12 Apostles &c. as report says. El[der] James Blakely preached up Joseph in the A.M. and [in the] P.M. joined the anties . (Scott H. Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, p.475, April 28, 1844).

Of course believing Smith to be a “fallen prophet” is being “anti-Mormon” according to Smith, even though they were endeavoring to start a church based on Joseph’s early teachings.

And of course, my good friend Jeremy Runnells is characterized the same way in a huge banner by the fledgling Mormon Apologist Dustin Phelps who appears to be terrified of using Jeremy’s name:

INFLUENTIAL ANTI-MORMON CAUGHT SPREADING LIES ABOUT LDS CHURCH

Dustin and his sidekick Brittney claim they are only helping people by making such provocative claims. In their “About” section found on their website, (inexplicably called “Happiness Seekers”???) they claim they are providing “resources” to help Mormons “navigate the unique challenges of our times.” They then claim that, “Those challenges include: anxiety and depression, defining equality, pornography, same-sex attraction, faith and doubt, and religious liberty.”

This begs the question: In the long run, is being such meretricious apologists really helping anyone but themselves? Apparently they think so, and take their cue from the FAIRMORMON playbook (something Jeremy calls FAIRMORMON Repackaged, as they blatantly mischaracterize and lie about Jeremy.

George Bush doing his own “Repackaging”…

I really have to hand it to them. They certainly have a flair for the dramatic. Oh my God, Jeremy Runnells the “influential anti-Mormon” has been “caught” spreading lies about the Mormon Church! Stop the presses! Don’t they know (since they regurgitate their material constantly) that FAIRMORMON has been screaming this for years? In their blog article attacking Jeremy, the word “anti-Mormon” appears 19 times, and the word is prominently displayed in the Banner. They definitely get the knee-jerk award for predictability.

In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism they explain anti-Mormonism as,

 …any hostile or polemic opposition to Mormonism or to the Latter-day Saints, such as maligning the founding prophet, his successors, or the doctrines or practices of the Church. Though sometimes well intended, anti-Mormon publications have often taken the form of invective, falsehood, demeaning caricature, prejudice, and legal harassment, leading to both verbal and physical assault. From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have been targets of anti-Mormon publications. Apart from collecting them for historical purposes and in response to divine direction, the Church has largely ignored these materials, for they strike most members as irresponsible misrepresentations.

Few other religious groups in the United States have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility. From the organization of the Church in 1830 to 1989, at least 1,931 anti-Mormon books, novels, pamphlets, tracts, and flyers have been published in English. Numerous other newsletters, articles, and letters have been circulated. Since 1960 these publications have increased dramatically.

Wow. Few other religious groups in the U.S. have been subjected to such sustained, vitriolic criticism and hostility? How about the Catholics, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism? And let’s not forget Scientology.  All religions get attacked and criticized.  There have been so many anti-Catholic books written that they are virtually uncountable. Recently, the anti-Catholic book (as many Catholics claim) “The Da Vinci Code” and its two sequels, “Angels and Demons” and “Inferno”, were made into  blockbuster movies.  And two elections cycles back, there was a Mormon candidate for President, and his faith wasn’t really a major issue in his campaign. Would that be the case if there was a Muslim candidate for President? With the advent of the internet, all kinds of media have “increased dramatically”.

But even books with legitimate criticisms have been labeled as anti-Mormon.  This characterization of making anti-Mormons out of anyone who asks any questions or disbelieves claims made by Joseph Smith and others is best showcased by Jeff Lindsay and his “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”.  Among them are,

What other church better follows the Biblical model of emphasizing the bilateral covenant nature of the Gospel?

If there was no apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ, then what happened to prophets?

What other Church better follows the Biblical organization given for the Church?

If Joseph Smith just made up the idea of vicarious baptism for the dead, why do numerous ancient documents validate the LDS claim that this was an authentic early Christian practice?

At a time when all Christian churches taught that temples were no longer needed, how did Joseph so effectively restore the ancient temple concept on his own?

What other church better corresponds with early Christianity in terms of teaching the true relationship between faith, grace, and works?

Why do the earliest Christian writings sound much closer to LDS theology than they to modern “mainstream” Christianity?

If the modern concept of the Trinity is true, then why does the different LDS view on the oneness of God find such strong support in the writings of the earliest Christians?

If it’s unchristian, unbiblical, and evil to believe that humans have divine potential, why do many Biblical and early Christian sources speak of the humans becoming “gods”?

If the Bible is infallible, by whose authority were the various books of the Bible selected in an infallible manner? By whose authority were the infallible translations made and approved?

Who authorized the changes in the ritual of baptism that occurred since the New Testament Church? And who in your church has true authority from God to perform baptisms?

If the Book of Abraham is a fraud, then how do you account for the details in the text that would later be given extensive support by numerous ancient documents that were not available to Joseph Smith?

These are all claims that Mormon apologists have been griping about for the last two centuries, because when critics bring them up, they are waved off as having been addressed already. But here is Lindsay taking his turn. Yawn. But what is Lindsay’s underlying purpose here? Lindsay writes under the title of “My Turn: Questions for Anti-Mormons”:

In my suite of “Frequently Asked Questions about Latter-day Saint Beliefs,” I’ve attempted to answer some of the endless questions that our critics throw out. Now it’s my turn to ask a few. I do this not to argue with them, but to point out to others that we don’t need to be on the defensive all the time. There are some meaningful issues that need to be considered beyond just the attacks of critics.

Again,  these are all questions that critics themselves have brought up. See how he adroitly connects the word “critics” with “anti-Mormons? And yet Lindsay attacks the belief in the Trinity, when he and other apologists claim they never attack other’s beliefs. He characterizes the Catholic Priesthood as “a committee of philosophers” and “contentious committees steeped in Hellenistic thought”.  This is how he describes the Bishops of the Catholic Church that met in Nicaea in that first ecumenical council that drafted the Nicene Creed.  At least that is what I think he is doing, because he quotes the Athanasian Creed, and there was no “heated debate” over its use that I am aware of.  The Catholics themselves admit that they are unsure of the origin of the creed, but that is of “secondary consideration” because it has been “approved by the Church as expressing its mind on the fundamental truths with which it deals.” There is nothing wrong with being a critic of any religion. Being a critic of anything is baked into our American culture. But there is definitely something wrong with villainizing critics when you are doing the same thing.

What I find interesting about Lindsay’s gaffe with the Athanasian Creed is that the Catholics claim that they don’t really know it’s origin yet it was approved and used by the Church as one of their creeds. Reminds me of the Mormon racist Priesthood Ban, which they claim they don’t know where it really came from, but it was Church doctrine for over a hundred years. They didn’t have any kind of “committee” debating the Priesthood Ban before they implemented it and they sure won’t acknowledge today that it came from God as Brigham Young did.

What is even more baffling is that because there are objections to the use of the term anti-Mormon as an epithet, FAIRMORMON claims that it is all the critics fault because some in the 19th century called themselves anti-Mormons!

They also claim that because the Tanners use the term in “The Changing World of Mormonism”, that makes it ok to call anyone who criticizes the church an anti-Mormon and characterized their arguments as attacks on the faith.  You might hear a black person use the N-word, but go ahead and justify using it yourself on that basis and see where it gets you. This is not about using the word, but the repeated vitriolic use of the word by Mormon apologists, and Dustin and Brittney are prime examples. FAIRMORMON makes this claim:

FairMormon does not believe or argue that everyone who disagrees with the LDS Church is “anti-Mormon.” As one prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism put it:

The hallmark of anti-Mormonism is an agenda, whether covert or openly expressed, of combating the faith of the Latter-day Saints and opposing their church.

Yet that is what is being done. Here is Daniel C. Peterson (a FAIRMORMON Board Member and the “prominent scholar of anti-Mormonism” they quote above) speaking of George D. Smith, Dan Vogel and Signature books,

We have seen that George D. Smith and Signature Books reject the title ‘anti-Mormons’ … Are ‘anti-Mormons’ mere mythical beasts, the stuff of persecution-fixated Latter-day Saint imaginations? If not, how would we recognize an ‘anti-Mormon’ if we saw one?

Nobody would suggest for a moment that George D. Smith and Dan Vogel fit the traditional ‘anti-Mormon’ mold in all respects. There are a number of differences between them and the late ‘Dr.’ Walter Martin, and between them and the Tanners.

In the past, anti-Mormon attacks almost invariably came from outside the Church; for the most part, they still do. For the first time since the Godbeite movement, however, we may today be dealing with a more-or-less organized ‘anti-Mormon’ movement within the Church. With ‘anti-Mormon Mormons,’ as Robert McKay puts it.

Should we be concerned about the possibility of unwholesome opinions, even enemies, within the Church? Jesus certainly seemed to think that internal enemies were a possibility. ‘Beware of false prophets,’ he said, ‘which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves’ (Matthew 7:15)…. So the possibility of enemies among the membership of the Church seems established. (FARMS, Review of Books, vol. 4, pp. liv-lv, see Veneer Magazine’s article “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” found here).

Peterson is calling members who have different views anti-Mormons and “enemies”! And since when are historians “false prophets”? This is simply silly bullshit. No one can be a legitimate critic to these bigots. Louis Midgley called Brent Metcalfe and the authors contributing to “New Approaches to the Book of Mormon”, anti-Mormons:

The most imposing attack on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon has been assembled by Brent Lee Metcalfe… the publication of New Approaches is an important event. It marks the most sophisticated attack on the truth of the Book of Mormon currently available either from standard sectarian or more secularized anti-Mormon sources, or from the fringes of Mormon culture and intellectual life. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1994, pages 211- 214).

Stephen E. Robinson, chairman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU was livid over Dan Vogel’s “Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture” and called him “Korihor”, a villain from the Book of Mormon:

Korihor’s back, and this time he’s got a printing press. Korihor, the infamous “alternate voice” in the Book of Mormon, insisted that “no man can know of anything which is to come”…In its continuing assault upon traditional Mormonism, Signature Books promotes with its recent and dubiously titled work The Word of God precisely these same naturalistic assumptions of the Korihor agenda in dealing with current Latter-day Saint beliefs….this is a propaganda piece.

For years anti-Mormons have hammered the Church from the outside, insisting that Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints’ scriptures he produced were not what they claimed to be. Whether Signature Books and its authors will convince the Saints of the same hostile propositions by attacking from the inside remains to be seen….What the anti-Mormons couldn’t do with a frontal assault of contradiction, Signature and Vogel would now accomplish with a flanking maneuver of redefinition.

I suppose by now it is clear that I did not like this book….Give me a Walter Martin anytime, a good stout wolf with his own fur on, instead of those more timid or sly parading around in their ridiculous fleeces with their teeth and tails hanging out. Give me ‘Ex-Mormons for Jesus’ or the Moody Bible Tract Society, who are at least honest about their anti-Mormon agenda, instead of Signature Books camouflaged as a ‘Latter-day Saint’ press. I prefer my anti-Mormons straight up. (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, pp. 312).

Brian Hales, another FAIRMORMON contributor, called John Dehlin an anti-Mormon and a “wolf” for allowing a historian to express his views on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and not rebutting him with material that Hales had provided to him. He’s been at the forefront of the attacks on Jeremy Runnells and works hand in hand with FAIRMORMON.  Dustin and Brittney’s go to destination for propaganda to rebut critics is FAIRMORMON.

What Dustin and Brittney have concocted is nothing new. There is a long history of Mormon apologists vilifying any critic (even members of the church) as anti-Mormons. This is the fruit of FAIRMORMON. A whole new generation of bigots.  If one goes to Happiness Seekers, they have (as of this writing) seventeen articles posted and three of them have the word “anti-Mormon” in the title.

The message here is clear, any critic of the church is an anti-Mormon and a villain, complete with an “agenda” to rip people from their faith, and their publications should be avoided at all costs. Jeremy himself has likened it to being identified as Voldemort, (the villain whose name was not to be mentioned in the Harry Potter novels) because Dustin never uses Jeremy’s name, but makes it obvious who he is talking about.

At least Jeremy is in good company considering that Signature Books and all of its authors (whether members of the church or not) are considered by members and contributors to FAIRMORMON as being anti-Mormon “false prophets”.  Will they now raise Jeremy’s status to a false prophet? Nothing would surprise me at this point.

One observation about making it your mission to flush out and “expose” those horrible Anti-Mormons. Ever hear of S.P.A.M.? The Society for the Prevention of Anti Mormonism? Probably not. But they were a thing about ten years ago. Here is what the founder said when he closed shop:

This is the end of the line. I have decided to shut down the FRAM Report. I’ve been running it since 2009 with a few breaks in between. Two or three times, I’ve set it aside and moved on to other things, only to have some new development pull me back in. Thus, I’ve learned never to say never, but it’s time to give it a rest.

We started out just tracking numbers of anti-Mormon posts and we embarrassed Jim Robinson. We watched as he banned the Mormon Caucus and purged Mormons from the site. We identified the haters and published their pseudonyms. We made our point numerically: Free Republic was being used as a platform by anti-Mormons to bash the Church and its members with the support of its owner, Jim Robinson. The last few months have seen our posts degenerate into a tit-for-tat response to the seemingly endless attacks of their one primary, one-topic poster: Colofornian. We have demonstrated how obsessive, hateful, dishonest, and uninformed she actually is. There is no more doubt and there is nothing more to say on the matter.

The number one attribute of anti-Mormons is obsessiveness. They can’t not be anti=Mormon. They’re so full of hate that they can’t let it go. That’s not the case here. As my Internet pal Timothy Berman used the phrase in a different context recently, it’s time to stop “feeding the weeds.” Life is full of too many wonderful blessings to continually focus on anti-Mormonism.

Wow, what a list of accomplishments. This is what obsessing about “Anti-Mormons” under every rock and hiding behind every bush gets you. Nowhere.

FIRST… PHELPS’ CONCLUSION

I would like to start with their conclusion, where the word anti-Mormon appears three times in four paragraphs,

The critics ask why we call it “anti-Mormon information”. They say it’s just the plain facts. They argue that Latter-day Saints are afraid of the truth and that we are just brainwashed.

Who is “they”? Not Jeremy Runnells. But by all means carry on:

We call it anti-Mormon information because it consists of twisting “the facts”, fabricating “the facts”, and decontextualizing “the facts”.

We’re not afraid of the truth, but we are cautious about the way that anti-Mormons have shamelessly misrepresented the truth since day 1 of the Restoration.

What we know is that “…calumny may defame, mobs may assemble, and persecutions may rage. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Where has Jeremy ever claimed that Mormons are “brainwashed”? You will search in vain for any such statement. Though some critics might make that claim, he’s not one of them and really, this is just the transparent tactic of broad brushing anything they don’t like into one convenient phrase, “Anti-Mormon information” that the mysterious “they” are in charge of distributing to the world.

And of course we have these typical derogatory words used to describe the “information”, like “twisting”, “fabricating” and “decontextualizing”, or taking “the facts” (what’s with the quotes anyway) out of context.  And speaking of brainwashing, one of the techniques used is repeating things over and over again. Perhaps if they don’t want people to think they have been subjected to such a technique, they should tone down the misguided and vitriolic rhetoric.

And if we are talking FACTS or ACCURACY here, the quote that Dustin uses isn’t what Joseph Smith actually wrote. The quote by Joseph Smith to John Wentworth reads,

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, the East Indies, and other places, the standard of truth has been erected: no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I’m not sure where Dustin Phelps got his garbled quote from, but it isn’t from any original source. If you are going to put something in quotes, perhaps you should make sure that what you are quoting is accurate. Do you really have confidence that these fledgling apologists are qualified to judge what is accurate, or twisted, fabricated or decontextualized if they can’t even quote Joseph Smith correctly or blindly repeat and repackage everything they read from FAIRMORMON?

And though Joseph took credit for writing this letter to John Wentworth (also known as “Church History”), he actually plagiarized material from Orson Pratt and others. (At least that is what the Joseph Smith Papers indicates though they characterize it as a group effort that Joseph simply took credit for).  But using someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is still plagiarism. For example, here are the two accounts of Joseph’s claimed “first vision”, one by Orson Pratt in 1840 and the one that Smith claimed to write in 1842 in the Wentworth letter:

Pratt (Remarkable Visions 1840)

When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence

Wentworth Letter  (Joseph Smith? 1842)

When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state

Pratt

If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets, saying—“This is the way, walk ye in it;”  while, at the same time, the doctrines of each were, in many respects, in direct opposition to one another.

Wentworth Letter

if I went to one society they referred me to one plan, and another to another; each one pointing to his own particular creed as the summum bonum of perfection: considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed.

Pratt

he was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in their features or likeness.

Wentworth

I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness

Pratt

He was also informed upon the subjects, which had for some time previously agitated his mind, viz.—that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines; and, consequently, that none of them was acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom

Wentworth

They 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.

Pratt

And he was expressly commanded, to go not after them; and he received a promise that the true doctrine—the fulness of the gospel, should, at some future time, be made known to him

Wentworth

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.

Joseph writes a letter about his own claimed “vision” and has to plagiarize material from someone else to describe it? But perhaps I’m only taking things out of context?  Joseph also plagiarizes material for his claimed 1823 visit of the angel “Moroni” from Pratt’s published work:

Pratt

And it pleased God, on the evening of the 21st of September, a.d. 1823, to again hear his prayers. For he had retired to rest, as usual, only that his mind was drawn out, in fervent prayer, and his soul was filled with the most earnest desire, “to commune with some kind messenger, who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God,” and also unfold the principles of the doctrine of Christ, according to the promise which he had received in the former vision. While he thus continued to pour out his desires before the Father of all good; endeavouring to exercise faith in his precious promises

Wentworth

On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture

Pratt

“on a sudden, a light like that of day, only of a purer and far more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room. Indeed, the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire. This sudden appearance of a light so bright, as must naturally be expected, occasioned a shock or sensation visible to the extremities of the body.  It was, however, followed with a calmness and serenity of mind, and an overwhelming rapture of joy, that surpassed understanding, and, in a moment, a personage stood before him.” Notwithstanding the brightness of the light which previously illuminated the room, “yet there seemed to be an additional glory surrounding or accompanying this personage, which shone with an increased degree of brilliancy, of which he was in the midst

Wentworth

in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded

Pratt

This glorious being declared himself to be an Angel of God,  sent forth, by commandment, to communicate to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and also, to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel, concerning their [p. 6] posterity, was at hand to be fulfilled; that the great preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah, was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in its fulness, to be preached in power unto all nations; that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace and joy.

He was informed, that he was called and chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvellous purposes in this glorious dispensation.

Wentworth

This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.

I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation.

And at the end of the Wentworth letter appears what were later called “The Articles of Faith” which were later canonized by the Church and Joseph plagiarized much of those too, from Orson Pratt and others.

So why mention all this about the Wentworth letter? Well, I was curious about it after I saw that Dustin Phelps had garbled up what Joseph wrote. And being curious, I took a little time to research it. Of course, this is known to many historians, and they have their point of view about it. At the Joseph Smith papers, they write,

No manuscript copy [of the Wentworth letter] has been located, and it is not known how much of the history was originally written or dictated by JS. “Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt’s summary of church beliefs, upon which JS drew for the list of thirteen church beliefs in “Church History,” was in turn based on a theological summary written by Parley P. Pratt. Other individuals may have been involved in compiling the essay, including Willard Richards, who wrote extensively as JS’s scribe during this period. Because William W. Phelps revised and expanded the text of “Church History” a year later in answer to a request from editor Israel Daniel Rupp, it is possible that Phelps helped compose the original essay. However, Phelps’s active role as scribe and composer for JS apparently did not commence until late 1842.

And so the reader will have to make up their own mind. Was this plagiarism? Joseph Smith took a published work, copied from it, and published it under his own name without giving any credit to the original author. The “Articles of Faith”, from the Wentworth letter have been canonized, Joseph Smith’s name at the end of them as sole author, and that is how they appear today in Mormon scripture. This “Church History” that Smith claimed to write, doesn’t just “echo” some wording from Orson Pratt’s published work, it lifts whole passages from it. What that is, is plagiarism.

What are the ethical ramifications of this? Again, you readers must decide for yourself.

SECOND: THE INTRODUCTION

And what brought all this on concerning Jeremy? It took four years to finally catch Jeremy Runnells “lying” about the Mormon Church? They claim their involvement was spurred on from “a heart-felt letter from a mother”.  They write,

She [the anonymous mother] helped me realize that by taking the most popular piece of anti-Mormon literature (which summarizes just about all the claims against the Church) and exposing several blatant lies, I could prove an important point:

“If there’s far more to the story in regards to these major claims, how do you know that the same isn’t true of other criticisms made against the Church?”

What “major” claims is Phelps speaking of here? He gives five examples, 1) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.” 2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.” 3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory” 4) Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision 5) There are striking parallels between the Book of Mormon and several other books

I have to ask… why is his “point” (If there’s far more to the story…) in quotes? Is he quoting himself? And he is going to PROVE this point by using five examples? Tell us the “far more to the story” in a short blog article? Well, I can’t wait.  But before I get into that, let’s go over the introduction. They claim,

For many generations, Latter-day Saints have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading. This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you know someone who has struggled with doubt, chances are that they happened upon this man’s work. His infamous 80-page document has been downloaded nearly 1 million times—primarily, it would appear, by Latter-day Saints and former members.

Many ex-Mormons use this document, as a “missionary tool” in the hopes that it will lead their friends and family members away from the LDS Church.

The author’s success has a lot to do with the way he constructed the document.

He frames himself as a well-intentioned Latter-day Saint who merely has a few innocent questions about the Church—questions that he genuinely wants answers to. He puts LDS readers at ease by beginning with a quote from President J. Reuben Clark who said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

By using this seemingly innocent narrative the author has successfully persuaded countless members to trust the information he provides. As a result, many unsuspecting Latter-day Saints have found his claims to be so damaging that they either find themselves stuck in a crisis of faith or they abandon their faith altogether.

But it’s time for this house of cards to come tumbling down.

There’s a lot to unpack here.  First they claim that Mormons “for generations” have insisted that anti-Mormon literature isn’t worth reading.  True, some have. But other Mormons have told us things like this,

“The truth will cut its own way.” (Joseph Smith Jr.)

“To Latter-day Saints there can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures, ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study – a search for truth.” (John A. Widtsoe)

“This book [“The Book of Mormon”] is entitled to the most thorough and impartial examination. Not only does [“The Book of Mormon”] merit such consideration, it claims, even demands the same.” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith)

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position…” – James E. Talmage

“If we have the truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (J. Reuben Clark, counselor in the First Presidency)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated: if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal Of Discourses, v 14, page 216, thanks to MormonThink for these quotes)

But of course, any critic is labeled an “anti-Mormon” and their honesty is then questioned. See the circle jerk they perform here? Instead of just presenting Jeremy’s claims, they go to lengths to defame him and call him a liar before they present any of their so called evidence.  This is a dishonest tactic and a favorite of Mormon Apologists. The CES letter is “infamous”.  Dustin then gives us this confusing mess:

This attitude appears to be validated by on-going discoveries that the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years has been caught spreading blatant falsehoods and misinformation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The attitude (of ignoring what they deem as “anti-Mormon literature’) appears to be validated by not ignoring what “the most influential anti-Mormon of recent years” wrote? How do you validate not reading something by reading it? So I guess those that ignore it actually aren’t ignoring it? Dustin claims,

I normally don’t bother responding to individual claims by anti-Mormons—because for every claim you debunk, another will be invented or repackaged.

Of course he doesn’t, because if what he wrote about Jeremy Runnells is any indication, he is too ignorant to make a coherent response. He would rather point the finger at those dreadful “anti-Mormons” and make false claims, and provide links to FAIRMORMON. And of course since this is all (as Dustin puts it) just “invented” or “repackaged” claims, why bother? And then there’s the irony of Dustin’s own repackaging of FAIRMORMON’s apologetic bullshit.

Dustin also gripes about how many times the CES Letter has been downloaded and that it is some kind of “tool” of ex-Mormons, and claim that its success is simply how the letter is constructed. Gee, If only everyone could construct a letter like that. We’d all get millions of views! Perhaps Jeremy should be out giving lectures on how to construct letters since this one has been so successful. Of course it has nothing to do with the content. It was just ingeniously constructed.

And Jeremy just appears to be trustworthy.  So of course Dustin has to attack Jeremy’s honesty, and his real story, that he had a legitimate crisis about his faith (being a returned missionary, etc), and make it into a plot by Jeremy to dupe unsuspecting Mormons.

Dustin also totally mischaracterized what Jeremy claimed about the CES Letter. Jeremy never said they were “a few innocent questions” about the Church. Jeremy was totally upfront in the CES Letter and said he already had a crisis of faith BEFORE he wrote it. So all of this by Dustin is a blatant falsehood. Jeremy never duped anyone.  In his INTRODUCTION, Jeremy wrote,

I’m just going to be straightforward and blunt in sharing my concerns. Obviously I’m a disaffected member who lost his testimony so it’s no secret which side I’m on at the moment. All this information is a result of over a year of intense research and an absolute rabid obsession with Joseph Smith and Church history. With this said, I’d be pretty arrogant and ignorant to say that I have all the information and that you don’t have answers. Like you, I put my pants on one leg at a time and I see through a glass darkly. You may have new information and/or a new perspective that I may not have heard or considered before. This is why I’m genuinely interested in what your answers and thoughts are to these troubling problems.

So who is being dishonest here? Dustin Phelps. He just can’t seem to admit to himself that people are reading the letter knowing that Jeremy wrote it when he was already disaffected and was honest and upfront about it. I mean, it must be troubling to Dustin’s apologetic mind that people are still reading the actual evidence for its own sake and not because of Jeremy Runnell’s ingeniously constructed letter.  I doubt Dustin ever even read the CES letter. What he appears to have done is regurgitated material from FAIRMORMON. Took a few claims and made up his whopper about Jeremy being dishonest and a liar.

THIRD: THE SO-CALLED LIES?

I’ve been friends with Jeremy for about five years now, and I can tell you he’s a passionate guy. That much is obvious if one reads his rebuttal to Dustin Phelps. I really can’t blame him for being pissed off. He’s been attacked by Mormon Apologists over and over again and it must get rather old after a while. I just turned sixty, and I was a lot like Jeremy when I was younger and if you follow this blog, you know that I can be sarcastic and sharp in my responses to Mormon Apologists. So bear in mind all that Jeremy has been through as you read his response to Phelps.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s explore Dustin’s claims about what Jeremy wrote in the CES Letter and see if it is all “lies about the church”.  And remember, Dustin claims that these are “major claims” against the church. Now, I am not going to do any kind of in-depth rebuttal here, Jeremy has done a great job with his response. I just want to make a few observations and analyze some of Dustin Phelps’ claims against Jeremy. And if these are not in order… you guessed it, Phelps changed the order when he repackaged his own blog entry.

Dustin Phelps original text (18 July 2017):

False Claim #3) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Let’s cut right to the chase on this one. Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone. What bothers people is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. They worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing explicitly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

Dustin Phelps changed text:

False Claim #1) Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is “Warren Jeffs territory”

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

But what makes it difficult to move forward with faith is the possibility that Joseph introduced polygamy—not because of revelation but out of a desire to satisfy lustful feelings. Some people worry that maybe Joseph practiced polygamy in the same way that Warren Jeffs did: with unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite.

This insinuation is common in anti-Mormon literature. And the particular document that we are discussing openly claims that Joseph Smith’s history is “Warren Jeffs territory.”

But is that claim at all true?

But what did Jeremy actually write? On page 31 of the CES Letter, we find,

One of the things that really disturbed me in my research was discovering the real origins of polygamy and how Joseph Smith really practiced it.

 Joseph Smith was married to at least 34 women.

 Polyandry: Of those 34 women, 11 of them were married women of other living men. Among them being Apostle Orson Hyde who was sent on his mission to dedicate Israel when Joseph secretly married his wife, Marinda Hyde. Church historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen and unofficial apologists like FairMormon do not dispute the polyandry. The Church now admits the polyandry in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Out of the 34 women, 7 of them were teenage girls as young as 14-years-old. Joseph was 37-years-old when he married 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, twenty-three years his junior. Even by 19th century standards, this was shocking. The Church now admits that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball “several months before her 15th birthday” in its October 2014 Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay.

 Among the women was a mother-daughter set and three sister sets. Several of these women included Joseph’s own foster daughters. Some of the marriages to these women included promises by Joseph of eternal life to the girls and their families, threats of loss of salvation, and threats that he (Joseph) was going to be slain by an angel with a drawn sword if the girls didn’t marry him.

Every bit of this is true. So really, what Dustin Phelps has a problem with is Jeremy characterizing what Joseph Smith did as “Warren Jeffs territory”.  This is something the individual must decide. But is this a false claim? No. It’s an opinion.  The Rolling Stone wrote this about Jeffs:

The ambitious, twisted son of the previous FLDS prophet, Jeffs took control and became obsessed with the idea of “perfect obedience.” He started kicking people out of Short Creek that he deemed sinners: young men who came to be known as Lost Boys, teenage girls he considered too rebellious and men no longer “worthy of priesthood,” reassigning their wives and children to loyalists he felt he could trust.

Beginning in 2002, he came under investigation for child rape in Utah. He then began evading authorities while marrying off teenage girls to the sect’s leadership. He also ordered the construction of a new FLDS compound, the Yearning for Zion ranch, in the West Texas desert. In May 2006, he landed on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list for multiple counts of sexually assaulting minors, and went on the run with his favorite wife, Naomi (code name: 91). With the help of Jessop, who ran the church’s security force – called the God Squad by detractors – Jeffs communicated through coded letters and burner phones and shuttled between the church’s “houses of hiding” scattered throughout the West (in particular, he often visited his favored brides at the compound in Texas). In August 2006, he was arrested during a routine traffic stop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, carrying 16 cellphones, three wigs and $56,000 in cash in the lining of a suitcase.

Joseph Smith declared and had himself ordained a king in Nauvoo. He “married” multiple teenaged girls, some as young as fourteen. He discarded women when being “married” to them was no longer in his best interest after having sex with them. As for “perfect obedience”, this is what Joseph Smith was reported to have said in Kirtland in 1836, that,

After that dedication [of the Kirtland Temple] the Mormons organized what they termed “the school of prophets.” A revelation prior to that time had given Oliver Cowdery the privilege of nominating the twelve apostles of the Church. About the time of this organization there was a good deal of scandal prevalent among a number of the Saints concerning Joseph’s licentious conduct, this more especially among the women. Joseph’s name was then connected with scandalous relations with two or three families.  Apparently to counteract this he came out and made a statement in the Temple, before a general congregation that he was authorized by God Almighty to establish His Kingdom — that he was God’s prophet and God’s agent, and that he could do whatever he should choose to do, therefore the Church had NO  RIGHT  TO  CALL  INTO  QUESTION Anything he did, or to censure him, for the reason that he was responsible to God Almighty only. This promulgation created a great sensation — a schism occurred and a large portion of the first membership, including the best talent of the Church, at once withdrew from it. This was during the summer of 1836. (Benjamin Winchester, Primitive Mormonism, The Salt Lake City Daily Tribune, September 22, 1889).

What Phelps does here can be characterized as the classic “bait and switch”.  He claims that this is all about Joseph having “unrestrained lust and insatiable sexual appetite”. Yet, this is not what Jeremy claims at all. The fact is, we do not know how often Joseph had sex with his plural wives. If the testimony of Emily Partridge and Malissa Lott count for anything to Phelps, they claimed that they had sex with Smith on multiple occasions. Malissa Lott testified,

Q. I asked you how many times you had roomed there in that 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.

Q. Well I will ask you the questions over again in this form,—was it more than twice?

A. Yes sir.

R. C. Evans, who was in the Presidency of the Reorganized Church interviewed the brother of Joseph F. Smith, (Patriarch John Smith) a nephew of Joseph Smith and while there his wife Helen told him that “Malissa Lott … said Joseph … desired her to have a child by him.”

Lott herself, when questioned about her lack of a pregnancy by Joseph answered it was,

Through no fault of either of us, lack of proper conditions on my part probably, or it might be in the wisdom of the Almighty that we should have none. The Prophet was martyred nine months after our marriage.

Emily Partridge testified,

Q. Did you ever have carnal intercourse with Joseph Smith? A. Yes sir.

Q. How many nights? A. I could not tell you.

Q. Do you make the declaration that you ever slept with him but one night? A. Yes sir.

Q.  And that was the only time and place that you ever were in bed with him? A. No sir.

This is only two of Joseph Smith’s wives.  Even they were baffled as to why they never got pregnant. To claim that Joseph just never had sex with his wives, or that he chose to “limit such relations” is ridiculous and ignores the actual evidence.  According to Emily Partridge, she did not know why she got pregnant by Brigham Young and not by Joseph Smith: 

Q. You were married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy?     A. Yes sir.

Q.  And while married to Brigham Young by the law of proxy you had children?  A.  Yes sir.

Q. You had children by Brigham Young?  A. Yes sir.

Q. Then the law of proxy, -marriage by the law of proxy will raise children, while marriage by the law of the church will not?  Is that it?  A.  I don’t understand your question?

Q.  My question is this, -that when you were married by the law of proxy you had children?  A. Yes sir.

Q. And when married under the law of the church you did not raise children?  A. I did not have any, but I don’t know that that had any thing to do with it, for I might have had children married that way as well as under any other marriage relation.

Q. But you did not have any when you were married to Joseph Smith A. No sir.

Q. You did by Brigham Young though when you were married to him by proxy?  A. Yes sir, but that did not have any thing to do with it. (395-402)’

Phelps makes the claim that “whatever intimate relations may have occurred—they were pretty close to non-existent,” but has absolutely no evidence to back up that assertion.  He links to an article by Brian Hales that is full of his own speculations and apologetic mumbo jumbo.  But one thing that is certain and Brian Hales admits this himself in the very article that Phelps links to:

It is impossible to accurately determine how often Joseph Smith spent time with his plural wives, either in conjugal visits or otherwise.

I can go one step further and with absolute confidence say that it is impossible to determine AT ALL, how often Smith spent time with his spiritual wives or had sex with them.  Speculating about it is simply ridiculous, but this is what Hales, FAIRMORMON and Dustin Phelps do, because they will not admit that there was no teaching or evidence that anyone who was in a polygamous relationship could not have sex with the woman he was married to. So calling them “non-sexual eternity only sealings” is simply Brian Hales wishful thinking, extremely irresponsible and has no evidentary basis at all, except from late anonymous recollections and notes by Andrew Jenson who lied in his publication The Historical Record when it suited him.

What really surprised me though, was Phelps original statement:

Polygamy is not what really bothers anyone.

Huh? Polygamy doesn’t bother anyone? I beg to differ and most likely, Phelps got some blowback on this because he then changed his blog entry to read:

Look. Polygamy is a difficult subject for many of us—even if the Prophets of old practiced it too.

So which is it? It doesn’t bother anyone including Dustin Phelps? Or it is a difficult subject for many of us (including Phelps). Do you get the feeling that Phelps will just say anything to defend the church? Why then would he flip flop on this? Or is he mentally challenged and can’t make up his mind what he believes? Is this anyone you want helping you in times of crisis? Does he really have any answers and is he qualified to give you the historical truth? He doesn’t seem to know what it is. Do we really need more FAIRMORMON Repackaged? If you are having a crisis of faith, do you really need FAIRMORMON Repackaged? Wouldn’t you rather speak to qualified historians, or your Bishop, or research things for yourself and then make up your mind what to do? This was in fact what Jeremy Runnells was originally trying to do.

Another example that Phelps gives of Jeremy’s “lying” is the following:

3) “there were major [changes to the Book of Mormon that] reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.”

Jeremy actually wrote,

The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead. Joseph Smith’s early theology also held this view. As part of the over 100,000 changes to the Book of Mormon, there were major changes made to reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.  (CES, 17)

Talk about context. He doesn’t once cite where he is getting his quotes from in the CES Letter.  I find that odd.  So how is Jeremy Runnells lying here? This is Dustin Phelps tortured logic:

As part of these changes, Joseph prepared an 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon that fixed some typos and included a few clarifications.

Ok, but they are still CHANGES. So all his blathering about punctuation is just a red herring. But here is what he says about what Jeremy calls “major changes”:

One of those minor adjustments has really excited anti-Mormons over the years. Why? Because if you remove the relevant context and place it in just the right light, it appears much more controversial than it really is.

So, here’s the change: There are four places where Joseph Smith added “Son of” to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. These are places where Jesus Christ was initially referred to as “God” or “the Eternal Father” but were adjusted to read “Son of God” and “Son of the Eternal Father.”

Dustin blathers on about verses that do nothing to prove his point and this has been addressed in Jeremy Runnells response to Dustin, found here.

As far as the Trinity in Mormonism, there is some simple evidence to prove that this was taught in the early church.  In the same year that Joseph penned his first account of his claimed First Vision (1832), we find this amazing commentary written in the Evening And Morning Star, under the title of ‘The Excellence of Scripture’:

“Through Christ we understand the terms on which God will show favour and grace to the world, and by him we have ground of a PARRESIA access with freedom and boldness unto God. On his account we may hope not only for grace to subdue our sins, resist temptations, conquer the devil and the world; but having ’fought this good fight, and finished our course by patient continuance in well doing, we may justly look for glory, honor, and immortality,’ and that ‘crown of righteousness which is laid up for those who wait in faith,’ holiness, and humility, for the appearance of Christ from heaven. Now what things can there be of greater moment and importance for men to know, or God to reveal, than the nature of God and ourselves the state and condition of our souls, the only way to avoid eternal misery and enjoy everlasting bliss!

“The Scriptures discover not only matters of importance, but of the greatest depth and mysteriousness. There are many wonderful things in the law of God, things we may admire, but are never able to comprehend. Such are the eternal purposes and decrees of God, THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, the incarnation of the Son of God, and the manner of the operation of the Spirit of God upon the souls of men, which are all things of great weight and moment for us to understand and believe that they are, and yet may be unsearchable to our reason, as to the particular manner of them.” (The Evening And Morning Star, Vol. I, INDEPENDENCE, MO. JULY, 1832. No. 2. page 12, emphasis mine)

When one considers the Book of Mormon teaching, and looks at the Lectures on Faith, which were published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and voted on as binding doctrine by the Church, one can see the striking similarities and his change from Monotheism to Modalism. Take this verse from 1st Nephi:

“And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.”

Now compare this to Lecture Fifth, from the Lectures on Faith:

“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power overall things…They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image;–he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father: possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh.” (Lectures on Faith, 5:2, emphasis mine)

In the questions and answers, at the end of each lecture, we find clarification:

What is the Father?
He is a personage of glory and of power. (5:2.)
What is the Son?
First, he is a personage of tabernacle. (5:2.)…
Why was he called the Son?
Because of the flesh.
Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?
They do.
What is this mind?
The Holy Spirit.

Thomas G. Alexander, writing for Sunstone in July of 1980 explained that,

“The Lectures on Faith differentiated between the Father and Son somewhat more explicitly, but even they did not define a materialistic, tritheistic Godhead.  In announcing the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants which included the Lectures on Faith, the Messenger and Advocate commented editorially that it trusted the volume would give ‘the churches abroad…a perfect understanding of the doctrine believed by this society.’ The Lectures declared that ‘there are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing and supreme power over all things–by whom all things were created and made.’ They are ‘the Father being a personage of spirit,’ and ‘the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or, rather, man was formed after his likeness, and in his image.’ The ‘Articles and Covenants’ called the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ‘one God’ rather than the Godhead, a term which Mormons generally use today to separate themselves from trinitarians.” (Sunstone 5:4/26 (Jul 80), emphasis mine)

In his “translation” of the Bible, sometimes called The Inspired Version (completed in 1833), Joseph Smith changed some verses in the New Testament to reflect his early Monotheistic teachings:

KJV: All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.(Luke 10:22)

JST: All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.(Luke 10:22

For a time, it seems, Joseph Smith was a Monotheist, and Mormons agreed with the Christian Trinity doctrine.  Monotheism, (identified as the doctrine of the Trinity in light of New Testament revelation) is what is taught in the Bible, the most clearly in Isaiah 44:6-8:

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

For more on Smith’s early teachings on the Godhead, See Ronald V. Huggins article, Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?

Dustin Phelps also claims that Jeremy is “lying” about this:

2) “Many Book of Mormon names and places are strikingly similar to local names and places of the region [where] Joseph Smith lived.”

Dustin claims:

The author of this infamous anti-Mormon document provides a map of the cities and towns where Joseph grew up and then compares them to a proposed map of Book of Mormon geography.

He also compares these place names in a table.

He argues that the similarities are too powerful to ascribe to mere coincidence. And it’s not just that he’s telling people to think that. The way he constructs the comparisons makes it seem as though that is the natural conclusion.

But here’s what countless misled readers do not know:

Several of the towns on this author’s list were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon. Other locations were remote villages hundreds of miles away in places like Canada—hardly the land of Joseph’s youth.[9]

Plus, almost half of the names or locations are also found in the Bible—including Biblical names that few are aware of such as Lehi, Boaz, Ramah, and Sidon.

But you know what? As ridiculous as this claim may seem, it is also one of the most emotionally impactful parts of the whole document. Why? Because it starts to paint a picture in your mind of how Joseph Smith might have invented the Book of Mormon.

The author is trying to achieve the impossible: make a Book of Mormon fraud seem believable.

All of Dustin’s links go to FAIRMORMON. This section is no different. He offers the link as proof for his statement that “several of the towns … were not even in existence at the printing of the Book of Mormon.

At FAIRMORMON, they quibble about where these locations are in the Book of Mormon. Was one north of the other or south of the other, etc. This is irrelevant. What about the names? Let’s take just one example. They write,

Holley points out that the present day city of Angola, New York is a possible match for a Book of Mormon location. He notes the location of the city on “modern maps”. Holley states,

The present day city of Angola, New York, is located west of the Genesee (Sidon?) River and south [“in the borders”] of the proposed land of Zarahemla. This is another example of the many actual locations in the Great Lakes area that can be located on modern maps by following geographical information in the Book of Mormon. [4]

However, when one looks up the Wikipedia entry for Angola, New York, it becomes evident that the name “Angola” was not established until approximately 1854, twenty-four years after the Book of Mormon was published. Wikipedia notes,

The community was previously called “Evans Station.” In 1854 or 1855, a post office was established there, bearing the name Angola. [5]

Actually, FAIRMORMON is wrong. I happen to live in Upstate New York, and I know a little bit more about the history of this area. The Post Office in Angola was there before 1830:

The first town meeting for the town of Collins was held on June 9, 1821, a few weeks after the formation of the county. There was then no post-office in the town, but in 1822 one was established at Taylor’s Hollow, and a mail route opened through Eden to that point. THE OFFICE WAS NAMED ANGOLA and Jacob Taylor was appointed postmaster, a position which he held as late as 1840. This office was subsequently abandoned and the name given to one in the town of Evans.  (Our County and It’s People: A Descriptive Wo.rk on Erie County, New York, Volume 1, 348, emphasis mine).

I’ve been to Taylor’s Hollow and Eden many times. Unless one knows the local history, they would not be aware that the Angola Post Office was there in 1822.

What is the Etymology for the word “Angola”?

The name Angola comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola (Kingdom of Angola), appearing as early as Dias de Novais’s 1571 charter. The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of Ndongo.

How in the world did this word get on to the gold plates in 400 A.D.? It didn’t. It was a Post Office a hundred miles from Smith’s house. And according to the 1826 examination minutes, Joseph Smith claimed to have gone to that area of New York:

Mr. [Joseph] Smith [Jr.] was fully examined by the Court. It elicited little but a history of his life from early boyhood, but this is so unique in character, and so much of a key-note to his subsequent career in the world, I am tempted to give it somewhat in extenso. He said when he was a lad, he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others; that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass; that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the Now York and Pennsylvania line. He often had an opportunity to look in the glass, and with the same result. The luminous stone alone attracted his attention. This singular circumstance occupied his mind for some years, when he left his father’s house, and with his youthful zeal traveled west in search of this luminous stone.

He took a few shillings in money and some provisions with him. He stopped on the road with a farmer, and worked three days, and replenished his means of support. After traveling some one hundred and fifty miles he found himself at the mouth of the creek. He did not have the glass with him, but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and a hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing-Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.

On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen’s egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket.” http://richkelsey.org/1826_trial_testimonies.htm

So, what are we to make of this? Did Vernal Holley have a point to make about the Book of Mormon names? Absolutely. But since he is dead, we cannot know where he got his research from, so it is up to others to dig into this and find out, as I did with Angola. Knowing this, is it really so impossible that the Book of Mormon is a fraud? I’ll let you decide, readers.

Dustin then tries to tackle the claimed “First Vision” problems and writes,

False Claim #4: Joseph wrote four contradicting versions of the First Vision

This claim is very misleading.

Here are the facts:

First, as we would expect, Joseph told the story of the 1st vision on multiple occasions. Second, because each account is conveyed to a different audience and for a different purpose, Joseph focuses on different details of the experience in each account.

What would really be weird is if he robotically gave the exact same, seemingly rehearsed account, every time he was asked. Instead, every time he tells of the First Vision experience, it is from a new angle, revealing an experience that is panoramic and authentic.

Contrary to the author’s assertion, the accounts do not contradict each other—they enrich one another. And they are on display in the Church’s history museum and were published by the Church over 50 years ago (shortly after the History Department discovered them). Click here to study each account for yourself on the Church’s website.

And consider the following:

Paul and Alma the Younger also retell their transformative spiritual experiences on multiple occasions—to different audiences and with different purposes. Each of their accounts differ on what they emphasize and include new details, but ultimately they in no way contradict each other. Just like with Joseph’s First Vision accounts, each perspective adds rich depth and power to their experiences.

And let’s not forget that overtime we all tend to reinterpret and recontextualize our past experiences which may lead us to focus on different themes of the same experience at different times.

This is simply apologetic mumbo-jumbo and does not address the real problems that Jeremy brings up in the CES Letter. I have addressed many of these myself here, in answer to Kevin Christensen’s (another FAIRMORMON apologist) rants against Jeremy.

The other claims that I haven’t addressed here Jeremy has answered well, and I doubt there will be any kind of reasoned, logical response from “Happiness Seekers”.

CONCLUSION

I’ll simply quote what Jeremy wrote to Dustin which seems an apt conclusion to his bizarre rant against “he who must not be named”:

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Dustin skips a lot of things. Dustin ignores a lot of details. Dustin ignores a lot of contradictions.

Dustin wants you to look at this tree over there while keeping your eyes and attention away from the forest of problems. Mormon apologists do not want you to see the forest. This is why they hate the CES Letter and me so much. This is why I am now the Mormon “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” with a “You-Know-What-Letter”. I show you the entire forest with just 2-hours of reading (what used to take people in the past, weeks and months to accomplish the same thing on their own). Instead of 1-5 problems that they can contain for a member awakening to the LDS Church’s truth crisis, they have to address 80-pages worth of problems they wish you didn’t know about. They want you to stay lost in the trees focusing on one tree at a time within the unreliable and unsupportable lens of “faith.”

Origin Of The Baptism for the Dead Doctrine

I know I haven’t posted here in over a year, but I’ve been busy researching and writing. One of the projects I worked on was with my friend H. Michael Marquardt, who co-wrote an article with me on the Origin of the Baptism for the Dead Doctrine, which has been published in the latest issue of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal! Here is a teaser page, and I would urge you to purchase this issue as it is chock full of many great articles on Mormon History.

Stay tuned, I have some really good articles lined up for this year, and will also be posting an extended version of the above article at a future time…

Phoney Maroney & FairMormon’s New Scapegoat

Stephen Smoot 2

Phoney maroney,
Pony before the cart. …

Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move. Square off. To
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb. ~R.E.M.

This guy:

Stephen O. Smoot is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. He is a writer for the Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper, a volunteer with FairMormon, and an Editorial Consultant for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. He blogs at the FairMormon Blog and Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.

Is one of many from FAIRMORMON’s ranks who are obsessed with attacking and scapegoating Jeremy Runnells. They have even devoted a whole website to doing so. (Yes Mormons, that is what your donations to FAIRMORMON are being used for). Even Daniel C. Peterson and Michael Ash have jumped on this bandwagon. This has troubled other Mormons, like David Bokovoy who wrote:

But what about attacking people directly like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin? Does this strengthen faith? It may, but I’m not convinced. I don’t like it, and it feels wrong to me. More importantly, that type of apologetic seems inappropriate from my perspective for a serious academic venue, especially one sponsored by the LDS Church.

I’m not going to cite the emails because they’re personal exchanges, and to do so would be highly inappropriate. But I will give a personal example. In the not-too-distant past, my name was attached to an apologetic email list that was discussing how the group should respond to an article that appeared in the news. Several of the emails discussed openly the type of “digging” that could be done into this person’s past in an effort to provide an effective apologetic response. It made me feel very, very uncomfortable.

I responded, asking the group to please reconsider their approach, stating, “placing the blame on [name omitted] for his struggles is not an effective apologetic and I personally don’t think it will help [your] cause.”

And this is what this entire unfortunate public confrontation comes down to: What is the most effective type of apologetics, and what style of academics should an LDS sponsored institution engage in? I don’t believe in aggressive attack style apologetics. Some people do. I believe in critical thinking, listening to alternative views, and open friendly exchanges.

Smoot has had Jeremy in his sights ever since the wildly popular CES Letter was made public by Jeremy in 2013. In one of his blog articles written in June of this year, Smoot advised his fellow Mormons about the dangers of the Internet:

…Church leaders … have urged the importance of using the Internet to both stem the tide of misinformation and deception about the Church found online as well as preach the gospel. But they are not alone. Elder Quinten L. Cook lamented in the October 2012 General Conference, “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf likewise reminded us of the following in 2013:

For those who already embrace the truth, [Satan’s] primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.

If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.

You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind, just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.

Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder, gave this counsel in the June 2013 issue of the New Era (which was subsequently reposted on the Church’s website for youth).

Certainly, the world has changed in the last generation or two. The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.

Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.

Instead of leaving it at that, Smoot adds:

The tantrums of Jeremy Runnells notwithstanding, what these brethren have taught is absolutely true. It’s college-level critical thinking 101. Don’t default to Wikipedia or reddit for your information. Don’t default to meme-think. Don’t default to snarky YouTube videos. Steven C. Harper said it best, “Googling is not a synonym for seeking.” Take the time and make the honest effort to acquaint yourself with “the best books” (D&C 88:118) you can find on Mormon history, scripture, and doctrine. (For our purposes here, “the best books” include academic journal articles, academic and popular press publications, Internet websites, multimedia, etc.) It will ultimately be much better for you intellectually and spiritually.

The only one that seems to be throwing tantrums is Stephen Smoot. In this piece Smoot sets up a strawman by turning Jeremy’s comment about Brian Hales being an amateur Historian into this bogus quote: “that one cannot possibly maintain faith in Joseph Smith after learning the “real” history of plural marriage.”

Of course Jeremy said no such thing and you can search in vain for that quote.  Smoot goes on and on about how Hales is not an amateur historian, but Hales himself claimed that he was:

“Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian…” (Brian Hales,  Facebook, Mormon Historians, July 17, 2014, 3:38pm).

I actually took part in that conversation, and can verify that it is an accurate quote and that Brian was not being sarcastic. So if Hales is calling himself an amateur; then why is Stephen Smoot even bringing this up? To scapegoat Jeremy Runnells, of course.

So what is wrong with Wikipedia or reddit? Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia using wiki software. The entries are compiled by anonymous editors who have to footnote their entries.  Anyone can edit entries and it is basically self policed.  One Mormon apologist, Roger Nicholson lamented about Wikipedia in The Mormon Interpreter:

According to Wikipedia,

The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.

In general, this philosophy tends to be effective as regards many Wikipedia articles. Errors that bring an article out of balance tend to be corrected given sufficient time, and the article progresses toward a stable and “neutral” state. However, articles dealing with highly controversial subjects, such as Joseph Smith’s first vision or polygamy, do not tend to stabilize themselves over time. These types of articles become magnets for editors who have an agenda to push. Wikipedia becomes an attractive way for such editors to “publish” their opinions with immediate worldwide visibility and considerable credibility.

He then writes,

Wikipedia articles are required to rely “mainly on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary source material by Wikipedia editors.”  Wikipedia is intended to summarize the work of others rather than act as a forum for creating original work. In the case of contentious articles such as “First Vision” or “Golden Plates,” it is extremely tempting to take advantage of the “immediate publication” of material in order to create new interpretive material. The “no original research” rule is often ignored. This can lead to situations in which the wiki editor’s own thinking is reflected in the article. Consider this example, which appears in the wiki article “First Vision” as of 18 October 2011: “However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a ‘Christian experience.’ ”

There are several issues with the above statement. It does correctly represent the source, which was an interview between Peter Bauder and Joseph Smith. Bauder was attempting to expose false religions, and he notes that “among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.”  The wiki editor introduces the quotation with the word however, thus implying that this statement is a possible disqualifier for the validity of the first vision. Nowhere in the wiki article is it noted that Bauder was a strong critic of Joseph Smith and that Joseph may not have desired to share the experience of his vision with such an interviewer. The earliest known extant attempt by Joseph to put the vision in writing occurred two years later. In 2009, however, the LDS wiki editor added his own interpretation of this interview by drawing the conclusion that “either Smith did not view this early remission of sins or vision as a ‘Christian experience,’ he forgot about the experience when asked by Bauder, or Smith and Bauder somehow miscommunicated.”?

Not only did this blatantly violate Wikipedia’s “no original research” rule, it was also an absurd interpretation. How would Joseph not view a remission of his sins as a “Christian experience”? Would he truly have “forgotten” about his theophany? The simplest and most obvious explanation was completely ignored: Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church. The wiki editor eventually recognized that the original research could not remain and removed the paragraph. The unqualified statement about Joseph not recounting a “Christian experience,” however, remains in the wiki article as of September 2011.

There are several things wrong with this analysis from the Interpreter. First, the Peter Bauder interview with Joseph Smith was published in 1834, not 1830, so we do not know the exact circumstances that led Bauder to Joseph Smith, other than what Bauder wrote later. Bauder wrote,

However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.

Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society; they call themselves the true followers of Christ. I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834.

The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834, 36-37.

I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence 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. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. I will now give the public my fears on this subject, (unless God prevents) when he gets his work ready for the press. He will pretend that the angel has brought the plate, and his new Bible will be a translation of the remaining plate, which were not put into the Book of Mormon, and the public will have this diabolical invention imposed on them. (See also, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18).

It is obvious that this is written from an 1834 perspective. We do not know how Bauder felt in 1830 when he visited Smith. He may not have been antagonistic at all. Nicholson assumes this of Bauder, and then concludes that “Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church.” Yet, Joseph shared his claimed 1820 vision with Robert Matthews in 1835, who Smith speculated was a murderer and ultimately claimed that Matthew’s “God was the devil”.  In the light of Smith sharing his supposed vision with one such as Matthews, Nicolson’s argument doesn’t make much sense.

What is interesting is that Bauder got all of the details right about Smith’s claimed visit with Moroni. He also got the details right about Smith’s “translation” of the Bible, although his later speculation that Smith might claim it came from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon never came to pass. If Bauder was simply making it up about Smith’s lack of Christian experience in 1830, why did he correctly claim that Smith told him he was later translating the Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This is not about Joseph joining any church; Bauder describes what “Christian experience” is, in an earlier paragraph:

“…a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory…because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them…”

That is not about joining a church. The fact that Bauder claims that Joseph did not speak of any Christian experience before his supposed encounter with the angel Moroni in 1830, is borne out by what Mormon Missionaries were teaching in 1832; and what Smith and Cowdery wrote themselves in 1834. Smith made an attempt to rewrite his history in 1832, but left it unfinished and abandoned it in the back of a letterbook and did not include his supposed vision of Christ in the 1834 history. In that version of his history they claim that Joseph prayed in 1823 to see “if a Supreme Being did exist” and was answered by an angel who told him about some gold plates.

The wiki article today (2015) reads:

In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni.[73] At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Smith recounted his early history, noting

“For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel … and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book.”[74]

No further explanation of this “manifestation” is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision,[75] its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven.[76] On the other hand, when in October 1830, non-Mormon critic and author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a book, Bauder was writing about false religions, Smith apparently declined to share his experience. Bauder thus stated that Smith was unable to recount a “Christian experience.”[77]

So it appears that Nicholson’s objections of a few years ago are groundless, since Bauder is described as a “non-Mormon Critic” in the current wiki article.  Now, these changes may have come about with the persistence of Mormon editors, but that is the way it is supposed to work, right?. It appears that this wiki article has “stabilized itself over time,” at least in this instance.

So why the current objections to wiki? Because FAIRMORMON can’t totally control the flow of information there as they can at their own site. But what is almost comical is that FAIRMORMON has its own version of wiki. And what do they have on their own wiki page? This:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Notice there is little difference from the current “First Vision” Wikipedia page. FAIRMORMON uses this quote to try and prove that Joseph Smith didn’t join any Churches. On another page, they write the same thing:

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.

Bauder absolutely did not mean that, as he himself explains above. The Wikipedia article is still wrong though, because Bauder did not say that Smith declined to share his experience, Smith could not give him one, as defined by Bauder. And Bauder did not just spend an hour or two with Smith, he claimed that he spent “near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers,” and spoke to Smith alone for “several hours”, so neither Smith nor any who followed him could give Bauder a “Christian experience” for Joseph Smith in his youth.

Mormon_reddit

Reddit is simply a discussion forum. So why doesn’t Smoot want Mormons to visit these places on the internet? Does Smoot think Mormons will go to reddit specifically to find out about Mormon History? I’ll leave that up to you, readers, to figure out.

Smoot also talks about memes. Yet, FAIRMORMON takes the memes from Jeremy’s CES Letter and employs them to foist their own agenda on the public! Here is a screenshot of one of the pages on their new website devoted to demonizing Jeremy and his work:

Hales CES 36

Notice their own “selected details” and the claim that Hales makes about Ruth Vose Sayers which I’ve shown to be riddled with problems here. Jeremy is simply boiled down to a thrower of tantrums by Smoot.  And of course, “Satan” is behind it all! Now here we are four months later and Smoot is at it again here.

So why is Smoot bringing this up again and again ad nauseam? It seems that Brian Hales has a few pages of contribution included in a new book published by the John Whitmer Historical Association in addition to his other many books and articles on the subject. Well, we all know that Hales has published a lot on polygamy. We know that he considers himself an amateur historian. So what is Smoot’s point here? Simply to use any excuse to scapegoat Jeremy:

Readers of my blog will recall that some time ago Jeremy Runnells amusingly accused Brian C. Hales (undoubtedly one of the finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage) of being a “Mormon amateur apologist.” At the time I responded by mentioning the number of respected academic peer reviewed venues Brian’s work had appeared in… I’m sure that if Jeremy ever decides to take a sabbatical from teaching at the prestigious University of Reddit (I hear UoR is almost as high as the University of Phoenix in Princeton’s ranking) and venture forth into academia he can be invited by Brian to present his work at next year’s JWHA conference. ~Stephen Smoot

Again, all of the publications listed by Smoot don’t change that fact that Brian Hales himself admitted to being an amateur historian.  What is interesting is Smoot’s defense of Hales in the comments to this article:

Finally, is Brian an apologist as well? Sure he is, in that he is defending a specific interpretation of the historical data. Scholars do this all the time, and the rhetorical tricks of Runnells and his followers notwithstanding, there’s nothing inherently shameful in being an “apologist” for a position or idea if you’re being such in good faith.

Now we are getting to it.  I think Jeremy could have chosen his words more wisely in giving Hales amateur status, (even though Hales calls himself one) but Jeremy has a point about Hales being an “expert”, because some of the claims that Hales does make are amateurish. He jumps to conclusions, makes outlandish assumptions, and presents the evidence in a one sided way. This is not good apologia, nor good scholarship.  Here are some of the many problems that Mike Quinn detailed about Hales’ methods:

Quinn accuses Hales of “citing an easily refutable claim” (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), 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). (“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).

Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn in the comments of his hit piece on Jeremy 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.) (Comment made on July 15, 2014).

The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others (like Mike Quinn and Richard Bushman) 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 Mike Quinn documents above.

I would say that I’m pretty much as familiar with all of the documents that Hales is, and I’m an amateur historian at this point, because I’m still learning the trade of being a historian even though I’ve been at it non stop for about 8 years and have been on research trips with Historians like Mike Marquardt.

One Mormon  (an Oxford grad) called me a “Hobbyist” historian in an effort to denigrate me, and I don’t take exception to him doing so. You have to learn, don’t you? Why be embarrassed about that? I’m not and neither is Jeremy Runnells. A better question might be why do those who call others these names do so, and can they back up their claims with evidence? Is this just a diversion from the real issues? Why are all the “experts” and “scholars” at FAIRMORMON so concerned about the hobbyist Jeremy Runnells? Why would Brian Hales claim that Jeremy indicated in some way that he was an “expert” on Mormon Polyamy, when he knew that Jeremy made no such claim?

We all learn and make mistakes. I know, Jeremy and I spent a year together on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and traded literally thousands of emails discussing it and we have an Essay finished about it. In Jeremy’s case his claim was in response to Hales’ false assertion that Jeremy claimed he was an expert. Funny thing is, it was Hales that started all this, not Jeremy. How would you react to being called a sock puppet of Satan and a liar who claims expertise when you absolutely didn’t do so? Jeremy is none of these things and didn’t claim to be an expert, but Stephen Smoot doesn’t address those issues, only Jeremy’s angry retort at Hales which was factually correct. Even Hales admitted it was and that:

I am an apologist at heart, but had hoped to be more of an “objective researcher” in my writings. While I’m not big on labels, “believer” could be applied so perhaps “apologist” is unavoidable.

As we have seen from Mike Quinn’s critique of Hales work above, he has failed miserably at being an “objective researcher”.

I don’t mind being called a “Hobbyist”, but you had better be prepared to back up your assertions (if you think that it matters) with evidence when it comes to the topics at hand or you could look pretty stupid being debunked by those you are calling amateurs or hobbyists. Jeremy presented evidence, good evidence that he can now back up with Hales’ own research, as can I.  Notice that Stephen Smoot doesn’t address any of that, he simply plays his one string banjo over and over again. Banjo_Cartoon

Does it take a degree to make one a professional Historian? Perhaps, (to be factually correct) but there are those like Mike Marquardt and Dan Vogel who I would call professionals who don’t have degrees in Historical studies. Mike and Dan (same as Hales) have been writing books about Mormon History for decades. But that is about all they do. Brian doesn’t do this full time, he is a dentist. Therefore, the moniker hobbyist could apply to him as well. In the case of Dan and Mike, would the validation of a degree make a bit of difference? No. They are masters at their trade here. A piece of paper isn’t going to add much to that. They have done the research, put in the time, and have a body of work to rival any thesis that would give them a doctorate. So why all the fuss and bother about Hales? Because Mormon apologists don’t like the fact that Jeremy deigned to criticize Hales with his own words. Get over it.

The difference between Mike M., Dan Vogel and Hales though, is that Mike and Dan don’t have an agenda either way concerning Joseph Smith while Hales does, and Hales lets that agenda dictate his conclusions. Their conclusions challenge the “faithful Mormon” historical narrative that Hales embraces and often invents. Mike M. is on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History where Hales has published and even helped Hales with his Fanny Alger article. Even Mike Quinn said that Hales used questionable methods though he strangely called Hales an “honest” historian. I can show that he is not when it comes to the way he uses polygamy sources.

What really matters, is what you produce and can it stand up to scrutiny. I recently wrote an article on Sylvia Lyon and the 1869 Utah Affidavits where I go through many of Hales’ foundational claims in relation to sexual polyandry and some of his methods in arriving at the conclusions he does.

See for example the problem that Hales had with the evidence that Hales claims is about Ruth Vose Sayers that Don Bradley gave him, that Hales never presented to the public in his books, his articles, or on his website (He only presented small out of context snippets from the document, never displayed the document, and never fully explained it even when Don (he told me so) gave him a copy of the document and Mike Quinn (in 2012) gave him the info about it): (Note 14)

I even do a handwriting analysis that shows that Mike’s initial conclusion that it is not “sayers” but “sagers” was correct. Hales also manipulates evidence in the case of Eliza Snow and her letter to Daniel Munns which I discuss here.

Hales manipulation of the evidence here is astounding. He also looks quite foolish when he questions Alex Beam’s use of a “cast of characters” in the beginning of his book. Hales claimed that ,

The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.

Yet I show that one of the most famous historical non fiction books of all time, “All The President’s Men” used the same literary device at the beginning of that book and Woodward and Bernstein were lauded for doing so. Did it call any of the nonfiction element of their book into question? I think history has answered that. Is that an amateurish claim? Would a professional make that claim? And why could a mere “hobbyist” quickly find a case where other authors did so successfully and Hales could not? So what the hell is an “expert”? This is a silly argument started by Hales himself when he sarcastically called Jeremy the “new expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”.

Remember too, that Stephen Smoot is a FAIRMORMON employee/volunteer? and they have a vested interest in propping up Hales and his point of view. The recent website they created to attack Jeremy and try to rebut the CES Letter is just another example of the shoddy scholarship they employ. See my thread here for examples.

Addendum: Smoot explains his modus operandi:

Stephen Smoot Comments Oct. 2015

Show each other respect and courtesy? Who attacked who first, Jeremy or Smoot? Did Jeremy ever attack Smoot, or simply defend himself against FAIRMORMON attacks?

He shows us his true colors with this line,

“It’s a troll or be trolled world out there…”

Very Christlike, indeed. Justification of his trolling people. Nice. And for all his disparagement of Reddit, seems like Smoot can’t get enough of it. This stuff is just hilarious. If he wasn’t so vindictive, I might just feel sorry for him.

Does being called an “expert” or having familiarity with documents or published material about polygamy make one a good historian or one of the “finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage” when presenting on the subject? Time will tell in relation to Brian Hales, and the clock is ticking.

Brian Hales’ Polygamy: Sylvia Lyon & The 1869 Utah Affidavits

Affidavit Book Banner Cinema

Introduction: Verifying The Historical Narrative
I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”
II. The Affidavit Books Speculation
III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation
V. Still More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation
VI. Conclusion: “A Panorama Of Disagreeable Pictures”
Notes

Introduction: Verifying the Historical Narrative

I have been pretty much exclusively researching the Mormon Spiritual Wife[1] System of Joseph Smith (polygamy) for the last two years now, except when I’ve taken short breaks now and then to work on other areas of Mormon History that interest me. I’ve read over two dozen books and many more articles written by various authors, perused affidavits, diaries, family histories, church records, minutes, letters and anything else that I could get my hands on to try and understand the practice that was called in the 19th century one of the “twin relics of barbarism”, or a “pure and holy principle”, depending on who you might ask. Just recently I was highly pleased to find a letter written by Eliza Partridge from 1881, just so I could see what her handwriting and signature looked like so I could compare it with her affidavits from 1869.

Joseph Smith with Nauvoo Women_1843With all of that research behind me now, the conclusion in front of me is that Mormon polygamy was just a complete and utter mess. It was nurtured in secrecy and kept alive with lies. It was a direct cause of the death of the two most powerful men in the Mormon Hierarchy in Nauvoo in the 1840’s, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It destroyed lives; it shattered the faith of many; and turned many honest and upright people into liars and fanatics that clung to the belief that someday this principle would be adopted by the citizens of the United States even as they defiantly watched their own prophets abandon it and command them to follow suit.[2]

I have also found that many of the authors of works dealing with the subject of polygamy have crafted a narrative about certain events that is taken for granted as fact, when the evidence to support those narratives is at best weak, sometimes apologetic, and often contradictory.

I’m referring here to a series of statements, certificates and affidavits that were collected from various men and women living in Utah who were involved in or knowledgeable about the practice in the Nauvoo era of the Church.  The collection of these affidavits began in the Spring of 1869 and continued until shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.

Now, the collection of these affidavits in and of itself is not a bad thing, and the information they contain can be a valuable resource in reconstructing the events that took place in Nauvoo during the life of Joseph Smith–if they have credible corroboration. But what I have found is that many modern historians have been using these affidavits almost exclusively to craft parts of the historical narrative, and as they portray those events, they do so without any caveat to the public reading them.

For example, in 2014 the Mormon Church published an Essay called “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, we read:

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household.[3]

This claim is based on an affidavit made by Emily Partridge in May of 1869, another identical affidavit by her sister in July of that year, (with the same bogus date that Emily gives for the supposed second “mock” marriage) and a third “certificate” made in June by Lovina Smith Walker, the daughter of Hyrum Smith and sister of Joseph Fielding Smith; who instigated the collection of these affidavits to combat the claims of his cousin Joseph Smith III.

There is no contemporary evidence to corroborate this claim about Emma, (and only  a few others later repeating it) but there is contemporary evidence that seriously challenges it. What is ironic is that the evidence that challenges this claim can be found in William Clayton’s Journal from 1843, an entry that was also made into an affidavit by Joseph F. Smith and therefore could have easily been used as a basis for those claims. I will not go into details here at this time; I have another forthcoming article that will deal with this matter in depth.

What is important is that the existing narrative is not set in stone and should be presented with far more caution and questions. We need more researchers to study the original documents and we need them to be presented in their entirety whenever possible, even if it takes large appendixes with full pictures to show context. The availability of many of those documents to the public at large will make this possible and help to dispel the speculation and assumptions that are prevalent in that narrative and taken virtually as fact today.

I. “…And They Are Living In Adultery”

What I wish to focus on at this time, is a few claims made by Brian Hales, who is considered by many to be an expert on Mormon polygamy. He has written numerous books and has a massive website about this practice during the Nauvoo era.

Hales interpretation of the evidence leads him to claim that Sylvia Sessions Lyon did not have sex (really could not have had it because of supposed theological teachings) with Joseph Smith and her husband Windsor Lyon while “married” to them both, even though she admitted to conceiving a daughter by Joseph Smith and later two children by Windsor Lyon–all the while never separating from Lyon while being simultaneously “married” to Joseph Smith. Here is Brian Hales speaking on this, taken from a FAIRMORMON Presentation from 2012, (bracketed comments by me):

Historical evidence shows that legally married women could be sealed for “eternity only” to someone other than their civil husband. [Hales “evidence” is all his own conjectures, based on faulty readings of late statements, some of which are inaccurate] The sealed marriage covenant would not apply until the next life. If you’ve read Compton, if you’ve read Quinn, they both say “no, these never happened, there’s none recorded in the nineteenth century.” [Actually, in Nauvoo, I’m aware of only one that took place in the 1880’s or so, and it was a rare occurrence according to Joseph F. Smith and Angus Cannon] …

The women [Chosen by Hales if there was a possible sexual polyandry conflict] who were sealed just for the next life, [What Hales calls non sexual eternity only sealings] like Ruth Vose Sayers, are on Joseph’s list of wives, but technically they don’t belong there until we get into the next realm. [Because Hales believes that the ceremonies for these women did not cover “time” on earth]. But we have to deal with it today. So, were all fourteen of these women sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity only? No. It’s not that easy[.] [There is no credible evidence that any of them were] At least three of the sealings were for time and eternity and in a covenant that superseded the legal covenant. In other words, after the sealing to Joseph, the legal husband was not going to be able to experience conjugality with her. [According to Hales alone] They are special cases and there are not a lot of parallels between the three. We’re going to talk about all three of them.

Hales Polyandry Graphic

Hales Polyandry Graphic

The first one is Sylvia Sessions Lyon. If you’ve read Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness” you know that he elaborately unfolds a plausible case. But new evidence [Notes by Andrew Jenson from an unknown source that give selective and misleading details about Sylvia and Windsor Lyon] suggests that he is in error. I talked to him, I emailed him this past week about it and he still defended it at Sunstone when we presented this just a week ago. [I don’t blame him] He was the respondent. But you just can’t do it [Of course one can, he did do it] and you will see why here in a minute. Sylvia married Windsor Lyon on April 21, 1838 in a legal [“Priesthood”] ceremony performed by Joseph Smith. [Remember this, it is important] “In Sacred Loneliness uses the date February 8, 1842 as their [Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions] sealing date. That’s the first problem. [Only for Hales] The daughter was conceived over a year later, on May 18 1843. [How does Hales get an exact date for conception when this can vary up to 5 weeks?] And this daughter I believe is Joseph Smith’s actual daughter. [So this was a “marriage” for “time” and “eternity”] The assumption is that Sylvia experienced sexual relations with both Windsor and Joseph Smith during this period.[It’s a valid assumption to make] Now, there’s no evidence for that, [There is no evidence that she didn’t have sex with them both during this period] for either one of them during the period up until Josephine was conceived, but the willingness of people to assume these things is very high, [Because the evidence (Both still married to her at the same time and no legal divorce of Windsor] supports that assumption] as we’ll talk about in a minute.

But the problem is that Todd uses this date here, of 1842, but in the same set of documents, and Todd didn’t know this when he wrote his book because he didn’t have time to get to this, but there is an 1843 date. They’re equally valid or invalid. They are not signed. They talk about this marriage, but we don’t know how close Sylvia Sessions Lyon was to the creation of these documents, and they just cancel each other out. [Perhaps] The whole timeline presented by Todd, I would argue, is not reliable.[It is if the 1842 date is correct and it is a strong possibility based on other evidence that Hales won’t give credence to]

But there is one other evidence that Todd will cite, to say that Sylvia Sessions was sealed to Joseph early, and that is that she witnessed the sealing of her mother in March of 1942. [sic] Now that clearly indicates that Sylvia was a polygamy insider. But the problem is that I’ve identified seventeen other men and women who are not polygamous who did witness these marriages. (They are: Fanny Huntington, Cornelius Lott, Permelia Lott, Joseph Lott, Amanda Lott, Benjamin F. Johnson, Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Godshall Phillips, Julia Stone, Hettie Stone, Mary Ellen Harris Able, James Adams, Joseph B. Noble, Dimick B. Huntington, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Newel K. Whitney.) It’s just not strong evidence. [In his opinion because he doesn’t believe there was sexual polyandry] So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart. [It doesn’t, for reasons I’ll share below]

Windsor was excommunicated in November of 1842. We have three evidences [if you want to call them that] that the sealing occurred after this, and that the excommunication of Windsor cause [sic] him and Sylvia to part. [Based on what? There is no statement that his excommunication caused marital problems and the one statement that Hales uses to prove this is an error filled recollection from over a hundred years later] They were already separated. [Hales’ opinion based on faulty interpretation of evidence]  So they are legally married but they separate. [No, legally married but him disfellowshipped] And then Joseph is sealed to Sylvia after the excommunication. [Which doesn’t make a bit of difference for the first and only legal marriage was still valid as it was and so Joseph and Sylvia committed adultery] In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 historical record article on plural marriage, Andrew Judson [sic] wrote “Sylvia Sessions was married to Mr. Lyon. When he left the church she was sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.” [This does not say they separated] Elsewhere he refers to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyon.” [Untrue, she never legally divorced him and had two children by him after Joseph died so she was never the “former” Mrs. Lyon – she was even called “Mrs. Lyon” by Willard Richards in 1844 when he visited them both at their house]

In 1915, Josephine, the child, related that back in 1882, just months before her mother died, she told Josephine in a very dramatic fashion, that she had “been sealed to the prophet at the time that her husband, Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church”, and that Josephine was actually Joseph Smith’s daughter. [Again, how does that change anything? That could simply have been a time period marker and she also claimed that she was married at the time of Zina Huntington and Eliza Snow which was between 1841 and 1842] Josephine married a guy named Fisher and there’s a whole Fisher family in Bountiful that descend from this. And I have been in contact with some of the descendants, and they are starting to say maybe we need to make a claim that we’re actually coming from Joseph and not from Windsor Lyon. [Irrelevant] From my research there are only 2 children from the plural wives. This is one. The other is Olive Frost’s daughter, or son, we don’t even know the gender, as both Olive Frost and the child died before they left Nauvoo. And that’s all. [It’s enough] There are references to a third, but we don’t know. Maybe some new evidence will come up and we will find out. [This is actually evidence that Joseph did have sex with his already married plural wives – so what Hales’ point is here is unclear unless he is trying to claim that everyone conceives after every sexual encounter which would be a groundbreaking new discovery]

Looking at the timeline, we find that Windsor and Sylvia married in 1838. She conceives three children, then he’s excommunicated [disfellowshipped] and that’s when they separate. [Sylvia never claims that they separate and there is no convincing evidence that they did] It’s not a legal divorce, but she is then sealed to Joseph in a marriage that I argue [Based on speculation] would have superseded the legal marriage anyway, which would curtail any conjugality between Sylvia and Windsor. [It would not according to an 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church] Josephine is conceived. Joseph Smith is killed. Windsor is rebaptized and then they come back together and the legal marriage is still intact. [Speculation by Hales–and it was always intact since there is no credible evidence at all they ever divorced or separated. And how did the marriage “stay intact” when Hales tries to claim Joseph dissolved it with a wave of his Priesthood or Mayoral powers? Where and when was the remarriage ceremony?]

Now, is this weird? Yeah, this is weird. Is it sexual polyandry? [Perhaps] Is it immoral? [Yes, according to Joseph Smith himself] Is it breaking the law of chastity that Joseph taught? No it isn’t. [Yes it is. According to Joseph himself it was adultery as we shall see][4]

Is it immoral to try and get between a husband and his wife by convincing the wife that it is God’s wish for you to “marry” her, and then have sex with her; especially when you yourself forbid women to separate from their husbands for any reason, particularly if the husband was a non believer (or I assume out of the church) and if they are not legally divorced–if they “marry” or are with another man–it is adultery? Some might think this is immoral.

But according to Hales because Windsor and Sylvia had some marital difficulties (if they truly did which the evidence doesn’t bear out) it is just fine for Smith to move right in on the mans’ wife. Or because the man was disfellowshipped it also gave Joseph that right, even when Joseph himself forbid anyone in the Church from doing this. Windsor committed no “evil” towards Sylvia. Hales himself admits this. So how could Joseph simply wave away their marriage? He could not do so and have sex with her without committing adultery.

Joseph Smith is then justified in “marrying” her because after all, their marriage (performed by Joseph Smith himself by his priesthood power) was now somehow illegal and Smith was able to “void” it with a wave of his Mayoral or Priesthood powers. This is a scenario that Hales takes pages to develop but simply makes up out of whole cloth.[5] Again, where is the evidence this took place and where is the evidence of a remarriage ceremony of the Lyons? There isn’t any. And why doesn’t Hales feel the same way about the supposed Fanny Alger “marriage”? He writes,

It is clear that Joseph Smith believed that the priesthood authority he possessed in 1835 could solemnize a marriage that would stand for the duration of mortal life, so long as that union was approved of God. That priesthood authority could be bestowed upon others who would be similarly empowered to perform a matrimonial ceremony that would be valid according to God’s laws even if “gentile law” would not allow it.[6]

Joseph himself never added the caveat that the marriage had to be “approved by God” to stay valid. To prove this, on June 12, 1842 Joseph Smith dictated to Hyrum Smith a binding Address from the First Presidency which contained specific commands to the Church concerning marriage:

Nauvoo.

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 obliged 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. [Words in caps underlined in original]

 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]Address Millennial Star 1842 Husbands Wives

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 will divorce them, then they are at liberty; [p. 3] 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.[7]

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842.

First Presidency Message, June 12, 1842. (Click to enlarge)

The above states that Joseph Smith himself came “under condemnation” for the “evil” of “marrying” a woman that had a legal husband. Did Sylvia go before the High Council in Nauvoo and ask for a divorce? Where is the evidence for this? Where was Joseph’s authority to disobey this Address? Why write it and make it binding on the “Saints”, if he himself could disobey it at will?

Hales claims that it was all right for Smith to annul the Lyon marriage because he was disfellowshipped, but this Message from the First Presidency says that he could not, and that if he “married” her, or slept with her it was adultery. Smith specifically states that they could not usurp legal marriages, and that if they did, they would fall under condemnation. This cannot be superseded by polygamy, it was written right at the time Smith was practicing it, and I believe that after this Address was published Joseph started “marrying” only single women.

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Windsor & Sylvia Lyon

Joseph Smith himself married Windsor and Sylvia Lyon by the “Priesthood” in 1838, yet in contradiction to his own First Presidency Address four years later, he “married” Sylvia for time and all eternity in February, 1843? (This date according to Hales, I believe it was most likely a year earlier, but still wouldn’t matter since what Smith did prior to this Address was still adultery). He would have also continued to contradict his own First Presidency Address in marrying Ruth Vose Sayers during the same month.[8] 

I searched through all of Hales’ three Books on polygamy but could find no reference at all to this letter. A search of his website also didn’t turn anything up. I could have missed it on his website, (I really don’t think so) but this is a crucial First Presidency Address that should be included in any serious study on polygamy. Yet Hales claims that,

Hence, three documents support a physical separation or effectual divorce between Windsor and Sylvia, with two of them placing it after his excommunication.[9]

No, they don’t. And what right did Sylvia have to “effectually” divorce Windsor when Joseph’s First Presidency Message specifically states that she was absolutely forbidden to do so? By what right then, did Joseph have to “marry” her? The First Presidency Message expressly states,

…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 obliged to cut them off from the church.[10]

So by Joseph’s own First Presidency Message, he was living in adultery with any woman that he “married”, because he didn’t have the authority to break up their marriage or their family when they weren’t legally divorced. There are no legal divorces in either of these cases, only Hales’ speculations. On his website, Hales writes,

Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: “Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.” Todd Compton agreed, “Joseph regarded marriages performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid, just as he regarded baptisms performed without Mormon priesthood authority as invalid.”[11]

Joseph Smith’s Address to the Church specifically forbids religious law to trump legal proceedings. And the Lyon marriage was performed with priesthood authority. They were married by Joseph Smith himself! The quotes Hales employs are about marriages performed by non-Mormons, so why they are being applied here is baffling. Regardless, this is all Hales’ speculation, since he cannot point to any policy in Nauvoo where it was stated that such marriages were considered invalid.  Everything official says the opposite. (See also 1835 Doctrine and Covenants) Smith wrote in the above First Presidency Proclamation in 1842 which nullifies this whole argument by Hales:

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 … [12]

This slams the door on Hales’ speculations.[13] Joseph meant secular law. Hales’ argument that speaks of “effectual” divorces has no merit here. Joseph was living in adultery by his own words. Smith claims above that it wasn’t his right to go beyond the law. This is why it is so important for Hales to promote his invented “non sexual eternity only sealings”, but he cannot in the case of Sylvia Lyon because she admitted to having sex with Smith. Joseph here, is flat out caught in an adulterous relationship by his own words. There is no other interpretation of this. There is no loophole. It is what it is and all the apologetics in the world cannot change it.

Sylvia Sessions Bio informationHales claims that there is evidence that there were non sexual, eternity only “sealings” because of some notes written by Andrew Jenson in the 1880’s:

He’s interviewing one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. We don’t know which one, and this is occurring in early 1887. He is interviewing this wife and it’s probably Eliza Snow, but we don’t know. “While the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers,” Mr. Sayers is the legal husband of Ruth Vose Sayers, one of Joseph’s plural wives, “the latter [Mr. Sayers], not attaching much importance to the theory of a future life, insisted that his wife, Ruth, should be sealed to the prophet for eternity, that he himself should only claim her in this life. She was accordingly sealed to the prophet in Emma Smith’s presence, and thus became numbered among the Prophets plural wives.”[14]

First, Hales doesn’t know where this information came from. It could be hearsay. It could be made up for all we know. But there is something that throws doubt on this account. This statement claims that Emma Smith was present at the sealing of Ruth Vose Sayers in February, 1843. This is even more confusing when one reads the affidavit that Ruth Vose signed in 1869:

Be it remembered that on this first day of May, A.D. 1869, personally appeared before me, Elias Smith, Probate Judge for Said County, Ruth Vose Sayers who was by me Sworn in due form of law and upon her oath Saith that on [blank] day of February A.D. 1843 at the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, She was married or Sealed to Joseph Smith President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by Hyrum Smith, Presiding Patriarch of Said Church, according to the laws of the Same, regulating Marriage; in the presence of.[15]

Ruth Vose Sayers Affidavit

Why is there no mention of Emma Smith? Because there is good evidence that Emma Smith never participated in any of her husband’s “marriages”. So the evidence for a “non sexual eternity only sealing” that Hales touts here, is more than likely a mistaken remembrance or garbled hearsay. Hyrum Smith and Emma Smith both participating in a plural marriage together? Where do we find any contemporary evidence for that in February, 1843. Hyrum tried to convince Emma of the validity of the polygamy “revelation” in July, 1843 and admitted defeat to his brother. If she had already participated in a “marriage” with Hyrum in February, why would he be so concerned with convincing her in July?

Sayers claims she was sealed by Hyrum Smith, but he didn’t accept polygamy until months later. So how can we trust Hales interpretation of the evidence as credible? Even though Eliza R. Snow knew many of those women very well and more than likely traded information with them about their marriages; even Hales cannot claim that Jenson got the information from her. Also, Hales will use this information from an anonymous source, but then will claim that Sylvia Sessions daughter Josephine (whose mother Sylvia was friends with Eliza Snow) couldn’t have known the time frame of Eliza’s own marriage before it was published in the 1880’s.[16]  There are other problems with Jenson’s notes that I will address later in this Article.

And notice the language of the affidavit. It says, “She was married or sealed to Joseph Smith…” And what did that entail? Lorenzo Snow answered that in his Temple Lot testimony:

229. Q. Now you have stated that Joseph Smith took your sister for a wife when he had a wife already?
A. Yes sir.
230. Q. Prior to the giving of this revelation?
A. Yes sir.
231. Q. Well what kind of a position did it put your sister and Joseph Smith in?
A. It put them in a first rate, splendid position for time and eternity.
232. Q. Was not that act simply sealing instead of marriage?
A. Well, IT WAS ALL THE SAME.
233. Q. Sealing for eternity, and marriage, are they all one and the same thing?
A. Well it is getting the female with the male the same as it is in the marriage ceremony.[17]

That is why these affidavits say “married or sealed”. It was the same thing. A marriage for time and eternity. Malissa Lott Willes also testified that “marriage” and “sealing” were the same, meaning “for time and all eternity,” and she did not know of any of those “marriages” that were different.

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, "Marriage and Sealing" the same

Malissa Lott Willes Temple Lot Testimony, “Marriage and Sealing” the same

Hales, in an effort to give credence for his later 1843 date for the “marriage” of Lyon to Smith writes,

The 1842 date for Sylvia Sessions sealing comes from [Affidavit] Book 1 and the 1843 date from Book 4. Book 4 is also unique because it contains two additional unfinished affidavits, one for Vienna Jacques, and a second started on Jun 26, 1869, but never completed. Book 1 does not contain those who [two] aborted affidavit attempts.

Accordingly, it appears that since Book 4 contains more documents than Book 1, it was in fact the primary of the two and was the first to receive entries, at least in those two instances. This observation suggests that the 1843 date could well be the more accurate, or at least the first recorded, even though it is found in a book currently referred to a [sic] Book 4. Either way, it is a date with at least as much validity as the date (1842) written in Book 1 and should not be dismissed on the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a coypist error that occurred as the contents of Book 1 were being duplicated in Book 4. In light of these observations, the best conclusion seems to be that the year of the sealing is entirely unsubstantiated in these documents.[18]

II. The Affidavit Books Speculation

There is more ground to cover here readers, which I will get to in due time. But first I would like to address Hales’ claims about the Affidavit Books. I won’t go into a history of the Affidavit Books, that will be in a forthcoming article that I’ll publish at a later time.[19]

When I first heard of these Affidavit Books, my first thought was where can I see them? Fortunately, someone put them all on archive.org, so they are easy now to access and study and this is crucial to understanding and (in this case), addressing Hales’ claim here.

One thing that immediately becomes evident when one reads what Hales wrote is his forceful language. He writes,

  • It was in fact the primary of the two
  • It is a date with at least as much validity as the date…in book 1
  • the inaccurate assumption that it was simply a copyist error

There is good evidence to challenge all of Hales’ assumptions here. And that is where having copies of the Affidavit Books comes in handy. I feel that Mr. Hales has made some critical mistakes from not studying the Affidavit Books more closely. His conclusions therefore, are made from a faulty analysis of the evidence, which I present below.

First, let’s take a look at the covers of all the Affidavit Books. These are in order of their current designation (1-4) from left to right:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers

To get an idea of what is in these Affidavit Books, I present the following graphic from the folks at Mormon Bookshelf:

Affidavits on Celestial Marriage List

Mormon Bookshelf Graphic, which may be found here.

The information in Affidavit Books 1 & 4 is virtually identical, as are Affidavit Books 2 & 3. Hales is almost correct that there are two additional unfinished affidavits in Book 4. There is actually only one; the other was started and crossed out because of a copy error. In looking at these books, it is obvious that they are out of order. Books 3 and 4 should be reversed:

1869 Utah Affidavit Book Covers (Proper Order)

The reason why is that Books 1 & 2 are the originals (one set), and Books 3 & 4 are the copies (another set). You have Book 1 with the label and Book 2 without one. This was how they made the copies, The first copy (Book 4, actually 3) with a label, and the second (Book 3, actually 4) without one. They even use the same types of books for  the first and second copies.

Now, how do we know which are the copies? There is evidence in the Books! First, notice what the folks at Mormon Bookshelf say in a comment about the Bathsheba Smith Affidavit. They tell us:

Book 4 was located in the Church Historian’s Office along with book 3, whereas Joseph F. Smith kept Books 1 and 2 in his personal possession.[20]

Why would he do that? Because they were the original copies, and were made first:

Affidavit Books 1-4 First Page

Joseph F. Smith’s name is embossed in Books 1 & 2 along with the identifiers, “Du Book No. 1” and “Du Book No. 2”. Smith’s name is also embossed on the last page of Books 1 & 2. Books 3 & 4 (the copies) do not have this. The label on the front of each of the first books (Books 1 & 4) identifies them as the First Affidavit Books of each set. That is why Books 3 & 4 should be reversed. The chronological order of the affidavits also bears this out.

Hales writes,

At some point since 1869, an unidentified person penciled in identifying marks in two of the books, namely Book 1 and Book 2. It is unclear why those numbers were assigned specifically to those two books.[21]

Actually, it is very clear why those numbers were assigned to those Books, because they were designated this way when they were donated to the Church Historians Office. Why would this be “unclear”? The originals though, were initially kept by Smith, and there is other evidence that determines that this is what happened. (See Note 21 for more on this, and of course below for the additional evidence).

Now that we have the order correct, and which books are probably the originals and the copies, is there further evidence to support that Books 3 & 4 were copies of Books 1 & 2? Yes.

First there are the Joseph Noble affidavits that are the first to appear in Books 1 & 4 (actually 3). First, it is important to note that all of these Books have the first affidavit appearing on page 3 except for Book 4 (actually 3). Why? Because of a copy error. This is one of the affidavits that Hales mentions as “unfinished”, but it really isn’t. Here is what they look like:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 1& 4, pg. 3

You will notice that the copy on the right was scrapped because whoever (I believe this was Robert L. Campbell) was copying the affidavit from Book 1 wrote the wrong name in the affidavit. It should have been James Jack, but he wrote “Elias Smith, Probate Judge”. James Jack was a Notary Public, not a Probate Judge. So what did Joseph Fielding Smith do? He copied the Noble affidavit in Book 4 (actually 3) on to page 1:

Joseph B. Noble, Book 4, pg. 1

This is the only Book where an affidavit appears on page 1. In all the other Books, the affidavits start on page 3. If this were the first book, then all of the others should follow the same pattern and start on page 1. But they don’t. All the rest start on page 3.

It is unclear why Smith wanted to leave the first two pages blank, perhaps he was going to put the contents there, but opted for the back of the Books because there were so many affidavits they would not have had enough room to list the contents on just two pages.

This explains the first of Hales’ affidavits. Hales misses this obvious mistake and claims:

The affidavit reads: “Be it remembered that on this twenty-sixth day of June, A. D. 1869, personally appeared before me Elias Smith, Probate Judge for said county,” and has one big “X” crossed through the entirety. Smith, Affidavit Books, 4:3. There is no hint regarding for whom the document was to be written or the information it was going to contain.[22]

I disagree. It is obvious what happened if one simply looks at the entry. It was written on page 3 (same as the Noble affidavit from Book 1), it has the same date as the Noble affidavit, (June 26, 1869), and the reason it was crossed out: the wrong name.Robert L. Campbell, Handwriting Comparison

Joseph F. Smith apparently briefly made use of Robert L. Campbell (a well known scribe that worked on the Manuscript History of the Church) as a copyist. Two affidavits at the end of Book 1 are in his handwriting. He was obviously tasked to make a copy of Book 1, and he began it on page 3 (following the pattern in Book 1) but then made the mistake which forced him to abandon copying that affidavit. He then continued on with his copying until page 21 (completing ten more affidavits) before he stopped. At that point Joseph F. Smith resumed the copying, and placed the Noble affidavit on page 1, and then resumed copying the rest of the affidavits where Campbell left off.Joseph F. Smith Handwriting Comparison Affidavit Book Titles

Smith then later made the Titles for Books 1 & 4, as they are also in his handwriting. (I will have more on this in a future article).

Mormon Bookshelf has also noted that the unfinished affidavit is “Dated June 6th, 1869”, but this is an error, it is dated the 26 of June, the same as the Noble affidavit.

But what about the second, the Vienna Jaques affidavit? I believe it was originally in Affidavit Book 1, but was torn out. Here is the page between the Affidavits of Charles C. Rich (Apostle) and John Pack where the incomplete Jaques affidavit appears in Book 4 (actually Book 3), taken from from Book 1:

Vienna Jaques, Book 1, Torn PageNotice that there is a page torn out of the Book. This likely accounts for why there is no unfinished Vienna Jaques Affidavit in Book 1. What is curious is that the page numbers don’t reflect that this was done after the next affidavit was written into the book. It (the page tearing) was probably done before. Smith copied the unfinished Jaques affidavit at the same time into Book 4 (actually 3) that was written in Book 1, and then before he took the next affidavit (John Pack) someone (probably Smith) ripped out the Jaques affidavit in Book 1, and then it was only crossed it out in Book 4 (actually 3).

The cross out is in different ink, so this supports that it was probably done at a later time. The Rich affidavit was taken on the 12th of July, the Jaques affidavit has a date of the 20th of July, and the Pack affidavit the 22nd of July. So both affidavits were likely written in the two Books on the 20th of July, and then on the 22nd when Smith was numbering the pages for the next affidavit (John Pack) he ripped it (Jaques Affidavit) out of Book 1, but it was only crossed out of Book 4 (actually 3)–if they were taken chronologically at this time–which is strengthened by the progressive dates.

Right after these affidavits appears the Sylvia Sessions affidavit which is also not dated, unsigned and left as it is. So why rip out and cross out the Jaques affidavit and not the Sessions affidavit? Could Smith have been more confident in the 1842 marriage date? Perhaps.

So Hales’ conjecture that there are two extra affidavits in Book 4 (actually 3) is mistaken. There is though, an extra affidavit in Book 2 that is not found in Book 3 (actually 4), the affidavit of Bathsheba W. Smith.  So, to use Hales argument, this helps to strengthen the case that Books 1 & 2 are the originals, right?

Is there other evidence? Yes, I believe so, and it is in the affidavit of Malissa Willes. Notice the year of her marriage in both affidavits (Book 1 on the left and Book 4 (actually 3) on the right:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 & 4In Book 1 it is obvious that it was first written “1842” but corrected to read “1843”:

Malissa Willes, Book 1 Year 1843

But in Book 4 (actually 3) we find an 1842 with a question mark!

Malissa Willes, Book 4 Year 1842

It seems then, that when Smith wrote the affidavit he didn’t know what the date was, because it could have been either one. But how could this happen if Malissa signed them both? I had to think about that. Then I remembered the Vienna Jaques affidavit. Notice that it has the name and no dates:

Vienna Jaques, Book 4, pg. 56, Unfinished

Here is the signed affidavit of Mary Kimball with incomplete dates:

Mary Ellen Kimball

It could easily be that Malissa signed the copies before the dates were put in. She obviously was not present when Smith put the date in for the copy, or she would have corrected the dates as was done with the first affidavit in Book 1.

I think I can confidently state that Book 1 and 2 are the “primary” Volumes, and that it is far more likely (considering the mistake made with the Malissa Lott affidavit) that in the case of Sylvia Lyons the first date “1842” was the original year put on the affidavit and that the “1843” is most likely a copyist error.

III. More Sylvia Sessions Lyon Speculation

Most of the Affidavits found in these Books are very late recollections and are being used in many cases as a basis for actual dates and events with little or no other evidence. But I do have problems with Hales interpretation of the evidence, even this evidence.  If Hales had just taken a closer look at both of the Sylvia Lyon affidavits I believe he would have seen a few things which indicate that the affidavit in Book 4 was probably written after the affidavit in Book 1.

sylvia lyon, comparison

If you study the two affidavits of Sylvia Sessions, you will notice that the affidavit with the 1843 date was rewritten without the last sentence in the middle of the page. And not only that, but that they rearranged the wording in the affidavit that appears in Book 4 (Actually 3).

Book 1:

on the eighth day of February, A.D. 1842, in the City of Nauvoo, County of Hancock State of Illinois she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith by [   ] in the presence of (Date, Place, Person)

Book 4 (actually 3):

on the eighth day of February A. D. 1843 she was married or sealed to President Joseph Smith, in the City of Nauvoo County of Hancock, State of Illinois, by (Date, Person, Place) in the presence of

These affidavits of others who were “sealed or married” to Joseph Smith all have the same order that appears in Book 1: Date, Place, Person:

Zina Huntington Young, Presenda Huntington Kimball, Ruth Vose Sayers, Emily Partridge Young, Marinda Nancy Hyde, Rhoda Richards, Malissa Lott Willes, Eliza R. Snow, Desdemona Fullmer, Sarah Ann Kimball, Lucy Walker, Elvira A. C. Holmes, (also has “at Heber C. Kimball’s house), Eliza Partridge, Martha McBride.

All of these affidavits have the same format as the first (1842) affidavit of Sylvia Sessions, except for the one with the 1843 date. For some reason, they changed that order and the date of the second affidavit. How could this be the original, when it doesn’t follow the format of every other affidavit cited above (all the other affidavits of Joseph’s “marriages”)? This indicates to me that the copy with the 1843 date is an anomaly, and therefore most likely a copy.  Even Eliza Partridge’s loose Affidavits have the same format as the rest.

We know that some of these affidavits were previously prepared because there are templates in some of the books with blank spaces for names and dates like this affidavit of Mary Ann Young:MS 3423_5_1_29s Mary Ann Young p. 46

Notice date, place, person format. As Hales notes, the Sessions Affidavits are also unsigned so we don’t know where the dates came from. All anyone can do is speculate about this. My argument here, is that there is evidence for the the 1842 date being written first, that is all. Yet, for some, Brian Hales’ unfounded speculations are enough to doubt the evidence that supports the 1842 date, as in the case of Gregory L. Smith:

I initially believed that sexual polyandry best explained the historical data. The “poster child” for this perspective was Sylvia Sessions Lyon, whose sealing to Joseph in 1842 seemed to clearly precede her separation from her civil husband. Since Sylvia’s daughter is the best candidate for a child conceived by Joseph in plurality, this marriage has consequently been treated as the paradigmatic case for polyandry. If one such marriage included marital intimacy, ran the argument, it was reasonable to presume that the others either did or could have.

This reasoning struck me as sound, and for several years I accepted a model of full sexual polyandry. Over time, however, as I puzzled over the other data, I began (with, I confess, some reluctance) to wonder if non-conjugal relationships weren’t a much better explanation for the other spotty data. I hesitated to draw that conclusion, however, because of the Sylvia Lyon case. Its cogency seemed sufficient to outweigh my other niggling suspicions.

Hales’ and Don Bradley’s discovery of a second affidavit for Sylvia altered the calculus considerably. Neither affidavit was signed, but crucially the newly discovered document dates their marriage to 1843 — one year later. Significantly, nothing about the documents allows us to privilege one affidavit over the other, and so the later date must be regarded as at least as plausible as the earlier one (TaBU, 71–73).

This might seem a small difference of interest only to pedants, but in context it can be revolutionary. Suddenly, Sylvia’s marriage could no longer be regarded as paradigmatic, since it is entirely possible that her sexual relationship with Joseph followed her separation/divorce from her husband. Thus, Hales and Bradley succeeded in pushing me (with some foot dragging) to favor a non-sexual polyandrous model, which seemed to explain other data points more parsimoniously. Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction [23]

Yet there is evidence that one was probably written before the other. I have shared that above. Remember, the Malissa Lott affidavit had the date corrected in the first affidavit book, but it was not corrected in the second. It only had a question mark. Also, someone, (possibly Joseph F. Smith) thought the affidavit for Vienna Jaques was so irrelevant that it was torn out of the book. The same was not done with the Sylvia Sessions affidavits. This may indicate that Joseph F. Smith had confidence in the date given in the first affidavit, which was 1842.

It is also curious to me that Gregory Smith would be so easily swayed by Hales’ speculations (despite his claim of “foot dragging’). Smith still had sex with Sylvia Sessions while she was legally married to Windsor according to Hales (based on Josephine’s affidavit). It seems as if Gregory Smith is accepting Hales’ argument that they were separated, (an argument mostly based on his being disfellowshipped and one anonymous statement that claims that he was no longer her husband); but that wouldn’t matter according to an 1842 Address by Joseph Smith himself. He could only “marry” Sylvia if she obtained a legal divorce from Windsor (for committing evil in the marriage), something there is absolutely no evidence there was or that she ever did. This means that Joseph Smith and Sylvia were committing adultery.

But Hales isn’t finished with his speculations. He writes,

A second observation also seems to undermine the day and month listed in the affidavits. Both documents list February 8 (either 1842 or 1843), which is also the birth date of Josephine Lyon (1844) and Windsor Lyon (1809). It is possible that Joseph and Sylvia were sealed on Windsor’ birthday, exactly one or two years prior to Josephine’s birth, but the likelihood is small. Accordingly, a rigid insistence on a February 8 sealing date of either year seems unjustified.[24]

How does this “undermine” anything? It is simply Hales’ speculation. He has no idea of the amount of likelihood that Sylvia and Smith would be or not be sealed on Windsor Lyon’s birthday. What are the odds of Josephine having the same birth date as Windsor? Coincidence is coincidence. This doesn’t undermine anything. And it makes perfect sense that Sylvia would have been “married” to Joseph Smith just prior to her mother, since this was a pattern that Joseph Smith followed with women who were closely related, like sisters. Also, what if Windsor was a willing participant in the polyandry? And just who is making a “rigid insistence” on the February 8th date? Certainly I’m not doing so, but I’m not ruling it out based on Hales’ speculations, either.

Hales then writes,

A third observation is that an unsigned affidavit is only slightly better than no affidavit at all. It may or may not reflect genuine beliefs of the scribe, and since it is unsigned, its relationship to the beliefs of the intended signatory are entirely unknown. Taken together, it appears that the affidavits provide little or no reliable information regarding the day or year of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session’s sealing ceremony.[25]

As I have noted above, if this affidavit was of so little use, why then did Joseph F. Smith not tear it out of the book as he did the Jaques affidavit? I do agree though, that we don’t know the relationship of this affidavit with Sylvia Sessions. This is a valid observation by Hales. But we can use it in connection with other evidence, something that Hales doesn’t want us to do, because he wants the 1843 affidavit to be the correct one.

What we do have is an unsigned affidavit that provides us with an 1842 date; and a second that has a different date that very likely is a copy error. This is not an “inaccurate assumption”, but a valid one based on the evidence I’ve presented here.

All of the other objections that Hales makes are based on faulty observations and speculations based on those faulty observations. Hales motive here is obvious. If he can create doubt about the 1842 date, then he can try and mitigate the other evidence that points towards an 1842 marriage, for he writes,

Without the assistance of the affidavit books, other sources must be consulted to discover the sealing date of Joseph Smith and Sylvia Session.[26]

This should be a rule that is followed with all the affidavits. All of them should be questioned if they do not have credible corroboration. Hales then presents what he feels is his “trump card”, the notes of Andrew Jenson that were rediscovered by Don Bradley:

In a document undoubtedly used to write his 1887 Historical Record article on plural marriage, Andrew Jenson penned: “Sylvia Sessions . . . became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons. When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”[27]

Hales writes in his footnote,

Biographical information on Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, undated sheet in Andrew Jenson Collection, Church History Library.[28]

Historian Andrew Jenson

Historian Andrew Jenson

Hales doesn’t bother to explain this document at all here. Elsewhere, he writes,

In 1886 and 1887, Andrew Jenson interviewed several of Joseph Smith plural wives and other Nauvoo polygamists. His handwritten notes refer to Sylvia as “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” He also penned:

Sessions, Sylvia Porter, wife of Winsor [sic] Palmer Lyon, was bon July 31, 1818, in Bethel, Oxford Co, Maine, the daughter of [blank] Sessions. sister of Perrigrine Sessions Became a convert to ‘Mormonism’ and was married to Mr. Lyons When he left the Church she was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.[29]

First, there is no indication that Jenson had an “interview” with Sylvia Sessions or anyone that knew much about Sylvia Lyon. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. So how is it more credible than any other anonymous late recollection? It doesn’t even have the name of Sylvia’s mother, which Sylvia would have known, and whom Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Sarah Whitney, Zina Huntington, and most others (of his wives) assuredly knew. Patty Sessions was well known by almost all of Smith’s wives. Many of them knew Sylvia well, and were very close to her mother as indicated by her diary. These notes by Jenson are all but useless as corroborating evidence of anything, let alone being a primary document that gives us accurate information. Of course they would later assume that Sylvia was “married” to Joseph when he was “out of the church”. This makes it easier for them to accept the marriage as something other than polyandry.

Hales then writes,

A second corroboration is found in a 1915 statement from Josephine. She remembered her mother also “told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” Accordingly, these two documents place the sealing after Windsor’s excommunication.[30]

Hales doesn’t quote the relevant portion of the letter in full here. It reads,

She [Sylvia Sessions] then told me [Josephine Fisher] that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of  fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.[31]

Instead of putting the quotes together as they were written, Hales separates them and writes later in the article,

Sylvia also reportedly stated “that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina D. Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.” Zina was sealed to Joseph Smith on October 27, 1841, and Eliza on June 29, 1842, thus supporting an 1842 date. However, it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina because she knew Josephine would be familiar with those two women, rather than to specifically define the month of her sealing.[32]

Hales then goes into super speculation mode by claiming that “it is likely that Sylvia chose to compare her sealing to that of Eliza and Zina”. Likely? How so? Where does he get this from? There is no comparison being done here. Sylvia is stating to Josephine that ‘I (Sylvia) was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina and Eliza were.’ Where is the supposed comparison? She isn’t comparing anything. Josephine isn’t commenting or comparing what she herself knew, she is only reporting what she remembered her mother telling her at that time.

This conversation had taken place almost 23 years earlier. Of course she is not expected to get the exact language correct. For all we know, Sylvia could have told Josephine the date in addition to the other information but she didn’t remember it. If Josephine had read the biographies in Jenson’s histories, wouldn’t she remember the dates of their “marriages”? (See, I can speculate too).

But she doesn’t go beyond “about the same time that Zina…and Eliza…were…sealed.” This has the ring of an authentic recollection, not embellished with things she might have read somewhere. To say that Sylvia simply used names that she thought might be “familiar” to Josephine is ridiculous, because Joseph only practiced polygamy for a few years in Nauvoo and there were lots of other well known wives of Joseph, like Helen Mar Kimball, Emily Partridge, etc. who actually were “married” to Joseph in 1843.

In fact, Sylvia and Eliza were friends and Eliza even wrote poetry for Sylvia. Patty Sessions wrote in 1847 (at which time Sylvia was visiting her mother):

“E. R Snow has composed some poetry for Sylvia I will write it here in my book…”[33]

This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

Regardless, speculation is not needed because we have what she said, that it was during the time of her husband’s disfellowshipment and the marriages of those two women which would make it in 1842. If Sylvia did not remember the exact year at that time, it is far more likely that she narrowed it down to events that she did remember, when (as she told her daughter) her husband was out of the church (took place in 1842) and when Zina and Eliza were married (late 1841, 1842). Both of these statements must be taken together, that is the context of them. Breaking them up serves no purpose except to further Hales own speculations.

Hales’ claim that Josephine didn’t know when Eliza was married until she later read it has no basis at all in fact. It is simply more speculation on Hales part. Hales also doesn’t consider that Patty Sessions knew Eliza and Zina very well, and that Sylvia could easily have learned of when they were married from her mother (if she didn’t learn it from them herself) who mentions visiting with both women in her diary numerous times and writing frequent letters to her daughter. For example, in 1847 Sylvia’s mother wrote,

“I had a new years party with Eliza Snow, Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs &c were here enjoyed myself well…”[34]

Hales would have us think that this mother and daughter never spoke to each other about polygamy and Josephine would have to learn about the marriages from reading them in publications decades later. But this is the only way that he can make his speculations fit his narrative. How is it that Hales’ speculations are the “likely” ones, time after time? Is it really more likely that Josephine learned about those “marriages” from reading them in the Historical Journal, or learning them from Sylvia and her mother’s friends directly? Is this the only time that Sylvia and Josephine spoke about polygamy? About when she was “married” to Joseph Smith? About when her friends were “married” to Joseph Smith? Hales claims that,

Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later.[35]

This is absolutely false. For example, in 1879 the Deseret Evening News published many of the Affidavits that Joseph F. Smith had collected about a decade before. This was a big story back then, for it coincided with the death of Emma Smith. To claim that “99 percent of all Church members in 1882” were “unaware of the chronology” of those “marriages” as well as Jenson being the first to publish about the dates is extremely disingenuous of Hales. The sons of Joseph Smith visited Utah during the 1860’s and because of their preaching almost 3000 converts were made by them. Polygamy was a subject they spoke about often, and the dated affidavits had been around for a decade by then.

Unfortunately for Hales, Sylvia Sessions was not part of those that were “unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo”. The Woman’s Exponent also published many articles on Joseph’s wives long before Andrew Jenson did. Hales speculations here seem almost desperate.

Deseret Evening News, October 22, 1879 giving chronology of many of Smith's "marriages".

Deseret News, October 22, 1879, p. 12, giving chronology of many of Smith’s “marriages”.

Joseph the Seer's Plural Marriages, DEN, 13

Deseret News, Oct. 22, 1879, pg. 13

Hales then presents a very late recollection and when I read this I was really shocked that he would use this to try and bolster his argument. To try and prove that there was a separation, he quotes from a letter written in 1945 by one of Josephine’s sons, Irvin F. Fisher. Hales writes,

Windsor had a falling out with Nauvoo Stake President William Marks over a financial negotiation in the fall of 1842. In the end, Windsor sued Marks in the civil courts, and Marks in response brought Windsor up for a Church court. On November 19, 1842, Windsor was cut off. He subsequently “left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo, who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.”[36]

If one reads the entire letter written by Irvin F. Fisher, one understands how misleading that Hales is being in this instance. Fisher writes,

Dear Brother [Anson] Bowen [Call]:

Concerning the questions you ask concerning my mother and grandmother, I must admit that I don’t know as much as I should really like to know. But the following are the facts as known to me:

My mother’s mother was Sylvia Porter Sessions – younger sister of Perrigrin Sessions and the wife of Winsor Palmer Lyon, who died in Iowa City in 1849, where he had been residing for the past 5 or 6 or 7 years before his death. He and his wife were living in Nauvoo during the early years of that city. Their first 4 children were born there – I think. The first three died there – young. The eldest – Myriano – [Marian S.] died there and her funeral is mentioned in Vol. 4 of the Church history by B. H. Roberts (about page 454 I think.) It says there that the service was held across the road from the temple (then building) in a bowery, on Sunday March 20, 1842; and that the Prophet Joseph was the speaker. My mother – Josephine – their fourth child was born in Nauvoo Feb. 8, 1844, and the Prophet was martyred in June of that year, as you know. However, sometime previous to my mother’s birth, Bro. Winsor P. Lyon (along with many others) became out of harmony with the Prophet and Church leaders, and he left Nauvoo and went up to Iowa City, making his home there, but leaving his wife in Nauvoo (who apparently did not wish to leave the Church and go with him.[)] Now, it must have been at this time that she was sealed to the Prophet (thinking, no doubt, that her husband had apostatised [sic] from the church for good.)

For at least two good reasons, I feel sure she was sealed to the Prophet sometime during this period (from 42 to 44).[37]

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

Restored Lyon Drugstore, Nauvoo, Illinois

First, there is no evidence that Windsor Lyon ever left Nauvoo before the general exodus in 1846-7, but there is plenty of evidence that he did not. He did not apostatize; he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing Marks over a debt in a secular court. He was not “out of harmony” with the Prophet, he stayed Joseph’s friend and loaned him money and supported him in other endeavors. He was visited by Willard Richards in his home with Sylvia in 1844. This is obviously a garbled account about Windsor Lyon, made without first hand knowledge of any specific facts of what really happened between Windsor and Sylvia, which was more than likely gleaned from reading inaccurate accounts like those found in the Historical Record. (Fisher even spells the name of the Lyon’s daughter Marian wrong). The Lyons moved to Iowa together, in the summer of 1846, (therefore only living there for three years) and she gave birth to two of his children before Windsor died in 1849. Sylvia went with him voluntarily, and Windsor was a member of the Church when they moved there. Fisher is simply wrong about many crucial events in their lives. For Hales to use this as evidence that they separated in 1842 (implying that he apostatized and went to Iowa City that year) is extremely disingenuous.

IV. The Temple Lot Testimony Speculation

Gregory L. Smith made this comment (above) which I think is worth addressing here:

Hales’ later discussion of the Temple Lot testimony, and the telling absence of all three living polyandrous wives from those proceedings, despite their availability, increased my confidence in this historical reconstruction.

Hales argument from his FAIRMORMON presentation is this:

…in 1892, the RLDS Church claimed to be the successor to Joseph Smith’s true church and sued the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) to gain possession of the Independence, Missouri temple site. This is the stone church of the RLDS church and the temple lot. The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

When you go through, there were nine of Joseph Smith’s plural wives still alive in 1892. Three had been polyandrous wives. The first wife that they called was not a polyandrous wife. It was Melissa Lott who lived 30 miles south in Lehi. She testified of carnal intercourse with Joseph. The second plural wife called was Emily Partridge who lived in Salt Lake City. She was not a polyandrous wife, and she too testified of having sexual relations with Joseph. The RLDS attorneys were very direct. If you read it, it’s remarkable testimony.

What’s interesting is that after this, they skipped all three of the polyandrous wives. Yet they were very available. Zina Huntington was the church’s general Relief Society president. She lived blocks away from where the depositions were being taken in Salt Lake. They also skipped Patty Bartlett, but she was 97. They also skipped Mary Elizabeth Rollins, who lived 38 miles north in Ogden. She was well-known to the brethren. These women were available, if they had wanted to call them.

Instead, they called Lucy Walker who lived 82 miles north in Logan. She also testified of sexual relations with Joseph. Just as a sidebar, Helen Mar Kimball was not called even though she lived in Salt Lake City, had written two books defending plural marriage, and would have been an excellent witness. If you read her diary, which was transcribed by Todd Compton, she knew that these people were in town. Her daughter went to hear them speak the Sunday night before the depositions were taken. She was totally available. They didn’t call Helen Mar Kimball to testify of her sexual relations as a plural wife of Joseph Smith. She was only 14 when she was sealed to Joseph and it’s still debated whether there was conjugality in that union. This is strong evidence that it was not.[38]

Hales also argues (as quoted above):

The Church of Christ (Temple Lot) sought to show that Joseph Smith taught and practiced full sexual polygamy and since the RLDS did not, they were not the actual successors. The Utah LDS Church supported the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and arranged for witnesses to testify of their polygamous relationships with the Prophet. The issue of sexual relations was paramount. Spiritual marriages, “eternity only” sealings, and unconsummated plural unions would have played right into the RLDS attorneys’ hands.

Where is he getting this from? First of all, what the Church of Christ wanted to prove was that the Hedrickites and the Utah Church (“the power behind the throne” as the judge called them), had a legitimate claim to the property because they were doctrinally the same church. Hales wants us to believe that the testimony of a few of Smith’s wives about their having sex with Smith would sway the case or was of paramount importance. If one only reads the judge’s ruling in the case, one can see that it made not a bit of difference. It in fact worked against them. Judge Phillips in his ruling stated:

It is charged by the Respondents, as an echo of the Utah Church, that Joseph Smith, “the Martyr,” secretly taught and practiced polygamy; and the Utah contingent furnishes the evidence, and two of the women, to prove this fact. It perhaps would be uncharitable to say of these women that they have borne false testimony as to their connection with Joseph Smith; but, in view of all the evidence and circumstances surrounding the alleged intercourse, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that at most they were but sports in “nest hiding.” In view of the contention of the Salt Lake party, that polygamy obtained at Nauvoo as early as 1841, it must be a little embarrassing to President Woodruff of that organization when he is confronted, as he was in the evidence in this case, with a published card in the church organ at Nauvoo in October, 1843, certifying that he knew of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that the “secret wife system,” charged against the church, was a creature of invention by one Doctor Bennett, and that they knew of no such society. That certificate was signed by the leading members of the church, including John Taylor the former President of the Utah Church. And a similar certificate was published by the Ladies’ Relief Society of the same place, signed by Emma Smith, the wife of Jospeh Smith, and Phoebe Woodruff, wife of the present President Woodruff. No such marriage ever occurred under the rules of the church, and no offspring came from the imputed illicit intercourse, although Joseph Smith was in the full vigor of young manhood, and his wife Emma, was giving birth to healthy children in regular order, and was enciente at the time of Joseph’s death.Judge Phillips Temple Lot Decision p. 42-43.

But if it were conceded that Joseph Smith, and Hyrum, his brother, did secretly practice concubinage, is the church to be charged with those liaisons, and the doctrine of polygamy to be predicated thereon of the church? If so, I suspect the doctrine of polygamy might be imputed to many of the Gentile churches. Certainly it was never promulgated, taught, nor recognized, as a doctrine of the church prior to the assumption of Brigham Young.[39]

Joseph Smith obfuscated his participation in polygamy all too well. He had covered his tracks and no amount of women admitting to sexual intercourse with him was enough to sway the judge in this case. The way to prove that they were the rightful successors was doctrinally. In other words proving that polygamy was a valid doctrine, taught and practiced by Joseph Smith and the Church. But the secrecy with which Smith engaged in it, worked against him. The judge actually thought that what Smith and  the others did was “nest hiding”, or illicit intercourse. (Henry Ward Beecher) Secrecy and sex doesn’t prove a marriage or a doctrine. Legality and openness does, either secular or religious; and everything Joseph said in public worked against that as did the Article on Marriage, statements in the Times and Seasons, and the Book of Mormon verses that call polygamy an abomination.

Why were his “wives” who testified insulted and shocked at the line of questioning? They thought they would only have to testify that they were Joseph’s wives. They were unprepared for what they had to go through. To say that the Church wanted to prove sexuality in the marriages but not tell the women what the focus of their testimony was to be (sex in the marriages), shows that this was not the focus of their being called. Emily Partridge, after her testimony wrote,

23rd [March, 1892] – I have not hardly got over the ————— I underwent on the witness stand. It has been on me night and day ever since. I can now think of a great many things that seemingly might have been better answers. And I have been asked, why did you not say things and why didn’t you say that. Well, I said there is no use asking these questions now. If I could have thought of them I might have answered them, but as I did not I had to say what came into my mind. I asked God to assist me and if I did not do as well as I might, I did as well as I could.[40]

She answered many questions with details about her sexual unions with Joseph Smith. Why then, would she be bothered about her testimony if that was all she was there for?

As for the living polyandrous wives testifying, there is only speculation about why they did not. Why didn’t Helen Kimball make an affidavit in 1869? Almost everyone else did, but she didn’t. Was that also because she supposedly didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? Why would that matter in 1869 when they could have easily explained in the affidavit that it was only a “marriage” for eternity and not for time? Notice that not one of those affidavits specifically states any of the “marriages” were eternity only sealings. Why?

Then we have the question of why Helen didn’t testify at the Temple Lot Trial. She was a staunch advocate of polygamy (as Hales notes). Hales would have us believe it was because she didn’t have sex with Smith, so it wasn’t worth her time to do so or would “play right into the ReOrganization’s hands” if it came out that she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith. But if one reads Helen’s diary it is pretty obvious why she didn’t testify:

Mon. 7th. [March, 1892] Another lovely day—thought I’d go out, but Dr Russel called & gave me a shake with his little battery, & a powder—Antikamnia (opposed to pain). He is much improved in health Gen received a letter from Ed, & a check for $45.00—Phebe Kimball & Mary Whitney called— they had been to Rachel Simmons. Gen gone to town—A man called to see if I wanted my wood cut up—I let him work this afternoon, charges 20 cts an hour—I wrote a letter to Lucy W. Kimball.[41]

Helen Mar Kimball

Helen Mar Kimball

Tues. 8th. Lovely day—Man is sawing wood. I had a touch of deathly spells this forenoon—Gen went downtown afternoon to do some trading—[42]

Wed. 9th…I’d been afflicted all night & the forenoon with deathly spells & felt sick & sad.—had a few after noon— laid down at Lol’s—Hent & baby came up while I was gone & Mame Williams came to see Gen.[43]

Sun. 13th. Breakfast disagreed with me—sick headache all day, & a light chill afternoon—Hent, Lill and children came early & spent the day. This is Gen’s 32nd birthday & she’s feeling real poorly—but we were glad the girls came. George called to see them ^& children^ home. Orson called this morn, to tell me of two brethren who’d come from Jackson County Missouri ^& were to be at the evening meeting^ they had come here to find out whether or no the testimony of Jossephites was true—they being  engaged in the lawsuit with the Smiths, over the land where the Temple is to be built, & believing this to be the true church—had prayed to be led by the spirit to know which was right. Gen went to the meeting—It rained so I could—not if I’d been able. She enjoyed the remarks of Brother Hall who spoke to them after being introduced by Orson—with Bro Hedric the son of the one who organised that little community called “Hedricites”[44]

Mon. 14th. …Gen and I still poorly, but I felt better near night—both of us had sick headache—hers was the worst so she vomited this morning.[45]

Wed. 16th. Had a sick day—lungs painful from coughing, & my head & body also—tried to work & partly made a nightgound for baby—Gen washed & then went to drug store to get me medicine. Was so sick had to go to bed after getting baby to sleep.[46]

Thur. 17th. Slept good & didnt cough all night, but feel the effects of my coldIt’s a great disapointment not to be able to go to the Jubilee at Tabernacle in honor of the organization of the Relief Society, by Joseph Smith, 50 years ago[47]

Helen Kimball was sick for most of the month of March. Hales claimed to have read the diary, why did he miss this obvious reason for her not testifying? Emily Partridge testified on the 14th of March, and then writes that she went to the Jubilee on the 17th after her testimony. If Helen was too sick to go to the Relief Society Jubilee, she was probably too sick to testify in court. Her sickness and “deathly spells” go right through to the end of the month of March. I find it interesting that she wrote to Lucy Walker Kimball on March 7, a week or so before she was to testify in the Temple Lot Suit.

Lucy Walker Kimball

Lucy Walker Kimball

Yet, Lucy Walker refused to answer any specific questions about her sexual activities with Joseph; so it is unlikely that this was the only reason these women were chosen. To go speculating as to why some wives didn’t testify, or make affidavits, etc., is simply a tactic to strengthen a case that it already weak. For all we know, some of these women may have been asked to testify, but refused.

This is all only Hales speculation. Especially the idea that Mormon Authorities wanted women to specifically testify to having sex with Smith in the Temple Lot Trial. If that was so very important, then why have any men testify at all? None of them had sex with Smith, yet they could testify that they saw or participated in the marriages. Hales claims that Lucy Walker testified to having sex with Joseph Smith, but she absolutely did not. She refused to answer any questions about it. She gave one ambiguous answer that Hales accepts as evidence, even though when there is ambiguity in statements having to do with sexual polyandry he does not accept them.  Here is a sample of Lucy Walker’s testimony:

30. Q. Did you live with Joseph Smith as his wife?
A. He was my husband sir.[48] …

328. Q. Was Emma present? [at the “marriage”]
A. She was not.
329 Q. She had consented to the marriage, of course?
A. She did not consent to my marriage.
330. Q. Did she oppose it?
A. She did not know anything about it at all.
331. Q. Then she did not know anything about your marriage to her husband?
A. No sir.
332. Q. What room did you occupy  the night after your marriage, that is, the night of the first day of May, 1843?
A. What room did I occupy?
333. Q. Yes, you and the prophet?
A. Well, that is a matter I shall not answer.
334. Q. You decline to answer it.
A. I do.
335. Q. Did you occupy the same room with Joseph Smith on the night of the first day of May 1843?
A. I decline to answer that question.
336. Q. Did you ever occupy the same room and the same bed with Joseph Smith at any time, particularly on the night of May the first 1843?
A. I decline to answer the question, and there is no law that will permit you to do so, or uphold you in intruding into my private affairs.
337. Q. Do you decline to answer the question I ask you on the ground[s] that your answers might tend to [in]criminate you?
A. No sir.
338. Q. Then why do you decline to answer them?
A. Because I consider them insulting, sir.
339. Q. You do?
A. Yes sir.
340. Q. Your feelings have grown more delicate now then they were forty eight or nine years ago, they grow more mellow and refined with age?
A. I don’t know about that.
341. Q. Your feelings were not so tender when in 1843 you married a man who at that time to your knowledge had four or five other women living with him as wives, according to your statement, and imposed yourself upon his innocent wife, and deceived her, by joining in that kind of an alliance with her husband, that was not insulting, but now when I ask you a question that I have a perfect right under the law to ask you say it is insulting?
A. No sir, not in the light that we accepted it.
342. Q. And it is not insulting at this late date after the man whom you have maligned is dead and cannot be to deny or refute your story for you to come up and tell this tale, which if true would forever dishonor his memory, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in that, there is nothing dishonorable or insulting in your attempting to palm yourself off as the wife of a man who is dead, and never for a moment in his life did anything to countenance your pretentions [sic]?
A. Yes sir, he would speak if he was here, he would speak in tones of thunder.
343. Q. Well I would like to hear him speak it, for he was careful never to do so in this life, he was careful never to acknowledge you as his wife either in tones of thunder of any other kind of tones.
A. Well he would, he taught that principle, and while you may scoff at us we yet believe the principle, and it is sacred with us.[49] 

463 Q. How many children did you have by virtue of your marriage with Joseph Smith?
A. I decline to answer that question sir.
464 Q. Did you have any?
A. I decline to answer the question.
465 Q. Have you any children by Joseph Smith? Do you decline to answer that question too?
A. I decline to answer the question
466 Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well I think that is my business and none of yours. The principle by which we were married is an eternal principle, and will endure forever. . . .
471 Q. Well did you raise a child by him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
472. Q. Did you ever occupy the same bed with him?
A. I decline to answer the question.
473. Q. You say you will not answer any of these questions.
A. I do, not on that subject.
474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew wass Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. [50] …

525. Q. It did  not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …

531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. …
546. Q. You had children by Kimball?
A. Yes sir.[51]

Lucy Walker’s fanaticism towards this principle is self evident here. Yet that wasn’t enough to get her to testify about having sexual relations with Joseph Smith. Asked if she ever occupied the same bed with Smith, she refused to answer. Her ambiguous answer (Hales words) that “he was my husband” doesn’t answer the question about whether she had sexual relations with Smith. If she was chosen to testify specifically to answer if she had sex with Smith, (as Hales claims) she did a poor job of fulfilling the wishes of those that supposedly chose her for that reason.  If this was so very important, then why not have the women include having sex with Joseph Smith in the affidavits they produced on polygamy? This line of reasoning by Hales is bizarre and speculative. In fact, this question (about what was more important) was addressed in her testimony:

584 Q. Who called you here?
A. President Woodruff told me that I was wanted here, and when I came here I supposed all you wanted to know was that Joseph Smith had more wives than one.
585. Q. Well that is not what we are specifically interested in, what he taught you is what we want to know.
A. Well, what he taught me is what I will not tell you. I testified that I was his wife, and that is the truth, and I know that I am to be eternally his wife.
586. Q. And you know you did not have any children by him?
A. Well now that is something that that I did not tell you anything about at all. It is none of your business if we had twenty sons or children, and it is none of your business if we did not have any.
587. Q. What did you consider Joseph Smith to be?
A. I considered him to be a man of God sir, a great, good and holy man of God.
588. And you consider the present Joseph Smith to be your son, by virtue of the fact that you married his father, don’t you.
A. I do not.
589. But you married his father?
A. Yes sir.
590. Q. Then why do you not consider him to be your son?
A. If he will acknowledge me as his mother, and acknowledge his error and believe as I do, I shall be very happy to consider him as my son.[52] 

Obviously, the sex was not as important as having these women admit they were his wives, something that all of the women that testified thought they were there for. Even though some of them answered questions about conjugal relations frankly, they were all indignant and argumentative about answering such personal questions; (even Malissa Willes got frustrated after a time) and we see that Lucy Walker Kimball refused to do so. What is ironic is that Hales will accept the ambiguous “he was my husband” as evidence of sexuality in this “marriage”, yet he will not accept any such evidence when it challenges his assumptions about Smith’s polyandrous “marriages”.

This speculation by Hales and Gregory L. Smith is a red herring. To not take into account that the Mormon Hierarchy did not want the polyandrous wives to testify because of what that would imply (women being “married” to two husbands at the same time) to the world is disingenuous. (If they even knew which wives actually had sex with Smith). Two men “married” to the same woman and both possibly having sexual relations with her? Would they want to reveal or promote this? To be embarrassed by what this might imply? These women were also asked if their “marriages” to Smith were for time and eternity. They may not have wanted the polyandrous wives to answer this question.

With embarrassing or conflicting doctrines, the hierarchy was apt to lie or obfuscate them. Lorenzo Snow perjured himself when he was asked if he knew about the Law of Adoption.[53] Joseph F. Smith also perjured himself on multiple occasions during the Reed Smoot Hearings.[54]

V. Still More Sylvia Lyon Speculation

Hales writes (quoted above):

But there is one other evidence that Todd will cite, to say that Sylvia Sessions was sealed to Joseph early, and that is that she witnessed the sealing of her mother in March of 1942. [sic] Now that clearly indicates that Sylvia was a polygamy insider. But the problem is that I’ve identified seventeen other men and women who are not polygamous who did witness these marriages. (They are: Fanny Huntington, Cornelius Lott, Permelia Lott, Joseph Lott, Amanda Lott, Benjamin F. Johnson, Elizabeth Whitney, Sarah Godshall Phillips, Julia Stone, Hettie Stone, Mary Ellen Harris Able, James Adams, Joseph B. Noble, Dimick B. Huntington, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and Newel K. Whitney.) It’s just not strong evidence. So the whole timeline that Todd presents, which is more or less a plausible course of sexual polyandry, just falls apart.

Hales tries to infer that because some of those who participated in plural marriages were not polygamists, but only “insiders”, that this somehow nullifies Compton’s timeline for the “marriage”. There were obviously some who helped Joseph to “marry” women that he wanted for spiritual wives who were not polygamous, but were still “insiders”. For example:

Fanny Huntington was the wife of Dimick B. Huntington, sister in law to Zina and Prescinda and was a witness to Zina’s “marriage” to Joseph Smith. (Polygamy insider).

Cornelius Lott was the father of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Permilia Darrow Lott was the mother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Joseph Darrow Lott was the brother of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Harriet Amanda Lott was the sister of Melissa Lott Wiles, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives.  (Polygamy insider)

Benjamin F. Johnson was the brother of Almera and Delcena Johnson, both of whom “married” Joseph Smith. (Polygamy insider).

Joseph Bates Nobel was married to Mary Beaman, a sister of Louisa Beaman, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider)

Sarah Godshall Phillips was the mother of Catherine Phillips Smith who was one of Hyrum Smith’s plural wives. (Polygamy insider)

Julia Stone was the wife of Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council which had the polygamy “revelation” presented to them in May of 1843. She was a member of the Relief Society.  (Polygamy insider)

Hettie Stone was the daughter of Julia and Robert Stone who was a member of the Nauvoo High Council. (Polygamy insider)

Mary Ellen Harris Abel was the spiritual wife of Heber C. Kimball who he married in 1843. (Polygamy insider)

Dimick B. Huntington was the brother of Zina D. Huntington, one of Joseph’s spiritual wives and helped Smith win her over to Smith. (Polygamy insider)

Brigham Young : As soon as he got back from England he was informed about polygamy. He also claimed later that he got a testimony about it while in England. (Polygamy insider).

Willard Richards: He was living with Marinda Hyde in the Times and Seasons building while Orson Hyde was on his mission. (Polygamy insider).

James Adams was another polygamy insider who supposedly “married” Smith to some of his spiritual wives. (Polygamy insider).

All of these people were polygamy “insiders” and some became polygamists during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Compton’s point was that Sylvia Sessions was a polygamy insider, having witnessed her mother’s “marriage” to Joseph—therefore she knew about the spiritual wife doctrine and so could easily have been “married” to Joseph a month before her mother was. Is it the only evidence that supports this date? No, but Hales acts like it is, after trying to disqualify the 1842 date in Affidavit Book 1.

Patty_Bartlett_Sessions

Patty Bartlett Sessions

Sylvia was present at her mother’s marriage in 1842, and gave the time of her “marriage” as during the same period that Zina Young and Eliza Snow were “married” to Smith (1841-2), and her husband’s disfellowshipment from the Church, (1842). Smith therefore would have “married” Sylvia and Patty within a short time of each other (February/March 1842) and there is evidence that he did so with the Partridge Sisters, (Both in March, 1843) and the Lawrence Sisters (Both in May, 1843). He also “married” Zina and Prescinda Huntington within a month of each other (October/December 1841). So when it came to related pairs of women, Joseph had a penchant for “marrying” them very close together. If this did  not happen with Sylvia and Patty, it would be the only exception.[55] I exclude the two Johnson sisters Delcena and Almera who were supposedly “married” a year apart, because the date of Delcena’s “marriage” to Smith is not known and only a year (sometime in 1842) was given by her brother Benjamin with no other details, who gives conflicting accounts about polygamy in his various statements. So an 1842 “marriage” date for Delcena is very questionable.[56]

If you can truly understand what happened between Joseph Smith and the Lyons and make a competent analysis from Hales’ disjointed and scattered FAIRMORMON Presentation above, you did better than I could.  So to make this very clear and easy to comprehend, let’s look at a timeline of events:

April 21, 1838— Joseph Smith marries 19 year old Sylvia Sessions to Windsor P. Lyon.[57]

c. 1840-1841—Windsor P. Lyon built a drug and variety store on Hotchkiss Street between Main and Hyde streets. …Within in a year of his arrival in Nauvoo, Lyon had opened his store, which sold “Dry Goods, Groceries, Crockery, Glass, and Hardwares. Books and Stationery [sic]. Drugs and Medicines, Paints and Dye stuffs, Boots, Shoes, Military Goods; and a thousand other articles too numerous to mention”[58]

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

Sylvia Sessions Lyon

February 8, 1842—Smith and Sylvia are “married”, but Sylvia and Windsor continue to live together as man and wife.[59]

March 9, 1842—Patty Bartlett Sessions writes in her journal, “I was sealed to Joseph Smith by Willard Richards March 9 1842 in Newel K Whitney’s chamber Nauvoo, for time and all eternity…Sylvia my daughter was presant when I was sealed”[60]

March 20, 1842—Joseph Smith preaches to a large assembly in the grove, but seeing the dead child of Windsor P. Lyon causes him to change his remarks.[61]

1842-1844—Joseph Smith III writes in 1894: “There was a scandal about Mrs. Lyons, while yet in Nauvoo, but on inquiry was either fruitless of results; it was hushed up, whitewashed. But she was then a married woman, her husband a storekeeper, his store known as the “Lion Store” because of a painted lion used as a sign.”[62]

June 1842—Windsor Lyon appointed aide-de-camp to major general in Nauvoo Legion, June 1842.[63]

August 12, 1842—Patty Sessions records in her diary that she was making shirts for Joseph Smith.[64]

October 9 1842—Emmeline Wells writes, “”Windsor Lyon, her [Patty Sessions] daughter’s husband, went to St. Louis to purchase goods.” [65]

November 7, 1842—Windsor Lyon is disfellowshipped by William Marks, President of the Nauvoo Stake, for trying to collect a debt from Marks , but there is no evidence that he moved out of his house, or that his wife did either.

William Marks against Windsor P. Lyon.

“To the High Council of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I prefer a charge against Windsor P. Lyon for instituting a suit at law against me on the 4th of November, and for other acts derogatory to the character of a christian

Nauvoo Nov. 7th 1842.

William Marks, complainant”

Defendant said that the suit was instituted by him, in another man’s name, therefore, did not think he was in fault &c. Two were appointed to speak on the case, viz;  [Newel] Knight and [William] Huntington [Sr.].

The charge was fully sustained. The president then decided that, unless he humble himself and repent, the hand of fellowship be with drawn from him, which decision was unanimously sanctioned by the Councillors[66] 

November 8, 1842—Tuesday, 8.—This afternoon [Joseph Smith] called upon Windsor P. Lyon and others to make affidavits concerning the frauds and irregularities practiced in the post office in Nauvoo. A petition was drawn and signed by many, and sent by Squire Warren to Judge Young, [U.S. senator from Illinois] with a request that the latter should present the same to the postmaster general, and use his influence to have the present postmaster removed, and a new one appointed. I was recommended for the appointment. In the afternoon officiated in court as mayor at my house.[67]

December 24, 1842—24[th] P.M. Read and revised history. [Joseph] Walked with Sec[retary Richards] to see Sister [Sylvia] Lyon who was sick. Her babe died 30 minutes before he arrived. Thence to Bro[ther] Sabin[‘s] to get some money for expences to [go to] Springfield, having just borrowed $100 of Nehemiah Hatch.[68]

Asa W. Lyon, son of Windsor and Sylvia Lyon, was twelve hours old when he died. His gravestone gives 25 December 1842 as the date of his death.[69]

February 8, 1843—An alternate date (most likely a copy error) for the Sylvia Lyon “marriage” to Smith.[70]

February 12, 1843—Lyon loans Joseph Smith $500, even though he is disfellowshipped.[71] Emmeline B Wells wrote for the Woman’s Exponent in 1884:

On the 12th of February she [Patty Sessions] says Bro. Joseph was at her house, and Mr. Lyons, Sylvia’s husband, lent him five hundred dollars.[72]  Why would Joseph not meet Windsor at his own house if they were separated?

September 18, 1843. Monday.—A.M. at President Joseph’s …Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyon. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyon and paid it to D. D. Yearsley.[73]

January 11, 1844—Windsor P. Lyon—still disfellowshipped, and Sylvia, living as man and wife, host the marriage of William H. Kimball, son of Heber C. Kimball, to Mary Davenport. Helen Mar Kimball wrote,

On the 11th of May [1844] following, my brother William H. and Mary Davenport were joined in wedlock by father at the house of Winsor P. Lyon…[74]

September 10 Tuesday—I was sick. Went to B. Young. He and my self went to the foot of Main St. The Ospra[y] Landed thare. Elder Hide left fore Ohio, Elder Ri[g]don left. We held a council at B. Young. Judg Demming met with us. Went Br. Lyons. Elder Limon sick. From thence went to Br. Geens, then to Br. Cheaces [Ezra Chase?]. They ware sealled. All wright. Held a council at B. Youngs concerning Legion & Arsnal.[75]

September 21 Saturday—Went to Br. Haltons and Sealled Him to his dead wife, and gave the family council. From thence went to Winser Lyons [Windsor P. Lyons], found B. Young, A. Limon, had a smart chat.[76]

Tuesday, September 24.—I attended council at Winsor P. Lyons. Six of the brethren of the Twelve were present, and Elder Joseph Young [senior President of the Seventy]. We selected seventy [p.xxix] presidents to preside over the seventies—over the ten quorums of the seventies then in contemplation, and fifty high priests to preside over different sections of the country.[77]

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

Willard & Jennetta Richards with son Heber John

December 20, 1844—Willard Richards writes in his journal, “I went out with her [his wife Jennetta] as far as Mr. Lyons where we called and drank a glass of wine were very kindly entertained by Mrs. Lyon.”[78]

3 February 1845—I would remark that on the eighteenth of January that my brother in law Winsor P. Lyon and my cosen Enock B. Tripp were baptized under the hand of brother Heber C. Kimball one of the Twelve this give the connection a time of rejoicing to see them Obey the truth on the twentieth after receiving my indewments in the house of the Lord with Lucina my wife.”[79]

Friday, Aug. 5, 1845—About 6 p.m. Dr. [Franklin Richards] returned and at sundown drove me [Thomas Bullock] to [Windsor] Lyons to get 12 grains of quinine…” [60 grains is about a teaspoon full][80]

Saturday, Oct. 25, 1845—Copying Baptisms for the dead nearly all day. Doing errands the remainder. That mean little fellow, [Windsor] Lyons, refused to trust Dr. Willard Richards five cents on my [Thomas Bullock] buying some quinine saying “I will not trust Dr. Willard Richards or any one else &c.” when the poor simpelton will have to sacrifice his all at the Drs. feet in a few months. Such is the effect of a grasping avaricious disposition, which proves “it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven”.[81]

This may be a reason that Windsor did not travel west with the “Saints”, but rather chose to settle in Iowa City. From the account above, he would have had to “sacrifice his all” to the Twelve if he chose to move west with the “Saints”. Also, Windsor had been burned twice loaning money to Mormon “Authorities” and he was probably not keen on giving out any more credit to others.

Thomas Bullock

Thomas Bullock

1 February, 1846—On Sunday morning, February 1, 1846, Heber C. Kimball came to the house of Mr. Windsor P. Lyon in order to rebaptize him into the church and they sent up to the temple and got a large bath tub. The mob violence was so strong, Heber C. Kimball did not dare to do it in public.”[82]

January 26, 1846, Windsor Lyon, now restored to High Priest, accompanied Sylvia to the Nauvoo Temple where she was sealed to the now deceased Joseph Smith for eternity and also sealed to Heber Kimball for time. Sylvia, now married to Smith for eternity, and Kimball and Lyon for time, continued to live with Lyon as man and wife.[83]

January or February 1846—Windsor, living with Sylvia, is sealed to Susanne Eliza Gee for eternity.  By February, Sylvia is simultaneously married for time to Kimball and Lyon is married to Gee for eternity.  But the evidence is that even with this complex polyandrous arrangement, Sylvia and Lyon lived together as man and wife as shown by the fact that Windsor and Sylvia (also still married for time to Kimball) had two more children.[84]

If this behavior is acceptable then, why was it not during Joseph Smith’s lifetime? Why would Sylvia even be married to Kimball for “time” and why would Sylvia agree to it when she was married to Windsor and moved with him to Iowa City a few months later?

April 19, 1846—Patty Sessions receives a letter from “Windsor and Sylvia” from Nauvoo[85]

June 1, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from Windsor “Lyon stating he was not coming but going to Iowa city.”[86]

June 23, 1846—Patty Sessions receives letter from “Sylvia Dated June 3d said she was going to Iowa in a week.”[87]

The above entries could be taken to mean that they went separately, but we know they did not.

April 21, 1847—Sylvia and Josephine visit Patty Sessions at Winter Quarters[88]

May 1, 1847—Patty Sessions writes, Sylvia and I went to a meeting to Sister Leonards none but females there we had a good metting I presided it was got up by E R Snow they spoke in toungues I interpreted some prophesied it was a feast.”[89]

May 5, 1847, Sylvia gets ready to leave Winter Quarters to return to Iowa City, and Eliza Snow writes her a poem which Patty records in her diary[90]  Snow writes of Sylvia’s husband Windsor and Josephine,

But thy husband will caress the[e],
And thy sweet angelic child,
With her growng charms will bless thee
Thus the hours will be beguiled, [..]

May 9, 1847—Sylvia leaves Winter Quarters.[91]

September 4, 1847—Byron Windsor Lyon was born to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[92]

August 8, 1848—David Carlos Lyon was born in Iowa City to Sylvia and Windsor Lyon.[93]

January, 1849—Windsor Lyon dies in Iowa City, Slyvia remarries Gentile, Ezekiel Clark on January 1, 1850. In July 1849, Heber received a letter from Sylvia requesting her family to come and get her. In October her older brother Perrigrine came to get her. His trip from the west (600 miles through snow) was very difficult and he arrived to find Sylvia getting married to a well to do Gentile: Ezekiel Clark. Perrigrine was upset and returned to Utah with David Jr.[94] In Sacred Loneliness, pg 193) She had three children by Ezekiel before deciding to leave him. She “realized that he was very intolerant of her religion and resentful of the fact that she was sealed to the Prophet.” Perregrine came east once again to take her to Utah. Clark cooperated with her wishes to rejoin her family in Utah[95]  Later Clark traveled to Utah to try and convince her to return with him to Iowa with the children, but she refused. In Utah, Sylvia would go to visit her other husband Heber C. Kimball.[96]

What I found interesting is that in her book “Mormon Midwife” Donna Toland Smart writes that,

“Family tradition also records that during the administration of Wilford Woodruff, Sylvia had the sealing to Joseph Smith canceled and was sealed to Windsor P. Lyon.[97]

In his Book Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Hales again uses a source for separation that doesn’t mention it. He writes,

Available documents show that Sylvia rejoined Windsor shortly after his rebaptism on February 1, 1846. The date is recorded by Enoch Tripp, a relative of Patty Sessions, who wrote: “On Sunday morning, February 1, 1846, Heber C. Kimball came to the house of Mr. Windsor P. Lyon in order to rebaptize him into the church and they sent up to the temple and got a large bath tub. The mob violence was so strong, Heber C. Kimball did not dare to do it in public.” Questions concerning the paternity of three-year-old Josephine might have quickly faded after the couple reunited.[98]

This document only mentions that Windsor Lyon was rebaptized on that date. How Hales can claim that this has anything to do with some kind of reunion, or that she “joined him shortly after his baptism,” is baffling.  We find that there is not one credible source that Hales can cite that clearly shows Sylvia and Windsor were ever separated or divorced.

Hales tries to make something out of the fact that when Sylvia or Windsor are mentioned in Journal entries, they are mentioned alone. This is not unusual and isn’t credible evidence to prove a separation. Hales writes,

A couple of accounts refer to the residence of “Sister Lyons,” without including any mention of Windsor. On September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D. D. Yearsley.” Another example is found when the Partridge sisters, Emily and Eliza, needed new lodgings in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” The differentiation between “the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge” and “Sister Sylvia Lyons” suggests again that the Windsor was not sharing the residence of his wife at that time.[99]

Hales cites Andrew Jenson’s Notes (from an anonymous source) which claim that Windsor Lyon “left the church” so that is why Sylvia Sessions “married” Joseph, or that is why it was all right for him to do so. (He seems to be making both of these claims).

But why do Jenson’s Notes fail to mention that Sylvia Sessions moved with Lyon to Iowa in 1846 and had two children with him there? Why the omission? Eliza Snow visited with Sylvia in 1846 at Winter Quarters. She obviously would have known they moved to Iowa together as a married couple. So who did Jenson get his information from? Patty Sessions wrote in her diary in 1847:

Sunday [February] 14 [1847] Went to meeting then in the evening collected Zina ^Jacobs^ Eliza Snow sister Marcum [Markham] ^at^ sister Buels to pray for Sylvia and child that they might be delivered from bondage and Windsor and David come here with them we prayed sung in toungues spoke in toungues and had a good time then went ^to^ put sister Oakley to bed[100]

But as we see from the timeline, there is nothing to support that Sylvia “married” Joseph because Windsor left the Church. And he didn’t leave the Church, he was disfellowshipped by William Marks for suing him. He was still friends with and loaned money to and supported Joseph in his endeavors. According to Brian Hales though:

The question exists whether Windsor, after his excommunication, moved back in with Sylvia and continued conjugal relations with her. Windsor must have returned to Nauvoo within weeks. However, a review of available historical documents from 1842–1844 provides a few references to Sylvia or Windsor in Nauvoo, but they do not describe them as being together. For example, on September 18, William Clayton recorded: “Joseph and I rode out to borrow money, drank wine at Sister Lyons. P.M. I got $50 of Sister Lyons and paid it to D.D. Yearsley.” Another example is found with the Partridge daughters, Emily and Eliza, who needed new lodging in the latter half of 1843. Emily wrote: “My sister Eliza found a home with the family of Brother Joseph Coolidge, and I went to live with Sister Sylvia Lyons.” Land records for Nauvoo show that Windsor owned a store with attached living quarters, as well as a house located less than a block away that was later converted to a store. It is possible that the couple was separated but lived close to each other so Windsor could participate in parental responsibilities for their daughter Philofreen (b. June 1841).Without addressing the numerous theological problems associated with theories that Joseph Smith practiced sexual polyandry at any time (see “POLYANDRY” webpage on this website), the available evidence does not support that Windsor Lyon was cohabiting with Sylvia after his excommunication.[101]

Hales claims that Windsor left Nauvoo and went… where? He left his business and his wife simply because he got disfellowshipped? And then he mysteriously “returned within weeks.” From where? And why would he leave? All of his property was in Nauvoo. There is no record that he sold anything. Hales also claims that because Sylvia bought a lot from Joseph for $500, that this is proof of her separation from Windsor. But where did she get the money from? Can Hales prove that they had separate finances at this time? That Windsor did not provide the funds for her? Sylvia was only 24 years old in 1842. Where are the divorce documents that split their property, houses, money, resources? None of this is provided by Hales.Evidence of Religious Divorce Sylvia & Windsor Lyon

So, where is there any credible evidence that Windsor moved out of Nauvoo in 1842? There isn’t any. Windsor had a drug store at this time and it had living quarters in the back of the store where either of them could have lived. Donna Toland Smart writes that Enoch Bartlett Tripp when he arrived in Nauvoo “visited his cousin Sylvia at Lyons Drug Store–a part of which served as her [Sylvia Sessions] home.  She sent for her mother Patty, who was happy to greet her nephew.”[102]

The problem that I see with this is that Hales must think that Windsor had to be living constantly in the same house at all times to be enjoying conjugal relations. Was Joseph Smith living with Sylvia Lyon? Yet Hales allows him to visit her and have conjugal relations; but this is impossible for Windsor?

For all we know Windsor agreed to the relationship and facilitated it by staying at his house and allowing Sylvia to stay at the store. After all, he did believe in Joseph Smith and supported him in his prophetic role. Obviously it didn’t bother Windsor too much that Joseph Smith had a child with his legally married wife (as it did Sylvia’s second husband Elijah) because they stayed together until his death and he fathered two more children with Sylvia. And because Josephine is the only child produced between 1843 and 1847 they did not have sex? What about miscarriages? Does Hales know positively that Sylvia never had one? What is interesting is that they have not proved conclusively that Josephine is even Joseph’s daughter. If this turns out to be true, then Sylvia’s admission still stands and we have her and Joseph committing adultery.

As for Joseph not mentioning Sylvia and Windsor together in Journal entries, that isn’t evidence for anything. He may have drank wine with Sylvia when Windsor wasn’t home, or Windsor may have been staying at another location so Joseph could have private time with Sylvia also. Willard Richards recorded that he and his wife drank wine with both of them in 1844 and he identified her as “his wife”. He was, after all, married to her. This indicates there was no divorce or separation. Hales quotes Emily Partridge, but Emily also wrote when she went to live in Joseph Smith’s home:

While things, with us, were in this condition, Sister Emma (Smith) sent for me to come and live with her and nurse her baby.[103]

Do we assume here, that Emma was living alone without Joseph because she worded the entry this way? We know that wasn’t true because in another version of her history, Emily wrote,

I got a place (or Joseph did for me) with a respectable family.  The lady was very kind to me in some things, and I suppose she meant to be in everything, and I felt very thankful to her, but the work was rather hard.  I had to sleep in the same room with her and her husband in order to be where I could get up nights and tend her baby when it was worrisome.  Some nights I would get up several times and have sat before the fire nodding for hours trying to get the baby to sleep. I made no complaints, but left when I thought I could stand it no longer. (“What I remember,” compiled by Emily Dow Partridge, April 7, 1884, CHL, Ms d 2845 fd 1, approximately 125 page typescript).

Here, Emily explains that Joseph found her a place to live, and that she had to take care of the baby and sleep in the same room with “her and her husband”. This would be Sylvia and Windsor Lyon. Hales is familiar with this evidence, he quotes from it. Why would he leave this out and quote another, more ambiguous statement?

Everything to Hales must be black or white. Windsor couldn’t have shared his wife with Smith, he couldn’t have moved out to accommodate the prophet (if he did), and he couldn’t have been visiting his wife to have sexual relations during the period that Joseph Smith was doing so because? It would be adultery? Well according to Smith’s 1842 Address that is what it was. We already know that according to Joseph E. Johnson, Joseph had committed adultery with his Mother-in-law, Mary Heron Snider.[104] Remember, Joseph Smith taught in 1841 that “some sin is not sin”.[105]

If Smith was willing to break his own First Presidency Address and “marry” and have sex with a woman who had not obtained a legal divorce, why would he worry about committing adultery? After all, the Lord assured Joseph that he never did commit adultery in his July, 1843 “revelation”. But what was Joseph’s definition of adultery? I guess it depends on who you asked. Amanda Cobb (one of Brigham Young’s “wives”, claimed that Joseph could impregnate her and it would all be fine because he could then later “seal” them.[106]

But all this is not credible evidence to Brian Hales. As D. Michael Quinn plainly explains concerning Hales and his closed system of logic,

By contrast, nothing–not co-residence of legally married couples, not saying “I was the wife of another man for time while I continued to live with my legal husband,” not childbirth that the wife attributed to her “other” husband, NOTHING–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. For example, Hales, “Joseph Smith and the Puzzlement of `Polyandry,'”  (“Researchers who accept Josephine’s 1915 statement as evidence that she was Joseph’s offspring cannot easily reject … the implication that [her publicly assumed father] Windsor’s church estrangement was interpreted by Josephine as an official separation or divorce … Neither is there any indication that Josephine thought her mother was simultaneously married to two men polyandrously or that Sylvia [her mother] continued to cohabit with Windsor …”),  (“It is true that some later reminiscences [by already-married women] state that their sealings [to Joseph Smith] in Nauvoo were for `time and eternity. ‘However, to assume that the women were remembering the exact language may not be warranted… to presuppose that sexual relations were present based solely on a late memoir that declared a Nauvoo marriage (`polyandrous’ or not) was for `time and eternity’ would be unjustified by the documents alone”),  (“observing that a woman lived under the same roof with a man does not verify a sexual connection between her and her legal husband”).In fact, Hales has acknowledged (105-06) that he makes an evidentiary requirement that is unachievable: “… to openly refer to a polyandrous sexual involvement would be very extraordinary. … Hence, the women would be essentially declaring themselves to be unchaste. Zina, Lucinda, and Presendia all partook of the conservative Victorian standards of the time and were devout Latter-day Saints. It seems highly unlikely that these women would make such comments.”[107].

Yet, they all entered into polygamy which was just as repulsive to their Victorian standards What would be the difference between sexual polyandry and polygamy? It was all abominable to them, yet Joseph taught that even something that appears abominable, might not be. And they believed him. For Hales, the line gets drawn at polyandry. Can he explain why Joseph stopped “marrying” women that were already married after he dictated the July “revelation”? Dan Vogel, in an exchange with Hales, wrote,

Since he [Joseph Smith] engaged in polyandry before his teachings were given in D&C 132:61, that could be read as repentance. It happens that the verse right before the anti-polyandry passage warns Emma and other followers not to judge JS: “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, [His polyandrous “marriages”] saith the Lord your God” (v. 60). This just might be the reason no one “set on” JS as you insist should have happened.[108]

This is an astute observation by Dan that Hales rejects. Hales would believe the carefully crafted polygamy narrative that Joseph started practicing polygamy in 1835 after being prodded by an angel, failed with Fanny Alger and then had to be prodded two more times in Nauvoo. He had actually received a “revelation” in 1831, but the Church “wasn’t ready” for it, so Joseph waited and then dictated it again in 1843. This allows for no repentance or adultery from Joseph and therefore he simply didn’t commit any so one must change the nature of the “marriages” that Smith participated in before 1843.

Brian Hales instead presents this timeline of events:

-JS learns of PM in early 1830s

-Angel comes in 1834 directing him to PM

-Alger marriage occurs in 1835 (not 1833) – disastrous for JS and Emma and Alger

-Keys of sealing received in 1836 (section 110)

-Due to bad experience with Alger, JS hesitates to use the keys for five years

-between 1836-1841 the angel comes again with drawn sword requiring not only PM but eternal sealings

-Joseph fulfills the angel’s directive in 1841 with the first sealing to Louisa Beaman

-non-sexual pseudo-polyandry ensue allowing JS to fulfill the letter of the law (the law as the angel demanded) for 8/9 of JS’s next polygamous marriages that occur during the next 15 months

-1842 the angel comes a third time telling JS to practice polygyny rather than pseudo-polyandry[109]

The more balanced Todd Compton writes:

Finally, one wonders why these “first husbands” apparently acquiesced to their wives’ marriages to Joseph. One possibility is that they were promised spiritual rewards in return. Such was the case with the fathers of three “single” plural wives. When Fanny Alger was married to Joseph, her family looked upon the sealing as an honor to them, according to Ann Eliza Webb. In the same way, when Sarah Whitney was sealed to Joseph, he rebaptized her parents and gave special blessings to her father, Newel Whitney. Heber C. Kimball wanted his daughter Helen to marry Joseph so that there would be an eternal connection between the two families, and Joseph himself told her that the marriage to him would ensure her family’s salvation.

If we can apply these phenomena to the polyandrous families, including the husbands, it would explain some of the dynamics of polyandrous marriages: the husbands may have been promised that Joseph’s marriage to their wives would contribute to their own exaltation after this life. “Buckeye’s Lament,” a piece of anti-Joseph doggerel published shortly before his death, supports this interpretation. “But if you yield willingly,/ Your daughters and your wives,/ In spiritual marriage to our POPE,/ He’ll bless you all your lives;/ He’ll seal you up, be damned you can’t, No matter what you do—If that you only stick to him,/ He swears HE’LL take you through.” The phrase “your daughters and your wives” clearly suggests that Joseph offered salvation to “first husbands,” as well as to the fathers of his brides.

It should also be borne in mind that the men and women involved in Nauvoo polygamy and polyandry did not understand it thoroughly; it was new doctrine; it was not preached openly; and though Joseph taught polygamy to his inner circle, practical experience often differed from didactic religious doctrine. So a husband giving his wife to Joseph may not have understood fully what the marriage meant. Helen Mar Kimball, a non-polyandrous wife, found her marriage to Joseph to mean more on an earthly plane than she had expected. Possibly the husbands and wives in polyandrous triangles had the same experience. In Nauvoo-period theological terminology, there was some ambiguity in the terms “sealing” and “marriage,” and it is possible that some men and women did not understand that “sealing” also meant “marriage” and included sexual relations. It is unfortunate that we do not have a full, frank memoir from even one of the polyandrous “first husbands”; we only have two autobiographies from two polyandrous wives, Mary Elizabeth Rollins and Zina Huntington.[110]

As Dan Vogel tried to patiently explain to Brian Hales:

Yes, you have criticize my use of a late source from the daughter of a woman near South Bainbridge who said JS tried to get her to be one of his spiritual wives; yet you use Jenson’s unattributed late note about Ruth Vose Sayers because it serves your purpose.

I’ve told you why the subsequent statements of BY, HCK, and OP on polyandry are not relevant, and it’s not because I don’t like what they say. It was a point of logic.

When I say you (as well as BY, HCK, and OP) have equivocal definitions of polyandry, I mean you use one that is not standard. The idea that one can change partners without a bill of divorcement and not be polyandry is arbitrary. You said JS probably had sex with three women who were legally married to other men—that’s polyandry. It doesn’t matter that the husbands were not present. Remember I said Bennett got in trouble for this very thing?

You say that I “want to tie polygamy to sex” as if that is strange. What is strange is that you want to separate sex from polygamy. You are putting undo emphasis on one aspect and not to the context. There is nothing in D&C 132 that talks about “eternity only” marriage, or even implies it. The revelation doesn’t contemplate such situations. Indeed, as you have discussed, it is anti-polyandry and makes no distinction between sexual and non-sexual situations. You are trying to make it say something that it’s not designed to do. Exaltation and sex are nearly synonyms. The whole point of verses 16-17 is that without exaltation one remains single and unable to “be enlarged”. It’s not just marriage; it’s a “continuation of the seeds” (verse 19). Damnation is the inability to procreate.

Ruth Vose Sayers doesn’t prove your interpretation of D&C 132 right. In fact, it doesn’t prove anything about the general practice of polygamy or JS’s views.

Your analogy doesn’t work, because there is not an assumption that Rigdon would perform human sacrifice. Whereas there is an assumption that marriage includes sex. Rigdon’s performance of human sacrifice would be an extraordinary claim that would naturally arouse skepticism and therefore the burden would be on the one asserting the affirmative. Your assertion for non-sexual polyandry is the one that naturally arouses skepticism because it isn’t what is expected from marriage. Sex in marriages is a warranted assumption. So the burden is on you. You can’t shift that burden and then claim that the proof of your theory is the inability of your opponent to disprove it. That’s argumentum ad ignorantiam, which “consists in arguing that a claim is true (or false) because there is no evidence or proof to the contrary.”[111]

A further problem with the Elizabeth Rollins and Zina Huntington autobiographies is that they are very late, and they are extremely apologetic to Joseph Smith. Compton further explains:

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 . . . 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 be 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.

This is a radical, almost utopian rejection of civil, secular, sectarian, non-Mormon marriage. Such “lower” marriage was even a “sin” unless a higher “affinity” cemented the partners together.

Another relevant doctrinal statement comes from an 1861 speech by Brigham Young, which is preserved in two versions:

Also there was another way—in which a woman could leave [a] man—if the woman Preferred—another man higher in authority & he is willing to take her. & her husband gives her up—there is no Bill of divorce required in the case it is right in the sight of God.

The Second Way in which a wife can be seperated from her husband, while he continues to be faithful to his God and his preisthood, I have not revealed, except to a few persons in this Church; and a few have received it from Joseph the prophet as well as myself. If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the preisthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is . . . there is no need for a bill of divorcement . . . To recapitulate. First if a man forfiets his covenants with a wife, or wives, becoming unfaithful to his God, and his preisthood, that wife or wives are free from him without a bill of divorcement. Second. If a woman claimes protection at the hands of a man, possessing more power in the preisthood and higher keys, if he is disposed to rescue her and has obtained the consent of her husband to make her his wife he can do so without a bill of divorcement.

This statement gives two options: (1) if a man apostatizes from the church, his wife can leave him without a formal divorce; (2) if a woman desires to be married to a man with greater priesthood authority than her current husband has, and if both men agree, she may be sealed to the second man without formal divorce. Brigham reports that he learned this from Joseph Smith. In some ways, this principle applies to Joseph’s polyandrous marriages. He clearly was regarded as having more priesthood authority than any other living man, so he would be the most authoritative, spiritually desirable, second husband available.

The emphasis on the woman’s desire is notable. In nineteenth-century Utah there are well-documented cases in which women asked to be married to a general authority. In Nauvoo, however, such cases would not be frequent, as polygamy was still secret. Also interesting is the emphasis on the volition of the first husband. This would be consistent with the suggestion made above, that the first husbands in Joseph’s polyandrous marriages often knew about the marriages and permitted them.

The statement by Jedediah Grant referred to above will now be quoted more fully. My explanations are in brackets:

When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, “Joseph says all covenants [previous marriages] are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants [marriage by priesthood sealing power]; 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 [i.e., unwilling to consecrate everything to Joseph as mouthpiece of God] . . . What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? [he would give it all willingly] Or if he came and said, “I want your wife?” “O yes,” he would say, “here she is, there are plenty more” . . . Did the Prophet Joseph want every man’s wife he asked for? He did not . . . the grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, “I want your gold and silver, or your wives,” I should say, “Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got.” A man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters.[112]

Joseph Smith certainly did try to destroy women’s reputations. We have the cases of Sarah Pratt, Martha Brotherton, and Nancy Rigdon to name a few.

“In his endeavors to ruin my [Sarah’s] character Joseph went so far as to publish an extra-sheet containing affidavits against my reputation. When this sheet was brought to me I discovered to my astonishment the names of two people on it, man and wife, with whom I had boarded for a certain time…. I went to their house; the man left the house hurriedly when he saw me coming. I found the wife and said to her rather excitedly: ‘What does it all mean?’ She began to sob. ‘It is not my fault’ said she. ‘Hyrum Smith came to our house, with the affidavits all written out, and forced us to sign them. ‘Joseph and the Church must be saved,’ said he. We saw that resistance was useless, they would have ruined us; so we signed the papers.”[113]

William Law claimed that,

“My wife would not speak evil of … anyone … without cause. Joseph is a liar and not she. That Smith admired and lusted after many men’s wives and daughters, is a fact, but they could not help that. They or most of them considered his admiration an insult, and treated him with scorn. In return for this scorn, he generally managed to blacken their reputations – see the case of… Mrs. Pratt, a good, virtuous woman.”[114]

George D. Smith writes that,

Nancy Tracy recalled that Smith taught the “Celestial Order of Marriage” only to “a few that could bear it.” Evidently one such person was Ebenezer Robinson, who recalled that the “doctrine of spiritual wives” was “talked privately in the church in Nauvoo, in 1841” but that he was invited to participate in 1843. Hyrum Smith “instructed me in Nov or Dec 1843 to make a selection of some young woman and he would seal her to me, and I should take her home,” he recalled, “and if she should have an offspring give out word that she had a husband, an Elder, who had gone on a foreign mission.” Possibly referring to a secluded birthplace, or conceivably to abortion, Robinson spoke of “a place appointed in Iowa, 12 or 18 miles from Nauvoo to send female vic[t]ims to his polygamous births.”[115]

Robinson ultimately rejected polygamy, but stayed with the Church during Smith’s lifetime. Michael Quinn writes,

One response of the Mormon hierarchy toward an unwelcome messenger has been character assassination founded on a common assumption about the general public: “If you discredit the messenger, you discredit the message.” The logic is flawed but often effective.  Linked to character assassination has been the use of excommunication and the designation of “apostate,” particularly in response to partisan accounts of Church history.

Character assassination was common in Nauvoo Mormonism.  In 1842, Nancy Rigdon rejected Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  She told her family, and her brother went public.  As a result, Joseph Smith published affidavits that she had been sexually impure.  In another example, Martha Brotherton published an affidavit about her rejection of Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal.  As a result, he had her sister Elizabeth publish the answer that her sister was a whore and a liar.  Elizabeth Brotherton later became a plural wife of Apostle Parley P. Pratt.[116]

Orson Hyde used the baseless rumors about Nancy Rigdon in an effort to combat the claims made by Sidney Rigdon in a speech before the High Priests Quorum of Nauvoo in April, 1845:

During my absence to Palestine, the conduct of his [Sidney Rigdon’s] daughter, Nancy, became so notorious in this city, according to common rumor, she was regarded generally, little if any better than a public prostitute. Joseph Smith knowing the conduct she was guilty of, felt anxious to reprove and reclaim her if possible. He, accordingly, requested my wife to invite her down to her house. He wished to speak with her and show her the impropriety of being gallanted about by so many different men, many of whom were comparatively strangers to her. Her own parents could look upon it, and think that all was right; being blind to the faults of their daughter.—There being so many of this kind visiting Mr. Rigdon’s house at the steamboat landing, (for he kept some sort of a tavern or boarding house,) that Mr. Smith did not care to go there to see her. Miss Nancy, I presume, considered her dignity highly insulted at the plain and sharp reproofs she received from this servant of God. She ran home and told her father that Mr. Smith wanted her for a spiritual wife, and that he employed my wife to assist him in obtaining her. This was a good time for Miss Nancy and John C. Bennett to wreak vengeance on the victim of their hatred for his severe admonitions. Mr. Bennett I think, was a boarder at Mr. Rigdon’s at that time, and I am told was all hosey with the whole family. No one like Dr. John C. Bennett.[117]

The claims made here by Orson Hyde against Nancy Rigdon are demonstrably false. We know that Joseph Smith did make a proposal to Nancy Rigdon to become one of his spiritual wives, because we have a letter from Joseph Smith to Nancy Rigdon written on the 11th of April, 1842, where he tries to justify what many might consider “abominable” behavior [his spiritual wife doctrine] to her.

And why would many women still choose Joseph? It is not hard to understand why when Joseph Smith told them that their salvation and the salvation of their families depended on accepting his proposition.  According to Sarah Kimball,

“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 with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle.”[118]

Joseph Kingsbury wrote that he served as a surrogate husband for Joseph Smith and that embraced this deception to protect him:

“I according to Pres. Joseph Smith & council & others, I agreed to stand by Sarah Ann Whitney [sealed to Smith 27 July 1843] as though I was supposed to be her husband and a pretended marriage for the purpose of shielding them from the enemy and for the purpose of bringing out the purposes of God.”[119]

Why would they question their “prophet” if they are told, as Joseph Kingsbury was that it was to bring out the purposes of God? Some never did, they just obeyed Smith. That none of the women complained is a weak argument by Hales that he uses over and over again. Of course Joseph didn’t talk about the women who turned him down (how many of them there were we may never know); he was lying in public that he even practiced polygamy. He certainly did not just “let it go” in the case of Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt and Martha Brotherton, because they told other people who made it public and Joseph in turn attacked their characters in an effort to keep his secrets.

Joseph had an ingenuous way to keep the complaints to a minimum. He employed older women to approach the women he wanted to marry and ease them into the idea. He then would work on brothers, fathers and mothers, convincing them that what he did as a “prophet” was right, and that their eternal salvation depended on them helping him to accomplish his goal of multiplying spiritual wives to himself.

Conclusion: “A Panorama of Disagreeable Pictures”

Brian Hales seems to be fixated on inventing scenarios in an effort to try and mitigate the damage the historical sources do to Joseph Smith’s reputation. (Something Joseph warned would happen if anyone did the things that it turned out he was actually doing) To me, it’s all just plain shenanigans. Even if Joseph did not have sex with many of his wives, he still did irreparable damage to many of the women he cajoled into “the principle”. The only saving grace for some of the women was the fact that Smith died and it freed them from him. But others with their blind faith in Joseph and for the principle married other Mormon leaders and lived their lives resigned to the burdens of polygamy while defending it at all costs–because if they did not, what would their sacrifice mean then?

Hales claims that those who are critical of Joseph and his polygamous practices look at these women as mindless automatons. This is simply a shallow accusation that carries no weight. Some of the women who participated in polygamy were highly intelligent, caring individuals. Even though they were asked to do something that went against every tradition they had previously embraced, they stepped up and made “the sacrifice” because of faith and belief in their “prophet”, Joseph Smith.

The results in almost every case were tragic, and they eventually resigned themselves to loveless lives of loneliness and sorrow. Many vacillated between deep resentment and a futuristic hope that their “sacrifice” would see them living in joy in the eternal world to come. Many took solace in their children which seemed to mitigate the regret they felt later in life. Anyone who takes the time to read the histories, diaries and accounts of these women can’t help but be moved by their plight. But there are also those who took up the torch of plural marriage and fanatically defended it with their last breath, even after living through all the hardships that it wrought in their lives. This was their faith, their struggle, and they would not have it be in vain.

Emily Partridge Young with children

Emily Partridge Young with children

In reading the diary of Emily Young I came across these passages that seem to put it all in perspective:

Today I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. My mind goes back to days gone by. And what do I find, can I find anything so pleasant that I could wish to live it over again or even to dwell upon it in thought, with any degree of satisfaction. No I cannot. My life has been like a panorama of disagreeable pictures. As I scan them over one by one, they bring no joy, and I invariably wind up with tears. I have been heart hungry all my life, always hoping against hope, until the years are nearly spent, and hope is dead for this life but bright for the next. And then I ask myself what great or good thing have I done that I should hope for better things in the next world, or what great trial or exploit can I recount like many others perhaps, that will bring honor and greatness. I can only sum it up in one words, that is I am a ‘woman’ or if that is not enough I am a ‘mother’ and still more I am, as the world calls it, ‘spiritual wife’ of early days, when public opinion was like an avalanche burying all such beneath its oppressive weight. Some will understand what it is to be a woman, mother, or an unloved ‘spiritual wife.[120]

Yet, conversely she wrote two days later,

Yesterday I was in a dark mood. Today I am looking for the bright spots. Although they may be few and far between they should not be over-looked and among my greatest blessings I class the fates that I am a mother, and was a spiritual wife.[121]

Such was the conundrum of polygamy.

NOTES

[1] I began seriously researching Joseph Smith’s polygamy at the request of my friend Jeremy Runnells, who had been attacked by Brian Hales.

As for the term “spiritual wife”, those who were familiar with Joseph’s spiritual wife doctrine used this term. The best explanation that I have run across as to why, was given by Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, who was “married” to Joseph Smith. She wrote,

… if “Joseph Smith the younger [Joseph Smith III] was not so young, nor so small, nor so foolish,” etc., as he states, he must have some remembrance of the reports that were afloat not only in the city of the Saints but throughout the country. At that time spiritual wife was the title by which every woman who entered into this order was called, for it was taught and practiced as a spiritual order and not a temporal one, though it was always spoken of sneeringly by those who did not believe in it; but the day will surely come when those who have mocked ad derided this principle and the servants and handmaidens of God who were brave enough to take upon them the cross and bear the stigmas which have been heaped upon them without measure will be among those whom the Savior meant when saying, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Plural Marriage as taught by the Prophet Jospeh Smith, 1882, 15).

Emily Partridge wrote,

Mrs. Durfee invited my sister Eliza and I to her house, to spend the afternoon. She introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in those days.  She wondered if there was any truth in the report we heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to, so I kept my own council and said nothing, but going home I felt impressed to tell Eliza. I knew she would not betray me. She felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed to her soon after….. I learned afterward that Mrs. D. was a friend to plurality and knew all about it…“ (Emily Partridge, Undated Statement, Ms d 2845 fd 1, CHL, added emphasis).

At the Nauvoo City Council in 1844 Joseph Smith himself called it that:

[Eli] Norton said Bro[ther] Law knew about the Spiritual wife system. I never intimated that Bro[ther] Law[’s] life was in danger. I intimated that Bro[ther] Law might be the doe head, previously Bro[ther] Law and me had [a] conversation about stories afloat on spiritual wifes. He thought it was from the devil — and we must put it down[,] that he knew such a thing was in existence & [was] breaking up of families &c.

By Law[:] Did I said not say we have a good foundation [for believing so] because Joseph blowed it all up before the [Nauvoo Stake] High Council & Hyrum before the Elders Quorum? Yes said Cairns, [confirming that] Law did not[,] [in their conversation][,] speak disrespectfully of Joseph or of the Church. [Cairns said he] had no secret conversation with [the] Mayor. Nor [had he received a] charge except before the council [and people had] never heard any thing from me to endanger the life of any man.

[The] Mayor spoke on [the] Spiritual wife system and explained, The man who promises to keep a secret and does not keep it he is a liar and not to be trusted. (Dinger, John S., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 6312-6347).

In 1845 Brigham Young addressed the “Saints” on Joseph’s “spiritual wife system” as he called it:

I would now call your attention to some of the saying[s] of the apostle Paul. I hope you will not stumble at them. Paul says, “nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman. neither the woman without the man, in the Lord, for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the women, but all things of God.” The same Apostle also says, “The woman is the glory of the man.” Now brethren, these are Paul’s sayings, not Joseph Smith’s spiritual wife system sayings. And I would say, as no man can be perfect without the woman, so no woman can be perfect without a man to lead her, I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity; and I say so to every man upon the face of the earth; if he wishes to be saved he cannot be saved without a woman by his side. This is spiritual wifeism, that is, the doctrine of spiritual wives. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 78, April 6, 1845, added emphasis)

In 1847 Young was still referring to plurality of wives as the spiritual wife doctrine”:

There is a general feeling in this church with regard to the doctrine called spiritual wife doctrine. The Lord is [-] in the last struggle between [-]. God the Father will put forth his hand and conquer a [-] of [-] a godly people. The wicked and rebellious will be swallowed by the earth and the substance will be given to the [-] the [-] of staying at home will carry thousands to the devil. I’ve done as I was told, there is not a man have twenty to twenty-five but I can get five wives to his one, who gave me that power, I got it by being faithful, there is not a girl[,] etc[.] [T]ake all you can get and see what you can do go a preach[ing]? that I may gather thousands they want to give? that [-] of [-] they must take what’s behind because they have gone? [-] have brought? it in when my train and his train filled the temple, they want to drive and command and tell me its the duty to be sealed to me and then they can come trailing behind you, its your works will follow you to glory or misery – let the word come now, I never was more willing to go than tonight. I’m going right into the world and deal unrightly. I cant do this because I have a wife the Lord will raise up a hold seed. is it right? wait, that’s enough for me when a man has proved himself.  (ibid., 230 18 June, 1847, Greasewood Creek, Wyoming).

In 1849 Young reminisced about when he first learned of the spiritual wife doctrine, as it was then called:

The spiritual wife doctrine came upon me while abroad, in such a manner that I never forget. Particular things belong to one blood, but, after all, we are of one blood and one flesh, all the nations of the earth. Joseph said to me—“I command you to go and get another wife.” I felt as if the grave was better for me than anything, but I was filled with the Holy Ghost, so that my wife and BrotherKimball’s wife would upbraid me for lightness in those days. I could jump up and hollow. [holler] My blood was as clear as West India rum, and my flesh was clear. I said to Joseph, “Suppose I should apostatize, after taking another wife, would not my family be worse off?” Joseph answered—“There are certain bounds set to men, and if a man is faithful and pure to these bounds, God will take him out of the world; if he sees him falter, he will take him to himself. You are past these bounds, Brigham, and you have this consolation.” But I never had any fears of not being saved. Then I said to Joseph, I was ready to go ahead. He passed certain bounds before certain revelations were given. (Richard S. VanWagoner, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 321, February 16, 1849).

Still, Brian Hales claims,

Contradictory evidence exists concerning Don Carlos’ feelings toward plural marriage. An 1892 account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Agnes in Nauvoo after Don Carlos’ death, states: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband, Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].”  However, in 1890, Ebenezer Robinson quoted him saying: “Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery will go to hell, I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph.” Robinson added: “He was a bitter opposer of the ‘spiritual wife’ doctrine.” The recollection is problematic because there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery” in 1841.

Hales repeats these lines when he lambastes Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”:

Beam quotes Don Carlos Smith as saying: “Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery will go to hell: I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph” (89). The quote is from a 1890 recollection from apostate Ebenezer Robinson and contradicts an account from Mary Ann West, who lived with Don Carlos’ wife Agnes after his August 7, 1841, death in Nauvoo. West recalled in 1892: “She [Agnes] told me herself she was [married to Joseph Smith]. . . . She said it was the wish of her husband Don Carlos that she should marry him [Joseph].” Either Beam’s research was inadequate to uncover this additional credible and pertinent evidence, or he knew of it and his biases prompted him to not include it. Regardless, “spiritual wifery” was not a term Joseph used to refer to plural marriage. http://mormonhistoryguy.com/2014/06/17/guest-post-review-alex-beams-treatment-polygamy-brian-hales/

Notice how Ebenezer Robinson turns into “apostate” Robinson. (That’s code for Mormons to not trust the source). Hales then amends his first statement, where he claimed that there is no contemporary evidence that anyone was using the term “spiritual wifery”, to “spiritual wifery was not a term that Joseph used to refer to plural marriage.”

Of course, Hales gives more credence to a second hand faithful Mormon’s quote then Ebenezer Robinson’s recollection.  As Richard Van Wagoner wrote,

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”. 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) . (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an Apostate, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, 72-73, Summer 1986).

We know from all of the quotes above, that Bennett here was right. It was called Spiritual Wifery or Wifeism, because the women were referred to as spiritual wives,  and the term came from Joseph Smith in 1840 or 1841. Joseph even mockingly used the term in 1844 in an effort to pin it on others, like Bennett or William Law when he knew very well that the term came from him, just as he had coined the name Danites. (This he admitted in an 1844 City Council meeting).

To claim that Don Carlos could not have used the term is disingenuous, given the evidence.

[2] An example of this fanaticism is the testimony of Lucy Walker Kimball given at the Temple Lot Trial in 1892:

474. Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew was Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?
A. I decline to answer that question.
475. Q. Why do you decline to answer it?
A. Well it belongs to a secret part of my religion.
476. Q. Is that something that you have taken an oath not to divulge?
A. I don’t consider that any man or any law could compel me to answer such questions.
477. Q. And that is the reason you decline to answer these questions? A. Yes sir, for I don’t think any one has a right to ask such questions with the expectation that I should answer them. …
525. Q. It did not make any difference to you whether he [Heber C. Kimball] had one wife or a dozen, is that what I understand you do say?
A. Yes sir.
526. Q. That was the way it was?
A. Yes sir.
527. Q. The principle was all you were working for?
A. Yes sir, for I knew it was a true principle.
528. Q. There was not any love in the union between yourself and Kimball?
A. No sir.
529. Q. Was there any courtship?
A. That is my business entirely. …
531. Q. Answer the question, was there any courtship between you and Kimball?
A. It was the principle of plural marriage that we were trying to [(transcription error) hum?]an race if we had established it. That is what we were trying to establish, a great and glorious and true principle, and if we had established it, it would have been for the benefit of the whole human race, and the race will say so yet.
532. Q. That is your belief?
A. Yes sir, and the day will come when you will doff your hats to the plural wife system, much as you may sneer at it now.
533. Q. You know that?
A. Yes sir, I do, for they have been a noble self sacrifice.
534. Q. Who made a noble sacrifice of self? A. The plural wives.
535. Q. Well when I come to that belief I will apologize to you for what I have been saying.
A. Well you will need to, for if you live long enough you will do that sir. I am proud sir of my associations in that regard, and have nothing to fear or be ashamed of either in this world or the world to come. That principle is sacred, as holy and as divine as God himself, and you will see the day when you will acknowledge it.
536. Q. You know that also?
A. I do.
537. Q. Well I very much fear that is a prediction that will never come to pass.
A. Well, it will.
538. Q. And that you will swear to also?
A. I know it will as well as I know I live.
539. Q. Well then if that principle is as true and as holy as God himself, how is it that the church went back on it and said that the Lord did not command it at all?
A. Well the church will see the day when it will apologize for that sir.
540. Q. Did you not consent to that manifesto with the rest of the church.
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff.
541. Q. You acknowledged it to President Woodruff?
A. Yes sir, I did to President Woodruff, sir, much to my regret I did.
542. Q. And are you going to acknowledge it again?
A. Not much. When the time comes for that principle to rule, it is going to rule, and that time will surely come. … (Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, Questions, 474-477, 525-542).

[3] Anonymous, “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. An example of accepting the narrative with little questioning of Emily Partridge’s statements is from the new book by Merina Smith, who writes in her Chapter “Emma Smith Capitulates”:

Todd Compton states that Emma chose the young women who lived in her household, the Partridge sisters, and another set of sisters who were actually the wards of the Smith, Sarah and Maria Lawrence. Joseph convinced the Partridge sisters to submit to another secret ceremony, since he did not want to roil the waters by admitting he had married them already. The remarriage took place on May 23, 1843, with Emma as a witness. The Lawrence sisters also married Joseph that month. Five days after the remarriage to the Partridge sisters, Emma was sealed to Joseph for eternity. (Merina Smith, Revelation, Resistance & Mormon Polygamy, The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830-1853, Merina Smith, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2013, Kindle Edition,  3955-3960).

The only reference that Merina Smith uses here, is from Todd Compton, who gets the May 23, date from Richard Van Wagoner. This date was based on Emily’s recollections, which began with the 1869 Affidavits. Van Wagoner debunks the original date given in the 1869 affidavits by both women (May 11) and suggests May 23, when James Adams was in Nauvoo. But that date also has problems.

Van Wagoner quotes the August 16, 1843 Journal entry of William Clayton, but still gives credence to Emily’s later recollections. Compton compounds this with his rewrite of the entry,

“Emma apparently told Joseph that she would allow him to keep “E and E P” (Emily and Eliza Partridge), but Joseph felt if he even kept these two, Emma would use it as an excuse to divorce him. Though he told Emma that he would relinquish his wives, he told Clayton that “he should not relinquish anything.” (Compton, In sacred Loneliness, 732).

The entry actually reads,

“…since E[mma] came back from St. Louis she had resisted the P[riesthood] in toto & he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake. She said she would [have] given him E[mily] and E[liza] P[artridge] but he knew if he took them she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce & leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish any thing.”

If Emma had already given Joseph the Partridge sisters in May, why is Joseph claiming on August 16 that Emma told him  that “she would have given him” the sisters, and then Joseph telling Clayton that “if he took them…she would pitch on him & obtain a divorce and leave him.”?

By this time Judge Adams was dead. So how could there have been a second mock marriage in May of 1843 or after this date? (I will have more on this in my forthcoming Essay, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”).

For a prime example of the misuse of sources, see my Article: A Few thoughts on Brian Hales’ Review of Alex Beam’s “American Crucifixion”.

[4] Brian Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes”, Online here, accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes“)

[5] See, Brian C. Hales, The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny? Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008), PDF, 47-51, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. (Hereafter, Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“). Hales writes,

Currently no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found.

This is the actual truth of the matter, but it doesn’t stop Hales from inventing four pages of scenarios that he feels are “likely” to have happened to overturn the truth. He first claims that Smith “possibly” had “defacto authority to annul that same relationship” (the marriage of Sylvia and Windsor. (pp. 47-48). As we see though, from the 1842 Proclamation, he did not. Hales then tries a different tack. He writes,

More likely, however, Joseph may have seen himself as capable of single-handedly granting a divorce based on his position as mayor of Nauvoo. (p. 48)

Again, he did not according to Smith’s own First Presidency Proclamation. There would have had to be legal proceedings, and it could not have been simply because Windsor was an “unbeliever”. (Which would be difficult to class him as, since he was disfellowshipped not for apostasy, but for “UnChristianlike conduct”. No one would ever claim that Windsor was an “evil” man. The only thing that Windsor ever did wrong was try to recoup money loaned to William Marks and lost his fellowship over it.

Hales then wastes the reader’s time by listing a host of reasons that Smith could have granted a divorce for, but then claims that “Obviously, Sylvia’s case did not justify a divorce from Windsor based on those criteria.” (p. 48)

In another wasted effort Hales then claims that “the Illinois Supreme Court would grant circuit courts the right to act as courts of chancery.” He then admits though, that “The Nauvoo Municipal Court was never so designated.” (ibid.)

Then Hales starts listing possibilities, like Joseph could have “assumed authority as chief justice of the Nauvoo Municipal Court to deal with a divorce proceeding within the boundaries of the city” and therefore “might have proceeded in granting a quasi-legal divorce to Sylvia.” He then concludes that “Most likely, given their religious beliefs, neither of them worried about the associated legalities.” (pp. 48-49)

Considering Joseph’s 1842 First Presidency Address to the Church, maybe they should have, because what they did was adultery according to this address. Hales then wastes more pages in trying to explain his reasons why “Sylvia considered herself divorced from Windsor after his excommunication.” (Rather disfellowshipment, which was close to the same thing in the 1840’s; but Hales uses the harsher term for obvious reasons). But Hales himself writes,

[The view that]…accepting Mormonism made a person “suddenly unmarried” represents an extreme interpretation of Joseph Smith’s teachings on civil marriage, not otherwise substantiated. (pg. 50)

The 1842 Address affirms this, so why Hales brings this up is baffling. He then writes,

Joseph and Sylvia may have viewed the sealing authority so superior as to trump any marriage ceremony sanctioned only by civil powers, thus negating the need for a legal divorce. (ibid.)

But Sylvia and Windsor were married by Joseph Smith in a priesthood ceremony not by any civil power. And again there is that 1842 Address which completely destroys this argument because Smith himself claimed (after taking spiritual wives with the “sealing authority”) that he could not “go beyond” and break up civil marriages for any reason. If the participants agreed to have a legal divorce, it must be for grounds of evil, (like physical violence, etc.) and there is absolutely no evidence that this took place in the Lyon marriage. Hales even affirms this himself. But Hales plugs on and writes,

Under Church law, a religious divorce may have been included or implied with excommunication.(ibid.)

Again, not in Nauvoo. Hales has to cite examples from after the “Saints” had accepted polygamy and Young’s theocratic rule in Utah Territory. If you are to cite such examples, they must be consistent with events from earlier years. In this case, they are not because the Spiritual Wife System was secret, was not church law, and therefore could not supersede the First Presidency Address from 1842 or the binding Article on Marriage from the Doctrine and Covenants until it was voted upon by the entire Church. Presenting a “revelation” to a divided High Council (which still kept it quasi secret) does not qualify. This is one reason why the Judge in the Temple Lot Case ruled against the Hedrikites. Hales then quotes Kathryn Danes, who writes,

If Sessions knew that Fisher was Joseph Smith’s biological child . . . she could have been having sexual relations only with Smith, not with Windsor Lyon. That is, her marriages were polyandrous in name only because she could be certain of her child’s paternity only if she restricted her sexual relationship to one husband at a time. (ibid., 51)

At last, a good point. How could Sylvia know that Josephine was Joseph’s daughter if she was having sex with two men at the same time? Well, I don’t know about others, but I’m not claiming that she had them both over on the same nights or even during the same week, or that the sex with the two men was frequent. We just have no way of knowing. Joseph had other wives to which he apparently devoted some of his time. And this is an observation made (obviously) without including the criteria that Windsor may have been facilitating the relationship between his wife and Joseph. (This is affirmed by Windsor’s later willing participation in the sealing of Sylvia to Joseph (again) and Heber C. Kimball for “time” in 1846). They may have agreed that Windsor take a break for awhile because Smith wanted her for his “wife” for a time. After all, what was Joseph’s motivation for “marrying” and having sex with another man’s legal wife when he had so many single women to choose from? But what difference does this really make? It was still adultery because Windsor and Sylvia were still legally married.

What would any faithful person do when their prophet asks him to give up his wife for eternity to him, and then claim that this includes having sexual relations with her for “time” also? It was easier for Joseph (so he thought) for these women to have husbands already so that his activities stayed secret. (We know this because he had men become “front husbands” later when he wanted to keep the secrecy scenario going with single women).

In all of Hales posturing on polygamy, he gives us no real good reason for polyandry, whether it included multiple partner sex or not (which he denies even the possibility of happening). The fact is though, that Windsor never divorced his wife, continued to live and work in Nauvoo, and stayed with her before and after Joseph died. (I noticed that Hales doesn’t mention the 1844 Journal entry of Willard Richards in this article where he wrote that he and his wife Jenetta were over at Windsor’s house and “Mrs. Lyons” was also there).

Also, Sylvia and Windsor didn’t have much luck with their children. Having a child that was fathered by Smith may have been welcomed by her and since this was the only child that survived out of both of those relationships she may have later concluded that it was Smith’s child. The fact is, we don’t know why she thought Josephine was Smith’s child. We can speculate, but that is all we can do at present. The DNA isn’t even conclusive.

This whole situation is strange and bizarre, and to speculate as one can only do, doesn’t prove much. The fact is all Hales can do is claim that “this is really weird”, and a “hard commandment” and that it was all the women’s fault, because they “chose” Joseph Smith over their husbands. So they all came to Joseph and wanted to be sealed to him? What a ridiculous assertion, and one that we know is not true. Sarah Pratt did not choose Smith, nor many others.

To rule out coercion by Smith is an idealistic fallacy. And to claim that none of them complained is factually incorrect and does not take into account the concerns of these people for their spiritual welfare which depended on Smith’s prophetic claims. We have modern day examples in David Koresh, Warren Jeffs and others. Brigham Young would later claim that when he heard about polygamy he “desired the grave”, but then also attested that he had earlier (in England) gotten his own testimony about it and was therefore fine with it. So which was true? Lorenzo Snow later claimed that he threw a “cloak of charity” over Smith when he did “improper” things.

And of course these women did not think that any of this was adultery, because they thought it spiritual, hence the “spiritual wife system” that they could admit to being involved in and still be “pure”. See my article on Eliza Snow and why she thought so, here. The only difference between Joseph’s “marriage” ceremony and what John C. Bennett, William Smith, Lyman Littlefield and others did was Joseph’s claim that only he had the authority to authorize and delegate, so what he did was valid and what they did was not.

Evidence of this is that Emily Partridge later claimed that Joseph was willing to end their “marriage” (both her’s and Eliza’s) with a “handshake” because it was causing him too much difficulty. Was that really a valid marriage or something that could easily be discarded when the going got tough, or when it was found out? So what then, was the difference between what Joseph did, and what John C. Bennett and William Smith did in 1842 Nauvoo? Joseph claimed a higher authority, that is all. This is especially troubling when one factors in the account by William Marks that Joseph was considering abandoning polygamy in 1844.

For an excellent treatment on William Marks last days in Nauvoo, see John S. Dinger’s, “A Mean Conspirator” or “The Noblest of Men”: William Marks’s Expulsion from Nauvoo, in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Fall/Winter 2014, Vol. 34, No. 2, 12-38. Dinger’s work here, is (as with all of his writing) exemplary.

What one finds in reading about Marks and those who were truly repulsed by polygamy was the tenaciousness those who practiced it employed in protecting the practice among themselves while continuing to deny that had anything to do with it. For all their supposed recalcitrance to the idea of polygamy, they embraced it enthusiastically and fanatically held on to it as long as they could; that is, until the Government of the United States finally outlawed the practice in the 1880’s and they were forced to choose between polygamy and Statehood/Worldly possessions.

What is ironic is that Brigham Young himself prophesied that if that happened, (Choosing Statehood & their possessions over polygamy) then the Church had lost its way.

[6] Brian Hales, “Fanny Alger?” Online here, accessed September 15, 2015.

[7]  “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, emphasis mine. Thanks to Brent Metcalfe for the link and H. Michael Marquardt for bringing the original letter to my attention.

Even today, this would be classed as official doctrine of the Church:

With divine inspiration, the First Presidency(the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. (LDS Newsroom, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine,” 4 May, 2007, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015).

Joseph Smith spoke of “Craftiness” in his 1842 Address. I always wondered about that when I read this quote by him:

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 , Accessed September 15, 2015).

What are we to make of Joseph Smith craftily using the “sealing power” to multiply “wives” unto himself that had living husbands? Did he misuse this power? The timing of this “Address” is interesting, because it is a breaking point for Joseph “marrying” women that already had living husbands. There are two “marriages” that take place after this Address where Joseph “marries” women that are already married, Ruth Vose and Elvira Cowles. Both of these “marriages” to Joseph have dating problems and I believe they were both “married” to Joseph before 1843.

I believe that Joseph “repented” of his polyandrous “marriages” in the fall of 1842 and then started “marrying” only single women. His repentance is documented in the July, 1843 “revelation”. This is only my personal belief based on study of the “marriages”. I would like to thank Dan Vogel for his insights into D&C 132:60-63 that lead to my belief here. The verses read (emphasis mine),

60 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.

 61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

 62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

 63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they 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.

These verses echo the language of the 1842 Address:

…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 obliged to cut them off from the church.There are men also that are quilty of the same crime, as we are credibly informed. …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.

[8] Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith, Affidavit Books, 1:9; see also 4:9. See also, “Ruth Vose”, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. Hales claims that this was an “eternity only sealing” but he bases this on an anonymous quote in Andrew Jenson’s notes. We have no idea where Jenson got this information from. Was it first hand knowledge? Second hand? Contemporary? Late recollection? We just don’t know. All of Hales “evidence” of “Eternity only, non-sexual sealings” is based on this kind of unverifiable, questionable evidence. To make my point one simply has to look at the back up evidence that Hales presents here:

Another document corroborated 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.”

Hales writes in his footnotes,

“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. (Note 8)

An anonymous recollection and an unverifiable quote. This is Hales evidence? See Note #14.

[9] Hales, “Polyandry?“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015. See Note #5.

[10] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, added emphasisop. cited above.

[11] Brian Hales, “Sylvia Sessions“, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015, added emphasis.

[12] “Address from the First Presidency”, Millennial Star, op. cited above.

[13] See Note 5. There is absolutely no legal or religious argument that can be made to overturn Joseph’s First Presidency Address of 1842. Smith himself successfully defeats such arguments in that Address. The only way that Smith could have “married” Sylvia Sessions was if she was legally divorced from Windsor Lyon for reasons of unlawfulness. She would have had to go to the law, and then legally divorce him. Where is Hales evidence (besides his speculations) that this ever happened? There isn’t any.  His being disfellowshipped was not a sufficient reason for them to divorce. Joseph expressly affirms this in his Address. Hales’ four page speculation can be read using the link above, pages 47-51.

What is interesting is that in 1844 when the Mormon Hierarchy was in denial mode about polygamy they published this in the Times and Seasons:

The saints of the last days have witnessed the outgoings and incomings of so many apostates that nothing but truth has any effect upon them. In the present instance, after the sham quotations of Sidney [Rigdon] and his clique, from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to skulk off, under the “dreadful splendor” of “spiritual wifery,” which is brought into the account as graciously as if the law of the land allowed a man a plurality of wives, is fiendish, and like the rest of Sidney’s  revelation, just because he wanted “to go to Pittsburg [Pittsburgh] and live.” Wo to the man or men who will thus wilfully [willfully] lie to injure an innocent people! The law of the land and the rules of the church do not allow one man to have more than one wife alive at once, but if any man’s wife die, he has a right to marry another, and to be sealed to both for eternity; to the living and the dead! there is no law of God or man against it! This is all the spiritual wife system that ever was tolerated in the church, and they know it. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, Nov. 15, 1844, 715, emphasis mine, Online here, Accessed November 14, 2014).

Once again, we see the term spiritual wive system, and that “the law of the land and the rules of the church” do not allow one man to have “more than one wife alive at once”. This also claims that the law of the land does not allow “a plurality of wives”, that it was “fiendish” to claim so and that the only spiritual wife system (plurality of wives) tolerated in the Church was if a man’s wife died and he married another.

Joseph Smith violated his 1842 Proclamation, and so did every other polygamist who “married” the wife of another in the Church until it was supplanted in 1852. By this statement in the Times and Seasons, they also violated the laws of the land and the rules of the Church by taking any plural wife until the Polygamy “revelation” was accepted by the Church in 1852. This applies to Joseph Smith as well.

[14] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, added emphasis, op. cited. It is fascinating to go through Brian Hales document dump at his mormonpolygamydocuments.org site because one can check the very sources that Hales claims he is being so open and fair with in his books and on his website. I have found in many cases that he is neither. For example there is the quote that he uses in this instance. 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).

He used even less of this quote in his FAIRMORMON Presentation. In his footnote (43) he writes,

43. [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 assign this quote to someone else, Lucinda Sagers, not Sayers. The full quote that Don Bradley gave to Hales reads:

ca. 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, mormonpolygamydocuments.org, emphasis mine).

Is there any reported children by Ruth and Edward Sayers in 1843? Not that I am aware of. There aren’t any children by her listed that I can find. 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 writes,

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)

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).

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)

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 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?

The document also mentions “Mrs Granger” as a wife of Joseph Smith, but Sarah Granger never married him. So how do we know that the information about Mrs. Sagers is accurate?

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? I 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 familysearch.org 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).

I’m not sure why Mike Quinn was persuaded by Hales’ argument. 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”

Could easily be about Lucinda Sagers. 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 published this after Quinn’s paper came out since he quotes from it in his Trilogy of books. What is Quinn basing his reassessment on? Andrew Jenson’s notes that have no source? And  how can we be sure that the original document was a “y” and not a “g” when they are notes that Quinn made years earlier? He is recalling somehow that it might easily have been a “y”, but what is he basing this on? His memory of something he transcribed in the 1970’s? It would take the original document to be sure, and even Hales claims he cannot locate it, though Quinn describes it to him.

ADDENDUM (October 1, 2015). My friend Joe Geisner located the original document for me, so here it is:

https://mormonitemusings.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/wa-mss-s-1644-susan-cuthbertson-nauvoo-relief-society-application.jpg

WA MSS S-1644 Susan Cuthbertson Nauvoo Relief Society Application

The text in questions 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 [Monshinly?]
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 kick? 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—

Here is my analysis of the word in question, which I have determined is “sagers”:

Susan Cuthbertson Sagers Handwriting Analysis

[End of ADDENDUM]

Still, what about the mention of a child? I 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 Don Bradley 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?

Notes that we have no idea where the information came from; a “garbled” account of various happenings in Nauvoo that could span months; and an affidavit 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?

[15] Ruth Vose Sayers, Affidavit, May 1, 1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Book 1:9, Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[16] Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition,  Locations 1726-1731. Hales writes,

However, it is unlikely that Sylvia chose to compare her plural marriage to those of Eliza and Zina simply because their sealing dates were close to hers. It could be argued that, if Sylvia was sealed to Joseph Smith soon after Windsor Lyon’s excommunication on November 19, 1842, they may have been married less than five months after Eliza’s plural sealing date. Undoubtedly Josephine, like 99 percent of all Church members in 1882, was unaware of the chronology of the Prophet’s plural marriage sealings in Nauvoo, since the first publication on the topic was Andrew Jenson’s 1887 article, five years later. Nor would she have recognized any dating discrepancy in her mother’s story.

This claim by Hales is pure speculation. As I have documented above, Sylvia and her mother Patty Sessions knew these two woman intimately, so there is every reason to have confidence that she knew the dates of their marriages. Hales would have to present evidence that these woman would never have discussed their marriages; and so trying to claim that Sylvia would not have known when they were “married” to Smith is simply Hales’ speculating in an effort to try and discount an 1842 “marriage” date. Hales here, also changes the parameters of the quote, making it a “comparison” of marriages. This is not what the quote says. It reads,

“She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church. She also told me that she was sealed to the Prophet about the same time that Zina Huntington and Eliza R. Snow were thus sealed.”

Josephine Fisher Affidavit 1915Where is the comparison here? Did Sylvia state that her marriage was like or unlike theirs? No. So, how is this comparing her “marriage” to those other marriages? She only states that her marriage took place “about the same time” that those other “marriages” took place. She was giving a time-frame for her “marriage”, nothing more. But Hales doesn’t have a valid rebuttal for this, so he claims that quote is something it is not, a “comparison”.

How Hales comes up with these arguments mystifies me. It’s like he’s reading some other different document than the one he is quoting. Hales employs this tactic time and time again, which in and of itself is baffling, because all one has to do is just read the original documents. When was Windsor excommunicated? 1842. When was Eliza Snow “married” to Joseph? 1842. When was Zina Huntington “married” to Joseph Smith? Late 1841. And remember, Hales also wants to question the day of the marriage. If so, then how can he be sure the month is February? It could be March, April, May, etc. getting further and further away from those other marriages. This is what speculation does. Hales constantly wants to take what is said plainly and try and twist it into meaning something than what it actually says. This is the nature of his apologetic approach. He is trying to sell the public something the evidence doesn’t support. If he can contort the evidence into some “likely” scenario that he simply invents, he can then claim that the evidence he cited supports his “likely” scenario.

[17] Lorenzo Snow testimony, “Temple Lot Suit,” United States testimony 1892, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, folder Ms-d 1160, Box 1, fd11, 123, online here, accessed November 5, 2014.

[18] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes”, op. cited above. See also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1664-1675.

[19] The article will be titled, “Emma Smith & The 1869 Utah Affidavits”.

[20] Mormon Bookshelf, “Bathseba Smith”, Notes, Online here, Accessed September 15, 2015.

[21] Hales, “Emperor’s New Clothes,” op. cited. Also, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Vol. 1b, Kindle Edition, Locations, 1631-1633. Hales also writes,

My comparison of the handwriting leads me to conclude that the words “Book 1” and “Book 2” were written by someone other than the books’ compiler, Apostle Joseph F. Smith.

My own handwriting analysis shows that Hales is mistaken. Smith did write the Titles. This is really irrelevant when one takes into account the totality of the evidence which shows that Books 1 & 2 were the originals. The fact that Joseph F. Smith had his name embossed on the first and last pages of these two books shows that they were his copies. Smith didn’t write all of the affidavits in the books himself either, but it is likely (from my comparison of Smith’s handwriting), that he did pen most of them and the Indexes found in Books 1 & 4.

As for the superscript “Du” found on the Title label of Book 1, and inside of Books 1 & 2, I believe this stands for “Duplicate”, and was probably written later when they were acquired by the Church History Library. This is only my speculation, but it fits the historical narrative.

[22] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions” op. cited, 54-55, n. 20

[23] Gregory L. Smith, “A Welcome Introduction,” Online here, Accessed September 16, 2015.

[24] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, 45-46.

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid., 46.

[27] ibid.

[28] Hales, “Sylvia Sessions”, footnote 21, p. 55.

[29] Brian Hales, “Polyandry?” Online here, Accessed September 20, 2015.

[30] Sessions, Patty Bartlett, 1795-1892, Mormon Midwife : the 1846-1888 diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions, Edited by Donna T. Smart, Utah State University Press, 1997, 80. (Hereafter, Smart, Mormon Midwife). This was during a visit of Sylvia to her mother where she was also able to visit with Eliza R. Snow and other of Smith’s spiritual wives.

[31] ibid., 69.

[32] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[33] Mormon Midwife, 80.

[34] ibid., 69.

[35] Hales, “Mormon Historical Studies“, 46.

[36] Irvin F. Fisher to A. B. Call, April 9, 1945. pg. 1.

[37] Hales, Brian C., Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Volume 1b: History, Greg Kofford Books. Kindle Edition, Locations 1949-1950.

[38] Hales, “Emperors New Clothes“, op. cited.

[39] Decision of Judge Philips in Temple Lot Case, 42-44, Online here, Accessed September 18, 2015.

[40] Emily Partridge Diary, 1880-1893, CHL. She also wrote,

March 19th – Mr. Hall came down with a buggy for me to go up to an office in the Templeton to take the witness stand. I was there several hours and underwent a rigid examination. I felt sometimes as though the top of my head might move off. I was very weary and sometimes quite indignant, but had to pocket my pride and indignation and answer all the important questions the lawyers chose to ask. Truly we are turning backward, and a very strange thing it is, when after all these many years, Joseph the Prophet is being tried in court for teaching and practicing plural marriage. And some of his wives are brought forward to testify either for or against him. (Emily Partridge Diary, March 19, 1892).

[41]  Whitney, H. M., Hatch, C. M., & Compton, T. (2003). A Widow’s Tale: The 1884-1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 494.

[42] ibid.

[43] ibid.

[44] ibid., 494-495.

[45] ibid., 495.

[46] ibid.

[47] ibid.

[48] Lucy Walker, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, Part 3, 451.

[49] ibid., 463.

[50] ibid., 468

[51] ibid., 470-71.

[52] ibid., 478.

[53] Snow’s testimony from the Temple Lot Case:

92 Q. Did he [Joseph Smith] tell you whether or not a man could be sealed to another man, and a man’s family? A. No sir, he said nothing about that.

93 Q. Do you know whether or not that was the case from you knowledge? A. This is the first time I ever heard of it.

94 Q. Heard of what? A. Of one man being sealed to another.

95 Q. You never heard of a family being sealed to another family? A. Yes sir, I have heard of it in this way—I have heard of children being sealed to adults.

96 Q. Did you ever hear of a man’s wife being sealed to him? A. Yes sir.

97 Q. You have heard of that? A. Certainly I have hear of women being sealed to men, but of men being sealed to one another, I never heard of that until now.

98 Q. Was it not common to seal a man’s wife to him—that is was not the principle common after Joseph death and was it not practiced in the church at that time? A. Certainly. Now do I understand you t o ask me the question about a man being sealed to a man?

99 Q. Yes sir. A. In what way?

100. Q. Sealed to one higher in authority, so the whole family would be his in eternity? A. You ask me if I now know or ever did know anything about a man being sealed to a man, and I say no, I never knew or heard of such a thing as that. (Lorenzo Snow, Temple Lot Case Transcript, 139-40.)

Lorenzo Snow absolutely perjured himself here. Of course Snow knew all about the law of adoption (being President of the Salt Lake Temple at the time of his testimony) and the sealing of men to men, which was practiced in the church until discontinued by Wilford Woodruff in 1894. Here is Brigham Young commenting on the sealing of men to men, from Wilford Woodruff’s journal in 1847:

While treating upon the principle of Adoption He 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 ownly [p.118] 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 deing his Children. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, 117-118, Jan. 16, 1847.)

Brigham Young, also discussed the Law of Adoption and the sealing of men to men in front of the Church and in private. (See Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, 187, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015. After 1893: Wilford Woodruff, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 67; George Q. Cannon, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 76. )

As Todd Compton explained,

The importance of the size of one’s eternal family, and the necessity of building it up on this earth, is shown by the custom of adoption practiced in the late Nauvoo period by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders, who would have grown men, with their families, sealed to them as “sons”; these sons would even sign their name with their “father’s” last name. In the late Nauvoo period, among the elite Mormon leadership, there reportedly was competition to add new members, “sons,” to their adoptive families. Young had a number of “children” in his adoptive family; one of his adoptive sons, John D. Lee, in turn, had his own sizeable adoptive family. This is explainable in light of the principle of degree of one’s salvation according to the size of one’s earthly “kingdom.” Marrying plural wives was a comparable method of extending one’s family in this life so as to increase one’s power, dominion, exaltation in the next. Marriage, sealing, and adoption, in fact, were nearly interchangeable concepts. When John D. Lee married two women in 1845, he wrote in his diary, “About this time my family began to increase by the Law of Adoption. Feb 5, 1844 [1845] Nancy Bean was adopted into my family April 19, 1845 Louisa Free was also admitted—taking upon her my name.”

In Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph Smith, Joseph and Heber C. Kimball, Helen’s father, desired the marriage so that Heber’s family would be linked eternally to Joseph, thus assuring their salvation.37 Michael Quinn, with his interest in prosopography, emphasizes the fact that Joseph’s plural marriages linked him with important men in the church.38 This would have given the two connected parties both earthly and eschatological advantages.

When Jedediah Grant preached on the subject of Joseph’s plural marriages, he referred to them in terms of Joseph “adding to his family”: “When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel.” (Todd Compton, “A Trajectory of Plurality”, op. cited above, Dialogue, Vol.29, No.2, 14, Online here,  (PDF) Accessed September 25, 2015).

Notice that Grant affirms that the “family organization” is the “Patriarchal Order of God”, or polygamy.  Claiming that marriage for time and all eternity is the main focus of D&C 132 is a modern interpretation of that “revelation”, because the sealing power was already in place and the concepts spoken of in Section 132 had already been revealed in public by Joseph in relation to Baptism for the Dead. In its totality, Joseph’s evolved theology from the Nauvoo period centered on the enlargement of family, with those sealing to themselves the largest number having the greatest “kingdom”.  This was the Patriarchal Order Marriage that was practiced in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom by all the gods.  In 1884 Abraham H. Cannon wrote these two entries in his diary,

Sunday, April 6th, 1884–Last day of Gen. Conf. “At a Priesthood meeting held in the evening (after the Hall was cleared of all those who were not worthy of being present by arranging the brethren according to wards and stakes) the strongest language in regard to Plural Marriage was used that I ever heard, and among other things it was stated that all men in positions who would not observe and fulfill that law should be removed from their places. The Spirit of the Lord rested powerfully upon the First Presidency each of whom addressed the meeting. All present felt the force of the remarks made.”

Mon. April 7th, 1884–At Social Hall, a mtg. of all Stake Presidents. “The revelation on Celestial Marriage was read and explained by Pres. Taylor in a clear and forcible manner, so that none could mistake its meaning. All were enjoined to observe this law.” (Abraham H. Cannon Diary, under dates listed, Online here, Accessed September 25, 2015).

The Law of Adoption was also discussed in a meeting that Lorenzo Snow attended in 1884 (almost ten years before the Temple Lot Suit) with President John Taylor,

Thursday May 22, 1884. Prest Taylor Cannon & Smith & the brethren of the Apostles & others met at the Temple at 9.30 am  There were present in the Recorders Room as follows – Prest John Taylor, George Q Cannon – Joseph F. Smith, Apostles W. Woodruff, L.[orenzo] Snow, E. Snow, F. D. Richards – M Thatcher – G Teasdale, Coun D H Wells  Prests. J. D T McAllister, L. John Nuttall – A. M Cannon, W B Preston  C O. Card  M. W Merrill – Elders – D H Cannon  Samuel Roskelly, T. Morrell & Geo W Thatcher – President John Taylor directed the Temple Recorder to place on the records of the Temple as follows “That the Lord is well pleased and has accepted this House, and our labors in its Dedication, also the labors of the people in its building and beautifying – and whatever (p. 50) the Saints may feel to place into it, to ornament and embellish it, will also be acceptable. I state this as the Word of the Lord. And the Lord will continue to reveal unto us every principle that shall be necessary for our guidance in the future in all matters pertaining to our labors both spiritually and temporaly. Several of the brethren briefly expressed their satisfaction, in conversation, of all that had transpired in the building and in the past days services –

When President Taylor afterwards made pertinent remarks on the subject of adoption. said he had been considering this subject and had the matter and the Keys thereof before him, and in a short time he would make it plain to all, [not in attendance] in that there need could (sic) (p. 51) be no misunderstanding. he also referred to Abraham & others – after which He arose to his feet and said “God accepts us and our labors and if we will do His will and Keep His commandments, He will stand by and sustain us, and no power on the earth or in hell shall have power to do us any harm or to injure us in any manner – I feel to bless you my brethren here present in the name of Isreals God. and you and your families shall be blessed, and God will raise you up and lift you on high. I feel like shouting Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Glory to God. For His Kingdom and people shall triumph I say it in the name of the Israels God. Amen – All present responded Amen – Prest. Taylor & Cannon & Elder (p. 52) Nuttall then proceeded up to the sealing room when Prest Taylor explained further in regard to the ordinance of Adoption and concluded to postpone any action on that ordinance for the present and until he shall he shall give further instructions pertaining thereto. Everything now being in working order at the Temple the President & brethren left & prepared for starting to Salt Lake this afternoon – At 130 started by Utah & Northern train for Ogden in a special car provided by Supt Doddridge when on arrival at Ogden changed cars to the Utah Central and arrived at Salt Lake at 730 P M  all well and found families all well (p. 53) While on the train a dispatch was received from Elder Geo Reynolds setting forth that it was rumored that Prest Jos F Smith & Coun D H Wells were wanted by the Grand Jury as witnesses in some Polygamy cases before them. Bro Wells stopped at Brigham & Bro Smith at Willard & came down to the City afterwards.

He gave some interesting teaching concerning the rights of men & the dealings of men with there wives and children, the raising of posterity, purity, Holiness &c. That if A wise and proper course was taken in the begeting and raising of children that they would soon become pure & Holy And be administered to by Angels &c. And many other things did the Apostle teach. (Diary of L. John Nuttall, May 22, 1884)

In 1894 Wilford Woodruff claimed that the law of adoption (including the sealing of men to men) had been being performed incorrectly, and addressed the Church about it,

I want to lay before you what there is for us to do at this present time; and in doing this I desire particularly the attention of President Lorenzo Snow, of the Salt Lake Temple; President M. W. Merrill, of the Logan Temple; President J. D. T. McAllister, of the Manti Temple; and President D. H. Cannon, of the St. George Temple, and those associated with them. You have acted up to all the light and knowledge that you have had; but you have now something more to do than what you have done. We have not fully carried out those principles in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not felt satisfied, neither did President Taylor, neither has any man since the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon this subject than we had received. Revelations were given to us in the St. George Temple, which President Young presented to the Church of God. Changes were made there, and we still have more changes to make, in order to satisfy our Heavenly Father, satisfy our dead and ourselves. I will tell you what some of them are. I have prayed over this matter, and my brethren have. We have felt, as President Taylor said, that we have got to have more revelation concerning sealing under the law of adoption. Well, what are these changes? One of them is the principle of adoption. In the commencement of adopting men and women in the Temple at Nauvoo, a great many persons were adopted to different men who were not of the lineage of their fathers, and there was a spirit manifested by some in that work that was not of God. Men would go out and electioneer and labor with all their power to get men adopted to them. One instance I will name here: A man went around Nauvoo asking every man he could, saying, “You come and be adopted to me, and I shall stand at the head of the kingdom, and you will be there with me.” Now, what is the truth about this? Those who were adopted to that man, if they go with him, will have to go where he is. He was a participator in that horrible scene—the Mountain Meadow massacre. Men have tried to lay that to President Young. I was with President Young when the massacre was first reported to him. President Young was perfectly horrified at the recital of it, and wept over it. He asked: “Was there any white man had anything to do with that?.” The reply was No; and by the representations then made to him he was misinformed concerning the whole transaction. I will say here, and call  heaven and earth to witness, that President Young, during his whole life, never was the author of the shedding [p.73] of the blood of any of the human family; and when the books are opened in the day of judgment these things will be proven to heaven and earth. Perhaps I had not ought to enter into these things, but it came to me. Men are in danger sometimes in being adopted to others, until they know who they are and what they will be. Now, what are the feelings of Israel? They have felt that they wanted to be, adopted to somebody. President Young was not satisfied in his mind with regard to the extent of this matter; President Taylor was not. When I went before the Lord to know who I should be adopted to (we were then being adopted to prophets and apostles), the Spirit of God said to me, “Have you not a father, who begot you?” “Yes, I have.” “Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him? …. Yes,”says I, “that is right.” I was adopted to my father, and should have had my  father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every man who presides over a temple to see performed from this day henceforth  and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father. When a man receives the endowments, adopt him to his father; not to Wilford Woodruff, nor to any other man outside the lineage of his fathers. That is the will of God to this people. I want all men who preside over these temples in these mountains of Israel to bear this in mind. What business have I to take away the rights of the lineage of any man? What right has any man to do this? No; I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days. Elijah the prophet appeared unto Joseph Smith and told him that the day had come when this principle must be carried out. Joseph Smith did not live long enough to enter any further upon these things. His soul was wound up with this work before he was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ. He told us that there must be a welding link of all dispensations and of the work of God from one generation to another. This was upon his mind more than most any other subject that was given to him. In my prayers the Lord revealed to me, that it was my duty to say to all Israel to carry this principle out, and in fulfillment of that revelation I lay it before this people. I say to all men who are laboring in these temples, carry out this principle, and then we will make one step in advance of what we have had before. Myself and counselors conversed upon this and were agreed upon it, and afterwards we laid it before all the Apostles who were here (two were absent—Brothers Thatcher and Lund, the latter being in England), and the Lord revealed to every one of these men—and they would bear testimony to it if they were to speak—that that was the word of the Lord to them. I never met with anything in my life in this Church that there was more unity upon than there was upon that principle. They all feel right about it, and that it is our duty. That is one principle that should be carried out from this time henceforth. “But,” says one, “suppose we come along to a man who perhaps is a murderer.” Well, if he is a murderer, drop him out and connect with the next man beyond him. But the Spirit of God will be with us in this matter. We want the Latter-say Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the bead of the dispensation. This is the will of the Lord to this people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be [p.74] true. (Wilford Woodruff, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, p.74. April 8, 1894).

Sealing men to men was a natural progression of the Patriarchal Order of God. Though Woodruff claimed that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor “were not satisfied” with what had been revealed about the “Law of Adoption”, Taylor specifically said in 1874 that he “had the matter and the Keys thereof before him” and that he would “make it plain to all” so there could be no misunderstanding. Taylor did not say that there were any problems or that he “was not satisfied” with the doctrine itself.  What is very interesting is that Woodruff decided to discontinue the sealing of men to men who were not directly related after the Temple Lot Suit and the questions it obviously raised. This was also done in relation to Re-baptism and later; Polygamy and the Adam-God Doctrine; all points of doctrine that those from the ReOrganized Church used in their attacks on the validity of the Utah Branch of the Mormon Church and which cased a Judge to rule against them.

A month before Woodruff had the Law of Adoption discontinued in the Church he told a group of men in the temple,

Wed., March 28, 1894. … I (Wilford Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will[ing] to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it… (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Wed., March 28, 1894).

Woodruff proclaimed to the “saints” in 1894:

When you get to the last man in the lineage, as I said before, we will adopt: that man to the Prophet Joseph, and then the Prophet Joseph will take care of himself with regard to where he goes. A man may say, “I am an Apostle, or I am a High Priest, or I am an Elder in Israel, and if I am adopted to my father, will it take any honor from me?” I would say not. If Joseph Smith was sealed to his father, with whom many of you were acquainted, what effect will that have upon his exaltation and glory? None at all. Joseph Smith will hold the keys of this dispensation to the endless ages of eternity. It is the greatest dispensation God ever gave to man, and he was ordained before the world was to stand in the flesh and organize this work. He was martyred for the word of God and testimony of Jesus, and when he comes in the clouds of heaven he will wear a martyr’s crown. Those of you who stand here—I do not care whether you are Apostles or what you are—by honoring your fathers you will not take any honor from your heads; you will hold the keys of the salvation of your father’s house, as Joseph Smith does. You will lose nothing by honoring your fathers and redeeming your dead. It is a glorious work. When I returned from England in 1841 and heard Joseph Smith give this revelation, that we had power to redeem our dead, one of the first things I thought was, “I have a mother in the spirit world.” My father was in the flesh. I baptized and ordained him and brought him up to Zion where he is buried. But I never saw my mother to know her. She died when I was an infant. I had power to seal my mother to my father. Was not that a satisfaction? It was to me. I have gone to work with the assistance of my friends and redeemed my father’s and my mother’s house. When I inquired of  the Lord how I could redeem my dead, while I was in St. George, not having any of my family there, the Lord told me to call upon the Saints in St. George and let them officiate for me in that temple, and it should be acceptable unto Him. Brother McAllister and the brethren and sisters there have assisted me in this work, and I felt to bless them with every feeling of my heart. This is a revelation to us. We can help one another in these matters, if we have not relatives sufficient to carry this on, and it will be acceptable unto the Lord. (Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, 75, April 8, 1894)

And yet a month before this Abraham H. Cannon writes that,

I (Pres. Woodruff) was sealed to my father, and then had him sealed to the Prophet Joseph. Erastus Snow was sealed to his father though the latter was not baptized after having heard the Gospel. He was, however, kind to the Prophet, and was a Saint in everything except baptism. The Lord has told me that it is right for children to be sealed to their parents, and they to their parents just as far back as we can possibly obtain the records; and then have the last obtainable member sealed to the Prophet Joseph, who stands at the head of this dispensation. It is also right for wives whose husbands never heard the Gospel to be sealed to those husbands, providing they are will to run the risk of their receiving the Gospel in the Spirit world. There is yet very much for us to learn concerning the temple ordinances, and God will make it known as we prove ourselves ready to receive it. In searching out my genealogy I found about four hundred of my female kindred who were never married. I asked Pres. Young what I should do with them. He said for me to have them sealed to me unless there were more than 999 of them. The doctrine startled me, but I had it done. (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, March 28, 1894).

Why didn’t Woodruff try to “get to the last man in his own lineage”? He surely knew his own genealogy. Woodruff wrote in July, 1838:

My father Aphek Woodruff, the Son of Eldad Woodruff, which was the Son of Josiah Woodruff, is a man that hath been seeking religion & the favor of God & light & truth for many years at times, & for more than 20 years have a numerous Circle of friends made his Case a subject of Prayer & pied with God in his behalf. But as oft as my father hath stru