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

“The Palmyra Peeker” by grindael

by Johnny Stephenson

Part II: “Work to the Money…”

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours Respectfully
Martin Harris

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

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

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

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

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

Ronald Walker continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1943 Morgan wrote this to Juanita Brooks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Stowell Letter [by Mark Hofmann]

Canandagua June 18th 1825

Dear Sir

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

Joseph Smith Jr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bushman to the Rescue?

Walker continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane adds:

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

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

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

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

Walker continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Shall be First…

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

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

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

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

Part Time Peeker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Willard Chase peep-stone

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

The Last Shall be First (Continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian of the Treasure Cave

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

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

Post Master Rumors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angels and Spirits of the Dead

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

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

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

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

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

In Psalms we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Spirit of the Lord & Satan”

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

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

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

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

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

“The Order”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The relevant passages read:

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

In 1855 Pratt explained the above “revelation”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and he [the angel] called me by name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NONE doeth good…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What Manner His Kingdom was to be Conducted”

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

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

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

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

Moses vs. Joseph?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Necromancy of Infidelity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Enchantment; conjuration

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was treasure…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Oliver Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Common Spiritual Gift?

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIVINATIONnoun [Latin , to foretell. See Divine.]

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

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

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

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. Physiognomy and Phrenology was all the rage with Smith and others in Nauvoo.

“A decisive failure”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Work to the Money”

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

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

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

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

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

Work To The Money (Modern Style)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fayette Lapham would later recall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Vogel:

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

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

“He will get the treasure”

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

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

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

(End of Pt. 2, to be continued…)

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

“The Moneydiggers” by John Quidor

by Johnny Stephenson

PART I: Of Ghosts & Angels

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

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 Mormon ( Joseph Smith, Jr., Elders’ Journal 1:3 (July 1838): 42–43.)

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

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

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

Having It Both Ways (Continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic or Religion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is no light in them”

In Isaiah we read,

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Counterfeit Prophet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Cowdery Conundrum

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

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

The Folk Magic Red Herring

At the Joseph Smith papers, they write:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gift of What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stone or The Holy Ghost?

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

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

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

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

As David Whitmer explained,

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

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

Magic Is “Not of God”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

LIAR, LIAR? PART I

ww_liar_liar_st_george

PART I:  WILFORD WOODRUFF & THE EMINENT MEN

Introduction

jim carrey liar liarIn 1997 Jim Carrey starred in a movie about a career driven, divorced lawyer and father who loves spending time with his young son, but his job keeps getting in the way causing him to continually break promises to the boy and then lie about why he could not keep them.  His frustrated son then makes a birthday wish that his dad would have to tell the truth for an entire day—which immediately comes true. This creates real problems for this rather shrewd lawyer, who thought that he was telling those lies for good reasons—to try and salvage his relationship with his son and excel at his career so he can reunite his family. As the movie ultimately shows the audience, Lying isn’t good (even for those who think there is nothing really wrong with doing so) because there are always unexpected consequences, or the classic “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

In Mormonism, this kind of behavior is called by some “lying for the Lord”. As lawyer and “apostle” Dallin H. Oaks explains,

Some have suggested that it is morally permissible to lie to promote a good cause. For example, some Mormons have taught or implied that lying is okay if you are lying for the Lord… As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy. …The whole experience with polygamy was a fertile field for deception. It is not difficult for historians to quote LDS leaders and members in statements justifying, denying, or deploring deception in furtherance of this religious practice.[1]

Mormon General Conference Held In Salt Lake CityBut do fertile fields of deception justify lying? According to Oaks, no. But he doesn’t condemn those who did so, instead he states that he won’t “judge them”. In the course of this speech he also adds,

The children of God have always been commanded to seek the truth and to say what is true. The Ten Commandments the Lord gave the children of Israel include: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). The 13th Article of Faith declares that “We believe in being honest [and] true.” To be “true” includes appearing to be what we really are. To speak the truth is to give an accurate account of the facts (see D&C 93:24).[2]

On April 14, 2013 Rock Waterman composed an article centered around Wilford Woodruff’s claimed 1877 “vision” in the St. George Temple where George Washington and other “spirits of the dead” supposedly appeared to Woodruff in person and spent two nights demanding that he proxy baptize them as Mormons.[3]

Waterman writes,

For those who may not be familiar with the story (and I can’t imagine any member who is not), here is Wilford Woodruff’s personal testimony as delivered in the Salt Lake City tabernacle in September of 1877:

“I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.  I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.” (Journal of Discourses Vol. XIX, pg 229)

It’s too bad Wilford hadn’t bothered to check the records at the endowment house, because if he had, he would have seen that proxy baptisms for the founders had already been done. Sometimes repeatedly.[4]

So the whole crux of the matter here, is whether (since they had already been proxy baptized) these “spirits of the dead” would have even bothered to appear to Woodruff to chastise him that “nothing has ever been done for us”.

So what did Woodruff do after he claimed to have this visitation? He claims that he went “straightway into the baptismal font” and was baptized by proxy for the signers of the Declaration of Independence—not realizing (perhaps) that someone else had beat him to the punch.[5]

This raises questions as to whether Woodruff gave an accurate account of the facts, and perhaps turned a desire, or a dream (he recorded many) into a visitation by the “spirits of the dead”. At least this is what some think. Others … aren’t too happy with this portrayal of events.

Wilford_Woodruff_c. 1835

Kirtland Era Painting of Wilford Woodruff

I. Not Lying, Just something Else…

In an effort to try and downplay this scenario, (that there was no need for the “spirits of the dead” to appear to Woodruff and that they told him nothing had been done for them, and therefore he lied about it) some have presented us with what they consider more plausible explanations for Woodruff’s actions. Amy Thiriot, a rather well researched Historian about Mormonism writes in an article titled “Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Founding Fathers”,

As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve found that people sometimes become very concerned that most of the Founding Fathers already had proxy baptisms done before this vision occurred. Wilford Woodruff’s note, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us,” leaves people wondering why the Founding Fathers would have appeared to Wilford Woodruff if their baptisms had already been done?[6]

Let’s see if she really answers her own question.

George F. Gibbs_c. 1887

George Francis Gibbs, c. 1887

First she tries to suggest that George Francis Gibbs did not correctly transcribe what Woodruff said. This really doesn’t work for a number of reasons, including the fact that Gibbs recorded Woodruff in 1877, and there was long in place a tradition of having the sermons that appeared in those volumes (The Journal of Discourses) approved and if need be corrected before they were sent out for publication.[7]

On August 9, 1876, George F. Gibbs was appointed the Church’s “phonographic reporter to the Deseret News”, and was so good at his job that Brigham Young made him “Secretary and Stenographer of the Twelve”, a position he held for the next forty years.  I know of no retractions or complaints that Gibbs had ever mistranscribed any sermons during his tenure at the News, or for the Mormon Hierarchy. To make this claim is very weak speculation, at best.

Secondly, she says that the Founding Fathers just wanted Woodruff to do the proxy work himself,—even  though it was already done—because  “he had a specific responsibility and mission to develop and alter the doctrines and practices of temple work including proxy ordinances, adoptions, and sealings.”  Alter doctrines? This makes little sense.

What exactly did Woodruff alter? Direction came from the First Presidency. For example, when the St. George Temple was dedicated, Brigham Young closed down the Endowment House. John Taylor reversed this after Young died. Specific examples would help here, but she offers none. And most importantly, would that invalidate the baptisms already done? Hardly, though others try to infer this without any evidence to prove it. In an effort to try and make Woodruff seem more important than he was, she writes,

When the temple opened in January 1877, Brigham Young was mostly bedridden and he turned the practical operations over to Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff was in charge of developing day-to-day procedures for temple work, including figuring out the doctrine and practice of the proxy endowment.

Actually, Young was not incapacitated at all at this time. Woodruff was with him constantly during the first few months the temple was open. Woodruff’s last personal visit with Young was on April 16, 1877. But they still communicated by telegraph and letter.

On January 14, 1877 Woodruff writes in his journal,

I spent the Evening with President Young. He told me their was No Necessity of dressing in the Temple Clothing while giving the second Anointing any more than in administering the first Anointing or Ordaining. He also said that we should use the Bible in the garden & Bible & Book of Mormon in the Telestial room and add the Covenants to it in the Terrestial Room. [8]

Salt Lake City Endowment House

Salt Lake City Endowment House

Woodruff certainly had authority to run the Temple. But he was in frequent contact with Young in person, by telegraph and through letters, as his journal shows.[9] 

Her third explanation for why these men appeared to Woodruff to chastise him for doing nothing for them is really strange to me. She writes,

“…when he [Woodruff] wrote in his journal, he used interchangeable language to refer to baptisms and endowments. Note the repetitive language from January 9, “the first ordinances of the Endowments,” and January 11, “the first day in which Endowments…” He was not writing in error; the baptisms that were done on January 9 were a vital preliminary part of the entirely new ordinance of proxy endowments.[10]

What does how Woodruff describes proxy baptisms or Endowments have to do with the spirits of the dead claiming that nothing had ever been done for them? What she seems to be suggesting here is that there was some kind of importance to doing the two things together. This is ridiculous. If that were so, why perform all of the thousands of baptisms for the dead in the Endowment House where they were forbidden to give Endowments for the dead? The whole point here, is that the preliminary part (baptisms for the dead) was already done for the Eminents. A repetition of this preliminary part, was both superfluous, unnecessary and frowned upon.

She just seems to miss this point altogether.  Woodruff in describing the Endowments and Proxy Baptisms would also sometimes separate the two as he did here in 1891:

“…although Joseph Smith received revelations with regard to Temples, and the ordinances and endowments afterwards administered in the Temple at Nauvoo.” [11]

 Two years later, Franklin D. Richards also separated the two,

 “We go into them [Temples] and receive ordinances and endowments… “[12]

Wilford_Woodruff_circa_Kirtland_era

Wilford Woodruff, Kirtland Era

This proves nothing though. Since all of these rites are called “ordinances” by the Mormon Hierarchy, this point by Thiriot doesn’t really address the question she asks, why the spirits of the dead claimed that NOTHING had been done for them. The Ordinance of Baptism, whether by proxy or not, is still something.

She next offers the explanation that because many were rebaptized in the church for various reasons,[13] and some proxy baptisms were redone (for reasons unknown, but most likely because those that redid them were unaware that they had already been done),[14] that this is somehow significant to answering her question.  This again, makes little sense, because rebaptism was an ordinance performed for the living, not the dead, and was discontinued shortly after the turn of the Twentieth Century.[15]

So would the spirits of the dead be concerned with what was never a requirement for redemption? The spirits of the dead did not appear to Woodruff and tell him that their work was invalid and needed to be repeated, (the work that could be done up to that point), they told him that nothing had ever been done for them, which (in the light of the facts) was untrue.

Finally, she writes,

“Wilford Woodruff’s actual accounts of these events differ from how they have been portrayed subsequently in artwork and story.”

How is this relevant? In her footnote to this point she mentions one person, James Godson Bleak, who I will discuss later.  But really, what does this have to do with why the spirits of the dead appeared to Woodruff? Nothing, and so we see that Amy Thiriot doesn’t really give any other plausible explanations to answer her own question.  But she does give us a reason for why this issue bothered her enough to cobble together some rather speculative scenarios. She writes,

wilford_woodruff_c. 1842

Wilford Woodruff Nauvoo Era

“I am not going to put up with anyone defaming with [sic] the memory of the good people of St. George, and that includes Temple President Wilford Woodruff.”[16]

II. More Of The Same “Something else”

Did Rock Waterman and others like Brian Stuy defame Wilford Woodruff? Do actual events differ from the way they are portrayed by Woodruff? Let’s look at the evidence, which I believe actually supports what Rock Waterman wrote based on Brian Stuy’s research.[17]

But before we do, let’s turn our attention to another effort to discredit Waterman’s conclusions, and which prompted my response here. In an article titled “Rock Waterman’s Pants Are On Fire,” Geoff Nelson writes on July 25, 2014:

“If we add a little context and a small amount of additional information then most of the conclusions in Rock’s post collapse.”

I’m all for context and any additional information, so let’s recap what Mr. Nelson has added to this issue. He writes,

“…Rock argues that because baptisms for the dead had already been performed for the Founding Fathers that Wilford Woodruff is lying about his account of their visitation to him in 1877. The assumption is made that if they had already been baptized then they would not have appeared to Wilford to request that their ordinance work be performed.”

This is exactly what Amy Thiriot was concerned with, but didn’t really address. Let’s see how Nelson fares. He writes,

 “If we read the essay by Brian Stuy (which Rock cites) it becomes clear that Rock’s post is largely a retelling of much of Stuy’s paper. However Rock seems to ignore all the alternative explanations given by Stuy and instead lands directly on lying as the solution.”[18]

Did Stuy offer alternative explanations? From reading Stuy’s article it doesn’t appear that his conclusion is any different than Waterman’s, even with the supposed “alternate explanations”:

“…the issue is not whether Woodruff experienced a dream or a literal visitation of the Founding Fathers. I believe rather that the key question concerns the need for Woodruff’s experience. Since the proxy baptismal work had already been performed for all of these individuals, what reason would they have for visiting him, either in dream or by visitation, and how could they accurately reproach him that “nothing has ever been done for us”? Since proxy endowments could not be performed in the Endowment House, the only work they could legitimately desire would be their proxy baptisms. The only explanation consistent with the evidence presented by Woodruff’s testimony and the baptismal records from Nauvoo and the Endowment House is that Woodruff, unaware of these records, felt an anxiety about redeeming the souls of these distinguished figures and acted upon it.”[19]

Stuy claims that they ONLY explanation consistent with the evidence was Woodruff’s need to act. Feeling “anxiety” or “need” and acting on it, is not the same as having the spirits of the dead actually appear to you, as Woodruff claimed. To say so, (based on the evidence) would ultimately be untruthful, exactly what Waterman and Stuy conclude (Stuy—in  a nicer sounding way).  So what are these alternative explanations that Nelson claims collapse Waterman’s (and by inference), Stuy’s conclusions?

Rebaptism (Again)?

First, his article is largely a rehash of Thiriot’s article, and so he brings up rebaptism again. He writes,

It was common upon major events for someone to be rebaptized to renew their covenants as they are about to take upon themselves further commitments. Wilford himself had been baptized 7 times prior to this vision of the Founding Fathers. People didn’t blink an eye at multiple baptisms. It was normal.

Additionally, the church used baptism as a means of healing. Many, even children under age 8, were baptized for their health. In fact, for the first 4 years after the Manti Temple was dedicated, more baptisms for health were performed in the temple than any other ordinance for the living.[20]

It may have been normal to rebaptize the living for the reasons that Nelson lists above, (in fact, it was required before entrance into the Temple from 1877 to 1893)[21] but those reasons don’t apply to the dead, and those baptisms didn’t make previous ones invalid. A dead person doesn’t need any healing, renewal of covenants, etc. As for rebaptism, George Q. Cannon explained that repentance was really enough:

We hear a good deal of talk about re-baptism, and the First Presidency and the

George Quayle Cannon, c. 1851

George Quayle Cannon, c. 1851

Twelve have felt that so much re-baptism ought to be stopped. Men, when they commit sin, think if they can only get the Bishop to re-baptize them, they are all right and their sins are condoned. It is a fallacy; it will lead to destruction. There is no such thing in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is repentance from sin that will save you, not re-baptism. If you have been baptized, then, if you commit sin, repent of the sin, confess it, and make the confession as broad as the knowledge of the sin; confess it to your brethren and sisters, and ask their forgiveness: and do not imagine that when you commit sin you can slip into the waters of baptism and you are all right again. Do not delude yourselves, brethren and sisters. Sinners, be not deceived by such a fallacy. Something more than this is necessary. We need to repent of our sins, and to confess them to God. We need to come before the Lord with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and before the Church with the spirit of confession. We should not be afraid to confess our sins; for there is no man among us that is not a sinner. Of course, there are different degrees of sin, and there is a difference in the degrees; but no man or woman, in listening to the confession of another, need pride himself or herself and say, “I am not a sinner. Here is this poor creature, a sinner; oh, how I pity him!” If we come to God in humility, He will show unto us our sins, and our imperfections, and our faults; and we will feel merciful to our brethren and sisters who, like ourselves, are weak and erring. We will be full of pity for them, and we will forgive them. This is the feeling that should exist in every bosom when men and women who commit sin come and confess their sins and are humble and contrite. When Latter-day Saints hear such things, there is a feeling of pity wells up in their hearts, and their souls overflow with sympathy, and they say, “Yes, yes, we’ll forgive you, and we’ll try and forget all about it. Go on, dear brother, (or sister) repent, and do better from this time forward, and we will give you our faith and prayers.” That is the way Saints should feel when their brethren and sisters commit sin and repent of it.[22]

Rebaptism though, was linked to proxy work, but not in the way that some might think. D. Michael Quinn writes,

“Although baptism for the dead has traditionally been regarded as distinct from rebaptism, baptism for the dead at Nauvoo was also another form of rebaptism. Since 1840 sermons and revelations had provided authorization for already baptized members of the LDS Church to be baptized in behalf of their deceased friends and relatives.  Among instances of this practice within the Joseph Smith family were Emma Smith being baptized for her father, Isaac Hale; Hyrum Smith for his brother Alvin; Lucy Mack Smith for her brother, uncle and aunts; Don Carlos Smith for his “Friend” General George Washington; and Joseph Smith performing baptisms for the dead as late as 5 July 1843. Because each living proxy had already been baptized, the ordinance thus provided a rebaptism for the living proxy as well as a first baptism for the deceased, as indicated in a certificate dated 4 July 1841: “Catharine Fory renewed her covenant with the Lord, and was baptised in behalf of. …” Therefore, each person who was baptized in behalf of another person was simultaneously renewing his own or her own original covenants of baptism.”[23]

But again we see that this was for the benefit of the living, not the dead. Thus the issue of rebaptism in relation to Woodruff’s claim that the dead spirits of the founding fathers visited him is simply a red herring.

Note also, that George Washington was baptized by Don Carlos Smith over thirty years before he supposedly appeared to Woodruff (and at least twice more by others in Nauvoo alone) to supposedly berate him for being ignored.

WilfordWoodruff_c_1848Rights of Heirship?

Nelson then moves on to another alternative explanation, but is a bit misleading in his use of a quote by Brigham Young to try and prove that this is somehow relevant. He writes,

In work for the dead, there were “rights of heirship” which were to be followed. Brigham discussed this in an 1873 address to the saints:

“There are some inquiries now with regard to officiating in ordinances, which I wish to answer. Some brethren here are anxious to know whether they can receive endowments for their sons or for their daughters. No, they cannot until we have a Temple; but they can officiate in the ordinances so far as baptism and sealing are concerned. A man can be baptized for a son who died before hearing the Gospel. A woman can be baptized for her daughter, who died without the Gospel. Suppose that the father of a dead son wishes to have a wife sealed to his son; if the young woman desired as a wife is dead and have a mother or other female relative in the Church, such mother is the heir, and she can act in the sealing ordinances in the stead of her daughter. But if the young woman desired as a wife have no relative in the Church, to act in her behalf, then the mother of the young man can be baptized for her, and act as proxy for her in the sealing ordinances.…

For instance, a man and his wife come into the Church; he says, “My father and mother were good people; I would like to officiate for them.” “Well, have you any other friends in the Church?” “Nobody but myself and my wife.” Well, now, the wife is not a blood relation, consequently she is not in reality the proper person, but she can be appointed the heir if there are no other relatives—if there are no sisters, this wife of his can officiate for the mother; but if the man has a sister in the Church, it is the privilege and place of the sister of this man, the daughter of those parents that are dead, to go and officiate—be baptized, to go and be sealed with her brother for her father and mother. If this man and woman have a daughter old enough to officiate for her grandmother, she is a blood relation, and is the heir, and can act; but if there is no daughter, the man’s wife can be appointed as the heir.” 

The problem here, is that Nelson left out an important part of this quote. Notice the ellipses? What he didn’t quote by Brigham Young undermines his argument that right of heirship should have been followed, and therefore those that performed the baptisms before Woodruff were somehow wrong in doing so. Here is the entire Young quote with the omitted text in bold,

With regard to the heirship, I can not enter into all the matter tonight. The subject would require a good deal of explaining to the people, consequently, I will pass over it at present. I can merely say this, however, that we see that the Lord makes his selection according to his own mind and will with regard to his ministers. Brother Joseph Smith, instead of being the first born, was the third son of his father’s family who came to maturity, yet he is actually the heir of the family; he is the heir of his father’s house. It seems to us that the oldest son would be the natural heir; but we see that the Lord makes his own selection.

There are some inquiries now with regard to officiating in ordinances, which I wish to answer. Some brethren here are anxious to know whether they can receive endowments for their sons or for their daughters. No, they cannot until we have a Temple; but they can officiate in the ordinances so far as baptism and sealing are concerned. A man can be baptized for a son who died before hearing the Gospel. A woman can be baptized for her daughter, who died without the Gospel. Suppose that the father of a dead son wishes to have a wife sealed to his son; if the young woman desired as a wife is dead and have a mother or other female relative in the Church, such mother is the heir, and she can act in the sealing ordinances in the stead of her daughter. But if the young woman desired as a wife have no relative in the Church, to act in her behalf, then the mother of the young man can be baptized for her, and act as proxy for her in the sealing ordinances. We can attend to these ordinances now before the Temple is built here; but no one can receive endowments for another, until a Temple is prepared in which to administer them. We administer just so far as the law permits us to do. In reality we should have performed all these ordinances long ago, if we had been obedient; we should have had Temples in which we could attend to all these ordinances. Now, the brethren have the privilege of being baptized for their dead friends—when I say the brethren, I mean the brethren and sisters—and these friends can be sealed.

For instance, a man and his wife come into the Church; he says, “My father and mother were good people; I would like to officiate for them.” “Well, have you any other friends in the Church?” “Nobody but myself and my wife.” Well, now, the wife is not a blood relation, consequently she is not in reality the proper person, but she can be appointed the heir if there are no other relatives—if there are no sisters, this wife of his can officiate for the mother; but if the man has a sister in the Church, it is the privilege and place of the sister of this man, the daughter of those parents that are dead, to go and officiate—be baptized, to go and be sealed with her brother for her father and mother. If this man and woman have a daughter old enough to officiate for her grandmother, she is a blood relation, and is the heir, and can act; but if there is no daughter, the man’s wife can be appointed as the heir.[24]

Young also says, in prelude to the above comment:

If you recollect, you that were in Nauvoo, we were very much hurried in the little time we spent there after the Temple was built. The mob was there ready to destroy us; they were ready to burn our houses, they had been doing it for a long time; but we finished the Temple according to the commandment that was given to Joseph, and then took our departure. Our time, therefore, was short, and we had no time to attend to this. My father’s children, consequently, have not been sealed to him. Perhaps all of his sons may go into eternity, into the spirit world, before this can be attended to; but this will make no difference; the heirs of the family will attend to this if it is not for a hundred years.[25]

Brigham Young, c. 1864

Brigham Young, c. 1864

Did Brigham Young seem worried about time frames here? Not at all. This is instructive when trying to determine why the spirits of the dead would be in such a hurry to have work already done that would let them out of the prison house.[26]

Before I comment further on the above it will be instructive to relate what Nelson writes about the above quotation by Brigham Young:

This “right of heirship” was the policy of the church in performing proxy ordinances. Was it always followed? No. Frequently people did not know about details of church policy and there was no fast, easy means of getting information about them. It is clear that it Wilford was aware of this teaching of the right of heirship because he was concerned that he would never be capable of performing the temple work for his ancestors.[27]

This is probably the most important piece to Nelson’s argument because it would then require the “heirs” to do the proxy work which would invalidate the work done by others, thus providing a need for Woodruff to do them all over and have a reason for the spirits of the dead to appear to him. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work, for a number of reasons which I will discuss below, chief among them that Woodruff wasn’t an heir to the “Eminents”. Also, Nelson left out the part about doing proxy baptisms for dead FRIENDS, which made it seem like the quote was only about relatives doing work for relatives.

Let’s recap what Young was saying about the rights of heirship. It is important to note that Young declares that what he says here, isn’t all that he wishes to reveal about it beause that would take a good deal of explaining. This shows that there really was no policy in place about the “right of heirship”, but only what Young chose to reveal at that time, which was basically that it was in flux because “sometimes the Lord makes the selection”.

With that in mind, Young introduces the concept with an example that Nelson does not include in his quote. It is about Joseph Smith being the 4th Son, but still being the designated heir to the family.

It is important to note that Young had a much broader view of what constituted family and heirs. He also stated that it was the Lord who makes his own selection with regard to those who minister for him and are designated as heirs. Therefore there was no set policy, or you could expect lots of exceptions, something that Nelson does acknowledge as he claims that it was not always followed.

Young makes this clear when he states that “now, the brethren have the privilege of being baptized for their dead friends… and these friends can be sealed.”

What Young is saying is that it was the descendants right to officiate if they could, but that might not always be the case. This was taken into account when a policy was written up in 1905, and left any decisions about heirs up to the discretion of the Temple President. (see below) This essentially destroys any argument that work must be done by the heirs as some kind of set policy, or that this had anything to do with the “Eminents”. As early as 1847 Young taught,

“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 bound them by that perfect Chain according to the law of God and order of Heaven that will bind the righteous from Adam to the last Saint And Adam will claim us all as members of his kingdom we being his Children.”[28]

Work for the dead was to help bring about this “perfect chain”, just as much as ordinances done for the living. To Young, heirship was not a rigid concept:

“I am entitled to the Keys of the Priesthood according to linage & Blood. So is Brother H. C. Kimball & many others [      ] Have taken Kingly power & grades of the Priesthood. This we would have taught in the Temple if time had permitted. Joseph Smith was entitled to the Keys of the Priesthood according to Blood. Still He was the fourth son. But when we get another Temple built then we will teach you concerning those things. Suffice it to say that I will extend the Chain of the Pristhood back through the Apostolic dispensation to Father Adam just as soon as I can get a temple built.”[29]

Young was waiting for a Temple to be built before revealing everything, which is important to keep in mind. Nor was heirship a rigid concept to John Taylor. As Abraham H. Cannon wrote in his journal,

Thursday, Dec. 18th, 1890: . . .Father holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest; but this is rather a questionable proceeding.[30]

It seems that the apostles from Woodruff’s time just did what they pleased, further evidence that the right to heirship was not strictly followed nor enforced and so really has no bearing here. Why was it so important for family members to do the work for their own families when they could, but not so important that it could only be done by family? This was explained by Wilford Woodruff:

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1853

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1853

“You have had laid before you, during this Conference, some things pertaining to the redemption of our dead, and some things in regard to the building of temples. These, brethren and sisters, are important works. They are works which we do for others that they cannot do for themselves. This is what Jesus Christ did when He laid down His life for our redemption, because we could not redeem ourselves. We have fathers and mothers and kindred in the spirit world, and we have a work to perform in their behalf. As an individual I have had great interest in this work of redeeming the dead, and so have my brethren and sisters. This is a labor we must continue as far as we have opportunity. This principle was taught by the Apostle Paul. He asks, “If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the vail your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy.”[31]

Even Woodruff includes “friends” with family.  If it was the policy that the family should do the work, then why did Woodruff himself do the work for so many that were not part of his own family? Why did he feel the need to take away the recognition of family members as “Saviors upon Mount Zion”? To take that glory to himself? Perhaps this had something to do with Woodruff’s need to do the work himself?

Did the Lord make Wilford Woodruff the heir to all the “Eminent Men” on Woodruff’s list? Where is there any evidence of that? The evidence available leads to a different conclusion.

It is also worth noting here, that written instructions concerning the rights of heirs was not written up until 1905:

INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING TEMPLE ORDINANCE WORK

“…Those who do Temple work, or get it done, should be careful to designate their proper relationship to each one of the dead. A clear distinction should be made between blood kindred and those to whom they are married; the latter whom are known as relatives in law, thus a man is nephew-in-law to his uncle’s wife, cousin-in-law to his cousin’s wife, etc. If the dead are known to be blood relations, but the degree of relationship cannot be stated, the word RELATIVE is to be given. When there is no family connection, the word FRIEND should be used. The relatives, or friends[,] of a wife should be listed separately from those of her husband, and the work for her kindred should be at the instance of her brother, if he is a member of the Church, or of her eldest son. In the performance of work for the dead, the right of heirship (blood relationship) should be sacredly regarded. When practicable, relatives should represent the dead. The name of the individual at whose instance (by whose authorization or permission) the work is done, and his or her relationship to each of the dead is required for [the] record, if the relationship is known. As a rule, the eldest living MALE representative of the family, who is a member of the Church, is the recognized heir. Any individuals who are eligible may act as proxies for the dead but, unless the proxy is the heir, their relationship to the dead, if any, is not to be entered. It is advised that individuals having Temple ordinances performed should limit that work to persons bearing the SURNAMES of their parents and grandparents, and who resided in localities where those ancestors lived; that provides four family lines. To include other lines than those involves the probability of repeating Temple ordinances that individuals representing other families may have a better right to have performed. Every possible precaution should be taken to prevent such undesirable repetition. Temple work may be done for dead individuals who were married to your blood relations, but the family lines of such relatives-in-law must not be included in that work.  —Joseph F. Smith, ca. 1905; emphasis in original.”[32]

St. George Temple c. 1880

St. George Temple c. 1880

Still, it was only “when practicable”, that relatives should represent the dead. Did Woodruff himself violate the right of heirship by performing the work for the Eminents? Perhaps. Even though the instructions above speak of “undesirable repetition”, they do not say that previous work was to be considered invalid. So we see that using this as an alternative explanation for Woodruff’s claim that the spirits of the dead appeared to him claiming that nothing had been done for them is another red herring argument.

What is interesting is that ten years after Woodruff baptized the “Eminents”, he penned a letter to Temple President Marriner W. Merrill which included a response to James H. Martineau concerning heirship:

Marriner Wood Merrill

Marriner Wood Merrill

We send the enclosed letter to you for Brother James H. Martineau, and send it unsealed that you may read its contents and obtain therefrom our views concerning the principle alluded to by him. We must be more strict in enforcing the rule which is here mentioned in regard to heirship in our Temples, and people must not be permitted to follow their whims in being baptized for any and every body whom they may choose to officiate for; and persons should be questioned upon this subject of being baptized for those not of their own kin. We are satisfied that no man has a right[,] outside of his own kindred[,] to attend to ordinances for the dead without consultation and permission from the Presiding authority of the Church. But as this, perhaps, would lead to great delay and large correspondence, you as President of the Temple are authorized to exercise a wise discretion in permitting persons to be baptized for friends, when they satisfy you that they have no representative in the Church.[33]

The letters to Martineau read,

I think it is better for you to defer the ordinance of second anointing for this Indian girl who has been sealed to you since her death. It will be no los[s] to her for the present. As to the martyrs of whom you speak, we see no impropriety in having the ordinance of baptism attended to for them, especially if you know who they are: but before having them sealed to you, you should certainly have some knowledge of them and of your right to have them, as others may claim that they have a better right than you hereafter.[34]

And,

You ask if you are right in doing temple work for some noted Indian chiefs who are deceased. I am glad that you have asked this question because in officiating for those whom you mention, you have gone too fast. A man has a right to officiate for his own dead ancestry, if he be the heir, or if it be done with a knowledge and consultation of the heir, but he has no right to go into other families and officiate for them, even though they may have no representatives in the Church[,] without in the first place consulting the presidency of the Church.[35]

 Daniel H. Wells was in charge of the Endowment House and a member of the First Presidency when Haden Wells Church and John Bernhisel performed the proxy baptisms for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. There is no reason to assume that he did not have the same “wise discretion” that was given to Marriner W. Merrill.

Wilford Woodruff with plural wife Sarah Brown c. 1860

Wilford Woodruff with plural wife Sarah Brown c. 1860

III. So, Why The Big Hurry?

Brian Stuy points out that it was Brigham Young’s remarks at the dedication of the St. George Temple that perhaps motivated Woodruff to perform the proxy baptisms for the Founding Fathers:

What do you suppose the fathers would say if they Could speak from the dead? Would they not say we “have lain here thousand of years here in this prision House waiting for this dispensation to Come. Here we are bound and fettered in the association of those who are filthy.” What would they whisper in our Ears? Why if they had the power the vary thunders of heaven would be in our Ears if we Could but realize the importance of the work we are ingaged in. [36]

Woodruff would claim in 1877 that the concept of redeeming the founding fathers had never entered his heart due to his only thinking about close friends and family, but a year before he made that comment he said,

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1860

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1860

And if there is anything I desire to live for on the earth, or that I have desired, it has been to get a record of the genealogy of my fathers, that I might do something for them before I go hence into the spirit world. Until within a few years past it has seemed as if every avenue has been closed to obtaining such records; but the Lord has moved upon the inhabitants of this nation, and thousands of them are now laboring to trace the genealogical descent of the Puritan fathers, those who landed at Plymouth Rock, and whose descendants built up New England. Their lineages are coming to light, and we are gradually obtaining access to them, and by this means we shall be enabled to do something towards the salvation of our dead. [37]

Here we see Woodruff’s “need” to do something about those that “built up New England” proclaimed by him a year before the claimed visitation in the St. George Temple. Those mentioned by him above would be classed as “Eminent Men” (and women).  There is also something else that Woodruff was aware of, and that was the claimed vision of Ann Booth in March, 1840 which Woodruff recorded in his Journal:

I Ann Booth wife of Robert Booth of the Town of Manchester England had the following vision on the 12th Day of March in the year of our Lord 1840. Being caried away in a vision to the Place of departed spirits I saw 12 Prisons, one abov another, verry large, and builded of soled stone. on ariveing at the <dore of the> upermost Prision I behe[l]d one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb who had been martered in America, standing at the dore of the Prison holding a key in his hand with which he opned unlocked the dore and went in and I fol[low]ed him. he appeard to be of a large sise, thick set, darke hare, darke eyes, and eyebrows of a smiling count[e]nan[c]e, and on <his> had was a crown of gold or somthing brighter. he was dresed in a long, white robe, with the sleves plated from the sholder down to the hand. upon his brest ware fore [four] stares [stars] apparently like gold <or briter> and a

John Wesley

John Wesley

golden girdle about his Loins. his feet was bare from above the Ancles down<w>ard and his hands were also bare. as he entred the prison he seemed to stand about 3 feet from the floor (which was of Marble) as if the place was not worthy for him to stand upon. a verry brilient and glorie<u>s light surounded him, while the res[t] of the prison was dark. but his light was peculiar to him self and did not reflect upon others who was in the prison who ware surounded with a gloom of darkness. on the right hand of the dore stood Jhon Wesley, who on seing the glories personage, rased his hands and shouted ‘glory, honer, praise, and Power be ascribed unto God and the Lamb forever and ever. Deliverance has Com. the Apostle then commecd to preach the Baptism of repentence for the remision of sins and the gift of the Holy Gost by the laing of hands when the hundreds of prisners gave a shout with aloud voice saying ‘Glory be to God for ever and ever’. the marble floor was then removed and a River of watter clere as Cristall seemed to f[l]ow in it place. the Apostle then called to John Wesley by name who came fawrd quickley and both went down in to [fold in paper worn, obscuring the text] and the Apostle Baptized him and coming up out of the water he lade his hands upon him for the gift of the Holy Gost, at the same time ordaining him to the Preasthood of Aaron. the Apostle then retired to the place ware he first stod and John Wesley then proseded to Baptize a man by the [name] of Kilbham and next John Madison and Wm. Scott and John Tongue <who> ware Methodest Prachers with whome I had ben aquanted personly. the next he Baptized was my grand father

David W. Patten

“Apostle” David W. Patten

Edmond Whitehead. the next was my unkel Johon [John] Whitehead and the next was my sister Elizabath Oland, the <next> was Joseph Lancashere. next Samuel Robinson Robinson and the next was my own Mother. all these had lived and died Methodest and I had had ben personly aquanted with them all. and after this he Baptized all the Prisoners amounting to menny hundreds. after they ware all Baptized, the Apostle Lade his hands on them all and confermed them. then instantly the Darkeness dispersed and they ware all surrounded and envellopd in a Brilint light, such as suround’d the Apostle at the first. and they all lifted up theyr voices with one accord giving glory to God for deliverence. My gra<n>d fatheer then came to me and Blest me saying ‘the Lord bless [you] forever and ever. art thou com to see us deliverd? my mother then came to me and clasped me in hir arms and kissed me three times and said ‘the Lord Almightly Bless the for ever and evere.’ [38]

It was a month after the vision of Ann Booth began circulating that Joseph Smith preached his first public sermon on baptism for the dead in Nauvoo. [39] It may have been this vision that prompted Smith to publically proclaim the doctrine in Nauvoo in August of 1840, since Booth’s claimed vision obviously contains doctrinal errors. [40]

What is interesting is that Woodruff writes on July 5, 1877 that he had been reading from his first journal. [41]

Brian Stuy points out that Woodruff began reading about Daniel Boone in Evert Augustus Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans. [42]

Daniel Boone from Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans

Daniel Boone from Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans

This was just a few months after he spoke of “the descendants who built up New England”, which would include the Founding Fathers.  His journal entry for August 3-5, 1876 reads,

In my leasure moments of late I have read the life of Daniel Boone the great explorer & pioneer of Kentucky and afterwords Early setler of Louisianna and it is vary Strange that Kentucky should have Cheated him out of his land & home after locating the Country & fighting Indians 40 years. Also the Lands in Louisianna that the spanish Government gave him was taken from him By Congress and he never had any land given him untill he was about 80 years old and a short time before his death. His life was a remarkable one. He lived 3 Months in the wilderness of Kentucky 500 miles from any white men without bread, sugar, or salt in a Camp surrounded with Indians and was taken twice a prisioner by them & escaped. Built a fort gathered his family and white Emigration to it & maintained it through many years of Indian wars & was then deprived of his home By Lawyiers and Land speculators. [43]

However Woodruff got motivated, why did he feel pressed to perform the proxy work for the “Eminents” that he did in 1877?

Perhaps some further information on the spirits of the dead and where they go after they die might be in order and shed some context on Young’s 1877 remarks. In 1856, Brigham Young taught,

When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world. Are you going into Abraham’s bosom. No, not any where nigh there, but into the spirit world. Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? Yes, they do. Do they both inhabit one kingdom? Yes, they do. Do they go to the sun? No. Do they go beyond the boundaries of this organized earth? No, they do not. They are brought forth upon this earth, for the express purpose of inhabiting it to all eternity. Where else are you going? No where else, only as you may be permitted.

When the spirits of mankind leave their bodies, no matter whether the individual was a Prophet or the meanest person that you could find, where do they go? To the spirit world. Where is it? I am telling you. The spirit of Joseph, I do not know that it is just now in this bowery, but I will assure you that it is close to the Latter-day Saints, is active in preaching to the spirits in prison and preparing the way to redeem the nations of the earth, those who lived in darkness previous to  the introduction of the Gospel by himself in these days.

The Spirit World

The Spirit World

He has just as much labor on hand as I have; he has just as much to do. Father Smith and Carlos and brother Partridge, yes, and every other good Saint, are just as busy in the spirit world as you and I are here. They can see us, but we cannot see them unless our eyes were opened. What are they doing there? They are preaching, preaching all the time, and preparing the way for us to hasten our work in building temples here and elsewhere, and to go back to Jackson County and build the great temple of the Lord. They are hurrying to get ready by the time that we are ready and we are all hurrying to get ready by the time our Elder Brother is ready.

The wicked spirits that leave here and go into the spirit world, are they wicked there? Yes.

The spirits of people that have lived upon the earth according to the the best light they had, who were as honest and sincere as men and women could be, if they lived on the earth without the privilege of the Gospel and the Priesthood and the keys thereof are still under the power and control of evil spirits, to a certain extent. No matter where they lived on the face of the earth, all men and women that have died without the keys and power of the Priesthood, though they might have been honest and sincere and have done every thing they could, are under the influence of the devil, more or less. Are they as much so as others? No, no. Take those that were wicked designedly, who knowingly lived without the Gospel when it was within their reach, they are given up to the devil, they become tools to the devil and spirits of devils.

Go to the time when the Gospel came to the earth in the days of Joseph, take the wicked that have opposed this people and persecuted them to the death, and they are sent to hell. Where are they? They are in the spirit world, and are just as busy as they possibly can be to do every thing they can against the Prophet and the Apostles, against Jesus and his kingdom. They are just as wicked and malicious in their actions against the cause of truth, as they were while on the earth in their fleshly tabernacles.

Joseph, also, goes there, but has the devil power over him? No, because he held the keys and power of the eternal Priesthood here, and got the victory while here in the flesh. [44] 

Young claims here the the spirits of the dead all go to a “spirit prison”.  Young’s remarks in 1877 seem to be a contradiction to his earlier teachings about the spirit world. Joseph F. Smith in 1918 claimed to have a vision of the Spirit World, which was later canonized. He wrote,

As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place, an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality, and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemers name. All these had departed the mortal life firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection through the grace of God the Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fullness of joy. While this vast multitude waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death, the Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful, and there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on condition of repentance. But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised, neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. Where these were darkness reigned, but among the righteous there was peace and the saints rejoiced in their redemption and bowed the knee and acknowledged the Son of God as their Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell. Their countenances shone and the radiance from the presence of the Lord rested upon them and they sang praises unto his holy name. …jesus_spirit_world

I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotton Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead. The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, and after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions and are washed clean shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.[45]

According to Smith and others, the “prison doors” were opened by Jesus, who then sent messengers to preach to them. Those that accepted the Gospel were released from the prison and “the association of those who are filthy” . This is where many Mormon Authorities claimed that David W. Patten went after he was killed at the Battle of Crooked River when he engaged Missouri State Militia. [46] George W. Cannon explained about how this happens,

What is that Gospel? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, who left His glorious abode on high and came on earth to endure and to die for our salvation. Repentance. Is it not a glorious thing to be able to say to a wicked man, “Only repent with all your heart, and God will forgive you.” This is what is being preached unto the spirits in prison. They are being told how they can escape from their evil surroundings and from the power of Satan. Then if they will repent, there are men on the earth who will perform for them, in places expressly dedicated to God for that purpose, those ordinances that cannot be administered there. They can be baptized for them, they can act for them in receiving the ordinance of laying on of hands, and thus they can receive the Spirit of God, and be snatched from the evils to which they have become subjected through sin, and be placed in the path where they can continue to progress eternally. [47]

This is exactly what was done for the “Eminents” in the Endowment House. According to Ann Booth, men like John Wesley and others accepted the Gospel, repented, and Haden Wells Church, John Bernhisel and others performed their baptisms and the ordinance of laying on of hands which enabled them to escape from their bondage and association with the “filthy”.  Five years after he redid the work for the “Eminents”, Woodruff declared,

Our mission is more extended and extensive than we realize. There have been no Prophets, no Apostles, upon the earth for the last 1,800 years, that we are much acquainted with, except Nephi, who dwelt upon this continent several hundred years after the death of Christ. There has been no one upon the earth with authority to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. Many  [p.331] generations have passed away. Many thousands of millions have passed into the spirit world. We are now at the end of the sixth thousand years. We are bordering upon the millennium. We are living in the great and last dispensation, in the which the God of Israel expects us, his servants, his sons and daughters, to perform the work which has been left to our charge. It is our duty to build these temples. It is our duty to enter into them and redeem our dead. Joseph Smith is preaching to the spirits in prison; so are all the Elders who have died in the faith. There are millions of them there, and they must have the Gospel offered to them. Joseph Smith and others cannot baptize the spirits in water, it is not the law; but their posterity, their sons and daughters who are living in the last dispensation, are expected to go into these temples and there redeem their dead. This is a good work, and it is a great blessing for men and women to have this privilege. We have one of these temples finished, and we are doing a great work in that temple. A hundred and sixty-two thousand persons have been baptized for the dead, and nearly seventy thousand endowments have been given in that temple. We have only just begun this work. We want the Logan temple finished, as also the temple at Manti, that the people may go forth and redeem their dead. Our forefathers are looking to us to attend to this work. They are watching over us with great anxiety, and are desirous that we should finish these temples and attend to certain ordinances for them, so that in the morning of the resurrection they can come forth and enjoy the same blessings that we enjoy. We are living in the flesh and have the privilege of receiving the Gospel of Christ for ourselves. Our forefathers had not this privilege; and as their posterity when we meet them in the spirit world we shall have the joy and satisfaction of knowing that we did our duty by them while here upon the earth. We occupy a position in this capacity towards them the same as we do to this generation. We occupy the position of Saviors upon Mount Zion.[48]

Again we can ask the question, why would the “Eminents” appear to Woodruff and ask for work to be done that had already been done, which had freed them from their association with the wicked in the Spirit World and placed them on a path to “progress eternally”?

IV. Other Concerns

Woodruff’s Sources And Knowledge

“Wilford Woodruff”, writes Stuy, “apparently left Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans in Salt Lake City when he left for St. George on 1 November 1876. That he did not have the two volume [set] that he had been reading during the previous months is strongly supported by the fact that he did not perform the baptismal work for anyone whose biography is found only in this work, including Daniel Boone, Patrick Henry, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—men who were greatly admired and whom Woodruff certainly would have considered worthy of proxy attention.”[49]

Stuy also notes that all of the Presidents for whom Woodruff did proxy work for had biographical sketches in Duyckinck’s National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans, but the biographical data that Woodruff included for these Presidents was so dissimiliar from Duyckinck’s that he is certain that Woodruff did not have the work with him in St. George. [50]

Why is this important? Because Woodruff got so many details wrong in his documentation about the Eminents. As Stuy points out,

Portrait Gallery“It seems likely that, if the signers had literally appeared to Woodruff, he would have used all of the resources at his disposal to compile as complete and comprehensive a listing of worthies as he could. Woodruff’s use of Duyckinck’s volumes does nothing in and of itself to cause us to question his experience as a literal visitation from the spirit world. But because the baptismal work had been previously performed for every individual who had signed the Declaration of Independence—the very men Woodruff explicitly states appeared to him—we must consider the nature of his experience with these men. It seems unlikely that they would have literally appeared to him in August 1877, after their proxy baptisms had been done, to express their unhappiness that no proxy work had been performed for them, yet this was certainly the main message that Woodruff understood from his experience. [51]

Woodruff apparently spent two consecutive nights with these men, but didn’t get any details that would help him with their genealogies and recorded inaccurate information about them? He didn’t question them about their marriages, their children and forefathers? Woodruff certainly was aware of the lack of avenues of information.

As Stuy observes, “…a comparison between the two listings (Duyckinck’s Portrait Gallery & Woodruff’s list) shows not a single instance in which Woodruff’s proxy record contains accurate biographical information not contained in Duyckinck’s volumes.” (page 73) Stuy adds, “In several instances, Woodruff has information not found in Duyckinck’s volumes, but these additions are always inaccurate.[52]

It seems that Woodruff had the ultimate access, but didn’t make use of it, or the Eminents were feeding him false information. Another thing to consider that hasn’t really been addressed, is how likely it was that Woodruff would have known that the Eminents baptisms had been done, long before the move to Utah. Guy Bishop writes,

Baptisms for deceased friends often reflected personal reverence for historical figures. In addition to the previously mentioned noted historical figures, other Saints showed a fascination with saving the greats of bygone generations such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, and “Gen’l. Montgomery [who] fell at Quebec,” for whom John Harrington was proxy. Also Stephen Jones was baptized for Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de LaFayette. The greater the historical reputation, the more times proxy baptisms were performed. In 1841 alone, George Washington, for example, benefitted from proxy baptisms done by Don Carlos Smith, Stephen Jones, and John Harrington. Many of these eminent men from thepast, including most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and former U.S. presidents, as well as several noted women, were again baptized in the St. George Temple in 1877.” [53]

wilford-woodruff-baptisingWoodruff himself was familiar with and participated in many baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo.  Even Charlotte Haven, who was visiting relatives in Nauvoo, witnessed baptisms for the dead, including the baptism of George Washington:

Last Sunday morning the Judge came in and soon proposed a walk, for it was a balmy spring day, so we took a bee-line for the river, down the street north of our house. Arriving there we rested awhile on a log, watching the thin sheets of ice as they slowly came down and floated by. Then we followed the bank toward town, and rounding a little point covered with willows and cottonwoods, we spied quite a crowd of people, and soon perceived there was a baptism. Two elders stood knee-deep in the icy cold water, and immersed one after another as fast as they could come down the bank. We soon observed that some of them went in and were plunged several times. We were told that they were baptized for the dead who had not had an opportunity of adopting the doctrines of the Latter Day Saints. So these poor mortals in ice-cold water were releasing their ancestors and relatives from purgatory! We drew a little nearer and heard several names repeated by the elders as the victims were douched, and you can imagine our surprise when the name George Washington was called. So after these fifty years he is out of purgatory and on his way to the “celestial” heaven! It was enough, and we continued our walk homeward. [54]

One other thing to consider if you are inclined to believe that Woodruff did know about the proxy baptisms performed for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Woodruff said that he didn’t know of any:

I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. [55]

Here Woodruff claims that the thought never entered his heart that anything had been done for these men. Woodruff also claims that it never entered “our” minds. But that is obviously not true, since it had certainly entered the minds of many since proxy work first started being performed in Nauvoo. Who is he including here? Certainly not John D. T. McAllister, who did recording and confirmations in the Endowment House.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1865

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1865

Woodruff Misquoted (Again)?

This brings us to Nelson’s next point, which is to blame George Gibbs. I have already addressed this speculation above, but Nelson also claims that because Woodruff only mentions the Endowment House in his September 16, 1877 address and no others, that this is evidence that Gibbs misquoted him. Here is what Woodruff said once again,

“I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights.  I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them.”[56]

Let’s reconstruct this without mentioning the Endowment House. “Said they, … nothing has ever been done for us… I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them.”

We still have the problem of Woodruff claiming that the spirits of the dead said “nothing has ever been done for us”, and we have Woodruff repeating that “nothing had been done for them” at the end. So Gibbs misheard this entire paragraph? This is simply an unreasonable speculation, especially since we know that Gibbs surely had the sermons he transcribed checked by those who gave them, as George D. Watt did when he was the chief recorder.[57] 

Wilford Woodruff's Temple Lot Case Testimony - Journal of Discourses Sermons

Wilford Woodruff’s Temple Lot Case Testimony – Journal of Discourses Sermons – Where he states that it was a General Rule for them to correct their sermons – Transcript Courtesy of The Church History Library

Nelson adds that because in Mormon theology one needs more than just a baptism, we can suppose that Woodruff was misquoted. But is that what Woodruff meant when he spoke about redeeming the dead in 1877? For example, ten years later Woodruff claimed that,

As an individual I have had great interest in this work of redeeming the dead, and so have my brethren and sisters. This is a labor we must continue as far as we have opportunity. This principle was taught by the Apostle Paul. He asks, “If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” This is a work that rests upon the Latter-day Saints. Do what you can in this respect, so that when you pass to the other side of the vail your fathers, mothers, relatives and friends will bless you for what you have done, and inasmuch as you have been instruments in the hands of God in procuring their redemption, you will be recognized as Saviors upon Mount Zion in fulfillment of prophecy. [58]

One must look at this in historical context. At that time redeeming the dead did not include Endowments, because Brigham Young would not authorize any to be done outside of a Temple. That is why in later quotes Woodruff expands the definition to include Endowments more often. Four years later Woodruff again broaches this subject and once again links redeeming the dead to baptism, even after there were multiple temples in operation:

The Latter-day Saints have gone to work and labored in these Temples by the commandment of God, for the blessing of the living and redemption of their dead, and a million of men and women, whose bodies are returned to dust, and whose spirits are in the spirit world, have received the benefits of the Gospel by [p.209] the power of God and the work of the Elders, under the direction of President Young. Is this a loss of prestige? Is there no hand of God in this? Is there no progress in this? These things certainly were not accomplished in the life of Joseph Smith, although Joseph Smith received revelations with regard to Temples, and the ordinances and endowments afterwards administered in the Temple at Nauvoo. He also built the first Temple, in Kirtland, and many blessings were revealed in that Temple, and this work was continued while he lived, as far as he had the power. I remember well the first time I read the revelation given through the Prophet Joseph concerning the redemption of the dead—one of the most glorious principles I had ever become acquainted with on earth.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1877

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1877

To think that I and these Latter-day Saints could go forth into the waters of baptism and redeem our fathers, our mothers, and those that have gone before us, in the lineage of our father’s house, and they come forth and receive a part in the first resurrection! Well might the Prophet say God has fulfilled His promise that in the last days He would raise up saviors upon Mount Zion, and the kingdom should be the Lord’s. Never did I read a revelation with greater joy than I did that revelation. I have often referred to the course we pursued in connection with that. Joseph Smith himself (many of you may recollect the time) went into the Mississippi river one Sunday night after meeting, and baptized a hundred. I baptized another hundred. The next man, a few rods from me, baptized another hundred. We were strung up and down the Mississippi, baptizing for our dead. But there was no recorder; we attended to this ordinance without waiting to have a proper record made. But the Lord told Joseph that he must have recorders present at these baptisms—men who could see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and record these things. Of course, we had to do the work over again. Nevertheless, that does not say the work was not of God.[59]

To be sure, there are many quotes by Woodruff that include Endowments when he speaks of redeeming the dead, but not always. Notice also, that Woodruff claims that though the work had to be done over in Nauvoo because there was no recorder, (as per a clarifying “revelation” by Joseph Smith) that the work was still “of God”.  Since there were recorders when work was done in Utah, there would be no reason to redo any of that work, nor was it ever suggested that this be done.

So a rebaptism does not nullify the original baptism. In the case of the “Eminents”, this was not an issue since their baptisms were recorded and performed under the supervision of one of the First Presidency (Daniel H. Wells) who oversaw the work in the Endowment House at that time (1868-1884) and was frequently there participating in the work.[60]

Proxy baptisms were also performed by Haden Wells Church, a respected Seventy who had served multiple successful missions for the church, and John M. Bernhisel who was the first Mormon Congressional Delegate from Utah Territory to Washington, had close ties to the First Presidency of the church, and Wilford Woodruff. [61]

There is nothing at all upon which to base Nelson’s inference that because the proxy baptisms performed on behalf of the “Eminents” were not done by a descendant or with the approval of a church authority, they were invalid or that there was some need for Woodruff to do them himself.  He offers only speculation.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1880

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1880

When All Else Fails Speculate

Nelson then tries to undermine the validity of the work already done by Haden Wells Church[62] (who performed about half of the baptisms for the signers of the Declaration of Independence) by speculating that he may not have had authorization and may have been commanded to stop doing their work.

I could perhaps agree that this was plausible if not for the fact that Church performed the baptisms for about half of the signers on more than one occasion, a year apart, and that those that helped him were prominent men in the Church. Brian Stuy writes,

Haden Wells Church

Haden Wells Church

[Haden Wells] Church performed the proxy baptisms for twenty-nine of the fifty-four signers—just more than half. Why he did not perform the work for the remaining signers is unknown (Endowment House, 23 August 1871, 17 April 1872, #183384). Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers for whom Church did not perform the work, nevertheless had his work performed by a descendant, Phineas Wolcott Cook (ibid., 13 September 1872, #183384).

John Adam’s baptism was repeated in Utah by Samuel H. B. Smith and by Haden Wells Church (Endowment House, 15 November 1871, 17 April 1872, #183384).[63]

From this, Nelson infers that it is “plausible” that,

“partway through his efforts Hayden Church was told that because he wasn’t a descendent and didn’t have authorization that he needed to stop. Notice that just months after this Oliver Wolcott was baptized by a descendent. [64]

There of course may be more plausible reasons why Church did not finish the work for the signers—he may have been busy with other responsibilities. It took him a year and two visits to complete half the list, but the next year, 1873, Church spent time as a traveling missionary, and one news article has him visiting Kanab in Kane County in September of that year.[65]

Haden Church News Article 1873Again, this would not invalidate what Church did, even if he was told to stop which does not seem at all plausible. If this were so, why was John M. Bernhisel allowed to do proxy work for the remaining signers just two years later, after Oliver Wolcott did some work for only one of the signers? It is very plausible that Wolcott was the only descendant at that time that was available and ready to do the work.  As explained above in Wolcott’s case, that would invoke the “right of heirship”.  What this shows is that there was a very coordinated effort in performing these proxy baptisms, as we shall see.

Even though John Hancock’s baptism was done by his descendant Levi Ward Hancock, this was not done in the Endowment House, but in the St. George Temple on May 29, 1877. The same was true of William Floyd, whose proxy work was done by descendant Addison Everett in March of the same year.

From what Stuy writes, Bernhisel was aware of Church’s work, because he did not do any of the work for those that Church had served as proxy for. [66]

What this evidence suggests is that this was a coordinated effort, and they did not do the work for those they knew had descendants able to do the work at that time. What it does not suggest, is that the work was discontinued solely on the basis of right of heirship.

John-M.-Bernhisel

John M. Bernhisel

I find it interesting that Nelson will try and undermine Haden Church’s authority to do the work, and yet will make the conjecture that others who may not have been heirs somehow got permission:

John Hancock’s work was done by a relative, Levi Hancock, again fitting well with the idea of heirship making proxy ordinance work valid. William Floyd’s work was performed by Addison Everett. In this case, I am not aware of a relationship between the two. It is important to note that under Wilford’s tenure as Temple President that Addison Everett was the one who completed the proxy work for William Floyd. Perhaps if Everett is not related to Floyd, permission from a presiding authority had been granted to do the work.[67]

Where does Nelson get the idea that proxy work would be more valid if done by an heir? I can find no evidence that any Mormon Authorities ever said so. The best explanation that I can come up with is that if an heir redid a baptism, it would only change the details which were recorded, transferring the proxy work to the heir. This would not invalidate the original baptism though.  And this point is rather moot, because the hiers would be sealed to their ancestors, regardless of who did the baptism. None of the men who did the proxy work for the “Eminents” requested to have them sealed to their lineage. So, why would this (getting permission to proxy baptize) not be the case with Church and Bernhisel? This begs the question,

Was Woodruff aware of the work that had been done for these men? I find it hard to believe that he was not. He exchanged many letters with John M. Bernhisel, and mentions Haden W. Church and his son in his Journals, and he was very close to John D. T. McAllister, who did some of the confirmations and recordings.[68] On the other hand, Stuy writes,

But Woodruff apparently did not know of the proxy baptisms Haden Church and John Bernhisel had completed earlier for the signers of the Declaration of Independence and past U.S. presidents. In fact, every signer of the Declaration of Independence had been baptized by proxy before Woodruff performed that ordinance in the St. George Temple in 1877.[69]

He relegates to a footnote that Woodruff may have known of Bernhisel’s work. I find it personally hard to believe that Woodruff did not know about the previous work. But this point is also moot, as I have explained above, because the baptisms performed by Church and Bernhisel were valid and Woodruff claimed that it never entered his or others hearts to do anything for them in his September 19, 1877 discourse.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1890

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1887

V. Rogue Baptisms?

There are a few other things worth mentioning that are perhaps relevant in understanding the circumstances surrounding these events.  Brian Stuy writes,

On one occasion Church was confirmed by an individual who would play an important role in Woodruff’s experience, John Daniel Thompson McAllister, who also served as recorder for many of the baptisms. Church’s wife, Matilda, was proxy baptized for many of the signers wives.[70]

Woodruff had worked with McAllister as early as 1864 in the Endowment House where they performed sealings for the living.[71]

At On the 13 of June, 1868 Woodruff took J. D. T. McAllister with him to visit the dying Heber C. Kimball who was blessed by them along with Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells and Albert Carrington.[72]

McAllister was appointed by Brigham Young as President of the St. George Stake, and Woodruff writes that,

“I went down to the Temple with Br Angel and looked over the rooms to see how we would [be] organized to prepare for Endowments. I wrote the Ceremony (or assisted Br Mcallister in doing it) for work in the Temple.[73]

At the time that McAllister did the confirmations and recordings for the proxy baptisms performed by Haden Church, he was a Counsellor to Bishop Elijah F. Sheets, and was the Salt Lake City Marshall.  Elijah Sheets served as bishop of the Salt Lake City Eighth Ward from 1856 to 1904. He also served at the central Church level as a traveling bishop, as the Church’s head livestock agent, and as an assistant trustee-in-trust.[74]

John Daniel Thompson McAllister c. 1870

John Daniel Thompson McAllister c. 1870

McAllister like Sheets had the confidence and trust of the First Presidency.  He was elected Fire Chief and City Marshall and also served as a Territorial Marshall. He worked in the Endowment House for many years and was Superintendent of Brigham Young’s Woolen Mill. He was elected foreman of the Council in the Legislature in 1862 and 1863. In 1867 he was appointed to be in charge of the Tabernacle.

All three of these men, Haden Church, John McAllister and John Bernhisel were exemplary in their respective duties and assignments. There is no reason to believe that any of them did not act within proper Priesthood channels in doing proxy work for the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  I know of no systematic program to nullify all (or any) of the proxy baptisms done in the Endowment House by performing them again in a temple, therefore Woodruff’s decision to rebaptize the “Eminents” was his own choice, not some kind of policy decision based on lack of authority to perform them the first time.  And since Woodruff himself was not an heir, this makes his motive to do so even more questionable as a legitimate need. Woodruff as Temple President certainly had the authority to rebaptize the Eminents, but that still leaves us right back where we started: Why would the signers of the Declaration of Independence need to appear to Woodruff and tell him that no work had been done for them, when it obviously had been?[75] 

Marriner W. Merrill would comment on duplicate work in 1895:

Of course, there was quite an amount of work done in the Endowment House; but we have found that a great deal of that work has been duplicated, from the fact that people did not keep a record of the work themselves, and the records of the Endowment House in times past were not available to everybody.[76]

This would not be Woodruff’s problem, since he would have had access to any records he cared to search for. I can’t imagine that if Woodruff was somehow not aware of the proxy work done for the “Eminents”, that McAllister would not have told him in St. George. Therefore it is very probable that Woodruff knew about the proxy baptisms before he performed them, but went ahead anyway, disregarding the rule not to perform duplicate work.

Woodruff claimed that McAllister knew about the visit of the spirits of the dead, yet he, like Woodruff did not record anything about it in his Journal; but he did write about the proxy work that he performed. On 21 August 1877, McAllister recorded:

At the Temple as usual. 682 baptism for the dead. Myself 170, Wilford Woodruff 21, Joseph Hammond 226,and A. P. Winsor 225. On this day I was baptised for all the dead presidents of the United States except Martin Van Buren and Jas. Buchanan.[77]

On August 22 John wrote,

I received endowments for General George Washington and Sister Lucy B. Young received Endowments for Mary Ball, Washington’s Mother. I was also ordained a High Priest for Washington.

On Thursday 23, I received Endowments for Millard Filmore. I also acted for Augustine Washington and my wife, Ann, for his 1st wife and for his 2nd. Mary Ball, George Washington’s mother in the sealing. Ann also acted for Maria Fackrell who was sealed to John Washington, great-grandfather of George. I was also baptised for Daniel Park Custin [sic] and John Park Custin, sons of Martha and her first husband. I was also ordained a High Priest for Benjamin Franklin, on this day.[78]

Brian Stuy writes that,

“McAllister frequently performed proxy ordinances for famous historical personalities. In addition to acting in the confirmation of eleven signers proxy baptized by Haden Wells Church in 1871, McAllister was baptized for several prominent individuals, including the first Emperor of Russia and Austria (Endowment House, 9 August 1871, 12 June 1872, #1183384).[79]

David H. Cannon

David H. Cannon

Years later Woodruff would mention McAllister in connection with a retelling of the supposed visitation, along with two others, James Godson Bleak and David H. Cannon.  David H. Cannon was a bishop, high counselor, and a member of the Stake Presidency in St. George for many years which required traveling to visit the wards and branches throughout southern Utah and Nevada. After the building and dedication of the St. George Temple Cannon served first as an assistant to then temple president Wilford Woodruff, then as an assistant to temple president John D.T. McAllister and finally on 28 August 1893 he was called to be President of the St. George Temple.[80]

Canon never mentioned that he had any direct knowledge of the claimed visitation of the spirits of the dead to Wilford Woodruff. In 1922 he gave a speech to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers where he recounted important events in his life. Concerning the events of the time in question he said,

On January 9, 1877 I was called by President Young to labor in the St. George Temple. I was set apart April 17, 1877 to assist President Woodruff in the performance of the higher ordinance in the House of the Lord.[81]

This would have been the perfect time to recount something about the claimed vision of Woodruff, but Canon does  not mention it. If these men witnessed the same events that Woodruff did, they never mentioned it or wrote about it in their journals.

In 1905 Canon did mention that he had knowledge of the dead manifesting themselves at St. George, but gave no specific examples or what he meant by “manifested”:

Pres[iden]t [David H.] Cannon said we should seek to do our own work for our immediate relatives when we are able so to do. If we engage proxies, let them labor for those not so closely related to us. Our relatives in the other world will ask, why we did not [do] the work for them; by this we shall certainly be confronted. It is a fact that while we represent the dead, they have, at times, manifested themselves[,] to his knowledge, in this temple.[82]

According to Franklin D. Richards the dead could manifest themselves in many different ways in addition to seeing the dead:

When we dedicated the Temple at Manti, there were many brethren and sisters that saw the presence of spiritual beings, which could only be discerned by the eyes of the inner man. The Prophets Joseph, Hyrum, Brigham, and various other Apostles that have gone, were seen; and not only so, but the ears of many of the faithful were touched and they heard the music of the heavenly choir that was there. Then what a happy thing it would be if everybody went to that house, when it comes to be dedicated, so upright in their hearts before the Lord as to be pleasing in His sight![83]

Then there is the James Godson Bleak account. Amy Thiriot mentions this in a footnote to her article. The account reads,

James Godson Bleak

James Godson Bleak

”I was also present in the St. Geo. Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and also the Spirits of the Presidents of the U.S. up to that time. And also others, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley. (The man that started the Methodist Faith) who came to Wilford Woodruff and demanded that their baptism and endowments be done. Wilford Woodruff was baptized for all of them. While I and Brothers J.D.T. McAllister and David H Cannon (who were witnesses to the request) were endowed for them. These men that we did work for were choice Spirits, not Wicked men. They laid the foundation of this American Gov., and signed the Declaration of Independence and were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth to perform this work. Martin Luther and John Wesley helped to release the people from religious bondage that held them during the dark ages. They also prepared the peoples hearts so they would be ready to receive the restored gospel when the Lord sent it again to Men on earth. Wilford Woodruff,  ‘Said, Would those spirits have came to me and demanded at my hand as an Elder in Israel, that I should go and attend to the saving ordinances in the House of God, for them if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not. I bear testimony because its true. The Spirit of God bare record to myself and these brethern while we were laboring in thier behalf.’”[84]

This account has been cited by many as an actual diary entry, but that is not the case. It is obviously a late account given well after Woodruff dedicated the Salt Lake Temple.

The story of James Godson Bleak is an interesting one. He was a close friend of Wilford Woodruff’s, but Bleak is not mentioned by Woodruff in his Journals until well after the supposed visitation took place.[85]

In 1883 Woodruff gave an account of the History of the St. George Temple and said,

Wilford Woodruff, age 86 (6 April 1893)

Wilford Woodruff, 1893

The corner stones were laid on the 10th day of March, 1873, and labor was continued thereon until Jan[.] 1st, 1877, when it was dedicated to God. (See W[ilford] Woodruff ‘s Journal of Jan[.] 1st, 1877, which contains the dedicatory prayers of W[ilford] Woodruff, Erastus Snow, and B[righam] Young Jr., also the speech of President [Brigham] Young.) I, Wilford Woodruff, bear testimony, that Pres[iden]t B[righam] Young told me to go to work and prepare the Temple for giving Endowments, and I had made the preparations according to his acceptance; and on the 9th of Jan., 1877, we repaired to the Temple and for the first time the ordinance of baptism for the dead was performed in the Temple of St. George[.] Wilford Woodruff went into the font by the direction of Pres[iden]t Brigham Young and administered the ordinance of baptism for the first 140 persons, and confirmed the first person, Pres[iden]t Young laying on hands at the same time. John L. Smith administered the ordinance of baptism for the next 83 persons, making 223 baptisms and confirmations during that day. Wilford Woodruff Confirmed one 1. J[ohn] D. T. McAllister confirmed 64, A[lonzo] H. Raleigh 15, H[enry] W. Bigler 123, and Erastus Snow 20. Susie Amelia Young Dunford was the first baptized and confirmed by W[ilford] Woodruff. Pres[iden]t Brigham Young requested me to take charge of the Temple, which I did. He also requested me to write all the ordinances of the Church from the first baptism and confirmation through every ordinance of the Church. Geo[rge] Q. Cannon assisted some in this writing, and when I had finished it to the satisfaction of the President, he said to me, “Now you have before you an ensample to carry on the endowments in all the temples until the coming of the Son of Man.” On the 8th of April, 1877, W[ilford] Woodruff was appointed in the public assembly to take charge of the Temple and preside over it, and in private conversation with the President, he said he wanted me to take the whole charge of the Temple and attend to all affairs connected with the endowments, sealings &c. I told him I was not able to go to the altar and do all the sealings as I had injured myself at that labor in the Salt Lake Endowment House. Pres[iden]t Young told me to go to work and ordain some men to help me to do the sealing[s]. He told me to set apart J[ohn] D. T. McAllister and David H. Cannon for that purpose and, if I needed more, to set them apart. I set apart Br[other] McAllister to that work April 14th, 1877. I set apart David H. Cannon for the same purpose on the 27th of April. I also set apart James G. Bleak to officiate at the altar some time afterward (I do not recollect the date). (2d March 1881.) Pres[iden]t Young gave me power and authority to give second anointings and seal women to men as I might be led by the Spirit of God. I parted with Pres[iden]t Young for the last time in the flesh at 9:30 A.M. on April 16th, 1877, when he started for Salt Lake City. Brigham Young Jr., was very sick at the time. When I left St. George, I placed the presidency of the Temple in the hands of John David Thompson McAllister, who was to preside over it in my absence. This is the testimony which I Wilford Woodruff bear to all whom it may concern.[86]

In 1953 Caroline S. Addy wrote her Master’s Thesis about the life of James Godson Bleak and had access to all of his papers and diaries.[87] She never mentions any account by Bleak about the “Eminents” appearing either to Woodruff or Bleak, even though she devotes a whole chapter on their relationship as friends.[88]

Addy’s assessment of Bleak as an Historian is a mixed one. She writes that,

The main defects of the work (Bleak’s “Annals of the Southern Utah Mission”) are its chronological form, its lack of interpretation, its avoidance of events uncomplimentary to the church, and its over-emphasis on affairs in St. George. Points in its favor are the vital facts it furnishes from sources which are lost or which would be difficult for students of the present day to go over, and the basis it forms for future studies in Southern Utah history.[89]

I believe that Bleak wanted to prop up his old friend Wilford Woodruff, and that after he heard Woodruff’s speech in 1898 where he (Bleak) was mentioned, he gave the above account, parts of which are taken directly from Woodruff’s 1898 speech:

“I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, that those men who laid the foundation of this American Government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. Another thing I am going to say here, because I have a right to say it. Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence with General Washington called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them. Men are here, I believe, that know of this–Brothers J. D. T. McAllister, David H. Cannon and James C. Bleak. Brother McAllister baptized me for all these men, and I then told these brethren that it was their duty to go into the Temple and labor until they got endowments for all of them. They did it. Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work, if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not. I bear this testimony because it is true. The spirit of God bore record to myself and the brethren while we were laboring in that way.”[90]

Haden W. Church, John Bernhisel and others were also “Elders in Israel”, who had all the authority necessary to perform the work, which they did. There is absolutely no reason that the work that they did would (or should) have been declared invalid, especially since Woodruff himself was not a proper heir.

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1894

Wilford Woodruff, c. 1894

VI. Stuy To The Rescue?

From what has been revealed above, it is clear that there are no alternative explanations to answer the question why the spirits of the dead would appear to Wilford Woodruff on those warm nights in the summer of 1877 and claim that nothing was ever done to redeem them from the clutches of the wicked and filthy in the Spirit World.This does bring to mind what Brigham Young once said,

Brother John [Young] referred to some persons receiving revelations. I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead, and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to do so. But I could almost lay my hand on that Bible and swear that the man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of such revelations; and I could almost testify that a man or woman who receives them has been guilty of some outrageous crime. I have had men come to me and tell the wonderful great dreams and visions which they have, when those very persons have apostatized heretofore, have denied their God and their religion; and I knew it. Many come to me and tell me what wonderful visions they have—that their minds are open to eternal things—that they can see visions of eternity open before them and understand all about this kingdom,—many of whom have at some time been guilty of betraying their brethren, or committing some atrocious crime. I never notice them much. I sit and hear them talk about their wonderful knowledge, but it passes in and out of my ears like the sound of the wind. It is for me to see to this kingdom, that it is built up, and to preserve the Saints from the grasp of the enemy. The visions of the class I have mentioned are nothing to me. They may exhibit their great knowledge before me; but when they have done, it is all gone from me.[91]

Why is this relevant? Because both Woodruff and Young can be checked in relation to their “visions” and “revelations”. That brings me back to Brian Stuy, who really does give us an alternative explanation about what might have happened, and which even Geoff Nelson (in the comments to his article, seems persuaded by).

In 1893 there were many who witnessed the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple and heard Woodruff speak about his claimed vision in St. George.  One of them wrote,

While at St. George there was a class of men come to me in the night visions, and argued with me to have work done for them. They were the signers of the Declaration of Independence.[92]

Wilford_Woodruff c 1885In an effort to understand and put Woodruff’s experience into some kind of coherent context, Stuy writes,

After the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, Woodruff, reflecting on his accomplishments for that year [1893], wrote in his journal: “Two nights in succession before John Taylor[‘]s death [in 1887] President Young gave me the Keys of the Temple and told me to go and dedicate it which I did.” It seems clear that Young, who had died in 1877, had literally appeared to him and conveyed keys that allowed Woodruff to complete and dedicate the Salt Lake Temple.

But Woodruff’s contemporary journal entries about these visitations convey a completely different idea. On 12 March 1887, Woodruff recorded the dreams in which Brigham Young visited him:

I dreamed last night that the L D Saints holding a great Conference at Salt Lake City at the great Temple and thousands of Mechanics were laboring hard to finish the Temple. I was requested to open the Conference As I was an Exile and they might not have me with them long. The Key of the Temple was given me to open it. As I went to the door A large Company were assembled and I overtook Presid[en]t Brigham Young and He asked what the matter was with the great Company at the Door. Some one Answered the Elders did not want to Let the people into the Temple. He said Oh, oh, oh and turned to me & said let all[,] all into the Temple who seek for Salvation. I saw several who were Dead and among the Number my wife Phebe. I believe there is some meaning to this dream.

Woodruff records that he received similar dreams for the next three nights, and wrote on 15 March: “I dream almost Ev[er]y night of these great Meetings. I do not understand what those Dreams Mean.” It is significant that, at the time he had these dreams, Woodruff could not readily interpret them. I believe that these dreams, and their later metamorphosis into his claim of an actual visitation from Brigham Young, set a helpful clear context in which we can better consider the events surrounding the St. George proxy baptisms and endowment work. I hypothesize that the same process of metamorphosis was at work here.[93]

Wilford Woodruff Banquet PartyUnfortunately, there was no dream, vision, or anything else written in Woodruff’s Journal in August of 1877 or earlier to morph into a vision of the spirits of the dead appearing to him and claiming that nothing had ever been done for them. This is not insignificant, since Woodruff was very faithful in writing down his dreams and impressions, some of which are documented in Stuy’s article.

In Part II of this study I will explore more of Woodruff’s Journal entries and show how they are sometimes quite different from his later recollections, and also analyze Woodruff’s claim to being a “prophetic historian” and how this may have affected how he recounted his experiences.

Though Woodruff did claim to have a spiritual experience that involved his own ancestor’s proxy work while in the St. George Temple, that had nothing to do with the “Eminents”.[94]

And even though Stuy does try hard to rescue Woodruff from himself, his conclusion that he did the proxy work in response to dreams still doesn’t absolve Woodruff from what I would term good old fashioned bullshit, or “statements made by people more concerned with the response of the audience than in truth and accuracy”. [95]

As the old proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, but do the ends really justify the means? That is for the individual to decide. For those who subscribe to this philosophy, crying “defamation” in relation to Woodruff and the “Eminents” at those who do not, may reveal more about them than they may realize.

Wilford Woodruff Funeral

Wilford Woodruff’s Funeral

Woodruff bust blog back

Part II of Liar, Liar? “If You Can’t Be True To Yourself…” will be published in a few weeks.

NOTES

[1] Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teachings About Lying,” BYU Fireside Address, 12 September 1993.

[2] ibid.

[3] Rock Waterman, “Wilford Woodruff’s Pants Are On Fire”, Pure Mormonism Blog, Sunday, April 14, 2013, Online here, accessed August 1, 2014.

[4] ibid.

[5] Since Woodruff went “straightway to the baptismal font” and records August 21 as the day he performed those baptisms, the spirits of the dead should have appeared to him the previous two nights (19th & 20th). I here present the Journal entries from August 13, 1877 through August 25, 1877:

13 We drove to Kanarr and I ordained Brother [Roundy?] a Bishop and his Brother his 2d Councillor. We then rode to Belview & spent the night with Jacob Gates. 30 M.

Aug 14, 1877 We drove to St George over a vary rough road as it was yesterday. I telegraphed to Presidet Young of my arival and had one in return. 30 M.

15 I spent the day in the Temple. We gave 55 Endowments. Ordained 22 Elders. J D T McAllister sealed 5 Couple & D H. Cannan 6. I wrote 2 letters to Mr Sorrenson & Delight.

16 I spent the day in the Temple. Gave Endowments to 83. Ordained 30 Elders. W Woodruff sealed 6 Couple E Snow 25. I wrote 3 letters to Elias Smith, John Morgan and H. B. S[tetl?]er.

17 I spent the day in the Temple. Gave Endowments to 95 One half of them Swiss. Ordained 32 Elders. J D. T. McAllister sealed 13 Couple D H Cannon 11. I attended the funeral of Sister Moody [p.367] wife of John M Moody. I wrote 2 letters to Sarah and B[ell/ulah?].

18 I wrote 2 letters to G. Q. Cannon & Wilford. I spent the day writing.

19 Sunday Met at the Tabernacle at 11 oclok. Prayer By Wm Smith. Augustus Hardy spoke 10 Minuts, Thomas Hall 10 M, B F Pendleton 14 Minuts. Afternoon. Prayer By James Nixon. Frank B. Woolly spoke 2 M, Moroni Snow 2 M, Seth Pimm 1. Erastus B Snow spoke 6 M, W Woodruff 35 M D. H. Cannon 35. I wrote 2 Letters to Bulah & Emma.

I spent the Evening in preparing a list of the Noted Men of the 17 Centaury and 18th including the signers of the declaration of Independance and the Presidents of the United States for Baptism on Tuesday the 21 Aug 1877.

20 I sent a letter to Presidet Young, L J Nuttall, Nellie Asahel Clarie and Owen. 6.

Aug 21, 1877 I Wilford Woodruff went to the Temple of the Lord this morning and was Baptized for 100 persons who were dead including the signers of the Declaration of Independance all except John Hancock and [William Floyd]. I was Baptized for the following names:

William Hooper Benjamin Franklin
Joseph Hewes John Morton
John Penn George Clyme
Button Gwinnett James Smith
Lyman Hall Francis Lightfoot Lee
Edward Rutledge George Taylor
George Walton James Wilson
Thomas Heywood Jr George Ross
Thomas Lynch jr Caezer Rodney
Arthur Myddleton George Read
Samuel Chase Thomas McKean
William Chase Paca Philip Livingston
Thomas Stone Francis Lewis [p.368]
Charles Carroll of Carrolton Lewis Morris
George Wythe Richard Stockton
Richard Henry Lee John Witherspoon
Thomas Jefferson Francis Hopkinson
Benjamin Harrison John Hart
Thomas Nelson Jr Abraham Clark
Francis Lightfoot Lee Josiah Bartlett
Carter Braxton William Whipple
Robert Morris Samuel Adams
Benjamin Rush John Adams
Robert Treat Paine Samuel Huntington
Elbridge Gerry William Williams
Stephen Hopkins Oliver Wolcott
William Ellery Mathew Thornton
Roger Sherman

Baptized for the following Eminent Men:

Daniel Webster Edward Gibbon
Washington Irving David Garrick
Michael Faraday Sir Joshua Reynolds
William Makepeace Thackerey Robert Burns
John Calwell Cahoon Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Baron Justus Von Liebig John Philip Kemble
Henry Clay Frederick Von Schiller
Edward George Earl Lytton Bulwer
George Peabody Henry Grattan
Charles Louis Napoleon Bonapart Lord Horatio Nelson
Thomas Chalmers John Filpot Corran
William Henry Seward George Stephenson
Thomas Johnathan Jackson Sir Walter Scott
Frederick Henry Allexander Von Humboldt
David Glascoe Farragut Lord Henry Brougham
Hiram Powers William Wordsworth
Lewis John Rudolph Agassis Daniel O Connell
Lord George Gordon Byron Richard Cobden
David Livingstone Christopher Columbus
Americus Vespucius
Count Camillo Bonso di Cavour John Wesley
Samuel Johnson Oliver Goldsmith
Thomas Babington Macauley Benito Juarez
Frederick 2d king of Prussia Count Demetrius Perepa [p.369]

When Br McAllister had Baptized me for the 100 Names I Baptized him for 21, including Gen Washington & his forefathers and all the Presidets of the United states that were not in my list Except Buchannan Van Buren & Grant.

It was a vary interesting day. I felt thankful that we had the privilege and the power to administer for the worthy dead esspecially for the signers of the declaration of Independance, that inasmuch as they had laid the foundation of our Government that we Could do as much for them as they had done for us.

Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was Baptized for Martha Washington and her famaly and seventy (70) of the Eminent women of the world. I Called upon all the Brethren & Sisters who were present to assist in getting Endowments for those that we had been Baptized for to day.

 I wrote Letters to D D MCArthur. I wrote to Susan Dunford. There were Baptized in all to day 682.

22 We gave Endowments to 88. /WW/ Ordained 2 High Priest for George Washington and John Wesley, and 4 Elders. Total Ordained 40. W Woodruff sealed 9 Couple and 7 Children to their parents. D H Cannon sealed 26 Couple.

23 W Woodruff ordained Brother Ellis Sanders a High Priest for Benjamin Franklin and got Endowments for him, also ordained 6 Elders. We gave 138 Endowments. Ordained 60. W Woodruff sealed 3 Couple J McAllister 18, D H Cannon 3.

24 We gave Endowments to 130. W Woodruff Ordained 2 High Priest One for Christopher Columbus. Ordained 60. W Woodruff gave 2d Anointings to 3 Persons 1 Living & 2 dead. J. McAllister Sealed 12 Couple D. H. Cannon 18 and Sealed 10 Children to parents.

25 I spent the day in a variety of Business.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.366-369, August 18, 1877-August 25, 1877).

What is interesting about the entry on the 19th, is that Woodruff writes that he prepared the names for Baptism on Tuesday the 21st. Were they scheduled ahead of time or was this added to the entry on that page?

[6] Amy Tanner Thiriot,  “Historical News Flash: Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Founding Fathers”, The Keepapitchinin Blog, October 22, 2013, Online here, accessed August 1, 2014.

It may be of interest to some that on another article at this site involving a strange prophecy copied by Woodruff in his journal, I made a comment to clarify what I thought were some erroneous conclusions in the article, which was answered by the owner of the site, Ardis E. Parshall, with some hostility.  When I submitted a follow up comment to answer the hostile accusations and erroneous conclusions leveled at me, it was never published and I am unable to comment further on this site. This strange prophecy will be addressed in Part II of this article.

[7] It may be instructive here to understand how the sermons in the Journal of Discourses were transcribed and readied for publication. In his Book, The Mormon Passage of George Watt (researched by descendant Ronald G. Watt for 30 years and published in 2009), writes:

“When Watt suggested to Brigham Young that he publish a journal of sermons from which Watt could receive his salary, Young and Richards agreed. The Journal of Discourses ensured that all Mormons and even non-Mormons would know what the Lord wanted through the speeches of his representative, Brigham Young. From then on, Watt had a permanent desk in the president’s office and the Tabernacle, taking down the speeches in his SWIFT, curious symbols.”

“On the first day of the new year, [1852] Watt also began teaching a class in Pitman shorthand. His students included Brigham Young, Thomas Bullock, Thomas W. Ellerbeck, William C. Staines, Nathaniel H. Felt, Albert Carrington, and Daniel Wells, some of the most influential men in Salt Lake City. He probably received a dollar from each student. To prepare for this course, Watt wrote and published his own exercise book, a shortened version of the Pitman manual. He included within it instructions in phonography and some lessons. Young began to practice shortly after his first lesson, and on January 5, he spent all day with his shorthand studies. (The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, pages 126-7)

So Young, and others were very familiar with Watts and his process, and had full confidence in his abilities, not only that, he taught it to others, who used it to transcribe those sermons, that John Widtsoe and many others (who produced collections from them) affirmed were accurate, and approved.  As Ronald Watt explains,

“Watt’s potential employment must have been on the mind of Brigham Young. Finally, Watt wrote a letter to Young early in May 1853. He suggested that he be allowed to prepare “a few of your sermons which have not  yet been in print with Elder P. P. Pratt’s two discourses at the conference on the spirit world and birthright to send to England for publication in  the form of a magazine of about 150 or 200 pages to sell.” He suggested that part of the profit go to satisfy his economic necessities and the rest be used for Young’s purposes. Almost immediately his suggestion brought assent from the members of the First Presidency. It would enable Brigham Young and the First Presidency to have the written word to send to the members of the church and the missionaries.

The next day Young notified Watt of the First Presidency’s agreement, and Watt began transcribing and editing sermons.  On May 25 and 26, YOUNG SPENT MOST OF HIS TIME EXAMINING THE WRITTEN DISCOURSES. On June 1, 1853, the First Presidency officially granted Watt  the privilege of preparing and publishing Young’s discourses in magazine-LIKE form, recognizing that “Elder George D. Watt, by our counsel, spent  much time in the midst of poverty and hardships to ACQUIRE THE ART of reporting in Phonography which he has FAITHFULLY and fully accomplished.” Since publication would be less expensive in England, the sermons were to be sent to Liverpool as Watt had suggested.  All the profits from the venture would go to Watt, who would also take care of all the costs. The First Presidency encouraged all church members to purchase the journal for  Elder Watt’s benefit. Watt now had a permanent income and a place of employment.

More importantly for the church, the Journal of Discourses was a watershed, essentially the beginnings of a worldwide publication. Even though the Journal of  Discourses was a private venture, it was an OFFICIAL CHURCH PUBLICATION and the  most important source of President Young’s and other church authorities’  sermons. Watt also joined OTHER CLERKS in the First Presidency’s office. Albert Carrington was Brigham Young’s clerk and attended to his correspondence.  Thomas Bullock, an early convert from England, was also there.” (ibid, pages 133-34)

The JOD was an OFFICIAL publication, and was reviewed beforehand by those that gave the talks:

“In November the Deseret News announced that Watt’s service as a reporter was available not only to the News but anybody who wanted CORRECT reports, and “if the brethren will employ him, and sustain him in his employment, time will prove it a BLESSING to all concerned.” (ibid, p. 135)

This is essentially the same process that George Francis Gibbs went through years later. He worked for the Deseret News, and was then called as chief stenographer to Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve. As Ronald Watt writes about George Watt,

“With permission to publish speeches of the church authorities, Watt needed to concentrate on the Journal of Discourses. The process of publishing each volume was laborious. He needed to be at all the meetings, recording the speeches in shorthand. Then, WITH THE HELP OF PRESIDENT YOUNG, he chose the talks that would be transcribed. In the first volume, twenty-six of the fifty-three sermons were by Young. Heber C. Kimball and Parley P. Pratt had the next most sermons published with six each. In the second volume, Brigham Young had composed seventeen of the fifty-six sermons. Young’s sermons were spoken without notes and from memory.  The phonographer had to work very hard to keep up with each speaker.  Watt grew accustomed to the delivery style and speed of each speaker.  If Young was not the first speaker, Watt sometimes did not arrive at the Tabernacle on time, and when he arrived late for the meeting, he slipped into his desk very quietly.

On July 2, 1854, he noted in his shorthand notes, “Phineas Young spoke but I was too late to report it.” At the same meeting, Young called upon Watt to speak. After he recorded the speeches, Watt transcribed them word for word, spending many hours at his desk. Next he read the sermons to those who gave them and corrected them. Sometimes Thomas Bullock read Watt’s transcribed sermons, and Watt corrected them again. Albert Carrington copy-edited them, and then Watt sent the final collection of sermons by post to Liverpool for publication. The president of the British Mission also wrote a short preface. The sermons FIRST came out in pamphlet, serial form and were sold to church members both in Britain and Utah by subscription. The publication of the Journal of Discourses meant that the sermons of the Mormon leaders were some of the first religious works to be available for potential world consumption. It helped both the missionary effort and membership.” (ibid, pp. 135-136)

Here, we see that the sermons were read back to those that gave them, and they were corrected BEFORE they even went into print. Hence we have this statement by Brigham Young, with the full meaning very clear:

“I say now, when they [his discourses] are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible . . . “ (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 264).

As a general rule, those sermons were copied and approved by Young and others, and even corrected beforehand. As Brigham Young Jr. wrote in the preface to Vol. 11, “The Journal of Discourses is a vehicle of Doctrine”. They are ‘as good as scripture’, according to Brigham Young. Brigham Young was involved in every aspect of what was published by the Church, and was very adept at ferreting out what he deemed to be false doctrine. This tradition was continued after Young’s death, and those that later transcribed the sermons for the Journal of Discourses like George F. Gibbs were subjected to the same scrutiny and process.

[8] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.322.

[9] See Journal entry above for the 14th and 20th. See also note #94. Woodruff writes that Young was present at the Temple on the 9th of January to witness the first ordinances performed there, Young himself did sealing work on the 11th, 12th, and on the 14th Woodruff spent the evening with Young. On the 15th he also spent the evening with Young. On the 18th, Young was again doing sealing work in the Temple. On the 20th, Woodruff spent the day writing and the evening at Young’s house. Again, on the 21st, 22nd, and called upon Young “for a short time” on the 24th.

On February 1st, Young “delivered a lecture at the veil” for 30 minutes. On the 3rd he rode to the Price Settlement with Young and spent the evening with him. He was with Young on the 5th, and Young was again in the Temple on the 9th. On the 10th and 11th he spent the evening with Young. On the 12th they spent the day writing the Ceremonies. On the 13th he spent the evening with Young and on the 15th he wrote that “Presidet Young was with us [at the Temple] and felt well. On the 19th he “spent several hours” with Young and Young “visited us” at the Temple on the 21st. On the 23rd, Woodruff claimed to have his “revelation” about the redemption of his dead and sent a copy to his wife Phoebe. Young was back at the temple on the 24th and on the 25th he “spent the evening” with Young.Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff

March is much the same with nightly visits to Young and Young performing sealings in the temple. He gave one of his daughters in marriage to Woodruff in the Temple on the 10th. He records that on March 14th that,

“I washed And Anointed Presidet Brigham Young for and in behalf of John Sanderson Twiss to get Endowments for his [him] the first time that Presidet Young has Ever got Endowments for any person on Earth.  also gave Presidet Young his Second Anointing for John Sanderson Twiss.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.339).

On March 30, Woodruff records that “The Quorum of the Twelve arived to day in the Temple to day. We met in Council in the Presidets office in the Evening,” and the next dayYoung “spent the afternoon” with the Twelve at the Temple.

The early part of April is filled with evening visits to Young until his return to Salt Lake City on the 16, which Woodruff records as the last time he ever saw Brigham Young alive. But they were still in close contact by telegram and letter until his death in August.

Young is not portrayed by Woodruff as being too sick to give counsel, direction or to visit the temple during the first five months of 1877, and so Amy Thiriot writing that he turned over the “practical operations” of the temple to Woodruff because of illness is simply sloppy research. He gave Woodruff authority to run the Temple. But this does not mean that Woodruff did not work closely with Brigham Young until he was familiar with all the operations of the Temple and defer to Young’s authority in all matters.

Also, Woodruff wrote out the Endowment Ceremony with Brigham Young Jr. as assigned and supervised by Brigham Young, who then reviewed it with them:

Spent the Evening with Presidet Young. He requested Brigham jr & W Woodruff to write out the Ceremony of the Endowments from Begining to End. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.322, Janurary 14, 1877)

On the 15th he records,

Brigham Young jr & Myself wrote out a part of the Ceremony of the Endowment. We rode out in the afternoon. (ibid)

On the 10th of February Woodruff records that he “spent the day writing on the Ceremony”, he “spent the evening” of the 11th with Young and then on the 12th records that “I spent the day writing on the Ceremonies & we [probably Brigham Young Jr.] spent the Evening with President Young reading the Ceremony.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.327).

It is interesting to note that Woodruff records that he had never even heard the Ceremony of Adoption until March 22, 1877:

22d I presided in the Temple to day. We gave Endowments to 174. Their was 66 Elders ordained for the Dead. W Woodruff sealed 11 dead persons to John Sanders Twist Presidet B Young & Sister Twiss as Proxy.   I also Adopted two Couple to Presidet B Young.   E Snow sealed 41 Couple. This day was the first [p.341] time in my life that I Ever herd or performed the Ceremony of Adoption. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.341)

[10] Thiriot, op. cited.

[11] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 209, April 6, 1891.

[12] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.3, p. 226, February 12, 1893.

[13] See, “The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo,” by D. Michael Quinn, BYU Studies (1978) Vol. 18, No. 2. PDF Download here. Also, “Rebaptism And Church Governance”, by J. Stapely, at By Common Consent Blog, Posted January 18, 2010, online here, both Accessed August 1, 2014.

[14] See remarks by Marriner W. Merrill at Note #76.

[15] See Note # 13.

[16] The accusation of defamation seems to be a current trend with Mormon apologists. For example, see the recent “Big Trouble in River City: American Crucifixion and the Defaming of Joseph Smith”, by Craig L. Foster and Brian Hales. To defame someone is to use falsehood to try and damage their reputation. This of course, is often in the eye of the beholder but can be checked with the facts, as we will do here with Woodruff. As for Alex Beam defaming Joseph Smith, one example may suffice. Foster and Hales write,

Beam writes that Eliza admitted she had been “the Prophet’s wife and lover” (89). He provides no documentation and obviously missed Eliza’s 1877 letter to RLDS missionary Daniel Munns where she flatly denied having ever been Joseph Smith’s “carnal” wife but freely acknowledged that there were “several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.”33 During a June 9 interview with MormonStories podcaster John Dehlin, Laura Hales, wife of Brian Hales, addressed this lack of evidence for this statement during the question and answer period. Beam appeared nonplussed by the fuss regarding his use of the term “lover,” which he admitted was an ill-chosen word to describe Eliza’s relationship with Joseph. This speaks of his willingness to infuse dramatic prose into his text without regard to documentary evidence.

The letter in question reads,

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), “Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one” . . . . I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.” (Eliza R. Snow, Letter to Daniel Munns, May 30, 1877, Community of Christ Archives)

It is important to note the ellipses. Since I don’t have access to the entire letter, this quote should be read with caution. Still, what did Snow mean by “a carnal one”? That she didn’t have sex with Joseph Smith? This contradicts another statement made by Snow,

He [Joseph Smith III] said, “I am informed that Eliza Snow was a virgin at the time of her death.” I in turn said, “Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked her the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.’” (Angus Cannon, Statement, in 1905 interview with Joseph Smith III, LDS Church History Library.)

So what’s the deal here? Simply that Snow did not like the term “spiritual wifery”. Why? Because it implied the system attributed to John C. Bennett that was unspiritual or carnal. If one simply reads the 1828 definition of the word carnal, this becomes clear:

1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure. (1828 Webster’s Dictionary)

Snow was not denying that she ever had sex with Smith, but that the relationship was carnal, or unspiritual.  That is why she adds that she is “personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith.”

“Pure and Sacred” doctrine (or spiritual), verses “spiritual wifery” (carnal).  Bona fide wives, not simply sex partners as in Bennett’s system.

These are the kinds of examples that the article by Foster and Hales are full of. It is easy to bandy about the term defamation, but a lot harder to prove it in relation to Joseph Smith’s polygamy.  As for the supposed defamation of Wilford Woodruff, read on.

Addendum to this Note, January 1, 2015:

I made the above points concerning Eliza R. Snow’s disdain for the term “spiritual wife” and how she linked this with carnality. I did so not having the context of the full letter, but i had a feeling I was right. Since this article was written, Brian Hales has posted much of his polygamy research online, and among those items was the complete letter from Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns. I post it here:

Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 1

Eliza R. Snow to Daniel Munns 2

The entire letter makes it perfectly clear what Eliza R. Snow was getting at when she was asked about being a “spiritual wife”. She writes,

You ask (referring to Pres. Smith), Did he authorize or practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife?’ I certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal one

Here is where Brian Hales employs the ellipses. Here is what he left out which totally explains Eliza R. Snow’s context:

It would be rather difficult to measure the amount of spirituality, I was in possession of, so as to make an estimate I candidly confess “spiritual wifery” I know nothing of only as the term was used as an epithet with which to stigmatize those of us who valiantly moved forward in obedience to the commands of God, in establishing the practice of plurality. 

I am personally and intimately acquainted with several ladies now living in Utah who accepted the pure and sacred doctrine of plural marriage, and were the bona fide wives of Pres. Joseph Smith — noble and intelligent woman, who live to honor him, and who revere his memory and anticipate holding the same endearing relationship with him in eternity — having been connected to him by the same power and authority which Christ conferred on the Apostle Peter, by which “whatsoever he bound on earth should be bound in heaven” &c. 

What is also interesting here (and you don’t see Hales quote) is that Eliza Snow expressly claims that she was,

I was married to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, more than two years previous to his death — not by a hireling Priest with usurped authority, but by a man of God who has been legally authorized to preform the sacred ordinance of marriage, An ordinance which unites for time and for eternity. 

Snow claims that she was married in an ordinance that UNITES for TIME and eternity. The letter above shows that Snow considered the term “spiritual wife” repulsive and that it was only used as an epithet to stigmatize (disgrace) those who moved forward in obedience in ESTABLISHING the PRACTICE of plurality. These are not the words of someone who was simply “sealed” to Joseph Smith. This strongly implies the marriage was for TIME and consummated. Using this letter to try and claim that the evidence is conflicting about sexuality in the marriage is quite simply disingenuous of Brian Hales.

[17] Brian Stuy, Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 2000, pp. 64-90, hereafter cited as “Stuy 2000”. Online here.  You can sign up for a free JSTOR account and view up to three articles a month. You can also read the article here, with no hassles, here. Accessed, August 19, 2014. (Link courtesy of Brent Metcalfe).

[18] Geoff Nelson, “Rock Waterman’s Pants Are On Fire,” Rational Faiths Blog, July 25, 2014, Accessed, August 2, 2014, Online here.

From reading the comments to this article by Geoff Nelson, he seems more concerned with another subject that Waterman brought up in regards to Woodruff, that he was responsible for the Mormon belief in prophetic infallibility.

Woodruff was not, but was simply repeating what previous Mormon “prophets” had been touting since the time of Joseph Smith as Nelson documents. Mormon “prophets” do claim doctrinal infallibilty, simply because they have stated time and again that they would never be permitted to lead the church astray because they would be removed from office by God before that could happen. Smith himself taught that,

I never told you I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations I have taught.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).

What gets debated now is what “revelation” is. The trend in Mormonism now is to label all embarrassing “revelation” as opinion, or folklore.

[19] Stuy 2000, page 81.

[20] Nelson, op. cited.

[21]  As per President John Taylor,

“It will be well for persons presenting themselves at the Endowment House to receive the ordinances thereof, to be prepared to reply to the following questions:— “When were you born?” “Where were you born?” “When were you first baptized?” “What is your Father’s name?” “What was your Mother’s maiden name?” No person will be eligible to receive these blessings except they have been rebaptized.” (John Taylor to Angus M. Cannon, Nov. 15, 1877, cited in Devery S. Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 1718-1728). See also, Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, 431.

Anderson notes that rebaptism as a temple requirement was discontinued in 1893.

[22] President George Q. Cannon, Conference Report, October 7, 1897.

[23] Quinn, “The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo”, p. 229. Accessed, August 2, 2014, Online here.

[24] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 16, p.188.

[25] ibid, bold mine.

[26] John W. Taylor explained the spirit prison:

Yesterday reference was made to the preaching of the Gospel to the dead. I wish to use the same quotation in order to illustrate to your minds that there is hope for men though they fail to obtain forgiveness in this world. There will be an opportunity in the next world if they have not committed the unpardonable sin. The Apostle Peter speaks of this in his epistle. He refers to the Savior, after He was put to death, having gone, during the three days that His body lay in the tomb, to preach to the spirits in prison who were disobedient when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing. What does this mean? It simply means what we read here in the Book of Genesis, that the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. They were committing whoredoms and all kinds of abominations before the Lord, and He concluded that the better way would be to drown them all with a flood after being warned to repent by His Prophet Noah. A few thousand years afterwards Christ preached to these spirits in prison. Did He go to preach to perfect men? No. They were sinners, liars, whoremongers, seducers, and Christ, to carry out His own mission, went to them in the spirit world to release them from the prison house, after they had paid the penalty of their crimes. Christ preached the Gospel to them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. Therefore, I say unto you look up unto God the Father of  the spirits of all flesh. There is hope. Repent and renew your covenants. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 96, April 6, 1888).

Woodruff gave the halt of Temple work and his concern for the spirits in prison as his reason for discontinuing polygamy:

The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for Brother Merrill, for Brother Edlefsen, for Brother Roskelley, for Brother Leishman, or for any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice. Now, the question is, whether it should be stopped in this manner, or in the way the Lord has manifested to us, and leave our Prophets and Apostles and fathers free men, and the temples in the hands of the people, so that the dead may be redeemed. A large number has already been delivered from the prison house in the spirit world by this people, and shall the work go on or stop? This is the question I lay before the Latter-day Saints. You have to judge for yourselves. I want you to answer it for yourselves. I shall not answer it; but I say to you that that is exactly the condition we as a people would have been in had we not taken the course we have. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 288, November 1, 1891).

Of course, they could have left the United States and settled elsewhere, as Brigham Young did, who did not seem as constrained with timeframes pertaining to the work of the dead as Woodruff was. It is important to note that all of Woodruff’s recorded “visions” and “revelations” showed exactly the opposite of this scenario. This is also a far cry from his Testimony to the World he gave as an “Apostle”,

When both the Congress of the United States and Judges of the Law have taken a step to deprive a Hundred and fifty thousand of her Citizens the right to Enjoy their religion which the Constitution garantees unto them, Will not the Same God who has given this Nation a free Government and an Inspired Constitution of Equal rights to all Men who dwell beneath its broad folds, Hold the Rulers and Judges of the Land responsible for the use they make of the power in their Hands? He will.

The Congress of 1862 And the Supreme Judges of 1878, in there acts and Decision have taken a Dangerous and fearful Step. Their acts will sap the vary foundation of our Government and it will be rent in twain and the God of Heaven will hold them responsible for these things. For what men Sow they will reap And the measure they meet unto others will be meeted unto them saith the Lord. When the Constitution is once broken by the rulers of the Land there will be no stoping place untill the Nation is broaken in peaces, and no power beneath the Heavens Can save this Nation from the Consequences thereof. And all Rulers of this Nation as well as other Nation will have to give an account to the Judge of all the Earth for the use they make of the power put into their hands. Virtue Exhalteth a Nation while sin is a reproach to any People.

The question was asked the Hebrews what God is there that is able to deliver you out of the Hands of [p.462] King Nebuchadnezzar. A righteous answer of faith was given. We do not know that our God will deliver us out of your hands, But be it known unto the O King that we will not serve thy Gods, nor worship the golden Image which thou hast set up. So I say as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will not desert my wifes and my Children, and Disobey the Commandments of God for the Sake of accomidating the public Clammers of a generation steeped in sin and ripened for the Damnation of Hell. I would rath[er] go to prision and to Death.

If I would not I would never be fit to associate with the prophets and Patriarchs of old, and I Could not But despise in my heart any man who professed to be a latter day Saint who would do otherwise. Why should we fear man who ownly has power to kill the Body more than him who has power to Cast both body and Soul into Hell? Christ says when men Speak all manner of Evil against you and persecute you for Righteousness sake rejoice and be Exceding Glad for so persecuted they the Prophets and Apostles who were before you. I would say to all Israel treat your wives and Children Kindly and keep the Commandments of God and trust in him and He will fight your battles. And I will say in the Name of Jesus Christ the Son of the living God That Mormonism will Live and prosper, Zion will flourish, And the Kingdom of God will stand in Power, Glory, and Dominion as David saw it when this Nation is broaken in peaces as a potters vessel and laid in the dust and brought to Judgment Or God never spake by my mouth. Therefore I say to all the Saints throughout the world be faithful and tru[e] to your God, To your religion, to your families and to yourselves. (“Testimony of the Apostle Wilford Woodruff to be published to the whole World”, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.461-2, February 22, 1879, emphasis mine.)

[27] Nelson, op. cited. But how does the right of heirship apply to Woodruff himself performing the proxy work for the “Eminents”? Nelson never addresses this point.

[28] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, p. 118, Janurary 16, 1847.

[29] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 3, p. 132, February 16, 1847, emphasis mine.

[30] Abraham H. Cannon Journal, December 18. 1890.

[31] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 1, p. 80, Wilford Woodruff, Oct. 9, 1887.

[32] Devery Scott Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History,  Signature Books, Kindle Edition, Locations 3811-3891. This is an impressive collection of documents that anyone who is interested in Temple research will find invaluable.

[33] Wilford Woodruff to Marriner Wood Merrill, Sept. 5, 1887, ibid,  2439-2451.

[34] Wilford Woodruff to James H. Martineau, Sept. 5, 1887, ibid,  2467-2471.

[35] Wilford Woodruff to James H. Martineau, Oct. 26, 1887, ibid.

[36] Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.318, January 1, 1877.

[37] Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses Vol. 18,  p.191, April 6, 1876

[38] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 1, 1833–1840, p.478, July 2, 1840.

[39] The practice of baptism for the dead was first introduced by Joseph Smith in the summer of 1840 at the funeral of Seymour Brunson, five months after Sarah Ann Booth began circulating her claimed vision. (See Alexander Baugh, “For This Ordinance Belongeth to My House”: The Practice of Baptism for the Dead Outside the Nauvoo Temple, Mormon Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring, 2002, page 47, online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.)

Baugh writes that Smith first taught this concept in 1838, utilizing the answer to this question by Smith as a proof text,

“If the Mormon doctrine is true, what has become of all those who have died since the days of the apostles?” The Prophet answered, “All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter before they can be finally judged.” (Elders Journal  of The Church of the Latter Day Saints, 1 (July 1838): 43).

Smith though,  is not advocating that “the dead must have someone in mortality administer the saving ordinances for them to be saved in the kingdom of God,” (Baugh, op. cited) rather, he is simply stating that all those who die without hearing the gospel on earth, must have it (the gospel) administered to them by someone with authority before they can be finally judged. This would be done in the Spirit World.

Parley P. Pratt affirmed this two years later when he said that if “the thief on the cross [was] saved without baptism,” that he was “included in the same mercy as the heathens, who have never had the offer of the Gospel, and therefore, are under no condemnation for not obeying it.” (“The Gospel Illustrated in Questions and Answers,” Millennial Star, 1 (June 1840): 27, cf., Gregory A. Prince, Power From On High, Ch.4, p.144).

As Joseph Smith taught in this “revelation”:

Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe?

A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 1, p.254)

This was echoed by Warren Cowdery, who wrote in 1837 “that the dead could inherit the Celestial Kingdom on condition that the gospel were preached to them and they accepted its message. He cited 1 Peter 4:6 to defend the concept of preaching to the dead. Once again, however, there was no mention of any requirement for ordinances to be performed in behalf of the dead. (Prince, op. cited).

Sidney Rigdon taught,

The whole matter then comes to this, that the gospel as set forth in the New Testament, is an order of things through which men were made partakers of the power of God while in the flesh, and that by one man administering to another by the authority of God in the name of Jesus Christ, this is what is called the gospel in the New Testament. It was enjoyed by the ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists &c. and through the ministry of these men the power of God was received; they administered to the believers by the laying on of the hands, and the power of God attended, and thus men in days of old received the power of God unto salvation, and it was because of this, that the gospel is called the power of God unto salvation. (The Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Vol.2, No.6, p.274, July, 1836).

In December,1841 Joseph Fielding recounted to Ebeneezer Robinson his thoughts about the new doctrine of baptism for the dead,

The object of the Baptismal Font is also truly interesting to me, and I have no doubt to all the saints: for some time I had thought much on the subject of the redemption of those who died under the broken covenant, it is plain they could not come forth in the kingdom of God, as they had not been adopted, legally into it, neither could they be while there was no priesthood, they had not been born of water and the spirit, and if they should come into the kingdom without this it would falsify the plain word of Jesus Christ, yet how would those who died martyrs and all those who have lived up to the best light they have had, and would no doubt have rejoiced in the fulness of the gospel had they had it, be denied this privilege? I thought, perhaps those who receive the priesthood in these last days would baptize them at the coming of the Savior, and this would fulfil the words of the Savior; many shall come from the east and from the west &c., and shall sit down in the kingdom of God,–but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out, as foolish virgins, but a touch of the light of revelation has at once dispelled the darkness and scattered the doubts which once perplexed my mind and I behold the means which God hath devised that his banished ones may be brought back again; every step I take in surveying the plan of heaven, and the wisdom and goodness of God, my heart feels glad, but when I have listened to the teachings of the servants of God under the new covenant and the principles of Baptism for the Dead the feelings of my soul were such as I cannot describe. (Times and Seasons 3,1 Jan. 1842, pp. 648-49).

[40] Like Joseph Fielding (above), Ann Booth probably also “thought much” on the subject of the redemption of those who had died without the gospel and according to her, was answered with a vision of the Spirit World. This claimed vision by Booth is obviously the pattern for many later teachings about the Spirit World, including Joseph F. Smith’s claimed “Vision of the Redemption of the Dead” in 1916, except for the doctrinal changes that Smith made in regard to ordinances having to be performed on earth, instead of the Spirit World.

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon claimed to have seen this in a vision in 1832,

And again, we saw the terrestrial world, and behold and lo! these are they who are of the terrestrial, whose glory differs from that of the church of the first born, who have received the fulness of the Father, even as that of the moon differs from the sun of the firmament. Behold, these are they who died without law; and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it: these are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men: these are they who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness; these are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father: wherefore they are bodies terrestrial, and not bodies of celestial, and differ in glory as the moon differs from the sun: these are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus: wherefore they obtained not the crown over the kingdom of our God. And now this is the end of the vision which we saw of the terrestrial, that the Lord commanded us to write while we were yet in the Spirit. (Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, 1835, Section 91:7).

He then revised that vision with another claimed vision, which supposedly took place on January 21, 1836 in the Kirtland Temple:

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, whowould have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 137:7-10)

Ann Booth references several Biblical passages in her account including, “the 3d chapter of Peter 18, 19, 20 speaking of the spirits in Prison.” Joseph F. Smith also references these verses, claiming that they inspired his own claimed vision. Erastus Snow taught 30 years before F. Smith’s claimed vision,

The mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, between his death and resurrection was a similar mission, but a very short one. It lasted only three days. While his body lay in the tomb his spirit visited the spirits in prison, turned the key and opened the door of their prison house, and offered unto them the Gospel of salvation. How many of them were prepared to avail themselves of it at that time? Comparatively few. But he opened the door and offered the message of life and salvation, and having done this, His fellow laborers—the Seventies, Elders and others whom He ordained to the ministry—as fast as they finished their ministry in the flesh—continued their work among’ the spirits in prison. So is the Prophet Joseph Smith officiating and ministering to those spirits, and so are all His brethren, the Apostles, who have gone in his wake, who have followed, as it were, in his track. They have just gone behind the veil. Who shall we say? Let us call to mind a few of the brethren who have passed away—Brother David Patten (the first of the Apostles who was slain), Parley P. Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Charles C. Rich, and others of the Apostles; also Patriarchs Father Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith; Elders Samuel H. Smith, Don Carlos Smith—all the first Elders of this Church and the Presidents of all the early quorums, and a vast company of the members of their quorums. All these and many more are laboring in the spirit world preparing the spirits thereof to receive the benefits and blessings which are now about to be offered to them in the temples of God. In other words, “a ticket of leave” is about to be sent to them to the effect that their friends on the earth have officiated in their behalf, have complied with the ordinances which are appointed for their redemption, which will enable them to advance into a higher sphere, to walk upon a higher plane, to enter a higher class where they can be further instructed and prepared for a glorious resurrection. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 25, p.34, February 2, 1884)

I believe that the timing of Smith’s first teachings about baptism for the dead just months after the claimed vision of Ann Booth is not a coincidence.

[41] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.359.

[42] Evert Augustus Duyckinck, National Portrait Gallery of Eminent Americans, Vol. 1, may be found online here. Volume 2 here.

[43] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.28.1

[44] Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p.369-70, June 22, 1856.

[45] Joseph F. Smith, 3 October 1918, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 138:11-24, 57-59.

[46] D. Michael Quinn writes,

In the early summer of 1838, [Sampson] Avard was the stalking-horse for the First Presidency. The Danite constitution specified: “All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General, given through the Secretary of War.” Joseph Smith had held the latter position “by revelation” in the church’s “war department” for three years,  [footnote 87 Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c In Relation to the Disturbances With the Mormons, 102; Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2:42n2.] and had been commander-in-chief of the Armies of Israel for four years. What the Danites did militarily during the summer and fall of 1838 was by the general oversight and command of Joseph Smith.

In the skirmishes that both sides called “battles,” Mormons used deadly force without reluctance. Benjamin F. Johnson wrote that Danite leader (and future apostle) Lyman Wight told his men to pray concerning their Missouri enemies: “That God would Damn them & give us pow[e]r to Kill them.” Likewise, at the beginning of the Battle of Crooked River on 25 October 1838, Apostle David W. Patten (a Danite captain with the code-name “Fear Not”) told his men: “Go ahead, boys; rake them down.”  [footnote:  Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. [S.] Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 27; Nathan Tanner reminiscence, in George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family (Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association/Publishers Press, 1974), 386. At the time of this 1903 letter, Johnson was a patriarch and George S. Gibbs was an assistant in the LDS Church Historian’s Office. His name has often been misread as George F. Gibbs, his father who was secretary to the First Presidency at the same time. The back cover of this publication described editor Zimmerman as “Supervisor of Academic Research for LDS Department of Seminaries and Institutes.” ] The highest ranking Mormon charged with murder for obeying this order was Apostle Parley P. Pratt who allegedly took the careful aim of a sniper in killing one Missourian and then severely wounding militiaman Samuel Tarwater. This was after Apostle Patten received a fatal stomach wound. [footnote:  Indictment of Parley P. Pratt for murder of Moses Rowland, filed 2 Apr. 1839, Boone County Circuit Court Records, Case 1379, fd 17, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri; John D. Lee autobiography in Mormonism Unveiled: or the Life and Confessions of the Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand & Co., 1877), 73, with similar description in Reed Peck manuscript, 99-100 of the unnamed Parley P. Pratt, a “cold hearted villain (I know him well).” Neither History of the Church, 3:170-71, nor The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt, Jr. (New York: Russell Brothers, 1874), 195-97, explains the reason for Pratt’s murder indictment or imprisonment.] In their fury at the sight of their fallen leader, some of the Danites mutilated the unconscious Tarwater “with their swords, striking him lengthwise in the mouth, cutting off his under teeth, and breaking his lower jaw; cutting off his cheeks…and leaving him [for] dead.” He survived to press charges against Pratt for attempted murder.  [footnote:  James H. Hunt, Mormonism…Their Troubles In Missouri and Final Expulsion From the State (St. Louis: Ustick & Davies, 1844), 190-91. Although he did not acknowledge that Tarwater sustained these injuries after he was shot and lying unconscious on the ground, an assistant LDS church historian gave a more gruesome description of his injuries, including “a terrible gash in the skull, through which his brain was plainly visible.” See Andrew Jenson, “Caldwell County, Missouri,” The Historical Record 8 (Jan. 1888): 702.]

Nevertheless, Mormon marauding against non-Mormon Missourians in 1838 was mild by comparison with the brutality of the anti-Mormon militias. Three days after Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued a military order that the Mormons “must be exterminated, or driven from the State,” a Missouri militia unit attacked the LDS settlement at Haun’s Mill on 30 October 1838. They shot at and wounded thirteen fleeing women and children, then [p.100] methodically killed eighteen males, including two boys (ages nine and ten). When one of the Missouri militiamen found ten-year-old Sardius Smith’s hiding place, he put “his rifle near the boy’s head, and literally blowed off the upper part of it,” testified survivor and general authority Joseph Young shortly thereafter. Other Missourians used a “corn-cutter” to mutilate the still-living Thomas McBride. When the survivors found the elderly man, his corpse was “literally mangled from head to foot.” Aside from Young’s status as a near-victim along with his wife and children, Haun’s Mill struck at the heart of other general authorities: Sardius was a nephew of former Seventy’s president Sylvester M. Smith whose brother also died in the massacre, and recently appointed apostle Willard Richards lost a nephew there.

A generally unacknowledged dimension of both the extermination order and the Haun’s Mill massacre, however, is that they resulted from Mormon actions in the Battle of Crooked River. Knowingly or not, Mormons had attacked state troops, and this had a cascade effect. Local residents feared annihilation: “We know not the hour or minute we will be laid in ashes,” a local minister and county clerk wrote the day after the battle. “For God’s sake give us assistance as quick as possible.” Correspondingly, the attack on state troops weakened the position of Mormon friends in Missouri’s militia and government. Finally, upon receiving news of the injuries and death of state troops at Crooked River, Governor Boggs immediately drafted his extermination order on 27 October 1838 because the Mormons “have made war upon the people of this state.” Worse, the killing of one Missourian and mutilation of another while he was defenseless at Crooked River led to the mad-dog revenge by Missourians in the slaughter at Haun’s Mill. (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Signature Books, 1994, p. 100)

[47] George Q. Cannon, Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 5, p.374, January 22, 1898.

[48] Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses,  Vol. 23, p.331, Dec. 10, 1882.

[49] Stuy 2000, op. cited, pp. 74-75.

[50] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p.75, note 28.

[51] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p. 76.

[52] Stuy 2000, op. cited. p. 73.

[53] M. Guy Biship, “What Has Become of Our Fathers?” Baptism for the Dead at Nauvoo, Dialogue, Vol. 23, No. 2, page 90.

[54] Charlotte Haven, “A Girl’s Letter’s from Nauvoo”, Overland Monthly, Vol. 16, No. 96, December 1890, pp. 629-630.

[55] This is one point that no one seems to be addressing. Woodruff here states that it “never entered his heart” that nothing had been done for them, prior to his work in August 1877. He is therefore stating that he didn’t know about any previous work. He also states that “our” minds were not focused on historical figures, but more immediate friends. Could Woodruff not have known about the many baptisms for Eminent people that had been going on since the days of Nauvoo?

[56] Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p.

[57] See Note #7. Although there is always a chance that some of the sermons in the Journal of Discourses contain blatant misquotations, it might be well to remember that there is always a chance that you can be struck by lightning or die in a plane crash. Odds are though, that you won’t, and that they don’t.

[58] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 1, p. 80, Wilford Woodruff, Oct. 9, 1887.

[59] Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.2, p. 209, Wilford Woodruff, April 6, 1891.

[60] Here are some of the many entries that place Daniel H. Wells in the Endowment house during the years 1868-1876:

Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.383; Vol. 6, p.393; Vol. 6, p.397; Vol. 6, p.400; Vol. 6, p.401; Vol. 6, p.403; Vol. 6, p.432; Vol. 6, p.478; Vol. 6, p.486; Vol. 6, p.495; Vol. 6, p.533;

I was Baptized to day for Ten of my Dead Friends in the font in the Endowment House. Samuel Smith Baptized. D H. Wells & Joseph F Smith officiated in Confirming. Joseph F Smith was Mouth. At the Same time Phebe W Woodruff was Baptized for Seven of our Dead Friends. See record in this Journal. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.489, August 31, 1869)

25 I Came to the City & spent the day in the Endowment House. We Baptized for the dead 489. Joseph F Smith & Samuel Smith done the Baptizing. D H Wells W. Woodruff Joseph F. Smith & Samuel Smith Done the Confirming. I laid on hands in the [p.543] Confermation of Nearly the whole. D H Wells Also sealed 33 Couple & W Woodruff sealed 26 Couple. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.543, May 25, 1870.)

Vol. 6, p.545; Vol. 6, p.561; Vol. 7, p.107; Vol. 7, p.161, 18; Vol. 7, p.175; Vol. 7, p.176; Vol. 7, p.185; Vol. 7, p.188; Vol. 7, p.191; Vol. 7, p.206; Vol. 7, p.217; Vol. 7, p.226; Vol. 7, p.239; Vol. 7, p.280; Vol. 7, p.282.

17 I spent the day at the Endowmet House. There were near 1,000 of the Dead Baptized for to day. D H Wells Confirmed for some 5 Hours. W. Woodruff sealed 92 Couple for the dead then D. H. Wells sealed till night. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.186, June 17, 1874).

On this day, John M. Bernhisel was performing proxy work Declaration signer Benjamin Rush, British political philosopher John Locke and U. S. President Millard Fillmore:

[July] 8 I spent the time in the Endowmet House. There was Baptized 693. W Woodruff Confirmed 200. D H Wells sealed 73 Couple for the dead W Woodruff 68 Couple. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.188, July 8, 1874)

On this day, August 9, 1876 John M. Bernhisel did proxy work for many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Woodruff records that he and Daniel H. Wells were present:

Aug 9 I spent the time in the Endowment House. We baptized some 500 persons for the dead. W. Woodruff sealed 33 for the dead & D H. Wells 13. (WIlford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.282)

[61] Bernhisel is mentioned in Woodruff’s Journals over 150 times. He exchanged many letters with Dr. Bernhisel, who would send him clippings from papers, news from the east, along with tree cuttings for his orchards and gifts that Woodruff would deliver to Bernhisel’s family. They also wrote each other about personal matters.

[62] For a brief biography of Haden Wells Church, go here. Accessed August 5, 2014.

[63] Stuy 2000, p. 68, note #7.

[64] Nelson, op. cited.

[65] The Deseret News, Oct. 1, 1873, p. 11. James Godson Bleak also knew Church, and mentions him in his Annals of the Southern Utah Mission.

[66] Stuy 2000, p. 69.

[67] Nelson, op. cited.

[68] Woodruff knew Haden Church and took an interest in his family after he died while on a mission for the Church. On May 10, 1868, Woodruff writes,

A P Rockwell Prayed. B Young jr spoke 30 Minuts E D Woolley 50 Minuts. Afternoon. Prayer By W Woodruff. Haden Ch[urch] spoke 10 Minuts. R. [T?] Burton spok 6 minuts Joseph [ ] 3 M and Presidet Young spok one hour & 20 Minuts. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.407).

This speech by Church was also reported in the Deseret News,

“Elder Haden W. Church said some few years ago he had been called to go on a mission, to settle in the south of the Territory, which he had labored to fulfill with all the ability and power he had. Now, being called to go on a mission to preach the gospel, he felt to go, having faith in God that His blessings would be with him.” (Deseret News, May 11, 1862).

In 1882 Woodruff writes about Church’s son,

I obtained a Donation of $40 from the Trustee in trust for Haden Church to assist him in necessities and deliverd the Money to him.  (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p.96, April 17, 1882)

And in October writes,

19   I received a letter from Haden W Church & He informed me his wife & ownly Daughter was Dead and Buried. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 8, p.128, October 19, 1882).

[69] Stuy 2000, pp. 70-71.

[70] Stuy 2000, p. 68.

[71] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.173.

[72] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 6, p.411.

[73] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.292, November 13, 1876. Three months later, Brigham Young asked Woodruff and his son Brigham Jr. to write up the ceremony, which they read to Young when they were finished. See note #9.

[74] Life of John D. T. McAllister, by Blanche Sullivan Spendlove, p. 6.3, Online here, Accessed August 5, 2004. See also Gene L. Pace, Elijah F. Sheets: The Half-Century Bishop, Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons, ed. Donald Q. Cannon and David J. Whittaker (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1985), 255–73. Online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.

[75] Wayne Hinton, John D. T. McAllister: The Southern Utah Years, 1876-1910, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2003, p 116. As to motive, what was worth more to Woodruff than gold and silver?

Brother George Q. Cannon has referred to your labors in settling here. You were called to come here by the servants of God. You left your homes to come here and you have done what was required of you in this matter. You have had power to finish the Temple, and you have had power to go in and redeem your dead. A great many of you have done this, and I hope all of you will continue as long as you have any dead to redeem. Never cease that work while you have the power to enter into the Temple. I have greatly rejoiced in my work in this Temple, and in the blessings that I have received at the hands of the Latter-day Saints here. Gold and silver are no comparison to these things. I have had some thousands redeemed here. I have had baptisms, ordinations, washings and anointings, endowments and sealings for them, the same as if they were standing in the flesh themselves. I shall go and meet them on the other side of the veil. You will go and meet your relatives. You will hold the keys of their salvation to the endless ages of eternity, if you attend to this labor for them. (Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol.3, p. 82, Wilford Woodruff, June 12, 1892, emphasis mine.)

How would it be, to be some kind of a celebrity on the other side of the veil for the endless ages of eternity?

[76] Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol. 4, p.359, Marriner W. Merrill, October 4th, 1895.

[77] McAllister Journal, August 21, 1877, p. 55-57, op cited, pp. 116-117, online here. Accessed August 5, 2014.

[78] ibid.

[79] Stuy 2000, p. 79.

[80] David H. Cannon, Meeting of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in St. George, Utah, February 19, 1922. Online here, Accessed August 5, 2014.

[81] ibid.

[82] Temple Minute Book, St. George, Jan. 25, 1905, Devery S. Anderson, The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Signature Books, Kindle Edition, 3898-3902.

[83] Franklin D. Richards, “Temple Manifestations of the Spirit,” February 12, 1893, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol.3, p. 233. Stories about Temple Manifestations were not uncommon during this time period. Brian Stuy in his article “”Come, Let Us Go Up to the
Mountain of the Lord”: The Salt Lake Temple Dedication” for Dialogue, Vol. 31, No. 3, recounts many that took place there. See especially pp. 107-108, Online here, accessed August 5, 2014.

[84] Jennifer Mackley gives the Bleak account and writes,

His statement was “copied from some of his own records” by his great-granddaughter and the version I have is in her handwriting. My estimate is James Bleak’s statement/record was made 20-40 years after 1877. (It was at least 21 years after the fact because he repeats parts of Wilford Woodruff’s April 1898 Conference address regarding the experience and less than 40 years because he died in 1918.)

[85] The first time that Bleak is mentioned in his Journals is on November 10, 1877:

10 I received No 32, 3 Letters from Bleak & E Snow. Wrote No 41 in return. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.381).

Jennifer Mackley though, mentions in her note (cited above) that Bleak was proxy for two of the Endowments performed the day after Woodruff and McAllister performed the baptisms.

[86] Wilford Woodruff, “History of the St. George Temple, Its Cost & Dedication and the Labor Thereon”, Mar. 26, 1883, Anderson, Devery; The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846-2000: A Documentary History, Kindle Edition,

[87] Addy’s Master’s Thesis may be found here. Accessed August 10, 2014.

[88] Caroline S. Addy, “James Godson Bleak, Pioneer Historian of Southern Utah”, unpublished Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, June 1953, pages 56-62.

[89] ibid, p. 144

[90] Wilford Woodruff, 10 April 1898, Conference Report, pp. 89-90.

[91] Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p.352, Brigham Young,

[92] Joseph West Smith Journal, 11 April, 1893, Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses, Vol.3, p. 274, Wilford Woodruff, Minutes of the Salt Lake Temple Dedication, Held April 6-24, 1893).

[93] Stuy 2000, pp. 77- 78.

[94] Woodruff recorded that on the night of February 23, 1877,

23 I presided in the Temple to day. <While meeting at the altar I received a revelation concerning the redemption of my dead.> / While praying at the Altar I received a Revelation Concerning the redemption of my dead./ We gave Endowments to 159. E Snow sealed 33 W. Woodruff 13 Couple. D H Cannon Ordained 27 Elders A H Raleigh 11, J L Smith 11, W Woodruff 2 A P Winser 1, Wm. W Smith 2. I spent the Evening with [ ]. I wrote 2 letters to Phebe <and sent her the revelation>. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.329).

A week later, on his 70th birthday Woodruff would speak to an assembled group of women in the Celestial Room of the St. George Temple,

Ever Since I have been working in this Temple my mind has been Exercised in behalf of the dead, And [I] have felt a great desire to see my dead redeemed before I passed away. A few days ago I went into the Cealing room whare I often go to Pray for I Consider there is no spot on this Earth more acceptable than this Temple and while there I went befor the Lord with this subjet resting upon my mind and I Pray the Lord to open My way to see my Dead Redeemed. And while I prayed the spirit of the Lord rested upon me and Conveyed the following Testimony to me:

Let my servant Wilford Call upon the virgins Maidens, Daughters, & Mothers in Zion and let them Enter into my /Holy/ Temple on the 1 day of March the day that my servant Wilford has seen the time alloted to man, Three score years and Ten, and there let them received their washing and Anointing and Endowments for and behalf of the wives who are dead and have been sealed to my servant Wilford, or those who are to be Sealed to him, and this shall be acceptable unto me Saith the Lord, and the dead of my servant shall be redeemed in the spirit world and be prepared to meet my servant at the time of his Coming which shall be at the time appointed unto him, though not revealed to man in the flesh. Now go to and perform this work and all shall be accomplished according to the desire of your heart.

[p.332] This was merely a key to me. Light burst upon my understanding. I saw an Eff[etual?] door open to me for the redemption of my dead. And when I saw this I felt like shouting Glory Hallalulah to God and the Lamb.

Now in this matter you Can be baptized for any number on the same day, but when you come to giving Endowments one person Can ownly attend to one in a day. Some of those women you have been officiating for have been sealed to me, some have not. Those that were sealed to me were sealed at various times during the last twenty years, By Presidet Young, H C. Kimball, D. H. Wells, G. Q. Cannon and J F Smith. I have never taken this Course without consulting Presidet Young. When this thing was manifest to me I said to some of the sisters that I would like to have them Come on my Birth day and make me a present by getting Endowments for some of my dead, and as a testimony to me all were willing. When I saw the magnitude of this I spoke to Presidet Young about it. He said he would furnish half a dozen himself and He has in this assembly 5 daughters and 3 wives. I feel thankful to you my sisters for this manifestation of Kindness for you might have searched the world over and you Could not have found a present as dear to me as this.

What is gold or silver in Comparison to the redemption of our dead? Nothing. If I Can redeem my dead, and save myself and family I will be satisfyed. I feel that when we get into the spirit world we shall see the importance of this days work. This is my birth day. I am three score years and ten to day. You are to day in this Endowment without a man with you. But we shall furnish one Man as an Adam. L John Nuttall will officiate as such. Sisters you have the Blessings and Gratitude of my heart, And I hope I may not ownly partake of Eternal life with those whom you are redeeming to day, But with all of you who are laboring for them this day. I pray that we may all meet with them in the Celestial kingdom of our God. Amen.

I went through the Endowments of the day more like being in vision than a reality. These 154 Sisters [p.333] were led to three veils and three of us Wilford Woodruff J. D. T McAllister & L John Nuttall all dressed in Temple Clothing took them all through the three veils. I took through about 60, at the Middle veil, which I attended (there was no sealing to day). Presidet Young was preset at the Temple in witnessing the Ceremonies. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.331-333, March 1, 1877).

Again we see Woodruff as Temple President still consulting Brigham Young, and that Young was not too sick to attend these ceremonies.

[95] Wikipedia page, under the subtitle, “In the philosophy of truth and rhetoric”, online here, accessed August 12, 2014.

Playing F.A.I.R. “The Curse of Cain”

INTRODUCTION

Ok, they did it again. On the F.A.I.R. Blog for February 28, 2012 they write,

“In connection with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, the priesthood ban is getting a lot of attention from the media again.”[1]

F.A.I.R. then quotes a B.Y.U. Professor (Randy L. Bott) who was quoted in an article that appeared in the Washington Post entitled, The Genesis of a Church’s Stand on Race,

“According to Mormon scriptures, the descendants of Cain, who killed his brother, Abel, “were black.” One of Cain’s descendants was Egyptus, a woman Mormons believe was the namesake of Egypt. She married Ham, whose descendants were themselves cursed and, in the view of many Mormons, barred from the priesthood by his father, Noah. Bott points to the Mormon holy text the Book of Abraham as suggesting that all of the descendants of Ham and Egyptus were thus black and barred from the priesthood.”[2]

F.A.I.R. then comments that what Bott told the Post “is an example of how doctrinal folklore continues to be taught by well-meaning members of the Church,” and that it was “created” to “explain a Church policy that was “reversed” decades before. F.A.I.R. calls Bott’s explanation “dubious folklore” that is “no longer relevant”.

Here we see yet another example of  F.A.I.R.’s typical dishonest “apologetic information”.  In case you didn’t know, the term apologetics etymologically derives from the Classical Greek word apologia (ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”). In the Classical Greek legal system two key technical terms were employed: the prosecution delivered the kategoria (κατηγορία), and the defendant replied with an apologia. To deliver an apologia meant making a formal speech or giving an explanation to reply and rebut the charges, as in the case of Socrates’ defense.[3]

Ironically, this defense is given by Mormons against their own fellow Mormon  F.A.I.R. then continues by giving a synopsis of the actual official doctrine taught by the church (which they claim is folklore),

“In the premortal existence, certain spirits were set aside to come to Earth through a lineage that was cursed and marked, first by Cain’s murder of his brother and covenant with Satan, and then again later by Ham’s offense against his father Noah. The reasons why this lineage was set apart weren’t clear, but it was speculated they were somehow less valiant than their premortal brethren during the war in heaven. In this life, then, the holy priesthood was to be withheld from all who had had any trace of that lineage.”[4]

F.A.I.R. then claims that any scriptures cited to support the curse of Cain doctrine “cannot logically be interpreted this way unless one starts with the priesthood ban and then works backward” to find scriptures that support a “predetermined belief”.  In their conclusion they claim “the ‘curse of Cain’ folk doctrine” may have been understood by “LDS ancestors”, but that today it’s “neither understandable nor necessary”, that it is “unsupported from the scriptures”, and that “in reality we do not know why God allowed the denial of the priesthood for a time in this dispensation.” They repeatedly use the word “policy” in connection with this official church doctrine.

I. BOTT GOES VIRAL

There may be more than one reason why F.A.I.R. cited that Washington Post article on the Curse of Cain. In addition to the comments of Professor Bott that F.A.I.R. cited in their article, the Post also reports him as saying,

“God has always been discriminatory” when it comes to whom he grants the authority of the priesthood, says Bott, the BYU theologian. He quotes Mormon scripture that states that the Lord gives to people “all that he seeth fit.” Bott compares blacks with a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car, and explains that similarly until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.

“What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?” Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth — although not in the afterlife — protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.”[5]

Randy L. Bott B.Y.U. Professor

According to one B.Y.U. blogger,

“The comments shocked many BYU students when the story began to be shared on Facebook and Twitter, with many claiming in disbelief that Bott must have been misquoted. Other students, however, claim that Bott has taught similar ideas in his religion classes. Bott is one of BYU’s most popular professors and is the top-rated professor of any university on RateMyProfessor.com.”[6]

Professor Bott’s bio on wiki describes him as “an American professor of religion at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, USA. He teaches classes on missionary preparation and the Doctrine and Covenants, and is a prolific author of LDS doctrinal and motivational literature. In 2008, he was also listed as the highest-ranked professor on Ratemyprofessors.com.”

Given Bott’s credentials, it’s hard to believe that he would be reciting “folklore” to the Washington Post in response to serious questions about the Church’s priesthood ban.  It’s also hard to believe that F.A.I.R. found it necessary to defend the church against one of its own B.Y.U. professors. So who is giving us the facts, Professor Bott, or the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research?

II.  FOLKLORE OR COMMANDMENT FROM GOD?

It seems that Mormon apologists will say anything to make their church’s past racism more palatable. One way of doing so is to label the priesthood ban a “policy”.  According to Lester E. Bush,

“Normally a “doctrine” is a fundamental belief, tenet, or teaching, generally considered within the Church to be inspired or revealed. A “policy” is a specific program or “practice” implemented within the framework of the doctrine. Some policies or practices are so loosely tied to their doctrinal base that they may be changed administratively; other policies or practices are so closely tied to a doctrine as to require a revision of the doctrine before they can be changed.”[7]

Unfortunately for those like F.A.I.R., the Mormon First Presidency in 1949 gave an official statement which declared,

“The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle.

President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of the spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.”

George Albert Smith

J. Reuben Clark

David. O. McKay

August 17, 1949[8]

Does this official statement sound like “folklore”? The Mormon First Presidency here quotes Brigham Young, who elaborated more on this doctrine in 1852 before the Territorial Legislature,

The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the face of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood untill or salvation untill all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity.

Let me consent to day to mingle my seed with the seed of Cane. It would Bring the same curse upon me And it would upon any man. And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take the life of his Children…

Their is not one of the seed of old Cane that is permitted to rule & reign over the seed of Abel And you nor I cannot Help it.

Those that do bear rule should do it in righteousness. I am opposed to the present system of slavery. The Negro Should serve the seed of Abram but it should be done right. Dont abuse the Negro & treat him Cruel.

It has been argued here that many of the Jews were Black. Whenever the seed of Judah mingled with the seed of Cane they lost their priesthood & all Blessings.

As an Ensample let the Presidency, Twelve Seventies High Priest Bishops & all the Authorities say now we will all go & mingle with the seed of Cane and they may have all the privileges they want. We lift our hands to heaven in support of this. [At] That moment we loose the priesthood & all Blessings & we would not be redeemed untill Cane was. I will never admit of it for a moment.

Some may think I dont know as much as they do But I know that I know more than they do. The Lord will watch us all the time. The Devil would like to rule part of the time But I am determin He shall not rule at all and Negros shall not rule us. I will not admit of the Devil ruling at all. I will not Consent for the seed of Cane to vote for me or my Brethren. If you want to know why we did not speak of it in the Constitution it was because it was none of their Business. Any man is a Citizens Black white or red and if the Jews Come here with a part of the [p.99] Canaanite Blood in them they are Citizens & shall have their rights but not to rule for me or my Brother. Those persons from the Islands & foreign Countries know nothing about Governing the people. THE CANAANITE CANNOT HAVE THE WISDOM TO DO THINGS AS THE WHITE MAN HAS. We must guard against all Evil. I am not going to let this people damn themselves as long as I can help it.”[9]

"Folklore" taught to Mormon youth? (19th Century Publication)

F.A.I.R. would have us believe that this is a “theory adopted” by early Mormons from “similar beliefs in early American Protestantism”, and that the Mormons then used this to “explain” the “policy” of their racism against blacks.  They also state that this is a “policy for which no revelation or prophetic explanation was ever given.”

Of course we just saw some of those “explanations”, but there were plenty more.  Notice how Mormon authorities officially call this a “commandment from the Lord”, and a “doctrine”, while F.A.I.R. continues to repeat the word “policy” over and over as if this wishful thinking might somehow make it true. Brigham Young emphatically declares that ,

“Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it.”

Was Brigham Young not a Mormon “prophet”? Was this then not a “prophetic explanation”? Does saying something “in the name of Jesus Christ” mean anything to Mormons? According to Mormon authorities it does, for on July 17, 1947 the First Presidency wrote a letter to one Lowry Nelson and explained,

“Dear Brother Nelson:

“We might make this initial remark: The social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof.

The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God’s children stand in equal positions before Him in all things. Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God’s dealings with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham’s seed and their position vis-a-vis God Himself. Indeed, some of God’s children were assinged to superior positions before the world was formed.

“We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does. Your position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a religionship in the life heretofore. From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

“Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God’s rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous [meaning ‘marriage within a specific tribe or similar social unit’]. Modern Israel has been similarly directed. We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this are, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.

“Faithfully yours,

George Albert Smith

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

David O. McKay”[10]

Lowry understood perfectly what “the brethren” were saying, and responded on 8 October:

“The attitude of the Church in regard to the Negro makes me very sad. I do not believe God is a racist.

The First Presidency answered:

“We feel very sure that you are aware of the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men, however well founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all sincerity, that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning.

“You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can re-orient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed Word of God.”

This was not folklore from the Mormon past, this was absolutely Mormon doctrine, and officially declared by a Mormon First Presidency to be “a commandment from God”.

III. FALLOUT

The recent Washington Post article has made a big impact on the Church. Yesterday, they felt it necessary to issue this statement,

“The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent.  It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” [11]

The Deseret News, a paper owned by the Church, also published an article titled,  Race, Folklore and Mormon Doctrine, where they claimed,

“Elder Jeffery R. Holland, a current member of the Council of the Twelve, recently said in a public interview “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated…I think almost all of (these teachings) were inadequate and/or wrong.”[12]

Though it is unclear if Holland is aware of the First Presidency Statement of 1949, what is clear is that he is lying about this doctrine being folklore.  In Randy Bott’s Blog called “Knowing Your Religion”, this doctrine was well explained in an article called Blacks and the Priesthood.  After the Washington Post article came out and the Mormon Church was in damage control, the Blog was taken down.  In the Deseret News article yesterday, they write,

“Professor Bott went on at great length to explain the pre-1978 ban. He cited the Bible, claiming that the descendants of Cain, who killed his brother, Abel, were black. He stated that “God has always been discriminatory” and compared blacks to a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car. Likewise, some Latter-day Saints continue to repeat the idea that blacks were fence sitters in a pre-mortal war between God and Satan.

Unquestionably, many leaders and rank and file Mormons justified the ban before 1978 in these terms. Some of these ideas, like the Biblical mark of Cain, were an inheritance from the racist theologies of nineteenth-century American Protestantism. Others, like the claim that the spirits of blacks were lukewarm supporters of God before coming to earth, are unique to Mormon thought, although they lack support in Mormon scripture.

As a Latter-day Saint, I find such claims infuriating. It is one thing to explain as a matter of history what some Mormons may have thought in the past. It is a very different thing to offer the same ideas as good Mormon theology in the present. They aren’t.”[13]

But the Post article did not claim that these points of doctrine were “Mormon theology in the present”. Remember, the title of the article was The Genesis of a Church’s Stand on Race. In the article they quote Don Harwell, an African American Member of the Church who states, “he does not appreciate any attempt to connect the historic plight of blacks in the church to Romney, whom he strongly supports.”

They also quote part of the official statement of the First Presidency from 1949,

“As recently as 1949, church leaders suggested that the ban on blacks resulted from the consequences of the “conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence.” As a result, many Mormons believed that blacks were less valiant in the pre-Earth life, or fence sitters in the war between God and Satan. That view has fallen out of favor in recent decades.”[14]

Nowhere does the Washington Post article suggest that this is Mormon theology in the present, but it does do exactly what the Deseret News article claims they have no problem with, “explains as a matter of history” what Mormons taught in the past.

CONCLUSION

The doctrine of the Curse of Cain was not “folklore” of the Mormon Church, it was stated by Brigham Young to be true, and “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it.”

Why would a current member of the Mormon Quroum of the Twelve, F.A.I.R, and the First Presidency all lie that this is “folklore”, when former “prophets” emphatically declared that it was a doctrine of the church and a “commandment of God”? Why would they lie and say that they “do not know why, how or when this restriction began in the Church,” when former “prophets” issued official statements explaining it in detail?

Though there is no restriction on blacks being ordained in the Mormon Church today, this doctrine was founded in racism, perpetuated by Mormon “prophets” as a “commandment from God”, and was an integral part of the church for over a hundred years.  Professor Bott was being honest and forthright about the history of the church concerning this doctrine, someone that the church hierarchy, and the apologetic arms of the church could learn a thing or two from.

NOTES

[1] http://www.fairblog.org/2012/02/28/dispelling-the-myth-of-the-curse-of-cain/

[2] ibid.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologetics

[4]  http://www.fairblog.org/2012/02/28/dispelling-the-myth-of-the-curse-of-cain/

[5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-genesis-of-a-churchs-stand-on-race/2012/02/22/gIQAQZXyfR_story_1.html

[6] http://trevorantley.com/2012/02/28/byu-professor-randy-botts-allegedly-racist-statements-students-plan-protest/

[7] Neither Black Nor White, page 94. Online here.

[8] ibid, Appendix. Online here.

[9] Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p.98, Sunday, January 4, 1852.

[10] John J. Stewart and William E. Bennett, Mormonism and the Negro,” [Orem, Utah: Community Press, 1960], pp. 46-47

[11] http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/racial-remarks-in-washington-post-article

[12] http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765555343/Race-folklore-and-Mormon-doctrine.html?pg=2

[13] http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765555343/Race-folklore-and-Mormon-doctrine.html?pg=1

[14] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-genesis-of-a-churchs-stand-on-race/2012/02/22/gIQAQZXyfR_story_3.html

Mormon Secrets & Perjuring Prophets

INTRODUCTION

It was the bi-centennial year of the birth of Joseph Smith.  In December of that year (2005) Mormon “prophet” and President Gordon B. Hinckley gave an interview to the Associated Press. In that interview, Hinckley stated,

“Understanding and appreciation come of knowledge. The more people come to know us, the better they will understand us.”[1]

The Associated Press then asked Hinckley,

“The church seems to have difficulty distancing itself from its history of polygamy. You’ve said there are no fundamentalist Mormons, but these groups still practice polygamy and still claim Joseph Smith as their own. How do you resolve that dilemma?”[2]

Who answered,

“Well, let me just say this, the doctrine came of revelation and was discontinued by revelation. We believe in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law. And so, we have very little sympathy with those who disobey the law in this manner.”[3]

Hinckley was then asked,

“Some scholars say historical records point to discrepancies with the official church history. How do you reconcile the differences? And what is the church’s position on historical scholarship?”[4]

Hinckley’s answer was clear and concise:

“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.”[5]

Does the Mormon Church have anything to hide? Is their official history an “open book”? Does the real history of the church lead to “faith and strength and virtues”? If the Church has “very little sympathy” for those who “disobey the law”, how should members feel when they learn that church leaders  bribed Supreme Court judges, influenced elections, committed perjury, and put a gag order over its own members to keep them from recording in their diaries the minutes of Church Council meetings? Why is the church silent about such aspects of its history?

I.  UNDER “AFFIRMATION”

per·ju·ry   [pur-juh-ree]  noun, plural -ries. Law . the willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent tribunal, upon a point material to a legal inquiry.

In 1902 (with the permission of the Mormon “prophet” Joseph Fielding Smith) a Mormon “apostle” named Reed Smoot was elected Senator to the newly formed State of Utah.  His election sparked an intense four-year battle about whether Smoot was eligible or should be allowed to serve, due to his position as a Mormon “apostle”. Many in the U.S. Government were convinced that his association with the church disqualified him from serving in the United States Senate. Only a few years earlier, another prominent Utah Mormon, B.H. Roberts, had been elected to the House of Representatives but was denied his seat because he practiced polygamy. Smoot was not a polygamist, but the Salt Lake Tribune had reported that church leaders continued to secretly approve of new, post-Manifesto plural marriages, and as a result, the Senate began an investigation into Smoot’s eligibility.

Mormon “prophet” Joseph F. Smith was called to testify before Congress, and his testimony is fascinating for what it reveals and doesn’t reveal. When Smith is called to testify, he will not be “sworn in”, rather he states, “I prefer to affirm, if you please.”[6] To “affirm” rather than be “sworn in” (or take an oath to tell the truth) became an option in court proceedings because of Jesus’ admonition to “not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”[7]

Joseph Fielding Smith

This is curious, because Smith obviously had no problems swearing many oaths in the Mormon Temple Ceremony, including an “oath of vengeance” against the murderers of his uncle and father.[8] Smith also seemed concerned about being known as a “spotter” or a paid informant.  He would continually evade questions and deny knowledge about events and claim he was not a “spotter”, as he did here:

“I do it very reluctantly, simply because I am required to do so by this honorable committee. I regret it very much, and I wish to say that much to the committee, because my statements and     testimony here are going to the world, and I do not want it understood, being compelled, as I have been, to give information and to make statements of opinion in relation to my friends, that I am in any sense a spotter or an informer. If there is anything, gentlemen, that I despise it is an infamous spotter and informer, and I am not one of those. I wish to state that in order that it may go down on record.”[9]

Asked about which “apostles” might have had children by their polygamous wives, Smith claims no knowledge, and once again, that he is not a “spotter”:

Senator Overman.  You say six [apostles] are polygamists.  Now, are those or any one of them disobeying the law of the land in regard to polygamous cohabitation?
Mr. Smith.  I do not know anything about their unlawful cohabitation relations.  I only referred in my answer to the question yesterday to the fact that they were in the status of polygamists; that is, they had more wives than one.
Senator Overman.  You do not know whether they have had children born to them since the manifesto or not?
Mr. Smith.  I am happy to say that I am not a paid spotter or informer.
Senator Overman.  You might know without being a spotter.
Mr. Smith.  I do not know.

Senator Overman.  You do not know whether they have children or not?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir.
Senator Overman.  You might have answered without saying you were not a spotter.
Mr. Smith.  Excuse me; I beg pardon.[10]

Smith then commits outright perjury,

“It has been the continuous and conscientious practice and rule of the church ever since the manifesto to observe that manifesto with regard to plural marriages; and from that time till to-day there has never been, to my knowledge, a plural marriage performed in accordance with the understanding, instruction, connivance, counsel, or permission of the presiding authorities of the church, or of the church, in any shape or form; and I know whereof I speak, gentlemen, in relation to that matter.”[11]

But this wasn’t true as D. Michael Quinn explains,

“Yet for nearly two years, President Woodruff did not encourage new plural marriages and permitted only three United States residents and one local resident to marry plural wives in Mexico and Canada. That changed in 1894. At the meeting of the Presidency and Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple on 5 April 1894, President Cannon expressed regrets that there were no provisions for polygamous marriages, to which President Woodruff replied: “The day is near when there will be no difficulty in the way of good men securing noble wives.” A month later, President Woodruff wrote a letter of instruction to Apostles Brigham Young, Jr., and John Henry Smith concerning their second trip to Mexico in five months, authorizing them “in adjusting all matters that properly comes [sic] under your calling.” Whether President Woodruff added verbal clarifications, Apostle Young, who had told the Mexican Saints in February that it was impossible for any man to marry a plural wife anywhere in the world and to cancel any polygamous engagements, performed at least five plural marriages there when he returned in May-June 1894. Among these plural marriages was one for Franklin S. Bramwell, then a stake high councilman, who later wrote, “When I took my second wife I had a letter signed by President Woodruff himself and went to Mexico with a personal letter from Prest. George Q. Cannon.” President Woodruff may or may not have known that George Q. Cannon signed a recommend on his behalf at this same time for a plural marriage to be performed in the Logan Temple, but there can be no question that in October 1894 President Woodruff personally authorized Apostle Abraham H. Cannon to marry a new plural wife: “Father [George Q. Cannon] also spoke to me about taking some good girl and raising up seed by her for my brother David…. Such a ceremony as this could be performed in Mexico, so Pres. Woodruff has said.” Six months later, Wilford Woodruff gave a newspaper interview: “I hurl defiance at the world,” said President Woodruff, “to prove that the manifesto forbidding plural marriages has not been observed.”[12]

Wilford Woodruff

Smith is then asked about one of Abraham H. Canon’s marriages to Lillian Hamblin:

Mr. Tayler.  Do you know her?
Mr. Smith.  Yes; I know here now.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she his wife?
Mr. Smith.  That is my understanding, that she was his wife.
Mr. Tayler.  Do you know when he married her?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; I do not.
Mr. Tayler.  Did you marry them?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; I did not.

Mr. Tayler.  You did not see her in California about that time [June of 1896]?
Mr. Smith.  I did, most distinctly.
Mr. Tayler.  Where?
Mr. Smith.  In Los Angeles.
Mr. Tayler.  With whom was she there?
Mr. Smith.  She was with Abraham Cannon.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she married to him then?
Mr. Smith.  That is my understanding, sir.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she married to him when you saw her shortly before that?
Mr. Smith.  That is my belief.  That is, I do not know anything about it, but that is my belief, that she was his wife.

Mr. Tayler.
  When did you first learn that Lillian Hamlin was his wife?

Mr. Smith.  The first that I suspected anything of the kind was on that trip, [a previous trip they took together to the Provo Mines during the same month] because I never knew the lady before.[13]

That Smith knew Canon well and that they spent many hours together (outside of Quorum Meetings), is attested to by Cannon’s diary entry:

“In the afternoon I went to the races, and took John Q. [Cannon] with me in my buggy. Presidents [Wilford] Woodruff and [Joseph F.] Smith were there, and I sat in their carriage a good part of the afternoon.”[14]

These men socialized together and many were in business together.  But Smith doubles down, and reinforces his perjury:

Abraham H. Cannon

Mr. SMITH. … I should like to draw a distinction between

unlawful cohabitation and polygamy. There is a law prohibiting polygamy, plural marriages.

Senator HOAR. You mean now a law of the State of Utah ?

Mr. SMITH. I mean the law of the State, and  I mean that this is in the constitution of our State. It is required by the enabling act. That law, gentlemen, has been complied with by the church; that law has been kept by the church; and there never has been a plural marriage by the consent or sanction or knowledge or approval of the church since the manifesto.[15]

These outright lies offended many people, including Abraham’s brother Frank J. Cannon, who painfully recalled these instances of Smith’s perjury:

“Late in July, 1896, when I was in New York on business for the Presidency, I received a telegram announcing the death of my brother, Apostle Abraham H. Cannon. We had been companions all our lives; he had been the nearest to me of our family, the dearest of my friends—but even in the first shock of my grief I realized that my father would have a greater stroke of sorrow to bear than I; and in hurrying back to Salt Lake City I nerved myself with the hope that I might console him.

I found him and Joseph F. Smith in the office of the Presidency, sitting at their desks. My father turned as I entered, and his face was unusually pale in spite of its composure; but the moment he recognized me, his expression changed to a look of pain that alarmed me. He rose and put his hand on my shoulder with a tenderness that it was his habit to conceal. “I know how you feel his loss,” he said hoarsely, “but when I think what he would have had to pass through if he had lived—I cannot regret his death.”

The almost agonized expression of his face, as much as the terrible implication of his words, startled me with I cannot say what horrible fear about my brother. I asked, “Why! Why—what has happened?”

With a sweep of his hand toward Smith at his desk—a gesture and a look the most unkind I ever saw him use—he answered: “A few weeks ago, Abraham took a plural wife, Lillian Hamlin. It became known. He would have had to face a prosecution in Court. His death has saved us from a calamity that would have been dreadful for the Church—and for the state.”

“Father!” I cried. “Has this thing come back again! And the ink hardly dry on the bill that restored your church property on the pledge of honor that there would never be another case—”I had caught the look on Smith’s face, and it was a look of sullen defiance. “How did it happen?” My father replied: “I know—it’s awful. I would have prevented it if I could. I was asked for my consent, and I refused it. President Smith obtained the acquiescence of President Woodruff, on the plea that it wasn’t an ordinary case of polygamy but merely a fulfilment of the biblical instruction that a man should take his dead brother’s wife. Lillian was betrothed to David, and had been sealed to him in eternity after his death. I understand that President Woodruff told Abraham he would leave the matter with them if he wished to take the responsibility—and President Smith performed the ceremony.”

Smith could hear every word that was said. My father had included him in the conversation, and he was listening. He not only did not deny his guilt; he accepted it in silence, with an expression of sulky disrespect.

He did not deny it later, when the whole community had learned of it. He went with Apostle John Henry Smith to see Mr. P. H. Lannan, proprietor of the Salt Lake Tribune, to ask him not to attack the Church for this new and shocking violation of its covenant. Mr. Lannan had been intimately friendly with my brother, and he was distressed between his regard for his dead friend and his obligation to do his public duty. I do not know all that the Smiths said to him; but I KNOW that the conversation assumed that Joseph F. Smith had performed the marriage ceremony; I know that neither of the Smiths made any attempt to deny the assumption; and I know that Joseph F. Smith sought to placate Mr. Lannan by promising “it shall not occur again.” And this interview was sought by the Smiths, palpably because wherever the marriage of Abraham H. Cannon and Lillian Hamlin was talked of, Joseph F. Smith was named as the priest who had solemnized the offending relation. If it had not been for Smith’s consciousness of his own guilt and his knowledge that the whole community was aware of that guilt, he would never have gone to the Tribune office to make such a promise to Mr. Lannan.

Frank J. Cannon

All of which did not prevent Joseph F. Smith from testifying—in the Smoot investigation at Washington in 1904—that he did not marry Abraham Cannon and Lillian Hamlin, that he did not have any conversation with my father about the marriage, that he did not know Lillian Hamlin had been betrothed to Abraham’s dead brother, that the first time he heard of the charge that he had married them was when he saw it printed in the newspapers!*

If this first polygamous marriage had been the last—if it were an isolated and peculiar incident as the Smiths then claimed it was and promised it should be—it might be forgiven as generously now as Mr. Lannan then forgave it. But, about the same time there became public another case—that of Apostle Teasdale—and as this narrative shall prove, here was the beginning of a policy of treachery which the present Church leaders, under Joseph F. Smith, have since consistently practised, in defiance of the laws of the state and the “revelation of God,” with lies and evasions, with perjury and its subornation, in violation of the most solemn pledges to the country, and through the agency of a political tyranny that makes serious prosecution impossible and immunity a public boast.  [16]

D. Michael Quinn reveals the extent of Smith’s perjury,

“Wilford Woodruff had approved Abraham H. Cannon’s entry into a proxy polygamous marriage on behalf of his brother. When Lillian Hamlin was endowed in the Salt Lake Temple on 17 June 1896, she was sealed by proxy to the deceased David H. Cannon. Abraham H. Cannon was the proxy, and Joseph F. Smith performed the sealing. The next day, the Smiths and Cannons left Salt Lake City for California. Therefore, Joseph F. Smith actually performed his only post-Manifesto polygamous marriage as a proxy ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple for Abraham H. Cannon but could legally claim that he simply officiated in a sealing on behalf of the deceased brother.”[17]

The use of aliases was common among the Mormon Hierarchy during this period. In his diary entry of July 21, 1887, Abraham Cannon writes that John Taylor used “diff. names for the brethren (disguised) Bro. Williams for C. W. Penrose & Col. Mack for J.F.S. [Joseph Fielding Smith]”[18]

It appears that Joseph F. Smith was more concerned with being labeled an “informer” or “spotter” than he was of telling the truth under oath (or affirmation), or living by his own words of counsel,

G.Q.Cannon, W.Woodruff, J.F.Smith

“Now, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ are taught principles of truth. The word of God is truth. There is no word that God hath spoken to the children of men for their guidance that is not true. And it is the business of men and women, especially those in this Church, to learn what is the word and will of God. When they have learned it, it is their duty to accept it in their hearts, incorporate it in their lives, and abide by it. Then they become the disciples of Christ in very deed. Then they shall know the truth. They shall not merely believe the truth because it is stated by one in whom they have confidence; but they shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free. It is only the truth that can make men free.”[19]

And chose to ignore the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.”[20]

I’m not aware of any public confession by Joseph F. Smith for lying at the Reed Smoot Hearings.  Instead of repenting, Smith publically affirmed his perjury in the April 1904 General Conference of the Church:

“They charge us with being dishonest and untrue to our word. They charge the Church with having violated a “compact,” and all this sort of nonsense. I want to see today whether the Latter-day Saints representing the Church in this solemn assembly will not seal these charges as false by their vote… In seconding the resolution that has just been read–which I most heartily do–I desire to state at least one reason for doing it. As remarked by the president, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been accused of being covenant-breakers with this nation. Of course, there never was, and could not be, any compact between the Church and the general government of the United States. But there could be a compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and there was such a compact made in the Constitution of our state, by and through the Constitutional Convention. And now I am pleased with the opportunity of the Church saying in its official capacity that the Latter-day Saints not only now are, but have been, true to the compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and that they are true to the Constitution of the state, which, by express provision, forever prohibited plural or polygamous marriages, and made that irrevocable, without the consent of the United States. The adoption by the Church of this resolution should put to silence those who have accused us of being covenant-breakers.[21]

1904 Political Cartoon – “The Real Objection To Smoot”

Smith would later compound his perjury, by writing to the Senate Committee in Washington nine days after the Mormon Conference:

The president of the church writes me, explanatory of this, as follows:

OFFICE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS,

Salt Lake City, Utah, April 15, 1904,

Hon. JULIUS C. BURROWS,

Chairman Committee on Privileges and Elections, United States Senate, Washington, D. C.

SIR:

It is with regret that I inform you of my inability to procure the attendance of Messrs. John Henry Smith, George Teasdale, Marriner W. Merrill, John W. Taylor, and Matthias F. Cowley before the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Hon. John Henry Smith is still quite ill, but has signified his willingness to appear before the committee, if desired, as soon as his health will permit.

I am informed that Mr. Marriner.W. Merrill is still in such poor health that he is unable to leave his home.

My latest reports from Mr. Teasdale are to the effect that his health is still poor, but improving.

In accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Robert W. Tayler, I communicated to Messrs. John W. Taylor and M. F. Cowley my earnest desire that they should appear and testify before the committee, and

am in receipt of letters from them stating, in substance, that they are unwilling, voluntarily, to testify in the Smoot investigation. As this is a political matter, and not a religious duty devolving upon them or

me, I am powerless to exert more than moral suasion in the premises.

With reference to the others named the facts are as above stated.

Again expressing my sincere regret that I am unable to procure the attendance of these gentlemen, I am,

Very respectfully,

JOSEPH F. SMITH.[22]

As B. Carmon Hardy writes,

George Teasdale

“President Smith’s “sincere regret” is questionable, and his efforts to have Teasdale, Cowley, and Taylor testify were quite pretended. Teasdale, who celebrated his seventy-third birthday in 1904, may have been in declining health. He seems always to have been fragile. Yet, in the spring of 1904, at the time President Smith told the committee Teasdale was too frail to make the trip to Washington, the apostle was directed to hasten south into Mexico—an ordeal involving at least as much, and probably more, physical strain than a rail journey east. In the late summer Teasdale was healthy enough to travel north and attend three stake conferences in Arizona. In the letter containing these assignments, the apostle was instructed to see that no reports of his presence in Arizona were released to newspapers. Neither was he to let it be known what his intended course of travels was. Secretary to the First Presidency George F. Gibbs, who had a penchant for injecting his own style into official communications, wrote Teasdale that the First Presidency wished him to return to Mexico “without unnecessarily offending the righteous sensibilities of the righteous people of this the greatest nation on the top of the earth.”

Mattias F. Cowley

In a subsequent letter Teasdale, who was still in Mexico, was advised that his so-called medical advisers in Salt Lake City felt the weather yet inappropriate for his return to Utah. These same advisers had determined that if he desired a change of scenery, he could travel to Canada for a few months. Why Canada, as far from Utah as Mexico, was acceptable was undoubtedly clear to Teasdale. The communication closed by reminding the apostle that he had previously indicated that he wished to be only where the Lord wanted him to be. And that, he was being told, was to stay out of the way. Teasdale was an apostle known to have married plurally since the Manifesto, and the fact that in his testimony in Washington, D. C. , President Smith had provided a dubious scenario concerning Teasdale’s domestic affairs, more than anything associated with his health, accounted for the time the apostle spent south of the border.

Regarding apostles Taylor and Cowley, it is true both men asked to be excused from attending the hearings. Cowley, for example, wrote Smith that he wished to avoid the humiliation of exposing his family affairs to the nation’s eyes. Moreover, he said that whatever he could add to the record would but confirm what President Smith had already said in his testimony. At the same time, Cowley’s letter stated that, while he would not volunteer, he would go to Washington if subpoenaed. This was clearly a less defiant posture than that represented by President Smith to Senator Burrows.

John W. Taylor

Taylor, in his reply to the president, was more pointed, saying he felt “positive disinclinations” about going. Because of his residence in Canada at the time, he undoubtedly felt greater safety from the committee’s summons.  After receiving the letters of both men from President Smith, Smoot cut out “the whitened sepulchers” from Taylor’s letter and read them to members of the committee. The senators agreed, after hearing them, that Taylor and Cowley were both beyond President Smith’s control and that he could not force them to testify in Washington.

From the beginning there was an unmistakable note of equivocation in President Smith’s attitude about the prudence of having Taylor and Cowley testify. In the presence of Senator Smoot and his secretary, Carl A. Badger, he remarked that he felt he could persuade them to appear in Washington, provided they were not guilty of involvement in post-Manifesto marriages.90 That Smith, in making such a comment, was hedging against the discovery of what he knew to be fact was not lost on Senator Smoot. Badger recorded in his journal that Smoot volunteered, if President Smith thought best, to resign his senatorial office rather than bring sorrow on the church. Anthon H. Lund, President Smith’s counselor, said less than a month later that the First Presidency took concern when it was rumored that someone was likely to be subpoenaed who could testify to the certainty of Taylor’s post-Manifesto marriages.91 It was also said that Taylor even agreed to testify in Washington but stated that he would not compromise the truth in what he said. Supposedly, he was actually departing for Washington, D. C. , when recalled by Apostle Francis M. Lyman, who, on the authority of a warning dream, told him to stay in Canada. As much as two years later, Smoot wrote President Smith that it yet seemed best for Taylor and Cowley to remain out of reach of Congress until the investigating committee finished its work and the opportunity for successfully serving them with subpoenas had passed.[23]

This video shows Smith’s testimony about all the Corporations that he owned as Trustee in Trust for the Church. Pay attention to his testimony about the Deseret News. He claims that he doesn’t know who owned it so he could tell his questioner positively. Smith perjured himself, he did know exactly who owned it and who the officers of the company were. Here is Rudger Clawson from about a year before the Smoot Hearings:

The question was discussed. Pres. Smith thought it unfair to [p.558] advance the money without interest or any consideration. It would be only proper, he thought, for the News to share the profits of handling this publication with the church—inasmuch as they supplied the means. Some of the brethren took the view that it made but little difference, AS THE DESERET NEWS BUSINESS BELONGED TO THE CHURCH, and whatever profits there were would eventually come to the trustee-in-trust. Pres. Smith, however, did not quite endorse this view, and the matter was referred to Elder Clawson of the auditing committee to investigate and get more favorable terms. Pres. Smith at this juncture expressed some dissatisfaction with the manner in which the News is conducted, and rather spoke as if he felt that his wishes in regard to its policy were disregarded. The headlines in the News sometimes gave it the appearance of a gentile paper. As, for instance, referring to our people constantly as the “Mormons” or the great “Mormon” conference, and alluding to Senator Smoot, as Smoot. To say the least, this was disrespectful and unbecoming. Presidents Winder and Lund were appointed to have a talk with Elders [Charles W.] Penrose, [Horace G.] Whitney, and [John E.] Hansen in regard to some of these things. It was decided that all copyrights of the church publications should be assigned to the trustee-in-trust rather than to the Deseret News. (Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p.558, 19 March, 1903).

The Reed Smoot Hearings took place a year later. There is no way that F. Smith didn’t know, he was in charge of all the monies that came from and went to that business. Here is another entry from a financial report that was discussed with Joseph Fielding Smith:

[April 2, 1903]In the meeting of the Presidency and Twelve today, in behalf of the church auditing committee, I submitted the following report from the Presiding Bishop showing the receipts and disbursements of tithes for the year 1902. Also, a report from the books of the trustee-in-trust incorporating the final results as shown by the Presiding Bishop’s report and a statement of the silent assets of the church. (This report should have been included in the foregoing minutes.)

Presiding Bishop’s Office,
March 1st, 1903
GENERAL STATEMENT OF RECEIPTS AND DISBURSEMENTS
OF TITHES FOR THE YEAR 1902
Receipts
Tithes on hand, Jan. 1, 1902
P.B.O. 36,805.09 [p.575]
Stakes 355,554.70
Missions 12,787.70 405,147.49
Tithes received:
Stakes 1,363,544.66
Missions 57,506.53 1,421,051.19
Profits in handling, P.B.O. 424.00
Receipts from other sources
P.B.O. 1,013.09
Stakes 3,588.50
Missions 12,082.18 16,683.77
Total receipts 1,843,306.45
Disbursements
Losses
P.B.O. 16,871.52
Stakes 25,177.50 42,049.02
Bishops’ percentage
P.B.O. 7,928.00
Stakes 123,148.41 131,076.41
Improvements
P.B.O. 114.60
Stakes 40,169.23 40,283.83
General expenses
P.B.O. 7,917.92 [7918.16]
Stakes 14,138.00
Missions 106.00 22,162.16
Mission Maintenance 23,077.88
Paid trustee-in-trust
Cash 902,631.86
Orders 285,528.63 1,188,160.49
Balance on hand, Dec. 31, 1902:
P.B.O. 46,475.88
Stakes 339,804.00
Missions 10,216.78 396,496.66
Total 1,843,306.45
Audited Mch. 27, 1902, and submitted April 2, 1903.
(Signed) Rudger Clawson,
Reed Smoot,
Auditing Committee.

GENERAL REPORT
Surplus
Net surplus at the office of trust-in-trust 2,001,659.21
Tithes on hand in stakes of Zion, Jan. 1, 1903 396,496.66
Total 2,398,155.87
Silent Assets of the Church
Real estate:
Coal lands &c. 180,914.78
Tithing properties in stakes 325,801.12 506,805.90
B. Y. Academy, Provo, loan 100,262.41
Josepa Agricultural Co., owe on acct. 50,000.00
Total 666,068.31
Recapitulation
Surplus and tithes on hand, Jan. 1, 1903 2,398,155.87
Silent assets of the church 666,068.31
Total 3,064,224.18
Submitted,
(signed) Rudger Clawson,
Reed Smoot.
Data taken from Presiding Bishop’s general reports.
Net increase in tithing in 1902 over 1901 10,662.34
Net increase of cash tithing in 1902 over 1901 31,733.03

Total tithing paid in stakes 1,363,544.66; of this amount $1,049,541.73 was forwarded to the Presiding Bishop’s office, and $342,721 was disbursed locally. Total loss in handling tithes was 2.1%. Amt. paid to bishops for handling tithes was $123,148.41 or 9% of the total tithing received. The trustee-in-trust received 99.1[%] of the cash tithing of 1902. All the local expenses in the Stakes were paid or could have been paid from the profits in exchanges. Amount paid to the worthy poor—$95,713.92; of this amount the trustee-in-trust paid 36%, the fast offerings covered 40%, and Relief Society and sundry offerings covered 24%.

Number of tithe-payers in the church in 1901 were 74,625 [p.577]
Number of tithe-payers in the church in 1902 were 74,764
Net increase 139
Number of non-tithe-payers in 1901 10,859
Number. of non-tithe-payers in 1902 12,412
Increase 1,553

Number of non-tithe-payers, showing priesthood: 243 high priests; 656 seventies; 3396 elders; 584 priests; 600 teachers; 1966 deacons; 7445 total priesthood; 4967 members; 12,412 total.

Brother Clawson explained that if the foregoing Presiding Bishop’s report were approved, it would be copied into the trustee-in-trust’s record of assets and liabilities of the church, and the net results, namely, the tithes on hand, Jan. 1, 1903, would be carried into the trustee-in-trust’s general ledger. The said ledger would then show the exact financial status of the church with the exception of the Deseret News business, which the committee would report upon at an early day. Upon motion of Elder Jno. H. Smith the report was received, approved, and placed on file. (Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p.574-577)

 

II. LESSONS LEARNED FROM PERJURY?

In the wake of his testimony at the Reed Smoot Hearings, as Joseph F. Smith continued his lying in front of the entire Mormon Church, he probably began to wonder how he was going to keep the truth from getting out.  The case of Abraham H. Cannon was of particular concern to him, and Smith brought it up at a Council Meeting in October, 1904:

“Pres. [Joseph F.] Smith said that he wanted to refer to a matter that had given him much concern—namely, the private journals of the brethren of the council. Many things were written in them which, if they were to fall into the hands of the enemy, might bring trouble upon the church. After the death of the brethren, you cannot tell what may become of their journals, and even now the brethren felt an anxiety in relation to Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon’s journal, who made a pretty full account of everything that transpired in the councils of the brethren; the same with Abram Cannon and others. Elder Jno. H. Smith said that he was very much concerned about this matter and had been for a long time and felt ‘that some action should be taken in the premises. Pres. Winder said that it was very unsafe and risky for the brethren to write down that which occurred in these meetings. This duty belonged to the clerk of the council and nobody else. Pres. Winder moved that it be the sense and feeling of the council that the brethren should not write in their journals that which took place in the council meetings. Carried by unanimous vote. Meeting adjourned. Benediction by Elder Jno. H. Smith.”[24]

John R. Winder, Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund

CONCLUSION

Ironically, the diaries of Abraham H. Cannon were recently published (all except the last year, which is lost), and what they reveal about the church is that it has not been “clear and open” and that they in fact had much to hide. How strange that one “prophet” would claim that “the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues” and another that it “might bring trouble upon the church”, and that the “apostles” of said church would feel “anxiety” over “pretty full account[s] of everything that transpired in the councils of the brethren” and that it would be “unsafe and risky” for them to “write down that which occurred in these meetings”, or have them made known to the public.

There is much about Mormon history that is left out of the “official” accounts.  One would hope that Mormons, (As Joseph Fielding Smith taught) “shall not merely believe the truth because it is stated by one in whom they have confidence”; hopefully they will investigate and really know the truth, because  “it is only the truth that can make men free.”

ABRAHAM H. CANNON DIARY EXCERPTS

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.”

June 9, 1884–He called on Sis. Eliza R. Snow Smith Young: “. . . and in the course of our conversation she said she heard the Prophet Joseph once remark, `when the ten tribes were taken away, the earth was divided, so that they occupy a separate planet from this.’ This was news to me.”

May 10, 1885: Went out to “the Penn” to visit “our imprisoned brethren.” “They are all feeling quite well and as happy as possible under the circumstances. They have a few priveleges not granted to other prisoners, such as having their own beds, receiving milk, etc.”

May 18, 1885: At a mtg. in President’s office about the present crusade. “It seems that some so-called Saints in various parts of the country are beginning to weaken and talk of compromise [concerning polygamy]. Some of the leading men in Idaho are even in this frame of mind. Such talk is an evidence to me of utter lack of faith in God and His promises.”

June 30, 1885: Attended court part of the day where Bro. F. A. Brown’s case was called. The forenoon was occupied in getting a jury, and in the afternoon at his own request he was sworn as a witness. He was then permitted to read a paper in which he gave a short review of his past life, admitting his marriage with two women and saying that he would rather have his head severed from his body than to deny his religion and his God. After his testimony the case went to the jury who brought in a verdict of guilty with a recommendation for mercy. . . . As I was returning home I went to the Co-op store where a large crowd had gathered. By suggestion of some of our leaders the flags over which the “Mormons” had control were mostly placed at half mast in mourning for the sad persecution now going on in our midst. The flags at the city hall and court house had already been raised to the masthead at the command of a few anti-Mormons, and now, at 5 p.m. they had assembled at ZCMI with threats of using force in hoisting the flag. The police were there in numbers, however, and no attempt at violence was made. Finally Wm. Jennings and Thos. G. Webber came and had the stars and stripes raised, to the utter disgust of the many staunch Saints. Threats were then made to raise the flags on the Gardo House, Presidents Office, Tithing and Des. News offices, the Temple and Tabernacle, but they continued to wave in their half-mast positions until dark. In the evening a number of friends assembled at my home and we had an exhibition of fireworks until quite a late hour. At the celebration in Ogden today Apostle Moses Thatcher threw a bomb- shell into the camp of the Liberals by reciting some of Utah’s sufferings because of religious bigotry. His statements were too true to rest easy on the minds of the anti-Mormons and he was reprimanded by Judge Powers, the orator of the day. Gentiles are really beginning to think that the Saints are in rebellion.

Nov. 10, 1885: “A notice was published in tonight’s News signed by all of the Apostles except Geo. Teasdale who is absent, stating that [Apostle] Albert Carrington had been cut off from the Church for lewd and lascivious cohabitation and adultery. These acts are said to have been mostly of recent occurrence. This action caused everyone to be surprised.”

March, 1888: In the afternoon Apostle F. D. Richards spoke on the duties of the Saints, and I also spoke for about 25 minutes in a confused way. I fear that I counted too much on my own wisdom in arising to speak, and I felt very much chagrined when I resumed my seat. I hope the lesson will not be lost on me. As we drove home Father [George Q. Cannon] told me that all his success in life was due to his zeal for the work of God. Men gave him credit for much more ability than he possessed, but whatever talents he did possess he had tried to use to the glory of God. In his speaking he had never desired to be sensational but to be sound in doctrine. He asked me what I understood concerning Mary conceiving the Savior; and as I found no answer, he asked what was to prevent Father Adam from visiting and overshadowing the mother of Jesus. “Then,” said I, “He must have been a resurrected Being.” “Yes,” said he, “and though Christ is said to have been the first fruits of them that slept, yet the Savior said he did nothing but what He had seen His Father do, for He had power to lay down His life and take it up again. Adam, though made of dust, was made, as Pres. Young said, of the dust of another planet than this.” I was very much instructed by the conversation and this day’s services.

April 7, 1889: . . .Apostles Moses Thatcher and Heber J. Grant in the presence of Bros. Gates and Morgan ordained two High Priests who were going on missions to be Seventies. This is an innovation, for while I believe that a Seventy holds the higher office, there are some, even among the Twelve, who think a High Priest is higher. This settles the matter as far as these two missionaries are concerned.

June 23, 1889–Geo. Q. Cannon is teaching the gospel to A.H. He taught: (1) “That all men, even the sons of perdition, will be resurrected.” (2) “That Jesus Christ is Jehovah”. (3) “That Adam is His Father and our God”. (4) That under certain unknown conditions the benefits of the Savior’s atonement extend to our solar system.”

October 7, 1889: October: . . .At 3 p.m. I attended a meeting of the Twelve at the Gardo House where Bros. Merrill, Lund and myself were set apart as Apostles in the order named. Pres. Woodruff set apart the first, Father [George Q. Cannon] the second, and Bro. Joseph F. [Smith] myself. Our charge was first given us by Father at Pres. W’s instance. The importance of our callings was portrayed, and our privileges were named. Among these were the privileges of having the ministration of angels, and of seeing the Savior Himself; of hearing the voice of God as audibly as we hear a man’s voice; of continually being under the direction of the Holy Ghost; of being prophets and revelators; and of many other things of which I have a verbatim copy, as also of my blessing and ordination, in which I was promised everything my heart desired in righteousness if faithful.

Oct. 7, 1889: About 1 p.m. all were excused from the room except the pres[idents] of stakes, their counselors and the leading authorities, when political matters were discussed. Our danger of losing the election in this city was mentioned and it was proposed that those stakes who could spare young men to come to this city and acquire residence so as to be able to vote, do so, and that we here provide employment and pay for such. Our enemies intend to run in miners, railroad graders, and every available man to win the election, and it will require all our efforts to foil their plans.

Oct. 21, 1889: About 5 p.m. Bro. Jorgason of Sevier Co[unty] desired my counsel as to what course he should take. He was arrested two weeks since on a bench warrant on a charge of polygamy. His first wife died 18 months ago and he has since married his plural wife before a justice of the peace. I advised him to keep his wife out of the way until after his trial, and when his case came up, he should prove the death of his first wife and subsequent marriage to his second. The date of his union with the latter, however, in the house of the Lord, he should not reveal, as it has occurred within three years.

Nov. 27, 1889 (at Fillmore)–Two young unmarried people have committed fornication. “Bro. Kelly (1st Counselor in stake pres.) was told that on asking forgiveness they should be permitted to receive re-baptism and not be cut off; but where persons thus sin who have received their endowments, they must be excommunicated.”

Dec. 6, 1889: . . . In speaking of the recent examination before Judge Anderson, Father said that he understood when he had his endowments in Nauvoo that he took an oath against the murderers of the Prophet Joseph as well as other prophets, and if he had ever met any of those who had taken a hand in that massacre he would undoubtedly have attempted to avenge the blood of the martyrs. The Prophet charged Stephen Markham to avenge his blood should he be slain; after the Prophet’s death, Bro. Markham attempted to tell this to an assembly of the Saints, but Willard Richards pulled him down from the stand, as he feared the effect on the enraged people. Bro. Joseph F. Smith was traveling some years ago near Carthage, when he met a man who said he had just arrived five minutes too late to see the Smiths killed. Instantly a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Bro. Smith and he asked how this man looked upon the deed. Bro. S. was oppressed by a most horrible feeling as he waited for a reply. After a brief pause the man answered, “Just as I have always looked upon it–that it was a d. . .d cold- blooded murder.” The cloud immediately lifted from Bro. Smith and he found that he had his open pocket knife grasped in his hand in his pocket, and he believes that had this man given his approval to that murder of the prophets, he would have immediately struck him to the heart.

Dec. 8, 1889: Father briefly mentioned two cases with which he was familiar where men were killed in a violent way for the reason, as he believed, that they took the name of God in vain and were very profane.

Dec. 19, 1889: During our meeting a revelation was read which Pres. Woodruff received Sunday evening, Nov. 24th. Propositions had been made for the Church to make some concessions to the Courts in regard to its principles. Both of Pres. Woodruff’s counselors refused to advise him as to the course he should pursue, and he therefore laid the matter before the Lord. The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. He had done and would continue to care for His work and those of the Saints who were faithful, and we need have no fear of our enemies when we were in the line of our duty. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. We were admonished to read and study the Word of God, and to pray often. The whole revelation was filled with words of the greatest encouragement and comfort, and my heart was filled with joy and peace during the entire reading. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue.

Feb. 28, 1890: After a bitter cold night we had a very cold day. From 7 till 10:30 a.m. I was busy at the office reading proofs preparing copy, etc. At the latter hour I went by invitation to the Gardo House. There, where we usually hold our prayer circle, the following brethren met: Presidents Woodruff, Cannon and Smith, Bros. John R. Winder, B. Y. Hampton, F. Armstrong, J. W. Fox, Jr., N. V. Jones, Geo. Reynolds, Arthur Winter and myself. Before the business of the meeting commenced we were all placed under obligation to keep the matter entirely secret. Pres. Woodruff then stated that his mind had been considerably exercised of late in regard to the prospect of our people being taxed under “Liberal” rule to such an extent as to ruin them. After thought and prayer on the subject he felt impressed that we should carefully begin to sell our surplus property at the exorbitant figures now being paid by outsiders for real estate, and reinvest our money on good security, thus shifting the burden of taxation from our shoulders to those of our enemies. All the brethren expressed their approval in general of the plan, and Father expressed the idea that he believed the Lord was, for some good purpose, turning the tide of Gentile wealth in our direction, and he felt that we should take advantage of the event. The necessity of perfect secrecy and the utmost care in this movement was apparent to all for should it once be known among the Saints that it would not meet with disapproval to sell their property to speculators a great panic would immediately ensue. Bros. Winder, Armstrong, Hampton, Fox and Jones and I were appointed a committee to take this matter in hand and work it up.

Apr. 23, 1890: I listened this forenoon to a narration by Bp. Timothy Winters of Rexburg [Idaho] of the course of [Stake] Pres. Thos. E. Ricks of the Bannock Stake. Bro. Winters has received notice to prepare for a mission to New Zealand in August next, and he believes that Pres. R. has been instrumental in having him called through spite because their views have not been alike. I learned through Bp. Winters, whom I am at liberty to quote as authority, that Pres. R. is very arbitrary in his way thus creating a feeling against him among the people. He also drinks and has been seen more than once in a drunken condition. About five weeks ago as he was returning from Salt Lake he joined some of the Home Missionaries who had been laboring in Eagle Rock and Pocatello and rode with them to Market Lake. At the latter place as they were waiting for a team to convey them to Rexburg, he invited these brethren and some strangers who were present to step up to the bar and drink with him and then play cards. The brethren refused to drink, but indulged in card-playing. He, however, drank until he was intoxicated and also played cards. These matters are talked about in the stake and are sure to injure his standing. … The city council, in last evening’s session, granted a franchise on the State Road to the Rapid Transit Street R[ail] R[oad] Company of which I own some stock. They also gave the Liberal band permission to hold sacred concerts on Sunday evenings in the [Salt Lake] Theatre or Opera House. This they did notwithstanding the protest of the various ministers in this city, and the feelings of the great majority who oppose it. The sacred stillness of our Sabbath is thus to be broken by creatures who have no respect for the Lord or His laws.

July 24, 1890: Andrew J. Burt called to report some of his negotiations with three “Liberal” leaders—McCallum, Morris and an unknown—for the prevention of illegal voting, which, if successful, means the election of the People’s Ticket. The price they want is between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Father called a council of the Apostles, and we all felt that Bro. Burt should continue his negotiations, but on the plan of giving only $1,00000 down and the remainder payable on the election of our ticket throughout this County. We all felt that this means would be well spent if it brought triumph to our side. Thus the proposition is made to pay men to be honest or to prevent fraud.

July 28, 1890: The country through which we today passed is rapidly building up, and a few years, I think, will see it thickly populated. I asked Pres. Parkinson to give me a chance to purchase a building lot in Preston near the academy when the land is plotted. This will be a good place for “undergrounders.”

Sept. 26, 1890: There is considerable comment and fault-finding among some of the Saints because of a manifesto which Pres. Woodruff issued on the 24th inst., in reply to a statement made by the Utah Commission that plural marriages were still authorized and celebrated, and that within the past year some 40 or more had been performed. Pres. W. denied this allegation, and said that such marriages were forbidden by the Church in this Territory, and he called upon the Saints to submit to the law of the land in this particular. In his declaration, however, there is no renunciation of principle nor abandonment of families recommended, as some fault-finders try to make it appear.

Oct. 17, 1890: Uncle David [Cannon] came in about noon and told me that he had just had a conversation with Lindsey Sprague, a deputy marshal, who told him that there were papers out for my arrest, but it was not the intention to serve them until my family were located and where they could be captured. I got Chas. H. Wilcken to investigate the matter for me and he learned that it was indeed a fact that a warrant was issued and in Doyle’s hands for my arrest. I therefore kept in my room all the afternoon.

Oct. 18, 1890: I … spent some time at my room until Bro. Wilcken came and informed me that he had bought Doyle off and had got his promise that I should not be molested, nor should any other person without sufficient notice being given for them to escape, and to get witnesses out of the way. He gave Bro. Wilcken the names of some 51 persons whose arrest he intended to try and effect on a trip he and another deputy intend to undertake today, through Utah and Emery counties. A messenger was therefore despatched to give these people warning. Thus with a little money a channel of communication is kept open between the government offices and the suffering and persecuted Church members.

Nov. 2, 1890: In relation to S[amuel] F. Ball who desires to go to Mexico and get a fourth wife, Father said it could not be done, as such things had ceased to occur even there. One young man who recently had this privilege, came back and allowed the knowledge of it to go out, and thus put the Church in danger. Father feels, as I do, that it is best to entirely cease the performance of such marriages for the present and thus make the brethren more appreciative of present blessings. …

Nov. 18, 1890: A saloon has been opened in Deseret by one of the brethren—Hawley. He has built a nice brick structure, and had a dance there last night and another tonight for opening. Nearly all the Saints attended[,] a notice of the parties having been given in Sunday meeting, and the proprietor of the saloon having been called to dismiss the meeting.

Dec. 18, 1890: . . .Father holds that we who live on the earth now and are faithful, will stand at the head of our lineage and will thus become Saviors as has been promised us. Pres. John Taylor was not sealed to his parents though they died in the Church, as he felt that it was rather lowering himself to be thus sealed when he was an apostle and his father was a high priest; but this is rather a questionable proceeding. Before separating we administered to Pres. Woodruff for his severe cold. Father was mouth.

Jan. 26, 1891: Quite a large number of plural wives are now living in Franklin [Idaho], as it is considered safe for them to do so[,] there being no law of the state yet enacted against the practice of the Saints. Besides it is doubtful if a man could be punished if he has his wife in different States or Territories

January 30, 1891: After some little discussion it was decided that it will be best for Z.C.M.I. and other corporations to cease paying tithing on their earnings but leave the stockholders to pay from their dividends. The custom, however, of deducting the tithing from the wages of employees was not discontinued. It was thought proper in some instances to induce eastern Gentiles of respectability to take stock with us in some of our large corporations. They would thus feel interested in protecting us in case of attack on our institutions. It was reported that there are many thieves working in Z.C.M.I. whose thefts have been discovered. Whether to make public examples of them or merely discharge them, was referred to the Board of Directors.

Apr. 9, 1891:  Went to the Gardo House at 2 o’clock and spent about 2 hrs. there. We did not hold our prayer circle, as there was so much business demanding immediate attention. The polygamist [Hans] Jespersen, who is now in prison, and was married in the Endowment House just before it was demolished, threatens to tell who performed the ceremony unless something is done for him immediately. The person [Franklin D. Richards] is liable, if discovered, to two years’ imprisonment and a $1,00000 fine, for officiating in a plural marriage. It was decided that F[rancis] M. Lyman and James Jack visit him and others of the 18 brethren now imprisoned, tomorrow, and assure them that no pains shall be spared to effect their release. They will be advised to sign a dispatch to the U.S. Att[orne]y. Gen[era]’l in Washington [D.C.], promising hereafter to obey the law. Jespersen is to be counseled to telegraph to Utah Pros[ecuting] Att[orne]y [Charles S.] Varian, who is now in Washington, making a similar promise. Thus the effort will be made to immediately relieve these brethren, who are now confined in their cells for 22 out of 24 hrs., and are not by themselves, but mixed up with the “toughs.” Warden [Oscar] Vandercook will be asked to authenticate the prisoners’ messages.

June 29, 1891: We had considerable talk over the conditions existing here, and felt that everything is moving along satisfactorily. The change in sentiment towards our people is exhibited in the fact that ex-Marshal F[rank] H. Dyer called Heber J. Grant out of a [Salt Lake] Herald Directors’ meeting a few days ago, and told him that one of his plural wives had been located in this city by the deputies, and said, “For G–d’s sake, get her away, Grant, for we can’t afford to have the Vice-President of this company arrested for violating the law.” Heber did get her away.

Feb. 9, 1892: In the afternoon spent a short time at the [Church] President’s office where the advisability of dividing the Summit Stake in two, and making a new Stake in Wyoming was considered. The object of doing so was to prevent [Stake] Pres. W[illiam] W. Cluff, who is an ardent Democrat, from using his influence with the people of his Stake in Wyoming to make them Democrats, instead of leaving them as they now are, Republicans. The division would make the Stake in Wyoming number but 646 souls, and would also make the Summit Stake, which is now very small, still smaller. It was decided to call Pres. Cluff to an interview, and if he will promise to use his influence to keep the Saints as far as possible in the Republican party, to not divide the Stake. Geo. F. Gibbs and Robt. Campbell were selected to go quietly to Logan and work to make the Republican ticket successful in the approaching city election, which takes place on the 1st of March. The registration lists now show that the Republicans outnumber the Democrats, but there is quite a number of neutral voters whom it is desired to convert to Republicanism so as to make the party abundantly strong.

Mar. 16, 1892: In the afternoon I was at the President’s office to hear the complaints of the Territorial Central Committee of the Democratic Party concerning the alleged Church influence which was used to make the recent election in Logan a Republican instead of a Democratic victory. There were present Presidents [Wilford] Woodruff and [Joseph F.] Smith, F[ranklin] D. Richards, Moses Thatcher, John H. Smith, myself, Geo. F. Gibbs, Sam. Merritt, Jos. L. Rawlins, W[aldemar] Van Cott, F[rank] H. Dyer, F[ranklin] S. Richards, LeGrand Young, R[ichard] W. Young, J[ames] H[enry] Moyle, Robt. Sloan, G[eorge] W. Thatcher, and Jos. Kimball. Mr. Merritt opened the interview by saying there was evidence on hand in the form of affidavits to show that Geo. F. Gibbs and other members of the Church had stated that the Presidency had sent them privately to Logan to influence voters to cast their ballots for the Republican ticket. He (Merritt) did not believe this had been done by the authorities, but he felt that it was due to the Democrats as well as to themselves [and] that the Presidency of the Church should make public announcement that they did not empower Mr. Gibbs or any other person to use their names to influence voters. A mass of affidavits were then read to prove that ecclesiastical influence had been used for this purpose, and then remarks were made by all of the Democratic committee present, and some of these remarks were not mild. All denounced the using of Church influence in political matters, and the dangers of so doing were portrayed in bright colors. When these men had finished Pres. Woodruff thanked them for coming to him with the matter, and said he had used no influence whatever, and no person had his authority for using his name in this connection. G. F. Gibbs disclaimed any right to use the names of the Presidency, and said he had not done so in the way the affidavits claimed. Pres. Smith also denied having authorized the use of his name. I then spoke a few words in defense of Father, and told them that he was for a division in all sincerity, and he did not play with such matters. It was about 5 o’clock when the interview ended, we having been together about three and a half hours

March 29th, 1892. . . I asked Jos. F. Smith why it was that Ham’s son Canaan was cursed instead of Ham for exposing his Father’s person. He said that the Prophet Joseph is credited with saying that the sin of Ham consisted in trying to casterate his father, Noah, and kill his brothers, Shem and Japeth, so that he might become the head of the nations of the earth. Ham had married a daughter of Cain, and by him the curse was carried through the flood. The seed of this union is the Egyptians, who are not black, but after Ham’s curse, his seed were entirely black. Hence the difference between the races who now inhabit Africa.

We continued our meeting. Pres. Snow said he felt that when any question came up among us on which the majority were clear, should there be one who did not see as the others, that one should be willing to yield his views to those of the majority, and leave the responsibility of the course pursued with them. –John W. Taylor spoke in relation to the Manifesto: “I do not know that that thing was right, though I voted to sustain it, and will assist to maintain it; but among my father’s papers I found a revelation given him of the Lord, and which is now in my possession, in which the Lord told him that the principle of plural marriage would never be overcome. Pres. Taylor desired to have it suspended, but the Lord would not permit it to be done. At the close of John W.’s remarks our meeting adjourned till tomorrow at 10 o’clock. I closed with prayer.

May 26, 1892: At two o’clock I was at my Quorum meeting where were present all the Presidency and myself, as also Bro. [Francis M.] Lyman; Geo. Gibbs, clerk. Bro. Jos. F. Smith was mouth in prayer. Thereafter some conversation followed as to whether Adam is our God or not. There are some in the Church who do not accept of the statement of Pres. [Brigham] Young that such is the case, but to me it seems reasonable to think that Adam has at least much to do with our present condition, and will control greatly our future destiny.

Dec. 17, 1892: At my Quorum meeting on Thursday the brethren were told that our success in the Church suits was in a great measure due to the fact that we have a partner of Justice [Stephen J.] Field of the Supreme Court of the United States in our employ, who is to receive a percentage of the money if the suits go in our favor, and the property is returned to us. It was decided at this meeting that we would dispense with the services of the Church attorneys at the end of the year. Those now employed are F[ranklin] S. Richards and Le Grand Young. The former receives $5,000 per year, and the latter $3,000. The latter has felt some reluctance at accepting his pay for the work now being done, but the former has felt it was his due.

July 19, 1893: Three more Denver banks went to the wall today because of the runs made on them. By request of the Salt Lake bankers we [Deseret News] suppressed the exciting news from Denver, so that the people here might not become needlessly alarmed at the situation. Our bank statements published today show a very healthy condition.

October 10, 1893: “He [George Q.Cannon] believes the time will come when marriages will occur in our temples under the Aaronic Priesthood, instead of giving to young and inexperienced men all the blessings belonging to the Higher Priesthood. It is frequently the case now that unworthy persons go into the temples on recommends, which they should not receive, but it cannot well be prohibited them to enter, because of their family connections. He hoped this change would occur soon. The brethren should pay their tithes and offerings promptly and fully, and thus aid the Church in its difficultly. Men should not sell their honor, their wife’s virtue or their inheritances. We should hold all of these sacred. Pres. Woodruff and Jos. F. Smith approved of all that had been said, and the latter spoke at some length on the false doctrines which are now being circulated.

Nov. 9 1893: . . . Pres. Woodruff told of himself and David Patten being in Tennessee on a mission. While there Bro. Patten had a journey of 40 miles to make one day, but when he went out to get the mule he had procured for this labor, he was on the ground nearly dead with the colic. Bro. Patten said: “See here, old fellow, this won’t do! You have got to carry me 40 miles today, and with these words he stepped up to the animal, laid his hands on the animal, and blessed him. The mule immediately arose, and made the journey. Pres. Woodruff said that was the only time in his life when his faith had been tried, but he thought it strange for an Elder to administer to a mule, and thus do what seemed sacrilege in his mind at that time. –Bro. Joseph F. Smith told of his mother having one of her oxen become sick when she was coming to the valley with her family. The captain of the company said the animal would die, but she got out a bottle of consecrated oil, and got two of the brethren to administer to the ox, and it recovered. Father also had one of his cattle healed by the laying on of hands by himself. The animal accidentally got its leg badly hurt, and it looked as though it could no more travel, but Father slipped out after dark and administered to it, and it recovered and made the journey home. — Bro. J. F. Smith told about David Patten having seen and walked with Cain. Cain is described as being a very large man, his head being even with that of David Patten when the latter was seated on his animal. I always entertained the idea that Cain was dead, but my attention was called to the passage of scripture concerning the curse of God which should fall upon whoever should slay Cain. I supposed this meant whoever should kill his seed.

March 25, 1894 . . .Bro. Roskelly of the Logan temple is having a considerable number of persons who are dead sealed and adopted to him. This is right where people request it, but he should not try to induce them to take this course through their surviving relatives, or in their own cases, if alive. Pres. Woodruff will write him to not try to get people to be thus sealed to him, but where they ask it of their own free will it will be proper.

March 28, 1894: . . . 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.

March 1894: . . . Speaking of Salina, and the great number of non-Mormons living there, he (Bp. Jensen) said that Pres. Brigham Young once said that it would require a very good Saint to live in Saline, and not lose the faith, as the spot on which the city is built has been the scene of many in ancient battle in times when the Nephites and Lamanites were at war with each other. The pass through the mountains is the lowest here of any place in the Wasatch range. The spirits of the ancient dead still hover around this place. Bro. Jensen says it seems as though all the apostates gravitate to this place. He also says that out of all the young men who have been born and reared in this place he only knows two who have any faith. Were it not for the good teachers he has in the ward, the powers of evil would undoubtedly gain the ascendancy.

Oct. 24, 1894: . . . The Presidents Woodruff and Smith both say they were willing for such a ceremony (sealing David to a wife) to occur, if done in Mexico, and Pres. Woodruff promised the Lord’s blessing to follow such an act. Father said Uncle Angus could sound Annie on the matter, and I was willing to leave it in that way.

Nov. 16, 1894: “When Pres. Woodruff first met him [Joseph Smith] and his brother Hyrum they were coming in from target shooting with pistols, which they held in their hands. Bro. Joseph remarked that he was intending to go up to Missouri, and thought he would have to do some shooting, and wanted first to see if he could hit anything.

Oct. 1, 1895: . . . Bro. Lyman related of the joining to the church of several old-time Mormons, and said he could not help feeling sorry for these men who have lost so much time and so many blessings by their apostasy. –Some desultory talk was now had in which the following truths were told: Joseph Smith tried the faith of the Saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time he had preached a powerful sermon on the Word of Wisdom, and immediately thereafter he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. Some of the brethren were tried as was Abraham of old. The Prophet said that the scripture concerning the putting of new wine into old bottles referred to the teaching of the Gospel to old traditionated people, many of whom were unable to stand the new truths. Even baptism for the dead was once unacceptable to the Saints.

Nov. 14, 1895: SLC “Father [George Q. Cannon] felt that some investigation should be had of the conduct of [Moses] Thatcher & [B. H.] Roberts before they receive any ecclesiastical appointments in the Church. Pres. Snow said he could not fellowship them until they made things right, nor could any of the Quorum do so. It was decided to leave any investigation of their affairs until after Statehood, as trouble might otherwise ensue because of the exercise of church discipline.”

NOTES

[1] Gordon B. Hinckley Dec. 25, 2005 interview with The Associated Press, see also http://www.deseretnews.com/article/635171604/Pres-Hinckley-answers-myriad-questions-about-the-LDS-Church.html?pg=2

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] Reed Smoot Transcript, page 80.

[7] Matthew 5:34-37 The most infamous example of the Mormon “death oaths” was the “oath of vengeance”. The oath of vengeance was an addition made to the Nauvoo Endowment under the direction of Brigham Young by 1845 in the Nauvoo Temple, after the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.  Participants agreed to be bound by the following oath, or something substantially similar:

“You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”

David John Buerger writes, “On 14 December 1904, the Washington Times and the New York Herald featured front-page photographs of a man in purported endowment clothing, depicting signs and penalties. Testimony during this hearing as well as other previously published unfriendly discussions of this oath indicate that, commencing by 1845 in the Nauvoo Temple ceremony as administered by Brigham Young, the oath of vengeance was routinely given to all initiates.” (The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment CeremonyDialogue, Vol. 20, No. 4, p.53, Winter 1987).

Abraham Cannon in his diary, gives this chilling account of how Joseph F. Smith almost literally fulfilled this oath:

“In speaking of the recent examination before Judge Anderson, Father said that he understood when he had his endowments in Nauvoo that he took an oath against the murderers of the Prophet Joseph as well as other prophets, and if he had ever met any of those who had taken a hand in that massacre he would undoubtedly have attempted to avenge the blood of the martyrs. The Prophet charged Stephen Markham to avenge his blood should he be slain; after the Prophet’s death, Bro. Markham attempted to tell this to an assembly of the Saints, but Willard Richards pulled him down from the stand, as he feared the effect on the enraged people. Bro. Joseph F. Smith was traveling some years ago near Carthage, when he met a man who said he had just arrived five minutes too late to see the Smiths killed. Instantly a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Bro. Smith and he asked how this man looked upon the deed. Bro. S. was oppressed by a most horrible feeling as he waited for a reply. After a brief pause the man answered, “Just as I have always looked upon it–that it was a d. . .d cold- blooded murder.” The cloud immediately lifted from Bro. Smith and he found that he had his open pocket knife grasped in his hand in his pocket, and he believes that had this man given his approval to that murder of the prophets, he would have immediately struck him to the heart.” (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, Friday, Dec. 6th, 1889).

[8] For some examples of the Temple Endowment Oaths, see http://www.i4m.com/think/temples/temple_oaths.htm

[9] Reed Smoot Transcript, page 149.

[10] ibid, page 202.

[11] ibid, page 129.

[12] D. Michael Quinn, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, p.62-63, Spring 1985

[13] Reed Smoot Transcript, page 111.

[14] Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, June 21, 1893.

[15] ibid, page 130.

[16] Frank J. Cannon and Harvey J. O’Higgins, Under the Prophet in Utah: The National Menace Of A Political Priestcraft,  p.176-179. This was not the only instance of the Smiths going to Lannan.  In his diary entry for Friday, September 23, 1898, John Henry Smith writes,

“The Republican Salt Lake Co. Convention convened at the Salt Lake Theatre, about 400 delegates present. Things went along harmoniously. In company with Prest. J. F. Smith, I called upon P[atrick]. H. Lannan [owner of the Salt Lake Tribune] and talked over the course being taken by the Tribune in its asaults on B. H. Roberts. Mr. Lannan made lots of talk and said nothing, really. Prest. J. F. Smith presented him a paper setting forth that no marrying was going of the plural kind. He said that will not do.”  Jean Bickmore White, Church, State, and Politics, The Diaries of John Henry Smith, Signature Books,  p.409.

Frank Cannon’s recollection along with John Henry Smith’s diary entry, show how Joseph F. Smith further perjured himself at the Smoot Hearings:

Mr. TAYLER. What inquiry did you make to find out whether Abraham H. Cannon, one of the twelve apostles of the church, had made  a plural marriage?

Mr. SMITH. I made no inquiry at all.

Mr. TAYLER. Did you set on foot any inquiry ?

Mr. SMITH. No, sir; not myself.

Mr. TAYLER. Did you have any interest in finding out whether there had been?

Mr. SMITH. Not the least.

Mr. TAYLER. Not the least?

Mr. SMITH. Not the least.

Mr. TAYLER. So that the public charge that an apostle of the church had married a plural wife as late as 1896 did not concern you at all?

Mr. SMITH. The public charge, or what you call a public charge, is simply the charge made by the bitterest anti-Mormon publication in Salt Lake City, and its charges are of such a vicious character that I  pay no attention to them. If I were to undertake to answer one- hundredth part of the vicious and vile charges that are made in the anti-Mormon papers against me and my people I would have nothing else to do in the world.

Mr. TAYLER. Yes; but was not the charge respecting Abraham H.  Cannon taking a plural wife made with much circumstance and detail?

Mr. SMITH. Not that I know of, any more than it was newspaper  talk.

Mr. TAYLER. Then you mean to say that as a general proposition, notwithstanding your sensitiveness on the subject of plural marriages having been authorized or performed under the sanction of the church,

you do not investigate any charges that are made of that character ?

Mr. SMITH. It is not my business to investigate them. I have given to this honorable committee

The CHAIRMAN. The question is. Do you make any investigation?

Mr. SMITH. I have made the assertion and explanation here to this [478] honorable committee that our courts of original jurisdiction in the church are the bishops’ courts, and it is the duty of the bishops to inquire into the moral character and the moral standing and the good fellowship of members of the church who reside in the wards of the bishops.

Senator HOAR. Including officials ?

Mr. SMITH. Yes. sir.

Senator HOAR. Including all officials ?

Mr. SMITH. They have jurisdiction over all members of the church, and all officials are members of the church.

Mr. TAYLER. Did you not feel any duty laid upon you to investigate this, in the interest of the church, apart from any personal lapse?

Mr. SMITH. No; not in the way that these reports and rumors came to me. They were the reports and rumors of malicious persons.

Mr. TAYLER. Malicious persons?

Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.

Mr. TAYLER. Sometimes malicious persons tell the truth.

Mr. SMITH. That may be.

Mr. TAYLER. Or is it your assumption that they never do ?

Mr. SMITH. We become habituated to hearing reports of malicious persons until we pay no attention to them, even if they do tell the truth.

Mr. TAYLER. Suppose it were charged that Francis M. Lyman, president of the twelve apostles, who does not, I believe, live in your ward, had performed a plural-marriage ceremony at Provo; would that induce

you to make any inquiry ?

Mr. SMITH. Mr. Chairman, I submit that it is not a supposable case.

The CHAIRMAN. Would you make the inquiry ? That is the question.

Mr. SMITH. It is not a supposable case, and if it were the case I could not tell you

The CHAIRMAN. That is the only answer you desire to make ?

Mr. SMITH. It is the only answer I can give. It is not a supposable case. I suppose I am not required to answer suppositions.

The CHAIRMAN. May I ask just a question ? In any instance where you have learned that these high officials, or anyone else, have been guilty of a plural marriage, or of performing a ceremony of that kind,

since 1890, have you made inquiry into it?

Mr. SMITH. It has not, Mr. Chairman, been my business to do it.

The CHAIRMAN. Answer my question. Have you inquired?

Mr. SMITH. No, sir; because it has not been my business.

The CHAIRMAN. I understand.

Mr. SMITH. I wish to say further

The CHAIRMAN. That covers it.

Mr. SMITH. I wish to say, in connection with that, Mr. Chairman, that the circumstances that are referred to by this gentleman occurred[ 479] before I was president of the church, and before it was my duty to inquire into anything of the kind, if it was possible to be construed that the president of the church should interfere with the duties of the lesser authorities of the church.

The CHAIRMAN. I understand you to say, Mr. Smith, now, as president, it is not your duty to make inquiry ?

Mr. SMITH. It is not, because it belongs to the lesser authorities. (Reed Smoot Transcript, pages 477-479).

Not only is Smith lying here about this specific instance, he is lying about Church interest in the Tribune.  The following diary entries show that the Tribune was of ongoing concern to the Church Hierarchy, and was read and discussed often in Smith’s presence:

“Prest. W. Woodruff, Jos. F. Smith, Lorenzo Snow, Moses Thatcher, F. D. Richards, A. H. Cannon and I met in Council. The Tribune questions were answered by F. S. Richards and all approved by the brethren present. I took them to Mr. Lannan. (Jean Bickmore White, Church, State, and Politics, The Diaries of John Henry Smith, p.285, Thursday, January 26, 1893).

[January 26, 1893:] [Salina] writing journals letters and answers to Tribune questions.

[January 27, 1893:] [Manassa] I wrote to Pres[ident] Jos[eph] F. Smith and sent him list of answers to Tribune questions as bro[ther] Roberts prepared them and we approved.

[January 19, 1895:] Showed to Bro[ther]s Jos[eph] F. Smith and John Henry Smith an editorial in the Millard County Blade taking bro[ther] John Henry to task for calling Herald man a liar through the Tribune.

[March 13, 1889] In council at Gardo with Pres[iden]t WW FDR Geo[rge] QC, JFS, MT, JHS, HJG, JW Taylor & considered the impropriety of Bro JW Taylor denouncing statement of Delegate JT Caine that Polygamy in Utah was politically a dead issue as a damned lie &c as reported in Nephi Ensign and copied into Tribune. (Diary of Franklin D. Richards)

“Called at the office of the First Presidency to arrange an interview with Pres[iden]t Lorenzo Snow and Senator Jos[eph] L. Rawlings, but failed on account of Pres[iden]t Snow not being in. [Later at quorum meeting] Asked God to direct us politically and preserve the saints from being lead away from a right course by wicked men. Asked God to confound those who are running the Tribune. . . . Mattias F. Cowley . . . Felt the spirit of God should lead in all matters, business, political and religious. There are men among us who would go in direct opposition to what the wishes of the Presidency were politically if they should learn their wishes, and yet these men claim to be in fellowship in the Church. I feel that such men are sure to lose the faith unless they repent and change their course of action. [A mean Tribune editorial today] Marriner W. Merrill Expressed himself freely on political matters and said that while it might not be a wise thing to publicly say it yet, in his opinion it was the right of the Presidency of the Church to express their opinions on all matters, political as well as religious and what he wanted to know is what the Presidency desire and then he wanted to do it, and was only too willing to lay aside his own feelings if they were not in harmony with the feelings of the apostles. Was sorry that there were some who profess to have faith and yet will go in direct opposition to the mind and will of the Presidency. Heber J. Grant Told of how Bro[ther] Taylor had been impressed to sign a Bond for the Bullion Beck and Champion mine for $100,000 when all of the apostles were opposed and how it has turned out to be the right thing. At 5 PM(board m[ee]t[in]g State Bank) After supper I called on Pres[iden]t Lorenzo Snow and he said he would be pleased to meet Senator Rawlings. We had a confidential chat regarding the condition of Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust Co. I hope and pray in case he should take the Presidency of that Bank that he will stop dividends and cut down the expenses. This evening attended in company with Anthony W. Ivins the Democratic ratification meeting in the Theater. . . . I heard more of OW Powers’ talk than any other speaker. (Diary of Heber J. Grant, October 4, 1898).

“[Irate at Tribune letter] I would give considerable time and energy if I had the power to show the Tribune up to the people in their true colors. Anthony Ivins [Juárez Stake President and later “apostle”] and I chatted until 11:15 Speaking of plural marriage he said there were quite a number of them being performed in Mexico, said he was on hand and willing to take another wife if his brethren felt that it was the wisest thing to do under all the circumstances. He had no desire for another wife, but at the same time had a strong desire to fail in doing any duty devolving upon him and he wanted me and my fellow apostles to know that he was on hand to perform any and every duty required of him. Had all his life accepted in his heart of plural marriage and was making an effort to get another wife when the Manifesto came along. I was glad to have him say this much.” (ibid, October 7, 1898)

They were angry at the Tribune for reporting the continuance of plural marriages, which the Church was publically denying, but that Grant just admitted in his diary!

“…Speaking of the Salt Lake Tribune, which is vilifying the our [sic] people, he [Heber J. Grant] thought [it] a disgrace for the saints to patronize it. The question of the attitude of the Deseret News toward the [p.57] Tribune was discussed. It was the feeling of the brethren that Editor Penrose was a little too pugnacious—and that the better policy would be to treat that paper with silent contempt. Pres. Snow intimated that he would have a talk with Bro. Penrose respecting the matter. Benediction by Pres. Jos. F. Smith. “ (Stan Larson, A Ministry of Meetings, The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p. 56-7, entry of May 4, 1899).

Treating the Salt Lake Tribune “with silent contempt” by way of the Deseret News, did not stop them from reading and discussing it:

“…12:30 noon. Meeting at the President’s office. Present: the First Presidency,  [Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith], Apostles B. Young, [Jr.] J. H. Smith, A. H. Lund, A. O. Woodruff, R. Clawson, Reed Smoot, Bp. W. B. Preston, J. R. Winder, Attorneys LeGrande Young and F. S. Richards, C. W. Penrose, and Bp. H. B. Clawson, and G. F. Gibbs, clerk.

Pres. Snow stated that a very serious charge had been made by The Salt Lake Tribune against the Presidency of the church to the effect that they had sold out or bargained away for a money consideration the United States senatorship to Thos. Kearns. The purpose of the meeting, therefore, was to consider the wisdom and propriety of starting a suit for libel against the publishers of that paper. By request of Pres. Snow, Elder C. W. Penrose read a number of excerpts from different issues of the Tribune covering the change.” (Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p.243, Tuesday, 29 January 1901).

“Salt Lake City. Cloudy; heavy rain during night. 10:15 a.m. Meeting at the temple. Present: Presidents Jos. F. Smith, Jno. R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund, and Elders Jno. H. Smith, Geo. Teasdale, Marriner W. Merrill, Rudger Clawson, Hyrum M. Smith,  Jno. Smith, pat., and the clerk.

Some informal talk was indulged in regarding Brother Reed Smoot at Washington, and the information was brought out by the reading of an excerpt from the Tribune that Dr. [Samuel E.] Wishard was in Washington to enter formal protest against the seating of Brother Smoot. Pres. Smith remarked that the activity of Satan and his hosts against us in the present case was only a further testimony to him of the divinity of Mormonism. In view of the fact that the question of seating Brother Smoot would probably be under consideration while we were in session, he suggested that special prayers be offered up in his behalf.” (Stan Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, p.552, Thursday, 5 March 1903).

This was a year before Smith testified at the Smoot hearings that “we pay no attention to them, even if they do tell the truth.” The charge by the Tribune about the election Senate election involving Thomas J. Kearns was also true. As Frank J. Cannon writes,

“Apostle Heber J. Grant, a Republican by sentiment but a Democrat by pretension, was selected by President Snow to barter the Senatorship to McCune. There can be no doubt of it. Everyone immediately suspected it. Letters from Grant, published in the newspapers of January, 1899, subsequently  confirmed it. And President Snow’s actions, toward the end of the campaign, proved it.” (Under the Prophet in Utah, pages 221-222).

Heber J. Grants diary confirms his and the church’s involvement in the campaign:

[August 13, 1898] Hon. AW McCune is thinking of running for the United States Senate and he asked me today if I would help him. I told him I had no objections to doing what little I could to aid him in securing the place, although I assured him that I could not on account of the ecclesiastical position which I occupied, devote any time to laboring for his cause. [Talked of Utah loan & trust; he gave check for $5000.] I chatted today with Pres[iden]t Joseph F. Smith and Elder John Henry Smith and asked them if they had any objections whatever to my doing a little work in a quiet way in the interests of friend McCune securing the office of United States Senator. They both assured me that they had no objections whatever and did not know of any Democrat that they would sooner see go to the U.S. Senate than Mr McCune. Pres[iden]t Smith suggested that I call and chat the matter over with Pres[iden]t Woodruff and get his opinion in the premises. I went to Pres[iden]t Woodruff’s house to chat with him, but his carriage had just left for the Rio Grande Depot. He and his wife, Pres[iden]t Cannon and wife and others leave on the noon train today for California.

[October 7, 1898] FD Richards . . . In his opinion wars are necessary for the establishing of Gods work in the land (referred to American Revolution, Civil War opened South to missionary work, Franco-Prussion had Germany) . . . [Met with RR Lyman, Heber Iverson, Sec[retar]y Higgs of the Co. officers Ymmi(?) of Salt Lake.] We chatted on the League matters and it was suggested that I try and get Hon. AW McCune to pay off the League debt of $1,800 and the brethren said if he would do so they would do all in their power to try and make him a United States Senator. I hope Mr. McCune will conclude to do it .

[November 9, 1898] The Herald announces that the Democratic Party had won the elections. Pres[iden]t L. Snow’s Democratic Headquarters, Cha[rle]s W. Penrose’s & St. Car. Co’s. At the last place chatted with Hon. AW McCune and explained that tomorrow three notes of $500 each signed by Richard W. Young, Cha[rle]s W. Penrose and Benj. Hampton and endorsed by me, I told him I was not able to pay these notes and he gave me $1500 and told me to loan it to the above parties and if I ever collected it then to repay same to him and if I lost it then I need never repay it. I feel very thankful indeed for this assistance as I don’t know how I could have maintained my credit had it not been for the assistance from Bro[ther] McCune. I chatted with him on the political situation and assured him of my best efforts in trying to make him the US Senator. Called and chatted with Pres[iden]t Jos[eph] F. Smith and was much pleased to learn that he would prefer to see AW McCune the next Senator in preference to Frank J. Cannon. I chatted with Bro[ther] John R. Winder and he promised me to do all he could to aid me in getting AW McCune elected as US Senator. At the Theatre wrote Jos[eph] Howell and John R. Murdock asking them not to pledge their vote for US Senator.

[December 29, 1898] After the meeting had a chat with Apostle Francis M. Lyman on the political situation, He objected to my writing letters in favor of Mr. McCune as Senator and referring to anything said to me by Pres[iden]t Snow or Woodruff. I agreed with him & said in the future I would not do so. I regret having ever mentioned the names of the Presidency in any of my letters. Bro[ther] Lyman does not seem to think Mr McCune is worthy to go to the U.S. Senate. I can not blame him for wanting to have his son-in-law Bro[ther] W[ilia]m King made Senator.

[January 19, 1899] Chatted with Pasper Robertson of Emery Co. in Mr. McCune’s interest. Met McCune and had a talk with him in regard to his employing Edward H. Snow as his private sec[re]t[ar]y if he is made US Senator.

[17] D. Michael Quinn, Dialogue, Vol.18, No.1, p.85. Quinn’s footnote reads,

“Salt Lake Temple Living Endowment Record, 17 June 1896, GS; Salt Lake Temple Deceased Sealing Book C, p. 19, 17 June 1896, GS; Wilford Woodruff, Diary, 18 June 1896. In the Nauvoo Temple record book of sealings for the dead of January-February 1846, one ceremony united the living woman for eternity to the deceased husband and for time to the proxy husband. As an assistant recorder for the Salt Lake Endowment House in earlier years, Joseph F. Smith recopied these Nauvoo sealings in which he had special interest because many of them involved his martyred father and uncle. He also copied early Utah proxy sealings and was thus conversant with the dual nature of this single ceremony. Even in early Utah, however, not every man who acted as proxy in a sealing with a living woman became her “proxy husband,” and by 1896 it was no longer customary for a single proxy sealing to have the dual function it once had. Joseph F. Smith never had to answer a direct question about performing this polygamous marriage in the Salt Lake Temple because every time he was asked about the Cannon marriage, it was in the context of the claim that the ceremony occurred aboard ship between San Pedro and Catalina Island. According to Cannon family tradition, Joseph F. Smith also performed a polygamous ceremony for George M. Cannon and Ellen C. Steffensen. See Cannon, “After the Manifesto,” p. 35, note 33. On the contrary, Matthias F. Cowley’s marriage record shows that Cowley performed the plural marriage for Cannon and Steffensen in Salt Lake City on 17 June 1901. Cowley also stated that he was the officiator of this Cannon marriage in Minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve, 10 May 1911.”

[18] Diary of Abraham H. Cannon, July 21st, 1887.

[19] Joseph F. Smith, And The Truth Shall Make You Free, Bear Lake Stake Conference Address,  November l0th, 1895. Brain Stuy, Collected Discourses Vol. 4, p.406.

[20] Doctrine and Covenants, Section 42:10.

[21] Conference Report, April 1904, p.76

[22] Reed Smoot Transcript, page 1058.

[23] B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage, p. 256-8

[24] Stan Larson, A Ministry of Meetings, The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson, October 5, 1904, pages 777-778.

Playing F.A.I.R.

Really?

I often come across this scenario on Mormon Facebook Pages and other sites as I browse the internet:

Self-proclaimed Mormon “apologists” using material from F.A.I.R (Foundation for Apologetic  Information and Research) to “prove” that critics of Mormonism are dead wrong about issues (that the critics prove) the Church has manipulated or lied about in telling its history.

Case in point – This alleged “prophecy” recorded in the History of the Church they claim was given by Joseph Smith:

“I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.”[1]

I. CHALLENGING THOSE DAMN “ANTI-MORMONS”

On a Facebook Page titled “Challenging Anti-Mormon Apologetics”,[2]I came across the following post:

“LDS Honesty: Lying for the Lord (Link provided in the previous post) also says the following:

4. The famous Rocky Mountain Prophecy was a later addition to the official church history and not uttered by Joseph Smith as a prediction that the Mormons would inhabit the Salt Lake Valley. Despite the fact it is not authentic; the church presented it as such for more than a century. The ‘Rocky Mountain Prophecy’ was added after the Mormons arrived in Utah. (The Changing World of Mormonism, p. 406) The church had no intentions of giving this information to members, in order to make their history appear more faith promoting.

Contemporary documentation says otherwise. [3]

What is this “contemporary documentation” they speak of? If one pursues the F.A.I.R. link that the Facebook Page mentioned above provides, one comes upon the “Official Mormon Apologist” response to the above allegations: that Smith’s famous Rocky Mountain “prophecy” was inserted into the Manuscript History of the Church at a later date.

And what is this “contemporary documentation”? Let’s start with their conclusion and work our way back. F.A.I.R. states,

“To accept a “forgery” theory, we must accept that all of the people listed above who remembered Joseph speaking about the Rocky Mountains were lying or fabricating their experience. Furthermore, we must also accept that Joseph was sending explorers to the west with no real expectation of moving, and the discussion of heading west by both members and enemies was all idle talk.”[4]

This is a classic case of diverting the issue. Jerald and Sandra Tanner actually state in The Changing World of Mormonism,

“In our book Falsification of Joseph Smith’s History, page 10, we stated concerning this prophecy:

There is some evidence that Joseph Smith considered going west to build his kingdom, but since we now know that the Mormon Historians actually compiled Joseph Smith’s History after his death and that they drew from many sources, we cannot help being suspicious of the authorship of this prophecy.[5]

Jerald & Sandra Tanner

We see that the Tanners did indeed admit that “there is some evidence that Joseph Smith considered going west”, so why does F.A.I.R. state,

“But, to claim that the account of him discussing and even prophesying a move to the west rests on nothing but “forgery” is to distort and ignore too many sources, from too broad a time period, over what is essentially a peripheral issue.”

Notice F.A.I.R. trying to tie this specific “prophecy” to any discussion about the Rocky Mountains, and that any discussion of moving west by Smith must also be classed as spurious. Then, if they can show that Smith discussed it, this makes the Tanners deceptive.  F.A.I.R. is trying to set their own criteria here, but this is not what the Tanners claim at all, as I have shown above. Is the fact that someone discussed something likely to be made into an issue?

The Tanner’s claim was not that Smith ever discussed the Rocky Mountains, or moving the church west; it was that a false prophecy was fabricated by Mormon Historians (most likely based on exaggerations by contemporary Mormons well after the fact) and placed in the official History of the Church as an actual specific statement (prophecy) that Joseph Smith made.  The specific charge made by the Tanners was this,

“Important evidence concerning Joseph Smith’s prophecy that the Mormons would come to the Rocky Mountains has recently come to light. This prophecy was reported to have been given in 1842 in Illinois. Joseph Smith himself was supposed to have said:

“While the Deputy Grand-Master was engaged in giving the requisite instructions to the Master-elect, I had a conversation with a number of brethren in the shade of the building on the subject of our persecutions in Missouri and the constant annoyance which has followed us since we were driven from that state. I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains” (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 85) …

The situation, then, boils down to the following: we have two handwritten [history]manuscripts, books D-1 and D-2. Neither of these books were even started until after Joseph Smith’s death. In both cases the prophecy concerning the Mormons coming to the Rocky Mountains was interpolated in a smaller handwriting. From this evidence we can reach only one conclusion: the famous “Rocky Mountain Prophecy” is not authentic.” [6]

F.A.I.R singles out the book One Nation Under Gods, and Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s book The Changing World of Mormonism, (and since they imply that Richard Abanes probably got his information from the Tanners –  I will focus on the argument made in Changing World). F.A.I.R.  makes these points of criticism:

Jerald and Sandra Tanner claim that a prophecy from Joseph about the Saints’ move to the Rocky Mountains was forged after the fact and inserted into the History of the Church. They provide the following sources for this claim:

  • History of the Church 5:85.
  • Joseph Smith’s Manuscript History, Book D-1, page 1362
  • Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1971, p.469
  • Davis Bitton, Joseph Smith in the Mormon Folk Memory, The John Whitmer address, delivered at the Second Annual Meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association, Lamoni, Iowa, September 28, 1974, unpublished manuscript, p.16″ [This article is now available in “Joseph Smith in the Mormon Folk Memory,” in Restoration Studies, ed. Maurice L. Draper, vol. 1, (Independence, Missouri, 1980).]

And conclude, “This use of sources is dishonest and misleading.”[7]

II. FAIR OR UN-F.A.I.R.?

The Tanner’s sources are “dishonest” and “misleading”? Let’s take this point by point and see if they are.  F.A.I.R. states,

None of these sources support the argument:

  • The BYU Studies article from 1971 is Dean Jessee’s account of the authorship of the History of the Church. It says nothing about adding a “Rocky Mountain Prophecy,” and the Tanners neglect to provide the perspective on authorship practices in 19th century history that Jessee provides. They thus hide the material that answers their objection. Readers can fortunately access these ideas on the FAIR wiki.[8]

Dean C. Jessee

Can we point out that F.A.I.R. doesn’t acknowledge that the History of the Church also doesn’t acknowledge that Joseph Smith really didn’t “first-person” his own history either?  And they must have missed the Tanners when they explained,”since we now know that the Mormon Historians actually compiled Joseph Smith’s History after his death and that they drew from many sources..” Do all the Mormon “Authorities” who quote this “prophecy” bother to explain the background behind it? That this quote is used by the Church as a bona fide “prophecy” of Smith, and in using it this way they tout Smith’s prophetic powers?  But the real question that F.A.I.R. doesn’t address about this source is why the Tanner’s used it. Not only does F.A.I.R. does not explain this, they don’t even offer a link or internet address to the Book! They don’t even bother to quote what the Tanner’s said! Here is the Tanner’s explanation:

“We are now happy to announce that a photograph of the portion of the original handwritten manuscript containing this ‘prophecy’ has been located at the Visitor Center in Nauvoo, Illinois. Wesley P. Walters of Marissa, Illinois, has sent us a photograph of this page…. This photograph is taken from ‘Joseph Smith’s Manuscript History,’ Book D-1, page 1362.”

An examination of the photograph revealed that the part concerning the Mormons becoming “a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains” was crammed in between the lines of the text in a much smaller handwriting. This indicated that the famous prophecy had been added to the manuscript sometime after this page had originally been written. When we published an enlarged edition of Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? we stated that “Dean C. Jessee’s study proves that this prophecy could not have been written in ‘Joseph Smith’s Manuscript History’ until at least a year after Joseph Smith’s death. He shows that page 1362 of the Manuscript History—the page containing the prophecy—was not even written until July 4, 1845!”

We reasoned that if the page was not written until July 4, 1845, then it was likely that the interpolation containing the prophecy was not added until after the Mormons came to Utah. We have recently found new evidence which further undermines the authenticity of this prophecy. Fortunately, in 1845 Brigham Young had ordered the scribes to make a “duplicate handwritten copy of the History” (Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1971, p. 469). We examined this second manuscript, Book D-2, p. 2, and found that the “Rocky Mountain Prophecy” was written in very small handwriting between the lines. In other words, it was obviously added at a later time to this manuscript.” [9]

So the reason that the Tanners quoted Jessee from his 1971 article, was to prove that Brigham Young had ordered a duplicate made of the Church History, and that the Manuscript History wasn’t written until after Smith died. They quoted Jessee to verify this, and found that the “prophecy” was inserted into Smith’s history well after the fact.  They also included a photo (in their on-line version of the book) of the page in question from the Manuscript History, which can be found here, and below. This source absolutely supports the argument.

F.A.I.R. is not playing fair, because they are not telling you why the Tanners used the source.  How many Mormons are going to go to the trouble of reading what the Tanner’s wrote? Especially when F.A.I.R. doesn’t quote them, has this disclaimer at the beginning of nearly every book they review that is critical to Mormonism:

“Those who do not wish to examine the claims contained in what some would consider an “anti-Mormon” work are advised to proceed no further.” [10]

F.A.I.R. then goes to the Davis Bitton source and states,

  • Davis Bitton’s article specifically rejects the Tanners’ claim:

Two errors have been made regarding this Rocky Mountains prophecy. The first is to reject it out of hand as a later invention of the Utah Mormons. There is enough discussion of possible westward moves during the later Nauvoo period to think that Joseph Smith, in one of his prophetic moods, might well have said something of the sort. The second error, even more serious, is to seize upon these fragments as the basis for concluding that Joseph knew exactly what the future held in store for the Saints down to every last detail. Like the constitution-by-a-thread prophecy, the Rocky Mountains prophecy probably had a basis in an actual statement. The two prophecies are alike, too, in the fact that they were extremely popular later on when they served the needs of the Saints for encouragement.[11]

First, the Tanners did not “reject it out of hand as a later invention”, they show credible evidence that it was.  Second, might and probably don’t make it so. A statement that one is thinking about moving west someday, or sending out exploration parties, is far different from prophesying that one will, with specific details about what happens before and after.  Thirdly, (and most important) it is the Mormons that are “seizing upon these fragments as the basis for concluding that Joseph knew exactly what the future held in store for the Saints down to  every last detail,” and that is why this is not a “peripheral issue”.  Here is a little more of Davis Bitton quoted by the Tanners,  that F.A.I.R. doesn’t quote,

“The situation, then, boils down to the following: we have two handwritten manuscripts, books D-1 and D-2. Neither of these books were even started until after Joseph Smith’s death. In both cases the prophecy concerning the Mormons coming to the Rocky Mountains was interpolated in a smaller handwriting. From this evidence we can reach only one conclusion: the famous “Rocky Mountain Prophecy” is not authentic. The church historical department has Joseph Smith’s diary for 1842-43, but the first entry does not appear until December 21—some four months after the prophecy was supposed to have been given. Mormon scholars have been unable to come up with anything to support the authenticity of this prophecy.

Davis Bitton, an assistant church historian, has written almost five pages concerning this matter. He frankly states that “there is no such prophecy in the handwriting of Joseph Smith or published during the Prophet’s lifetime, but it was referred to in general terms in 1846 during the trek west. After the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley the prophecy was frequently cited and became more specific as time went on” (“Joseph Smith in the Mormon Folk Memory,” The John Whitmer address, delivered at the Second Annual Meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association, Lamoni, Iowa, September 28, 1974, unpublished manuscript, p. 16).

Davis Bitton goes on to state that “The manuscript history covering this period was written in 1845….” This is, of course, a year after Joseph Smith’s death. Mr. Bitton then admits that the prophecy is an “insertion” which was added into the manuscript as “an afterthought” (p. 18). Although Davis Bitton cannot find any real evidence that Joseph Smith made the famous “Rocky Mountain Prophecy,” he does feel that there was “a time when something like this might have been said by Joseph Smith with considerable plausibility. Anytime during the last four years of his life, … the Prophet had good reason to consider possibilities for relocation. It can be demonstrated that he considered the possibility of settling in Oregon (or on Vancouver Island). He was attempting to negotiate some kind of colonization venture in Texas …” (p. 17).

Mr. Bitton admits that other changes were made in Joseph Smith’s documents to support the idea that he knew the Mormons would come to the Rocky Mountains:

And in February 1844 the Prophet was organizing an exploring expedition to go to the West. There are some interesting changes in the way the description of this expedition was written by Willard Richards, secretary of Joseph Smith at the time, and the later revisions. The original, handwritten version reads: “Met with the Twelve in the assembly room concerning the Oregon Expedition.” This has been modified to read “the Oregon and California Exploring Expedition.” Continuing, the Richards manuscript reads, “I told them I wanted an exposition of all that country, “—which has been changed to “exploration of all that mountain country.” There are other such changes that make one suspect that the later compilers of the history, notably George A. Smith and his assistants in the 1850s, were determined to have Joseph Smith contemplating the precise location where the Saints had by then settled. Oregon would not do; Oregon and California as then defined at least included the Rocky Mountains. If the Prophet could be made to say “mountain country” instead of just “country,” it would appear that he clearly had in mind the future history of his followers (pp. 17-18).[12]

If we go by what F.A.I.R. states, we have Bitton refuting himself! They have to perpetuate an outright lie, to make their point (that Bitton’s article specifically rejects the Tanner’s argument). Bitton’s article in no way rejects the Tanner’s claim, that the specific prophecy, recorded in the History of the Church was an insertion after the fact. It was, and Bitton agrees that it was, stating that “there is no such prophecy in the handwriting of Joseph Smith or published during the Prophet’s lifetime”.  The Tanners also reveal Bitton’s speculation that the prophecy might be based on something Smith might have said. But the bottom line is Smith didn’t say it, and there is no proof that he did.  Is F.A.I.R.’s claim that the Tanner’s use of this source is “dishonest” fair? We see that it is not, and that the Tanner’s are more fair than F.A.I.R., admitting that Smith “considered going west to build his kingdom”.

III. EVIDENCE IS NO EVIDENCE

F.A.I.R. also attacks the Tanners for the use of the History of the Church source. They quote a footnote by B.H. Roberts, where he supports the authenticity of the “prophecy” with a quote by Anson Call. Their main objection is “The author[s] provide only the History of the Church reference, but provide no evidence of [their]claim.”

No evidence? Here is F.A.I.R.’s “evidence”. F.A.I.R writes,

The prophecy source is the biography of Anson Call, in August 1842. The relevant section reads as follows:

“A block schoolhouse had been prepared with shade in front, under which was a barrel of ice water. Judge Adams, the highest Masonic authority in the State of Illinois, had been sent there to organize this lodge. He, Hyrum Smith and J. C. Bennett, being high Masons, went into the house to perform some ceremonies which the others were not entitled to witness. These, including Joseph Smith, remained under the bowery. Joseph as he was tasting the cold water, warned the brethren not to be too free with it. With the tumbler still in his hand, he prophesied that the Saints would yet go to the Rocky Mountains, and said he, ‘This water tastes much like that of the crystal streams that are running from the snow-capped mountains. I had before seen him in a vision, and now saw, while he was talking, his countenance change to white, not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living, brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing upon something at a great distance and said, “I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.”

Anson Call

I had before seen him [Joseph Smith] in a vision [i.e., while seeing or reporting a divine vision or revelation], and now saw while he was talking his countenance change to white; not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance, and said: “I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains.” This was followed by a vivid description of the scenery of these mountains, as I have since become acquainted with it. Pointing to Shadrach Roundy and others, he said: “There are some men here who shall do a great work in that land.” Pointing to me, he said, “There is Anson, he shall go and shall assist in building up cities from one end of the country to the other, and you, rather extending the idea to all those he had spoken of, shall perform as great a work as has been done by man, so that the nations of the earth shall be astonished, and many of them will be gathered in that land and assist in building cities and temples, and Israel shall be made to rejoice.”

It is impossible to represent in words this scene which is still vivid in my mind, of the grandeur of Joseph’s appearance, his beautiful descriptions of this land, and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from the glorious inspirations that overshadowed him. There was a force and power in his exclamations of which the following is but a faint echo: “Oh the beauty of those snow-capped mountains! The cool refreshing streams that are running down through those mountain gorges!” Then gazing in another direction, as if there was a change in locality: “Oh the scenes that this people will pass through! The dead that will lay between here and there.” Then turning in another direction as if the scene had again changed: “Oh the apostasy that will take place before my brethren reach that land! But,” he continued, “The priesthood shall prevail over its enemies, triumph over the devil and be established upon the earth, never more to be thrown down!” He then charged us with great force and power, to be faithful to those things that had been and should be committed to our charge, with the promise of all the blessings that the Priesthood could bestow. “Remember these things and treasure them up. Amen.” (Tullidge’s Histories, Vol I. History of Northern Utah, and Southern Idaho.–Biographical Supplement, p. 271

 Thus, the accusation must be not only that the Church decided to “forge” a prophecy by Joseph, but that Anson Call did as well. Can we assess how likely these claims are?[13]

We sure can assess them, because F.A.I.R. is not really being fair here either. The first thing they want you to believe is that the source is from the biography of Anson Call is “in August 1842”. There are all kinds of problems with this, which B.H. Roberts mentions in that Church History footnote that F.A.I.R. quotes.  Here are some of the problems that Roberts encountered,

“It is thought important that the following statement from a biography of Anson Call, by Edward Tullidge, should be made part of the history of this prophetic incident, as doubtless the testimony of Brother Call relates to the same incident as that described in the Prophet’s text of the History, notwithstanding some confusion of dates that exists in the Call testimony. It will be seen that the Prophet fixes the date of his prophecy on Saturday, the 6th of August, 1842. In Whitney’s History of Utah, Vol. IV.—(Biographical section of the history, p. 143), the date on which Call heard the prophecy, is given as the 8th of August, 1842. While in Tullidge’s biography of Call the date is given as the 14th of July, 1843, evidently an error. There is no entry in the Prophet’s journal for the 8th of August, 1842, and the entries for the 8th of August, 1843, and the 14th of July, 1843, relate to matters of quite a different character. Tullidge, in relating Anson Call’s recollection of the incident also says that J. C. Bennett was present on the occasion, which must also be an error, as the rupture between Bennett and the Church and its authorities occurred and he had left Nauvoo previous to the 6th of August, 1842. In the Call statement as published by Tullidge, the name of Mr. Adams, the Deputy Grand Master Mason in charge of the ceremonies, is given as George, it should be James.”[14]

B. H. Roberts

Tullidge’s biography of Call was written in 1889. So when did Call actually first write down the prophecy he claimed that Smith made? Certainly not when it happened (August 1842), since he is wrong about so many details.  Notice that even in his notes, Roberts tries to make it seem as if Smith wrote the prophecy and put it in his history himself.

It seems that Anson Call kept a journal, but the prophecy is not found there. He wrote an autobiography taken from his journals that ended at the year 1839. He later wrote what he called a “Life Sketch”.

The following is taken from Anson Call: Excerpts from his Autobiography:

“Almost the last journal entry that Anson makes shows his love and his respect for Joseph Smith by as indicated by the following:

About the middle of May I was one day traveling to Warsaw when to my great surprise I met Brothers Joseph and Hyrum. I asked him when and how he had made his escape from Missouri. He said, ‘I am in a great hurry, for my enemies are pursuing me…I will say in short to you, the prayers of the brethren brought me her” He then inquired of me where I lived. He said, ‘in about a week I will be at your house; then I will relate the whole matter to you.’ He passed on in great haste. I was filled with great joy to see our prophet after more than six months. Suffering by chains and dungeons once more in the enjoyment of liberty.

He came to my house about the appointed time, had his dinner and spent the principle part of the afternoon in conversation. Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and Vincent Knight were with him. He related to some of the circumstances of his escape from Missouri. He also stated that he had purchased a tract of land in Commerce. A place for the saints to gather to, now called Nauvoo. In the course of the summer my wife had a very severe sickness, chills and fever from which she would probably have died had it not been for her being healed by the laying on of hands. Worked for the Carthaginians and supported our families. I preached to them a few times in the court house but they were not very religious and did not wish to inquire much about Mormonism. (Call, pp. 18 & 19.)

Anson moved West with the rest of the saints. He was assigned by Brigham Young to settle Bountiful. He settled down on a 300 acre farm and raised 18 children with the help of four wife’s. He was the bishop of the Bountiful Ward. He built the Bountiful First Ward by order of Brigham Young.

One of the most lasting contributions that Anson made, other than his prodigious posterity, are a few tibbits of  historical information that he recorded. One of which is the prophecy that Joseph Smith made of the saints moving west.

Joseph Smith by Sutcliffe Maudsley

The “Life Sketch” has the same text as the “Autobiography”, but it is written in 2nd person, with the exception of this quote.)

On the 14th of July, 1843, with quite a number of his (Joseph Smith brethren, he (Joe) crossed the Mississippi River to the town of Montrose to be present at the installment of the Masonic lodge of the ‘rising sun, A block school house had

J.C. Bennett

been prepared with shade in front, under which a barrel of ice water. Judge George Adams was the highest Masonic author in the state of Illinois and had been sent there to organize this lodge He (Joe), Hyrum Smith and J.C. Bennett, being high masons, went into the house to perform some ceremonies which the others were not entitled to witness. These, including Joseph Smith remained under the bowery. Jose] as he was tasting of the cold water, warned the brethren not to be fret with it. With the tumbler still in his hand he prophesied that the Saint would yet go to the Rocky Mountains; and, said he, ‘this water tastes much like that of the crystal streams that are running from the snow capped mountains’ we will 1st Mr. Call describe (sic) this prophetic scene: I had before seen him in a vision and now saw while he was talking his countenance changed to white: not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living brilliant white. He

seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance and said, ‘I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains’. This was followed by a vivid description of the scenery of these mountains as I have since become acquainted with it. Pointing to Shadrach Roundy and others, he said, ‘There are some men here who shall do a great work in that land.’ Pointing to me he said, ‘There is Anson, he shall go and shall assist in building cities from one end of that country to the other, and you’ rather extending the idea to all those he had spoken of, ‘shall perform as great a work as has been done by man, so that the nation of the earth shall be astonished and many of them will be gathered in that land and assist in building cities and temples, and Israel shall he made to rejoiced’.

S. Roundy

“It is impossible to represent in words this scene which is still vivid in my mind, of the grandeur of Joseph’s appearance, his beautiful descriptions of this land and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from the glorious inspirations that over shadowed him. There was a force and power in his exclamations of which the following is but a faint echo. ‘Oh the beauty of those snow capped mountains. The cool refreshing streams that are running down through theose (sic ?) mountains gorges’ Then gazing in another direction, as if there was a change and locality; ‘oh the scenes that this people will pass through’ The dead that will lay between here and there.’ Then turning in another direction as if the scene had again changed: ‘Oh the apostasy that will take place before my brethren reach that land’. But he continued, ‘the Priesthood shall prevail over all it’s enemies, triumph over the devil and be established upon the earth never more to be thrown down.’ He then charged us with great force and power, to be faithful in these things that had been and …???

[Written at bottom of page “THIS CONCLUDES ALL WE HAVE OF THIS COPY”, Alice Maud Call Burton Afton, Wyo.] (Life Sketch of Anson Call 1810-1890, Pioneer in the building of the west.)”[15]

The “prophecy” that Call records here, is obviously written well after the fact, because of the problems with the historical data that B.H. Roberts notes in his History of the Church. Also, the “almost the last journal entry” was when Smith escaped from Liberty Jail in 1839! The “prophecy” was obviously written later, and appears to be unfinished in the copy that Alice Burton had in her possession because it breaks off mid sentence near the end.

F.A.I.R.’s sarcastic comment that Call “forged” his “prophecy”, is the most realistic conclusion, because the historical details don’t line up with the facts.

Since F.A.I.R. has no evidence that there was an actual specific Rocky Mountain prophecy uttered by Smith in his lifetime, they choose to befuddle the issue with a series of quotes that they claim bolster the premise that there was probably a prophecy, therefore there must have been some kind of a prophecy. Most of these are remembrances of Mormon authorities long after the fact – which prove nothing at all.

One interesting quote they use, is from Wilford Woodruff’s Journal. On November 24, 1878 Woodruff wrote on the” Inside Front Cover Fly Sheet” of one of his Journals some “true sayings” of the “Prophet Joseph” that he says he copied from Philo Dibble’s “record”. These “true sayings” are supposedly Dibble’s recollection of Smith’s last address before the Nauvoo Legion. It is obvious from a quick reading that these are not journal entries from the period, or even written on those dates or shortly after the events because like Call’s account, they are so full of inaccuracies.

Philo Dibble

Dibble first gives the date of the 22 of June and says that Smith “called us [The Nauvoo Legion] out in order and to my astonishment Counselled us to give up our arms” and then prophesied to them that they would “gather many people into the fastness of the Rocky Mountains as a centre for the Gathering of the people.” He then thanked them, dismissed them and told them to “take care of your wives, Children and homes.” But the Legion did not give up their arms until June 24, six days after Smith’s last address to the Nauvoo Legion.

Dibble then gives a date for the next day, and has Smith giving his last speech to the Nauvoo Legion. If he had dismissed them the day before, (as Dibble attests)and said his obvious farewell (take care of your wives, children and homes) why would he give them a “last speech” the next day? Also,  Dibble’s date for the “last speech” of Smith before the Nauvoo Legion as the 23 of June, 1844 is incorrect. The actual date of that event was on the 18 of June, and it is well documented. Dibble uses parts of Smith’s speech as recorded by those who were there and later published in the History of the Church, and then has Smith repeating his prophecy about the Rocky Mountains that he supposedly told them the day before.

F.A.I.R. concludes with,

“It could be, of course, that Anson Call forged his account, and all the Church leaders and members lied about remembering Joseph speak about the matter. But why then appeal to “many of you” remembering Joseph speaking about it? Why not claim it was a private, secret teaching given to the apostles—for, they certainly also reported these. If the claim was fraudulent, why risk exposure?

Or, the story could have started after the Saints reached the valley, and simply grown in the telling with members “remembering” the story as it was retold to them. But, the contemporary evidence would seem to argue against this, and witnesses often mentioned how struck they were by Joseph’s remarks. They also described him discussing this idea in a variety of setting, which argues against an accumulated “folklore.”[16]

F.A.I.R. thinks it “strange to see critics argue that Joseph would not prophesy about this,” because they claim that critics say he “was always larding his ideas with prophetic pronouncement,” and I agree. He did.  I have furnished some of that “larding” below in the next section.  I will also show that the accumulated “folklore” argument fits the evidence perfectly.

Again we see F.A.I.R. combining two different issues and tying them together; implying if the prophecy itself was fraudulent that Smith’s discussing the matter must also be based on something “fraudlent”. The Tanners do not say that Smith never spoke about it, they admit that he did. The Tanner’s “evidence” is legitimate though, while F.A.I.R.’s evidence doesn’t appear to be any evidence at all.

Also, Call’s appeal to “many of you” was made because Smith did in fact make vague statements about the west.  This obviously grew into a full blown “folklore” “prophecy” as did the story about Brigham Young transforming into Joseph Smith while he was making the case for claiming leadership of the Church.

I do agree with one point that F.A.I.R. makes: that Smith “discussed moving to the west several times, and likely prophesied about it.” Given the Mormons history of being driven out of every place they settled in, it sure wouldn’t be bad odds to do so and get that right.  But it wasn’t this particular “prophecy” given in those words on that date; the details are completely different, and he made other “prophecies” about the west and Nauvoo that were completely false. This makes Smith a good guesser, but a bad prophet.

IV. ROCKY MOUNTAIN ZION?

“But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high
I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky,
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply:
Rocky Mountain high” [17]

***

“Men profess to prophecy. I will prophesy that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man are already commenced, one pestilence will desolate after another, we shall soon have war & bloodshed. The Moon will be turned to blood. [Matt. 24]I testify of these things, & that the coming of the Son of Man is nigh even at your doors.–If our Souls & our bodies are not looking forth for the coming of the Son of Man, & after we are dead if we are not looking forth, &c we shall be among those who are calling for the rocks to fall upon us &c– There will be here & there a stake &c. for the gathering of the Saints Some may have cried peace, but the Saints & the world will have little peace from henceforth. Let this not hinder us from going to the Stakes, for God has told us to flee not dallying, or we shall be scattered, one here, another there. There your children shall be blessed & you in the midst of friends where you may be blessed. &c  …

The Gospel net gathers of every kind. I prophecy that the man who tarries after he has an opportunity of going will be afflicted by the Devil. Wars are at hand we must not delay, but we are [are we] not required to Sacrifice.[?] We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.–when wars come we shall have to flee to Zion, the cry is to make haste.

The last revelation says ye shall not have time to have gone over the Earth until these things come. It will come as did the cholera, war, & fires burning earthquake, one pestilence after another &c  the Ancient of Days [will] come then judgment will be given to the Saints.

 Whatsoever you may hear about me or Kirtland, take no notice of, for if it be a place of refuge the Devil will use his greatest efforts to trap the Saints. You must make yourselves acquainted with those men, who, like Daniel pray three times a day to the house of the Lord. –Look to the Presidency &c & receive instruction. Every man who is afraid, covetous &c will be taken in a snare.–The time is soon coming when no man will have any peace but in Zion & her Stakes. I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, & brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters & daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies I saw blood, desolations, & fires &c,–The Son of Man has said that the mother, shall be against the daughter, & the daughter against the mother &c, &c–these things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from City to City—

goya-yson-tan-fiera

Satan will rage & The Spirit of the Devil is now enraged, &c I know not how soon these things will take place, and with a view of them shall I cry peace? No! I will lift up my voice & testify of them. How long you will have good crops, & the famine be kept off. I do not know. When the fig tree leaves, know then that the summer is nigh at hand. we may look for Angels &c. & receive their ministering but we are to try the spirits & prove them. for it is often the case that men make a mistake in regard to these things.”~Joseph Smith, July, 1839[18]

This “prophecy” was given a few months after Smith escaped from jail in Missouri, when he was well aware that the possibility of returning was dismal. Here, he mentions “stakes” of Zion that would be the only safe havens for the “saints”. These “stakes” would be an important part of Smith’s plans for a westward expansion of the church.

Let’s consider some of the accounts that speak of “the Rocky Mountains”, including some of those mentioned in the F.A.I.R. article’s “Other Evidence From Joseph’s Lifetime” section.   In an article titled “The Far West”, which appeared in the Evening and Morning Star in October of 1832, we are told about the lands from the Mississippi River to the Rockies in the far west:

“The far west, as the section of country from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains may justly be styled, is not only distant from the Atlantic States, but different. Its principle river, running rapidly from the 48th to the 39th degree of north latitude, is always rily, always wearing away its banks and always making new channels: It is rightly named Missouri; for in plain English, it looks like the waters of misery,-or troubled water:-even as the sea which the prophet said, Casts up mire and dirt…”[19]

United States 1832

In 1821 the Missouri Territory stretched all the way from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. After 1821 and Missouri statehood, it was renamed the Arkansaw Territory and the northern part went unnamed.  In 1834 during the “Zion’s Camp” march, Smith claimed to see a vision of a white Lamanite named Zelph who he described as a great general under one “Onandagus”, known from “Cumorah to the Rocky Mountains”.  As the article in the Star explains,

“this beautiful region of country is now mostly, excepting Arkansas and Missouri, the land of Joseph or the Indians,” and though “the world will never value the land of Desolation, as it is called in the book of Mormon, for any thing more than hunting ground, for want of timber and mill-seats: The Lord to the contrary notwithstanding, declares it to be the land of Zion which is the land of Joseph, blessed by him, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, and for the precious things of the earth and fulness [fullness] thereof…”[20]

But 1832 would be a bad year for Mormonism in Missouri, for Smith would underestimate the old settlers there, along with their patience in dealing with a large group of what they deemed religious fanatics who thought they were justified in “consecrating the riches of the Gentiles”[21] to themselves as their God given due.  Of course the Mormons thought that the backlash was only religious persecution as Francis Bishop wrote in 1839, who blamed it all on,

“a rumor [which] was likewise raised and carried abroad through the papers, that the church in Missouri, who had purchased lands there and were peaceably settled on them, were intending to drive the inhabitants out of the State, upon the ground that they claimed the country as a promised land.”[22]

It would be hard to read the above “revelation” about consecrating the riches of the Gentiles and not get that impression. Smith would later change that verse in the 1835 expanded edition of the Book of Commandments, renamed the Doctrine and Covenants. Returning for a moment to B. H. Roberts and  New Witnesses for God, we find Roberts mentioning another “prophecy” (as he calls it) in connection with the alleged 1842 “prophecy” that is a part of Doctrine and Covenants, Section  49. It reads,

“But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites [the American Indians] shall blossom as the rose. Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed.”[23]

The problems with tying this “prophecy” to the 1842 Rocky Mountain prophecy should be obvious, for the place that was “appointed” (to gather) was not in the Rocky Mountains, but in the state of Missouri:

“Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”[24]

1838 United States (click to enlarge)

But you may say, the land of Missouri stretched all the way to the Rocky Mountains! Perhaps if the old settlers had known about Smith’s plans for the Rocky Mountains they would have been less recalcitrant. Then again, they probably read the next verse of this “revelation” penned by Smith:

“And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.”[25]

By 1832 the State of Missouri was the little boot of the former Missouri Territory. The Mormons were coming in droves, and as we read in the rest of that Star article on the Far West,

“When we consider that the land of Missouri is the land where the saints of the living God are to be gathered together and sanctified for the second coming of the Lord Jesus, we cannot help exclaiming with the prophet, O land be glad! and O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord: For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou [Jerusalem] shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land [Zion] any more be termed Desolate… “[26]

Driven out of Jackson County into neighboring counties, the Mormons for a time lived in peace with the Missourians.  But “the gathering” and visions of destruction were still Smith’s primary focus. In 1833, Smith says he is inspired “by God” to write to N.C. Saxton,

“The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians; having been found through the ministration of an holy angel, and translated into our own language by the gift and power of God, after having been hid up in the earth for the last fourteen hundred years, containing the word of God which was delivered unto them. By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph which was sold into Egypt, and that the land of America is a promised land unto them, and unto it all the tribes of Israel will come with as many of the Gentiles as shall comply with the requisitions of the new covenant. But the tribe of Judah will return to old Jerusalem. The city of Zion spoken of by David, in the one hundred and second Psalm, will be built upon the land of America, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads” (Isaiah xxxv: 10); and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land. But Judah shall obtain deliverance at Jerusalem. … These are testimonies that the Good Shepherd will put forth His own sheep, and lead them out from all nations where they have been scattered in a cloudy and dark day, to Zion and to Jerusalem, besides many more testimonies which might be brought.

And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ, that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country. The people of the Lord, those who have complied with the requirements of the new covenant, have already commenced gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri, therefore I declare unto you the warning which the Lord has commanded to declare unto this generation, remembering that the eyes of my Maker are upon me and that to him I am accountable for every word I say wishing nothing worse to my fellow-men than their eternal salvation; therefore, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” Repent ye, repent ye, and embrace 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. Remember these things; call upon the Lord while He is near, and seek Him while He may be found, is the exhortation of your unworthy servant.” [Signed] JOSEPH SMITH, JUN.[27]

Smith was telling everyone to flee to Missouri! And he was apparently soon to bring the lost Tribes with him. Smith declares here that “the city of Zion … will be built upon the land of America” and that “there are those whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they see all these things, including the city of Zion being built, fulfilled. By mid 1834 Smith had gathered up a group of Mormon menfolk and they made their way to Missouri to take back their lands in Jackson County.

But before leaving to “redeem” Zion in May 1834, Smith gave a “revelation” in response to Parley Pratt and Lyman Wight’s arrival in Kirtland with questions on what they should do about their lands in Jackson County. Smith’s reply was that if they “hearken from this very hour” to the counsel they are given from Smith, they would “begin to prevail against” their “enemies from this very hour.”[28]

Hearken they did, answering Smith’s call to arms with enthusiasm.  How could they not be excited when they had received this promise supposedly by God himself,

“Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren–your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down. Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances. Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel. For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be. Therefore, let not your hearts faint, for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence. But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.[29]

Arriving in Missouri with much bickering and squabbling among them on the way,

“A possibly decisive battle with the “Jackson Countians” was aborted 19 June by a devastating thunder-and-hail storm which the Mormons ascribed to divine intervention. Three days later, near Liberty, Joseph Smith issued the “Fishing River Revelation,” chastising the Saints for disobedience and disbanding the camp, thereby postponing indefinitely the eventual Mormon reclamation of Jackson County. Zion’s Camp never officially fired a shot upon its enemies. The few deaths reported among the Missourians came mainly by drowning, and those among the Mormons from cholera.”[30]

Did the Mormons “pollute their inheritances”? With Zion’s Camp having been decimated by cholera, and Smith himself being struck with it while claiming he could “heal the sick”, all of his previous violent rhetoric from his February “revelation” was tossed aside, like these promises made in that very “revelation”,

“Verily, verily I say unto you, that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., is the man to whom I likened the servant to whom the Lord of the vineyard spake in the parable which I have given unto you. Therefore let my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., say unto the strength of my house, my young men and the middle aged—Gather yourselves together unto the land of Zion, upon the land which I have bought with money that has been consecrated unto me. And let all the churches send up wise men with their moneys, and purchase lands even as I have commanded them. And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them; And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies. And my presence shall be with you even in avenging me of mine enemies, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake; for whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again. And whoso is not willing to lay down his life for my sake is not my disciple.”[31]

Smith instead, gave his Fishing River Revelation, where he blames his own failure on the church,

“were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.”[32]

Yet, Smith was supposed to be “the man like unto Moses” and lead them “with power” and “a stretched out arm”. And as the followers of Moses were led, “so shall the redemption of Zion be”.  Did Moses have those in his camp who griped? Yes. But did that stop Moses from destroying the Egyptians? Not at all. Remember, Smith doesn’t liken the redemption of Zion to the possessing of the promised land of Israel, he likens it to when Israel was leaving Egypt, “and as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.” This included all the gripers, backbiters, and those who had committed “transgressions”.  These were individuals, not the entire church.  Smith had been so confident in his power that he wrote another earlier revelation which stated,

“And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saintsUntil the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.”[33]

This pretty much states that it’s Missouri or nothing. “Zion shall not be moved out of her place,” says Smith, even though “her children are scattered”.[34] Smith tells us that God “reveals” to him th