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Joseph Smith:
Nineteenth Century Con Man?

By Dale R. Broadhurst

Smith - Sources



Joseph Smith: 19th Century Con Man?   |   Sidney Rigdon: Creating the Book of Mormon
Tracking Book of Mormon Authorship   |   Word-print Study   |   Joseph Smith & Sidney Rigdon

MODERN  SOURCES:

1962 Lancaster   |   1970 R. L. Anderson   |   1970 J. &. S. Tanner   |   1971 J. &. S. Tanner   |   1972 M. S. Hill
1974 W. P. Walters   |   1977 W. P. Walters   |   1982 Van Wagoner & Walker   |   1984 R. W. Walker
1986 D. L. Morgan   |   1990 R. I. Anderson   |   1994 J. L. Brooke   |   1998 D. M. Quinn   |   2000 D. Persuitte

HISTORICAL  SOURCES   |   HERMAN  MELVILLE  ITEMS






James E. Lancaster

"By the Gift and Power of God"

(Saints' Herald, 110:24, Nov. 15, 1962)


(excerpt)

(notes)

Transcriber's comments






Copyright © 1962, Herald House. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 798 ]




By the Gift and Power of God --
The Method of Translation of the Book of Mormon


by James E. Lancaster

It is a principle of history that the further we are in time from a historical event, the more we see this event through the haze of the intervening years. This is true of the history of the church. Our concept of events that transpired from 1820 to 1844 tends to become idealized. In the latter half of the previous century, eyewitnesses to the early events of the Restoration were still living. These eyewitnesses on numerous occasions left testimonies describing things that transpired in their day. Their accounts may surprise and sometimes even disturb us. They are often at variance with our own cherished views. This is particularly true with regard to the process by which the Book of Mormon was translated. We can best understand the method used by the prophet Joseph Smith in his translation of the Book of Mormon if we look at this event through the first-hand accounts of the early witnesses. And from such a viewpoint we may find it possible to place a broader interpretation on the nature of the Book of Mormon record itself.

Any consideration of the method of translation of the Book of Mormon must begin with the testimony of its translator, Joseph Smith, Jr. The prophet testified on numerous occasions regarding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. A record exists of what transpired on one of the first occasions where Joseph Smith was publicly asked about the translation of the book. A conference of the church was held at Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on October 25, 1831; twelve high priests, seventeen elders, four priests, three teachers, four deacons, and a large congregation attended.[1] At this conference, several of the brethren took occasion to testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon.

Brother Hyrum Smith said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the elders present, that all might know for themselves.

Brother Joseph Smith, Jr., said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also said it was not expedient for him to relate these things. [2]

One week later these words appeared in a revelation given through the prophet at a special conference of the church meeting at Hiram, Portage County, Ohio: " ...and after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., might have power to translate, through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon." [3] This was the pattern that Joseph Smith was to follow throughout his life when asked regarding the Book of Mormon. Never at any point did he reveal any of the details of the method of translation. He did, however, stress the divine aspects of this translation.

Joseph's earliest published testimony concerning the translation appears in the Elders' Journal of July 1838. He wrote:

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. [4]

In March 1842, in response to a letter from John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, Joseph Smith printed in the Times and Seasons a brief statement of belief as well as a short history of the Mormon movement.

With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called "Urim and Thummim," which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.

Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God. [5]

In the next issue of the Times and Seasons, Joseph Smith began the publication of his biography. Though first published in 1842 it states that the writing was begun in 1838. Regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith wrote:

By this timely aid was I enabled to reach the place of my destination in Pennsylvania, and immediately after my arrival there I commenced copying the characters of the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife's father in the month of December, and the February following. [6]

What is possibly the prophet's last published statement regarding the translation was made in a letter to N. E. Seaton, a newspaper publisher, which was printed in the Times and Seasons:

The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians, having been found through the ministrations 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. [7]

As the foregoing quotations demonstrate, the statements of Joseph Smith give no detailed information regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon. Rather, that it was "by the gift and power of God" that the record of the Nephites was made available to the world.

Emma Smith Bidamon was interviewed late in her life by her son Joseph Smith III regarding her knowledge of the important events which transpired in the early church. This interview took place in February 1879, in the presence of Major Lewis C. Bidamon, her husband. At one point in the interview Emma stated the following:

    A. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read or dictated to you?
    A. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.

Q. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
    A. If he had had anything of the kind, he could not have concealed it from me.

Q. Are you sure that he had the plates at the time you were writing for him?
    A. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in...

Q. Where did Father and Oliver Cowdery write?
    A. Oliver Cowdery and your father wrote in the room where I was at work. [8]

Many are familiar with this testimony but have seemingly overlooked that the wife of the prophet claims Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon sitting with his face in his hat with a stone placed in the hat. He did not even look at the plates which were nearby, wrapped up in a small tablecloth.

A similar testimony is borne out by another witness to the translation, David Whitmer. In 1887 he published a booklet entitled An Address to All Believers in Christ. This booklet is a summary of his beliefs regarding the Restoration and the role he played in the movement. He states:

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. [9]

How can the testimonies of Emma Smith and David Whitmer, describing the translation of the Book of Mormon with a seer stone, be reconciled with the traditional account that the Book of Mormon was translated by the "interpreters" found in the stone box with the plates?

Fortunately there is additional testimony by Emma Smith Bidamon on this important issue. Sometime in the early part of 1870, Emma S. Pilgrim, the wife of the pastor of the RLDS church in Independence, Missouri, wrote to Emma Bidamon, requesting information about the translation of the Book of Mormon. Emma Bidamon replied in a letter written from Nauvoo, Illinois, March 27, 1870. Her letter states in part:

Now the first that my husband translated was translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color. I cannot tell whether that account in the Times and Seasons is correct or not because someone stole all my books and I have none to refer to at present, if I can find one that has that account I will tell you what is true and what is not. [10]

Emma's letter indicates that at first the Book of Mormon was translated by the Urim and Thummim. She refers to the instrument found with the plates. However, this first method was used only for the portion written on the 116 pages of foolscap which Martin Harris later lost. After that, the translation was undertaken with the seer stone. Emma's testimony is corroborated by David Whitmer in an interview appearing in the Chicago Inter-Ocean, October 17, 1886.

The first 116 pages when completed were by permission of the prophet intrusted to the hands of Martin Harris, who carried them home to his incredulous relatives in triumph, hoping by the exhibition to convert his family and kinfolk from their uncompromising hostility to the religious premises he had adopted. Upon retiring at night he locked up the precious pages in a bureau drawer, along with his money and other valuables. In the morning he was shocked to find that they had been stolen, while his money had been left untouched. They were never found and were never replaced, so that the Book of Mormon is today minus just 116 pages of the original matter, which would increase the volume fully one-fourth of its present size. This unpardonable carelessness evoked the stormiest kind of chastisement from the Lord, who took from the prophet the Urim and Thummim and otherwise expressed his condemnation. By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange, oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing Urim and Thummim (the latter was a pair of transparent stones set in a bow-shaped frame and very much resembled a pair of spectacles). With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated. [11]

A consistent account appears in a later interview with Whitmer.[12]

Indications that there were two methods of translation also appear very early in anti-Mormon works. In a book published in 1834, Mormonism Unvailed, by Eber D. Howe, the following statement appears:

Now, whether the two methods for translation [sic - translating?], one by a pair of stone spectacles "set in the rims of a bow," and the other by one stone, were provided against accident, we cannot determine -- perhaps they were limited in their appropriate uses -- at all events the plan meets our approbation.

We are informed that Smith used a stone in a hat, for the purpose of translating the plates. The spectacles and plates were found together, but were taken from him and hid up again before he had translated one word, and he has never seen them since -- this is Smith's own story. [13]

D. P. Hurlburt, in the latter part of 1833 collected information from the townsfolk in Palmyra, regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon. This material was later used by Howe in his book. From this it must be concluded that at an early date both the prophet's friends and antagonists knew two methods were involved in the translation process.

David Whitmer was interviewed numerous times in his later years by newspaper correspondents seeking information about the early days in the church from one of its founders. The resulting newspaper accounts do not always agree in detail. This may be due in part to Whitmer's age, but it may also be a result of the reporters' misunderstanding or carelessness. On numerous occasions he issued corrections to statements he was purported to have made. However, there are two statements by David Whitmer that do not come to us through this medium. The most important is his own booklet An Address to All Believers in Christ, previously quoted. The other is a statement he made to a member of the Reorganized Church, J. L. Traughber, Jr., in October 1879, and printed in Saints' Herald. In connection with this latter testimony it should be pointed out that David Whitmer did not meet Joseph Smith until June 1829. [14] According to the testimony of Emma Smith and David Whitmer, the angel took the Urim and Thummim from Joseph Smith at the time of the loss of the 116 pages. This was June 1828, one year before David became involved with the work of translation. [15] David Whitmer could never have been present when the Urim and Thummim were used. He clearly states in his testimony to Traughber:

With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim; but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a "Seer Stone," which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and, under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said. [16]

One of the earliest interviews with Whitmer appears in the Chicago Times, August 7, 1875. Chicago papers also printed at least two other similar articles. One appeared on December 18, 1885, in the Chicago Tribune. [17] A corrected summary of this later article appeared in the same paper on January 24, 1888, on the occasion of Whitmer's death. [18] In 1881 David Whitmer made a statement to the Kansas City Journal which appeared in that paper on June 5.

I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris were present during the translation. The translation was by Smith, and the manner as follows: He had two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg shaped and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters, which were given him with the plates. He did not use the plates in the translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light. [19]

In reading the various accounts given by David Whitmer it should be remembered that by his own testimony he was not an eyewitness to any method of translation other than that of the "seer stone." It is possible his accounts of the translation by use of the Urim and Thummim are a result of conversation with Emma Smith or Martin Harris, who were Joseph's scribes at that earlier time.

The testimony of Oliver Cowdery, Joseph's principal scribe, is similar to the prophet's own, for it gives little detailed information about the method of translation. There are three published statements of Oliver Cowdery regarding his work in assisting Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon:

These were days never to be forgotten -- to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, "Interpreters," the history, or record, called "The Book of Mormon." [20]

Still, although favored of God as a chosen witness to bear testimony to the divine authority of the Book of Mormon, and honored of the Lord in being permitted, without money and without price, to serve as scribe during the translation of the Book of Mormon, I have sometimes had seasons of skepticism, in which I did seriously wonder whether the Prophet and I were men in our sober senses when he would be translating from plates through "the Urim and Thummim" and the plates not be in sight at all.

But I believed both in the Seer and in the "Seer Stone," and what the First Elder announced as revelation from God, I accepted as such, and committed to paper with a glad mind and happy heart and swift pen; for I believed him to be the soul of honor and truth, a young man who would die before he would lie. [21]
...
I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, "holy interpreters." I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the "holy interpreters." That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. [22]

It is interesting to note that Oliver Cowdery refers to the use of the "seer stone" but in such a way as to make it synonymous with the Urim and Thummim and the interpreters. He further states that Joseph translated with the plates out of sight. This generally supports the accounts previously examined.

The remaining key witness, Martin Harris, provided only one reliable statement. It came from his later years when he resided in Utah. It is reprinted below.

Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone. Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say, "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraved on the plates, precisely in the language then used.

Martin said further that the seer stone differed in appearance entirely from the Urim and Thummim that was obtained with the plates, which were two clear stones set in two rims, very much resembling spectacles, only were larger. Martin said there were not many pages translated while he wrote, after which Oliver Cowdery and others did the writing. [23]

Martin Harris also claims that the prophet, Joseph Smith, used two methods of translation. Harris very clearly distinguishes the Urim and Thummim which "was obtained with the plates" from the seer stone. Interestingly enough, Martin Harris does not tell us why Joseph Smith used the seer stone. According to other witnesses the stone's use was due to Martin Harris's own indiscretion. Harris merely said that for "convenience" the prophet used the seer stone.

One other witness to the events that transpired in the Whitmer home has left an account of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Michael Morse who was married to Trial Hale, a sister of Emma Smith, was present at the time of the translation. In an 1879 interview with W. W. Blair of the Reorganized Church, Mr. Morse described the method of translation of the Book of Mormon. The pertinent parts of his testimony are related by Blair:

He further states that when Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, he [Morse] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation.

The mode of procedure consisted of Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating, word after word, while the scribe -- Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other, wrote it down. [24]

Isaac Hale, Emma's father, provided additional information about the translation of the Book of Mormon. His testimony first appeared in 1834, fairly early in the history of the church. Isaac Hale was obviously antagonistic toward Joseph Smith and the Mormon movement. He stated:

The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods! [25]

The same source also contains the statement of Alva Hale, one of Isaac Hale's sons. Alva's account is similar to his father's.

William Smith, younger brother of the prophet, is an often quoted source about the translation method. Since he was not a resident of Harmony, Pennsylvania, where the translation took place, we cannot be certain he was an eyewitness. Therefore, his testimony may be second-hand. In 1883 William published a small book of his experiences in the church. In regard to his brother's translation of the Book of Mormon he wrote:

In consequence of his vision, and his having the golden plates and refusing to show them, a great persecution arose against the whole family, and he was compelled to remove to Pennsylvania with the plates, where he translated them by means of the Urim and Thummim (which he obtained with the plates), and the power of God. The manner inwhich this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light (the plates lying nearby covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the stone by the power of God. [26]

In a sermon preached in the Saints' Chapel at Deloit, Iowa, June 8, 1884, William said:

When Joseph received the plates he also received the Urim and Thummim, which he would place in a hat to exclude all light, and with the plates by his side he translated the characters, which were cut into the plates with some sharp instrument, into English. And thus, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, the whole book was translated. [27]

In July 1891 William Smith was interviewed by J. W. Peterson and W. S. Pender of the Reorganized Church. This interview was published in 1924, thirty years after William's death.

[Among other things we inquired minutely about the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate. We asked him what was meant by the expression "two rims of a bow," which held the former. He said [the Urim and Thummim were set in] a double silver bow which was twisted into the shape of the figure eight, and the two stones were placed literally between the two rims of the bow. At one end was attached a rod which was connected with the outer edge of the right shoulder of the breast-plate. By pressing the head a little forward, the rod held the Urim and Thummim before the eyes much like a pair of spectacles. A pocket was prepared in the breastplate on the left side, immediately over the heart. When not in use the Urim and Thummim was placed in the pocket, the rod being of just the right length to allow it to be so deposited. This instrument could, however, be detached from the breastplate, and his brother said that Joseph often wore it detached when away from home, but always used it in connection with the breastplate when receiving official communications, and usually so when translating, as it permitted him to have both hands free to hold the plates.

In answer to our query, William informed us that he had, himself, by Joseph's direction, put the Urim and Thummim before his eyes, but could see nothing, as he did not have the gift of Seer. He also informed us that the instruments were too wide for his eyes, as also for Joseph's, and must have been used by much larger men. The instrument caused a strain on Joseph's eyes, and he sometimes resorted to the plan of covering his eyes with a hat to exclude the light in part."

This statement described two methods of translation. In the first method a rod affixed to the Urim and Thummim was inserted into a breastplate. The prophet's second method was to cover his eyes with a hat. William further reports that the first method was "usually" employed when translating and the second method was "sometimes" used to avoid eye strain. This seems inconsistent with William's earlier statements that mention only the second, supposedly less frequent, method.

An examination of the eyewitness testimony produces the following consensus on the method of translation of the Book of Mormon: (1) Nephite interpreters often called "Urim and Thummim" were found with the plates on Hill Cumorah; (2) these interpreters were used first in the translation of the plates; (3) the portion translated by use of the interpreters was copied onto 116 pages of foolscap and later lost by Martin Harris; (4) because of the indiscretion of Martin and Joseph, the Nephite interpreters were permanently removed; (5) the Book of Mormon that we have today was translated by use of the seer stone; (6) Joseph Smith translated by placing the seer stone in his hat and covering his face with his hat to darken his eyes; (7) the plates were not used in the translating process and often were not even in sight during the translation; (8) other persons were sometimes in the room while Joseph Smith dictated to his scribe; (9) all witnesses to the translation agree to these facts.

In August 1829, a newspaper in Palmyra, New York, the Palmyra Freeman, printed the earliest known reference to the Book of Mormon. Although the original issue of the Freeman has been lost, fortunately, the article was republished by the Rochester Advertiser and Telegraph of August 31, 1829. This latter newspaper is still available in the Reynolds Library in Rochester, New York. The article is noteworthy because it attempts to explain the method of translation of the Book of Mormon prior to its publication.

The Palmyra Freeman says -- The greatest piece of superstition that has come within our knowledge now occupies the attention of a few individuals of this quarter. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible." Its proselytes give the following account of it.

In the fall of 1827, a person by the name of Joseph Smith, of Manchester, Ontario Co., 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 visited, as he states, he proceeded to the spot, and after penetrating "mother earth" a short distance the Bible was found, together with a huge pair of spectacles. He had been directed, however, not to let any mortal 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 thick on which were engraved characters of hyroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so at least) interpret these characters.

Another extant article was printed in the Rochester Gem of September 5, 1829. Both early newspaper accounts conform generally to the statements witnesses later made regarding the method of translation.

The testimony of the eyewitnesses seems to conflict with the prophet where he states that "with the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record." Joseph Smith's account, however, can be reconciled with the seer stone testimony of Emma Smith and the witnesses. First it must be recognized that the translation of the Book of Mormon took place at the very beginning of Joseph's ministry. At that stage in his understanding of his prophetic role and his relationship with God he evidently had need for a physical symbol of God's power to assist in the translation. Regardless of the physical media used, the essential quality of the translation stressed by the prophet was that of revelation or inspiration from God. In a statement to William H. Kelley and G. A. Blakeslee, dated September 15, 1882, David Whitmer said the following regarding the inspirational nature of the translation of the. Book of Mormon.

He had to trust God. He could not translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings toward everyone. To illustrate so you can see: One morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not translate a single syllable. He went downtairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour -- came back to the house, and asked Emma's forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful. [29]

Soon after Oliver Cowdery became scribe for the prophet, he began to desire the power himself to translate the records. Oliver was given a promise of this power and an explanation of it in a revelation through Joseph Smith in April 1829.

Oliver, verily, verily I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, which is your God and your Redeemer, even so sure shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which have been spoken, by the manifestation of my Spirit; yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you, and which shall dwell in your heart.... Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate all those ancient records which have been hid up, which are sacred, and according to your faith shall it be done unto you. [30]

Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate, acting upon the revelation given, but because of his own misunderstanding was unsuccessful. In answer to Oliver's problem another revelation was received by Joseph Smith a few days later.

Behold, you have not understood, you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me; but, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right, I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right; but if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought, that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you can not write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

Now if you had known this, you could have translated: nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now. [31]

From the statement of David Whitmer and from the revelations to Oliver, we understand that Joseph Smith did not regard the process of translation as mechanical. The power to translate resided not in the material device used, but involved the heart and mind of the translator. It would appear that the inspiration received by the prophet in these circumstances involved general concepts rather than literal information. As such the translation was one of revelation. It was necessary for Joseph Smith to express in his own words and phrases the inspired concepts that passed through his mind. Supporting this view is the fact that Joseph Smith did not hesitate to change the wording of the 1830 Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon. In preparing the 1837 Kirtland edition, the prophet made several hundred changes in the original so that the language there would more adequately express his inspiration.

That the use of the seer stone involved a process of inspiration is also borne out by the manner in which the early revelations were given. During the time that the Book of Mormon was being translated Joseph Smith received revelations through what he later in his history in the Times and Seasons referred to as the Urim and Thummim. In this period "Urim and Thummim" can only pertain to the seer stone. From the Times and Seasons it is evident that revelations given up to June 1829, and later recorded in the Book of Commandments, were received through the seer stone. When these revelations were republished in 1835 in the Doctrine and Covenants the prophet authorized numerous changes in both their wording and content.

By the time of the organization of the church, Joseph Smith's concept of the process of inspiration had progressed to the point where he was able to dispense with the use of any material instrument in receiving revelation. It is recorded by David Whitmer that

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. He said he was through the work that God had given him the gift to perform, except to preach the gospel. He told us that we would all have to depend on the Holy Ghost hereafter to be guided into truth and obtain the will of the Lord. The revelations after this came through Joseph as "mouth piece;" that is, he would enquire of the Lord, pray and ask concerning a matter, and speak out the revelation, which he thought to be a revelation from the Lord. [32]

It is obvious that Joseph Smith felt he had grown beyond the use of the earlier media of translation. He established the policy that the newly founded church would depend solely on the Holy Spirit for revelations.

Many of the Saints at first did not understand what Joseph regarded as a more profound principle of revelation. We have noted Oliver Cowdery's difficulties in this area. Some of Joseph's early followers never grew beyond an almost magical belief in the seer stone. David Whitmer was to make a statement near the end of his life that all the revelations given by the prophet after he had discarded the seer stone were not of God but were words of the man, Joseph Smith. [33] Possibly as a result of these ideas a revelation was given to the church through Joseph Smith at Fayette on April 6, 1830. This document stresses that revelation comes to the prophet by the Comforter.

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words, and commandments, which he shall give unto you, as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; for his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith...

For behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard, with a mighty blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me, by the Comforter. [34]

Yet, some members of the church still clung to a belief in a more mechanical method of revelation through a seer stone. Hiram Page, who had married David Whitmer's sister, Catherine, possessed a stone, apparently the seer stone obtained from Oliver Cowdery. With this stone Page claimed that he was receiving revelations. The Whitmer family, which by marriage included Hiram Page and later Oliver Cowdery, believed many of the things supposedly coming forth from the stone. Accordingly, at a conference of the church convened September 26, 1830, a revelation was given to Oliver Cowdery through Joseph Smith. It emphasizes again the role of the Comforter.

Behold, I say unto you, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church, in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.

But, behold, verily, verily I say unto you, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph, for he receiveth them even as Moses...

And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it...

And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hiram 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 him. [35]

The church was plunged into dissension again on this point in 1837. [36] Ultimately many of the early believers were expelled from the church.

These events help us understand Joseph Smith's later reluctance to discuss the details of the translation of the Book of Mormon. By 1838, when he wrote his biography, he chose not to describe the translation in such a way that it would perpetuate the mechanical view of revelation. Instead, Joseph Smith, when pressed regarding the method of translation, very carefully stated that it was done by "the gift and power of God." Beyond this he would never elaborate.

In keeping with this decision, Joseph Smith apparently used the term "Urim and Thummim" to cover all instruments used to translate or determine the will of God.

It is obvious that Joseph Smith did not use the type of instrument referred to in the Old Testament as Urim and Thummim. Modern biblical scholarship is virtually unanimous in concluding that the ancient Urim and Thummim was a device for casting lots used by Hebrews to determine the will of God. It appears that the identification of the Nephite Interpreters with the biblical Urim and Thummim was made only gradually. The words "Urim and Thummim" are never mentioned in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Commandments, or early newspaper accounts. They first appear in the Evening and the Morning Star and the Messenger and Advocate in 1833 and 1834 [37] when it is suggested that Joseph may have used a Urim and Thummim. By 1835 thisidentification had been given official sanction by the incorporation of "Urim and Thummim" into the pertinent revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. [38] Thereafter, in discussing his history, Joseph Smith used the term "Urim and Thummim" to include both the Nephite Interpreters and the seer stone. [39]

It is possible that today when reading the testimony of the witnesses some may become too concerned with the seer stone and forget that the important ingredient for Joseph in the translation was the "gift and power of God." The witnesses had no such concerns. Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were unwavering to the end of their lives in their belief in the divine origin of the book. In the very same testimony in which Emma Smith describes the method of translation of the Book of Mormon, she reaffirms her faith in it.

And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much as to any one else...

My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity -- I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired. [40]

Oliver Cowdery's last words as he lay dying in David Whitmer's home were these: "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon." [41] David Whitmer, who all through his life testified to the authenticity of the book, requested before his death that there be engraved these words on his tombstone: "The record of the Jews and the record of the Nephites are one, truth is eternal." None of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon who had seen the process of translation and received divine testimony of it ever denied their belief that the book was the work of God.



Notes

1. Times and Seasons 5 (April 1, 1844): 482.

2. Far West Record, vol. 1 of History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City): 219n.

3. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 ed. (Kirtland, Ohio): Sec. 1, para. 5.

4. Elders' Journal 1 (July 1838): 43.

5. Times and Seasons 3 (March 1, 1842): 707. Also in I. Daniel Rupp, Religious Denominations, 1844, 405, 406.

6. Times and Seasons 3 (May 2, 1842): 772.

7. Written January 4, 1833, from Kirtland, it appears in Times and Seasons 5 (November 15, 1844): 707.

8. Saints' Herald 26 (October 1, 1879): 289, 290; vol. 3 of History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1952): 356.

9. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Missouri: 1887): 13.

10. RLDS Church Archives, Independence, Missouri. For the circumstances surrounding this letter, see vol. 4, no, 12 of The Return (Davis City, Iowa, July 15, 1895), 2. This letter is also mentionend in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945): 20.

11. Chicago Inter-Ocean, October 17, 1886. Reprinted in Saints' Herald 33 (November 13, 1886): 706, 707.

12. Richmond Democrat, January 26, 1888, from Plattsburg Democrat, reprinted in Saints' Herald 35 (February 11, 1888): 94, 95.

13. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio, 1834): 77.

14. Times and Seasons 3 (August 15, 1842): 884.

15. Times and Seasons 3 (May 16, 1842): 785.

16. Saints' Herald 26 (November 15, 1879): 341.

17. Also reprinted in Saints' Herald 33 (January 2, 1886): 12, 13.

18. Also reprinted in Saints' Herald 35 (February 4, 1888): 67.

19. As quoted in Saints' Herald 28 (July 1, 1881): 198.

20. Messenger and Advocate 1 (October, 1834): 14. (From a letter written by Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, September 7, 1834.)

21. Oliver Cowdery, Defence in a Rehearsal of My Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter Day Saints (Norton, Ohio, 1839). Reprinted in Saints' Herald 54 (March 20, 1907): 229, 230. The authenticity of this document has been questioned, mainly on the grounds that apparently no copy of the original 1839 printing has ever been found.

22. Deseret News, April 13, 1859.

23. Millennial Star 44 (February 6, 1882): 86, 87 [from Deseret News Dec. 28, 1881]

24. Saints' Herald 26 (June 15, 1879): 190, 191.

25. Howe, 265. See also the Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834. Joseph Smith defended himself against the money-digger charge in Times and Seasons 3 (May 2, 1842): 772. See also Times and Seasons 4 (March 1, 1843): 118.

26. William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, Iowa, 1883): 10-12.

27. Saints' Herald 31 (October 4, 1884): 644.

28. Rod of Iron, Zion's Religio-Literary Society, Independence, Mo., vol. 1, no. 3, p. 6, February 1924.

29. Clark Braden and E. L. Kelley, Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Church of Christ, Disciples, Held in Kirtland, Ohio, St. Louis, 1884, 186.

30. Book of Commandments, 1833, ch. 7, p. 19, 20. Later revised and reprinted in 1835 in Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 34.

31. Book of Commandments, ch. 8, p. 20, 21; 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 35.

32. David Whitmer, 32.

33. Ibid.

34. Book of Commandments, ch. 22, paras., 4-5, 10; 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 46.

35. Book of Commandments, ch. 30; 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 51.

36. Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations, Liverpool, 1853, 211-213.

37. The Evening and the Morning Star 1 (January 1833): 2; Messenger and Advocate 1 (October 1834): 14.

38. Compare 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 36 with Book of Commandments, ch. 9.

39. After Oliver Cowdery's death, the seer stone was given by his wife, Elizabeth, to Phineas Young, who took it to Utah. See David Whitmer, 32. It was exhibited by the Church leaders in Utah and viewed by many. As late as 1930 it was still in the archives of the LDS church. See B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (1930), vol. 6, 230-31.

40. Saints' Herald 26 (October 1, 1879): 289, 290.

41. David Whitmer, 08.


(comments forthcoming)






Richard L. Anderson

"Joseph Smith's N. Y. Reputation..."

(BYU Studies, 10:1, Spring 1971)


(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments






Copyright © 1970, Brigham Young University. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 283 ]





Joseph Smith's New York
Reputation Reappraised


by Richard Lloyd Anderson


The biographer of Joseph Smith's early life will know his subject when he relies on sources that know their subject. This truism is more obvious in statement than application, for non-Mormon biography has not faced the severe limitations of the uniformly hostile affidavits taken by a sworn enemy of the Mormon Prophet. The image thus obtained is sharply discordant from the Joseph Smith documented in the 1830's: a leader of physical prowess and vigorous manhood, a profound idealist with spontaneous humor and warmth, who displayed personal courage under tremendous odds. A similar youth in the 1820's is discovered, not by editing out non-Mormon sources, but finding those non-Mormon sources that reflect definite contact with Joseph Smith. Such a study shows that collecting informed statements about the Prophet will produce a substantial favorable judgment. This subject could not have been researched without the generous cooperation of the LDS Church Historian and assistants, the aid of the BYU Research Division and its director, Lane Compton, and of the Institute of Mormon Studies and its director, Truman Madsen. In writing, I am indebted to the critique of an admired friend, Professor Leonard J. Arrington of Utah State University.

Most books on Joseph Smith claim reliance on evidence, but the glaring contradictions show that many apparent historical sources are highly unreliable. Obviously Joseph Smith was a topic of warm controversy in his own community. Consequently one must not take at full value the statement of a contemporary without raising the following issues:

__________
1 This subject could not have been researched without the generous cooperation of the LDS Church Historian and assistants, the aid of the BYU Research Division and its director, Lane Compton, and of the Institute of Mormon Studies and its director, Truman Madsen. In writing, I am indebted to the critique of an admired friend, Professor Leonard J. Arrington of Utah State University.




  284

1) Verification of person. Besides meeting the possibility of fictitious invention, vital statistics show whether a person was old enough to be a capable observer and may furnish clues on whether the observations are based on close or distant contact.

2) Accuracy of reporting. Here the question is whether the person purportedly making the statement really did so. Second and third hand statements are obviously suspect, but the interviewer recording an apparent first-hand statement may superimpose his preconceptions on the statement of another.

3) Opportunity for observation. The basic qualification for any historical source is firsthand contact with the person or event described. Yet the anti-Joseph Smith statements of contemporaries show a distinct tendency to report community rumor, not personal experience.

4) Bias of the source. Historians today recognize that no observer is free from bias, but intense prejudice tends to exaggeration. One must therefore be rigorous in examining the factual basis of the conclusions of Joseph Smith's contemporaries.

Although initial collection of statements against Joseph Smith is an oft-told story, its outline is a necessary background for the affidavits to be analyzed. D. P. Hurlbut, excommunicated twice by LDS tribunals for immorality; became so personally vindictive that he was put under a court order restraining him from doing harm to the person or property of Joseph Smith. [2] He was next "employed" by an anti-Mormon public committee to gather evidence to "completely divest Joseph Smith of all claims to the character of an honest man..." [3] To achieve this goal he travelled to New York and procured statements at Palmyra Village, the largest business center adjacent to the Smith farm and also at Manchester, the rural district that included "Stafford Street." Cornelius Stafford, then twenty,

__________
2 For a fuller discussion of Hurlbut's personal vindictiveness, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 4 (Summer 1969), p. 15.

3 "To the Public," official committee statement published in the Painesville Telegraph, January 31, 1834. Early nineteenth century spelling of names is not always consistent, and "Hurlburt" appears in LDS records. The quoted statement and autographs favor the "Hurlbut" of this article.




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later remembered that Hurlbut arrived at "our school house and took statements about the bad character of the Mormon Smith family, and saw them swear to them." [4]

The Painesville, Ohio, editor, E. D. Howe, replaced Hurlbut as a respectable author, and published the affidavits in Mormonism Unvailed (1834), laying the cornerstone of anti-Mormon historiography. Howe lived to see the solidity of the edifice, observing forty-four years afterward in his memoirs that the book "has been the basis of all the histories which have appeared from time to time since that period touching that people." More accurately, Howe's writing was insignificant, but the Palmyra-Manchester affidavits published by him have introduced Joseph Smith in every major non-Mormon study from 1834 to the present. Yet even supposedly definitive studies display no investigation of the individuals behind the Hurlbut statements, nor much insight into their community.

Some simple arithmetic ought to shake the canonical status of the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits. The Smith family lived on the line between Wayne and Ontario counties, well settled with substantial populations. All who claimed to know Joseph Smith in this area had contact in the townships of either Palmyra or Manchester, and the 1830 census contains about 2,000 males old enough to know the Smiths in these two localities. From that possible number, Hurlbut procured the signatures of seventy-two individuals who claimed firsthand experience with Joseph Smith. At best, Hurlbut selected one-half of one percent of the males who potentially knew anything about the Smiths. Although Howe presented these as representative, they are matched by approximately the same number in those communities known to have a favorable opinion of the Smiths in the late 1820's. Dr. Gain Robinson, uncle of the Smith family physician, gathered sixty signatures on a certificate attesting the Smiths' reliability in an attempt to prevent loss of their farm in 1825. [6] Yet the crucial issue is not signatures,

__________
4 Statement of C. R. Stafford, March 1885, Auburn, Ohio, cit. Naked Truths About Mormonism, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1888), p. 3. Hurlbut's published affidavits will be analyzed in the article. They include two general statements with multiple signatures and also the following individual statements: Joseph Capron, Parley Chase, Willard Chase, Abigail Harris, Henry Harris, Lucy Harris, Peter Ingersoll, Roswell Nichols, Barton Stafford, David Stafford, Joshua Stafford, William Stafford, and G. W. Stoddard.

5 Eber D. Howe, Autobiography and Recollections of a Pioneer Printer (Painesville, Ohio, 1878), p. 45.

6 For full discussion, see Anderson, Dialogue, pp. 16, 19.




  286

but individual testimony with supporting details. In this category there are only ten individual statements on Joseph Smith to be considered. [7] But three times this number of individual recollections have been preserved from non-Mormons of Palmyra-Manchester that do not appear in Hurlbut-Howe.

Until Hugh Nibley's Myth Makers opened the subject, detailed study of deficiencies in the Hurlbut-Howe evidence was not easily found. Nibley drew the net broadly and exposed the contradictory nature of anti-Mormon testimonials on Joseph Smith. The purpose here is more specific: to analyze Hurlbut's statements for firsthand information -- then to suggest major insights from other non-Mormon statements from Palmyra-Manchester. Although this will exclude a number of Susquehanna Valley and Fayette recollections, the more abundant Palmyra-Manchester evidence is based on longer contact with Joseph Smith, much of which extended to pre-Mormon days.

Hurlbut's General Affidavits

Hurlbut heavily influenced the individual statements from Palmyra-Manchester, as can be shown by his phrases regularly appearing in affidavits of the Staffords, Chases, etc. His language evidently appears in two community affidavits: names of fifty-one residents of Palmyra appear on one document and names of eleven residents of Manchester appear on another. One must make a necessary assumption here. The signers of a petition or declaration are normally not authors, merely ratifiers. When Hurlbut appeared in the Manchester schoolhouse, he undoubtedly had penned the statement that eleven rather nonliterary farmers signed. One would envision the same procedure as inevitable for the fifty-one signers from Palmyra. Someone authored the general statements, and Hurlbut is the best candidate.

Not only does identifiable phrasing appear, but similar structuring of the affidavits. In the following comparison, significant word correlations are indicated, but the more significant

__________
7 This statistic excludes three Palmyra declarations. Lucy Harris talks only of her husband. G. S. Stoddard's single sentence on the Smiths is merely a gratuitous comment: "The Smith family never made any pretensions to respectability." And Abigail Harris reports a single conversation with Lucy Smith that is strictly not relevant to the character of Joseph Smith. For Abigail's evident tendency to maliciousness, see Hugh Nibley, The Myth Makers (Salt Lake City, 1961), pp. 20-22.




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point is the similarity of basic structure from two purportedly different authors:

General Palmyra Affidavit

We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family, for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character, which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth; and to this day, large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son, Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits....

It was not supposed that any of them were possessed of sufficient character or influence to make any one believe their book or their sentiments,

Parley Chase Affidavit

I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. both before and since they became Mormons, and feel free to state that not one of the male members of the Smith family were entitled to any credit whatsoever.

Digging for money was their principal employment.


They were lazy, intemperate and worthless men, very much addicted to lying. In this they frequently boasted of their skill.


In regard to their Gold Bible speculation they scarcely ever told two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God, through Joseph Smith, Jr., his Prophet, and this same Joseph Smith, Jr. to my knowledge, bore the reputation

__________
8 These two documents (and all Hurlbut affidavits cited) are in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio, 1834), pp. 261-262 and p. 248. For purposes of comparison, the sentence about money digging has been placed before its preceding sentence, and Hurlbut's italics removed and mine added. Deletions in the general Palmyra affidavit are restricted to the non-Smith paragraph. Since the affidavits appear in this work of Howe (pp. 232-262) arranged by the name of the deponents, further reference will be made by name and not footnoted pages.




  288



and we know not of a single individual in this vicinity that puts the least confidence in their pretended revelations.

among his neighbors of being a liar.

The foregoing statement can be corroborated by all his former neighbors. In regard to their Gold Bible speculation they scarcely ever told two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God, through Joseph Smith, Jr., his Prophet, and this same Joseph Smith, Jr. to my knowledge, bore the reputation

The words italicized in the above comparisons are a key to equivalent portions of the two affidavits. Both progress formally through a recital of knowledge of the Smiths, their disreputability in the community, money digging, and being "addicted to" evil practices, closing with application of general character to religious claims and the assertion that no one in that area takes them seriously. It is highly unlikely that Parley Chase would write following the identical outline of Hurlbut's Palmyra affidavit -- rather Hurlbut composed both.

Moving to the general Manchester affidavit, one can see from the similar language that Hurlbut obviously prepared it for signing. The sole claim there against the Smiths is found in the first sentence on the following chart, which contains three negative patterns mirrored in other affidavits of supposed independent authorship: [9]

    lazy, indolent set of men, but also intemperate; and their word was not to be depended upon.

    lazy,         intemperate    ... very much addicted to lying.

    lazy set of fellows...     a drunkard     and a liar

    lying and indolent set of men, and no confidence could be placed in them

    became indolent     and told marvellous stories

    notorious for indolence, foolery     and falsehood

Once more, the combination of similar vocabulary and similar thought pattern is apparent. The "indolent-intemperate-lying" pattern of four affidavits, with slight modification in another two, was not independently created by six spontaneous declarations. Hurlbut either suggested this language, penned it for signing, or interpolated it afterwards. A greater point is being made than common phrases, however. Hurlbut's redundancies reveal what he most wanted to prove -- and what the

__________
9 Statements respectively from the general Manchester affidavit, Parley Chase, David Stafford (the first phrase appears in the sentence following "a drunkard and a liar"), Henry Harris, Joshua Stafford, and Joseph Capron.




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reader must be cautious of accepting. This would not necessarily be so, if independent language gave support to independent statements, but the opposite is true on his themes of laziness, drunkenness, and untruthfulness. The first of this triad is Hurlbut's variation on his favorite theme, the Smith's constant money digging: [10]

...the general employment of the Smith family was money digging...

The general employment of the   family was digging for money.

their principal employment.         Digging for money was

A great part of their time was devoted to     digging for money...

...spent much of their time in       digging for money...

This similar phrasing suggests a common author, and the last example is demonstrably Hurlbut's, since it comes from the general Palmyra affidavit. Similar language is found in every Palmyra-Manchester declaration under study here, with the exception of Barton Stafford's.

Other favorite words from the general affidavits are "pretended," "visionary," and a stressed concept is the lack of "influence in this community," which finds its counterpart in individual statements such as "The Smith family never made any pretensions to respectability"-- or, "In short, not one of the family had at least claims to respectability." [11] Virtually every affidavit bearing on the Smiths opens with several sentences similar to the general Palmyra affidavit, clear evidence of regular outside structuring.

Placing Hurlbut's vocabulary under a magnifying glass in this manner reveals his specific goals Common language is most frequent on the points of intemperance, lying, and laziness, with the last redundantly emphasized as vocational money digging. Since Hurlbut's hand is plain on these general charges, the careful historian must be skeptical of stories supporting these charges throughout many affidavits. Hurlbut's language in ostensibly non-Hurlbut affidavits shows that all his specific evidence is highly suspect, especially on the point of money digging. Careful study of the pre-1830 Smith economics proves they were anything but lazy. And if that contention in fact

__________
10 Statements respectively from David Stafford, Peter Ingersoll, Parley Chase (sentence inverted), William Stafford, and the general Palmyra affidavit.

11 Statements respectively of G. W. Stoddard and Barton Stafford.




  290

falls, Hurlbut's related accusation of money digging is seriously suspect. In fact, the extreme language of almost every affidavit on this subject raises doubt. Had the Smiths been regularly observed in money digging, reasonable statements to that effect would be expected. As it is, the collected depositions describe a large family living under marginal frontier economy "without work" or by laboring "very little." [12] Their "general employment" of money digging never gave them income, but they somehow survived doing little else. Such exaggerations indicate more than overstatement -- they suggest invention.

Yet the historian must study the content of all documents, and the one striking characteristic of Hurlbut is reliance on vague generalities. The two community statements combined accuse the Smiths of being "a lazy, indolent set of men" who were "entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits." Such phrases really do not say anything, as both critic and friend of Hurlbut agree. The rules of evidence in the United States insist that a witness tell specific experiences, and leave to the court or jury the function of forming opinions from them. For lack of specific evidence, the general Palmyra and Manchester statements of Hurlbut merely prove that sixty-two signers found the Smiths objectionable; they fail to state what direct observation led to this conclusion. Similarly, the individual statement of Parley Chase, quoted above with the general Palmyra affidavit, is historically insignificant. It merely parades conclusions without substantiation, and to make matters worse, in Hurlbut's concepts and language.

Hurlbut's Shorter Affidavits

The arithmetic of the Hurlbut witnesses from Palmyra-Manchester can now be summarized. From a total of fifteen statements, the three affidavits just discussed must be subtracted as insignificant: the general Manchester statement, the general Palmyra statement, and its echo, the Parley Chase affidavit. Three more are irrelevant: statements of Lucy Harris, Abigail Harris, and G. W. Stoddard mainly concern Martin Harris and contain nothing observed about Joseph Smith. With these half-dozen excluded, there remain three long statements and

__________
12 Statements respectively of Joseph Capron and Henry Harris. Responsible investigation dismisses these contentions. See Anderson, Dialogue, p. 15.




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six of the one-page variety. The latter are typically deficient in evidence about Joseph Smith, Jr.

Analysis of Hurlbut-Howe will lose its way in pointless detail without constant reiteration of a single question: What firsthand experiences do the Hurlbut affidavits allege concerning Joseph Smith? For instance, Henry Harris reports certain conversations with Joseph Smith, close enough to the Prophet's own claims to be garbled in the telling, but the sole observation of the "lying" nature of "the pretended Prophet" is the failure of a jury in a "justice's court" to decide a case according to Smith's testimony when Harris was a juror. Since many a truthful man has failed to gain the vote of a jury, the point is trivial regarding Joseph Smith's character. Only three of the shorter affidavits seriously detail Smith money digging, and none in convincing terms. Roswell Nichols ties the supposed treasure searches entirely to conversations with Joseph Smith, Sr., that resemble his known belief in the Book of Mormon. Joshua Stafford claims that Joseph Smith, Jr. showed him a piece of wood from a money box and also claimed to have discovered buried watches. As will be shown later, Joshua Stafford himself is named by relatives as leading in money digging in the neighborhood, which renders such indirect evidence against Joseph Smith suspect. After all, Stafford's claim is limited to reported (and possibly garbled) conversations with Joseph Smith, not observation of any act of the Mormon founder. Likewise, Joseph Capron tells details of a fantastic dig "north west of my house," but alleges no personal observation. The "money digging" subject must be further discussed -- the point for now is that direct experience with Joseph Smith is strictly lacking in the smaller affidavits raising the issue.

The remaining two shorter affidavits allege Joseph Smith's human failings. Barton Stafford, a few years younger than Joseph, accuses the young Prophet of undignified conduct. Sometime in 1827 or afterward Joseph was allegedly intoxicated on cider, scuffled with a fellow-worker, tore his shirt, and was escorted home by Emma. Since even here Barton Stafford does not clearly say that he observed the event (only that it happened in "my father's field"), some doubt remains whether this is a story or an observation. David Stafford does describe a personal experience, claiming that Joseph had "drinked a little too freely," and while working together a dispute led




  292

to "hard words," which led to a fight, and "he got the advantage of me in the scuffle." One Ford, who attempted to intervene, supposedly came off little better, for "we both entered a complaint against him, and he was fined for the breach of the peace."

Joseph Smith's only known response to a particular Hurlbut affidavit presents another version of the David Stafford incident. It appears in Willard Richards' memo entries of 1843 conversations of the Prophet:

While supper was preparing Joseph related an anecdote. While young, his father had a fine large watch dog, which bit off an ear from David Stafford's hog, which Stafford had turned into the Smith corn field. Stafford shot the dog, and with six other fellows pitched upon him unawares. And Joseph whipped the whole of them and escaped unhurt, which they swore to as recorded in Hurlburt or Howe's book. [13]

Since the above incident takes on such a different context in being told by Stafford or Smith, it is a striking reminder that controversial events cannot be settled by hearing only one side.

If David Stafford took his complaint to the local justice of the peace, the extant record does not show it, though it only covers the years 1827-1830. The record does give certain factual insights into the characters of both the Smiths and David Stafford. It lists three suits in the above period against "Hiram" (or "Hyram") Smith and two against Joseph Smith. Since there were other Joseph Smiths in the Manchester area, and since one "Hiram" Smith signed Hurlbut's general Manchester affidavit, [14] it cannot be proved that these five actions pertain to the family of the Prophet. The one that evidently does, however, shows the attempt of the Smiths to be honest in their financial obligations. The abbreviated trial notation of June 28, 1830, records the following in a suit against "Hyram" Smith:

Joseph Smith, father of the defendant, appeared, and the case was called, and the plaintiff declared on a note and

__________
13 Joseph Smith's Journal, kept by Willard Richards, Jan. 1, 1843. I am indebted to Professor Marvin S. Hill of Brigham Young University for pointing it out. The Richards' statement is an official record, kept daily from current minutes.

14 This Hiram Smith is evidently the same person who was elected highway supervisor in the Smith neighborhood both before and after the Joseph Smith family had moved west. Microfilms of the Manchester Town Record, as well as the Justice's Rcord being discussed, are at Brigham Young University Library.




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account. Note dated 7th April, 1830, for $20.07 on interest and on account for shoeing horses, of balance due on account $.69. Joseph Smith sworn and saith that his son the defendant engaged him to come down at the return of the summons and direct the Justice to enter judgment against the defendant for the mount of the note and account. Judgment for the plaintiff for twenty one dollars, seven cents. [15]

If all of the Smith actions in the Manchester record pertain to the Joseph Smith family, they indicate only that the family was poor -- a condition which the Smith autobiographies also portray with considerable emotion. Thus Roswell Nichols' comment (based on "two years" as a neighbor) is gratuitous: "For breach of contracts, for the non-payment of debts and borrowed money, and for duplicity with their neighbors, the family was notorious." By this standard, the neighborhood justice of the peace record indicts David Stafford, not the Smiths. From 1827 to 1830, he was plaintiff in three suits and defendant in six suits of collection, a record in the locality. With this streak of legal cantankerousness, one is not inclined to think that Joseph Smith was necessarily the guilty party in quarreling with David Stafford. Nor is Stafford's ex parte affidavit likely to represent the character of the Smiths without guile.

Hurlbut's Longer Affidavits

Since the shorter affidavits contain essentially non-evidence, a study of Hurlbut-Howe must focus on the only three substantial statements in the collection. The shortest of these comes from William Stafford, the father of Barton Stafford, and there is fortunately additional family information by which to test it. The Hurlbut touch in vocabulary is unmistakable here, as a closing comment imitates the close of the general Palmyra affidavit: "No one apprehended any danger from a book, originating with individuals who had neither influence, honesty or honor." Pomeroy Tucker portrays Stafford as a former sailor without education, which if true would considerably heighten the possibility that Hurlbut composed Stafford's affidavit and merely had him sign it. [16]

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15 Justice's RecordÊ of Nathan Pierce, 1827-1830.

16 Pomeroy Tucker, The Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York, 1867), p. 24, note. Compare the nearly identical reports supposedly remembered spontaneously for some years by two different affiants: "...for he had often said, that the hills in our neighborhood were nearly all erected by human hands" (Roswell Nichols); "They would say, also, that nearly all the




  294

There is one clear firsthand testimony of participating with Joseph Smith, Sr. in a treasure dig (with Joseph Smith, Jr. supervising from the house), but the accompanying sheep story throws a great deal of doubt on the digging story as authentically coming from Stafford. As told by the Hurlbut affidavit, the Smiths "devised a scheme" to cheat their neighbor out of "a large, fat, black wether." Hearing the Smiths represent that the sacrifice of such a sheep must appease the spirit guarding a treasure, Stafford contributed the sheep "to gratify my curiosity." But the treasure was lost, and with it the sheep, which "I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business." Oddly, after the "only time," the Stafford statement adds a comment about "a worthless gang" (a typical Hurlbut phrase) which surrounded the Smiths and "had more to do with mutton than money," an intended implication of the Smiths in repeated sheep stealing.

Hurlbut evidently did not represent Stafford accurately. In 1932 M. Wilford Poulson took notes as Wallace Miner recalled a conversation with William Stafford on the subject:

I once asked Stafford if Smith did steal a sheep from him. He said no, not exactly. He said, he did miss a black sheep, but soon Joseph came and admitted he took it for sacrifice but he was willing to work for it. He made wooden sap buckets to fully pay for it. [17]

A more elaborate version of the Miner-Stafford conversation was reported in the village history of Thomas Cook, which agrees that Joseph took the initiative to admit the taking and that he did the work to repay Stafford for the sheep. [18] Of course William Stafford died in 1863 (at which time Miner was twenty), and there are obvious limitations in recalling the details of what one had said almost seventy years earlier. Nevertheless, it is significant that Miner's recollection of Stafford exonerates the Smiths of dishonesty, a reversal of Hurlbut reporting Stafford.

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hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands..." (William Stafford).

17 M. Wilford Poulson, Notebook of 1932 interviews, Brigham Young University Archives. The obvious error of writing "Smith" for "sheep" in the first sentence has been corrected.

18 Thomas L. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity (Palmyra, new York, 1920), pp. 221-111. Cook gives Miner's recollection because "various stories have been told about the sacrificing of the sheep...




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An earlier insight into William Stafford's opinion is available, however. His second son was born the same year as Joseph Smith (1805), had the personal ambition to gain a good education for the day, and qualify by examination as a physician, practicing until about 1870 in the general area of Manchester and thereafter at Rochester. There Dr. John Stafford was interviewed by the Reorganized Latter Day Saint apostle William H. Kelley in 1881. The Kelley question-answer notes on this point read as follows:

What about that black sheep your father let them have?

"I have heard that story, but don't think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep. I don't know anything about it."

You were living at home at the time, and it seems you ought to know if they got a sheep, or stole one, from your father?

"They never stole one, I am sure; they may have got one sometime."

Well, Doctor, you know pretty well whether that story is true or not, that Tucker tells. What do you think of it?

"I don't think it is true. I would have heard more about it, that is true...." [19]

Since the well-informed John Stafford knew nothing of the sheep story, it is plain that William Stafford did not carry the attitude against the Smiths that his Hurlbut affidavit represents. If there was such an event of a borrowed sheep, it had nothing to do with dishonesty. But in the interview, Dr. Stafford also insisted, "My father, William Stafford, was never connected with them in any way," a direct denial of the relationship presupposed by the Smith-Stafford money digging episode luridly described in the Hurlbut affidavit. [20] The fact that William Stafford's family doubted the authenticity of the Hurlbut inspired testimony, together with Hurlbut's evident editorializing talents, casts serious doubt upon the William Stafford affidavit as an historical document.

The longest Hurlbut affidavit is that of Willard Chase,

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19 William H. Kelley, "The Hill Cumorah... The Stories of Hulburt, Howe, Tucker, etc. from Late Interviews, Saints' Herald, Vol. 28 (June 1, 1881), p. 167 [hereinafter referred to as Kelley Interviews].

20 The sentence preceding John Stafford's denial is, "What Tucker said about them [the Smiths] was false, absolutely." Since Tucker's reference to William Stafford was a reiteration of Hurlbut's sheep story, John Stafford clearly was skeptical that his father was correctly represented in either Hurlbut-Howe or Tucker.




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in which instances of dishonesty and treasure digging are minimal. In fact, the Chase statement contains more parallels to Mormon sources than any other affidavit. This would lead to the inference that Chase imposed his individuality to a large extent, though many of the Hurlbut stock phrases and formulae are still apparent. The Chase family tradition was later reported by the younger brother of Willard, and he maintained Willard's statement to Hurlbut genuine; on the other hand, he differed in certain details of recollection from the printed affidavit. [21] Willard Chase ought to have taken more care in his statement than others contacted by Hurlbut, since Lucy Smith recalled him as "a Methodist class leader" in 1827, and his obituary described him as "formerly a Minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and was an earnest and zealous worker for many years.... " [22]

Although Chase had superior practical education, his performance as a witness is characterized by a nearly total lack of personal observation. He tells the familiar story of finding an unusual stone while digging a well with Alvin and Joseph Smith, and accuses Joseph and Hyrum of duplicity in keeping the object. Beyond that he discloses no direct knowledge that the stone was utilized in treasure digging, but only alleges that Joseph claimed to discover "wonders" by its use. The intriguing thing is what Willard Chase does not say here. The Palmyra-Manchester sources attach a firm money-digging tradition to the Chase family. For instance, Dr. John Stafford recalled:

The neighbors used to claim Sally Chase could look at a stone she had, and see money. Willard Chase used to dig when she found where the money was. Don't know as anybody ever found any money. [23]

The interview the same year with Abel Chase confirmed his family's involvement. After describing the stone in possession of his sister, Abel Chase responded to the following questions:

Do you really think your sister could see things by looking through that stone, Mr. Chase?

"Well, she claimed to; and I must say there was something strange about it."

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21 Cf. Kelley Interviews, p. 165.

22 Palmyra Courier, March 17, 1871.

23 Kelley Interviews, p. 167.




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Where is your sister now?

"She is not living now: my brother Willard is dead also. He would know more than I do about those things." [24]

The Chase family were in actuality money diggers, but in the longest Hurlbut affidavit Willard Chase fails to report any Smith money digging activities firsthand. If Willard Chase is honestly describing what he knows, the conclusion follows that the Smiths did not have a connection with the money digging circles in the area. And this is just what Lucy Smith reports in her history, describing the "ridiculous" magical activities of Chase and company to steal the plates of the Book of Mormon, practices that appear foreign to her experience. [25] Willard Chase does report stories about the money digging of Joseph Smith in the Susquehanna area. Apparently without real knowledge of Palmyra-Manchester activities, he imported secondhand stories from more than a hundred miles away. What he tells is a highly distorted version of Joseph Smith's employment on a treasure excavation project there. This is his pattern in other matters. He tells of several episodes about the Smiths published by Mormons long after the 1834 printing of Howe's Mormonism Unvailed, so either Hurlbut or Willard Chase knew of these independently. The Chase affidavit approximates these incidents (e.g., the first failure at the hill to obtain' the plates, Emma's warning ride to Macedon, etc.) but with exaggerated, ridiculing details. One would assume the same of his secondhand treasure stories about Joseph Smith. [26] This leaves only Peter Ingersoll as a Hurlbut witness with a serious claim to firsthand knowledge of Smith malpractices. Little is known about him other than his appearance in the land records around the 1820's as a property holder near Palmyra Village, a foreclosure on land to satisfy a judgment, and the apparent move from Palmyra after sale of properties in 1836. In 1879 Abel Chase claimed, "He moved west years ago and died

__________
24 Ibid., p. 165.

25 Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet (Liverpool, 1853), p. 102 (applying the "ridiculous" terminology both to Willard Chase and his group, and their procurement of a "conjuror" to locate the plates). Cf. her characterization in ironic terms of Sally Chase's utilization of "a green glass," on which she claimed to see "many very wonderful things" and "great discoveries." Ibid., p. 109.

26 Hurlbut in general, and the Chase affidavit in particular, rely heavily upon conversations with the Smiths, notoriously open to mistaken interpretation, recollection, and amplification.




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about two years ago," [27] but his life after leaving Palmyra is at present a mystery. So is his affidavit. Opening with the standard Hurlbut language that "the general employment of the family, was digging for money," Ingersoll follows with two claimed experiences of Joseph Smith, Sr.'s use of the divining rod. [28] Beyond this, everything of a negative nature about Joseph Smith, Jr. consists not in observation, but supposed admissions in conversation. No Hurlbut affiant represents knowing Joseph Smith so intimately; yet no personal observation about Joseph Smith is given.

The real issue in the Ingersoll statement is whether the damaging admissions reported from Joseph Smith debunk the Mormon Prophet or Hurlbut-Ingersoll. The prize story concerns Joseph's supposedly confiding in Ingersoll that he brought a quantity of wrapped sand into the Smith home; his family's curiosity resulted in questions, which brought his impulsive identification with "the golden Bible":

'To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly, I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refuse to see it, and left the room.' 'Now,' said Jo, 'I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.'

There are serious difficulties in accepting this story. The Ingersoll affidavit dates the episode at August 1827. But the Chase affidavit maintains that by June 1827 Joseph Smith, Sr. had given Willard Chase full details of the "record on plates of gold," and the family's knowledge of it from "some years ago." Since Ingersoll so violently contradicts the Chase chronology (which agrees with Mormon sources), the accuracy of "Peter Ingersoll" is seriously suspect. Beyond this is the improbability that any family consists of such a collection of gullibles as to be awed by the mechanical brashness of the Ingersoll episode. After all, the Smiths are known in history as competent people.

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27 Statement of Abel D. Chase, May 2, 1879, Palmyra, New York, cit. Charles A. Shook, True Origin of the Book of Mormon (Cincinnati, [1914]). p. 131.

28 In one of these is the accusation (like the sheep story) that the Smiths milked Ingersoll's cows while manipulating their discovery. Although Ingersoll received a favorable verdict, he was himself sued on this claim that he had taken a cow. Justice's Record of Nathan Pierce, 1827-1830, entry of May 26, 1830.




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There is but one remarkable consistency about the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits -- their unmodified condemnation of Joseph Smith and his entire family. This "evidence" proves too much. It portrays a dozen people living in a restricted area from 1816 to 1830 (Lucy was born 1821), and not a single good act or redeeming quality was displayed in that time by any one of them. Fifty-one Palmyrans "aquainted with the Smith family for a number of years" found them "destitute of... moral character." This solemn anti-Smith credo casts a shadow across every affidavit: "In short, not one of the family had the least claims to respectability." More than sweeping phrases are at stake -- the Hurlbut testimony runs through about thirty pages on the Smiths in Palmyra-Manchester and fails to include even one favorable recollection of the Mormon founders. These are diatribes, not evaluations. Obviously, the attempt was made only to discredit -- not to gather authentic information. Because history is the art of seeing both sides of the balance sheet, Hurlbut produced mere propaganda. His total lack of any affirmative family tradition contaminates every negative story repeated. This general quality of Hurlbut-Howe as non-evidence highlights sharply the only two systematic attempts that were later made to gather recollections of non-Mormon associates of the Smiths in New York.

Deming's Collected Statements

A. B. Deming published his gathered testimony in a newspaper entitled, Naked Truths About Mormonism, with the banner line over the only two issues to appear, "Read and Laugh as You Never Laughed Before," and "Startling Revelation." He was the son of the courageous non-Mormon general, M. R. Deming, who stood for law and order in the civil chaos of western Illinois after the Prophet's martyrdom. Affected by his father's early death, and neurotically resentful at the persecution his father's Mormon sympathies caused him, Deming considered "all my misfortunes through life" to be "the direct or indirect result of his friendship to the Mormons..." Although impelled to gather evidence against their faith, Deming was plagued by fears that the Mormons "might kill me, as I have several times been creditably informed they intend to do." Yet he describes in detail his cordial reception in Salt Lake City




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by Mormon officials in 1882 and 1886. [29] Deming therefore appears as a pathetic reincarnation of the disgruntled Hurlbut.

The historian must treat Deming's results as carefully as Hurlbut's. Checking out the names and residences designated in his statements shows that Deming apparently did make contact with several who had known the Smiths in Palmyra-Manchester. This is not to say that these parties were carefully interviewed, or that Deming was above Hurlbut-like prompting or editing. The point is that in his one-sided reports from biased people, Deming does not totally damn the Smiths as Hurlbut-Howe. For instance, Christopher Stafford was three years younger than Joseph Smith and despised him, though he admitted he really knew Joseph's brother Samuel Harrison Smith better and considered him "a good, industrious boy." [30] Caroline Rockwell Smith remembered her family's conversion to Mormonism without bitterness, and the good deeds of Lucy Smith: "Jo Smith's mother doctored many persons in Palmyra." She did not consider Joseph Smith an obvious fraud: "I hope sometime it will be known whether Mormonism is true or not." [31]

Reading Deming requires gleaning through piles of the usual chaff of hearsay, admissions reported indirectly, generalities on bad reputation, etc. Firsthand claims of Joseph Smith's drinking and fighting occasionally appear, though in language standard enough to come from a common compiler. The money digging theme, however, contains the real surprise, for the Deming statements involve not only the Chases, but the Staffords and others in the community in the quest for buried treasure. Caroline Rockwell Smith does not even mention the Joseph Smith family in connection with this subject, but generalizes:

There was considerable digging for money in our neighborhood by men, women and children... I saw Joshua Stafford's peepstone, which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center. Sally Chase, a Methodist, had one, and people would go for her to find lost and hidden or stolen things. [32]

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29 All this personal data Deming volunteers on the first page of Naked Truths About Mormonism, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1888).

30 Ibid., Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1888), p.1. Statement of C. M. Stafford, March 23, 1885, Auburn, Ohio.

31 Ibid., Statement of Mrs. M. C. R. Smith, March 25, 1885.

32 Ibid.




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Cornelius Stafford, repeated the sheep story in exaggerated form, but personal observation of money digging points elsewhere than the Mormon Prophet:

There was much digging for money on our farm and about the neighborhood. I saw Uncle John and Cousin Joshua Stafford dig a hole twenty feet long, eight broad and seven deep. They claimed that they were digging for money... [33]

One of the more amusing features of Smith folklore in Palmyra-Manchester is the frequent reference to existing holes of the money diggers as proof that the Smiths were digging. The Deming affidavits shatter the Hurlbut-imposed monopoly by revealing that excavations were made by numerous others. In fact, these statements reveal no direct knowledge that the Smiths were involved -- the nearest miss is the claim of Isaac Butts that Joshua Stafford "told me that young Jo Smith and himself dug for money in his orchard and elsewhere nights." [34]

That might be far from clear, since the last thing to be suspected from the Hurlbut-Joshua Stafford affidavit is that upright Joshua would long tolerate the presence of Joseph Smith.

Faced with more comprehensive evidence on money digging than Hurlbut admitted, the historian may envision one of four situations: (1) Francis W. Kirkham located a newspaper article on early money-digging that parallels every story told against Joseph Smith. The editor of the Rochester Gem reacted to the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 by remembering that a "family of Smiths" moved into the primitive Rochester of 1815. The eighteen year old son of this poor family claimed to find a stone with clairvoyant properties, located treasure in nearby hills by its use, and engendered a night-dig on the part of followers, marked by a disappearing chest upon the breaking of a spell. [35] Kirkham asks concerning this pre-Hurlbut reference: "Was this ridiculous story the origin of the accusations that were heaped upon Joseph

__________
33 Ibid., Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 1888), p. 3. Statement of C. R. Stafford, March 1885.

34 Ibid., p. 2. Statement of Isaac Butts, n.d., South Newbury, Ohio. Butts also says that Joseph Smith used a divining rod and later a peep-stone for locating buried or lost objects. Although claiming to "have seen both," he specifically does not claim observation of Joseph Smith in these practices, a point seriously in doubt because of Butts' indiscriminate use of hearsay and confessed residence in Ohio from 1818 into the 1820's.

35 Imposition and Blasphemy! -- Moneydiggers, etc.," Gem, May 15, 1830.




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Smith?" [36] Hugh Nibley develops evidence for such a transference by showing other pre-Joseph Smith money-digging parallels. Since "every weird detail of the stories later attached to Joseph Smith is found in full bloom before Smith can possibly have been involved," and since a solid group of Mormon witnesses who knew Joseph in this early period "protest that the digging stories about him are not true," public rumor simply created an erroneous parallel by "trying to dress Joseph Smith in other men's clothes." [37]

(2) Early Mormon and non-Mormon sources agree that the Smith men hired out frequently and that one main activity was digging wells, pits, and other building excavations. Since many saw this regular construction work of the Smiths, it is likely that their later notoriety in the Book of Mormon Revelation brought the accusation of money digging for many ordinary activities. (3) When Josiah Stoal was excited about the possibility of discovering Spanish gold, he hired a crew of laborers, among which were Joseph Smith and his father. Since the existence of Palmyra-Manchester treasure digs is certain, the Smith men may have participated in other ventures merely as employees, a variation of the previous case. In either of these events, one might observe one of the Smiths digging and completely misinterpret his reasons for doing so.

There is no substantial evidence for the final possibility, (4) the aggressive treasure seeking of the Smiths. If it took place, they participated in a passing cultural phenomenon, shared widely by people of known honesty. However, the supernaturalism presented in early Mormon sources is restrained, qualitatively distinct from the magical superstitions of the money digging stories. Yet to know these propensities of certain segments of the Palmyra-Manchester community makes Joseph and Lucy Smith's histories more credible in regard to non-Mormon attempts to search for the plates and the danger of staying in that area during the translation. Frustrated money diggers had nothing to show for their considerable

__________
36 Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City, 1959), Vol. 2, p. 46. The Gem article is also quoted in full at pp. 46-49. Its editor, Edwin Scrantom, was twelve years of age at the time of this episode, but when he wrote the article was authority on Rochester history. For common pre-1827 money digging publicity, see Ontario Repository, February 9, 1825, and Wayne Sentinel, February 16, 1825.

37 Hugh Nibley, Myth Makers, Salt Lake City, 1961), pp. 182-183, 190.




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efforts, whereas Joseph Smith possessed tangible plates that he displayed to witnesses. [38]

Hurlbut structured his evidence to create the false impression that the Smiths, not others, dug for money. This leads one to question the time alleged for this activity as equally erroneous. The majority of the individual affidavits allege treasure hunting as the major Smith occupation from 1820 "until the latter part of the season of 1827." But at least one Palmyra source acknowledges the latter date as the beginning of such rumors. The Revelation Jesse Townsend penned an abusive account of Joseph Smith in 1833: "For the ten years I have known anything of him, he has been a person of questionable character, of intemperate habits, and latterly a noted money digger." [39] "Latterly" suggests approximately 1828 for the spread of such a reputation, which corresponds to the Prophet's recollection that at the news of the Book of Mormon discovery in 1827, "false reports, misrepresentation, and slander flew as on the wings of the wind in every direction..." [40] His own history specifically identified his hired employment on the Stoal excavation late 1825 and early 1826 as the source of later rumors: "Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger." [41] There is no solid

__________
38 Compare Caroline Rockwell Smith's recollection that the Mormon-source version of these events was told at the time: "Catherine Smith, sister of the Prophet, chowed me in their house a chest with lock where the plates were kept, but they feared they would be stolen, and then she took up four bricks in the hearth and said they had been buried there." Ref. at n. 31.

39 Letter of Jesse Townsend to Phineas Stiles, December 24, 1833, Palmyra, New York, cit. Tucker, Origin... of Mormonism, p. 288.

40 Times and Seasons, Vol. 3 (March 1, 1842), p. 708, also cit. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1946-1950), Vol. 4, p. 538. Cf. the earlier-written recollection of the Prophet about the identical year: "[R]umor with her thousand tongues was all the time employed in circulating tales about my father's family, and about myself. If I were to relate a thousandth part of them, it would fill up volumes." Times and Seasons, Vol. 3 (May 2, 1842), p. 772, also cit. History of the Church, Vol. 1, p. 19.

41 Ibid. Lucy Smith represents Stoal (the Nauvoo spelling) as locating Joseph because he had heard of his supernatural gifts, but both Lucy and Joseph Smith's histories describe notoriety from the telling of the First Vision in 1820. In fact, Joseph Smith, Sr. bought space in the Wayne Sentinel for six weeks beginning Sept. 29, 1824 to refute rumors tending "to inquire the reputation" of the Smiths. The 1825-1826 work for Stoal and 1827 acquiring the plates undoubtedly gave new directions to gossip. Other Mormon sources do not furnish reliable evidence for money digging in New York. Accusations upon apostasy in Kirtland may be smears, and Joseph Smith's Salem trip in this period is not a historical source for his life a decade earlier. The interview with Martin Harris by Joel Tiffany mentions Joseph seeking treasure in this early period, but if Harris is quoted correctly, the source of information (not disclosed) is possibly




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evidence of Joseph Smith as the prime mover in any treasure seeking project. Perhaps the supernaturalism of receiving Revelation through the Urim and Thummim and "seerstone" after 1827 resembles generally the "peeking" practices of that time. The policeman and thief, the chemist and alchemist, use similar equipment, but with quite distinctly different motivations and abilities.

The Kelley Interviews

The legend of the dishonest money diggers who founded Mormonism received new impetus from Pomeroy Tucker in 1867. A Palmyra editor, Tucker depicted superstitious and unscrupulous Smiths by merely requoting the 1833 statements apparently without so much as reinterviewing the Hurlbut contacts still alive. Tucker was aware of at least three of these, named in his preface as references: Joseph Capron, Barton Stafford, and Willard Chase. Such sloppy methods were evidently not completely applauded. A dozen years ater Abagail Jackway told William H. Kelley, "I have heard Willard Chase say Tucker never even asked him for what he knew, and Chase lived next door to him, too." [42] As pointed out elsewhere, Tucker knew Joseph Smith and admitted that dishonesty was "not within the remembrance of the writer," though repeating community gossip as "recollections of many living witnesses." [43] The difference between what Tucker himself remembered and the stories he still heard is the difference between personal observation of the Smiths and the Palmyra-Manchester folklore. Yet Palmyra-Manchester was never totally scornful of Mormon origins. Although Wallace W. Miner was not born until 1843, he grew up in the former Smith vicinity, and Thomas L. Cook in 1930 named him "the only one living in the neighborhood whose relations with the earlier families have continued for the last eighty-five years." [44]

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public rumor of the time. Tiffany, however, mentions Howe's book as one of the three sources he relies on for authentic knowledge of Mormonism. Because of his spiritualist theory that inferior beings inspired Joseph Smith, Tiffany's reliance on Howe means that Hurlbut possibly contaminated Tiffany's reporting of Martin Harris. Particularly see "Mormonism," Tiffany's Monthly, Vol. 4 (1859), p. 568: "We also procured a copy of an expose, published about twenty years ago, by E.D. Howe, of Painesville, so that we are now in possession of the facts and early literature of the Mormon faith."

42 Kelley Interviews, p. 166. Willard Chase and Pomeroy Tucker appear as neighbors in the 1860 census.

43 Tucker, Origin... of Mormonism, p. 15.

44 Cook, Palmyra, p. 241.




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In 1932 Miner told M. Wilford Poulson, "In the early days we didn't hear so much that was disreputable about the Smiths." [45]

The clearest proof that certain neighbors approved of the Smiths comes in the second systematic attempt to preserve Palmyra-Manchester recollections. In 1881 William H. and E. L. Kelley visited there with the express purpose of interviewing all who had firsthand knowledge of the Mormon founders, particularly Joseph Smith. The Kelleys were willing to "hear the worst, let it hurt whom it would," and their going together made possible "one writing during each interview." William H. Kelley, then an RLDS apostle and competent leader, took responsibility for writing up the detailed transcript of conversations, which concluded with a description of his method:

These facts and interviews are presented... just as they occurred--the good and bad, side by side; and allowing for a possible mistake, or error, arising from a misapprehension, or mistake in taking notes, it can be relied upon as the opinion and gossip had about the Smith family and others, among their old neighbors. [46]

For a test of William H. Kelley's note-taking ability, one should compare his report on David Whitmer the same year. The Kelley-Whitmer interview is detailed and minutely agrees with known writings and comments of the Book of Mormon witness. Consequently, the William H. Kelley transcripts from Palmyra-Manchester can be trusted as the most comprehensive investigations ever made there. [47]

__________
45 Poulson, Notebook of 1932 interviews. Professor Poulson's strict standards of accuracy are well known.

46 The Kelley Interviews contain William L. Kelley's description of method at pp. 161-162 and 168. Since the interviews were printed in transcript form by individuals contacted, page citations are unnecessary.

47 The printing of the Kelley Interviews sparked a skirmish of affidavits, recorded in Charles A. Shook, True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Cincinnati, 1914), pp. 36-38. The only statement that raises a significant issue on Kelley misquotation is that of John H. Gilbert, who alleges a half-dozen mistakes in the long interview, obviously to discredit all of the Kelley interviews. Without claiming perfection for the Kelleys (or any other nineteenth century interview), one can see that Gilbert admits the main direction of conversation, and quarrels with certain details. Some of Gilbert's "misrepresentations" are trivial. Other main points in the Kelley interviews can be substantiated as being said to others by Gilbert, and even written by Gilbert himself. He also claims but one change necessary after talking with the Jackways. On analysis, Gilbert is a source of confirmation of the basic accuracy of the Kelley reports. For the Kelley-Whitmer interview, see Saints' Herald, Vol. 29 (1882), pp. 66-69.




  306

The Kelleys' dogged insistence on personal knowledge disqualified several who merely repeated hearsay about the Smiths, a tendency also true of Hurlbut's day. One young man who signed the 1833 condemnation at Manchester was Abel Chase. Some fifty years later he confessed only a knowledge of "general character," and careful questioning turned up nothing that he really knew about the Smiths. Since he was only thirteen years old when Joseph Smith left Palmyra for a permanent residence in the Harmony and Fayette areas, it is little wonder that Abel Chase could tell the Kelleys nothing definite.

Ezra Pierce and Hiram Jackway vaguely remembered Joseph Smith in public situations (Jackway was twelve when Joseph moved to Harmony), but only two individuals out of nine interviewed displayed any intimate knowledge. One was the same age as Joseph, John Stafford, the doctor already mentioned in connection with the affidavit attributed to his father William. The Kelleys' questions are not always specific enough to determine which recollections of John Stafford are personal and which recall stories that circulated early. For instance, the only mention of drinking is the cider and torn shirt story told Hurlbut by John's brother Barton -- but it is not really clear that either of them saw what went on. Personal observation does come to bear, however, in John Stafford's comments on Joseph's physical aggression: "Never saw him fight; have known him to scuffle," evidently the distinction between brawling and playful wrestling. Regarding accusations of laziness, it appears that he had worked by Joseph's side: "[He] would do a fair day's work if hired out to a man..." Questioned regarding Joseph's education, Dr. Stafford replied (omitting intervening queries):

Joe was quite illiterate. After they began to have school at their house, he improved greatly. They had school in their house, and studied the Bible. They did not have any teacher; they taught themselves.

His impression of Joseph as a person agrees with the Prophet's known traits and autobiographical comments, and at the same time disagrees with much Palmyra folklore: "He was a real clever, jovial boy."

Because there are problems with the quality of John Stafford's observations on money digging, his remarks really tell more about his father William than the Smiths:




JOSEPH  SMITH'S  REPUTATION                                                                 307


The Smiths, with others, were digging for money before Joe got the plates. My father had a stone, which some thought they could look through, and old Mrs. Smith came there after it one day, but never got it. Saw them digging one time for money (this was three or four years before the Book of Mormon was found), the Smiths and others. The old man and Hyrum were there, I think, but Joseph was not there.

In the lengthy Kelley transcript of interviews, this is the only stated observation of anyone regarding Smith money digging. Aside from the question of whether Stafford was sure the group of men were digging for money, he appears to doubt whether he really saw Joseph Smith, St. and Hyrum there ("I think"). That the Smiths "were digging for money" as a general practice evidently rests on hearsay, since the doctor has but one inexact recollection of seeing them, and he was certain that Joseph was not there. Whether Lucy Smith's attempting to borrow the seerstone is an authentic recollection is far from clear. A mere social visit and mild interest might be behind John Stafford's impression. But he must be speaking from observation on the possession of a stone by his own family. So the Hurlbut affidavit from his father only tells part of the truth: William Stafford was evidently independently involved in the superstitions that he (or Hurlbut) accuses the Smiths of.

What can be safely asserted historically after reading Hurlbut, Deming, and Kelley is that money digging did go on in Palmyra-Manchester before Joseph Smith acquired his plates in 1827. What remains unclear, however, is a definite association of the Smiths with it. Close family members implicate Willard Chase, Joshua Stafford, William Stafford, and others in some aspects of these practices.

In the Kelley Interviews, the person with the most first-hand knowledge was also the most favorable to the Smith reputation. This was Orlando Saunders, an "old settler" whom Thomas Cook particularly regretted not interviewing. [48] Anti-Mormon writers of the late nineteenth century preferred to quote his younger brother Lorenzo, who moved to Michigan about 1854 and died there in 1888. But Lorenzo was six years younger than Joseph Smith, whereas Orlando Saunders was two years older than the Mormon Prophet. [49] Orlando is also the

__________
48 Cook, Palmyra, p. 10.

49 In two preserved statements, Lorenzo Saunders says virtually nothing firsthand about Joseph Smith. After considerable correspondence virtually requesting




  308

more interesting in that he remained all his life on the family farm (within a mile of the Smith farm) and was aware of the various anti-Mormon spokesmen for Palmyra-Manchester until his death in 1889. It is clear that he dissented, and on specific grounds of experience.

Fortunately, Orlando Saunders was also interviewed by a non-Mormon author of ability, Frederic G. Mather, a short time before the Kelleys' report. [50] Mather was conditioned to journalistic interpretation instead of historical documentation, with the consequent brief and paraphrased comments, but the two interviews remarkably agree. Mather reports Saunders as saying "that the Smith family worked for his father and for himself," [51] which fits the fact of Enoch Saunder's death in 1825. This contact with the Smith men was not cursory, according to the Kelley interview: "They have all worked for me many a day." Mather also reports specific business dealing, the purchase of a horse and bridle, the latter being paid for by "a Bible." [52]

There is one apparent contradiction in the two interviews, which must be resolved in favor of the Kelleys. After quoting Saunders on Joseph Smith, Mather follows, "By nature he was peacably disposed, but when he had taken too much liquor he was inclined to fight, with or without provocation." The weakness of this statement is that Mather's article is a synthesis of opinions about Joseph Smith in Mather's own words, and the above statement must be a lapse back to his normal narrative. The Kelleys asked particularly about this subject, and they quote Saunders directly: "Everybody drank a little in those days, and the Smiths with the rest; they never got drunk to my knowledge."

__________
him to remember seeing Sidney Rigdon at the Smiths before 1830, Lorenzo gave some vague recollections claiming to do so. From age sixteen, he also remembers Joseph coming to his house and explaining his difficulties in getting the plats, though he considers him an imposter and maintains his mother did also. Letter of Lorenzo Saunders to Thomas Gregg, January 28, 1885, cit. Shook, True Origin of the Book of Mormon, pp. 134-135.

50 For a brief biography see National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 20 (New York, 1929), pp. 492-493.

51 Frederic G. Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincott's Magazine, Vol. 26 (1880), p. 198. With the exception of the following footnote citation, all further quotations of Mather are on this page. Although Mather writes "Sanders," rather consistent family practice, and Orlando's autograph, follow "Saunders."

52 Ibid., p. 205.




JOSEPH  SMITH'S  REPUTATION                                                                 309


Money digging is notable by its absence in both the Mather and Kelley reports. In the latter, Saunders insisted, "I don't know anything against these men, myself." Furthermore, he contradicts the Hurlbut contention that the Book of Mormon was Joseph Smith's inconsistent adaptation of his treasure seeking: "He always claimed that he saw the angel and received the book; but I don't know anything about it." If the Smiths merited the money-digging criticism, Saunders was not above giving it. But the only criticisms reported by either Mather or the Kelleys were on another point. The "well-preserved gentleman of over eighty" told Mather that the Smiths "could save no money," which is mirrored precisely in the Kelley record: "I did not consider them good managers about business, but they were poor people; the old man had a large family."

In Hurlbut the Smiths did nothing but exploit their neighbors, but Orlando Saunders' experience was opposite: "They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died." Neither did he consider them poor credit risks: "I always thought them honest. They were owing me some money when they left here; that is, the old man and Hyrum did, and Martin Harris. One of them came back in about a year and paid me."

Hurlbut-Howe and Tucker had a single thesis: the Smith family (particularly Joseph) were so thoroughly unreliable in ordinary affairs that they necessarily defrauded the public on the Book of Mormon. The Kelleys found Saunders "a fair type of the intelligent New York farmer," and he was characteristically agnostic here. He had seen the book, "but never read it" nor did he "care anything about it." On the practical issue of the Smith reliability, he was solidly favorable. Mather summarily reported, "He gives them the credit of being good workers. . . . "The Kelleys quoted his words: "They were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then), has worked for me, and he was a good worker; they all were." Evidently referring to the youthful strength of the Prophet, Saunders told Mather "that Joseph Jr., was 'a greeny,' both large and strong." Pressed by the Kelleys on how well he knew Joseph Smith, Orlando Saunders reiterated:

Oh! Just as well as one could very well; he has worked for me many a time, and been about my place a great deal. He




  310

stopped with me many a time, when through here, after they went west to Kirtland; he was always a gentleman when about my place.

William Smith's Refutation

In sum, major non-Mormon biographies treating Joseph Smith's New York life and reputation are historically sub-standard. This judgment unfortunately applies as well to twentieth century productions as nineteenth, since both fall into an unsophisticated acceptance of Hurlbut's contrived and slanted statements, without apparent awareness of non-Mormon sources favorable to the Smiths from Palmyra-Manchester. Nor do other independent statements from that area confirm the Hurlbut evidence. Some merely repeat rumors of the time, but compound hearsay does not suddenly become evidence when spoken by a genuine Palmyra-Manchester resident. [53]

For all of his prejudice, crusty Orsamus Turner was honest enough to distinguish between his own rather complementary recollections and the stories that later circulated about Joseph Smith. He knew that community reports had various qualities, for he ruled out the Spaulding theory of the Book of Mormon because it was not accepted "by those who were best acquainted with the Smith family...." [54] History begins when that issue is raised.

But anti-Mormon literature is overcrowded with non-witnesses. For instance, Rev. Jesse Townsend can prate about the "impostures and low cunning" of the "Mormonite" leader and yet say not that he knows> Joseph Smith, but that he knows of him. The reason why more accurate data on Joseph Smith was not of easy access is suggested in Townsend's own words:

__________
53 Indiscriminate quotation reaches its lowest ebb when supposed Palmyra residents are relied upon without investigation. Daniel Hendrix is typically quoted on early Joseph Smith biography as remembering that "Parson Reed told Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits." Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York, 1946), p. 26, cited recently for this quote in Edmund Wilson's acrid excursus into Mormon history, The Dead Sea Scrolls 1947-1969 (New York, 1969), p. 280. The lateness of the "recollection" demands verification, since it comes from a purported interview printed in the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, February 21, 1897, p. 34. To date rather diligent investigation has failed to verify the existence of Daniel Hendrix (whose other rambling descriptions are not notably accurate), or "Parson Reed."

54 O. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, 1852), p. 214. The recollections of Turner and Tucker regarding Joseph Smith have been studied in Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Spring 1969), pp. 376-386.




JOSEPH  SMITH'S  REPUTATION                                                                 311


"He lived in a sequestered neighborhood...." [55] In simple terms, the Smiths lived away from any village by two miles or more. To add to the problem of a villager really knowing the young prophet, within a few months of obtaining the ancient plates, he moved to other neighborhoods, only occasionally visiting Palmyra-Manchester during the publication of the Book of Mormon. Consequently, John Gilbert, chief compositor for the Book of Mormon stated in interviews that he saw Joseph Smith only once or twice, even though Gilbert was in public life in Palmyra from 1824 through the Mormon Exodus of 1831. [56] Albert Chandler, later a prominent editor in Michigan, worked as a bookbinder's apprentice on the Book of Mormon in 1829-30. Yet he knew Joseph Smith, Jr. "but slightly." "What I know of him was from hearsay, principally from Martin Harris, who believed fully in him." [57]

Some of the fifty-one signers of the general Palmyra condemnation probably had no more than this degree of knowledge of the Smiths. [58]

There are even greater problems in taking Palmyra-Manchester statements as definitive on the origin of the Book of Mormon. As Chandler recalled the Palmyra of 1829-30, everyone scoffed at Martin Harris, but none really knew the events and personalities behind the new religion:

The absolute secrecy of the whole inception and publication of the Mormon Bible stopped positive knowledge. We only knew what Joseph Smith would permit Martin Harris to publish, in reference to the whole thing. [59]

Much non-Mormon opinion is obviously irrelevant to the writing of early Mormon history. Howe claimed to print only "a few, among the many depositions which have been obtained

__________
55 Townsend to Stiles in Origin of Mormonism, p. 288.

56 Numerous interviews with Gilbert establish that he dealt with Hyrum Smith and Martin Harris in the Book of Mormon production. His letter to James T. Cobb, March 16, 1879, Palmyra, New York is clear: "Hyrum Smith was the only one of the family I had any acquaintance with, and that very slight." A microfilm of this letter was kindly loaned me by Larry Porter, Brigham University field research representative in New York State.

57 Letter of Albert Chandler to William Alexander Linn, December 22, 1898, Coldwater, Mich., cit. William Alexander Linn, Story of the Mormons (New York, 1902), pp. 48-49.

58 Lemuel Durfee knew the Smiths indirectly as a landlord from 1825 to 1829, but prior to that evidently did not know them at all, according to Lucy Smith's account, pp. 96-98.

59 Chandler to Linn in Story of the Mormons, pp. 48-49.




  312

from the neighborhood of the Smith family...." [60] Doubtless, his motivation was to prove the worst without much awareness of which signers were in the best position to speak. In the study of Joseph Smith's character, it is the distant non-observer of Palmyra-Manchester who tends to be hostile. The better informed the witness, the more affirmative his views.

This tendency requires a careful look at the close-knit Smith family, since they had the most intimate knowledge of young Joseph Smith. The Prophet answered Hurlbut-Howe by admitting human weaknesses but denying gross personal transgression and insisting, "I have not... been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men." [61] In further statements, he elaborated only to the extent of admitting digging (in Nibley's phrase) not for gold but for hire. [62] The unaffected but detailed history of Lucy Smith throws far more light on the family's early history than all of Hurlbut-Howe, but in her artless simplicity she does not respond specifically to the charge of the early affidavits, actually an evidential strength. But the last surviving brother of the Prophet met these issues head on.

William Smith was too young to remember the earliest days at Palmyra-Manchester, but his recollections are very specific from about 1823. An individualist who was notably not an organization man, he spent his later years in the obscurity of an Iowa farm. He is known for an occasional speech or interview, but his considered answer to Hurlbut-Howe lay among the papers of a friend until forwarded to the LDS Church about 1925. In sending Smith's manuscript, Charles Knecht described his own interest in the family, which prompted him to loan William a Chambers' Miscellany, containing a summary of the Hurlbut evidence. William "wanted to reply to it, and wanted me to see it published...." [63] The manuscript

__________
60 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 231.

61 Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 1 (December, 1834), p. 40.

62 In addition to the citations of Joseph Smith's published histories already made, see the Elders' Journal, Vol. 1 (July 1838), p. 43: "Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger. Answer. Yes, but it was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it." Also cit. Joseph Smith, History of Church, Vol. 3, p. 29.

63 Letter of Charles Knecht, 1925, Yakima, Washington. Both Smith and Knecht appear (as required by Knecht's recollections) on the 1880 census in Elkader, Iowa, Knecht then as 36 and a "clerk, dry goods store." Knecht is listed in Yakima city directories from 1924 through 1926.




JOSEPH  SMITH'S  REPUTATION                                                                 313


is definitely in William Smith's handwriting and evidently dates from about 1875. [64]

William's discursive response reached methodological bedrock in its third sentence, frustration at historians who "have no greater foundation for facts to build upon than public rumor...." [65] Embedded in doctrinal discussions and lengthy historical parallels are specific reactions to the conclusions of Hurlbut-Howe. To the charge that his brother Joseph was "suspected of sheep stealing," William replied vigorously that "at no period of his life" was he guilty, "nor was he ever suspected of committing such an offense." [66] The value of the younger brother's comments go beyond specific denials to details of their home life. The father (absurdly characterized by a noted biographer as possessing "irreligion and cynicism") insisted quietly on hymns and "prayers both night and morning." The tone of "strict piety" in the home is described: "My parents, father and mother, poured out their souls to God, the donor of all blessings, to keep and guard their children, and keep them from sin and from all evil works." [67]

The Chambers' summary of Hurlbut goes to the essential issues of this paper:

The reputation of the family (according to the testimony of neighbors) was of the worst kind. We are told that they avoided honest labour, were intemperate and untruthful, addicted to sheep stealing, digging for hidden treasures, etc... [68]

Responding specifically to this quoted statement, William Smith's answer was brief but direct in denial and explanation of the origin of these charges:

__________
64 Knecht's handwritten letter gives 1875 as the approximate year of his contact with William Smith, and the close of the manuscript (p. 19 of the transcription) reads, "My father and mother are both dead some 20 years..."; a statement (as it relates to the last-surviving Lucy Smith) harmonious with 1875.

65 Smith's underlining is preserved in this quotation, though so irregular that remaining quotations will ignore his underlinings. All quotations from William Smith (and those throughout the article) are modified only to the extent of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

66 Typescript, p. 3. All quotations have been checked with the manuscript, though the typescript is a nearly perfect transcription and is cited for convenience in paging.

67 Ibid., p. 18.

68 This quotation corresponds exactly in the Smith manuscript (typescript, p. 6) and the only edition of Chambers' Miscellany available at this writing, one undated but by reference to Mormon events published after 1877. The many editions of this work, reaching back to the 1840's, make possible Smith's use of an earlier edition.




  314

My statement on this subject is that the charges are false. My father's family were a peacable, quiet, and a church going people -- and nothing of these calumnies was ever heard of, not until after my brother Joseph Smith came out with his profession as a prophet... [69]

William Smith, supported by informed non-Mormon testimony, gives specific recollections of daily life designed to reveal Hurlbut's charges as malicious defamation:

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. After noticing these facts we crave the reader of this article to judge whether there was much time for indolence or for indulgence in immoral or intemperate habits. Here I wish to remark that I never knew my father Joseph Smith to be intoxicated or the worse for liquor, nor was my brother Joseph Smith in the habit of drinking spiritous liquors. Neither did my father's family spend their time, or any portion of their time, in idle habits. Such was the prevailing circumstances of the family, connected with the want of money and the scarcity of provisions, that necessity made an imperative demand upon every energy, nerve, or member of the family for both economy and labor, which this demand had to be met with the strictest kind of industry, and no persons speaking the truth can say to the contrary. [70]

__________
69 Typescript, p. 6. The unorganized pattern of the biographical material in William Smith's answer is a valuable insight into his historical aims and talents. He is spontaneous to a fault, and organized only in intent, bringing his experiences to bear in random fashion. Since he is not characterized by careful historical explanations, and is careless of sequence, the absence of descriptions of the First Vision (an event of his late childhood) is objectively insignificant. Cf. Anderson, "Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision..." BYU Studies, pp. 398-401.

70 Ibid., pp. 17-18.





Jerald & Sandra Tanner

Joseph Smith and Money Digging

(Salt Lake City:  M.M.C., 1970)


Part 1: Treasure Hunting (excerpt)

Part 2: The 1826 Trial (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments






Copyright © 1970, Modern Microfilm Company. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


Contents




01   Part 1 - Treasure Hunting

04       Peep Stones
07       Book of Mormon from Stone
10       Embarrassed Over Stone
13       Relationship to Book of Mormon
16       Working with the Rod
19       The Treasure Hunt Revelation


21   Part 2 - The 1826 Trial

23       Purple's Account
29       Tracing the Record
32       Mentioned in 1831
35       Cowdery's Statement
36       Historical Setting





[ 1 ]



Part 1

TREASURE HUNTING


In the Pearl of Great Price (one of the four standard works of the Mormon Church) Joseph Smith made these statements concerning how he obtained the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was supposed to to have been translated:

"Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size,... not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner toward the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.

"Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates...."
(Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:51-52)

In a letter to John Wentworth, Joseph Smith stated:

"These records were engraven on plates... They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole." (History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.537)

It is interesting to note that four years before the Book of Mormon was printed, an English traveler had claimed a somewhat similar discovery in Ohio. Josiah Priest gave this information in his book, American Antiquities:

"In the neighborhood of Fort Harmer, on the Muskingum, opposite Marietta on the Ohio, were discovered by Mr. Ash, an English traveller, in the year 1826, several monuments of the ancient nations.

"'Having made, (says this traveller,) arrangements for an abscence of a few days from the fort, I provided myself with an excellent tinder box, some biscuit and salt, and arming my Indian travelling companion, with a good axe and rifle,...

"'On traversing the valley between Fort Harmer and the mountains, I determined to take the high grounds, and after some difficulty, ascended an eminence which commanded a view of the town of marietta,...

"'After a very short inspection, and cursory examination, it was evident that the very spot or eminence on which I stood, had been occupied by the Indians, either as a place of observation, or a strong hold.... I despaired of gaining any further knowledge, and would have left the place, had I not been detained by my Indian companion, whom I saw occupied in end[e]avoring to introduce a pole into a small opening between two flat stones,, near the root of a tree, which grew on the very summit of this emience.

"'The stones we found were too heavy to be removed by the mere power of hands. Two good oak poles were cut, in lieu of levers and crows. Clapping these into the orifice first discovered, we weighed a large flat stone, tilting it over,...

"'I expected to find a cavern: my imagination was warmed by a certain design I thought I discovered from the very beginning; the manner the stones were placed led me to conceive the existence of at filled with the riches of antiquity, and crowded with the treasures of the most ancient world.

"'A bed of sand was all that appeared under these flat stones,... the sand was about a foot deep, which I soon removed.

"The design and labor of man was now unequivocal. The space out of which these materials were taken, left a hollow in an oblong square, lined with stones on the end and sides, and also paved on what appeared to be the bottom, with square stones, of about nine inches diameter.... With the skeleton was found, first an earthen vessel, or urn, in which were several bones, and some white sediment.... Sixth; under a heap of dust and tenuous shreds of feathered cloth and hair, a parcel of brass rings, cut out of a solid piece of metal, and in such a manner that the rings were suspended from each other, without the aid of solder or any other visible agency whatever. Each ring was three inches in diameter, and the bar of the rings a half an inch thick, and were square; a variety of characters were deeply engraved on the sides of the rings, resembling the Chinese characters.'"
(American Antiquities, Albany, N.Y., 1835, pp. 90-93)


2                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


At the time the Book of Mormon was printed many people were engaged in searching for buried treasures. On July 24. 1822, the Palmyra Herald reprinted the following statements from the "Montpelier (Vt.) Watchman":

"Indeed, digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing; and in this state it is even considered an honorable and profitable employment. We could name, if we pleased, at least five hundred respectable men, who do, in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts, verily believe that immense treasures lie concealed upon our Green Mountains; many of whom have been for a number of years, most industriously and perseveringly engaged in digging it up."

On Feb. 16, 1825, the Wayne Sentinel (a newspaper published in Joseph Smith's neighborhood) reprinted the following from the "Windsor, (Vermont) Jour.":

"Money digging. -- We are sorry to observe even in this enlightened age, so prevalent a disposition to credit the accounts of the Marvellous. Even the frightful stories of money being hid under the surface of the earth, and enchanted by the Devil or Robert Kidd, are received by many of our respectable fellow citizens as truths....

"A respectable gentleman in Tunbridge, was informed by means of a dream, that a chest of money was buried on a small island... he started off to enrich himself with the treasure. After having been directed by the mineral rod where to search for the money, he excavated the earth... Presently he and his laborers came... upon a chest of gold... One of the company drove an old file through the rotten lid of the chest, and... the chest moved off through the mud, and has not been seen or heard of since.... Whether he actually saw the chest, or whether it was the vision of a disordered brain, we shall leave to the public to determine."

Many of the people who were digging for buried treasure in Joseph Smith's time were very superstitious. There were many strange stories connected with these treasure hunts. Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, related the following:

"Mr. Stowel was at this time at old Mr. Smith's, digging for money. It was reported by these money-diggers, that they had found boxes, but before they could secure them, they would sink into the earth. A candid old Presbyterian told me, that on the Susquehannah flats he dug down to an iron chest, that he scraped the dirt off with his shovel, but had nothing with him to open the chest; that he went away to get help, and when they came to it, it moved away two or three rods into the earth, and they could not get it. There were a great many strange sights. One time the old log school-house south of Palmyra, was suddenly lighted up, and frightened them away. Samuel Lawrence told me that while they were digging a large man who appeared to be eight or nine feet high, came and sat on the ridge of the barn, and motioned to them that they must leave. They motioned back that they would not; but that they afterwards became frightened and did leave. At another time while they were digging, a company of horsemen came and frightened them away. These things were real to them, I believe, because they were told to me in confidence, and told by different ones, and their stories agreed, and they seemed to be in earnest -- I knew they were in earnest." (An interview with Martin Harris, published in Tiffany's Monthly, 1859, page 165)

On another occasion Martin Harris admitted that he participated in some money digging activities and that a stone box slipped back into the hill:

"Martin Harris (speaking to a group of Saints at Clarkston, Utah in the 1870's): I will tell you a wonderful thing that happened after Joseph had found the plates. Three of us took some toolsto go to the hill and hunt for some more boxes, or gold or something, and indeed we found a stone box. We got quite excited about it and dug quite carefully around it, and we were ready to take it up, but behold by some unseen power, IT SLIPPED BACK INTO THE HILL. We stood there and looked at it, and one of us took a crow bar and tried to drive it through the lid to hold it, but it glanced and broke one corner off the box. Some time that box will be found and you will see the corner broken off, and then you will know I have told the truth." (Testimony of Mrs. Comfort Godfrey Flinders, Utah Pioneer Biographies, Vol. X, p. 65, Genealogical Society of Utah, as quoted in an unpublished manuscript by LaMar Petersen)

It appears that even Brigham Young the second President of the Mormon Church, was influenced by the superstitions of his day. In a sermon delivered June 17, 1877, he stated:

"But do you know how to find such a mine? No, you do not. These treasures that are in the earth are carefully watched, they can be removed from place to place according to the good pleasure of Him who made them and owns them. He has his messengers at his service, and it is just as easy for an angel to remove the minerals from any part of one of these mountains to another, as it is for you and me to walk up and down this hall...

"Sometimes I take the liberty of talking a little further with regard to such things. Orin P. Rockwell is an eye-witness to some powers of removing the treasures of the earth. He was with certain parties that lived near by where the plates were found that contain the records of the Book of Mormon. There were a great many treasures hid up by the Nephites. Porter was with them one night where there were treasures, and they could find them easy enough, but they could not obtain them.

"I will tell you a story which will be marvelous to most of you. It was told me by Porter, whom I would believe just as quickly as any man that lives. When he tells a thing he understands, he will tell it just as he knows it; he is a man that does not lie. He said that on this night, when they were engaged


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             3


hunting for this old treasure, they dug around the end of a chest for some twenty inches. The chest was about three feet square. One man who was determined to have the contents of that chest, took his pick and struck into the lid of it, and split through into the chest. The blow took off a piece of the lid, which a certain lady kept in her possession until she died. That chest of money went into the bank. Porter describes it so [making a rumbling sound]; he says this is just as true as the heavens are. I have heard others tell the same story. I relate this because it is marvelous to you. But to those who understand these things, it is not marvelous.

"You hear a great deal said about finding money. There is no difficulty at all in finding money, but there are a great many people who do not know what to do with it when they do find it. This is the great defect with the human family. I could relate many very singular circumstances. I lived right is the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room MORE PLATES THAN PROBABLY MANY WAGON LOADS; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: 'This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.'...

"...People do not know it, but I know there is a seal upon the treasures of earth; men are allowed to go so far and no farther. I have known places where there were treasures in abundance; but could men get them? No. You can read in the B ook of Mormon of the ancient Nephites holding their treasures, and of their becoming slippery; so that after they had privately hid their money, on going to the place again, lo and behold it was not there, but was somewhere else, but they knew not where." (A Sermon by Brigham Young. Delivered At A Special Conference Held At Farmington, June 17, 1877, Journal of Discourses, Vol.19, pp. 36-39)

Brigham Young also tells that even the priests from the various churches were influenced by a fortune teller. He stated:

"I never heard such oaths fall from the lips of any man as I heard uttered by a man who was called a fortune-teller, and who knew where those plates were hid. He went three times in one summer to get them, -- the same summer in which Joseph did get them. Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist priests and deacons SENT FOR HIM to tell where those plates were, and to get them out of the hill where they were deposited; and he had not returned to his home from the last trip he made for them more than a week or ten days before Joseph got them. Joseph was what we call an ignorant boy; but this fortune-teller, whose name I do not remember, was a man of profound learning.

"He had put himself in possession of all the learning in the States, -- had been to France, Germany, Italy, and through the world, -- had been educated for a priest, and turned out to be a devil... He could preach as well as the best of them, and I never heard a man swear as he did. He could tell that those plates were there, and that they were a treasure whose value to the people could not be told; for that I myself heard him say." (Remarks by Brigham Young, July 19, 1857, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, page 55)

On another occasion Brigham Young stated,

"I well knew a man who, to get the plates, rode over sixty 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, a 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 WHERE IT WAS, and told 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 to 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. I He did get it, and the war commenced directly." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, pp. 180-181)

The early Mormon leaders grew up at a time when people were very superstitious. The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts made these comments:

"Credulity: Yes, the Prophet's ancestors were credulous in that some of them believed that they


4                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


were healed of bodily ailments by the power of faith in God. Others had dreams, as their neighbors had,... It may be admitted that some of them believed in fortune telling, in warlocks and witches -- ...Indeed it is scarcely conceivable how one could live in New England in those years and not have shared in such beliefs. To be credulous in such things was to be normal people." (A Comprehensive History of the Church, by B.H. Roberts, Vol. 1, pp. 26-27)

Peep  Stones

At the time the Book of Mormon came forth many people believed in "peep stones." These stones were sometimes placed in a hat and used to locate buried treasure. The following appeared in the Wayne Sentinel on December 27, 1825:

"MR. STRONG -- Please insert the following and oblige one of your readers.

"Wonderful Discovery. -- A few days since was discovered in this town, by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it, provided he is fortune's favorite,) a monstrous potash kettle in the bowels of old mother Earth, filled with the purest bullion. Some attempts have been made to dig it up, but without success. His Satanic Majesty, or some other invisible agent, appears to keep it under marching orders; for no sooner is it dug on to in one place, than it moves off like 'false delusive hope,' to another still more remote. But its pursuers are now sanguine of success -- they have entrenched the kettle all round, and driven a steel ramrod into the ground directly over it, to break the enchantment. Nothing now remains, but to raise its ponderous weight,

"By the rust on the kettle, and the color of the silver, it is supposed to have been deposited where it now lies, prior to the flood." (Wayne Sentinel, December 27, 1825, p. 2)

Some of the early Mormon leaders believed in peep stones. The Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde claimed that the ability to find metals was a gift from God:

"I want to tell a little anecdote which came to my ears.... It is said that there is a man in this city, a natural miner, who has a peculiar GIFT to discover metals of value, though HIDDEN in the earth at any depth. He can point out the very place where they are. He happened in a gentleman's house in this town one day, and they were discussing his powers to discern any metal in the earth. The lady, doubting his ability, took a piece of lead, and slily stepped out and buried it, being careful to leave no visible marks by which any other than herself could find it. She returned and told him that in the garden was a piece of lead buried, and wished him to find it if he could. He made the attempt; and after a little rambling, pointed to the very spot where it was; but the lady, thinking to bluff him off and discourage him, made perfect ridicule of him, and asked what had led him to think it was there. She pretended to regard him as insane, and the poor man came to the conclusion that he might be mistaken, as the lady appeared so sanguine in her ridicule. He gave it up as a mistake, doubting his own GIFT. Since the time that he was bluffed off from the FAITH in the natural GIFT THAT GOD HAD GIVEN HIM -- (Pres. H.C. Kimball: And that by a woman!) -- yes, and since that, it has been taken away altogether. Before this, he was never mistaken in such matters; but since then, has no more powers of discovering than any other." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, pp. 16-17)

There is evidence that the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith possessed a 'seer stone." Willard Chase made these statements in an affidavit dated Dec. 11, 1833:

"I became acquanted with the Smith family,... in the year 1820. At that time, they were engaged in the money digging business, which they followed until the latter part of the season of 1827. In the year 1822, was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me; the latter of whom is now known as the Mormon prophet. After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat. It has been said by Smith, that he brought the stone from the well; but this is false. There was no one in the well but myself. The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of [the] community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years. -- I believe, some time in 1825, Hiram Smith (brother of Joseph Smith) came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone, alledging that they wanted to accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone. I told him it was of no particular worth to me, but merely wished to keep it as a curiosity, and if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it; which he did and took the stone. I thought I could rely on his word at this time; as he had made a profession of religion. But in this I was disappointed, for he disregarded both his word and honor.

"In the fall of 1826, a friend called upon me and wished to see that stone, about which so much had been said; and I told him if he would go with me to Smith's, (a distance of about half a mile) he might see it. But to my surprize, on going to Smith's, and asking him for the stone, he said, 'you cannot have it;' I told him it belonged to me, repeated to him the promise he made me, at the time of obtaining the stone: upon which he faced me with a malignant look and said, 'I don't care who in the Devil it belongs to, you shall not have it.'...


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             5


"In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible." (Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio, 1834, pp. 240, 241, 242 and 247

The Mormon historian B. H. Roberts accepted the story that Joseph Smith's stone was found in a well. He made the following statement in the Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1. page 129:

"The SEER STONE referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, N.Y. It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it -- as described above -- as well as by means of the Interpreters found with the Nephite record, Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates."

The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated:

"Some use was made also of the SEER STONE and occasional mention was made of it. This was a STONE found while the Prophet assisted in digging a well for Clark Chase. By divine power this stone was made serviceable to Joseph Smith in the early part of his ministry." (Joseph Smith Seeker After Truth, by John A. Widtsoe, page 267)

George Q. Cannon, who became a member of the First Presidency, stated:

"One of Joseph's aids in searching out the truths of the record was a peculiar PEBBLE OR ROCK which he called a seer stone, and which was sometimes used by him in lieu of the Urim and Thummim. This STONE had been discovered to himself and his brother Hyrum at the bottom of a well; and under divine guidance they had brought it forth for use in the work of translation." (Life of Joseph Smith, by George Q. Cannon, p. 56)

Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, made this statement concerning Joseph Smith's "stone":

"These plates were found at the north point of a hill two miles north of Manchester village. Joseph had a STONE which was dug from the well of Mason Chase, twenty-four feet from the surface. In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. IT WAS BY MEANS OF THIS STONE HE FIRST DISCOVERED THESE PLATES.

In the first place, he told me of this stone, and proposed to bind it on his eyes, and RUN A RACE with me in the woods. A few days after this, I was at the house of his father in Manchester, two miles south of Palmyra village, and 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. I jumped from the bars and looked for it. Joseph and Northrop Sweet also did the same. We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him -- I said, 'Take your stone.' I had never seen it, and did not know that he had it with him. He had it in his pocket. He took it and placed it in his hat -- the old white hat -- and placed his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look 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.

"Joseph had had this stone for some time. There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients. Of this company were old Mr. Stowel -- I think his name was Josiah -- also old Mr. Beman, also Samuel Lawrence, George. Proper, JOSEPH SMITH, JR., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith. They dug for money in Palmyra, Manchester, also in Pennsylvania, and other places. When JOSEPH found this STONE, there was a company digging in Harmony, Pa,, and they took Joseph to LOOK IN THE STONE FOR THEM, AND HE DID SO FOR A WHILE, and then he told them the enchantment was so strong that he could not see, and they gave it up. There he became acquainted with his future wife, the daughter of old Mr. Isaac Hale, where he boarded. He afterwards returned to Pennsylvania again, and married his wife, taking her off to old Mr. Stowel's, because her people would not consent to the marriage. She was of age, Joseph was not.

"After this, on the 22d of September, 1827, before day, Joseph took the horse and wagon of old Mr. Stowel, and taking his wife, he went to the place where the plates were concealed, and while he was obtaining them, she kneeled down and prayed. He then took the plates and hid them in an old black oak tree top which was hollow...

"The money-diggers claimed that they has as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been a traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them, and continued concealing the plates.... Joseph had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He FOUND THEM BY LOOKING IN THE STONE found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing.

"Joseph said that the angel told him he MUST QUIT THE COMPANY OF THE MONEY-DIGGERS. That there were wicked men among them, He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor swear, nor steal." (Interview with Martin Harris, Tiffany's Monthly 1859, pp. 163, 164, 165, 167, and 169)

On April 23, 1880, the Salt Lake Tribune printed what was purported to be the agreement between Joseph Smith and the other money-diggers:


6                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


"Ed. Tribune: Knowing how interested you are in any matter pertaining to the early history of our church, I enclose a slip cut from the Susquehanna. P. Journal of March 20, which will throw some light on the subject. The Journal is published near the scene of our martyred Prophet's early exploits.
             Respectfully yours,
                          B. Wade

"The following agreement, the original of which is in the possession of a citizen of Thompson township, was discovered by our correspondent, and forwarded to us as a matter of local interest....

"ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT

"We, the undersigned, do firmly agree, and by these present 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 William Hales, 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, and 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 (Johs F. Sheperd, Elijah Stowell and John Grant) to consider them as equal sharers in the mine after all the coined money and bars or ingot 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 shares.

"Township of Harmony, Pennsylvania, November 1, 1825

In presence of:
Isaac Hale                  Joseph Smith Sen.
David Hale                  Isaiah Stowell
P. Newton                  Calvin Stowell
Charles A. Newton          Wm.I. Wiley"

(The Daily Tribune, Salt Lake, Friday morning, April 23, 1880, as quoted in A New Witness for Christ in America, by Frances W. Kirkham, 1951 ed., Vol. 1, pp. 492-494)

While the Mormon apologist Frances W. Kirkham feels that Joseph Smith did not use a "seer stone" to deceive, he does not seem to question the authenticity of this agreement:

"The April 23, 1880, issue of the Salt Lake Tribune, printed articles of an agreement between nine persons including Isaiah Stowell, Joseph Smith, Sr., and Joseph Smith, Jr., regarding excavating 'at a certain place in Pennsylvania near a William Hales, supposed to be a valuable mine of either gold or silver and also to contain coined money and bars of ingots of gold and silver.' This agreement when published was preceded with the usual vitriolic comments made regarding Joseph Smith and his activities. At this time, anti-Mormon literature portrayed Joseph Smith as a fraud, ignorant and superstitious.

"If the comments are disregarded, the agreement is found to be similar to the statements made by Isaac Hale, (see his quoted affidavit on page 472) Joseph Smith, and Josiah Stowell. All agree that an effort was made to find a place where early Spanish explorers might have hidden 'gold or silver bars or ingots,' Joseph Smith writes that their activity lasted about one month when he persuaded Mr. Stowell to discontinue his effort.

"But such employment in a mine is in no way related to the alleged use of a 'seer stone' by Joseph Smith to deceive superstitious persons that he had the ability to look into the depths of the earth for hidden treasures." (A New Witness or Christ in America, Vol.1, pp. 487-488)

Brigham Young, the second President of the Mormon Church, made these statements concerning Joseph Smith's connection with money-digging:

"One of the first objections that was urged against Joseph Smith was that he was a money digger; and now the digging of gold is considered an honorable and praiseworthy employment. They are hunting for gold all over the country, doing the very thing which they condemned in him."
(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, p. 165)

"The cry with regard to brother Joseph was, 'He is a money digger, he is a speculator.' Well, how long was it before the whole world was on his track digging money? It was no disgrace just as soon as the world commenced digging money, but when there were only a few accused of it, it was a disgrace. How things are changed!" (Ibid., Vol. 16, p. 29)

After Joseph Smith organized the Mormon Church he did not have much to say about his money-digging activities. He did, however, admit that he had been engaged in money-digging. In the July, 1838, issue of the Elders' Journal, Joseph Smith attempted to answer the questions that were most frequently asked him. Question No.10 read as follows:


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             7


purpose as the missing "Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger.

"Answer. YES, but it was never a very proffitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.” (Elders Journal, July, 1838, page 43; reprinted in the History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 29)

According to David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith gave the stone which he used to translate the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery. Later this stone was brought to Utah. A newspaper reporter wrote the following in his account of an interview with David Whitmer:

"With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated. It is the only one of these relics which is not in the possession of the Whitmers. For years Oliver Cowdery surrounded it with care and solicitude, but at his death old Phineas Young, a brother of Brigham Young, and an old-time and once intimate friend of the Cowdery family, came out from Salt Lake City, and during his visit he contrived to get the stone from its hiding place, through a little deceptive sophistry, expended upon the grief-stricken widow. When he returned to Utah he carried it in triumph to the apostles of Brigham Young's 'lion house." (Des Moines Daily News, October 16, 1886)

We know that by 1856 Joseph Smith's "seer stone" had been brought to Utah, for Hosea Stout recorded the following in his diary under the date of Feb.25, 1856:

"President Young exhibited the SEER'S STONE with which The Prophet Joseph discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon, to the Regents this evening

It is said to be a silecious granite dark color almost black with light colored stripes some what resembling petrified poplar or cotton wood bark It was about the size but not the shape of a hen's egg" (On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2, page 593)

Book of Mormon from Stone

In the History of the Church the following incident is recorded:

"Brother Hyrum Smith said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the Elders present, that all might know for themselves.'

"Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., said that it was not intended to tell the world all the PARTICULARS of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things." (History of the Church, Vol.1, p. 220)

One of the "particulars" Joseph Smith failed to relate was his use of the stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon. It is claimed that the Urim and Thummim consisted of two stones set in silver bows fastened to a breastplate. While Joseph Smith may have possessed two stones set in silver bows, evidence seems to indicate that he used the STONE which he placed in a HAT to translate the Book of Mormon. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, stated:

"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. JOSEPH WOULD PUT THE SEER STONE INTO A HAT, and put his FACE IN THE HAT, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, p. 12)

Emma Smith, Joseph Smith's wife, told the following to her son:

"In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, after sitting by the table close by him, he sitting with HIS FACE BURIED IN HIS HAT, WITH THE STONE IN IT, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us." (The Saints’ Herald, May 19, 1888, page 310)

Martin Harris, another of the three witnesses, also stated that a stone was used:

"On Sunday, Sept. 4, 1870, Martin Harris addressed a congregation of Saints in Salt Lake City. He related an incident which occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and said that the Prophet possessed a SEER STONE, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for CONVENIECE he then used the seer stone.... Martin said that after continued translation they would become weary, and would go down to the river and exercise by throwing stones out on the river, etc. While so doing, on one occasion, Martin Harris found a stone very much resembling the one used for translating, and on resuming their labor of translation, he put in place the STONE he had found. He said that the Prophet remained silent, unusually and intently gazing in darkness, no traces of the usual sentences appearing. Much suprised, Joseph exclaimed, 'Martin! What is the matter! All is as dark as Egypt!' Martin's countenance betrayed him, and the Prophet asked Martin why he had one so. Martin said, to stop the mouths of fools, who had told him that the Prophet had learned those sentences and was merely repeating them, etc."
(Historical Record, by Andrew Jensen, p. 216)

In his booklet, How Did Joseph Smith Translate?, the Mormon writer Arch S. Reynolds stated:


8                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


"In the B. of M. [Book of Mormon] the Lord gives:

'I will prepare my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness into light, that I may discover unto them (the Lamanites) the works of their brethren. (Alma 37:23)

"Compare this with the Doc. and Cov. 82:11 and see that Joseph Smith is the Gazelem. This stone did shine forth to us in darkness when he received the B. of M. characters with their English equivalents when HE HAD HIS EYES HIDDEN FROM NATURAL LIGHT IN A HAT as testified by his associates." (How Did Joseph Smith Translate?, by Arch S. Reynolds, page 7)

James E. Lancaster gives us this interesting information:

"One other person who was a witness to the events that transpired in the Whitmer home has left us an account of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Michael Morse who was married to Trial Hale, one of Isaac Hale's daughters, a sister to Emma Smith, was present at the time of the translation. In 1879 in an interview with W. W. Blair of the Reorganized Church, Mr. Morse gave his testimony as to the method of translation of the Book of Mormon. From this testimony it appears that Mr. Morse was prejudiced neither for nor against the church. The pertinent parts of his testimony as related by President Blair are as follows:
He further states that when Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, he, (Morse), had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation.

The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating, word after word, while the scribe -- Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other, wrote it down.
"Isaac Hale, Emma's father, has also left his testimony regarding the translation of the Boo k of Mormon. This testimony first appeared in 1834, fairly early in the history of the church. Unlike Mr. Morse, Isaac Hale obviously felt very strongly against Joseph Smith and the Mormon movement. He stated:
The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods!
The same source also contains the testimony of Alva Hale, one of the sons of Isaac Hale. It is not worthwhile to quote it here because of its extreme bias." (Saints' Herald, Nov. 15, 1962, p. 17)

Arch S. Reynolds stated:

"The Seerstone that the Prophet Joseph Smith used was, according to the Millennial Star, vol. 24, p. 86, a chocolate-colored stone about the size of an egg that was oval in shape. It was found by Joseph in a well when working for Clark Chase in the year 1826. (See Reminiscences of the Prophet Joseph. by Edward Stevenson, p. 30)

It is well known that Joseph used this stone to translate the first part of the Book of Mormon record while Martin Harris was scribe. This is proved by Martin's description of the medium and its use. After Joseph used it for receiving revelations and translating the Nephite record, he gave it in the care of Oliver Cowdery in April 1830 according to David Whitmer.... We find Joseph using this instrument, however, after that date. Orson Pratt declared that:
'Joseph received several revelations to which I was witness by means of the Seerstone, but he could receive also without any instrument.' (Millennial Star, vol.40, No. 49.
"On May 17, 1888, we find this same Seerstone offered on the altar of the Manti Temple by President Wilford Woodruff. Brother B. H. Roberts describes the incident:
'President Woodruff May 17, 1888, at a private dedication mentioned, 'before leaving I consecrated upon the altar the SEERSTONE that Joseph Smith found by revelation some thirty feet under the earth, and carried by him throughout life.'

'This is the very Seerstone that the Prophet used part of the time when translating the Book of Mormon; the one he took from the well he was digging with his brother Hyrum, near Palmyra, for Mr. Clark Chase, and which he was falsely accused of taking from the children of Mr. Chase, spoken of in chapter ten of this work.' (Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 230) On the next page Roberts says: 'What became of the Seerstone immediately after this is not known. The writer (Roberts) knows, that it was in the possession of the Church as a matter of conversation between President Smith and himself (Roberts); and he has reason for knowing that it is now in possession of the Church -- this year of 1930.' (Ibid., p.231)"
(The Urim and Thummim, by Arch S. Reynolds, pp.18-20)

In a letter written March 27, 1876 Emma Smith, who was married to Joseph Smith, stated that THE ENTIRE BOOK OF MORMON, that we have today, was translated by the use of a stone. James E. Lancaster states:

"How can the testimonies of Emma Smith and David Whitmer, describing the translation of the Book of Mormon with a SEER STONE, be reconciled with the traditional account of the church that the Book of Mormon was translated by the 'interpreters' found in the stone box with the plates? It is the


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             9


extreme good fortune of the church that we have testimony by Sister Emma Smith Bidamon on this important issue. Sometime in the early part of 1876 a woman by the name of Pilgrim wrote to Emma Bidamon, requesting information as to the translation of the Book of Mormon. Emma Bidamon rep[l]ied in a letter to Sister Pilgrim, written from Nauvoo, Illinois, March 27, 1876. Sister Bidamon's letter states in part:
Now the first that my husband translated, was translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris LOST, after that he USED A SMALL STONE, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color. I cannot tell whether that account in the Times and Seasons is correct or not because someone stole all my books and I have none to refer to at present, if I can find one that has that account I will tell you what is true and what is not.
"Sister Bidamon's letter indicated that at first the Book of Mormon was translated by the Urim and Thummim. She refers to the instrument found with the plates. However, this first method w a s used only for the portion written on the 116 pages of foolscap which Martin Harris later lost. After that time the translation was done with the seer stone." (Saints' Herald, November 15, 1962, page 15)

David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses, admitted that he never did see Joseph Smith use the Urim and Thummim (or the two stones set in silver bows). This information is found in the article by James E. Lancaster:

"The other is a statement he made to a member of the Reorganized Church, J. L. Traughber, Jr., in October, 1879, and printed in Saints Herald. In connection with this latter testimony it should be pointed out that David Whitmer never met Joseph Smith until June, 1829. According to the testimony of Emma Smith and David Whitmer, the angel TOOK THE URIM AND THUMMIM FROM JOSEPH SMITH at the time of the loss of the 116 pages. This was in June, 1828, one year before David became involved with the work of translation. David Whitmer could never have been present when the Urim and Thummim were used. All of this he clearly states in his testimony to Brother Traughber:
With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he DOES NOT SAY THAT JOSEPH SMITH EVER TRANSLATED IN HIS PRESENCE BY AID OF URIM AND THUMMIM, but by means of ONE DARK COLORED, OPAQUE STONE called a 'Seer Stone,' which was placed in the crown OF A HAT into which JOSEPH PUT HIS FACE, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would appear before Joseph upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said."
(Saints' Herald, November 15, 1962, page 16)

Mr. Lancaster quotes an interview with David Whitmer which was published in the Chicago Inter-Ocean, Oct. 17, 1886. In this interview the following statement appeared:

"By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange, oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing Urim and Thummim (the latter was a pair of transparent stones set in a bow-shaped frame and very much resembled a pair of spectacles). WITH THIS STONE ALL OF THE PRESENT BOOK OF MORMON WAS TRANSLATED."
(Saints' Herald, Nov. 15, 1962, page 16)

One thing that has caused confusion is the fact that the "seer stone" was sometimes called the Urim and Thummim. Bruce R. McConkie, of the First Council of the Seventy, makes this statement concerning the seer stone:

"The Prophet also had a SEER STONE which was separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim, and which (speaking loosely) has been called by some a Urim and Thummim."
(Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, 1966, p. 818)

Joseph Smith's brother William referred to the stone as the Urim and Thummim:

"The manner in which this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. (the plates lying near by covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the STONE by the power of God." (William Smith On Mormonism, reprinted in A New Witness For Christ In America, by Francis W. Kirkham, Vol. 2, page 417)

Brigham Young also called the seer stone the Urim and Thummim. The following is found in a thesis submitted to the Brigham Young University:

"Some have felt to question Wilford Woodruff's correctness in calling the instrument the Urim and Thummim. On the same date of December 27, 1841, Elder Woodruff claims to have been shown the Urim and Thummim, Brigham Young recorded in his history the showing of the instrument -- only he said that it was the 'seer stone.'
-- 27. -- 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 seer stone, 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


10                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


USE OF IT; HE SHOWED US HIS SEER STONE:'
("Textual Changes in the Pearl of Great Price, M. A. thesis, Brigham Young University, typed copy, page 9)

The Mormon Historian Joseph Fielding Smith admits that the seer stone was sometimes called the Urim and Thummim:

"The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the SEER STONE which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is NOW in the possession of the Church." (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 225)

Embarrassed  Over  Stone

The fact that Joseph Smith used a stone, which he placed in a hat, to translate the Book of Mormon has caused a great deal of embarrassment because it so closely resembled crystal gazing. Crystal gazing is an ancient practice. Crystal gazers have claimed to see writings in their stones in the same way that Joseph Smith was supposed to have translated the Book of Mormon. In the book, Strange Superstitions and Magical Practices, we read:

"Among primitive peoples there is a widespread belief in the magical efficacy of quartz crystals -- one of the most common of all luminous stones. These mineralogical specimens are frequently the main prop of the magician. They are used for this purpose by the aborigines of Australia, Polynesia and North America, among others."
(Strange Superstitions and Magical Practices, by William J. Fielding, p. 53)

On pages 137-138 of the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, by Rossell Hope Robbins, the following information appears: "In England, for example, in 1467a William Byg was convicted of using a crystal stone to locate stolen property;..."

The Mormon writer Arch S. Reynolds stated:

"During the early history of the Latter-day Saints' Church, many people arose with so-called seer-stones, claiming to have power of seeing many things such as seeing the place where lost articles were also where the Book of Mormon plates were hidden. Some of these clairvoyants were the means o f leading many astray from the truth. One of the earliest of these peepstone gazers was a young woman named Miss Chase, sister of Willard Chase, a Methodist class-leader. (See Lucy Smith's Life of the Prophet Joseph, p. 102) Miss Chase found a green glass, through which she claimed she could see where Joseph Smith kept the Gold Plates. (Ibid. p. 109)
...
"Brewster had a stone by which he pretended to receive revelations. There were others in the early rise of the Church -- Isaac Russel and James J. Strang who tried to lead factions from the Church and pretended to receive revelations by stone or Urim....

"From the earliest days of the Church we have had many who have claimed to have had the power to see things in so-called peepstones. There are stones among the Church members that are considered by some to be their receiving communications from the unseen world.

"Edwin Rushton dug in the ground in the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, as a dream had previously shown, and obtained a seerstone about five feet underground, on May 4, 1846. He was a resident of Nauvoo at the time he obtained it. The stone, which still exists, appears to be a little smaller than a quarter of a baseball, and is crystal clear. He never tried to use the stone, as far as we know. It now reposesin the possession of his son-in-law, C. W. Christensen, of Salt Lake City, Utah."
(The Urim and Thummim, by Arch S. Reynolds, p. 21-24)

On page 28 of the same booklet, Arch S. Reynolds states:

"Not only true media have been used by God's seers throughout the centuries; but false ones such as peepstones, crystal balls, etc. have been brought forth by the Adversary to further his diabolic work and hinder God's plan on earth."

Bruce R. McConkie, of the First Council of the Seventy, made this statement:

"In imitation of the true order of heaven whereby seers receive revelations from God through a Urim and Thummim, the devil gives his own revelations to some of his followers through peep stones or crystal balls." (Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, 1966, pp. 565-566)

Charlotte Haven gave this interesting information in a letter from Nauvoo, dated May 2, 1843:

"It is said that Joseph read the golden plates by looking through the Peep Stone. Now he pretends not to believe in the Peep Stone, although many of his followers undoubtedly do. The stone is in the possession of a high church dignitary, and has the power of seeing and reading things without the use of eyes -- a sort of clairvoyant. I am told that many of the English and Scotch, when becoming anxious about their friends across the ocean, with implicit faith consult the Peep Stone, which not only tells them of their friends health, but what they are doing at the time. But it is not always infallible, as you will see.


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             11


"Some weeks ago, a store was broken open and nearly all its contents stolen. The Peep Stone pretended to reveal where the goods were deposited, and immediately ten or fifteen men with teams started for the spot, but lo! nothing was there."
(Overland Monthly, December 1890, p. 630)

The early Mormon people were prone to the use of "peep stones." Hosea Stout recorded the following in his diary under the date of September 9, 1845:

"Went Early this morning to see B. Young, and came home by way of Br C. Allen & then I took the horse & buggy home and came home and met the police and then went with Br Harmon & Horr to see a boy look in a 'peep Stone,' for some money which he said he could see hid up in the ground, he would look and we would dig but he found no money he said it would-move as we approached it. I came home about ten oclock at night."
(On The Mormon Frontier -- The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 1, pp. 61-62)

Wandle Mace recorded this interesting information in his journal:

"Uncle John visited us and during his stay we related to him our experience (with evil spirits) and we learned from him that... In Staffordshire a branch of the Church was organized at the Potteries and Elder Alfred Cordon was president; among those who embraced the Gospel at this place were some who had practiced magic, or astrology. They had Books which had been handed down for many generations; they also had two stones, about the size of goose eggs;... This is the substance of the narration as I heard it from Uncle John. Sometime after I moved to Nauvoo I became acquainted with Elder Alfred Cordon, who related to me the same; he also said the Books with the stones were placed into his hands by these men after they joined the church, and he gave them to Apostle George A. Smith who destroyed the books, but put the stones in the bottom of his trunk and brought them to Nauvoo. He gave them to Joseph the prophet who pronounced them to be a Urim and Thummim -- as good as ever was upon the earth -- but he said, 'They have been consecrated to devils." (Wandle Mace Diary, p. 66, as quoted in Seer Stones, by Ogden Kraut, pp.22-23)

In Utah the anti-Mormon paper, Valley Tan, accused the Mormons of using "peep stones":

"...the Mormons... have better facilities for obtaining information than through newspapers. About every other family, and generally the one between, is possessed of either astrological science or a 'peep-stone.'... through the latter -- a small globular-shaped pebble -- they can see cattle beyond mountains twenty or a hundred miles, or even a greater distance off."
(Valley Tan, October 5, 1859, p. 2)

Although this is probably an exaggeration, there were many who used "peep stones" in Utah. In John M. Whitaker's journal, for instance, we find the following:

"Sister Greaves and I had often met and she opened her heart to me and told me of her troubles with her Bishop, Orson F. Whitney, going to her sisters place and getting information from a SEAR [seer?] stone. I tried in several ways to explain what a fine man Bishop Whitney was, and could not understand why he sought such a source for information -- 'I sincerely believe he has more faith than that, --' and she said, 'you see dear, he has a little ADAM in him." (Excerpts from the Daily Journal of John M. Whitaker, typed copy, Vol.1, page 151)

According to Ogden Kraut, J. Golden Kimball, one of the first. seven presidents of seventies, told Nels B. Lundwall the following:

"During the 1920's I became a very close acquaintance of J. Golden Kimball. On one occasion he told me that while he was a young man the family cows wandered away and became lost. They hunted everywhere for them, but to no avail. Someone suggested that they go to a certain person who was known to have a 'seer stone;' so they proceeded to that person and inquired if they could locate the cows for them, The person used the stone and told them where the cows could be found. Golden said that they went to the place that was specified and there were the cows!'
                           "Statement by Nels B. Lundwall
                              to the author, 4-22-67"
(Seer Stones, by Ogden Kraut, page 25)

The following statements appear in the journal of Priddy Meeks:

"After I settled in Parowan some time, I went to the city.... after I had got home, President Daniel H. Wells sent a boy to me by the name of Wm. Titt, some 12 or 14 years of age. He was born a natural Seer.... Seer Stones, or peepstones as they are more commonly called, was very plenty about Parowan. I rather being a gifted person in knowing a peepstone when seeing one, altho I have never found one yet that I could see in, a seerstone appears to me to be the connecting link between the visible and invisible worlds....

"It is not safe to depend on a peepstone in any case where evil spirits has the power to put false appearances before them while looking in a peepstone. If evil influences will not interfer, the verdict will be as true as preaching. That is my experience in the matter. Also, the Patriarch, Hiram Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, held the same idea, but stated that our faith was not strong enough to overcome the evil influences that might interfere, but seemed to think that time would come. I have seen peepstones as well polished as a fiddle, with a nice hole thro one end that belonged to the


12                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


Ancients. I asked Bro. Smith the use for that hole. He said the same as for a watch chain, to keep from losing it. He said in time of war the Nephites had the advantage of their enemies, by looking in the seerstone, which would reveal whatever they wished to know. (I believe a peepstone is of the same piece with the Urim & Thummum if we understood it.)

"Now then, Wm. Titt was the best Seer in peepstones I ever was acquainted with.... I believe that Satan and his gang saw the danger his kingdom would be in thro Wm. Titt and the Peepstone, that they done their best to destroy him,..." (Priddy Meeks Journal, pages 32-33)

"...William Titt... was born a natural Seer. He was the best hand to look in a Seer Stone that I was ever acquainted with. I believe the Lord overruled his coming to me, I having some knowledge of the science of Seer Stones and being somewhat gifted in knowing one when I saw it. I used to find many, and William could tell by looking in it who that stone was for, and I would give that Stone to the one he said it was for, and they would see in them. I yet remember two (2) men's names. Isaac Grundy and James Rollands. They both could see in their Stones when they got them, and if they was strangers, he could discribe the persons, but could not tell their names. I told him if he would be faithful, he did not know the eminence he would arrive at in consequence of his gift. I kept the Seer Stones under my immediate controll, and when needed, I would bring it out and he done a great deal of good by finding lost property and by telling people how their kinsfolks was getting along, even in England. He could satisfy them that he could see correct by discribing things correct, but when it come to things that the Devil did not want the truth to come out, the Devil had power to make false appearances, and William would miss the truth. William being young and limited in experience, he was not able to compete with the devil at all times, and they undertook to distroy him, and they told him if it had not been for old Meeks, they would have distroyed him. I think it was on account of his gift that made them try to distroy him. They comminced by coming into the house one evening some an hour by sun where William was sitting on the floor by the fire. There was three of them, and they caught him around the body and squeezed him nearly to death. I called on two of the brethren to lay hands on with me. Befor they entered the door, William commenced cursing them. They was so astonished at that, knowing that William did not swear, they stoped at the door. I urged them in quick, saying it is the devil talking through William. We had not hands on him but a little while till William says. 'There does one devil out at the door; there goes another, and there goes another,' says he. And the three all went out at the door and William was rational again."
(Priddy Meeks Journal, typed copy, pages 46-47)

Mormon apologists have a difficult time explaining the fact that Joseph Smith used a "seer stone." The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe made this statement:

"Some use was made also of the seer stone and occasional mention was made of it. This was a stone found while the Prophet assisted in digging a well for Clark Chase. By divine power this stone was made serviceable to Joseph Smith in the early part of his ministry. There is no evidence that this stone was used in Joseph's sacred work."
(Joseph Smith -- Seeker After Truth, by John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City, 1951, page 267)

Notice that Mr. Widtsoe states there is "NO evidence that this STONE was used in Joseph's SACRED work,' yet on page 260 of the same book Widtsoe states that Joseph did use the stone in his "SPIRITUAL WORK":

"Before Joseph received the Urim and Thummim he had a stone, obtained during the digging of a well for Clark Chase. This stone, through the blessing of the Lord, became a SEER STONE which was used frequently by him in his SPIRITUAL WORK.

"The use of the SEER STONE explains in part the charge against Joseph Smith that he was a 'peep stone gazer.'... The use of the SEER STONE and the Urim and Thummim was well-known to the people of his time and neighborhood.

"The use of stones in sacred work has been frequent; for example, the ball known as the Liahona, the rod of Aaron, and the twelve stones used by Lehi."
(Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, p.260)

Joseph Fielding Smith, who recently became President of the Mormon Church, seems to be embarrassed over the use of the stone. Although he admits that Joseph Smith had a stone, he is unwilling to admit that Joseph used a stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon. He stated:

"While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet Joseph Smith used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose.... It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently INFERIOR under these circumstances. It may have been so, but is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the Prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes."
(Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, Vol. 3, pp. 225-226)

A few things should be noted concerning Joseph Fielding Smith's statement. He states that the information concerning the use of the stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon is "hearsay." In making this statement Mr. Smith overlooks the fact that not only Joseph Smith's wife and brother testified that a stone was used, but also David Whitmer and Martin Harris, who were witnesses to the Book of Mormon. These people were eye witnesses to the translation. Mr. Smith also claims that "there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation." While


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             13


it may be true that there is no statement in Joseph Smith's History, still the Comprehensive History of the Church, by B.H. Roberts, very definitely states that a stone was used in the translation of the Book of Mormon. The fact that Joseph Fielding Smith is embarrassed over the use of the stone is evident from his statement that "It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently INFERIOR under these circumstances."

Perhaps Mr. Smith is reluctant to admit that a stone was used because of the criticism of anti-Mormon writers. M. T. Lamb made this observation concerning the use of the stone:

"Finally, according to the testimony of Martin Harris, Mr. Smith often used the 'seer stone' in place of the Urim and Thummim, even while the later remained in his possession -- using it as a mere matter of convenience.

It seems almost too bad that he should thus inadvertently give the whole thing away. You must understand that the Urim and Thummim spoken of, and called throughout the Book of Mormon ' t h e Interpreters, had been provided with great care over 2500 years ago by God himself, for the express purpose of translating these plates. They are often mentioned in the Book of Mormon as exceedingly important. They were preserved with the greatest care, handed down from one generation to another with the plates, and buried with them in the hill cumorah over 1400 years ago; as sacred as the plates themselves. So sacred that only one man was allowed to handle or use them, the highly favored prophet, Joseph Smith himself. But now, alas! after all this trouble and pains and care on the part of God, and on the part of so many holy men of old, this 'Urim and Thummim' is found at last to be altogether superfluous; not needed at all. This 'peep stone' found in a neighbor's well will do the work just as well -- and is even MORE CONVENIENT, 'for convenience he used the seer stone.' So we are left to infer that when he used the Urim and Thummim at all, it was at SOME INCONVENIENCE. And probably he only did it out of regard to the feelings of his God, who had spent so much time and anxiety in preparing it so long ago, and preserving it to the present day for his special use!"
(The Golden Bible, by M. T. Lamb, pp. 250-251)

Joseph Fielding Smith, confronted with so much evidence that a stone was used in the translation of the Book of Mormon, finally has to admit, "IT MAY HAVE BEEN SO, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that THE PROPHET DID POSSESS A SEER STONE, which he may have used for some other purposes." Mr. Smith does not explain what "other purposes" the stone might have been used for.

The Mormon writer John J. Stewart is willing to concede that Joseph Smith was a money-digger, but he evades the issue of whether or not Joseph Smith actually used a "peep stone":

"One of the most persistent stories circulated about young Joe Smith was that he was a peep stone gazer and money digger. In the early nineteenth century New York, Ohio and other areas about with mounds and other relics of the past. Newspapers frequently carried accounts of such 'treasures' being unearthed. This fact plus the age old, universal desire of man to find buried treasure and thus secure a life of ease, gave rise to legends and stories of lost mines, hidden gold, etc. What region and what period of time do not have such stories?

"Whether Joseph ever did any peep stone gazing, as any youth might, remains a matter of speculation. Nor is it important. But that he did engage in money digging is certain."
(Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Salt Lake City, 1966, page 22)

On page 225 of his book, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

"The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the SEER STONE which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This SEER STONE is NOW in the possession of the Church."

Now, if the Church does still possess this stone, as Mr. Smith claims, the leaders are very reluctant to display it. In an unpublished manuscript on the Book of Mormon, LaMar Petersen states: "Today the Church is silent regarding the stone. It seems somehow beneath the dignity of a Prophet to have ever placed one in his hat. Little or no information can be obtained as to the present whereabouts of the stone. [A.] William Lund, assistant Church historian says: 'I have been here in the Library more than forty years and I have never seen it.' Yet there are at least three definite statements in responsible Church organs that it does, or did, repose there."

Relationship  to  Book  of  Mormon

A careful examination of the whole story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and even the text of the book itself reveals that it originated in the -mind of someone who was familiar with the practice of money-digging. To begin with, the "seer stone" used in "translating" the book seems to be nothing but a common "peep stone,' Many people in Joseph Smith's area were using these stones to search for buried treasures. The evidence shows that Joseph Smith found such a stone while digging a well, and that he used his stone to search for treasures. Even Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, admitted that the money-diggers "took Joseph to look in the stone for them, and he did so for a while,..." (Tiffany' s Monthly, 1859, page 164) On page 169 of the same publication Martin Harris claimed that Joseph "had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He found them by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing." Henry Harris also stated that Joseph Smith told him he saw the plates in the hill Cumorah by means of the stone: "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


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place of deposit:..." (Affidavit by Henry Harris, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ in America, Vol. 1, page 133) Hosea Stout also claimed that Joseph Smith used the stone to find the Book of Mormon plates:

"President Young-exhibited the SEER'S STONE WITH WHICH THE PROPHET JOSEPH DISCOVERED THE PLATES of the Book of Mormon, to the Regents this evening"
On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2, page 593)

Evidence also shows that in "translating' the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith placed the stone in a hat in the same manner "as when he looked for the money-diggers." According to witnesses, the plates didn't even have to be present when Joseph Smith was "translating." The following statement appears in Arch S. Reynolds' booklet, How Did Joseph Smith Translate? page 6:

"At another time David Whitmer gave a description of the procedure:
'Joseph Smith did NOT SEE THE PLATES in translation, but would hold the interpreters (Urim and Thummim to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light, and before him would appear what seemed to be parchment on which would appear the characters of the plates on a line at the top, and immediately below would appear the translation in English,...' (Kansas City Journal, June 5, 1881.)"
On page 21 of the same booklet, Mr. Reynolds states:

"The evidence proves that the plates were not always before Joseph during the translation. His wife and mother state that the plates were on the table wrapped in a cloth while Joseph translated with his eyes HID IN A HAT with the SEER STONE or the Urim and Thummim. David Whitmer, Martin Harris and others state that Joseph hid the plates in the woods and other places while he was translating. Also if Joseph hid his face in a hat while translating what good would the plates have been to him in helping him read the characters? Where it was dark he could not have seen the characters anyway, and the plates were too large to be hidden in a hat."

Although Joseph Smith suppressed the fact that he used a "seer stone" in his history, the Book of Mormon states:

"And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, A STONE, which shall SHINE forth in DARKNESS unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations:"
(Book of Mormon, Alma 37:23)

In the Doctrine and Covenants 78:9, Gazelam is identified as "Joseph Smith, Jun."

As we examine the Book of Mormon story in the light of the money-digging activities of the 1820's, we notice that the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was "translated" were supposed to have been a very valuable treasure. In fact, when the "first published consecutive account of the origin of the Church" appeared in 1834 and 1835 it stated that Joseph Smith desired to have the Book of Mormon plates to make himself wealthy. This account was republished in the Times and Seasons as follows:

"...I have said that two invisible powers were operating upon his mind during his walk from his residence to Cumorah, and that the one urging the certainty of wealth and ease in this life, had so powerfully wrought upon him, that the great object so carefully and impressively named by the angel, had entirely gone from his recollection, that only a fixed determination to obtain now urged him forward... a little exertion in removing the soil from the edges of the top of the box, and a light pry, brought to his natural vision its contents. No sooner did he behold this sacred TREASURE than his hopes were renewed, and he supposed his success certain; and without first attempting to take it from its long place of deposit, he thought, perhaps, there might be something more equally as valuable, and to take only the plates, might give others an opportunity of obtaining the remainder, which could he secure, would still add to his STORE OF WEALTH. These, in short, were his reflections, without once thinking of the solemn instruction of the heavenly messenger, that all must be done with an express view of glorifying God.

'On attempting to take possession of the record a shock was produced upon his system, by an invisible power, which deprived him, in a measure, of his natural strength. He desisted for an instant, and then made another attempt, but was more sensibly shocked than before. What was the occasion of this he knew not -- there was the pure unsullied record, as had been described -- he had heard of the power of enchantment, and a thousand like stories, which held the hidden treasures of the earth, and supposed that physical exertion and personal strength was only necessary to enable him to yet obtain the object of his wish. He therefore made the third attempt with an increased exertion, when his strength failed him more than at either of the former times, and without premeditating he exclaimed: 'Why can I not obtain this book?'

"'Because you have NOT kept the commandments of the Lord,' answered a voice, within a seeming short distance.

"He looked, and to his astonishment, there stood the angel who had previously given him the directions concerning this matter."
(Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, pp. 392-393)

Even Joseph Smith's mother seems to have had an interest in the value of the treasures found in the hill Cumorah. Speaking of the breastplate which was found with the Book of Mormon plates, she said: "The whole plate was WORTH AT LEAST FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS..." (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, London, 1853, page 107)


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             15


In later printings of Mrs. Smith's book, these words have been completely deleted without any indication (see photograph in our Case, Vol. 1, p. 61). The Mormon leaders have also deleted her description of the Urim and Thummim. In this description Joseph's mother claimed that the Urim and Thummim consisted of "Diamonds set in glass":

"...it consisted of two smooth three-cornered DIAMONDS set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles."
Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, page 101)

In an affidavit given Dec. 8,1833, William Stafford told of the great interest which the Smith family ha d in money-digging:

"...I first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820.... They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man's farm, there were deposited kegs, 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."
(Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio, 1834, pp.237-238)

It is very interesting to compare Stafford's statement about the caves with a statement by Brigham Young which we have previously quoted:

"Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a CAVE, in which there was a large and spacious room.... They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room MORE PLATES THAN PROBABLY MANY WAGON LOADS;..."
(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1 , page 38)

Heber C. Kimball, who was a member of the First Presidency, also spoke of this cave:

"How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a CAVE in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book."
(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, page 105)

The Mormon writer Edward Stevenson made these interesting statements about the cave:

"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 this 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. At the proper time when greed, selfishness and corruption shall cease to reign in the hearts of the people, these vast hoards of hidden treasure shall be brought forth to be used for the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ."
(Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet, Salt Lake City, 1893, pp. 14-15)

The Book of Mormon makes these statements concerning hidden treasures:

"And behold, if a man hide up a treasure in the earth, and the Lord shall say -- Let it be accursed, because of the iniquity of him who bath hid it up -- behold, it shall be accursed.

"And if the Lord shall say -- Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever -- behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever."
(Book of Mormon, Helaman 12:18-19)

"...whoso shall hide up treasures in the earth shall find them again no more, because of the great curse of the land save he be a righteous man and shall hide it up unto the Lord.

"For I will, saith the Lord, that they shall hide up their treasures unto me; and cursed be they who hide not up their treasures unto me; for none hideth up their treasures unto me save it be the righteous; and he that hideth not up his treasures unto me, cursed is he, and also the treasure, and none shall redeem it because of the curse of the land." (Ibid, Helaman, 13:18-19)

The reader will remember that Brigham Young told of a "chest of money" that moved by itself "into the bank," and that Martin Harris told of "stone box" which "slipped back into the hill." This idea of treasures slipping into the earth seems to be reflected in the Book of Mormon. In Helaman 13:34-36 we read:

"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.


16                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


"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."
(Book of Mormon, Helaman 13:34-36)

In Mormon 1:18 we read that the people "began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became SLIPPERY, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again."

From the evidence we have presented it becomes clear that the Book of Mormon had its origin among a people who believed in "seer stones" and money-digging.

Working  with  the  Rod

One of the most important changes Joseph Smith made in his revelations was an obvious attempt to cover up the fact that he had endorsed the idea that Oliver Cowdery had a gift from God to work with a divining rod. Below is a comparison of the way this revelation was first printed in the Book of Commandments and the way it has been changed to read in recent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants (see photograph in our Case, Vol. 1, page 144, Change F).

    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,... " (Chapter 7:3)
    DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
"Now this is not all thy gif; 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.” (Section 8:6 and 7)

The reader will notice that the words "WORKING WITH THE ROD" and "ROD OF NATURE" have been. entirely deleted from this revelation.

In the Vermont Historical Gazetteer we find some information that would seem to show that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery derived their interest in working with the rod from their parents:

"About 1800, occurred the 'Wood scrape,' a term not expressive perhaps of what is meant, but a name which has always been given by the people to a strange affair in which the Wood families, then living here, were the leading actors. It was a religious delusion, and, at the time, the cause of great excitement here, and of a good deal of notoriety in this part of the State...

"Before 1860, I had conversed with more than 30 old men and women who were living here in 1800, and then supposed I had obtained all the information that could be had on that subject, the substance of which was that the Woods dug for money in various parts of the town, and were engaged in this for nearly a year; that they used hazel-rods which they pretended would lead them to places where money, had been buried, and that they finally predicted that there would be an earthquake on a future day by them named, and that when that day arrived there was great excitement and commotion among the people, such as was never known here before nor since.... His [Nathaniel Wood’s] peculiar religious doctrines will appear as we proceed. Suffice it to say, for the present, that he regarded himself and his followers as modern Israelites or Jews, under the special care of Providence; that the Almighty would not only specially interpose in their behalf, but would visit their enemies, the Gentiles (all outsiders), with his wrath and vengeance.

"In this condition we find Nathaniel Wood and his followers when the hazel-rod was introduced, and the money digging commenced; but the Woods did not commence it; that honor belongs to a man of another name; but they were in a condition to adopt this man's rod-notions, which they did with great effect in their work of deluding the people.

"A man by the name of Winchell, as he called himself when he came here, was the first man who used the hazel-rod.... He was a fugitive from justice from Orange county, Vermont, where he had been engaged in counterfeiting. He first went to a Mr. Cowdry's, in Wells, who then lived in that town, near the line between Wells and Middletown, in the house now owned and occupied by Robert Parks, Esq. Cowdry was the father of OLIVER COWDERY, the noted Mormon, who claimed to have been one of witnesses to Joe Smith's revelations, and to have written the book of Mormon, as it was deciphered by Smith from the golden plates. Winchell, I have been told, was a friend and acquaintance of Cowdry's, but of this I cannot be positive; they were intimate afterwards; but Winchell staid at Cowdry's some little time, keeping himself concealed, and it is the opinion of some with whom I have conversed that he commenced his operations of digging for money in Wells, but I have been unable to determine as to that...

"Winchell next turns up in Middletown, at Ezekiel Perry's in the Fall or fore part of the winter of 1799.... and here. he began to use the hazel-rod (whether he had before used it at Cowdry's, in wells, I cannot say).... he gathered quite a number about him from the immediate neighborhood, and told them there was money buried in that region, and with his rod he could find it, and if they would assist in digging it out, and forever keep it a secret, he would give them a part of the money. This they agreed to, and were all eager to commence digging.

"Before we proceed further, we should, perhaps, say a word about this rod, which played such a part in Middletown in this eventful year. The best description we can give of it is this: It was a stick of what has been known as witch-hazel -- a small bush or shrub very common in this vicinity. It was cut with two prongs, in the form of a fork, and the person using it would take the two prongs, one in


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             17


each hand, and the other end from the body. From the use of this stick Winchell an[d] [t]he Woods pretended to divine all sorts of things to suit their purposes....

"After Winchell had made his proposals to those whom he gathered about him, and they had been accepted, he had recourse to his rod to determine whether they were sincere in their promises to keep the money digging a secret. The rod, as he pretended, told him they were, and then he sallied out; went on to the hill, east of Perry's house, holding his rod before him in the manner indicated, his dupes following after.... The men, under Winchell, immediately prepared themselves with shovels and other implements, and commenced digging. They worked hard for two or three days. and becoming weary, their enthusiasm began to cool, and they began to show signs of giving out. Winchell held up his rod, got some motion from it, and told them the money was in an iron chest and covered with a large stone, and that they would soon come to it.... He impressed it upon them, that the occasion was one of 'awful moment,' that there was a 'divinity' guarding the treasure, and that if there was any lack of faith in any one of the party, or any should utter a word while removing the stone and taking out the chest, that this divinity would put the money forever beyond their reach,... Some one of the party stepped on the foot of another, the latter crying out in pain, 'Get off from my toes.' Winchell exclaimed with a loud voice, 'The money is gone, flee for your lives!' Every man of the party dropped his bar or lever, and ran as though it was for life....

"The Woods then commenced using the hazel rod and digging for money, which was in the Spring or early summer of 1800, and continued in this until late in the Fall, and some have said until into the Winter. Winchell was with them, but it was not generally known, he being concealed -- the Woods were the ostensible managers.... the Woods superintended the work, and were the men who handled the rod for the most part in those operations. Jacob Wood, known as Capt. Wood, one of the sons of Nathaniel, was the leader in the use of the rod. 'Priest Wood' his father, seemed to throw his whole soul into the rod delusion, but his use of the rod was mostly as a medium of revelation. It was 'St. John's rod' he said, and undoubtedly was very convenient for him, as he was much more fruitful in his prophecies than before -- but Capt. Jacob was the man to find where the money was buried, and to use the rod at their public meetings, and on other occasions, though all the Woods and their followers, had each a rod, which was used whenever they desired any information. If any one was sick, they sought the rod to know whether they would live or die, and to know what medicine to administer to them. In all their business matters, they followed, as they said, the direction of the rod, and with it they could, as they pretended, divine the thoughts and intentions of men.... Many of the old people have told me, that almost every day during that season, Capt. Wood, or some other one, could be seen with the two prongs of the rod twisted around his hands, in search for buried treasures.... there was no show of reason in the affair from beginning to end, their idea was, that it was revelation, that it was made known to them through the medium of St. John's rod, and would be revealed to none others but God's chosen people. Nathaniel Wood's Jewish theory, if I may so call it,) ran through the whole thing from first to last...

The rods-men, (such they were called,) became so infatuated as to give up nearly their whole time to this scheme. All the believers became wild fanatics....

"The Woods at one time had it revealed to them, that they must build a temple....

"Mr. Clark in his letter says: 'By what I have heard of them (the Woods,) I have no doubt that the movement gave origin to the Mormons.'...

"That the system of religion promulgated by Nathaniel Wood, and adopted by his followers in 1800, was the same, or 'much the same, as the Mormons adopted on the start, is beyond question. It was claimed by the Mormons, so says a writer of their history, 'that pristine Christianity was to be restored, with the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues -- with power to heal all manner of diseases -- that the fulness of the gospel was to be brought forth by the power of God, and the seed of Israel were to be brought into the fold, and that the gospel would be carried to the Gentiles, many of whom were to receive it.' These were the doctrines of the Woods. The Woods were very fruitful in prophecies, especially after the hazel rod came to their use; so were the Mormons in the beginning of their creed, and both the Woods and the Mormons claimed to have revelations,... I have been told that Joe Smith's father resided in Poutney at the time of the Wood movement here, and that he was in it, and one of the leading rods-men. Of this I cannot speak positively, for the want of satisfactory evidence,... I have before said that Oliver Cowdry’s father was in the 'Wood scrape.' He then lived in Wells, afterwards in Middletown, after that went to Palmyra, and there we find these men with the counterfeiter, Winchell, searching for money over the hills and mountains with the hazel-rod, and their sons Joe and Oliver, as soon as they were old enough, were in the same business,...

"Gov. Ford of Illinois, in his history of the Mormons, says of Joe Smith.
"'That his extreme youth was spent in idle, vagabond life, roaming in the woods, dreaming of buried treasures, and exerting the art of finding them by twisting a forked stick in his hands, or by looking through enchanted stones. He and his father before him, were what are called 'water-witches,' always ready to point out the ground where wells might be dug and water found.'
...
"I have perhaps already occupied more time upon this matter than I should, but I have thought it proper and important too, to give what evidence I have been able to obtain, to show that the Wood movement here 'gave origin to the Mormons.'... They used the rod, that is, the elder Smith and Cowdry, and pretended by that to obtain revelations,... and their sons Joe jr. and Oliver,... commenced their education with the use of the hazel-rod or forked stick, in searching for hidden treasures -- though afterwards they used what they called enchanted stones." (The Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Edited by Abby Maria Hemenway, Claremont, N.H., 1877, Vol. 3, pp. 810, 811, 812, 813, 814, 818 and 819)

Although the material above was not printed until many years after the events were supposed to have occurred, the "Rodmen" were mentioned in the Vermont American as early as 1828:

"About the year 1800, one or two families in Rutland county,... pretended to have been informed by


18                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


the Almighty, that they were descendants of the ancient Jews,... They claimed, also, inspired power, with which to cure all sorts of diseases -- intuitive knowledge of lost or stolen goods, and ability to discover the hidden treasures of the earth,...most of the connexions of its originators were drawn in,... numbering nearly forty persons. The instrument of their miraculous powers, was a cleft stick, or rod, something of the form of an inverted Y;...

"Before the adoption of any project among the fraternity, a nod of assent was required from the rods of the whole,... excavations were made in the mountains, some to a great depth;... From the bowels of the mountain valuable ore was to be taken; the building was to be erected into a furnace for smelting and refining it; and the horses' bones were to be converted into crucibles!"
(Vermont American, Middlebury, Vermont, May 7, 1828)

Joseph Smith's father was undoubtedly a believer in the practice of working with the rod. In an affidavit, dated Dec. 2, 1833, Peter Ingersoll stated:

"I, Peter Ingersoll, first became aquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822....

"The general employment of the family, was digging for money.... 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.... he cut a small witch hazel 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 surprized at this, and said he thought he saw it move in my hand. It was now time for me to return to my labor." (Affidavit of Peter Ingersoll, as found in Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio. 1834, page 232)

It would appear, then, that Joseph Smith learned about "WORKING WITH THE ROD" from his father. He approved of this practice, and claimed to have a revelation from God which spoke of Cowdery's "gift of working with the rod." Later, however, he became embarrassed about his money-digging activities and changed the revelation to remove all reference to the rod.

In 1843 a member of the Mormon Church found himself in trouble with the Church because of working with the rod and similar practices. Under the date of March 25, 1843, we find this statement in Joseph Smith's History:

"The High Council, with my brother Hyrum presiding, sat on an appeal of Benjamin Hoyt, from the decision of David Evans, bishop; which was, that Brother Hoyt cease to call certain characters witches or wizards, cease to work with the divining rod, and cease burning a board or boards to heal those whom he said were bewitched."
(History of the Church, Vol. 5, pages 311-312)

Although the Utah Mormon leaders appear to want their people to remain in the dark concerning the changes in the revelations, the Reorganized LDS Church leaders have made some real progress toward facing this problem. Richard P. Howard, RLDS Church Historian, makes these startling admissions in a book recently published by his Church:

"Several writers have established that both in Vermont and in western New York in the early1800's, one of the many forms which enthusiastic religion took was the adaptation of the witch hazel stick (used then and even to this date for locating underground water sources) to religious purposes. For example, the 'divining rod' was used effectively by one Nathaniel Wood in Rutland County, Vermont, in 1801. Wood, Winchell, William Cowdery, Jr., and his son, Oliver Cowdery, all had some knowledge of and associations with the various uses, both secular and sacred, of the forked witch hazel rod. Winchell and others used such a rod in seeking buried treasure; and, as the following parallel column arrangement suggests, when Joseph Smith met Oliver Cowdery in April, 1829, he found a man peculiarly adept in the use of the forked rod -- one who may have brought information to him about the strange, mystical uses to which such an artifact had been put back in the hometown of his boyhood. Cowdery had already proved himself to Joseph as one who could be trusted in the important work on the Book of Mormon. He was a man of no little education and literary gifts for his day -- a schoolmaster and, though perhaps unknown to both Oliver and Joseph at the time, a third cousin to Joseph's mother Lucy Mack Smith. He soon was Joseph's close friend and confidant, his scribe and trusted counselor. In the midst of such mutual rapport and against the background of his own experiments with and uses of oracular media, Joseph Smith's April, 1829, affirmations about Cowdery's unnatural powers related to working with the rod are quite understandable....

"By the time that Joseph Smith approached the reinterpretation and REWORDING of this document for the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, he had had the time and experience necessary to place his 1829 assessment of the meaning of Cowdery's gift of working with the rod in a somewhat more accurate perspective. Both he and Cowdery had developed away from an emphasis on the religious or mystical meanings in such mechanical objects as the water witching rod. Joseph's 1835 wording of this document expressed in more general and symbolic terms the significance and promise of the relationship of trust still existing between Cowdery and himself. It left behind the apparent 1829 reliance upon external media, which by 1835 had assumed in Joseph's mind overtones of SUPERSTITION and speculative experimentation."
(Restoration Scriptures, by Richard P. Howard, Independence, Mo., 1969, pages 211-214)


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             19


The  Treasure  Hunt  Revelation

Ebenezer Robinson, who was at one time the editor of the Mormon Church paper, Times and Seasons, gave the following information in the Return:

"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 a 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, of which we will speak more fully in another place."
(The Return, Vol. 1, p. 105)

On page 106 of the same book, Mr. Robinson stated:

"On our return home we went to work in the printing office as heretofore.

"We soon learned that four of the leading men of the church had been to Salem, Massachusetts, in search of the hidden treasure spoken of by Brother Burgess, viz: JOSEPH SMITH, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery. They left home on the 25th of July, and returned in September."

Joseph Smith's History tells of this trip:

"On Monday afternoon, July 25th, in company with Sidney Rigdon, Brother Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery, I left Kirtland,...

"From New York we continued our journey to Providence, on board a steamer; from thence to Boston, by steam cars, and arrived in SALEM, Massachusetts, early in August, where we hired a house, and occupied the same during the month,... "
(History of the Church, Vol. 2, page 464)

David R. Proper, who has done a great deal of research concerning Joseph Smith's trip to Salem, gives this information:

"It appears at this time Joseph Smith began to pay attention to some reports published in the Painesville, Ohio, Telegraph describing a great treasure hidden in a house in Salem....

"Tales of buried treasure in Salem were evidently quite common, especially as the old shipping families began to decline...

"The Mormon visitors were definitely in Salem as early as August 6, 1836 when Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdrey signed the visitors book of the East India Marine Society museum; Joseph Smith, Jr. signed the register on August 9....

"That there was evidently something behind the visit paid to Salem by the Mormon leaders is strengthened not only by Robinson's sad admission, but also by the lack of any public notice of the mission in Salem newspapers. There were five papers in the city; four of them reported the public address by Sidney Rigdon. The papers had carried stories and features about Mormonism before and continued to do so after this event, but nothing on the local visitation. So famous a personage as Joseph Smith, Jr., the prophet himself, could hardly have gone unnoticed unless he chose to remain so....

"When Rigdon gave his Salem lecture, doubtless Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and possibly Brigham Young and Lyman Johnson were present, but went unrecognized. It seems incredible that had Mormon missionary efforts been the real object, the prophet would not have been called upon,... One can hardly believe as experienced an evangelist as Sidney Rigdon would have failed to make use of such personages in his delivery unless they wished to remain unrecognized for some reason.

"The final note in the mysterious adventure is given by the rather sympathetic Salem Register of August 25, 1836 which four days earlier had given Rigdon as fair a report as he receive making note of the fact that he had left the city after having 'introduced himself' the previous week, the paper goes on to state: 'None knew the names, character, or object of these men, until the day Rigdon held forth, although they had been for a week or two in the city.' The group, it was stated, 'retained possession of the tenement leased by them in Union street and intend to return to this city next spring.'

The whole adventure is too mysterious to be explained simply as a missionary tour to Salem and Essex County. What was the object of the Mormon prophet's visit cannot be known, but certainly it adds to the luster of Salem, as well as to its ability to draw visitors from far corners of the world for one reason or another -- even then as now." (Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. C, No. 2, April 1964, pp. 93-97)

Joseph Smith actually received a revelation concerning the treasure hunt, which is published by the Mormon Church in their Doctrine and Covenants. In this revelation we read the following:

"I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies.

"I have MUCH TREASURE in this city for you,... 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.

"...And inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of this city;

"For there are MORE TREASURE THAN ONE for you in this city."
(Doctrine & Covenants, Sec. 111, verses 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 and 10)


20                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


Mr. Robinson informs us that the treasure was never found, and Joseph Smith was unable to pay his debts as the revelation had promised:

"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.

"We speak of these things with regret, but inasmuch as they occurred we feel it our duty to relate them, as also some of those things which transpired under our personal observation, soon after."
(The Return, Vol. 1, page 106)

The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts stated:

"While the Prophet gives a somewhat circumstantial account of this journey to Salem and his return to Kirtland in September, he nowhere assigns an ADEQUATE cause for himself and company making it -- the object of it is not stated."
(Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, page 411)

B. H. Roberts admits that the Mormon leaders went to Salem seeking "an earthly treasure;' but claims that the other treasures spoken of in the revelation were of a spiritual nature:

"Here we have an opportunity of discerning the difference between the ways of God and the ways of men. Whereas these brethren had COME SEEKING AN EARTHLY TREASURE, God directs their attention to spiritual things, telling them there are more treasures than one for them in that city; and instructs them to inquire diligently concerning the ancient inhabitants and founders of that city, doubtless having in view the securing of their genealogies and the redemption of the past generations of men who had lived there; so that if for a moment THE WEAKNESS OF MEN WAS MANIFESTED IN THIS JOURNEY, we see that fault reproved and the strength and wisdom of God made manifest by directing the attention of his servants to the real and true treasures that he would have them seek, even the salvation of men, both the living and the dead."
(Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 412)

While it is interesting to note that B.H. Roberts admits that the Mormon leaders went to Salem seeking "an earthly treasure;" his explanation of the revelation seems to be an attempt to keep from facing reality.







[ 21 ]



Part  2

THE  1826  TRIAL


In her book, No Man Knows My History, Fawn M. Brodie states:

"In March 1826 Joseph's magic arts for the first time brought him into serious trouble. One of Stowel's neighbors, Peter Bridgman, swore out a warrant for the youth's arrest on the charge of being a disorderly person and an impostor.... the court pronounced him guilty, though what sentence was finally passed the record does not say."
(No Man Knows My History, page 30)

Mrs. Brodie states that the court record was "first unearthed in southern New York by Daniel S. Tuttle, Episcopal Bishop of Salt Lake City, and published in the article on 'Mormonism' in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge." (Ibid., page 405)

The following account of the trial is taken from Tuttle's article:

"'People of State of New York vs. Joseph Smith. Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an impostor. Prisoner examined. Says that he came from town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowel on his farm, and going to school; 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.

"'Josiah Stowel sworn. Says that prisoner had been at his house something like five months. Had been employed by him to work on farm part of time; that he pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were, by means of looking through a certain stone; that prisoner had looked for him sometimes, -- once to tell him about money buried on Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt-spring, -- and that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone: that he found the digging part at Bend and Monument Hill as prisoner represented it; that prisoner 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; that prisoner did offer his services; that he never deceived him; that prisoner looked through stone, and described Josiah Stowel's house and out-houses while at Palmyra, at Simpson Stowel's, correctly; that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it, by means of said stone; that he had been in company with prisoner digging for gold, and had the most implicit faith in prisoner's skill.

"'Horace Stowel sworn. Says he [seen] prisoner look into hat through stone, pretending to tell where a chest of dollars were buried in Windsor, a number of miles distant; marked out size of chest in the leaves on round.

"'Arad Stowel sworn. Says that he went to see whether prisoner could convince him that he possessed the skill that he professed to have, upon which prisoner laid a book open upon a white cloth, and proposed looking through another stone which was white and transparent; hold the stone to the candle, turn his back to book, and read. The deception appeared so palpable, that went off disgusted.

"'McMaster sworn. Says he went with Arad Stowel to be convinced of prisoner's skill, and likewise came away disgusted, finding the deception so palpable. Prisoner pretended to him that he could discern 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-colored stone, as he said that it hurt his eyes.

"'Jonathan Thompson says that prisoner was requested to look Yeomans for chest of money; did look,


22                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


and pretended to know where it was, and that prisoner, Thompson, and Yeomans went in search of it; that Smith arrived at spot first (was in night); that Smith looked in hat while there, and when very dark, and told how the chest was situated. After digging several feet, struck upon something sounding like a board or plank. Prisoner would not look again, pretending that he was alarmed the last time that he looked, on account of the circumstances relating to the trunk being buried came all fresh to his mind; that the last time that he looked, he discovered distinctly the two Indians who buried the trunk; that a quarrel ensued between them, and that one of said Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside of the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed. Thompson says that he believes in the prisoner's professed skill; that the board which he struck his spade upon was probably the chest, but, on account of an enchantment, the trunk kept settling away from under them while digging; that, notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them. Says prisoner said that it appeared to him that salt might be found at Bainbridge; and that he is certain that prisoner can divine things by means of said stone and hat; that, as evidence of fact, prisoner looked into his hat to tell him about some money witness lost sixteen years ago, and that he described the man that witness supposed had taken it, and disposition of money.

"'And thereupon the Court finds the defendant guilty."
(New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York, 1883, Vol. 2, page 1576)

A number of Mormon writers have denied the authenticity of this document. In the "Church Section" of the Deseret News the following statements appeared:

"...the alleged find is no discovery at all, for the purported record has been included in other books dating back, some of them half a century and derived always from the same source..., after all her puffing and promise the author produces no court record at all, though persistently calling it such.... A justice's court is not what the lawyers call a court of record, the testimony of witnesses is usually not taken down nor preserved as a part of the record in the case. This alleged record is obviously spurious because it has Joseph testify first, giving the defense before the prosecution has made its case.... Then, more wonderful still, the record does not tell what the judgment or sentence of the court was. The really vital things which a true record must contain are not there, though there is a lot of surplus verbiage set out in an impossible order which the court was not required to keep.

"This record could not possibly have been made at the time as the case proceeded. It is patently a fabrication of unknown authorship and never in the court records at all."
(Deseret News, Church Section, May 11, 1946, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ in America, by Francis W. Kirkham, Salt Lake City, 1959, Vol. 2, pp. 430-431)

The Mormon writer Francis W. Kirkham made these statements concerning this document:

"A careful study of all facts regarding this alleged confession of Joseph Smith in a court of law that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasure for purposes of fraud, must come to the conclusion that no such record was ever made, and therefore, is not in existence....

"(5) Thousands of intelligent and devout persons accepted the evidence presented by Joseph Smith during his lifetime.... If any evidence had been in existence that Joseph Smith had used a seer stone for fraud and deception, and especially had he made this confession in a court of law as early as 1826, or four years before the Book of Mormon was printed, and this confession was in a court record, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for him to have organized the restored Church."
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pp. 385-387)

"If a court record could be identified, and if it contained a confession by Joseph Smith which revealed him to be a poor, ignorant, deluded, and superstitious person -- unable himself to write a book of any consequence, and whose church could not endure because it attracted only similar persons of low mentality -- if such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must DENY his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him.... How could he be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been the superstitious fraud which 'the pages from a book' declared he confessed to be?"
(Ibid., pp. 486-487)

On page 469 of the same book, Dr. Kirkham stated that the "use of a seer stone by Joseph Smith buried in a hat to exclude the light, seemed to have had its origin and emphasis in Mormonism Unveiled, 1834."

A recent attack on Fawn Brodie's book by the Mormon writer F. L. Stewart seems to be somewhat more liberal with regard to this subject. Although the author questions the authenticity of the record of the trial, she does make these interesting comments:

"Since the publication of NM [No Man Knows My History], other scholars have taken up the search for the facts regarding the alleged court trial before a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826. Some believe there actually was such a trial; others are equally convinced there was not....

"Joseph Smith was actually arrested in South Bainbridge in 1830 and many times thereafter in other places. One more time wouldn't seem to matter much, except for the fact that this earlier arrest is seized upon by detractors of Mormonism as an indication, if not an outright proof, that Joseph Smith had been a charlatan before and during the finding of the Book of Mormon plates. This charge, even if the court record is authentic, is vague. If, as the alleged record states, Joseph had been guilty of treasure hunting, it would seem not to disqualify him as being worthy of a divine mission. Only five years after Joseph's death, the gold rush of 1849 had almost every citizen in the country thirsting for treasures of the earth. Many methods were employed for ferreting out these treasures, including the


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             23


use of the old-fashioned divining rod. Being found guilty of the same indulgence would hardly preclude Joseph Smith's religious worthiness."
(Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, by F.L. Stewart, New York, 1967, pages 64-65)

The Mormon writers James B. Allen and Leonard J. Arrington have made these comments concerning the 1826 trial:

"11. What verifiable accounts do we have of the various court trials experienced by Joseph Smith in New York? Fawn Brodie has published a document purporting to be the transcript of an 1826 trial in which Joseph Smith was found guilty of disturbing the peace, but its authenticity is not beyond question."
(Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1969, p. 273)

Dr. Kirkham asks why the court record was not printed at an earlier date if it is genuine:

"(2) The affidavits in Mormonism Unveiled which assert that Joseph Smith had a seer stone which he had found while he was working for Willard Chase at Palmyra, were written for the specific purpose to prove that Joseph Smith by this means practiced fraud and claimed to have found the metallic plates of the Book of Mormon. If a court record had been in existence within a reasonable distance of the residence of the people who signed these affidavits in which Joseph Smith confessed he had used a seer stone, this record in all probability would have been known to the author of Mormonism Unveiled, and would have been printed at the time, and quoted thereafter by all anti-Mormon writers."
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, p.386)

While it is true that Mormonism Unvailed contains nothing concerning this trial, we must realize that Bainbridge was a small community located many miles from Joseph Smith's home. It is certainly possible that a trial could have occurred in Bainbridge before Joseph Smith became well-known without the outside world being aware of it.

The Mormon writer F.L. Stewart has pointed out that Joseph Smith should have been referred to as "Joseph Smith, Jr., in the court record:

"The alleged court record does not specify which Joseph Smith was under arrest. In March, 1826, the date given on the alleged record, THE Joseph Smith was only twenty years of age and therefore a minor.... His correct name was 'Joseph Smith, Junior.'... Certainly in a court of law in 1826, before Joseph Smith made any public claims to being a Prophet and at a time when he and his father were employed as common laborers by Josiah Stowel, no one would take for granted that everyone would know which Joseph Smith was being arrested.... The Book of Mormon copyright, dated 1830, designated Joseph Smith correctly as 'Junior.' A court record, being a legal document should be more specific than more casual references.... there is no way of proving that it wasn't written as a prank. In fact, it seems that it was written at a much later date when Joseph Smith, Junior, became plain Joseph Smith, after the death of his father in 1840."
(Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, pp. 67, 68, 69 and 73)

While F.L. Stewart has an interesting point here, we must remember that it would be possible to omit the word "Junior" by mistake. An example is found in a letter written by Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery. As it was published in the Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 1, p. 40, the signature reads: "Joseph Smith jr. When this letter was reprinted in the History of the Church, however, it read as follows: "Joseph Smith" (see History of the Church, Vol. 1, p.10). The reader will also notice that in the court record one of the witnesses in the trial is listed only as "McMaster.' The first name has apparently been omitted by mistake.

Purple's  Account

Since Mormon writers contested the authenticity of the trial, scholars began to search to find more documentation with regard to this matter. Helen L. Fairbanks, of Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, N.Y., made a very interesting discovery. She found that Dr. W. D. Purple, who had lived at Bainbridge and claimed to be an eyewitness to the trial, had written concerning it. Although his article was not published until 1877, he was supposed to have had a very good memory. Dr. Purple's account appeared in The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877. It has been reprinted in Francis W. Kirkham's A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 363-368. Because of the importance of this article we will reprint it in its entirety, although we will do it in sections to include some of our own observations. Dr. Purple begins by stating:
"More than fifty years since, at the commencement of his professional career, the writer spent a year in the present village of Afton, in this County. It was then called South Bainbridge, and was in striking contrast with the present village at the same place. It was a mere hamlet, with one store and one tavern. The scenes and incidents of that early day are vividly engraven upon his memory, by reason of his having written them when they occurred, and by reason of his public and private rehearsals of them in 1 ate r years. He will now present them as historical reminiscences of old Chenango, and as a precursor of the advent of the wonder of the age, Mormonism.

"In the year 1825 we often saw in that quiet hamlet, Joseph Smith, Jr., the author of the Golden Bible, or the Books of Mormon. He was an inmate of the family of Deacon Isaiah Stowell, who resided some two miles below the village, on the Susquehanna. Mr. Stowell was a man of much force of character, of indomitable will, and well fitted as a pioneer in the unbroken wilderness that this country possessed at the close of the last century. He was one of the Vermont sufferers, who for defective titles, consequent on the forming a new State from a part of Massachusetts, in 1791, received wild lands in Bainbridge.


24                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             

He had been educated in the spirit of orthodox puritanism, and was officially connected with the first Presbyterian church of the town, organized by Rev. Mr. Chapin. He was a very industrious, exemplary man, and by severe labor and frugality had acquired surroundings that excited the envy of many of his less fortunate neighbors. He had at this time grown up sons and daughters to share his prosperity and the honors of his name.

"About this time he took upon himself a monomaniacal impression to seek for hidden treasures which he believed were buried in the earth. He hired help and repaired to Northern Pennsylvania, in the vicinity of Lanesboro, to prosecute his search for untold wealth which he believed to be buried there. Whether it was the
     'Ninety bars of gold
     and dollars many fold'
that Capt. Robert Kidd, the pirate of a preceding century, had despoiled the commerce of the world, we are not able to say, but that he took his help and provisions from home, and camped out on the black hills of that region for weeks at a time, was freely admitted by himself and family.

"What success, if any, attended these excursions, is unknown, but his hallucinations adhered to him like the fabled shirt of Nessus, and had entire control over his mental character. The admonition of his neighbors, the members of his church, and the importunities of his family, had no impression on his wayward spirit.

"There had lived a few years previous to this date, in the vicinity of Great Bend, a poor man named Joseph Smith, who, with his family, had removed to the western part of the State, and lived in squallid poverty near Palmyra, in Ontario County. Mr. Stowell, while at Lanesboro, heard of the fame of one of his sons, named Joseph, who, by the aid of a magic stone had become a famous seer of lost or hidden treasures. These stories were fully received into his credulous mind, and kindled into a blaze his cherished hallucination. Visions of untold wealth appeared through this instrumentality, to his longing eyes. He harnessed his team, and filled his wagon with provisions for 'man and beast,' and started for the residence of the Smith family. In due time he arrived at the humble log-cabin, midway between Canandaigua and Palmyra, and found the sought for treasure in the person of Joseph Smith, Jr., a lad of some eighteen years of age. He, with the magic stone, was at once transferred from his humble abode to the more pretentious mansion of Deacon Stowell. Here, in the estimation of the Deacon, he confirmed his conceded powers as a seer, by means of the stone which he placed in his hat, and by excluding the light from all other terrestial things, could see whatever he wished, even in the depths of the earth. This omniscient attribute he firmly claimed. Deacon Stowell and others as firmly believed it. Mr. Stowell, with his ward and two hired men, who were, or professed to be, believers, spent much time in mining near the State line on the Susquenhanna and many other places. I myself have seen the evidences of their nocturnal depredations on the face of Mother Earth, on the Deacon's farm, with what success 'this deponent saith not."
(The Chenango Union, Norwich, N.Y., May 3, 1877, as reprinted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp.362-364)
Notice that Dr. Purple claims that Stowell came to Joseph Smith because he had heard of his "magic stone." Joseph Smith's own mother confirms the fact that Stowell came to her son for help in locating hidden treasures:

"A short time before the house was completed, a man, by the name of Josiah Stoal, came from Chenango county, New York, with the view of getting Joseph to assist him in digging for a silver mine. He came for Joseph ON ACCOUNT OF HAVING HEARD THAT HE POSSESSED CERTAIN KEYS, by which he could DISCERN THINGS INVISIBLE TO THE NATURAL EYE.

"Joseph endeavoured to divert him from his vain pursuit, but he was inflexible in his purpose, and offered high wages to those who would dig for him, in search of said mine, and still insisted upon having Joseph to work for him. Accordingly, Joseph and several others, returned with him and commenced digging."
(Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, London, 1853, pp. 91-92)

Joseph Smith himself admitted he went with Stowell to dig for a "silver mine":

"In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel, who lived in Chenango county, state of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger."
(History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 17)

The Mormon historian B. H. Roberts states that Stowell came to Joseph Smith because he had "heard of Joseph Smith's gift of seership":

"...in October, 1825, to be exact, Joseph engaged to work for an elderly gentleman, Josiah Stoal, of Bainbridge, Chenango county, in the south part of New York state. Bainbridge is located on the west bank of the Susquehanna river, and some forty miles south, or down the river, in the township of Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania. Near Bainbridge was an extensive cave,... a local legend had it that it was an old mine formerly worked by Spaniards; and that they had concealed within it much of the treasure they had discovered,...

"Mr. Stoal believed this legend and had employed men to explore the cave for the treasure. Having heard of Joseph Smith's GIFT OF SEERSHIP, he came to the Smith residence to employ him in this undertaking. Joseph hired out to Mr. Stoal and went with him and the rest of his men to Harmony


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             25


Pennsylvania, where for something like a month they vainly sought to find the 'hidden treasure.'... Although Mr. Stoal gave up the search for the 'Spanish treasure; Joseph continued for some time in his employment."
(Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 81-82)

The Mormon writer Hyrum L. Andrus made these interesting comments concerning this matter:

"According to Mother Smith, he wanted the Prophet to work for him because he had heard that Joseph 'possessed certain means by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye.' She does not say what Joseph had in his possession. But Stoal was acquainted with Joseph Knight, Sr., and may have heard from him of the Urim and Thummim which were with the gold plates. Joseph could also have had the seer stone at this time.... Having worked for Josiah Stoal, he was marked in the popular mind as a money digger; and in the opinion of those with whom he had worked, he was subject to the code of the money diggers which required him to share what he found. Martin Harris stated that the money diggers claimed 'they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together.' In taking this position, they asserted 'that Joseph had been traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them.' That these men were actively opposed to the Prophet is attested to by David Whitmer. While in Palmyra in 1828, he conversed with some men who assured him 'that Joseph Smith certainly had golden plates, and that before he had attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so and they were very much insensed with him."
(God, Man and the Universe, Salt Lake City, 1968, pp. 70, 71, 74 and 75)

Dr. Purple continues by stating:
"In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, who lived with their father, were greatly incensed against Smith, as they plainly saw their father squandering his property in the fruitless search for hidden treasures, and saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire. They made up their minds that 'patience had ceased to be a virtue,' and resolved to rid themselves and their family from this incubus, who, as they believed, was eating up their substance, and depriving them of their anticipated patrimony. They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood. The trial came on in the above mentioned month, before Albert Neeley, Esq., the father of Bishop Neeley of the State of Maine. I was an intimate friend of the Justice, and was invited to take notes of the trial, which I did. There was a large collection of persons in attendance, and the proceedings attracted much attention."
(The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, p. 364)
Francis W. Kirkham points out that Purple says the trial was in February, 1826, whereas the court record gives the date as March 20, 1826. While there is a discrepancy here, we must remember that Dr. Purple was an old man at the time he wrote his account. The fact that he comes within a month of the date given in the court record is rather amazing.

It is true that Dr. Purple claimed to have taken notes at the time of the trial, but, as Francis W. Kirkham observes. Purple "does not quote his notes nor assert he kept them." (A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, p. 469)

Mormon writers point out that Purple states that Joseph Smith was arrested as a "vagrant, without visible means of livelihood,' whereas the court record states that he was charged with being "a disorderly person and an impostor." This discrepancy could also be attributed to Dr. Purple's age and the long period of time which had elapsed since the trial. The Mormon writer F.L. Stewart states:

"Without questioning Dr. Purple's veracity, we should remember that he was seventy-five years of age when he wrote the article.... Perhaps Dr. Purple's memory was slipping at age seventy-five, more than. fifty years after the alleged incident."
(Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, page 70)

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

"He took a few shillings in money and some provisions with him. He stopped on the road with a farmer, and worked three days, and replenished his means of support. After traveling some one hundred and fifty miles he found himself at the mouth of the creek. He did not have the glasswithhi4 but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and a hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some


26                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             

labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all the intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing -Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.

'On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket. "
(The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 364-365)
Although both Purple's account and the account found in the "court record" deal with Joseph Smith's seer atone, they appear to discuss different aspects of this matter. While Purple's account is concerned with bow Joseph Smith acquired the stone, the "court record" speaks only of what he used the stone for after he obtained it. Since neither account claims to give a word for word account of Joseph Smith's statements, it is possible that both the origin and subsequent use of the stone could have been discussed.

The reader will note that Purple's recollection of how Joseph Smith claimed he obtained his stone differs from the usual version. The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts claims that Joseph Smith found the stone while digging a well: "The Seer Stone referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the PROPHET found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, N. Y.(Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, page 129)

Even though Purple's account differs from the usual version, it is interesting to note that there was a girl in Joseph Smith's neighborhood who had a "glass" that she used for divination. Joseph Smith's mother related the following:

"A young woman by the name of Chase, sister to Willard Chase, found a green glass, through which she could see many very wonderful things, and among her great discoveries she said that she saw the precise place where 'Joe Smith kept his gold bible hid,' and obedient to her directions, the mob gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper's shop."
(Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, by Lucy Smith, Liverpool, 1853, page 109)

Richard L. Anderson, of Brigham Young University, gives this interesting information concerning this matter:

"The Palmyra-Manchester sources attach a firm money-digging tradition to the Chase family. For instance, Dr. John Stafford recalled:
The neighbors used to claim Sally Chase could look at a stone she had, and see money. Willard Chase used to dig when she found where the money was. Don't know as anybody ever found any money.
"The interview the same year with Abel Chase confirmed his family's involvement. After describing the stone in possession of his sister, Abel Chase responded to the following questions:
Do you really think your sister could see things by looking through that stone, Mr. Chase?

'Well, she claimed to; and I must say there was something strange about it."
(Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, page 296)

On page 300 of the same article, Richard L. Anderson quotes Caroline Rockwell Smith as saying: "There was considerable digging for money in our neighborhood by men, women and children... I saw Joshua Stafford's peepstone, which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center. Sally Chase a Methodist, had one, and people would go for her to find lost and hidden or stolen things."

Fayette Lapham claimed that Joseph Smith's father told him that Joseph Smith, Jr., found his own stone by looking in other man's stone:

"I think it was in the year 1830, I heard that some ancient records had been discovered... Accompanied by a friend, Jacob Ramsdell, I set out to find the Smith family,... Joseph, Junior, afterwards so well known, not being at home, we applied to his father for the information we wanted. 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 someday 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....

"His son Joseph, whom he called the illiterate, when about fourteen years of age, happened to be where a man was looking into a dark stone and telling people, therefrom, where to dig for money and other things. Joseph requested the privilege of looking into the stone, which he did by putting his face into the hat where the stone was. It proved to be not the right stone for him; but he could see some things, and, among them, he saw the stone, and where it was, in which he could see whatever he wished to see. Smith claims and believes that there is a stone of this quality, somewhere, for every one. The place where he saw the stone was not far from their house; and, under pretence of digging a well, they found water and the stone at a depth of twenty or twenty-two feet."
(The Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biography of America, 1870, Vol. VIII, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, page 384)

Joseph Smith may have possessed more than one seer stone, and may have had different stories as to how


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             27


he obtained them. In the "court record" Arad Stowel and McMaster testified that Joseph Smith had two stones.

Dr. Purple continued his narrative by stating:
"Joseph Smith, Sr., was present, and sworn as a witness. He confessed at great length all that his son had said in his examination. He delineated his characteristics in his youthful days -- his visions of the luminous stones in the glass -- his visit to Lake Erie in search of the stone -- and his wonderful triumphs as a seer. He described very many instances of his finding hidden and stolen goods. He swore that both he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given him should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures and with a long-faced, 'sanctimonious seeming, he said his constant prayer to his Heavenly Father was to manifest His will concerning this marvelous power. He trusted that the Son of Righteousness would some day illumine the heart of the boy, and enable him to see His will concerning Him. These words have ever had a strong impression on my mind. They seemed to contain a prophetic vision of the future history of that mighty delusion of the present century, Mormonism. The 'old man eloquent' with his lank and haggard visage -- his form very poorly clad -- indicating a wandering vagabond rather than an oracle of future events, has, in view of those events, excited my wonder, if not my admiration."
(The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 365-366)
Dr. Purple's statement concerning Joseph Smith's father presents a problem, for the "court record" says nothing about Joseph Smith's father giving testimony at the trial. There is a possibility, however, that the testimony of two of the witnesses was omitted when the trial was recorded. In the first published version of the trial (which we will discuss later) the costs of the trial were included at the end of the proceedings, and among these costs we find the statement that there were "SEVEN witnesses." If this is correct, then the testimony of some of the witnesses was not recorded in the "court record."

Dr. Purple goes on to relate the following:
"The next witness called was Deacon Isaiah Stowell. He confirmed all that is said above in relation to himself, and delineated many other circumstances not necessary to record. He swore that the prisoner possessed all the power he claimed, and declared he could see things fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plain as the witness could see what was on the Justice's table, and described very many circumstances to confirm his words. Justice Neeley soberly looked at the witness and in a solemn, dignified voice, said, 'Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plainly as you can see what is on my table?' 'Do I believe it? says Deacon Stowell, 'do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I positively know it to be true.'"
(The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, page 366)
The reader will note that Dr. Purple refers to this witness as "Isaiah Stowell:' The "court record,' however, gives the name as "Josiah Stowel." The Mormon writer F.L. Stewart states that there was a man named Isaiah Stowell in Bainbridge: "Dr. Purple also referred to Joseph's employer as 'Isaiah' and not 'Josiah' Stowel. Since there was also an 'Isaiah' Stowell living in South Bainbridge at the time, Dr. Purple apparently confused one with the other." (Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, p. 70) Since Dr. Purple talks of 'Deacon Isaiah Stowell' earlier in his narrative when speaking of Joseph Smith's employer, it is obvious that he was referring to Josiah Stowell.

The reader will note that Purple's account agrees with the "court record" instating that Josiah Stowell defended Joseph Smith and claimed to believe in Joseph Smith's ability to see hidden treasures in the earth. Purple claimed that when Stowell was asked if he believed that Joseph Smith "can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, " he replied: "Do I believe it?' says Deacon Stowell, 'do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I POSITIVELY KNOW it to be true.'" This should be compared with Stowells testimony in the "court record":

"Josiah Stowel sworn. Says that prisoner... pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were, by means of looking through a certain stone;... and that he POSITIVELY KNEW that the prisoner could tell, and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone... and had the most implicit faith in prisoner's skill. "

Dr. Purple finishes his narrative by stating:
"Mr. Thompson, an employee of Mr. Stowell, was the next witness. He and another man were employed in digging for treasure, and always attended the Deacon and Smith in their nocturnal labors. He could not assert that anything of value was ever obtained by them. The following scene was described by this witness, and carefully noted: Smith had told the Deacon that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences. So, after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith. Digging was commenced with fear and trembling, in the presence of this imaginary charm. In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel, on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp. One of the men placed his hand upon the box, but it gradually sunk from his reach. After some five feet in depth had been attained without success, a council of war against this spirit of darkness was called, and they resolved that the lack of faith, or some untoward mental emotion, was the cause of their failure.


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"In this emergency the fruitful mind of Smith was called on to devise a way to obtain the prize. Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness might be seen making a circuit around the spot, sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propitiation to the spirit that thwarted them. They then descended the excavation, but the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it was never obtained.

"What a picture for the pencil of a Hogarth! How difficult to believe it could have been enacted in the nineteenth century of the Christian era! It could have been done only by the halucination of deseased [sic] minds, that drew all their philosophy from the Arabian nights and other kindred literature of that period! But as it was declared under oath, in a Court of Justice, by one of the actors in the scene, and not disputed by his co-laborers it is worthy of recital as evincing the spirit of delusion that characterized those who originated that prince of humbugs, Mormonism

"These scenes occurred some four years before Smith, by the aid of his luminous stone, found the Golden Bible, or the Book of Mormon. The writer may at some subsequent day give your readers a chapter on its discovery and a synopsis of its contents. It is hardly necessary to say that, as the testimony of Deacon Stowell could not be impeached, the prisoner was discharged, and in a few weeks he left the town.   "Greene, April 28, 1877
(The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 366-368
While the "court record" gives the testimony of three other witnesses before that of Thompson, both accounts agree in stating that Thompson testified that a box of treasures slipped into the ground while he was digging. Below is a comparison of the two accounts.

            COURT RECORD
"After digging several feet, struck upon something sounding like a board or plank.... Thompson says ...the board which he struck his spade upon was probably the chest, but, on account of an enchantment, the trunk kept settling away from under them while digging; that, notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them." (Chapter 7:3)
            DR. PURPLE
"In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel, on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp. One of the men placed his hand upon the box, but it gradually sunk from his reach... the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it was never obtained."

The reader will notice that Purple's account tells of a lamb being sacrificed. While this is not included in the "court record," it is very possible that Joseph Smith may have ordered such a sacrifice. We know that Joseph Smith taught that animal sacrifices were to be restored, for in the History of the Church we find this statement attributed to him:

"...it is generally supposed that SACRIFICE was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e. the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus] was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future: but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood, or with the Prophets....

"These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings."
(History of the Church, Vol. 4, page 211)

Wandle Mace, a devout Mormon, recorded this statement in his journal:

"Joseph told them to go to Kirtland, and cleanse and purify a certain room in the Temple, that they MUST KILL A LAMB AND QFFc A SACRIFICE UNTO THE LORD which should prepare them to ordain Willard Richards a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles."
("Journal of Wandle Mace," page 32, microfilmed copy at Brigham Young University)

Mormon writers have pointed out a discrepancy at the end of Dr. Purple's account of the trial. Purple states that "the prisoner was discharged," whereas the "court record" claims that he was found "guilty."

Dr. Francis W. Kirkham feels there is a serious discrepancy between the two documents as to those who gave testimony at the trial. He gives the following names of witnesses in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol.2, pages 357-358 (we have placed the corresponding names side by side for easy comparison):

COURT RECORD
Josiah Stowell
Horace Stowell
Arad Stowell
 
Mr. McMaster
Jonathan Thompson
DR. PURPLE
Joseph Stowell
 
 
Joseph Smith Senior
 
M. Thompson


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             29


Dr. Kirkham lists one of the witnesses as "Joseph Stowell," but this is apparently a typographical error and should read "Isaiah Stowell." However this may be, the two lists are far from agreement, for Purple mentions Joseph Smith's father and omits three witnesses listed in the "court record." Of course, we must remember that it would be very easy for an old man to forget some of the witnesses who gave testimony and that Dr. Purple does not claim to give a full account of everything that happened at the trial. Speaking of the testimony given by Joseph Smith's employer, Dr. Purple states that there were "many other circumstances not necessary to record."

There is one thing, however, which may bring the two lists into closer harmony. The reader will notice that Purple states that the "affidavits of the SONS were read, and Mr. Smith was fully examined by the Court." If Horace and Arad Stowell were the sons of Josiah Stowell, this would help to bring the two accounts into closer agreement. By adding the names of two more Stowells to Dr. Purple's list, we come up with the following:

COURT RECORD
Josiah Stowell
Horace Stowell
Arad Stowell
 
Mr. McMaster
Jonathan Thompson
DR. PURPLE
Joseph Stowell
______ Stowell
______ Stowell
Joseph Smith, Sr.
 
M. Thompson

The Mormon writer Francis W. Kirkham makes this comment concerning Purple's account:

"The newspaper article by W. D. Purple, published in the Chenango Union under the date of May 3, 1877,... does NOT appear to have been known to Bishop Tuttle who also accused Joseph Smith of confessing in a Justice of the Peace court that he used a seer stone for purposes of deception."
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, page 467)

The following statement by Dr. Kirkham is found in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, p. 485:

"In as much as the alleged court record of 1883 and 1877 disagree extensively in content, it is more and more evident that both these records were written by different persons and at different times for the sole purposes of defaming the character of Joseph Smith and members of the Restored Church."

While it is true that there are a number of disagreements between the two accounts, these could be explained by the fact that Dr. Purple was writing fifty years after the events he was describing. It is interesting to note that the Mormon writer Richard L. Anderson feels that Joseph Smith's mother placed some events "a year too early" in her book. These events had occurred about twenty years before, yet Dr. Anderson states: "...it is remarkable that when Lucy Smith's dictated history is inaccurate in chronology, the deviation is confined to narrow limits." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, page 27)

As we stated before, Francis W. Kirkham points out that Dr. Purple dated the trial one month before the date that appears on the "court record." Now, if Joseph Smith's mother, writing twenty years after the events she describes, can be excused for an error of about a year in her chronology, we feel that Dr. Purple, writing fifty years later than the events he speaks of, can be excused for his error.

Taken as a whole, then, we feel that Dr. Purple's account is a remarkable document. It seems to add a great deal to Fawn Brodie's argument that the "court record" is a genuine document.

Tracing  the  Record

While Mormon writers were willing to concede that Purple mentioned the trial in 1877, they felt confident that no earlier mention of the trial would be discovered. Dr. Francis W. Kirkham made this statement:

"No account of the life of Joseph Smith written either by those who accepted his message as the truth, or those who tried to find a human explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, prior to Purple in 1877, and Tuttle in 1883, assert that Joseph Smith confessed in a court of law that he had used a seer stone for any purpose, and especially that the record of such confession was in existence"
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pp. 386-387)

After Dr. Kirkham made these statements an earlier printing of the "court record" was discovered in a magazine printed in England. Mrs. Brodie gives this information in the 1957 printing of her book:

"The court record was first published by Charles Marshall in Fraser's Magazine, London, February 1873.... Bishop Tuttle presented the original manuscript pages of the trial to the Utah Christian Advocate, which published them January 1886. At this point the manuscript seems to have disappeared."
(No Man Knows My History, page 418)

Mrs. Brodie's statements show that the trial had been printed ten years before Bishop Tuttle's work, and four years before Purple's account appeared. In a "Supplement" to his book, Dr. Kirkham conceded


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that the "court record" had been printed as early as 1873:

"Apparently the source of the alleged court record published by Bishop D. S. Tuttle in 1883 is now known. It was printed in Fraser's Magazine, London, in February 1873, republished in the Eclectic Magazine, New York, April 1873, and again in the Utah Christian Advocate, January 1886."
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pages 485-486)

The reader will remember that Mrs. Brodie stated the "court record" was "first unearthed in southern New York by Daniel S. Tuttle,... " Dr. Kirkham contested this statement:

"It can be definitely asserted that Daniel S. Tuttle could not have visited this county prior to 1883, and found such a record that he allegedly reports." (Ibid., page 389)

Further research revealed that the original manuscript pages were brought to Utah about 1870 by Emily Pearsall. The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated:

"This alleged court record was brought to Utah in the 1870's by a woman who said that she had torn the pages from her father's record book. It seems to be a literary attempt of an enemy to ridicule Joseph Smith by bringing together all the current gossip of that day and making him appear to confess to it." (Joseph Smith -- Seeker After Truth, Salt Lake City, 1951, page 78)

Mormon writers were very critical of the fact that Miss Pearsall tore the pages from the record book. Francis W. Kirkham stated:

"In all probability a pretended court record of a trial in 1826 was brought to Utah by Miss Emily Pearsall in 1871, who died a few years later.... Why did she not bring the book so the evidence would be complete and irrefutable? These leaves of a claimed record were shown to Charles Marshall as early as 1871, published February 1873... Why were these leaves torn from a book lost or destroyed?"
(A New Witness For Christ in America, Vol. 2, p. 492)

While it is true that the leaves should not have been torn from the book, this is the kind of mistake that people who are not familiar with historical research frequently make. For instance, we have often seen people tear out interesting clippings from the newspaper, but forget to write down the date or even the name of the paper.

The pages were brought to Utah, and in the early 1870's they were examined by Charles Marshall. In an article published in England in 1873, Mr. Marshall stated:

"During my stay in Salt Lake permission was courteously accorded me to copy out a set of such judicial proceedings, not hitherto published. I cannot doubt their genuineness. The original papers were lent me by a lady of well-known position, in whose family they had been preserved since the date of the transactions. I reproduce them here, partly to fulfil a duty of assisting to preserve a piece of information about the prophet,..."
(Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1873, Vol. VII, page 229)

When Daniel S. Tuttle published the "court record" in 1883, he apparently did not realize that it had been printed ten years before. He stated:

"In what light he appeared to others may be gathered from the following extract, never before published, from the records of the proceedings before a justice of the peace of Bainbridge, Chenango County, N.Y." --
(New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1883, Vol. 2, page 1576)

In January, 1886, the Utah Christian Advocate printed the "court record." They claimed that they had "received the Manuscript from Bishop Tuttle..." Thus it appears that the original pages were in Salt Lake City for at least 13 years. During this time the Mormons could have contested the authenticity of these pages if they did not believe they were genuine. It appears, however, that the Mormon leaders chose to ignore the issue. Francis W. Kirkham states:

"A careful search has been made in Utah and England Mormon publications for an answer or reply to the claims of this alleged court record. Up to the present, none have been found. It would appear that the Utah people, accustomed to such accusations against their beloved Prophet and such claims of their superstition and ignorance, made no reply."
(A New Witness For Christ in America, Vol. 2, pages 473-474)

There were probably a number of ways in which the authenticity of the original pages could have been determined at that time. The handwriting could have been examined, and other tests performed on these pages. The Mormons could have called on the opposition to produce the original book. Besides, there may have been eyewitnesses of the trial still living at that time. That the non-Mormons did little to establish the genuineness of the pages may be explained by the fact that the Mormons did not contest their authenticity at the time.

The "court record" was published at least three times by people who had access to the original pages. Dr. Kirkham not only rejects the authenticity of the original pages, but he also tries to cast doubt upon the accuracy of the printed versions:

"In 1871 Emily Pearsall may have brought to Bishop Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, to help him in his bitter opposition to the Latter-day Saint people, leaves from a book of some kind, written sometime,


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             31


somewhere, by some one. But it was not a court record. She brought no proof of its validity. C. H. Marshall made a copy. Did he change the contents of the reported leaves from a record? Emily Pearsall had died before the printing and could have made no corrections. Bishop Tuttle published the contents of the leaves torn from a book, either changed and edited or as originally written,..."
(A New Witness For Christ in America, Vol. 2, pages 496-497)

We have compared the versions printed by the three different individuals who had access to the original pages, and we find that the printings are essentially the same. Charles Marshall omitted the testimony of Horace Stowel, but as this only amounts to about 40 words it was probably omitted by accident. It appears in both of the other printings.

The discovery of the two additional printings may provide some important evidence in the matter of the trial's authenticity. Tuttle's account, published in 1883, ends with this statement: "and thereupon the court finds the defendant guilty." The two other versions, however, include a statement of the costs of the trial at the end of the proceedings. In the first printed version we read:

"And therefore the Court find the Defendant guilty. Costs: Warrant, 19c. Complaint upon oath, 25 1/2c. Seven witnesses, 87 1/2c. Recognisances, 25c. Mittimus, 19c. Recognisances of witnesses, 75c. Subpoena, 18c. -- $2.68.
(Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1873, Vol. VII, page 230)

The fact that the costs were included is verified by the 1886 printing in the Utah Christian Advocate. Francis W. Kirkham quotes the following from "Bender's Manual for all counties and Town Officers," 15th edition, 1837:

"The civil docket shall show in each case the names of the plaintiff and the defendant and their attorneys, if there be any, the names and addresses of all the witnesses sworn, the names of the persons constituting the jury, if any, and the final disposition of the case, together with an itemization of all costs collected therein."
(A New Witness for Christ in America, Vol. 2, page 389)

We do not know if this rule would apply to a justice of the peace in Bainbridge in 1826, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the costs would be included in such a record. Therefore, the fact that the costs are itemized in the 1826 "court record" seems to give it a more authentic appearance.

The fact that the "court record" was published three different times by people who had access to the original pages makes us almost certain that we have an accurate copy of these pages. The question remains, however, whether the original pages were actually taken from a court record book. The Mormon writer F. L. Stewart seems willing to admit that Miss Pearsall, who had lived at Bainbridge, brought the pages to Bishop Tuttle:

"Actually this document was first submitted for publication by Bishop Tuttle when it was presented to him by a missionary, a Miss Emily Pearsall, who had gone to Utah from Bainbridge in 1870. She said she had torn the document from the court record book of a relative."
(Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, pages 64-65)

Bishop Tuttle claimed that either Miss Pearsall's "father or uncle was a Justice of the Peace in Bainbridge, " and that she tore the leaves from the original record book. We find this statement in the Utah Christian Advocate for January, 1886:

"The document we print below is interesting to those, who desire historic light on the origin of Mormonism. We received the Manuscript from Bishop Tuttle; and the following, from the good bishop's pen, explains how he came into possession of the Manuscript: -- 'The Ms. was given me by Miss Emily Pearsall who, some years since, was a woman helper in our mission and lived in my family, and died here. Her father or uncle was a Justice of the Peace in Bainbridge Chenango Co., New York, in Jo. Smith's time, and before him Smith was tried. Miss Pearsall tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's house and brought them to me.'"

Stanley S. Ivins did a great deal of research regarding this matter and found that Miss Pearsall's uncle was named Albert Neely. The reader will recollect that Dr. Purple stated Joseph Smith was tried before "Albert Neely, Esq., the father of Bishop Neely of the State of Maine." Mr. Ivins gives this information in his notes on the 1826 trial:

"HISTORY OF CHENANGO & MADISON COUNTIES, N.Y., By James Smith -- D. Mason & Co. (Syracuse, N.Y.) 1880.

"P. 176 -- Smith says that Albert Neely was a vestryman of the St. Peters Protestant Episcopal Church in Bainbridge in 1825.

"HISTORY & GENEOLOGY OF THE PEARSALL FAMILY IN ENGLAND & AMERICA. -- Edited by Clarence E, and Hettie May Pearsall and Harry L. Neal

Vol. 2. pp. 1143, 1144, 1151 -- Thomas Pearsall moved from Long Island to Chenango County, N.Y., in 1790. Among his children were Robert and Phebe Pearsall. Phebe married Albert Neely, and their son Hanry A. became the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Maine. Robert Pearsall married Flavia Newton and lived at Bainbridge, N.Y. Their second child was: "Emily Pearsall, born January 25, 1833;died November 5, 1872, at the home of Bishop D. S. Tuttle, Salt Lake City, Utah, where she had gone as in Episcopal missionary. She was unmarried." (Stanley S. Ivins' notes, now in the Utah State Historical Society Library, Salt Lake City, Utah)


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Stanley S. Ivins' research plainly shows that Miss Pearsall was related to Justice Neely, and therefore it was certainly possible that she could have taken the pages from his record book.

Mentioned  in  1831

We have shown that at first Dr. Kirkham claimed the trial was not mentioned before 1877, but that he later had to admit that it was printed in 1873. Dale L. Morgan, a noted historian, discovered that the trial was actually mentioned as early as 1831 in a letter published in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, published in Utica, N.Y. The letter is "signed A.W.B., and Mr. Morgan identifies him from subsequent articles as A. W. Benton." (No Man Knows My History, page 418A) Since Mr. Benton lived in Bainbridge, his account is very important. Wesley P. Walters has furnished us with a photograph of Benton's account as it appears in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate. We will reprint this article in its entirety, although we will do it in sections to include some of our own observations:
"Messrs. Editors -- In the sixth number of your paper I saw a notice of a sect of people called Mormonites; and thinking that a fuller history of their founder, Joseph Smith, jr., might be interesting to community, and particularly to your correspondent in Ohio, where, perhaps, the truth concerning him may be hard to come at, I will take the trouble to make a few remarks on the character of that infamous impostor. For several years preceding the appearance of his book, HE WAS ABOUT THE COUNTRY IN THE CHARACTER OF A GLASS-LOOKER: PRETENDING, BY MEANS OF A CERTAIN STONE, OR GLASS, WHICH HE PUT IN A HAT, TO BE ABLE TO DISCOVER LOST GOODS, HIDDEN TREASURES, MINES OF GOLD AND SILVER, &C. Although he constantly failed in his pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words. In this town, a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure."
(Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120)
We have previously quoted Francis W. Kirkham as maintaining that "The use of the seer stone by Joseph Smith buried in a hat to exclude the light, seemed to have had its origin and emphasis in Mormonism Unveiled, 1834." (A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, p. 469) The reader will notice, however, that A. W. Benton states that Joseph Smith was using a stone or glass which he placed in a hat. Since his letter was published April 9, 1831, it clearly shows that this was publicly known years before Mormonism Unvailed was printed.

A. W. Benton goes on to relate that Joseph Smith was arrested as a disorderly person:
"At length the public, becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living from their earnings, had him arrested as A DISORDERLY PERSON, TRIED AND CONDEMNED BEFORE A COURT OF JUSTICE. But considering his youth, (he then being a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO. From this time he absented himself from this place, returning only privately, and holding clandestine intercourse with his credulous dupes, for two or three years."
(Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120)
The reader will notice that Benton claimed that Joseph Smith was "arrested as A DISORDERLY PERSON:' This agrees well with the "court record;' for it states that Joseph Smith was "A DISORDERLY PERSON and an impostor" Benton's statement also agrees with the "court record" in stating that Joseph Smith was found guilty.

The "court record' states that the trial took place on March 20, 1826. This would have been five years prior to the time Benton wrote his letter in 1831. Mr. Benton states that the trial took place "FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO:'

Mr. Benton goes on to relate that Joseph Smith was arrested again in 1830:
"It was during this time, and probably by the help of others more skilled in the ways of iniquity than himself, that he formed the blasphemous design of forging a new revelation, which, backed by the terrors of an endless hell, and the testimony of base unprincipled men, he hoped would frighten the ignorant, and open a field of speculation for the vicious, so that he might secure to himself the scandalous honor of being the founder of a new sect, which might rival, perhaps, the Wilkinsonians, or the French Prophets of the 17th century.

"During the past Summer he was frequently in this vicinity, and others of the baser sort, as Cowdry, Whitmer, etc., holding meetings, and proselyting a few weak and silly women, and still more silly men, whose minds are shrouded in a mist of ignorance which no ray can penetrate, and whose credulity the utmost absurdity cannot equal.

"In order to check the progress of delusion, and open the eyes and understandings of those who blindly followed him, and unmask the turpitude and villany of those who knowingly abetted him in his infamous designs; he was again arrainged before a bar of Justice, during last Summer, to answer to a charge of misdemeanor.
(Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9,1831, p. 120)
Joseph Smith himself tells of this trial in his History of the Church:

"I was visited by a constable, and arrested by him on a warrant, on the charge of being a disorderly person, of setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon, etc.... He drove on to the town of South Bainbridge, Chenango county, where he lodged... the day following, a court was convened


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             33



[ image - not reproduced ]


A photograph from the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120. This photograph proves that Joseph Smith's trouble with the law was known at an early date.


34                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


for the purpose of investigating those charges which had been preferred against me." (History of the Church, Vol. 1, pages 88-89)

A. W. Benton gives this information concerning the trial:
"This trial led to an investigation of his character and conduct, which clearly evinced to the unprejudiced, whence the spirit came which dictated his inspirations. During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same manic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, &c. Oliver Cowdry, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.

"So much for the gift and power of God, by which Smith says he translated his book. Two transparent stones, undoubtedly of the same properties, and the gift of the same spirit as the one in which he looked to find his neighbor's goods. -- It is reported, and probably true, that he commenced his juggling by stealing and hiding property belonging to his neighbors, and when inquiry was made, he would look in his stone, (his gift and power) and tell where it was. Josiah Stowell, a Mormonite, being sworn, testified that he positively knew that said Smith never had lied to, or deceived him, and did not believe he ever tried to deceive any body else. The following questions were then asked him, to which he made the replies annexed.

"Did Smith ever tell you there was money hid in a certain place which he mentioned?   Yes.   Did he tell you, you could find it by digging?   Yes.   Did you dig?   Yes.   Did you find any money?   No.   Did he not lie to you then, and deceive you?   No! the money was there, but we did not get quite to it!   How do you know it was there?   Smith said it was!   Addison Austin was next called upon, who testified, that at the very same time that Stowell 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.' Here, then, we have his own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest impostor. As regards the testimony of Josiah Stowell, it needs no comment. He swears positively that Smith did not lie to him. So much for a Mormon witness."
(Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120)
In his History of the Church, Joseph Smith states that among the "many witnesses called up against me, was Mr. Josiah Stoal..." (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 89) Smith claimed that his former employer defended him. In fact, he quoted him as giving this testimony:

"Did not the prisoner, Joseph Smith, have a horse of you?'
  "'Yes

"Did not he go to you and tell you that an angel had appeared unto him and authorized him to get the horse from you?'
  "No, he told me no such story."

"Well, how had he the horse of you?"
  "He bought him of me as any other man would."

"Have you had your pay?"
  "That is not your business."

"The question being again put, the witness replied:
  "I hold his note for the price of the horse, which I consider as good as the pay; for I am well acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jun., and know him to be an honest man; and if he wishes, I am ready to let him have another horse on the same terms.'"
(History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 90)

While Joseph Smith says nothing about his money-digging activities being brought up at this trial, he goes on to relate that after he was acquitted he was again arrested and taken "about fifteen miles" to Broome County, where his money-digging was discussed:

"Mr. Seymour now addressed the court, and in a long and violent harangue endeavored to blacken my character... he brought up the story of my having been a money-digger; and in this manner proceeded, hoping evidently to influence the court and the people against me.
(History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 93)

Mr. Benton finishes his letter by stating:
"Paramount to this, in truth and consistency, was the testimony of Joseph Knight, another Mormonite. Newel Knight, son of the former, and also a Mormonite, testified, under oath, that he positively had a devil cast out of himself by the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, jr., and that he saw the devil after it was out, but could not tell how it looked!

"Those who have joined them in this place, are, without exception, children who are frightened into the measure, or ignorant adults, whose love for the marvellous is equalled by nothing but their entire devotedness to the will of their leader; with a few who are as destitute of virtue and moral honesty, as they are of truth and consistency. As for his book, it is only the counterpart of his money-digging plan. Fearing the penalty of the law, and wishing still to amuse his followers, he fled for safety to the sanctuary of pretended religion.   A.W.B.
  "S. Bainbridge, Chen. co., March, 1831."
(Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120)


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             35


Joseph Smith gives little information concerning the trial at Bainbridge in 1830, nor does he have much to say about the trial which followed in Broome county. He does, however, state that his "former faithful friends and lawyers" were again at his side at the latter trial. He stated that at this trial Newel Knight did testify that the devil was cast out of him through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith. Evidently Knight was unable to describe the appearance of the devil, for Joseph Smith quoted him as saying:

"'Well, then,' replied Knight, 'it would be of no use to tell you what the devil looked like, for it was a spiritual sight, and spiritually discerned; and of course you would not understand it were I to tell you of it." (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 93)

The details which A.W. Benton gives of the 1830 trial are very convincing, and some of his statements are even confirmed by Joseph Smith's own History of the Church. Therefore, we feel that his statement that Joseph Smith was arrested as "a disorderly person" some "four or five years" before, must be given serious consideration. Even the Mormon apologist F.L. Stewart has to admit that A.W. Benton's letter is "impressive and puzzling" (Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 71).

Cowdery's  Statement

Dr. Hugh Nibley tries to dismiss Benton's letter as "fiction." In his book, The Myth Makers, we find the following statements:

"...are inclined to regard A. W. B.'s story of the 1826 trial as fiction.... part, at least, of A.W. B.'s story is made up. But without the reality of the peep-stones, the whole legend of the 1826 trial collapses. The 1830 trial was real; the 1826 trial, unattested in any source but his for fifty years, was a product of A.W. B's own wishful thinking."
(The Myth Makers, Salt Lake City, 1961, page 157)

Actually, there is some very good evidence from a Mormon source to show that Joseph Smith had some trouble with the law after he began working for Josiah Stowell. In 1835 Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, wrote the following:

"Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the State, (Chenango County,) employed our brother as a common laborer, and accordingly he visited that section of the country; and had he not been accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehannah, or causing others to do it by some art of nicromancy, I should leave this, for the present unnoticed.... This gentleman, whose name is Stowel, resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head waters of the Susquehannah river. Some forty miles south, or down the river, in the town of Harmony, Susquehannah county, Pa. is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess,... where a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the county was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money; after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a part still in the cave, purposing to return at some distant period. A long time elapsed and this account came from one of the individuals who was first engaged in this mining business. The country was pointed out and the spot minutely described.... Enough however, was credited of the Spaniard's story, to excite the belief of many that there was a fine sum of the precious metal lying coined in this subterraneous vault, among whom was our employer; and accordingly our brother was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth, in pursuit of this treasure.
...
"On the private character of our brother I need add nothing further, at present, previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites, only that while in that country, SOME VERY OFFICIOUS PERSON COMPLAINED OF HIM AS A DISORDERLY PERSON, AND BROUGHT HIM BEFORE THE AUTHORITIES OF THE COUNTY; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquited."
(Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, October, 1835, Vol. 2, pages 200 & 201)

Notice that Oliver Cowdery stated that this happened "previous" to the time Joseph Smith obtained the "records of the Nephites." Since Joseph Smith obtained the plates on September 22, 1827, this would me an that he had trouble with the law prior to that time. While Oliver Cowdery disagrees with the "court record" when he states that Joseph Smith was acquited, he is in agreement with the "court record" and with A . W. Benton's letter in stating that Joseph Smith was charged with being "A DISORDERLY PERSON."

The Mormon writer F. L. Stewart tries to make Oliver Cowdery's statements refer to an incident that occurred in 1828:

"The above statement does not apply to any alleged trial of 1826, and for that matter not to any trial where Joseph Smith was found guilty and fined. It best applies to another incident altogether.

"While Joseph was 'in that country' (Chenango county, New York -- Harmony, Pennsylvania area) Lucy Harris, 'a very officious person' (which would be a polite way to describe the vindictive wife of a fellow Church member, Martin Harris) complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the county: but there being no cause for action, he was honorably acquitted.'

"Joseph's mother gives details of this incident that occurred while Joseph was in Pennsylvania dictating to Oliver Cowdery in 1828... It is the above incident that Oliver Cowdery was most likely describing."
(Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 72)

This is an interesting attempt to explain away Cowdery's statement. The reader will note, however, that Cowdery plainly states that the trouble occurred "previous" to the time Joseph Smith obtained the plates,


36                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


and Joseph Smith clearly states that he obtained them on "the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven,..." (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 18) Thus it is plain to see that F. L. Stewart's explanation of Cowdery's statement cannot be accepted. The Mormon writer Richard L. Anderson frankly states that Stewart is in error with regard to this matter, although he does not believe that the "court record" is authentic:

"A final chapter is added that contains an imaginary dialogue between Stewart and Brodie concerning the supposed transcript of an 1826 trial of Joseph Smith popularized by No Man Knows My History.... In regard to the subject of this chapter, however, more evidential work needs to be done on what appears to be a fictitious transcript of a genuine trial.... Stewart attempts to equate this early trial with one mentioned by Lucy Smith in Wayne County in 1829. But this conclusion violates Cowdery's description both in location and chronology; the trial he mentions took place 'previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites.'"
(Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, pp. 231-232)

Francis W. Kirkham feels that the "court record" is not genuine, but he is willing to concede that Joseph Smith may have been arrested in 1826:

"While residing in Chenango County, probably March 1826, Joseph Smith may have been arrested and brought before a justice of the peace, either as a disorderly person or as a vagrant. As there was no evidence to convict him, he was discharged being still under 21 years of age, with the hope he would reform....

"Both Oliver Cowdery and A. W. Benton agree that Joseph Smith was discharged by the justice.... It is beyond any reason to assume that either of these two men confirm the ridiculous assumed confession of Joseph Smith on leaves torn from a record brought to Utah by Emily Pearsall in 1871 or the memories written by W.D. Purple, who said he was invited to take notes at the trial, but whose writings were not printed until 50 years after the event."
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pages 491-492)

The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe also doubts the authenticity of the "court record," but he is willing to admit that Joseph Smith was brought into court in 1826:

"Only one arrest of Joseph Smith has been found between his eighteenth and twenty-second year. While working for Josiah Stoal, 'some very officious person complained of him, Joseph Smith, as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the county. There being no cause of action, he was honorably acquitted.'"
(Joseph Smith -- Seeker After Truth, page 79)

"1. He stood before law courts, for various reasons, from March, 1826, until the end of his days: justices' courts, county, municipal, and district courts of the American states, and the Federal District Courts."
(Ibid., page 214)

Historical  Setting

Although the "court record" for the 1826 trial was not published until many years after Joseph Smith's death, the information given in the record seems to agree well with facts derived from many other sources. For one thing, we know that Joseph Smith was probably in the area of Bainbridge at the time the trial was supposed to have occurred. The Mormon writer F. L. Stewart states that "it was common knowledge that Joseph Smith lived in Bainbridge in 1826." (Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 66) Furthermore, we know that Joseph Smith was working for Josiah Stowell at the time. In his testimony Josiah Stowell claimed that Joseph Smith "had been at his house something like five months." This statement is in harmony with a statement made by Joseph Smith himself:

"In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel, who lived in Chenango county, state of New York- He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards... After I went to live with him, he took me,... to dig for the silver mine,... Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger.
(History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 17)

If we add five months to the date given by Joseph Smith -- i.e. ,October, 1825 -- it would make the date March, 1826, and the reader will remember that the trial was supposed to have been held March 20,1826.

In the "court record" we read that Josiah Stowell "positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone;..." This would be in harmony with the statement by Joseph Smith's mother that Stowel "came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, by Lucy Smith, London,1853, pp.91-92) Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, gave this very revealing information:

"Joseph had had this stone for some time. There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients. Of this company were old Mr. Stowel -- I think his name was Josiah -- also old Mr. Beman, also Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, Joseph Smith, jr., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith. They dug for money in Palmyra, Manchester, also in Pennsylvania, and other places. When Joseph found this STONE, there was a company digging in Harmony, Pa., and they took Joseph to look in the stone for them, and he did so


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             37


for a while, and then he told them the enchantment was so strong that he could not see, and they gave it up." (Tiffany's Monthly, 1859, page 164)

In his testimony at the trial, Stowell states that Joseph Smith used the stone to locate "a salt-spring. This is very interesting because in 1880 Frederic G. Mathers wrote an article in which he stated:

"Three miles above Nineveh lies Afton, just on the edge of Chenango county, and a short distance above are Sidney, in Delaware county, and Otego, in Otsego county. Smith and his followers operated with the peek-stone in this part of the valley, where he was a comparative stranger. George Collington, one of the most substantial farmers in Broome county, was then a lad of sixteen. One evening, at twilight, he discovered Smith, Joseph Knight, William Hale (uncle of Smith's wife) and two men named Culver and Blowers in the act of dodging through the woods with shovels and picks upon their shoulders, their object being to discover a SALT-SPRING by the agency of the peek-stone. He followed them, under cover of the brush, to a point where they stopped for consultation and finally decided to dig the next day. Noticing that Bostwick Badger, who then owned the farm now occupied by Collington, had felled an oak near the place, and that he had drawn out the timber, Collington obtained permission to cut the top for wood. Collington's axe and the prophet's diggers began operations about the same time on the following morning. Out from the treetop came Collington and asked what they were doing. They told him to mind his business, which he did by thoroughly publishing them about the neighborhood -- a proceeding that brought them a number of unwelcome visitors in the place of one. Frederick Davenport furnished young Collington with a half bushel of salt to be deposited in the hole at night. By Morning the water had dissolved the salt and retained its briny flavor. Bottles were filled for exhibition, and the stock of the converts in the peek-stone ran high until the trick was discovered. It was claimed that the peek-stone also pointed out an extensive silver-mine on the farm of Abram Cornell at Bettsburg, nearly opposite Nineveh. No silver was found except that furnished by Josiah Stowell, a not over-bright man whose little all went into the pocket of Smith."
(Lippincott's Magazine, Vol. XXVI, 1880, pp, 202-203

The "court record" states that the warrant was issued "upon oath of PETER G. BRIDGMAN..." In his notes on the 1826 trial Stanley Ivins presents evidence to show that Peter G. Bridgman was a resident of Afton (Bainbridge):

"HISTORY OF CHENANGO & MADISON COUNTIES, N.Y., By James Smith -- D. Mason & Co. (Syracuse, N.Y.) 1880.
.....
P. 152 --In his sketch of North Afton, Smith says that the North Afton Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated at a Feb. 17, 1829 meeting presided over by PETER G. BRIDGMAN and Rev. George Evans."

Wesley P. Walters has pointed out the possibility that Peter G. Bridgman may have been related to Josiah Stowell's wife, for, according to Larry C. Porter, her name was "Mariam Bridgeman Stowell" (Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, page 376).

Stanley Ivins also found evidence that Arad Stowel, McMaster and Jonathan Thompson, who are listed as witnesses at the trial, were in the area at about that time:

"P. 150 -- In his sketch of Afton Village, Smith says that, when the South Bainbridge Presbyterian Society was organized, in 1825, Arad Stowell and David McMaster were two of the trustees....

"P.322 -- Smith says that in 1822 Jonathan Thompson was supervisor of the town of Norwich,"

We know, of course, that Josiah Stowell lived at Bainbridge (see Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 81). The "court record" presents him as giving testimony favorable to Joseph Smith. This seems consistent with Stowell's feelings about Joseph Smith, for according to Joseph Smith, Stowell spoke of his honesty in the 1830 trial. This is confirmed by A.W. Benton's letter.

According to the 1826 "court record," Jonathan Thompson gave testimony favorable to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith states that a man named Jonathan Thompson testified at the 1830 trial. This testimony also appears favorable:

"Mr. Jonathan Thompson was next called up and examined:

"Has not the prisoner, Joseph Smith Jun., had a yoke of oxen of you?'
  "Yes.

"Did he not obtain them of you by telling you that he had a revelation to the effect that he was to have them?'
  "No, he did not mention a word of the kind concerning the oxen; he purchased them the same as any other man would."
(History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 90)

Thus we see that the 1826 trial seems to have a good historical setting. The Mormon apologist F.L. Stewart admits that the record lists individuals who are known to have lived in the area of Bainbridge, but she states: "...this merely indicates that it was written by someone who was familiar with Bainbridge and its citizens. This narrows the field, but still gives us hundreds of potential authors." (Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 67)

In the "court record" Joseph Smith stated that he had been "going to school" at the time he lived with Josiah Stowell. Since Mormon writers have claimed that Joseph Smith's "school education was very meager" (Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, by John A. Widtsoe, p. 67), we were surprised to read that he was still attending school when he was about twenty years old. At first this seemed like a mark against the authenticity


38                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


of the "court record." Further research, however, seems to show that Joseph Smith did attend school in Bainbridge. In his book, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York, James H. Smith stated:

"Smith, while here, attended school in District No. 9." (History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, page 381)

The Mormon writer Larry C. Porter gives this information:

"Both the townships of Coleville and Bainbridge traditionally claim that Joseph Smith attended school in their respective districts at some juncture during his residency there."
(Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, page 370)

Wesley P. Walters gives this interesting information in a letter he has allowed us to use:

"While it is true that Smith would be 19-20 years old during the period he was at Bainbridge, in the rural one-room school system that generally prevailed, so far as I know, there was no age limitation on school attendance. With the necessity of boys helping with farm work during spring, summer & fall, plus chores in winter, school -- even in the winter -- often became a hit or miss proposition."

In the same letter Wesley P. Walters made some interesting comments with regard to other problems connected with the "court record”:

"The bigger problem is the fact that the record refers simply to "Joseph Smith" instead of Joseph Smith, Jr."... The trial was held at a Justice of the Peace Court. Generally -- at least it is true in Illinois -- this did not require a complete stenographic record of every word that was said, nor was it necessary to retain the trial record or to turn it over to the county court house. This is why Neely could have the book in his possession. In our little village I know of one J. P. court record book from about 1920 following that is tucked away in the attic of the descendant of that J. P. So under such rather loose form of record-keeping, unlike the more formal courts, I don't think the lack of the term "Jr." can be pressed too hard. (This laxity of recording would account for Purple giving added information not in the court record).... the J. P. Court records lack the legal niceties that are usually present in more formal courts of justice."

Although the evidence supporting the authenticity of the "court record" seems to be rather convincing, more research needs to be done. Larry C. Porter, "a doctoral candidate in history of religion at Brigham Young University," has recently written an article which deals with Joseph Smith's connection with Josiah Stowell. This article is well documented from primary sources. At first glance, it appears that Mr. Porter has omitted all reference to the 1826 trial. A more careful examination of his article, however, reveals that he has endorsed the authenticity of the "court record." He states:

"...Mr. Stowell had hired a number of workmen to assist him in seeking for the purported treasure. In 1825 he was desirous of securing Joseph's services 'on account of having heard that he possessed certain means, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye, as he had heard while visiting a relative, SIMPSON STOWELL, at Palmyra, New York. He offered $14 per month to Joseph, who initially demurred. But the insistence of Mr. Stowell and the prospect of good wages apparently prompted him and his father to go to the site on the Susquehanna."
(Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, page 366)

The reader may notice that Larry C. Porter's statement that Josiah Stowell learned of Joseph Smith's skill "while visiting a relative, Simpson Stowell, at Palmyra," sounds like the testimony of Josiah Stowell as printed in the "court record": "...that prisoner looked through stone and described Josiah Stowel's house and outhouses, while at Palmyra at Simpson Stowel's, correctly;..." (Fraser's Magazine, February, 1873, page 229) That Larry C. Porter was referring to the court record is obvious from his footnote: "Fraser's Magazine, New series, Vol. 7 (February 1873), p.229;..." (Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, page 366, footnote 7)

Thus we see that Mr. Porter has endorsed the authenticity of the "court record" without really mentioning the trial. Perhaps he will refer to this trial in another article he hopes to write about Joseph Smith's legal difficulties in New York.







[ 39 ]



Part  3

HOWE'S  AFFIDAVITS


The Mormon historian B.H. Roberts made these statements concerning the affidavits published by E.D. Howe in 1834:

"The evidence relied upon to support the charge of being lazy, shiftless, intemperate and unreliable as to speaking the truth, is from a collection of affidavits made in Palmyra, and Manchester, New York; and in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in the closing months of 1833, and published in E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled, 1834.... Hurlburt had been expelled from the 'Mormon' church in Kirtland, in June, 1833, for immoralities; and because he had threatened to take the life of Joseph Smith, Jun., he was placed under bonds...

"Hurlburt between these two events, -- his excommunication and his trial for threatening the life of Joseph Smith, Jun., -- was sent as the special agent of the anti-'Mormon' party in and about Kirtland, to gather up all that report had to say about the Prophet and his family both in Palmyra, New York, and in Harmony, Pennsylvania. The collection of affidavits in Howe's Mormonism Unveiled was the result. It was simply a matter of 'muck raking' on Hurlburt's part. Every idle story, every dark insinuation which at that time could be thought of and unearthed was pressed into service to gratify this man's personal desire for revenge,..." (Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, pp. 40-41)

The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe made these comments concerning this matter:

"In the preparation of a book against the Church he secured from upwards of a hundred people in Palmyra and vicinity unfriendly affidavits as to the character of Joseph Smith and his family. This was done in 1833, eight or ten years after the period discussed in the affidavits.... The affidavits are weak and watery,...

"The spirit of religious intolerance which ran high in those days explains these affidavits.... Honest historians would accept with much caution statements made by such a combination. In Mormonism Unvailed hate and the lust for money stand out primarily...

"The famous affidavits in Howe's book are remarkably alike in composition. One hand must have written them. They have little to say about 'peepstones'; much about treasure hunting and the deluded nature of the Smith family."
(Joseph Smith -- Seeker After Truth, pp. 76, 77 and 80)

Although Mormon writers condemn others for using these affidavits, they often use them when it serves their purpose. For instance, the Mormon writer F.L. Stewart cites the affidavit of Abigail Harris to try to prove a point: "An excerpt from an affidavit of Abigail Harris, presumably the sister-in-law of Martin Harris, collected by Hurlburt, makes it clear that Harris was in Palmyra at that time:..." (Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 40)

Francis W. Kirkham also finds some statements in the affidavits useful:

"Further evidence of the knowledge of the facts of the 'coming forth' and publication of the Book of Mormon by persons who knew the Joseph Smith family personally from 1816 until 1830 when the book was presented to the public are the affidavits of many residents of Palmyra and vicinity. These were obtained by Philastus Hurlburt in 1833....

"In his anger, Hurlburt went to Palmyra and obtained affidavits from more than sixty citizens who declared they personally knew the Joseph Smith family and were willing to add that they knew them to be ignorant, lazy, deluded, deceivers, money diggers, etc. , etc....

"Although they were willing to defame the personal character of Joseph Smith, yet they agree with the Prophet's statement and that of his mother and others regarding the physical facts of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and how and where Joseph Smith spent his time and energy while the book was in process of production.... A very important affidavit is by Isaac Hale, father-in-law of Joseph Smith,... many important events regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon are confirmed by the neighbors of Joseph Smith,...

"The affidavits were to prejudice the reader against Joseph Smith... Fortunately, however, these many persons who knew Joseph Smith intimately have left their personal knowledge of the physical facts of the origin of the Book of Mormon as known to the residents of Palmyra at the time. In this manner they have left for all time proof that Joseph Smith declared the possession of an ancient record entrusted to him by divine power at the time of the event. They give the same persons, the same facts,


40                              Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             


and the same dates as were later written by Joseph Smith. They did not anticipate that their declarations concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon would thus be important, corroborative evidence, of the declarations of Joseph Smith concerning its divine origin.'
(A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, page 137)

The Mormon writer Hyrum L. Andrus states: "Though these affidavits reflect the prejudice that was manifested toward the Smiths, they verify the physical facts relating .o the origin of the Book of Mormon." (God, Man and the Universe, page 69, footnote 34)

Thus we see that even Mormon writers use Howe's affidavits when it is to their advantage.

Although we feel that some of the witnesses may have exaggerated in their testimony, we feel that the affidavits contain important information concerning the money-digging activities of the Smith family. The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe argues that the affidavits in Howe's book "are remarkably alike in composition." This may be true, but the "THE TESTIMONY OF THREE WINTESSES" and "THE TESTIMONY OF EIGHT WITNESSES" in the Book of Mormon are also "remarkably alike in composition." Mormons would not reject the Book of Mormon because of this; instead, they would point out that the witnesses all signed their names, regardless of who drew up the statements. Hurlburt might have influenced the wording of the affidavits in Howe's book, but the individuals signed their names, and this indicates that they approved of the contents. The Mormon writer F. L. Stewart stated: "ALL apparently were heavily edited by Hurlburt or dictated by him, as they bear a remarkable similarity in language and style." (Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, page 25) Richard L. Anderson, of Brigham Young University, has made a discovery which seems to disprove that Hurlburt edited "ALL" of the affidavits. An examination of the affidavits printed by Howe reveals that some of them did not come from the Palmyra-Manchester area but rather from Pennsylvania. Richard L. Anderson makes this statement concerning these affidavits:

"A set of statements about this period exists from Joseph Smith's in-laws and their Pennsylvania friends. Although appearing in the same publication with E. D. Howe's first publication of the Hurlbut affidavits, they were apparently procured by Howe's direct correspondence INDEPENDENT of Hurlbut."
(Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, page 25)
In footnote 46 on the same page Richard L. Anderson states:

"Letter of E.D. Howe to Isaac Hale, February 4, 1834, Painesville, Ohio, cit. Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834, cit. New York Baptist Register, Vol. II (1834). Howe's letter discloses that Hale had written to Hurlbut but that Howe wished verification and sought an attested statement 'to lay open the imposition to the world.' A battery of sworn statements were made in the Harmony, Pennsylvania area by Hale and his neighbors, published first in the newspaper at the county seat of Susquehanna County, and then reproduced in slightly abbreviated form by Howe."

Dr. Anderson still maintains that "Hurlbut heavily influenced the individual statements from Palmyra-Manchester," but he seems willing to admit that Willard Chase's affidavit contained his own sentiments:

'The longest Hurlbut affidavit is that of Willard Chase, in which instances of dishonesty and treasure digging are minimal. In fact, the Chase statement contains more parallels to Mormon sources than any other affidavit. This would lead to the inference that Chase imposed his individuality to a large extent, though many of the Hurlbut stock phrases and formulae are still apparent. The Chase family tradition was later reported by the younger brother of Willard, and he maintained Willard's statement to Hurlbut genuine; on the other hand, he differed in certain details of recollection from the printed affidavit. Willard Chase ought to have taken more care in his statement than others contacted by Hurlbut, since Lucy Smith recalled him as 'a Methodist class leader' in 1827, and his obituary described him as 'formerly a Minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and was an earnest and zealous worker for many years...."
(Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, pages 295-296)

The following pages, which have been photographically reproduced from E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio, 1834, contain the affidavits relating to Joseph Smith's money-digging activities.




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for the use of man!! and we should infer that the writer or the recording angel had been inducted into the modern use of herbs, by the celebrated Doct. F. G. Williams, who is associated with the prophet and the nominal proprietor of a monthly paper, which is issued from the Mormon kennel, in Kirtland. F. G. Williams is a revised quack, well known in this vicinity, by his herbarium on either side of his house; but whether he claims protection by right of letters patent from the General Government or by communion with spirits from other worlds, we are not authorized to determine, but should conclude he would be adequate to dictate the above mockery at revelation and rigmarole, in relation to food for cattle, &c.

In conclusion, it is revealed to the "weak saints," that if they live without ardent spirits and tobacco, and use all the herbs which are wholesome, (which they are left to guess at,) and feed each kind of domestic animal their appropriate grain, and feed no corn to horses, they shall have health in their navel and marrow in their bones. -- Humph. It is likewise promised them that they shall improve in wisdom, and that their muscular powers shall be strengthened -- no little consideration for a weak saint.


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C H A P T E R   X V I I.

We next present to the reader a few, among the many despositions which have been obtained from the neighborhood of the Smith family, and the scene where the far famed Gold Bible had its pretended origin.

The divine authenticity of the Gold Bible or the Book of Mormon, is established by three special and eight collateral witnesses, making in the whole eleven, without whom there is no pretention to testimony; and if their testimony is probable and consistent with truth, and unimpeached, according to the common rules of jurisprudence, we are bound to believe them. 

Upon the principles of common law, we are prepared to meet them; and they are offered to us in no other light. Under all circumstances, in civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, witnesses may be impeached, and after a fair hearing, on both sides, the veracity and credibility may be adjudged.

If the eleven witnesses are considered, from what has already been said, unimpeached, we will offer the dispositions of some of the most respected citizens of our country, who solemnly declare upon their oaths that no credit can be given to any one member of the Smith family.  Many witnesses declare that they are in the possession of the means of knowing the Smiths for truth and veracity, and that they are not upon a par with mankind in general. Then, according to the common rules of weighing testimony, the eleven witnesses stand impeached before the public; and until rebutting testimony can be produced which shall go to invalidate the respectable host which are here offered, we claim that no credit can or ought to be given to the witnesses to the Book of Mormon.


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We have not only testimony impeaching the moral characters of the Smith family, but we show by the witnesses, that they told contradictory stories, from time to time, in relation to their finding the plates, and other circumstances attending it, which go clearly to show that none of them had the fear of God before their eyes, but were moved and instigated by the devil.

Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. Y. Dec. 2d, 1833.    
I, Peter Ingersoll, first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822. -- I lived in the neighborhood of said family, until about 1830; during which time the following facts came under my observation. 

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

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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. 

At another time, he told me that the ancient inhabitants of this country used camels instead of horses. For proof of this fact, he stated that in a certain hill on the farm of Mr. Cuyler, there was a cave containing an immense value of gold and silver, stands of arms, also, a saddle for a camel, hanging on a peg at one side of the cave. I asked him, of what kind of wood the peg was. He could not tell, but said it had become similar to stone or iron.


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The old man at last laid a plan which he thought would accomplish his design. His cows and mine had been gone for some time, and were not to be found, notwithstanding our diligent search for them. Day after day was spent in fruitless search, until at length he proposed to find them by his art of divination. So he took his stand near the corner of his house, with a small stick in his hand, and made several strange and peculiar motions, and then said he could go directly to the cows. So he started off, and went into the woods about one hundred rods distant and found the lost cows. But on finding out the secret of the mystery, Harrison had found the cows, and drove them to the above named place, and milked them.  So that this stratagem turned out rather more to his profit that it did to my edification. -- The old man finding that all his efforts to make me a money digger, had proved abortive, at length ceased his importunities. One circumstance, however, I will mention before leaving him. Some time before young Joseph found, or pretended to find, the gold plates, the old man told me that in Canada, there had been a book found, in a hollow tree, that gave an account of the first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus. 

In the month of August, 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife's household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale's, in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: "You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money -- pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people." Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in

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that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones. Mr. Hale told Joseph, if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would assist him in getting into business. Joseph acceded to this proposition. I then returned with Joseph and his wife to Manchester. One circumstance occurred on the road, worthy of notice, and I believe this is the only instance where Jo ever exhibited true yankee wit. On our journey to Pennsylvania, we could not make the exact change at the toll gate near Ithaca. Joseph told the gate tender, that he would "hand" him the toll on his return, as he was coming back in a few days. On our return, Joseph tendered to him 25 cents, the toll being 12 1/2. He did not recognize Smith, so he accordingly gave him back the 12 1/2 cents. After we had passed the gate, I asked him if he did not agree to pay double gatage on our return? No, said he, I agreed to "hand" it to him, and I did, but he handed it back again. 

Joseph told me on his return, that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; but, said he, it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money: and in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone. -- He seemed much perplexed as to the course he should pursue. In this dilemma, he made me his confident and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths. One day he came, and greeted me with a joyful countenance. -- Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: "As I was passing, yesterday, across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the

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house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refuse to see it, and left the room." Now, said Jo, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book, yet, he told me that he actually went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest, in which he might deposit his golden Bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box himself, of clap-boards, and put it into a pillow case, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel of it through the case. 

In the fall of 1827, Joseph wanted to go to Pennsylvania. His brother-in-law had come to assist him in moving, but he himself was out of money. He wished to borrow the money of me, and he presented Mr. Hale as security. I told him in case he could obtain assistance from no other source, I would let him have some money. Joseph then went to Palmyra; and, said he, I there met that dam fool, Martin Harris, and told him that I had a command to ask the first honest man I met with, for fifty dollars in money, and he would let me have it. I saw at once, said Jo, that it took his notion, for he promptly gave me the fifty. 

Joseph thought this sum was sufficient to bear his expenses to Pennsylvania. So he immediately started off, and since that time I have not been much in his society. While the Smiths were living at Waterloo, William visited my

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neighborhood, and upon my inquiry how they came on, he replied, "we do better there than here; we were too well known here to do much.

PETER INGERSOLL.

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:
I certify, that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me the above named Peter Ingersoll, to me known, and made oath, according to law, to the truth of the above statement.

TH. P. BALDWIN,
Judge of Wayne County Court.


 
TESTIMONY  OF  WILLIAM  STAFFORD.

Manchester, Ontario Co. N. Y. Dec. 8th, 1833.    

I, William Stafford, having been called upon to give a true statement of my knowledge, concerning the character and conduct of the family of Smiths, known to the world as the founders of the Mormon sect, do say, that 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


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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. These tales I regarded as visionary. However, being prompted by curiosity, I at length accepted of their invitations, to join them in their nocturnal excursions. I will now relate a few incidents attending these excursions. 

Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth: and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits.  Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of

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young Joseph the cause of our disappointment. He soon returned and said, 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. We then went into the house, and the old man observed, that we had made a mistake in the commencemnt of the operation; if it had not been for that, said he, we should have got the money. 

At another time, they devised a scheme, by which they might satiate their hunger, with the mutton of one of my sheep. They had seen in my flock of sheep, a large, fat, black weather. Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows: -- That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed -- that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold.  To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business. They, however, had around them constantly a worthless gang, whose employment it was to dig money nights, and who, day times, had more to do with mutton than money.

When they found that the people of this vicinity would no longer put any faith in their schemes for digging money, they then pretended to find a gold bible, of which, they said, the book of Mormon was only an introduction. This


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latter book was at length fitted for the press. No means were taken by any individual to suppress its publication: No one apprehended any danger from a book, originating with individuals who had neither influence, honesty or honor. The two Josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the book of Mormon was translated. But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates. Respecting the manner of receiving and translating the book of Mormon, their statements were always discordant.  The elder Joseph would say that he had seen the plates, and that he knew them to be gold; at other times he would say that they looked like gold; and other times he would say he had not seen the plates at all. I have thus briefly stated a few of the facts, in relation to the conduct and character of this family of Smiths; probably sufficient has been stated without my going into detail.                 WILLIAM STAFFORD.

State of New York, Wayne County, ss:
I certify, that on this 9th day of December, 1833, personally appeared before me, William Stafford, to me known, and made oath to the truth of the above statement, and signed the same.

TH. P. BALDWIN,    
Judge of Wane County Court.      




TESTIMONY  OF  WILLARD  CHASE

Manchester, Ontario Co. N. Y. 1833.

I became acquainted with the Smith family, known as the authors of the Mormon Bible, in the year 1820. At that time, they were engaged in the money digging business, which they followed until the latter part of the season of 1827. In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me; the latter of whom is now known as the Mormon prophet. After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the

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earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat. It has been said by Smith, that he brought the stone from the well; but this is false. There was no one in the well but myself. The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again.  He had it in his possession about two years. --I believe, some time in 1825, Hiram Smith (brother of Joseph Smith) came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone, alledging that they wanted to accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone. I told him it was of no particular worth to me, but merely wished to keep it as a curiosity, and if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it; which he did and took the stone. I thought I could rely on his word at this time, as he had made a profession of religion. But in this I was disappointed, for he disregarded both his word and honor. 

In the fall of 1826, a friend called upon me and wished to see that stone, about which so much had been said; and I told him if he would go with me to Smith's, (a distance of about half a mile) he might see it. But to my surprize, on going to Smith's, and asking him for the stone, he said, "you cannot have it;" I told him it belonged to me, repeated to him the promise he made me, at the time of obtaining the stone: upon which he faced me with a malignant


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look and said, "I don't care who in the Devil it belongs to, you shall not have it."

In the month of June, 1827, Joseph Smith, Sen., related to me the following story: "That some years ago, a spirit had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold, and that he was the person that must obtain them, and this he must do in the following manner: On the 22d of September, he must repair to the place where was deposited this manuscript, dressed in black clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him.  They accordingly fitted out Joseph with a suit of black clothes and borrowed a black horse. He repaired to the place of deposit and demanded the book, which was in a stone box, unsealed, and so near the top of the ground that he could see one end of it, and raising it up, took out the book of gold; but fearing some one might discover where he got it, he laid it down to place back the top stone, as he found it; and turning round, to his surprise there was no book in sight. He again opened the box, and in it saw the book, and attempted to take it out, but was hindered. He saw in the box something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of his head. --  Not being discouraged at trifles, he again stooped down and strove to take the book, when the spirit struck him again, and knocked him three or four rods, and hurt him prodigiously. After recovering from his fright, he enquired why he could not obtain the plates; to which the spirit made reply, because you have not obeyed your orders. He then enquired when he could have them, and was answered thus: come one year from this day, and bring with you your oldest brother, and you shall have them. This spirit, he said

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was the spirit of the prophet who wrote this book, and who was sent to Joseph Smith, to make known these things to him. Before the expiration of the year, his oldest brother died; which the old man said was an accidental providence!

Joseph went one year from that day, to demand the book, and the spirit enquired for his brother, and he said that he was dead. The spirit then commanded him to come again, in just one year, and bring a man with him. On asking who might be the man, he was answered that he would know him when he saw him. 

Joseph believed that one Samuel T. Lawrence was the man alluded to by the spirit, and went with him to a singular looking hill, in Manchester, and shewed him where the treasure was. Lawrence asked him if he had ever discovered any thing with the plates of gold; he said no: he then asked him to look in his stone, to see if there was any thing with them. He looked, and said there was nothing; he told him to look again, and see if there was not a large pair of specks with the plates; he looked and soon saw a pair of spectacles, the same with which Joseph says he translated the Book of Mormon. Lawrence told him it would not be prudent to let these plates be seen for about two years, as it would make a great disturbance in the neighborhood.  Not long after this, Joseph altered his mind, and said L. was not the right man, nor had he told him the right place. About this time he went to Harmony in Pennsylvania, and formed an acquaintance with a young lady, by the name of Emma Hale, whom he wished to marry. -- In the fall of 1826, he wanted to go to Pennsylvania to be married; but being destitute of means, he now set his wits to work, how he should raise money, and get recommendations, to procure the fair one of his choice. He went to Lawrence with the following story, as related to me by Lawrence himself. That he had discovered in Pennsylvania,


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on the bank of the Susquehannah River, a very rich mine of silver, and if he would go there with him, he might have a share in the profits; that it was near high water mark and that they could load it into boats and take it down the river to Philadelphia, to market. Lawrence then asked Joseph if he was not deceiving him; no, said he, for I have been there and seen it with my own eyes, and if you do not find it so when we get there, I will bind myself to be your servant for three years.  By these grave and fair promises Lawrence was induced to believe something in it, and agreed to go with him. L. soon found that Joseph was out of money, and had to bear his expenses on the way. When they got to Pennsylvania, Joseph wanted L. to recommend him to Miss H., which he did, although he was asked to do it; but could not well get rid of it as he was in his company. L. then wished to see the silver mine, and he and Joseph went to the river, and made search, but found nothing. Thus, Lawrence had his trouble for his pains, and returned home lighter than he went, while Joseph had got his expenses borne, and a recommendation to his girl. 

Joseph's next move was to get married; the girl's parents being opposed to the match: as they happened to be from home, he took advantage of the opportunity, and went off with her and was married.

Now, being still destitute of money, he set his wits at work, how he should get back to Manchester, his place of residence; he hit upon the following plan, which succeeded very well. He went to an honest old Dutchman, by the name of Stowel, and told him that he had discovered on the bank of Black River, in the village of Watertown, Jefferson County, N.Y. a cave, in which he had found a bar of gold, as big as his leg, and about three or four feet long. --That he could not get it out alone, on account of its being fast at one end; and if he would move him to Manchester,

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N.Y. they would go together, and take a chisel and mallet, and get it, and Stowel should share the prize with him. Stowel moved him.

A short time after their arrival at Manchester, Stowel reminded Joseph of his promise; but he calmly replied, that he would not go, because his wife was now among strangers, and would be very lonesome if he went away. Mr. Stowel was then obliged to return without any gold, and with less money than he came. 

In the fore part of September, (I believe,) 1827, the Prophet requested me to make him a chest, informing me that he designed to move back to Pennsylvania, and expecting soon to get his gold book, he wanted a chest to lock it up, giving me to understand at the same time, that if I would make the chest he would give me a share in the book. I told him my business was such that I could not make it: but if he would bring the book to me, I would lock it up for him. He said that would not do, as he was commanded to keep it two years, without letting it come to the eye of any one but himself. This commandment, however, he did not keep, for in less than two years, twelve men said they had seen it. I told him to get it and convince me of its existence, and I would make him a chest; but he said, that would not do, as he must have a chest to lock the book in, as soon as he took it out of the ground. I saw him a few days after, when he told me that I must make the chest. I told him plainly that I could not, upon which he told me that I could have no share in the book. 

A few weeks after this conversation, he came to my house, and related the following story: That on the 22d of September, he arose early in the morning, and took a one horse wagon, of some one that had stayed over night at their house, without leave or license; and, together with his wife, repaired to the hill which contained the book. He left his


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wife in the wagon, by the road, and went alone to the hill, a distance of thirty or forty rods from the road; he said he then took the book out of the ground and hid it in a tree top, and returned home. He then went to the town of Macedon to work. After about ten days, it having been suggested that some one had got his book, his wife went after him; he hired a horse, and went home in the afternoon, staid long enough to drink one cup of tea, and then went for his book, found it safe, took off his frock, wrapt it round it, put it under his arm and run all the way home, a distance of about two miles.  He said he should think it would weigh sixty pounds, and was sure it would weigh forty. On his return home, he said he was attacked by two men in the woods, and knocked them both down and made his escape, arrived safe and secured his treasure. -- He then observed that if it had not been for that stone, (which he acknowledged belonged to me,) he would not have obtained the book. A few days afterwards, he told one of my neighbors that he had not got any such book, nor never had such an one; but that he had told the story to deceive the d---d fool, (meaning me,) to get him to make a chest.  His neighbors having become disgusted with his foolish stories, he determined to go back to Pennsylvania, to avoid what he called persecution. His wits were now put to the task to contrive how he should get money to bear his expenses. He met one day in the streets of Palmyra, a rich man, whose name was Martin Harris, and addressed him thus; "I have a commandment from God to ask the first man I meet in the street to give me fifty dollars, to assist me in doing the work of the Lord by translating the Golden Bible." Martin being naturally a credulous man, hands Joseph the money. In the Spring 1829, Harris went to Pennsylvania, and on his return to Palmyra, reported that the Prophet's wife, in the month of

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June following would be delivered of a male child that would be able when two years old to translate the Gold Bible. Then, said he, you will see Joseph Smith, Jr. walking through the streets of Palmyra, with a Gold Bible under his arm, and having a gold breast-plate on, and a gold sword hanging by his side. This, however, by the by, proved false.

In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible. I reminded him of his promise, and that he had pledged his honor to return it; but he gave me the lie, saying the stone was not mine nor never was. Harris at the same time flew in a rage, took me by the collar and said I was a liar, and he could prove it by twelve witnesses.  After I had extricated myself from him, Hiram, in a rage shook his fist at me, and abused me in a most scandalous manner. Thus I might proceed in describing the character of these High Priests, by relating one transaction after another, which would all tend to set them in the same light in which they were regarded by their neighbors, viz: as a pest to society. I have regarded Joseph Smith Jr. from the time I first became acquainted with him until he left this part of the country, as a man whose word could not be depended upon.  -- Hiram's character was but very little better. What I have said respecting the characters of these men, will apply to the whole family. What I have stated relative to the characters of these individuals, thus far, is wholly true. After they became thorough Mormons, their conduct was more disgraceful than before. They did not hesitate to abuse any man, no matter how fair his character, provided he did not embrace their creed. Their tongues were continually employed in spreading scandal and abuse. Although they left this part of the country without paying their just


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debts, yet their creditors were glad to have them do so, rather than to have them stay, disturbing the neighborhood.
Signed,                                       WILLARD CHASE.

On the 11th December, 1833, the said Willard Chase appeared before me, and made oath that the foregoing statement to which he has subscribed his name, is true, according to his best recollection and belief. FRED'K. SMITH,
Justice of the Peace of Wayne County.
 


THE TESTIMONY OF PARLEY CHASE.

Manchester, December 2d, 1833.

I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen., both before and since they became Mormons, and feel free to state that not one of the male members of the Smith family were entitled to any credit, whatsoever. They were lazy, intemperate and worthless men, very much addicted to lying. In this they freqently boasted of their skill. Digging for money was their principal employment. In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God, through Joseph Smith Jr., his Prophet, and this same Joseph Smith Jr. to my knowledge, bore the reputation among his neighbors of being a liar. The foregoing statement can be corroborated by all his former neighbors.

PARLEY CHASE. 

Palmyra, December 13th, 1833.

I certify that I have been personally acquainted with Peter Ingersoll for a number of years, and believe him to be a man of strict integrity, truth and veracity.

DURFEY CHASE.

Palmyra, December 4th, 1833.

I am acquainted with William Stafford and Peter Ingersoll, and believe them to be men of truth and veracity.

J. S. COLT.

Palmyra, December 4th, 1833

We the undersigned, are personally acquainted with

                  MORMONISM.                   249


William Stafford, Willard Chase and Peter Ingersoll, and believe them to be men of truth and veracity.

GEORGE BECKWITH.
NATH'L. H. BECKWITH.
THOMAS ROGERS, 2d.
MARTIN W. WILCOX.


 
THE TESTIMONY OF DAVID STAFFORD.

Manchester, December 5th, 1833.

I have been acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith Sen. for several years, and I know him to be a drunkard and a liar, and to be much in the habit of gambling. He and his boys were truly a lazy set of fellows, and more particularly Joseph, who, very aptly followed his father's example, and in some respects was worse. When intoxicated he was very quarrelsome. Previous to his going to Pennsylvania to get married, we worked together making a coal-pit. While at work at one time, a dispute arose between us, (he having drinked a little too freely) and some hard words passed between us, and as usual with him at such times, was for fighting. He got the advantage of me in the scuffle, and a gentleman by the name of Ford interfered, when Joseph turned to fighting him.  We both entered a complaint against him and he was fined for the breach of the Peace. It is well known, that the general employment of the Smith family was money digging and fortune-telling. They kept around them constantly, a gang of worthless fellows who dug for money nights, and were idle in the day time. It was a mystery to their neighbors how they got their living. I will mention some circumstances and the public may judge for themselves. At different times I have seen them come from the woods early in the morning, bringing meat which looked like mutton. I went into the woods one morning very early, shooting patridges and found Joseph Smith Sen. in company with two other


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men, with hoes, shovels and meat that looked like mutton. On seeing me they run like wild men to get out of sight. -- Seeing the old man a few day afterwards, I asked him why he run so the other day in the woods, ah, said he, you know that circumstances alter cases; it will not do to be seen at all time.

I can also state, that Oliver Cowdrey proved himself to be a worthless person and not to be trusted or believed when he taught school in this neighborhood. After his going into the ministry, while officiating in performing the ordinance of baptism in a brook, William Smith, (brother of Joseph Smith) seeing a young man writing down what was said on a piece of board, was quite offended and attempted to take it from him, kicked at him and clinched for a scuffle. -- Such was the conduct of these pretended Disciples of the Lord.

DAVID STAFFORD. 

On the 12th day of December, 1833, the said David Stafford appeared before me, and made oath that the foregoing statement, by him subscribed, is true.

FRED'K. SMITH,
Justice of the Peace of Wayne Co. N. Y.


 
THE TESTIMONY OF BARTON STAFFORD.

Manchester, Ontario Co., N.Y. Nov. 3d, 1833.

Being called upon to give a statement of the character of the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. as far as I know, I can state that I became acquainted with them in 1820, and knew them until 1831, when they left this neighborhood. -- Joseph Smith, Sen. was a noted drunkard and most of the family followed his example, and Joseph, Jr. especially, who was very much addicted to intemperance. In short, not one of the family had the least claims to respectability. Even since he professed to be inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon, he one day while at work in my father's field, got quite drunk on a composition of cider,

                  MORMONISM.                   251


molasses and water. Finding his legs to refuse their office he leaned upon the fence and hung for sometime; at length recovering again, he fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him. His wife who was at our house on a visit, 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. As an evidence of his piety and devotion, when intoxicated, he frequently made his religion the topic of conversation!!

BARTON STAFFORD.

  State of New York, Wayne County, ss:
I certify that on the 9th day of December 1833, personally appeared before me, the above named Barton Stafford, to me known, and solemnly affirmed according to law, to the truth of the above statement and subscribed the same.

THOS. P. BALDWIN, 
a Judge of Wayne County Court.

I, Henry Harris, do state that I became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. about the year 1820, in the town of Manchester, N. York. They were a family that labored very little -- the chief they did, was to dig for money. Joseph Smith, Jr. the pretended Prophet, used to pretend to tell fortunes; he had a stone which he used to put in his hat, by means of which he professed to tell people's fortunes.

Joseph Smith, Jr. Martin Harris and others, used to meet together in private, a while before the gold plates were found, and were familiarly known by the name of the "Gold Bible Company." They were regarded by the community in which they lived, as a lying and indolent set of men and no confidence could be placed in them.

The character of Joseph Smith, Jr. for truth and veracity was such, that I would not believe him under oath. I was


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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 be 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 -- he said it was revealed to him, that no one must see the plates but himself and wife. 

I then asked him what letters were engraved on them, he said italic letters written in an unknown language, and that he had copied some of the words and sent them to Dr. Mitchell and Professor Anthon of New York. By looking on the plates he said he could not understand the words, but it was made known to him that he was the person that must translate them, and on looking through the stone was enabled to translate.

After the Book was published, I frequently bantered him for a copy. He asked fourteen shillings a piece for them; I told him I would not give so much; he told me had had [sic] a revelation that they must be sold at that price. 

Sometime afterwards I talked with Martin Harris about buying one of the Books and he told me they had had a new revelation, that they might be sold at ten shillings a piece.

State of Ohio, Cuyahoga County, ss:
Personally appeared before me, Henry Harris, and made oath in due form of law, that the foregoing statements subscribed by him are true.

JONATHAN LAPHAM,
Justice of the Peace.

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Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. Y. 11th mo, 28th, 1833.

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 of 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 -- admitance 25 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)


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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. 

In the second month following, Martin Harris and his wife were at my house. In conversation about Mormonites, she observed, that she wished her husband would quit them, as she believed it was all false and delusion. To which I head Mr. Harris reply: "What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it!" I was both an eye and an ear witness of what has been stated above, which is now fresh in my memory, and I give it to the world for the good of mankind. I speak the truth and lie not, God bearing me witness.               ABIGAIL HARRIS
 

Palmyra, Nov. 29, 1833.

Being called upon to give a statement to the world of what I know respecting the Gold Bible speculation, and also of the conduct of Martin Harris, my husband, who is a leading character among the Mormons, I do it free from prejudice, realizing that I must give an account at the bar of God for what I say. Martin Harris was once industrious attentive to his domestic concerns, and thought to be worth about ten thousand dollars. He is naturally quick in his temper and his mad-fits frequently abuses all who may dare to

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oppose him in his wishes. However strange it may seem, I have been a great sufferer by his unreasonable conduct. At different times while I lived with him, he has whipped, kicked, and turned me out of the house. About a year previous to the report being raised that Smith had found gold plates, he became very intimate with the Smith family, and said he believed Joseph could see in his stone any thing he wished.  After this he apparently became very sanguine in his belief, and frequently said he would have no one in his house that did not believe in Mormonism; and because I would not give credit to the report he made about the gold plates, he became more austere towards me. In one of his fits of rage he struck me with the but end of a whip, which I think had been used for driving oxen, and was about the size of my thumb, and three or four feet long. He beat me on the head four or five times, and the next day turned me out of doors twice, and beat me in a shameful manner. -- The next day I went to the town of Marion, and while there my flesh was black and blue in many places. His main complaint against me was, that I was always trying to hinder his making money. 

When he found out that I was going to Mr. Putnam's, in Marion, he said he was going too, but they had sent for him to pay them a visit. On arriving at Mr. Putnam's, I asked them if they had sent for Mr. Harris; they replied, they knew nothing about it; he, however, came in the evening. Mrs. Putnam told him never to strike or abuse me any more; he then denied ever striking me; she was however convinced that he lied, as the marks of his beating me were plain to be seen, and remained more than two weeks. 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


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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.

It is in vain for the Mormons to deny these facts; for they are all well known to most of his former neighbors. The man has now become rather an object of pity; he has spent most of his property, and lost the confidence of his former friends. If he had labored as hard on his farm as he has to make Mormons, he might now be one of the wealthiest farmers in the country. He now spends his time in travelling through the country spreading the delusion of Mormonism, and has no regard whatever for his family. 

With regard to Mr. Harris' being intimate with Mrs. Haggard, as has been reported, it is but justice to myself to state what facts have come within my own observation, to show whether I had any grounds for jealousy or not. Mr. Harris was very intimate with this family, for some time previous to their going to Ohio. They lived a while in a house which he had built for their accommodation, and here he spent the most of his leisure hours; and made her presents of articles from the store and house.  He carried these presents in a private manner, and frequently when he went there, he would pretend to be going to some of the neighbors, on an errand, or to be going into the fields. -- After getting out of sight of the house, he would steer a straight course for Haggard's house, especially if Haggard was from home. At times when Haggard was from home, he would go there in the manner above described, and stay till twelve or one o'clok at night, and sometimes until day light.

If his intentions were evil, the Lord will judge him accordingly, but if good, he did not mean to let his left hand

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know what his right hand did. The above statement of facts, I affirm to be true.

LUCY HARRIS.     


Manchester, Ontario County, N. Y. Dec 1st, 1833.     

I, Roswell Nichols, first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. nearly five years ago, and I lived a neighbor to the said family about two years. My acquaintance with the family has enabled me to know something of its character for good citizenship, probity and veracity -- For breach of contracts, for the non-payment of debts and borrowed money, and for duplicity with their neighbors, the family was notorious.  Once, since the Gold Bible speculation commenced, the old man was sued; and while the sheriff was at his house, he lied to him and was detected in the falsehood. Before he left the house, he confessed that it was sometimes necessary for him to tell an honest lie, in order to live. At another time, he told me that he had received an express command for me to repent and believe as he did, or I must be damned. I refused to comply, and at the same time told him of the various impositions of his family. He then stated their digging was not for money but it was for the obtaining of a Gold Bible.  Thus contradicting what he had told me before: for he had often said, that the hills in our neighborhood were nearly all erected by human hands -- that they were all full of gold and silver. And one time, when we were talking on the subject, he pointed to a small hill on my farm, and said, "in that hill there is a stone which is full of gold and silver. I know it to be so, for I have been to the hole, and God said unto me, go not in now, but at a future day you shall go in and find the book open, and then you shall have the treasures." He said that gold and silver was once as plenty as the stones in the field are now -- that the ancients, half of them melted the ore and made the gold and silver, while the other


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half buried it deeper in the earth, which accounted for these hills. Upon my enquiring who furnished the food for the whole, he flew into a passion, and called me a sinner, and said he, "you must be eternally damned."

I mention these facts, not because of their intrinsic importance, but simply to show the weak mindedness and low character of the man.

ROSWELL NICHOLS. 

 

Manchester, Ontario County, Nov. 15th, 1833.   

I, Joshua Stafford, became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. about the year 1819 or 20. They then were laboring people, in low circumstances. A short time after this, they commenced digging for hidden treasures, and soon after they became indolent, and told marvellous stories about ghosts, hob-goblins, caverns, and various other mysterious matters. Joseph once showed me a piece of wood which he said he took from a box of money, and the reason he gave for not obtaining the box, was, that it moved.  At another time, he, (Joseph, Jr.) at a husking, called on me to become security for a horse, and said he would reward me handsomely, for he had found a box of watches, and they were as large as his fist, and he put one of them to his ear, and he could hear it "tick forty rods." Since he could not dispose of them profitably at Canandaigua or Palmyra, he wished to go east with them. He said if he did not return with the horse, I might take his life. I replied, that he knew I would not do that. Well, said he, I did not suppose you would, yet I would be willing that you should. He was nearly intoxicated at the time of the above conversation.

JOSHUA STAFFORD.      

 

Manchester, Ontario County, Nov. 8th, 1833.   

I, Joseph Capron, became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1827. They have, since then, been really a peculiar people -- fond of the foolish and

                  MORMONISM.                   259


the marvelous -- at one time addicted to vice and the grossest immoralities -- at another time making the highest pretensions to piety and holy intercourse with Almighty God. The family of Smiths held Joseph Jr. in high estimation on account of some supernatural power, which he was supposed to possess. This power he pretended to have received through the medium of a stone of peculiar quality. The stone was placed in a hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light, except that which emanated from the stone itself. This light of the stone, he pretended, enabled him to see any thing he wished. Accordingly he discovered ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver, and many other invaluable treasures deposited in the earth.  He would often tell his neighbors of his wonderful discoveries, and urge them to embark in the money digging business. Luxury and wealth were to be given to all who would adhere to his counsel. A gang was soon assembled. Some of them were influenced by curiosity, others were sanguine in their expectations of immediate gain. I will mention one circumstance, by which the uninitiated may know how the company dug for treasures. The sapient Joseph discovered, north west of my house, a chest of gold watches; but, as they were in the possession of the evil spirit, it required skill and stratagem to obtain them.  Accordingly, orders were given to stick a parcel of large stakes in the ground, several rods around, in a circular form. This was to be done directly over the spot where the treasures were deposited. A messenger was then sent to Palmyra to procure a polished sword: after which, Samuel F. Lawrence, with a drawn sword in his hand, marched around to guard any assault which his Satanic majesty might be disposed to make. Meantime, the rest of the company were busily employed in digging for the watches. They worked as usual till quite exhausted. But, in spite of their brave defender, Lawrence,


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and their bulwark of stakes, the devil came off victorious, and carried away the watches. I might mention numerous schemes by which this young visionary and impostor had recourse to for the purpose of obtaining a livelihood. He, and indeed the whole of the family of Smiths, were notorious for indolence, foolery and falsehood. Their great object appeared to be, to live without work. While they were digging for money, they were daily harrassed by the demands of creditors, which they never were able to pay. At length, Joseph pretended to find the Gold plates. This scheme, he believed, would relieve the family from all pecuniary embarrassment.  His father told me, that when the book was published, they would be enabled, from the profits of the work, to carry into successful operation the money digging business. He gave me no intimation, at that time that the book was to be of a religious character, or that it had any thing to do with revelation. He declared it to be a speculation, and said he, "when it is completed, my family will be placed on a level above the generality of mankind"!!           JOSEPH CAPRON.
 

Palmyra, Nov. 28th, 1833   

Having been called upon to state a few facts which are material to the characters of some of the leaders of the Mormon sect, I will do so in a concise and plain manner. I have been acquainted with Martin Harris, about thirty years. As a farmer, he was industrious and enterprising, so much so, that he had, (previous to his going into the Gold Bible speculation) accumulated, in real estate, some eight or ten thousand dollars. Although he possessed wealth, his moral and religious character was such, as not to entitle him to respect among his neighbors. He was fretful, peevish and quarrelsome, not only in the neighborhood, but in his family. He was known to frequently abuse

                  MORMONISM.                   261


his wife, by whipping her, kicking her out of bed and turning her out of doors &c. Yet he was a public professor of some religion. He was first an orthadox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon. By his willingness to become all things unto all men, he has attained a high standing among his Mormon brethren. The Smith family never made any pretentions to respectability.

G. W. STODARD.   

I hereby concur in the above statement.

RICHARD H. FORD.   


 

Palmyra, Dec. 4, 1833.   

We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family, for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character, which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth; and to this day, large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits. 

Martin Harris was a man who had acquired a handsome property, and in matters of business his word was considered good; but on moral and religious subjects, he was perfectly visionary -- sometimes advocating one sentiment, and sometimes another. And in reference to all with whom we were acquainted, that have embraced Mormonism from this neighborhood, we are compeled to say, were very visionary, and most of them destitute of moral character, and without


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Geo. N. Williams,
Clark Robinson,
Lemuel Durfee,
E. S. Townsend,
Henry P. Alger,
C. E. Thayer,
G. W. Anderson,
H. P. Thayer,
L. Williams,
Geo. W. Crosby,
Levi Thayer,
R. S. Williams,
P. Sexton,
M. Butterfield,
S. P. Seymour,
D. S. Jackways,
John Hurlbut,
H. Linnell,
Jas. Jenner,
S. Ackley,
Josiah Rice,
Jesse Townsend,
Rich'd. D. Clark,
Th. P. Baldwin,
John Sothington,
Durfey Chase,
Wells Anderson,
N. H. Beckwith,
Philo Durfee
Giles. S. Ely,
R. W. Smith,
Pelatiah West,
Henry Jessup,
Linus North,
Thos. Rogers, 2d.
Wm. Parke,
Josiah Francis,
Ames Hollister,
G. A. Hathaway,
David G. Ely,
H. K. Jerome,
G. Beckwith,
Lewis Foster,
Hiram Payne,
P. Grandin,
L. Hurd,
Joel Thayer,
E. D. Robinson,
Asahel Millard,
A. Ensworth,
Israel F. Chilson,

Manchester, Nov. 3d, 1833.    

We, the undersigned, being personally acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, sen. with whom the celebrated Gold Bible, so called, originated, state: that they were not only a lazy, indolent set of men, but also intemperate; and their word was not to be depended upon; and that we are truly glad to dispense with their society.
Pardon Butts,
Warden A. Reed,
Hiram Smith,
Alfred Stafford,
James Gee,
Abel Chase,
A. H. Wentworth,
Moses C. Smith,
Joseph Fish,
Horace N. Barnes,
Silvester Worden.

 

Harmony, Pa. Mar. 20th, 1834.   

I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November,

                  MORMONISM.                   263


1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money diggers;" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man -- not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.  Smith, and his father, with several other "money-diggers" boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the "money-diggers" great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found -- he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12.68 for his board, which is still unpaid. 

After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place. Not long after this, he returned, and while I was absent from home, carried off my daughter, into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent. After they had arrived at Palmyra N.Y., Emma wrote to me enquiring whether she could take her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In a short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and reside upon a place near my residence.


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264                   MORMONISM.                  


Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called "glass-looking," and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so. He also made arrangements with my son Alva Hale, to go to Palmyra, and move his (Smith's) furniture &c. to this place. He then returned to Palmyra, and soon after, Alva, agreeable to the arrangement, went up and returned with Smith and his family. Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of Plates down with them. I was shown a box in which it is said they were contained, which had to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common window glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to understand, that the book of plates was then in the box -- into which, however, I was not allowed to look. 

I inquired of Joseph Smith Jr., who was to be the first who would be allowed to see the Book of Plates? He said it was a young child. After this, I became dissatisfied, and informed him that if there was any thing in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that, the Plates were said to be hid in the woods. 

About this time, Martin Harris made his appearance upon the stage; and Smith began to interpret the characters or hieroglyphics which he said were engraven upon the plates, while Harris wrote down the interpretation. It was said, that Harris wrote down one hundred and sixteen pages, and lost them. Soon after this happened, Martin Harris informed me that he must have a greater witness, and said that he had talked with Joseph about it -- Joseph informed him that he could not, or durst not show him the plates, but that he (Joseph) would go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his track in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself. Harris informed me afterwards, that he

                  MORMONISM.                   265


followed Smith's directions, and could not find the Plates, and was still dissatisfied.

The next day after this happened, I went to the house where Joseph Smith Jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the Book. Each of them had a written piece of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were "my servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can be given him." There was also something said about "three that were to see the thing" -- meaning I supposed, the Book of Plates, and that "if the three did not go exactly according to the orders, the thing would be taken from them." I enquired whose words they were, and was informed by Joseph or Emma, (I rather think it was the former) that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods! 

After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdery came and wrote for Smith, while he interpreted as above described. This is the same Oliver Cowdery, whose name may be found in the Book of Mormon. Cowdery continued a scribe for Smith until the Book of Mormon was completed as I supposed and understood. 

Joseph Smith Jr. resided near me for some time after this, and I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and somewhat acquainted with his associates, and I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole "Book of Mormon" (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous


                             Joseph Smith and Money Digging                             59


266                   MORMONISM.                  


ISAAC HALE.   

Affirmed to and subscribed before me, March 20th, 1834.

CHARLES DIMON, J. Peace.   

State of Pennsylvania, Susquehana County, ss. 

We, the subscribers, associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, in and for said county, do certify that we have been many years personally acquainted with Isaac Hale, of Harmony township in this county, who has attested the foregoing statement; and that he is a man of excellent moral character, and of undoubted veracity. Witness our hands.

WILLIAM THOMPSON.   
DAVIS DIMOCK.   

March 21st, 1834
 
Elder Lewis also certifies and affirms in relation to Smith as follows:

I have been acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. for some time: being a relation of his wife, and residing near him, I have had frequent opportunities of conversation with him, and of knowing his opinions and pursuits. From my standing in the Methodist Episcopal Church, I suppose he was careful how he conducted or expressed himself before me. At one time, however, he came to my house, and asked my advice, whether he should proceed to translate the Book of Plates (referred to by Mr. Hale) or not.  He said that God had commanded him to translate it, but he was afraid of the people: he remarked, that he was to exhibit the plates to the world, at a certain time, which was then about eighteen months distant. I told him I was not qualified to give advice in such cases. Smith frequently said to me that I should see the plates at the time appointed.

After the time stipulated, had passed away, Smith being at my house was asked why he did not fulfil his promise,

                  MORMONISM.                   267


show the Golden Plates and prove himself an honest man? He replied that he, himself was deceived, but that I should see them if I were where they were. I reminded him then, that I stated at the time he made the promise, I was fearful "the enchantment would be so powerful" as to remove the plates, when the time came in which they were to be revealed.

"These circumstances and many others of a similar tenor, embolden me to say that Joseph Smith Jr. is not a man of truth and veracity; and that his general character in this part of the country, is that of an impostor, hypocrite and liar.                    NATHANIEL C. LEWIS." 

Affirmed and subscribed, before me, March 20th, 1834.

CHARLES DIMON, J. Peace.

We subjoin the substance of several affidavits, all taken and made before Charles Dimon Esq. by credible individuals, who have resided near to, and been well acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. -- illustrative of his character and conduct, while in this region. 

Joshua M'Kune states, that he "was acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris, during their residence in Harmony, Pa., and knew them to be artful seducers;" -- That they informed him that "Smith had found a sword, breast-plate, and a pair of spectacles, at the time he found the gold plates" -- that these were to be shewn to all the world as evidence of the truth of what was contained in those plates," and that "he (M'Kune) and others should see them at a specified time." He also states that "the time for the exhibition of the Plates, &c. has gone by, and he has not seen them." "Joseph Smith, Jr. told him that (Smith's) first-born child was to translate the characters, and hieroglyphics, upon the Plates into our language at the age of three years; but this child was not permitted to live


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268                   MORMONISM.                  


to verify the prediction." He also states, that "he has been intimately acquainted with Isaac Hale twenty-four years, and has always found him to be a man of truth, and good morals."


HEZEKIAH M'KUNE states, that "in conversation with Joseph Smith Jr., he (Smith) said he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ; that he was a prophet sent by God to bring in the Jews, and that he was the greatest prophet that had ever arisen." 


ALVA HALE, son of Isaac Hale, states, that Joseph Smith Jr. told him that his (Smith's) gift in seeing with a stone and hat, was a gift from God," but also states "that Smith told him at another time that this "peeping" was all d---d nonsense. He (Smith) was deceived himself but did not intend to deceive others; --that he intended to quit the business, (of peeping) and labor for his livelihood." That afterwards, Smith told him, he should see the Plates from which he translated the book of Mormon," and accordingly at the time specified by Smith, he (Hale) "called to see the plates, but Smith did not show them, but appeared angry." He further states, that he knows Joseph Smith Jr. to be an impostor, and a liar, and knows Martin Harris to be a liar likewise.
 

LEVI LEWIS states, that he has "been acquainted with Joseph Smith Jr. and Martin Harris, and that he has heard them both say, adultery was no crime. Harris said he did not blame Smith for his (Smith's) attempt to seduce Eliza Winters &c.;"-- Mr. Lewis says that he "knows Smith to be a liar; -- that he saw him (Smith) intoxicated at three different times while he was composing the Book of Mormon, and also that he has heard Smith when driving oxen, use language of the greatest profanity. Mr. Lewis also testifies that he heard Smith say he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ; -- that it was as bad to injure him as it was to

                  MORMONISM.                   269


injure Jesus Christ." "With regard to the plates, Smith said God had deceived him -- which was the reason he (Smith) did not show them."

SOPHIA LEWIS, certifies that she "feard a conversation between Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Rev. James B. Roach, in which Smith called Mr. R. a d-----d fool. Smith also said in the same conversation that he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ;" and that she "has frequently heard Smith use profane language. She states that she heard Smith say "the Book of Plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his (Smith's) first-born, which was to be a male." She says she "was present at the birth of this child, and that it was still-born and very much deformed." 






C H A P T E R   X V I I I.

It is asserted in the Mormon Bible, that the engravings upon the plates, were in the "Reformed Egyptian." In conformity to this, the Mormonite preachers, and others of the sect, have frequently declared that the engravings upon the plates were, by some of our learned men, who had a specimen shown them, pronounced to be "reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics," or "ancient short hand Egyptian." -- Among others, Professor Anthon, of New York, was frequently mentioned as giving such an opinion. This act of deception and falsehood is only one among hundreds of others, equally gross, which are resorted to by these impostors












Jerald & Sandra Tanner

Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial

(Salt Lake City:  M.M.C., 1971)


(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments






Copyright © 1971, Modern Microfilm Company. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 1 ]




Joseph Smith's

1826 Trial


In the Salt Lake City Messenger for August, 1971, we announced one of the most important discoveries since Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church in 1830. This is the discovery by Wesley P. Walters of an original document which is more than 140 years old. This document proves that Joseph Smith was a "glass looker" and that he was arrested, tried and found guilty by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826. (The reader will find a photograph of this document in the center of this booklet.) The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated, for it establishes the historicity of the account of the trial which was first published in Fraser's Magazine in 1873. We quote the following from that publication:

"STATE OF NEW YORK v. JOSEPH SMITH.

"Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgeman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an impostor.

"Prisoner brought before Court March 20, 1826. Prisoner examined: says that he came from the town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowel on his farm, and going to school. 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 had informed him where he could find these 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 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 of its injuring his health, especially his eyes, making them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.

"Josiah Stowel sworn: says that prisoner had been at his house something like five months; had been employed by him to work on farm part of time; that he pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were by means of looking through a certain stone; that prisoner had looked for him sometimes; once to tell him about money buried in Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once



2                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt spring; and that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and did possess the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone; that he found the (word illegible) at Bend and Monument Hill as prisoner represented it; that prisoner had looked through said stone for Deacon Attleton for a mine, did not exactly find it, but got a p_____ (word unfinished) 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 had said 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 the money moved down. That prisoner did offer his services; that he never deceived him; that prisoner looked through stone and described Josiah Stowel's house and outhouses, while at Palmyra at Simpson Stowel's, correctly; that he had told about a painted tree, with a man's head painted upon it, by means of said stone. That he had been in company with prisoner digging for gold, and had the most implicit faith in prisoner's skill.

"Arad Stowel sworn: says that he went to see whether prisoner could convince him that he possessed the skill he professed to have, upon which prisoner laid a book upon a white cloth, and proposed looking through another stone which was white and transparent, hold the stone to the candle, turn his head to book, and read. The deception appeared so palpable that witness went off disgusted.

"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.

"Jonathan Thompson says that prisoner, was requested to look for chest of money; did look, and pretended to know where it was; and prisoner, Thompson, and Yeomans went in search of it; that Smith arrived at spot first; was at night; that Smith looked in hat while there, and when very dark, and told how the chest was situated. After digging several feet, struck upon something sounding like a board or plank. Prisoner would not look again, pretending that he was alarmed on account of the circumstances relating to the trunk being buried, [which], came all fresh to his mind. That the last time he looked he discovered distinctly the two Indians who buried the trunk, that a quarrel ensued between them, and that one of said Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed. Thompson says that he believes in the prisoner's professed skill; that the board which he struck his spade upon was probably the chest, but on account of an enchantment the trunk kept settling away from under them when digging; that notwithstanding they continued constantly removing the dirt, yet the trunk kept about the same distance from them. Says prisoner said that it appeared to him that salt might be found at Bainbridge, and that he is certain that prisoner can divine things by means of said stone. That as evidence of the fact prisoner looked into his hat to tell him about some money witness lost sixteen years ago, and that he described the man that witness supposed had taken it, and the disposition of money:

"And therefore the Court find the Defendant guilty. Costs: Warrant, 19c. Complaint upon oath, 25 1/2c. Seven witnesses, 87 1/2c. Recognisances, 25c. Mittimus, 19c. Recognisances of witnesses, 75c. Supoena, 18c. -- $2.68."

(Fraser's Magazine, February, 1873, Vol. VII, pp. 229-230)



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             3

Although the Bainbridge court record was printed a few times it did not become too well known until Fawn Brodie printed it in her book No Man Knows My History. Immediately after her book appeared the Mormon leaders declared that the record was a forgery. The following appeared in the "Church Section" of the Deseret News:

"...the alleged find is no discovery at all, for the purported record has been included in other books... after all her PUFFING AND PROMISE the author produces NO COURT RECORD AT ALL, though persistently calling it such.... This alleged record is obviously SPURIOUS... The really vital things which a true record must contain are not there, though there is a lot of surplus verbiage set out in an impossible order which the court was not required to keep.

"This record could not possibly have been made at the time as the case proceeded. It is patently A FABRICATION of unknown authorship and never in the court records at all." (Deseret News, Church Section, May 11, 1946, as quoted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 430-431)

The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe stated: "This alleged court record... seems to be a literary attempt of an enemy to ridicule Joseph Smith by bringing together all the current gossip of that day and making him appear to confess to it.... There is no existing proof that such a trial was ever held." (Joseph Smith -- Seeker After Truth, Salt Lake City, 1951, page 78).

The Mormon scholar Francis W. Kirkham claimed that he did a great deal of research with regard to this matter and came to the conclusion that the court record was spurious: "A careful study of all facts regarding this alleged confession of Joseph Smith in a court of law that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasure for purposes of fraud, must come to the conclusion that no such record was ever made, and therefore, is not in existence.... No record exists and there is no evidence to prove one was ever made in which he confessed in a justice of the peace court that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasures for purposes of fraud and deception." (A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pp. 385, 386 and 391)

The document which Wesley P. Walters found is Justice Albert Neely's bill showing the costs involved in several trials in 1826. The fifth item from the top mentions the trial of "JOSEPH SMITH THE GLASS LOOKER." Below is a photograph of this portion of the document (see complete document in the center of this book).

[ image: not reproduced ]

The fact that the document says that Joseph Smith was a "GLASS LOOKER" fits very well with the published version of the trial. In fact, this statement alone seems to show that the published account of



4                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

the trial is authentic. Besides this, however, Neely's bill provides additional evidence. It states that the trial took place on "March 20, 1826," and this is precisely the date found in the published account of the trial: "Prisoner brought before Court March 20, 1826." (Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1873, page 229) In Albert Neely's bill the fee for this trial is listed as "2.68," and this is the exact figure found in the printed record: "Costs:... $2.68."

In the face of this evidence it is impossible to continue to deny the authenticity of the court record.

In the book Joseph Smith and Money Digging we devoted over 15 pages to a study of this court trial. On page 38 we concluded: "Although the evidence supporting the authenticity of the 'court record' seems to be rather convincing, more research needs to be done." We did show, however, that the court record was brought to Salt Lake City by Emily Pearsall, the niece of Albert Neely. When Charles Marshall published the record in Fraser's Magazine he stated: "During my stay in Salt Lake permission was courteously accorded me to copy out of a set of such judicial proceedings not hitherto published. I cannot doubt their genuineness. The papers were lent me by a lady of well-known position, in whose family they had been preserved since the date of the transactions." (Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1873, Vol. VII, page 229)

In her attack on Fawn Brodie's book, F. L. Stewart cast doubt upon the statement that Albert Neely was a justice of the peace in Bainbridge 1826:

"But was Albert Neely a justice of the peace in Bainbridge in l826? He an election as justice for the year 1828. The election was held in November, 1827, and he received the fewest votes of all the candidates. He was later a justice of the peace in Manlius, New York, in 1838. No known records indicate that he was a justice in Bainbridge in 1826." (Exploding The Myth About Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet, New York, 1967, pages 69-70)

During the past few years Wesley P. Walters has been doing a great deal of research concerning the court record. He has made several trips to New York in search of evidence. By June 23, 1971, he was able to give this encouraging report in a letter to a friend:

"As I am sure you are aware, the document was printed three times -- once in England (with a reprinting of this in N. Y.), Once by Tuttle in the Schaff-Herzog Ency., and once by the Methodists. The first and last of these printings give the court costs. This summer I spent a few days at Norwich and among the county records I found some bills from the town of Bainbridge. Bills for the years 1826 and 1827 were missing, presumably among the water-damaged items the court house threw out some while back. However, the bills from 1825 and 1828 were there and give an example of what the J. P. charges were at that time. A subpoena was 6c each, so that a charge of 18c in the document must represent 3 subpoenas; Recognisance charge was 25c, so that the document's charge of 25c is in perfect agreement and the charge of 75c for 'recognisance of witnesses' must represent three such witnesses. There are a couple of items that are not clear as yet. The document lists warrant 19c and complaint upon oath as 25c, whereas the justice bills I was able to find listed 'oath & warrant' -- 25c... To my mind there is enough agreement here to make the possibility of the document being a forgery out of the realm of possibility.

"Finally, the other surrounding circumstances all are in proper



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             5

place... Miss F. L. Stewart in EXPLODING THE MYTH casts doubt on the court record because there was no evidence thy Albert Neely was a J.P.in 1826. Well, I found his official appointment papers signed by the 3 circuit judges and the 15 county supervisors and the date of his appointment was November 16, 1825. If the bills for 1826 had been available still, I am sure there would have been an itemized account of all the warrants he issued, and cost involved for the town and county, as there are in the other justices bills for 1825 and 1828. In fact, the itemized bills were totaled and at the annual meeting of the Board of Supervisors the total amounts were 'audited and allowed.' In their Supervisor's record book for 1826 Albert Neely's name appears under the town of Bainbridge as being paid $6.34 by the town and $15.44 by the county. So as far as I am concerned, there is no question in my mind that Albert Neely was a J.P. in 1826 and that Smith was tried before him, and that the published record is really a genuine account of what happened.

"There are other little details that fit into place as well. The complaint, according to the trial record, was signed by Peter G. Bridgeman... Now I found the obituary notice of his wife's death in 1831 and at that time he was called 'Rev.' and living at Coventry, just west of Bainbridge. In 1829 he had been one of the organizers for incorporating the West Bainbridge Methodist Church.... from every angle the whole matter has the ring of genuiness about it." (Letter written by Wesley P. Walters, dated June 23, 1971)

Just about a month after writing thts letter, Wesley P. Walters was back searching for the missing bills. On July 30, 1971, we received a phone call announcing the important discovery -- i.e., the discovery of Justice Neely's bill for 1826. The same day Walters sent us a letter telling of other discoveries:

"By this time you should have gotten over the shock of my phone call about finding the 1826 Neely bill....

"In addition to what I sent you recording the bill for the trial of 'Joseph Smith The Glass Looker'... there is also the bill of Constable Philip M. DeZang. His charges include ones for 'Serving warrant -- on Joseph Smith and tr[avel]' <-- very faint, water damage, 'Subpoening 12 Witnesses & travel;' 'attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 nigh[t];' 'Notifying two Justices' and '10 miles travel with mittimus to take him.'... There are also bills from Arad Stowell (one of the witnesses in the trial) for 1826 when he was serving as school commissioner."

On the next page of this booklet we have photographically reproduced Constable DeZang's bill which tells of taking Joseph Smith a prisoner.

Importance of Discovery

Now that Wesley P. Walters has proven beyond all doubt that the Bainbridge court record is authentic, it will be very interesting to see how the Mormon leaders will react. As we have shown, their position in the past has been that the court record is "spurious." The Mormon scholar Francis W. Kirkham has stated that if the court record could be proven authentic, it would show that Mormonism itself is untrue:

"A careful study of all facts regarding this alleged confession of Joseph Smith in a court of law that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasure for purposes of fraud, must come to the conclusion



6                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            



[ image - not reproduced ]


ABOVE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE BILL OF CONSTABLE PHILIP M. DEZANG. NOTICE THAT THE DATE 1826 IS WRITTEN AT THE TOP OF THE BILL. THE ARROW POINTS TO THE PLACE WHERE THE CONSTABLE TELLS OF "SERVING WARRANT ON JOSEPH SMITH..."



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             7

that no such record was ever made, and therefore, is not in existence.... If any evidence had been in existence that Joseph Smith had used a seer stone for fraud and deception, and especially had he made this confession in a court of law as early as 1826, or four years before the Book of Mormon was printed, and this confession was in a court record, it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for him to have organized the restored Church." (A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pp. 385-387) "IF a court record could be identified, and IF it contained a confession by Joseph Smith which revealed him to be a poor, ignorant, deluded, and superstitious person -- unable himself to write a book of any consequence, and whose church could not endure because it attracted only similar persons of low mentality -- IF such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that HIS BELIEVERS MUST DENY HIS CLAIMED DIVINE GUIDANCE which led them to follow him.... How could he be A PROPHET OF GOD, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, IF HE HAD BEEN THE SUPERSTITIOUS FRAUD which 'the pages from a book' declared he confessed to be?" (Ibid., pp. 486-487)

In his book The Myth Makers, Dr. Hugh Nibley has written almost 20 pages in an attempt to discredit the "Bainbridge court record." On page 142 of Dr. Nibley's book we find this statement: "...IF this court record is authentic it is the MOST DAMNING EVIDENCE IN EXISTENCE AGAINST JOSEPH SMITH." Dr. Nibley's book also states that if the authenticity of the court record could be established it would be "THE MOST DEVESTATING BLOW TO SMITH EVER DELIVERED...." (Ibid.)

In his History of the Church, Joseph Smith admitted that he worked for Josiah Stowel, but did not acknowledge the fact that he was arrested or that he used a "seer stone" to find treasures:

"In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowel, who lived in Chenango county, state of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger.

"During the time that I was thus employed, I was put to board with a Mr. Isaac Hale, of that place; it was there I first saw my wife (his daughter), Emma Hale. On the 18th of January, 1827, we were married,... at the house of Squire Tarbill, in South Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York." (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 17)

Since Joseph Smith did not mention the trial and since the court record was not printed until many years after his death, Mormon scholars concluded that the record must be "spurious." Fawn Brodie reprinted it from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Since this encyclopedia did not print this account until 1883, there was a wide gap between the date of the trial and the published version. Because Mormon writers contested the authenticity



8                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

of the trial, scholars began to search for more documentation. Helen L. Fairbanks, of Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, N. Y., made a very interesting discovery. She found that W. D. Purple, who had lived at Bainbridge and claimed to be an eyewitness to the trial had written concerning it in The Chenango Union, May 3, 1877. Wesley P. Walters has confirmed the fact that W. D. Purple was in Bainbridge in 1826. In a letter dated July 30, 1971, he stated: "...William D. Purple in May 1826 entered a complaint against someone whom he thought had stolen his coat, so he is there in 1826. This is mentioned in Tarble's bill." We have printed W. D. Purple's account in its entirety in the book Joseph Smith and Money Digging, but we feel that it is so important that we shall include a portion of it in this booklet:

"More than fifty years since, at the commencement of his professional career, the writer spent a year in the present village of Afton, in this County. It was then called South Bainbridge,...

"In the year 1825 we often saw in that quiet hamlet, Joseph Smith, Jr.... He was an inmate of the family of Deacon Isaiah Stowell. Mr. Stowell... took upon himself a monomanical impression to seek for hidden treasures which he believed were buried in the earth. He hired help and repaired to Northern Pennsylvania, in the vicinity of Lanesboro, to prosecute his search for untold wealth which he believed to be buried there....

"There had lived a few years previous to this date, in the vicinity of Great Bend, a poor man named Joseph Smith... Mr.Stowell, while at Lanesboro, heard of the fame one sons, named Joseph, who, by the aid of a magic stone had become a famous seer of lost or hidden treasures.... He with the magic stone, was at once transferred from his humble abode to the more pretentious mansion of Deacon Stowell. Here, in the estimation of the Deacon, he confirmed his conceded powers as a seer, by means of the stone which he placed in his hat, and by excluding the light from all other terrestial [sic] things, could see whatever he wished, even in the depths of the earth....

"In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, who lived with their father, were greatly incensed against Smith, as they plainly saw their father squandering his property in the fruitless search for hidden treasures, and saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire.... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood. The trial came on in the above mentioned month, before Albert Neeley, Esq., the father of Bishop Neeley of the State of Maine. I was an intimate friend of the Justice, and was invited to take notes of the trial, which I did. There was a large collection persons in attendance, and the proceedings attracted much attention.

"The affidavits of the sons were read, and Mr. Smith was fully examined by the Court....

"On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket.

"Joseph Smith, Sr., was present, and sworn as a witness....

"The next witness called was Deacon Isaiah Stowell. He confirmed all that is said above in relation to himself, and delineated many other circumstances not necessary to record. He swore that



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             9

the prisoner possessed all the power he claimed, and declared he could see things fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plain as the witness could see what was on the [Justice's] table and described very many circumstances to confirm his words. Justice Neeley soberly looked at the witness and in a solemn, dignified voice, said, Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plainly as you can see what is on my table?' 'Do I believe it?' says Deacon Stowell, 'do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I positively know it to be true.'

"Mr. Thompson, an employee of Mr. Stowell, was the next witness.... The following scene was described by this witness, and carefully noted: Smith had told the Deacon that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could· not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences. So, after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith. Digging was commenced with fear and trembling, in the presence of this imaginary charm. In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel, on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp. One of the men placed his hand upon the box, but it gradually sunk from his reach.... Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness might be seen making a circuit around the spot sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propiation to the spirit that thwarted them. They then descended the excavation, but the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it was never obtained.
...
"These scenes occurred some four years before Smith, by the aid of hiS luminous stone, found the Golden Bible, or the Book of Mormon." (The Chenango Union, Norwich, N. Y., May 3,1877, as reprinted in A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 2, pp. 362-367)

For a complete reprint and study of Dr. Purple's account see our book Joseph Smith and Money Digging, pp.23-29)

While Mormon writers were willing to concede that Purple mentioned the trial in 1877, they felt confident that no earlier mention of the trial would be discovered. Dr. Francis W. Kirkham made this statement: "No account of the life of Joseph Smith.... prior to Purple in 1877, and Tuttle in 1883, assert that Joseph Smith confessed in a court of law that he had used a seer stone for any purpose, and especially that the record of such confession was in existence." (A New Witness For Christ In America, Vol. 1, pp. 386-387) Further research, however, led to the discovery that the court record had been printed in Fraser's Magazine ten years prior to the time when it was printed by Tuttle. In a "Supplement" to his book, Dr. Kirkham conceded that it had been printed in 1873.

Finally, Dale L. Morgan, a noted historian, discovered that the trial was actually mentioned as early as 1831 in a letter published in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, printed in Utica, N. Y. The letter is signed A. W. B., and Mr. Morgan identifies him



10                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

from subsequent articles as A. W. Benton." (No Man Knows My History, page 418A) Since Mr. Benton lived in Bainbridge, his account is very important. Wesley P. Walters has furnished us with a photograph of Benton's account as it appears in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, We cite the following from that publication:

"Messrs. Editors --...thinking that a fuller history of their founder, Joseph Smith, jr., might be interesting... I will take the trouble to make a few remarks... For several years preceding the appearance of his book, HE WAS ABOUT THE COUNTRY IN THE CHARACTER OF A GLASS-LOOKER: PRETENDING, BY MEANS OF A CERTAIN STONE, OR GLASS, WHICH HE PUT IN A HAT, TO BE ABLE TO DISCOVER LOST GOODS, HIDDEN TREASURES, MINES OF GOLD AND SILVER, &c.... In this town, a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money, in digging for hidden money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure. At length the public, becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living from their earnings, had him arrested as A DISORDERLY PERSON, TRIED AND CONDEMNED BEFORE A COURT OF JUSTICE. But considering his youth, (he then being a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO." (Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, April 9, 1831, page 120)

In the book Joseph Smith and Money Digging we have photographically reproduced A. W. Benton's entire letter. From what we quoted above, however, the reader will notice that Benton claimed that Joseph Smith was "arrested as A DISORDERLY PERSON." This agrees well with the court record, for it states that Joseph Smith was "A DISORDERLY PERSON and an impostor." Benton's statement also agrees with the court record in stating that Joseph Smith was found guilty. Benton said that Joseph Smith was a "GLASS-LOOKER," and the reader will remember that Justice Neely's bill refers to "Joseph Smith The GLASS LOOKER." The court record states that the trial took place on March 20, 1826. This would have been five years prior to the time Benton wrote his letter in 1831. Mr. Benton states that the trial took place "FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO."

Dr. Hugh Nibley tried to dismiss Benton's letter as "fiction." In his book, The Myth Makers, page 157, we find this statement: "...we are incline to regard A. W. B.'s story of the 1826 trial as fiction... without the reality of the peep-stones, the whole legend of the 1826 trial collapses.... the 1826 trial, unattested in any source but his for fifty years, was a product of A. W. B.'s own wishful thinking."

Actually, there was some good evidence from a Mormon source to show that Joseph Smith had some trouble with the law at the time he was working for Josiah Stowell. In 1835 Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, wrote the following:

"Soon after this visit to Cumorah, a gentleman from the south part of the State,... employed our brother... This gentleman, whose name is Stowel, resided in the town of Bainbridge,... Some forty miles south,.... is said to be a cave... where a company of Spaniards,... coined a large quantity of money;... our brother was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth, in pursuit of this treasure....



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             11

"On the private character of our brother I need add nothing further, at present, previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites, only that while in that country, SOME VERY OFFICIOUS PERSON COMPLAINED OF HIM AS A DISORDERLY PERSON, AND BROUGHT HIM BEFORE THE AUTHORITIES OF THE COUNTY; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquited." (Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, Vol. 2, pages 200-201)

While Oliver Cowdery disagrees with the court record when he states that Joseph Smith was acquitted, he is in agreement with the court record and with A. W. Benton's letter in stating that Joseph Smith was charged with being "A DISORDERLY PERSON."

The Mormon writer F. L. Stewart tried to make it appear that the statement by Cowdery referred to another incident altogether, but Richard L. Anderson, who rejected the authenticity of the court record, had to admit that she was in error: "...Stewart attempts to equate this early trial with one mentioned by Lucy Smith in Wayne County in 1829. But this conclusion violates Cowdery's description both in location and chronology; the trial he mentions took place 'previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites.'" (Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, page 232) Dr. Anderson admitted that the trial took place, but he stated that the published version was a "fictitious transcript of a genuine trial." Wesley P. Walter's work now shows that the trial did occur and that the transcript is accurate.

Serious Implications

Now that the authenticity of the court record has been established, the Mormon Church leaders are faced with a serious dilemma. The court record plainly shows that Joseph Smith was deeply involved in magic practices at the very time he was supposed to be preparing himself to receive the plates for the Book of Mormon. More important, however, is the fact that it undermines the whole story of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. A careful examination of Joseph Smith's story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and even the text of the book itself reveals it is just an extension of his money-digging practices. For example, the court record shows that Joseph Smith had used a stone placed in his hat to find treasures "for three years" prior to 1826. Now according to eye witnesses to the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith translated the plates in the same manner. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, stated: "I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated, JOSEPH WOULD PUT THE SEER STONE INTO A HAT, and put his FACE IN THE HAT, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, by David Whitmer, page 12)

The Mormon historian B. H. Roberts frankly admitted that Joseph Smith sometimes used a "Seer Stone" to translate:

"The SEER STONE referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, N. Y. It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it -- as described above -- as well as by means of the Interpreters found with the Nephite record, Joseph





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same
vs                   Misdemeanor
Joseph Smith
The Glass looker
March 20, 1826       To my fees in examination
                     of the above cause 2.68


ABOVE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF JUSTICE ALBERT NEELY'S BILL SHOWING THE COSTS INVOLVED IN SEVERAL TRIALS IN 1826. THE FIFTH ITEM FROM THE TOP MENTIONS THE TRIAL OF "JOSEPH SMITH THE GLASS LOOKER." WHEN THE LETTER "S" WAS REPEATED IN DOCUMENTS OF JOSEPH SMITH'S TIME, AS IN THE WORD "GLASS," THE TWO LETTERS APPEARED AS A "P" (SEE THE WORD "ASSAULT" IN ITEMS 1, 4, 7 AND 9). TO THE LEFT WE HAVE TYPED OUT THE PORTION OF THE BILL WHICH MENTIONS JOSEPH SMITH. THIS BILL PROVES THAT THE PUBLISHED COURT RECORD IS AUTHENTIC.



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was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates." (A Comprehensive History of The Church of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1. page 129)

In the Book of Mormon we read: "And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, A STONE, which shall SHINE forth in darkness unto light,..." (Book of Mormon, Alma 37:23) In the Doctrine and Covenants 78:9, Gazelam is identified as "Joseph Smith, Jun."

Joseph Smith claimed that his Urim and Thummim -- which he also used to translate -- consisted of "two STONES in silver bows... " (History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 12) It would appear, then, that Joseph Smith fastened two of his "seer stones" together to make his "Urim and Thummim." The testimony given in the 1826 trial shows that as early as 1826 Joseph Smith was using two different stones.

However this may be, Joseph Smith's father-in-law, Isaac Hale, noticed a definite relationship between the method Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon and the way he searched for buried treasures. Isaac Hale's affidavit was published in Mormonism Unvailed in 1834, but Mormon writers have claimed that the affidavits published in this book were corrupted by Philastus Hurlburt. The Mormon writer Richard L. Anderson, however, has discovered that the statements from "Joseph Smith's in-laws and their Pennsylvania friends" were "apparently procured by Howe's direct correspondence INDEPENDENT of Hurlbut." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, page 25) They were first published in the Susquehanna Register and then reprinted in the New York Baptist Register. Wesley P. Walters has sent us a photograph of Isaac Hale's affidavit as it appeared in the New York Baptist Register. The following is taken from Mr. Hale's affidavit:

"I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called 'money diggers;' and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a STONE PLACED IN HIS HAT, AND HIS HAT CLOSED OVER HIS FACE. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure.... Smith, and his father, with several other 'money diggers,' boarded at my house while they were employed in digging a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave them great encouragement, at first, but when they arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see....

"After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave him my reasons for so doing; some which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place. Not long after this, he returned, and while I was absent from home carried off my daughter, into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent.... In a short time they returned,...

"Smith stated to me that he had given up what he called 'GLASS LOOKING,' and that he expected to work hard for a living, was willing to do so. He also made arrangements with my son,... to go up to Palmyra, and bring his (Smith's) furniture &c.... Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of plates down with them.... The manner in which he pretended to read and



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             15

interpret, was the SAME AS WHEN HE LOOKED FOR THE 'MONEY DIGGERS,' WITH THE STONE IN HIS HAT, AND HIS HAT OVER HIS FACE, while the book of plates was at the same time hid in the woods!" (New York Baptist Register, June 13, 1834)

In our book Joseph Smith and Money Digging we have printed this affidavit in its entirety from Howe's Mormonism Unvailed. A careful comparison with the printing in the Baptist Register shows that it has not been "heavily edited" as Mormon writers have charged.

Now that Howe's printing of the affidavits from Pennsylvania has been shown to be accurate, we must take a more serious look at the affidavits from the Palmyra-Manchester area. This is especially true now that the 1826 court record has been proven authentic. In the past Mormon writers have always claimed that Joseph Smith's neighbors made up the stories of his use of the stone for money-digging. The court record, however, shows that Joseph Smith himself admitted 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 at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra 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,..."

Now, in light of this confession by Joseph Smith himself, the statements by his neighbors must be seriously considered. In his affidavit. Peter Ingersoll stated:

"I, Peter Ingersoll; first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822....

"In the month of August, 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife's household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale's, in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: 'You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money -- pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.' Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone, now, nor never could; and his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones....

"Joseph told me on his return, that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; but, said he, it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money: and in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone." (Affidavit of Peter Ingersoll, as printed in Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 232, 234 and 235; photographically reprinted in Joseph Smith and Money Digging)

William Stafford gave this information in his affidavit:

"I, William Stafford,... 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



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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....

"Joseph Smith, came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and early in the evening repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits. Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and motions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment. He soon returned and said, 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. We then went into the house, and the old man 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.

"...Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows: -- That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed -- that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold. To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business....

"When they found that the people of this vicinity would no longer put any faith in their schemes for digging money; they then pretended to find a gold bible,..." (Ibid., pp. 237-239)

The reader will remember that the Mormon historian B.H. Roberts stated that Joseph Smith found his "Seer Stone" while "digging a well



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             17

in company with his brother Hyrum,..." In his testimony Willard Chase also tells that the stone was found in a well:

"I became acquainted with the Smith family... in the year 1820. At that time, they were engaged in the money digging business, which they followed until the later part of the season of 1827. In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me;... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again....some time in 1825, Hiram Smith... came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone,... I told him it was of no particular worth to me, but merely wished to keep it as a curiosity, and if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it;...

"In the fall of 1826, a friend called upon me and wished to see that stone,... But to my surprize, on going to Smith's, and asking him for the stone, he said, 'you cannot have it;' I told him it belonged to me, repeated to him the promise he made me, at the time of obtaining the stone: upon which he faced me with a malignant look and said, 'I don't care who in the Devil it belongs to, you shall not have it.

"In the month of June, 1827, Joseph Smith, Sen., related to me the following story: 'That some years ago, a spirit had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold; and that he was the person that must obtain them,...

"He [Joseph Smith] then observed that if it had not been for that stone, (which he acknowledged belonged to me,) he would not have obtained the book....

"In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible." (Ibid., pp. 240, 241, 242, 246 and 247)

Henry Harris made these statements:

"I, Henry Harris, do state that I became acquainted with the family of Joseph. Smith, Sen. about the year 1820,... Joseph Smith, Jr. the pretended Prophet, used to pretend to tell fortunes; he had a stone which he used to put in his hat, by means of which he professed to tell people's fortunes.... 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;..." (Ibid., pp. 251-252)

Joshua Stafford gave this information in his statement:

"I, Joshua Stafford, became acquainted with the family of Joseph



18                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

Smith, Sen. about the year 1819 or 20. They then were laboring people, in low circumstances. A short time after this, they commenced digging for hidden treasures, and soon after they became indolent, and told marvellous stories about ghosts, hob-goblins, caverns, and various other mysterious matters. Joseph once showed me a piece of wood which he said he took from a box of money, and the reason he gave for not obtaining the box, was, that it moved. At another time, he, (Joseph Jr.) at a husking, called on me to become security for a horse, and said he would reward me handsomely, for he had found a box of watches, and they were as large as his fist, and he put one of them to his ear, and he could hear it 'tick forty rods.'" (Ibid., page 258)

Joseph Capron made these statements:

"I, Joseph Capron, became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1827.... The family of Smiths held Joseph Jr. in high estimation on account of some supernatural power which he was supposed to possess. This power he pretended to have received through the medium of a stone of peculiar quality. The stone was placed in a hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light, except that which emanated from the stone itself. This light of the stone, he pretended, enabled him to see any thing he wished. Accordingly he discovered ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver, and many other invaluable treasures deposited in the earth. He would often tell his neighbors of his wonderful discoveries, and urge them to embark in the money digging business. Luxury and wealth were to be given to all who would adhere to his counsel... The sapient Joseph discovered, north west of my house, a chest of gold watches; but, as they were in the possession of the evil spirit, it required skill and stratagem to obtain them. Accordingly, orders were given to stick a parcel of large stakes in the ground, several rods around, in a circular form. This was to be done directly over the spot where the treasures were deposited. A messenger was then sent to Palmyra to procure a polished sword: after which, Samuel F. Lawrence, with a drawn sword in his hand, marched around to guard any assault which his Satanic majesty might be disposed to make. Meantime, the rest of the company were busily employed in digging for the watches. They worked as usual till quite exhausted. But, in spite of their brave defender, Lawrence, and their bulwark of stakes, the devil came off victorious, and carried away the watches.... At length, Joseph pretended to find the Gold plates. This scheme, he believed, would relieve the family from all pecuniary embarrassment. His father told me, that when the book was published, they would be enabled, from the profits of the work, to carry into successful operation the money digging business." (Ibid., pp. 258-260)

We do not have room here to include all of the affidavits published in Howe's book, but they are found in their entirety in our book Joseph Smith and Money Digging, Part 3.

Other Affidavits

Now that Wesley P. Walters has established the authenticity of the 1826 trial, which proves beyond all doubt that Joseph Smith was involved in money-digging, the affidavits and statements which accuse



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             19

him of this practice cannot be easily dismissed. While many of the statements were published by E. D. Howe in 1834, there are some other statements that are not very well known. These are the statements published by Arthur B. Deming in 1888. We had never seen Deming's publication until recently when Wesley P. Walters sent us a copy.

The Mormon writer Richard L. Anderson is willing to admit that the statements come from the people mentioned by Deming, although he claims they are "one-sided reports from biased people":

"A. B. his hered testimony in a newspaper entitled, Naked Truths About Mormonism,...

"The historian must treat Deming's results as carefully as Hurlbut's. Checking out the names and residences designated in his statements shows that Deming apparently did make contact with several who had known the Smiths in Palmyra-Manchester. This is not to say that these parties were carefully interviewed, or that Deming was above Hurlbut-like prompting or editing. The point is that in his one-sided reports from biased people, Deming does not totally damn the Smiths as Hurlbut-Howe." (Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1970, pp. 299-300)

Although we do not have room to include all the statements in this publication, we will give some of the more interesting portions.

In her statement Mrs. S. F. Anderick stated:

"In 1812 my parents moved to a farm two miles from the village, and in the township of Palmyra, New York.... Jo was pompous, pretentious and active at parties. He claimed, when a young man, he could tell where lost or hidden things and treasures were buried or located with a forked witch hazel. He deceived many farmers, and induced them to dig nights for chests of gold, when the pick struck the chest, someone usually spoke, and Jo would say the enchantment was broken, and the chest would leave.

"Willard Chase, a Methodist who lived about two miles from uncle's, while digging a well, found a gray smooth stone about the size and shape of an egg. Sallie, Willard's sister, also a Methodist, told me several times that young Jo Smith, who became the Mormon prophet, often came to inquire of her where to dig for treasures. She told me she would place the stone in a hat and hold it to her face, and claimed things would be brought to her view. Sallie let me have it several times, but I never could see anything in or through it. I heard that Jo obtained it and called it a peep-stone, which he used in the place of the witch hazel. Uncle refused to let Jo dig on his farm. I have seen many holes where he dug on other farms." (Naked Truths About Mormonism, Oakland, California, January, 1888, page 2)

Isaac Butts made these statements in his testimony:

"I was born in Palmyra, N. Y.... I attended school with Prophet Jo. His father taught me to mow. I worked with old and young Jo at farming. I have frequently seen old Jo drunk. Young Jo had a forked witch-hazel rod with which he claimed he could locate buried money or hidden things. Later he had a peep-stone which he put into his hat and looked into it. I have seen both. Joshua Stafford, a good citizen, told me that young Jo Smith and himself dug for money in his orchard and elsewhere nights.... Jo and others dug much about Palmyra and Manchester." (Ibid., page 2)



20                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

The statement of W. R. Hines is very interesting because it confirms some statements found in Josiah Stowel's testimony in the 1826 trial -- i. e., both accounts mention Joseph Smith digging for salt and "Monument Hill." Mr. Hines gave this information in his statement:

"I was born February 11, 1803, at Colesville, Windsor Township, Broome County, N. Y. Jo Smith, who became the Mormon prophet, and his father... dug for salt two summers, near and in sight of my house.... Jo Smith claimed to be a seer. He had a very clear stone about the size and shape of a duck's egg, and claimed that he could see lost or hidden things through it. He said he saw Captain Kidd sailing on the Susquehanna River during a freshet, and that he buried two pots of gold and silver. He claimed he saw writing cut on the rocks in an unknown language telling where Kidd buried it, and he translated it through his peep-stone. I have had it many times and could see in it whatever I imagined. Jo claimed it was found in digging a well in Palmyra, N. Y. He said he borrowed it. He claimed to receive revelations from the Lord through prayer, and would pray with his men, mornings and at other times.... He had men who did the digging and they and others would take interests.... They dug one well thirty feet deep and another seventy-five... but found no salt.

"My nephew now owns the land he dug on. Asa Stowel furnished the means for Jo to dig for silver ore, on Monument Hill. He dug over one year without success. Jo dug next for Kidd's money, on the west bank of the Susquehanna, half a mile from the river, and three miles from his salt wells. He dug for a cannon the Indians had buried, until driven away by the owner of the land. He dug for many things and many parties, I never knew him to find anything of value. He and his workmen lived in a shanty while digging for salt....

"Jo and his father were all the time telling of hidden things, lead, silver and gold mines which he could see. I called him Peeker. About the spring of 1828, Jo came in front of my house where several men were pitching quoits. I said, 'Peeker, what have you found?' He said he had found some metal plates which would be of great use to the world.... Soon I learned that Jo claimed to be translating the plates in Badger's Tavern, in Colesville, three miles from my house. I went there and saw Jo Smith sit by a table and put a handkerchief to his forehead and peek into his hat and call out a word to Cowdery, who sat at the same wrote it down." (Ibid., page 2)

Mr. K. AE. Bell gave this information in his statement:

"My brother... told me he knew Jo Smith when he was digging near the Susquehanna River for Captain Kidd's money. Jo had a peep-stone through which he claimed to see hidden or buried treasures. Jo sold shares to all who would buy, and kept the money. He said they would make a circle, and Jo Smith claimed if they threw any dirt over the circle the money chest would leave." (Ibid, p. 3)

Henry A. Sayer gave this information:

"When a young man I spent much of the summers along the Susquehanna River. I became acquainted with Jo, Hyrum, and Bill Smith, whom I often saw hunting and digging for buried money, treasure, or lost and hidden things. Jo claimed to receive revelations from



                            JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                             21

the Lord where to dig. People would say, 'Jo, what did the Lord tell you last night, or what did you dream?' 'Jo, what are you going to dig for next?' 'Jo, I found a hollow tree or stump; go and see what you can find there. He had a peepstone which he claimed had an attraction, and he could see hidden things through it. He was generally called the Peeker." (Ibid., page 3)

C. R. Stafford stated:

"I was born in Manchester, New York, Feb. 4, 1813.... The Mormon Smith family lived near our house.... There was much digging for money on our farm and about the neighborhood.... Jo Smith kept it up after our neighbors had abandoned it. A year or two after Jo claimed to find the plates of the 'Book of Mormon.' He had men dig a tunnel near fifty feet long in a hill about two miles north of the hill where he claimed to find the plates. I tried to look into a peep-stone in my hat in a dark room; I saw nothing, some claimed they could.... Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving." (Ibid., page 3)

In his statement F. S. Whitney said:

"Jo's peep-stone was called the Urim and Thummim. Mormon elders and women often searched the bed of the river for stones with holes caused by the sand washing out, to peep into. N.K. Whitney's wife had one." (Ibid., page 3)

C. M. Stafford stated:

"I well remember about 1820, when old Jo Smith and family settled on one hundred acres one mile north of our house.... Old Jo claimed to be a cooper but worked very little at anything.... I exchanged work with Jo but more with his brother Harrison, who was a good, industrious boy.... Jo claimed he could tell where money was buried, with a witch hazel consisting of a forked stick of hazel. He held it one fork in each hand and claimed the upper end was attracted by the money.... My mother-in-law, Mrs. Rockwell, said that Prophet Jo Smith told her there was money buried in the ground and she spent considerable time digging in various places for it.... Jo Smith told me there was a peep-stone for me and many others if we could only find them. Jo claimed to have revelations and tell fortunes.... Jo had men dig on a tunnel forty or fifty long in a hill about two miles north of where he claimed to find the plates. I have been in it. Some people surmised it was intended for counterfeiting." (Ibid., April 1888, page 1)

In his affidavit, Joseph Rogers stated:

"I was often in Palmyra, and was well acquainted with Jo Smith, who became the Mormon prophet. When a young man he claimed to receive revelations from the Lord where treasures were buried. He told Peter Rupert and Mr. Cunningham, a blacksmith (simpleminded old men), that there was a chest of gold buried on my brother-in-law, Henry Murphy's farm, under a beech tree. Henry's younger brother, Jack, said that must be stopped, and he obtained



22                             JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                            

some filth in a sap bucket and got up in the beech tree before they arrived in the evening. They came and Mr. Rupert held the Bible open and a lighted candle as prophet Jo directed, while Peter dug for the chest of gold. Jack called Peter three times and he looked up and said, 'Here am I, Lord,' and received the filth in his face. Peter told me and others that the Lord chastised him and he had to stop his digging. He said he paid Jo for the information.... He said Jo had perfect command over men. He believed he was a prophet.... Jo Smith and his adherents dug a cave in a hill in Manchester, N. Y., and used to go there, he said, to consult with the Lord." (Ibid., page 1).

Mrs. M.C.R. Smith stated:

"There was considerable digging for money in our neighborhood by men, women and children. I never knew of their finding any. I saw a large hole dug on Nathaniel Smith's farm, which was sandy. I saw Joshua Stafford's peep-stone which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center. Sallie Chase, a Methodist, had one and people would go for her to find lost and hidden or stolen things." (Ibid., page 1).

Conclusion

In this booklet we have shown that while Joseph Smith was at Bainbridge, N. Y., he engaged in the practice of money-digging. He became known as a "glass looker" and was arrested, tried and found guilty by a justice of the peace in 1826. Affidavits which we have reproduced indicate that he indulged in the same magical practices in the Palmyra-Manchester area. These activities were taking place at the very time God was supposed to be preparing him to receive the gold plates for the Book of Mormon. These facts seem to undermine the whole foundation of Mormonism. For a complete study of Joseph Smith's money-digging activities see our book Joseph Smith and Money Digging...








Marvin S. Hill

"Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial:
New Evidence and New Difficulties"

(BYU Studies, 12:2, Winter 1972)


(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments






Copyright © 1972, Brigham Young University. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 223 ]



Joseph Smith and
the 1826 Trial:
New Evidence and
New Difficulties



MARVIN S. HILL


In the late winter of 1826, according to an early account, Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of the wife of Josiah Stowell, presented a written complaint against Joseph Smith at South Bainbridge, New York, which led to his arrest and trial as a "disorderly person." Since the time that Fawn Brodie in her biography of Joseph Smith [2] accepted as authentic the account of the trial published in the Schaaf-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1883), [3] it has been a source of sharp conflict among the students of early Mormonism. [4] Perhaps the primary reason for Mormon opposition to the record is the alleged admission it contains made by Joseph Smith that he had been searching for lost treasure by means of a stone.

After Brodie's book was published, other versions of the trial were discovered -- one by "A. W. B." [A. W. Benton], published in 1831 in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, [5] and another by a prominent physician, W. D. Purple of

__________
1 --

2 No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945).

3 Vol. II, pp. 1576-77.

4 Francis W. Kirkham challenged the validity of the record in New Witness for Christ in America (Independence, Mo.: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., pp. 370-94.

5 Vol. II (9 April 1831)



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Chenango County, who wrote in the Chenango Union in 1877. [6] A version very similar but not identical to the Schaaf-Herzog was found to have been published earlier in Fraser's Magazine in 1873. [7]

These versions of the trial were submitted to some scrutiny by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers in 1961. [8] Nibley challenged the validity of the Schaaf-Herzog report primarily because the original document has never appeared, although it was said to have been taken to Utah by Emily Pearsall, the niece of Justice Albert Neely who supposedly tried the case. Nibley said we have only the testimony of Miss Pearsall that the record ever existed, and that came through Bishop Daniel S. Turtle of the Episcopal church in Salt Lake City, who published the Schaaf-Herzog report.

By examining the Pearsall, Purple, and Benton accounts, which he noted are contradictory, [9] Nibley raised the question whether the charge of vagrancy indicated by Purple was plausible when the testimony itself shows that Joseph worked for Josiah Stowell at his request. [10] Nibley also suggested the possibility that there might have been some confusion between a trial which did occur at Bainbridge in 1830 with one in 1826 that perhaps did not. Nibley argued that Benton probably made up the story of the 1826 trial, applying some of the details from the 1830 affair and getting his ideas of Joseph's stone peeping from articles by Obediah Dogberry published in the Palmyra Reflector in that year. [11]

Just recently, however, Reverend Wesley P. Walters of the United Presbyterian church in Marissa, Illinois, discovered some records in the basement of the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, which he maintains demonstrate the actuality of the 1826 trial and go far to substantiate that Joseph Smith spent part of his early career in southern New York as a money digger and seer of hidden treasures. A periodical in Salt Lake City which heralded Walters's findings said they "undermine Mormonism" and repeated a statement by Hugh Nibley in The Myth Makers, "if this court record is authentic

__________
6   3 May 1877.

7 New Series (London: February 1873), p. 225.

8 (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft), p. 143.

9 Among other things, Nibley observed That Benton and Purple differ as to Joseph's fate after the trial; Benton said he escaped, Purple that he remained in Chenango County a few weeks. see p. 151.

10 Ibid., pp. 54, 55.

11 Ibid., pp. 156-57.



JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                                                                    225


it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith." [12]

Walters's discovery consisted mainly of two documents. The first was a bill of costs presented to local authorities by Justice Albert Neely in 1826 which identified Joseph Smith as "The Glass Looker" and indicated that he was charged at the trial with a "misdemeanor." Neely's bill reported that his total charges for the case were $2.68, the precise amount shown in Fraser's Magazine.

Walters's second find was a bill by the local constable, Philip DeZeng, dated 1826, [13] which indicates that not only was a warrant issued for Joseph Smith's arrest but also a mittimus, which Walters believes must have been issued after the trial ordering the sheriff to escort Joseph out of the county. Walters contends that the mittimus thus proves that Joseph Smith was found guilty. [14]

A preliminary investigation by the writer at the sheriff's office in Norwich, New York, confirmed that Walters had searched thoroughly the bills of local officials dated in the 1820s, many of which were similar to the two bills in question. The originals, however, were not at the sheriff's office but in Walters's possession. Presumably they will be available for study at a later date. Until then, the final question of their authenticity must remain open. If a study of the handwriting and paper of the originals demonstrates their authenticity, it will confirm that there was a trial in 1826 and that glass looking was an issue at the trial. Despite Nibley's argument to the contrary, this has remained a distinct possibility since Oliver Cowdery acknowledged in the LDS Messenger and Advocate in 1835 that, while Joseph Smith was in southern New York,
some very officious person complained of him as a disorderly person and brought him before the authorities of the county; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquitted.
Cowdery made it clear that this occurred prior to Joseph's receiving

__________
12 The Salt Lake Messenger, August 1971. Nibley's statement is found on p. 142 of his work.

13 Rev. Walters sent this writer a photographic reproduction of DeZeng's bill. It has been published in Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1971), p. 6.

14 See Walters's argument in Tri-Town News (Sidney, N.Y.) 25 August 1971.



  226


the Book of Mormon plates. He said that following the trial Joseph
continued to receive instructions concerning the coming forth of the fulness of the gospel, from the mouth of the heavenly messenger, until he was directed to visit again the place where the records were deposited. [15]
But, despite any new evidence, many of the contradictions demonstrated by Nibley cannot be dismissed, and some additional difficulties now appear. Doubt still remains as to the authenticity of the testimonies published in Fraser's and by Purple, because the details of these vary. The bills found by Walters clarify some points but add to the confusion on others.

As already indicated, in Fraser's Peter Bridgeman is reported to have made the charges against Joseph. No reason is given. Dr. Purple, who claimed Justice Neely asked him to take notes at the trial, recalled in 1877 that it was the sons of Josiah Stowell who brought the allegations because they were afraid that Joseph's encouragement of their father's money digging was "depriving them of their anticipated patrimony." A. W. Benton said that it was "the public" who had Joseph arrested after becoming "wearied with the base imposition he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant." Oliver Cowdery attributed the charges to an "officious person."

Contradictions on the nature of the charge are also evident. Fraser's indicated Joseph was accused of being a "disorderly person and imposter." Purple said Joseph was arrested "as a vagrant, without visible means of support." Benton said Joseph was tried as a "disorderly person," a charge which Oliver Cowdery also repeats.

Walters's discoveries do not help us on this matter. The bill of Justice Neely does not reveal what the charge was, only that Joseph was tried for a "misdemeanor." It is curious that in the other cases included on the bill specific charges such as "assault and battery" and "petit larceny" [sic] are given. It is interesting, and perhaps significant, that in another document found by Walters, the 1830 bill of Justice of the Peace Joseph Chamberlain, who tried Joseph Smith in the 1830 trial, the charge is specifically stated -- "a disorderly person." [16] This fact, along with the vagueness of the charges in Neely's bill,

__________
15 (October 1835), pp. 201-202.

16 A photocopy of this bill was also sent to the writer by Rev. Walters.



JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                                                                    227



[ image - not reproduced ]

Constable Philip DeZeng's bill of costs.







  228


necessitates the question being raised, did Fraser's, Benton, and Cowdery confuse the charges in 1826 with those in 1830? We have evidence that Benton and Cowdery were both involved in the 1830 affair, [17] and they possibly could have confused the charges in the two trials. If so, of what was Joseph Smith accused in 1826? A "misdemeanor" might be many things, as the term simply designates a minor offense. Was the charge vagrancy, disorderliness, being an "impostor," or was it deliberately left vague because treasure hunting, as Joseph practiced it with Stowell, did not violate any specific New York law? It is generally known among historians that digging was common in western New York in this period. How many such persons were held accountable, and to what law? These are questions that need answering before any fair assessment of the trial can be made.

There are also discrepancies regarding who testified at the trial. Neither Benton nor Oliver Cowdery provide any trial testimony; so they are not relevant here. Fraser's, Schaaf-Herzog, and Purple do, with some interesting variations. While Fraser's says nothing with regard to Horace Stowell, the Schaaf-Herzog account indicates he was the third witness. According to Constable DeZeng's bill, subpoenas were served on twelve witnesses. Fraser's gives the testimony of five, Purple four, Schaaf-Herzog six. Were there other witnesses? If so, who were they and what did they say? There is no evidence that the testimonies of only unfriendly witnesses were printed, since Josiah Stowell was a friend of Joseph Smith and Thompson also professed to be. Still, we could make a fairer evaluation if we had the full record.

According to both Fraser's and Purple, Joseph Smith was the first witness, testifying against himself. There is no mention of any counsel for the defense, although we know such was permissible, since Joseph was allowed counsel in the 1830 trial. [18] Fraser's and Purple gave different accounts of Joseph's testimony. Fraser's reports that Joseph said he spent most of his time with Stowell farming and going to school, with only a small part of the time devoted to money digging. He admitted

__________
17 Benton accrding to Joseph Smith, brought the charges which led to his arrest in 1830. Cowdery was a witness in the 1830 trial. See Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham H. Roberts (ed.) (6 vols.; Salt Lake City Deseret Book Co., 1951), I, 97, and Benton's description of the 1830 trial in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate.

18 See Joseph Smith, History, I, 89.



JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                                                                    229


that he had a stone which he used to look for treasure and looked for Stowell "several times." He said that formerly he had looked for lost articles with the stone but had lately given this up. He insisted that he did not solicit this kind of work.

In the Purple account, Joseph purportedly went into more detail on how he found the stone, learning of it from a girl in the neighborhood, who,through means of her own stone, showed him its location buried beneath a tree many miles away. Purple said Joseph claimed the stone enabled him to annihilate time and distance, that it was "an all seeing eye" and gave him "attributes of deity." Purple also said Joseph exhibited the stone in court and that it was the size of a hen's egg.

Although these two accounts are not mutually exclusive, in some ways the Purple testimony is more incriminating. Since Purple may have taken the only notes at the trial, [19] it is peculiar that he should record one set of facts at that time and remember something quite different in 1877. Of course, he admitted in 1877 that he had since told and retold the story many times. He did not say that he used notes to write the 1877 article, and some evidence suggests he was relying on memory. Purple calls Josiah Stowell "Isaiah Stowell," which is the kind of error that might result from a reliance upon memory. Purple admitted his sources for his article were some vivid recollections, his writing of the events when the trial occurred, and frequent rehearsals since. He does not say he referred to his notes when he wrote his article. [20]

Fraser's lists Josiah Stowell as the second witness, but Purple indicates Joseph, Sr., was next to testify against his son. Stowell is listed by Purple as the third witness. Purple gives an interesting account of Father Smith's testimony, saying that "he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given... should be used only in search of filthy lucre." Joseph, Sr., added that he wished "his Heavenly Father was to manifest his will concerning this marvelous power. He trusted that the Son of Righteousness

__________
19 Judging from the justice ot the peace records from Manchester and Chenango counties which I have seen, testimony as extensive as that recorded in Fraser's was not customary. If we may believe Purple, however, he was requested to take notes by Justice Neely. Thus it is possible that these were afterward written into Neely's docket book. But we need to know more about how they got into print and who handled them in between time.

20 Possibly the notes had by that time (1877) been taken to Utah. Niblev also believed Purple relied on his memory. See Nibley, p 445.



  230


would some day illumine the heart of the boy, and enable him to see His will concerning him." While such testimony would contradict some things in Joseph's personal history, nonetheless it does suggest that Joseph, Sr., had a religious concern which transcended money digging.

The Fraser's and Purple accounts of Josiah Stowell's testimony do not entirely agree. While both have Stowell testifying that he believed in Joseph's divining powers, Purple has Stowell saying Joseph could see treasures fifty feet underground, a statement which brought a direct challenge from Justice Neely. Stowell stuck to his story, however, and said he not only believed it but knew it. Both accounts give Jonathan Thompson as the last witness but with widely differing and contradictory versions of his testimony. Fraser's has Thompson relating how he, a man named Yeomans, and Joseph Smith went out at night and began digging, after Joseph told them the exact position of a treasure chest. They dug several feet and struck something with their shovel, after which Joseph looked into his glass and became frightened, seeing there an Indian who had buried the treasure and then killed his friend and buried him to guard it. Thompson said he believed that Joseph could divine such things with his stone and recounted how the chest, which was enchanted, kept settling away from them as they dug.

In the Purple version of Thompson, Joseph Smith told Stowell that a band of robbers had buried a treasure and placed a charm over it, which could only be removed by fasting and prayer. They dug for the treasure to a depth of five feet but decided they lacked sufficient faith to secure it. They offered the blood of a lamb as propitiation, but the treasure continued to recede from their reach.

The matter of whether or not Joseph Smith was found guilty remains an open question. Fraser's recorded his guilt, but A. W. Benton indicated that, although he was "condemned," because of his youth "he was designedly allowed to escape." Purple contradicted them both, recalling that "the testimony of Deacon Stowell could not be impeached, the prisoner was discharged." [21]

__________
21 There is some reason to think Purple may have confused 1820 and 1826 here, since Joseph makes it clear in his history that Stowell's testimony did help to bring a favorable verdict at the later trial. See Smith, I, 89-90



JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                                                                    231


Constable DeZeng's bill may not settle this question as readily as Walters has supposed. The relevant item in the bill reads as follows:
Serving warrant on Joseph Smith of [Chenango Co.?]
Subpoening 12 witnesses & travel
attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 night
Notifying two justices
10 miles travel with mittimus to take him
The bill does not indicate where Joseph was to be taken. Walters argues that the warrant was sufficient to take Joseph into custody for the trial and that the mittimus was issued afterward so that the sheriff could take Joseph, who had been found guilty, into custody and remove him from the county. On the surface this hypothesis does not seem likely. If one concedes that the Fraser's report of the trial is at least partially accurate, that source suggests that since a warrant and mittimus were included in the trial costs that both were issued prior to the trial. It was customary in the nineteenth century to issue a warrant for the arrest and a mittimus to the jailer to hold the defendant for trial.

These many contradictions cast some doubt upon the trustworthiness of the testimony that was purportedly given at the trial and the accuracy of the reported conviction. Perhaps some additional intensive research similar to what Reverend Walters has done will lead to a discovery of Neely's docket book or Purple's original notes. If so, we could obtain the additional information which is needed with respect to these difficulties.

In the meantime, if the bills should prove authentic and demonstrate that Joseph Smith was tried as a "Glass Looker," what shall we make of him? Nearly everybody seems to have conceded that if Joseph Smith was indeed a gold digger that he was also a religious fraud. This is a view, however, of our own generation, not Joseph Smith's. Joseph himself never denied that he searched for buried treasure, only attributing the stories which circulated about him to his work with Stowell. [22] In one place he admitted that he did such work but never made much money from it. [23] Martin Harris, who for most of his life was a believer in Joseph Smith, only confessing

__________
22 Smith, I, 17.

23 The Elders' Journal I (July 1838), 43.



  232


that he "lost confidence in Joseph Smith" while he was a Shaker in the 1840s, [24] was quoted as saying that Joseph and his father were part of a company which searched for treasure. [25] Hosea Stout, who believed in the Prophet, said that the gold plates were found by means of a seer stone. [26]

If there was an element of mysticism in Joseph Smith and the other early Mormons which led them to search for treasures in the earth, it does not disprove the genuineness of their religious convictions. William Purple admitted that Josiah Stowell was "educated in the spirit of orthodox Puritanism" and was "officially connected with the first Presbyterian church of the town." In a letter to Joseph Smith, only part of which has been published, Stowell made it clear that his deepest interests in Joseph Smith and his movement were religious. Although too ill to write his own letter, he dictated to Martha L. Campbell that he hoped to come to Nauvoo in the spring of 1844. "He says he has never staggered at the foundation of the work for he knew too much concerning it," Mrs. Campbell wrote.
If I understood him right he was the first person that took the plates out of your hands the morning you brought them in, and he observed, blessed is he that seeth and believeth, and more blessed is he that believeth without seeing. He says he has seen and believed. He seems anxious to get there (to Nauvoo) to renew his covenants with the Lord.... He gave me strict charge to say to you his faith is good concerning the work of the Lord. [27]
It has been argued that Joseph's religious pronouncements in his history were written for public consumption and that in reality he was a calculator and schemer who exploited the religious feelings of his people for his own ends. [28] But this ignores the deep sense of religious calling in the man which goes far back into the history of his family. For now, it is instructive to take note of a letter which Joseph wrote to his wife, Emma, in 1832 which suggests this dimension of his character.

__________
24 See Thomas Colburn's statement to this effect in "Journal History," 2 May 1855.

25 Tiffany's Monthly, V (May 1859), 164.

26 Juanita Brooks, (ed.), On the Mormon Frontier. The Journal of Hosea Stout (2 vols.; Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 1964), II, 593. see the entry of 25 February 1856.

27 B. H. Roberts published an excerpt from the letter in his Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake City, Deseret News Press, 1930), I, 98. The revealing original is in the Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.

28 Brodie, pp. vii, 5, 16.



JOSEPH  SMITH'S  1826  TRIAL                                                                    233


[ image - not reproduced ]

Judge Albert Neely's bill of costs.

Because it was not written for public consumption, it must bear unusual weight.
I have visited a grove which is Just back of the town almost every day where I can be Secluded from the eyes of any mortal and there give vent to all the feelings of my heart in deadication [sic] and praize [sic] I have called to mind all the past moments of my life and am left to morn [sic] and Shed tears of sorrow for my folly in sufering [sic] the adversary of my Soul to have so much power over me as he has had in times past but God is merciful and has forgiven my sins and I rejoice that he Sendeth forth the Conferter [sic] unto as many as believe and humbleth themselves before him. [29]
It is time historians began to study this aspect of Joseph's personality. No one who ignores it can understand him.

__________
29 The letter, dated 6 June 1832, is in the Mormon Collection, Folder I, Chicago Historical Society, and has recently been printed in BYU Studies, XI:4 (Summer 1971), pp 517-23.


(comments forthcoming)






Wesley P. Walters
(1926-1980)


"Joseph Smith's Bainbridge,
N.Y., Court Trials"

Westminster Theological Journal
Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter 1974)


123-155 (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1974, Westminster Theological Seminary. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 123 ]





JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y.,
COURT  TRIALS


W. P. WALTERS


History is recorded in the strangest places. Who would expect to find colorful fragments of history reflecting The drama and pathos of daily living hidden away in a dusty pile of old county bills! These bills submitted to the County Board of Supervisors to be "audited and allowed" for payment by local school commissioners, road supervisors, surveyors, those in charge of the county poor houses, constables, justices of the peace and the like, each handwritten by the official himself, reflect the life and human heart-throb of the period -- "carrying Obediah Newton, his pretended wife and three children to poor house... $10.00"; investigating the claim that a young girl "was with child -- $1.00" and "pursuing the alleged father -- $2.00"; procuring "a small file... for taking Irons off of Treadwell -- 12 1/2" cents and "whiskey" to keep his guards happy. [1] But of special interest to scholars dealing with early Mormon history are some bills from Chenango County, N.Y., submitted by the forgotten officials who played personal roles in the earliest legal difficulties of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism.


The 1830 Trial

The Mormon Prophet recorded in his history that he was brought to trial in the town of Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, in 1830 shortly after his organization of the church in April. [2] Smith at that time was at the home of one of his

__________
[1] The first two items appear on bills from Chenango County, N.Y. for the early eighteen twenties; the Treadwell item is in the County Court House at Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.

[2] Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church (ed. B. H. Roberts) i, 88ff. (hereafter referred to as DHC, Documentary History of the Church).




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converts, Newel Knight, when he was "visited by a constable, and arrested by him on a warrant, on the charge of being a disorderly person." "On the day following," Smith continues, "a court was convened for the purpose of investigating those charges," at which investigation, he adds, there were "many witnesses called up against me." One of the men employed to defend the young Prophet was John Reid, whose personal reminiscence also appears in a footnote in Joseph's History. Mr. Reid recalls that they "had him arraigned before Joseph Chamberlain," that "the case came on about 10 o'clock a.m." and "the trial closed about 12 o'clock at night." [3]

There is now contemporary evidence to confirm Smith's story of this trial in the form of the bills for their services submitted to the county by the constable and the judge at the trial. These bills were in the material Chenango County had in dead storage in the basement of the county jail in Norwich, New York, and were turned up in the summer of 1971 by Mr. Fred Poffarl of Philadelphia and the writer. They were bound together in a bundle with the other 1830 Bainbridge bills submitted to the County Board of Supervisors for approval and payment. They appeared still to have been tied with the same pink cord that was placed around them when the treasurer packaged them up for storage after they had been allowed, marked "passed," and the total due each claimant carefully entered into the "Supervisor's Journal" beside his name.

One of the bills was submitted by the constable, Ebenezer Hatch, "Dated at South Bainbridge July 4th, 1830," and reads:

To Serving warrant on Joseph Smith & keeping
him twenty four hours
3 meals Victuel & 1 Lodging
Suppoenying 5 witness

 
 
 

$2.00    
.50    
.62 ½
______
$3.13 ½
.75    
______
$2.37 ½

It is not evident why the total costs were reduced by seventy-five cents, but the $2.37 ½ total, rounded off to $2.38 stands beside Mr. Hatch's name in the "Supervisor's Journal" as paid

__________
[3] From his speech of May 17, 1844, in Times and Seasons v, 549ff, appearing also as a footnote in DHC i, 94ff.




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to him by the county in 1830. This bill confirms Smith's story that he was in fact arrested one day, held over night, and tried the next day. It further evidences that at least five witnesses were called by subpoena to take part in the investigation of the charge. The second bill is the one submitted by Justice Joseph Chamberlin for the cases he tried between June 1st and August of 1830. Among those cases is The People of the State of New York "vs Joseph Smith Jr a Disorderly person July 1st 1830." This not only confirms the assertion of Joseph Smith's History that the trial was held before Justice Chamberlin and that the charge was one of "being a disorderly person," but it supplies the exact date of the trial, July 1st 1830. That the examination in this case was quite lengthy is reflected in the itemized listing of Mr. Chamberlin's costs for this case:

oath on Complaint...........................
filing Complaint................................
warrant............................................
Examination 1 Day...........................
10 Subpoenis...................................
Swearing 12 witnesses......................

6[¢]
3    
19    
100    
60    
72    

From this it is clear that there were actually twelve witnesses, five served subpoenas by Constable Hatch and seven others probably served subpoenas by the other constable. It must indeed have appeared to young Smith that "many witnesses" were called up against him. Justice Chamberlin's expenses for all six cases appearing on his bill totaled $11.74 for the three-month period. This amount was entered on the back of the bill and is also still recorded beside his name in the "Supervisor's Journal" under the Town of Bainbridge for the year 1830.

The possibility that anyone could have slipped in a forged bill is ruled out by this practice of entering the totals in the "Supervisor's Journal" beside each official's name. The "Supervisor's Journal," listing all amounts paid during the year, is housed in a separate building from where the bills were kept, and this handwritten journal shows no evidence of being tampered with. [4] Furthermore, the interrelatedness of the bills themselves, with ittms from one trial appearing on several different officials' bills, guarantees the genuineness of any particular bill.

__________
[4] The "Supervisor's Journal 1824-1836" is in the office of the present County Supervisor in the new County Office Building, Norwich, N.Y.




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Bainbridge had four justices of the peace and two constables. Each of the justices handled cases in which one or both of the constables were used to serve the warrants and subpoenas, and often two other justices were called in to form a "Court of Special Sessions" to hear a particular case. Therefore the costs for some of the cases appeared on the bills of four or five different officials. The 1825 cases of Luke Crandall and Lewis Porter, for example, appear on the bill of Constable De Zeng who made the arrest and on the bills of Justices Levi Bigelow, James Humphrey, and Zechariah Tarble who served on the three-man "Court of Special Session" to try the cases. Since all their bills also list expenses for other cases tried about the same time, which cases are also similarly interrelated on their bills, it would be impossible to forge one document without having to overhaul them all. Furthermore, since each of the bills is in the distinctive handwriting of the officials submitting the claim, and matches their handwriting on other bills handed in during other years they were in office, the possibility of forgery in such a complex system is entirely ruled out. Although the bills had lain unattended for a long period of time, and even though no one else was present in the jail basement when Mr. Poffarl and the writer made this unusual discovery, this interrelatedness is a virtual guarantee of the authenticity of these bills and we need not fear that some avid follower of Joseph Smith could have planted this evidence to give support to his story. [5]

__________
[5] Because these and other bills relating to Joseph Smith's Brainbridge trials were removed by the writer and Mr. Poffarl from the water-soaked box in which they were found, and in the interest of trying to preserve them were taken from the damp basement without permission of either the Sheriff or the County Historian who were both unavailable at the time, it has been suggested in some quarters that this may have ruined their historical authenticity. However, these documents were photographed by the writer, as well as xeroxed, directly after their removal from the jail and the photographs, xerox copies, as well as the independent sworn affidavits of the writer and Mr. Poffarl, are all on file at the library of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These can be compared with the same documents subsequently returned to the county and now in the custody of the County Historian, Mrs. Mae L. Smith, and it will readily be seen that neither the discoverers nor anyone else has either doctored, forged, or in any way tampered with these bills.




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 127


Joseph Smith's History gives a portion of the testimony given by Josiah Stoal [Stowell]. This material could be verified as to accuracy if we could locate Justice Chamberlain's Docket Book, but the location of this, if it is still extant, is unknown to members of his family. [6] However, the earliest printed account of the trial, which appeared in the April 9, 1831, issue of the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, [7] does mention that testimony was given by Josiah Stowell, thus giving an added point of corroboration to Smith's story. The writer of that article, dated at South Bainbridge March 1831, signs himself as "A.W.B." From other articles in this periodical, the late Dale Morgan who first uncovered this account identifies the writer as A. W. Benton. [8] It is most likely that this is the same Benton of whom Joseph Smith records a little later in his history that "a young man named Benton, of the same religious [Presbyterian] faith, swore out the first warrant against me." [9] The Mormon leader's account also adds that Stowell's two daughters, probably Rhoda and Miriam, [10] were also called, while the Evangelical Magazine adds to the list of witnesses the names of Mr. Addison Austin and the two Mormon disciples Joseph Knight and his son Newel. Joseph Smith does not mention the Knights as participating in the South Bainbridge trial, but he does name them as participating in the Coleville trial that immediately followed it. It is quite likely that their testimony was given at both trials as a key part of his defense. Smith mentions that the matter of his money digging was brought up at the Colesville trial and the Benton article records that it also played a part in the Bainbridge trial.

__________
[6] The writer could trace only three descendants: Mrs. Ina Davey of Takoma Park, Md., Mrs. Ellen Wallace of Oneonta, N.Y., and Mr. Ralph Chamberlin of Fair Lawn, N.J., none of whom knew of any extant docket book of their great grandfather.

[7] "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, New Series ii, April 9, 1831, p. 120 (original periodical in Meadville Theological Seminary, Chicago). Photomechanically reproduced in Jerald & Sandra Tanner, Joseph Smith and Money Digging, 1970, p. 33. Reprinted in Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, 1959, ii, 466-470.

[8] Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 1971, p. 441.

[9] DHC i, 97.

[10] On Josiah Stowell's family see, William H. H. Stowell, Stowell Genealogy 1922, p. 230.




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In regard to this money digging, Benton informs us that an attempt was made to have Josiah Stowell admit that Smith had lied to him about his ability to locate buried treasures. Mr. Benton recalls the questioning of Stowell to have been as follows
Did Smith ever tell you there was money hid in a certain place which he mentioned? Yes. Did he tell you, you could find it by digging? Yes. Did you dig? Yes. Did you find any money? No. Did he not lie to you then and deceive you? No! the money was there, but we did not get quite to it! How do you know it was there? Smith said it was!
Benton also reports that Addison Austin testified that he had asked Smith at the time Stowell was doing his money digging "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.'" We have no way of checking Mr. Austin's testimony as to Joseph Smith's admitted inability to see buried treasure, but there can no longer be any doubt that prior to his printing and sale of the Book of Mormon he had gained part of his livelihood by "glass-looking" for hidden treasures. Joseph himself provides us with very little information on this period of his life, but more light on his glass-looking occupation in his pre-Mormon days is provided by a still earlier court trial at South Bainbridge for which striking corroboration in the form of the officials' bills has also been discovered.


The 1826 Trial

The Benton article of 1831 mentions that for several years preceding the appearance of Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon "he was about the country in the character of a glass-looker; pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, mines of gold and silver, etc." "In this town," Mr. Benton continues, "a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden money, which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure." Benton




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 129


adds that the people tiring of this imposition "had him arrested as a disorderly person, tried and condemned before a court of Justice. But, considering his youth, (he then being a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was four or five years ago." From this account, this earliest trial of Smith should have occurred about 1826.

The discovery among the 1826 Chenango County bills of two bills from the officials who participated in the arrest and trial of Joseph Smith at South Bainbridge in 1826 now confirms this story beyond question. The bill of Justice Albert Neely carries this entry: [11]

same [i.e. The People]
    vs
Joseph Smith
The Glass looker
March 20, 1826

Misdemeanor

To my fees in examination
of the above cause   2.68

The phrase "Glass looker" appearing on Mr. Neely's bill is the precise terminology preferred by Joseph Smith himself to describe his crystal gazing occupation [12] and is the same that Mr.

__________
[11] Justice Neely's bill was first published by Jerald Tanner from a Xerox copy mailed to him July 29, 1971, the day after the discovery, and it appeared in the Tanners' The Salt Lake City Messenger, (August 1971) Issue 32, p. 2. It, along with the Constable's bill, appeared shortly thereafter in the Tanners' Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial, 1971, pp. 6, 12f. Both bills were also reproduced from photostats supplied by the writer in Prof. Marvin S. Hill's "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," BYU Studies (Winter 1972) xii, 227, 233.

[12] Joseph's father-in-law, Isaac Hale, in a sworn affidavit published in their county newspaper in 1834 mentions in passing that "Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called 'glass-looking,' and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so." (The Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834, ix, 1, original newspaper in the Susquehanna County Historical Society, Montrose, Pennsylvania. Cf. reprint in E. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, 1834, p. 264). Dr. Richard Anderson of Brigham Young University in a specious argument tries to dissipate the force of Hale's statements by reasoning that "Since Isaac Hale told Joseph that he 'followed a business that I could not approve,' one must assume that Hale never participated in the digging operations at the 'Spanish Mine' and therefore relied on hearsay for Joseph Smith's supposed 'peeking' activities in locating treasure." ("The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, iv, 25 in.) One need not, however, be a




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Benton adopted five years later to speak of Smith's use of a peep-stone or glass placed in a hat, which he employed when hired to hunt for hidden treasures. The bill of Constable Philip De Zeng gives further historical evidence and details concerning this trial, by listing: [13]

Serving Warrant on Joseph Smith & travel.........
Subpoening 12 Witnesses & travel.....................
Attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 night ..
Notifying two Justices..........................................
10 miles travel with Mittimus to take him...........

1.25             
2.50 (3.50?)
1.75             
1. --             
1. --             

This new evidence corroborates and throws fresh light on two accounts of this 1826 trial published almost a hundred years ago but vigorously disputed by the Mormons since they first came into prominence. The first is an account of the trial by Dr. William D. Purple, an eye-witness to the proceedings and a personal friend of Justice Neely. The second is the official trial record itself, torn from the Docket Book of Justice Neely and published in three independent printings. Not only do the newly-discovered bills substantiate these two accounts as authentic, they now make it impossible for Mormon scholars to dismiss the numerous affidavits testifying that young Smith prior to founding the Mormon faith had earned part of his livelihood using a peep-stone to hunt for buried treasures. The peep-stone story can no longer be set aside as a vicious story circulated by those who wished to persecute the budding Prophet, [14] for this new evidence, dating four years before he

__________
participant in an action to be an eye-witness to that action. In the present instance Hale claims to be reporting a direct statement by Smith to him and either Joseph did actually refer to his peeking as "glass-looking" or Hale must be accused of stating a falsehood.

[13] The dollar amounts are barely visible in the water-soaked area and do not show up either on Xerox or photostatic reproductions. All but the second item are discernible in color photographs but even on the original with high power magnification it is not entirely certain if the costs reads $2.50 or $3.50.

[14] Francis Kirkham (op. cit. i, 469; ii, 488, 495; cf. i, 473) tries to attribute the "origin and emphasis" upon Joseph Smith's use of a peepstone to Eber D. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled, 1834. Dr. Hugh Nibley of Brigham Young University, on the other hand, sought to derive the peep-stone motif from an article in the Rochester Gem (May 15, 1830,




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 131


founded his church, witnesses incontrovertibly to Joseph's early "glass-looking" activities.


The Purple Account

William D. Purple of Greene, N.Y., had moved to South Bainbridge some fifteen miles distant to enter into medical practice about two years prior to Smith's 1826 trial. When the trial was held early in 1826 Dr. Purple was present and was invited by his friend Justice Neely to take notes. In all probability it was his notes that were entered into Neely's Docket Book, or at least provided the basis for the record of the trial recorded there. [15] A few years later Dr. Purple returned to Greene where he spent the remainder of his life. From time to time he told acquaintances about the legal difficulties encountered by young Joseph Smith in Bainbridge, but in 1877 he committed his reminiscences to writing and they were published in the newspapers of the area. [18] At the time of publication Dr. Purple's retentive

__________
p. 15 -- original in Local History Room, Rochester Public Library) and an alleged implementation of this motif by articles in Obediah Dogberry's Palmyra Reflector. (Reflector text from June and July 1830 issues, in Kirkham, op. cit. i, 273-277; January to March 1831 issues, Id. ii, 64-76.) Because Dr. Nibley thought that the language of Benton's article sounded similar to the Gem and the Reflector, both of whom, like Benton, made passing references to the new sect of "Wilkinsonians," Nibley confidently asserts that Benton had "most certainly read Mr. Dogberry's articles." He further imagines that Benton combined the peep-stone motif derived from Dogberry and others with elements which Benton distorted from Smith's 1830 Bainbridge trial so as to fabricate "an imaginary trial for which he cannot and dare not even give the year." (The Myth Makers, 1961, pp. 151, 154f. Cf. Kirkham, op. cit., ii, 498 -- "probably no such trial occurred" since Benton "quotes in a distorted manner the 1830 trial".) Such flights of fancy will not stand up in the face of the actual contemporary bills submitted for the trial of "Joseph Smith The Glass looker."

[15] Cf. Hill, op. cit., pp. 229 and fn.; on Purple's account not dependent upon notes cf. Nibley, op. cit. pp. 144f.

[16] The account appeared in The Chenango Union, May 2, 1877, xxx, p. 3 under the heading, "Joseph Smith, the Originator of Mormonism. Historical Reminiscences of the town of Afton" and in another printing under the same title. The latter printing is found clipped out and pasted in the "Dr. Purple Scrapbook" pp. 60-[62] in the public library in Greene, New York. The account also became the basis of an article in




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memory had won him a reputation as a reliable historian of local events, and the trustworthy character of this honored physician guaranteed the truthfulness of the account. When his account was rediscovered in 1947 in the pages of The Chenango Union Mormon writers immediately attacked the trustworthiness of the story, challenged Dr. Purple's integrity and even questioned whether he was correct in speaking of Albert Neely as being the justice in 1826. [17] However, the discovery of Justice

__________
The Democrat, Montrose, Pa., September 19, 1877. The printed account in The Chenango Union was rediscovered in 1947 by Miss Helen L. Fairbanks (cf. Brodie, op. cit. p. 440f.) and has been reprinted in full in Kirkham, op. cit. ii, 362-J68, and with interspersed vigorous objections i, 475-485; also in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Joseph Smith and Money Digging, pp. 23-28 with interspersed commentary; and in William Mulder and A. Russel Mortensen, Among the Mormons, 1958, pp. 33-38. That Dr. Purple was in Bainbridge in 1826 is attested by a bill of Justice of the Peace Zechariah Tarble in issuing a Search Warrant on both May 16th and 26th, 1826 "on the application of William D. Purple," to search for his stolen coat. It is further evidenced in a bill of "Knapp & Purple" for physician services to persons in the township, from February 9 to 21, 1827. Dr. Purple reportedly also corresponded about the trial with Mrs. Dan Holleran, an ardent South Bainbridge (now Afton) historian. However, her daughter, Mrs. Mildred Klingman of Afton, has lost track of this correspondence and other relatives are equally at a loss in providing any clue as to what became of the letters.

[17] Dr. Purple's high character and above-average memory are praised in several obituaries in the "Dr. Purple Scrapbook" (pp. 54-56; excerpts in Mrs. Brodie's notes in the Utah State Historical Society preserved among the papers of Mr. Stanley Ivins, to whose labors on the 1826 trial we are greatly indebted).

Mr. Kirkham attacks Dr. Purple's account because it seems to him an "exaggerated and fairylike story" to have Joseph Smith report that he discovered where to find his own personal seer-stone by looking into the stone of a neighbor girl and seeing his stone 150 miles away under the roots of a tree by a small stream that flows into Lake Erie (op. cit. i, 478f.). Interestingly, Smith was not alone in claiming to find a seer-stone in this manner, for a young girl in Kirtland in 1835 told Edward Partridge that she "sees by the help of a stone. She told me she saw a seer's stone for me; it was a small blue stone with a hole in one corner; that it was 6 or 8 feet in the ground, not far from the lake shore a little west of Buffalo on a hill, a tree growing near the spot -- I think she said it was near the point of a hill" ("Journal of Edward Partridge," December 27, 1835, p. 1 typescript in Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, kindly supplied by an alert Mormon scholar, Mr. Danel Bachman). It is quite likely that in 1835 Smith was still telling the same story and the girl




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 133


Neely's bill has now vindicated the general accuracy of Dr. Purple's reminiscence, although it does correct him as to the exact date, March 20th. He had dated the trial the end of February, remarkably close considering his reminiscence was written some fifty years after the event. The bills support Dr. Purple's story to an amazing degree, even to some details that could only have come from an eye-witness. There is in Constable De Zeng's bill a charge listed for "notifying two justices." In keeping with the practice of the period, as evidenced both in the bills of that day and the laws of the state, this indicates that a three-man "Court of Special Sessions" was convened to try the case. Dr. Purple's account in the original printing makes an incidental reference to this fact in quoting Mr. Stowell as saying he believed Smith "could see things fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plain as the witness could see what was on the Justices' table." In modern reprints of this account,

__________
drafted her story along the same lines. As late as 1841 Joseph held that "every man who lived on earth was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one" (full text in Tanner, Joseph Smith and Money Digging pp. 9f.). Dr. Purple could hardly have modeled his account on the unpublished diary entry. If a link exists between the two stories, the common factor to both is Joseph Smith. Joseph's father mentioned to Fayette Lapham that his son had found his seer-stone by looking in the seer-stone of another person (Historical Magazine, May 1870, Second Series vii, 306; reprinted in Kirkham, op. cit. ii, 384).

Dr. Nibley attacks the Purple account on the basis that Dr. Purple states that Smith was arrested on the charge of being a "vagrant" and need not have made the long confession attributed to him by Dr. Purple but only have shown he had a job working for Stowell to establish his innocence (op. cit. pp. 146-149). Dr. Purple's memory has doubtless faltered here, probably reflecting the popular feeling about Smith rather than the formal charge which the Benton account, much closer to the time, more accurately gives as being "a disorderly person."

Mrs. F. L. Stewart tried to undermine Dr. Purple's reference to Albert Neely as the presiding justice by questioning "was Albert Neely a justice of the peace in Bainbridge in 1826?" Then she adds, "No known records indicate that he was a justice in Bainbridge in 1826." (Exploding the Myth about Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, 1967, pp. 69f.) In May 1971 the writer verified that Mr. Neely was indeed a justice in Bainbridge in 1826 when he ran across the papers commissioning him such, dated November 16, 1825 (copy kindly supplied for the author's files by County Historian Mae Smith). Discovery two months later of the actual bill submitted by Neely to the county in 1826 disposes of Mrs. Stewart's question with finality.




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"Justices'" (plural) has been made singular (Justice's), [18] undoubtedly because there was nothing else in the Purple account to suggest that more than one justice was present. Constable De Zeng's bill now confirms that there most assuredly was more than one justice summoned for the trial and that Dr. Purple's account merits consideration as a valid source of information on the 1826 trial.


The Official Trial Record

Four years before Dr. Purple's account was published the actual trial record taken from Albert Neely's Docket Book was made public. This official trial record had been torn from Mr. Neely's book by his niece, Miss Emily Pearsall, and taken to Utah with her when she went to serve as a missionary under Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle. [19] Before her death in 1872, Charles Marshall, a British journalist visiting Salt Lake City, was shown the document, copied it and upon returning to England published it in Fraser's Magazine in 1873. [20] After Miss Pearsall's

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[18] The plural appears both in The Chenango Union and in the "Scrapbook" printing, but the Montrose Democrat (September 19, 1877) as well as all subsequent modern printings derived from the typed transcript made after the article's rediscovery read "Justice's." The plural reading was drawn to the writer's attention by Mrs. Charlotte Spicer, Local History Librarian of the Guernsey Memorial Library of Norwich, N.Y. (letter February 3, 1970).

[19] On Miss Pearsall see Bishop Daniel Tuttle, Reminiscences of a Missionary Bishop, 1906, pp. 272, 397f; and Clarence E. and Hettie May Pearsall and Harry L. Neall, History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family in England and America, 1928, ii, 1143f, 1151. Dr. Nibley slurs her, calling the 37-year-old Miss Pearsall "a zealous old maid... who lived right in the Tuttle home and would do anything to assist her superior," "a gossipy old house-keeper" and an "old maid house-keeper" (op. cit. pp. 142f.).

[20] "The Original Prophet," Fraser's Magazine, February 1873, New Series vii, 229£. Reprinted in Eclectic Magazine, New York, April 1873, p. 483, and in Tanner, Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial, p. 1f. While it is possible that Dr. Purple heard of the 1873 printing, as Nibley speculates (op. cit. p. 143), and was thus prodded to record his own recollection, it is more likely that he was stimulated by an article in his home town paper (Chenango American, March 29, 1877, xxii, 2) a month prior, concerning "John D. Lee Shot to Death" and his part in the massacre conducted by the Mormons at Mountain Meadows. Regardless of the




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death, Bishop Tuttle fell heir to the Neely trial record, and unaware of its previous publication by Marshall, announced he was publishing it for the first time in his article that appeared in the 1883 New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. [21] In this publication the Bishop omitted the court costs that had appeared at the end of the record in the Fraser's printing, apparently feeling they were not germane to his general article on the Mormons. Before the Bishop left Utah in September of 1886,

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motivation, it is clear from a comparison with the official record that neither account borrowed from the other, as Kirkham acknowledges (op. cit. i, 467; ii, 485, 493). The disparities listed by Hill (op. cit. pp. 226, 228-230) are not mutually exclusive, as he in at least one instance admits (Id. p. 229), and can either be harmonized or credited to a lapse of memory on Dr. Purple's part. Cf. further Tanner, Joseph Smith and Money Digging, pp. 23-29, which errs only in making Horace and Arad Stowell sons instead of cousins of Josiah.

[21] "Mormons," New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, 1883, ii, 1576 (vol. iii in 1891 ed.). Reprinted in Kirkham, op. cit. ii, 359-362. Kirkham tries to discredit the account on the basis that: A. the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia replaced the Bishop's entire article with one by a different author in the 1910 edition, showing that the editor knew the trial record could not be supported (i, 386; ii, 480, 430, 442, 497); B. the Bishop was in Utah at the time he received the document and had no way of checking its authenticity (i, 389; ii, 482); C. in the Bishop's later, strongly "anti-Mormon" book he makes no reference to the trial record, showing he had abandoned belief in its authenticity (i, 489; ii, 357). It should be noted in reply to these unfounded assumptions that the Bishop was called to the work in Utah from a pastorate at Morris, N.Y. (some 50 miles from Bainbridge) where he knew members of the Pearsall family ("Bishop Tuttle's Private Register" i, entries: June 1864 -- Edward Pearsall funeral; September 1864 -- Francis Pearsall funeral. Missouri Diocese, St. Louis). Further his preaching record shows visits to Greene (Dr. Purple's home) and Oxford, both within a few miles of South Bainbridge, during his pastorate and subsequently after becoming Bishop of Utah. ("Register" i, entries under June 26, 1864; March 28, 1867; November 5, 1871; November 5, 1874; ii, entries November 17, 1877; February 3, 1881; December 19, 1883). In addition, Bishop Tuttle's Reminiscences, 1906, is designed to be a record of his life's activities and not an "anti-Mormon" book, the Mormons being mentioned favorably on several occasions (cf. pp. 58-60; 110). As to his not mentioning the trial record, the Bishop writes that "Smith was up more than once, when a youth, before justices of the peace in Central New York for getting money under false pretences, by looking with his peep stone" (p. 327). Thus, far from denying the authenticity of the previously published record, he asserts his firm belief that Smith was so tried on several occasions.




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he turned the record over to the Methodists there who printed it, including the court costs, in their Utah Christian Advocate along with the Bishop's accompanying letter. [22] In the letter Bishop Tuttle wrote that Miss Pearsall's "father or uncle was a Justice of the Peace in Bainbridge, Chenango Co., New York, in Jo. Smith's time, and before him Smith was tried. Miss Pearsall tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's house and brought them to me." [23] Although the Bishop did not give the uncle's name, the Pearsall Genealogy makes it clear that her uncle was indeed the same Albert Neely whose recently discovered bill of costs shows he did hear Joseph Smith's case in 1826.

The Mormons made no reply to the official record when it was first published,24 for what can one reply to the actual court record. However, after the Methodists received and made their

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[22] "A Document Discovered," Utah Christian Advocate, January, 1886, iii (misnumbered ii, No. 13), p. 1 (copies at Drew University and Utah State Historical Society). Bishop Tuttle was appointed Bishop of Missouri August 9, 1886 (Reminiscences, p. 303) and moved to St. Louis where he spent the remaining years of his service until his death there in 1923. The record apparently was not returned to the Bishop since it is neither on file at the Diocese Office, nor with his personal effects preserved by his grandson, Wallace Tuttle of St. Louis, nor with his library turned over to the St. Louis Public Library.

[23] Justice of the Peace Courts are not courts of record (d. Kirkham, op. cit. ii, 431) and as such their docket books are not required to be kept on file at the county court house, although the townships could require them to be filed with them. However, most of them ended up either being handed down in the justice's family, or eventually being discarded and destroyed. Therefore there was no criminal disfiguring of official documents involved in Miss Pearsall's tearing pages from a family heirloom, in spite of what Dr. Nibley either ignorantly or deceptively suggests (op. cit. p. 141). Bishop Tuttle could not recall whether Miss Pearsall's father or uncle had tried the case, and Dr. Nibley twists this to mean that Miss Pearsall herself "did not even know whether he [her father] or her uncle had been the justice" and even asserts that she obviously never even asked her father about the pages she tore out (Id.). Anyone with normal reading ability who has looked at Bishop Tuttle's words needs only this to refute Dr. Nibley's assertions.

[24] Kirkham was unable to turn up any reply in Mormon publications of the day (op. cit. ii, 441, 473f.) and infers from this that everyone knew the record was not genuine; but surely if this could have been shown, the Mormon writers would have heralded the "fraud" as further evidence of the feeble attempts to assail their Prophet.




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own printing of it, the document itself disappeared, [25] and because the original manuscript was no longer available for scholars to study, questions were raised about the genuineness of the record. The discovery of the 1826 bills, however, establishes the Neely record beyond any further doubt because the official record and the trial bills corroborate each other so precisely. The Neely trial record and the bill submitted by him to the county both place the date of the trial on March 20, 1826. Both also agree exactly on the total costs to Mr. Neely of $2.68. Both also are in agreement on the nature of the charge, the bill listing it as a "misdemeanor" and the trial record defining it as "a disorderly person and an Impostor."

In addition to the precise points of agreement between the trial record and the Neely bill, which go beyond mere coincidence, the individual costs listed at the end of the official record stand in exact agreement both with the amounts prescribed by state law and with the practices of the justices in the Bainbridge area as seen in their bills submitted to the county during that period. The costs for the case as itemized at the end of Neely's Docket Record are given as: [26]
warrant 19 cts, complaint upon oath 25, 7 Witnesses 87½, Recognizance 25, Mittimus 19, Recognizances of witnesses 75, Subpoena 18 -- $2.68

A glance at the bills submitted by the justices between 1825 and 1830 shows that warrants were issued at 19¢ each, as in Justice Chamberlain's bill of 1830 or Justice Tarble's bill of 1826. Examination under oath of the complainant, which was required by law whenever the complaint concerned a criminal offence, was billed at 25¢ whether it was referred to as "complaint

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[25] If it had been returned to the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, it would have perished in the fire that destroyed their records many years ago. (Bishop Richard S. Watson, letter March 10, 1970.) The Methodist Rocky Mountain Conference, which now includes Utah, does not have it in its holdings. (Rev. Robert Runnells, letter July 28, 1970; phone call to Archivist Dr. Martin Rist, 1970.) It is possible that the editor of the Utah Christian Advocate may have kept it, but it is not known who served in that capacity so as to search for living descendants. Since the mission work in Utah had been placed under several different conferences it is remotely possible that it may be somewhere among their records.

[26] Utah Christian Advocate printing with correction from Frasers of "Recognizance or witness" to "Recognizances of witnesses."




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upon oath" as in the Neely record or "oath and examination" as in Tarble's bill. [27] The standard charge for a recognizance, whether of a defendant or of the witness, was always billed at 25¢, so that the "recognizances of witnesses 75"¢ that appears in the Neely bill represents three witnesses recognized. [28] Subpoenas were fixed by law at 6¢ each so that again three persons are represented in the 18¢ charge. [29] The remaining subpoenas appear in the listing of "7 witnesses 87½"¢. While the law allowed a charge of 6¢ for a subpoena and 6¢ for administering an oath, somehow when the two were billed jointly by the Bainbridge justices the cost was billed at 12½¢ instead of the expected 12¢, as is evidenced in William Bank's 1828 bill recording "Subpoena & Swearing two Witnesses on Examination 0.25." According to the manuals of the day issued to aid the justices of the peace in performing their duties, the final item, "Mittimus," was also known as an order or a "warrant of commitment." This item, under the latter term, also appears on the bills of the period charged at 19¢. [30] There is, therefore, complete agreement at every point between the costs appearing at the conclusion of the official trial record and the actual verifiable charges made by the other justices in Mr. Neely's own town at that precise time. In fact, so well do the Neely trial costs correlate with the prescribed legal procedures and practices of the day, and especially with the details supplied

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[27] On the mandatory oath see Revised Statutes of 1829, ii, 706, Sec. 2. When Dr. Purple was seeking to recover his coat the 1826 bill of Justice Tarble listed "oath & examination of William D. Purple" at 2St as well as the issuance of the warrant at 19¢. Even the order is the same as on the Neely record, with the warrant listed first followed by the charge for the oath administered to the complainant.

[28] Revised Statutes ii, 749, Sec. 1. Cf. e.g. William Banks bill of 1828: "recognizing two witnessis 0.50," "recognizing three witnessis 0.75"¢.

[29] Revised Statutes, ii, 749, Sec. 1, and cf. the 1828 bill of William Banks: "subpoena for Witness 0.06"; the 1830 bill of Chamberlin: "3 Subpaenes 18"; the 1826 bill of Tarble: "4 Subpaina 24"¢.

[30] Inquiry about the legal processes in 1826, directed to Mr. James M. F1avin Acting Clerk of the New York State Court of Appeals, resulted in a five-page clarification from lawyer John Moore. Mr. Moore's check of the manuals of Edwards (1825) and Waterman (1830) establish that the order of commitment and mittimus were interchangeable (letter August 10, 1973 p. 3). State law fixed pre-trial commitment at 19t and post-trial at 25, (Revised Statutes ii, 749£). See below note 36.




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by Constable De Zeng's bill, that one can with reasonable accuracy reconstruct the order of events as the young glass-looker would have experienced them.

When Joseph was arrested on the warrant issued by Albert Neely, he would have been brought before Neely for a preliminary examination to determine whether he should be released as innocent of the charges or, if the evidence seemed sufficient, brought to trial. During the examination Joseph's statement would be taken (probably not under oath), and witnesses for and against the accused were sworn and examined. [31] Both before and during the examination Joseph remained under guard, with Constable De Zeng in "attendance with Prisoner two days & 1 night," referring to the day of the examination and the day and night preceding. [32] Since the evidence appeared sufficient to show that Smith was guilty as charged, he was ordered held for trial. In such situations, if the defendant could not post bail the justice at his discretion could either order the arresting officer to continue to keep the prisoner in his custody, or he could commit him to jail on a warrant of "commitment for want of bail," sometimes referred to as a "mittimus." [33] The latter appears to have been the fate of young Joseph since De Zeng's bill records "10 miles travel with Mittimus to take him" -- and the wording should probably be completed by adding "to gaol." Shortly after this Joseph's bail was posted as the entry "recognizance 25" cents would indicate. The material witnesses, three in this instance, were meanwhile also put under recognizances to appear at the forth-coming Court of Special Sessions (Neely's "recognizances of witnesses 75" cents)." The Court was summoned to meet by Justice Neely through Constable De Zeng's "notifying two Justices." At this point the course of events becomes somewhat difficult

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[31] Revised Statutes ii, 708 Sec. 12, 13, 14, 17. The law expressly stated in regard to the defendant that "such examination shall not be on oath" but it is possible that this prohibition was not strictly observed and that the defendant might be put under oath, as Mr. Moore points out (letter p.3).

[32] Cf. Constable Redfield's 1828 bill, May 19th re: Jacob Lee. "keeping him part of two days & one night and attending the examination."

[33] Revised Statutes ii, 709 Sec. 25; 712 Sec. 5; cf. 709 Sec. 20.

[34] On defendant and witnesses recognizances see Revised Statutes ii, 707, Sec. 8; 709 Sec. 21.




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to trace, mainly because we lack the other two justices' bills which might clarify the trial proceedings. Probably what happened was that the Court of Special Sessions found young Smith guilty, as Neely records, but instead of imposing sentence, since he was a minor "he was designedly allowed to escape," as the Benton article expresses it. Perhaps an oft-the-record proposition was made giving Joseph the option of leaving the area shortly or face sentencing, and it would explain why no reference appears in the official record to the sentencing of the prisoner. [35] Another possibility, of course, is that Joseph jumped bail and when the Court of Special Sessions met they may have decided not to pursue the matter further, hoping the youth had learned his 1esson. [36] Dr. Purple, in any event, carried away the impression that "the prisoner was discharged, and

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[35] This procedure is still used in the writer's area, with the prisoaer forfeiting bail.

[36] In the Sidney (N.Y.) Tri-Town News, August 25, 1971, p. 6 the writer regarded the "Mittimus 19"¢, as the post-trial order to commit Smith to jail, with Smith allowed to escape on the way to jail. This seemed reasonable because the county jail was some 26 miles (cf. Constable Chamberlin's 1826 bill, "carrying prisoners to Norwich on mitimas 26 miles"), and De Zeng's "10 miles travel..." with the place left blank seemed to favor this view. Furthermore, De Zang's 1825 bill uses "mittimus" for the post-trial commitment ("going to Norwich with Crandall & Porter on mitamus") and holding for trial is expressed as "keeping Crandall & Porter in custody one day & night" (without a mittimus order for such on the J.P. bill). However, the 19¢ charge attached to the mittimus marks it as the pre-trial "commitment for want of bail" (Revised Statutes ii, 749 Sec. 1) and not the post-trial "warrant of commitment, on conviction, twenty-five cents" (Id. 750 Sec. 2). The few available bills bearing on the matter seem to consistently observe this distinction. (Banks 1828, Bigelow 1825.) Consequently we have felt compelled to abandon the earlier view.

This understanding also opens the unlikely reconstruction that Neely records only the pre-trial examination where the defendant's and witnesses' statements are taken (Revised Statutes ii, 708 Sec. 16; 709 Sec. 19), and Dr. Purple records the trial itself with 12 witnesses subpoenaed instead of the 10 evidenced in the Neely record (in the "7 witnesses" and 3 subpoenas"). However, in that event the 10 pre-trial subpoenas are unexplainably absent from both constables' bills. It seems preferable to assume that Neely either forgot to record the costs of two of the subpoenas (as Chamberlain did with his warrant on his 1830 bill), or that they appear on one of the two justices' bills which have not been located as yet.




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in a few weeks left the town." In either case the costs set forth in the Neely record correlate in every detail with the evidence about the trial gathered from the justices' bills of the period and with what is known to have been the legal procedure for that time and place.

In addition to the correlations that the Neely record has with the 1826 bills, further verification of the authenticity of the Neely record is found in the fact that the names of all those whom he lists as participants in the trial can be verified as real persons who were actually living in the South Bainbridge area in 1826. For example, Arad Stowell, a relative of Josiah's, was a School Commissioner during that year and his bill appears among the 1826 bills from Bainbridge. [37] The seemingly disconnected situation in which the warrant against Smith was sworn out, according to the Neely record, by a certain Peter G. Bridgman (or Bridgeman), suddenly becomes meaningful when it is learned that Bridgman was the nephew of Josiah Stowell and his wife Miriam Bridgman. [38] Apparently he became deeply concerned when he saw his uncle's money being transferred bit-by-bit into the pockets of a young "glass-looking" confidence man named Joseph Smith. To safeguard the fortune of his aunt and cousins he took vigorous action by swearing out the warrant, something that would have been difficult for either Mrs. Stowell or her sons to do without raising an internal family argument. Everything we know about this crusading young 22-year-old Bridgman suggests that he had just the determined personality that would do such a thing. Within a month after the trial he was licensed as an exhorter by the Methodists and within three years had helped establish the West Bainbridge Methodist Church. Upon his death in 1872 his fellow ministers characterized him as "an ardent Methodist

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[37] Arad Stowell and David McMaster, who most likely is the McMaster mentioned in the trial, were two of the first trustees of the South Bainbridge Presbyterian Church, organized in 1825. (James Smith, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, N.Y., 1880, p. 150.) In 1828 McMaster was Commissioner of Highways as his county bill shows. For further collection of the evidence on the trial participants see Tanner, Joseph Smith and Money Digging, pp. 36-38, and Stanley Ivins' notes p. 26 in Utah State Historical Society.

[38] Burt Bridgman and Joseph C. Bridgman, Genealogy of the Bridgman Family, 1894, pp. 129, 116, 118-119.




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and any attack upon either the doctrines or the polity of the M.E. Church, within his field of labor, was sure to be repelled by him with a vigorous hand." [39]

Neely's trial record page also refers to another relative of Josiah Stowell, a certain Simpson Stowell of Palmyra. It was while visiting Simpson's home near Palmyra that Josiah is said to have seen Joseph Smith demonstrate his glass-looking ability. Simpson is nowhere mentioned in the voluminous Stowell Genealogy, nor does he appear either in the census records of 1820 and 1830 or in the newspapers of the area. Yet he can now be placed in the area at the right time through a land purchase he made January 29, 1827, the deed to which describes him as "Simpson Stowell of the town of Manchester," to the same town in which the Smiths lived just south of Palmyra. Again, a passing remark is made in the Neely record to Joseph Smith's attending school while living with Josiah Stowell. This

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[39] Minutes Wyoming Annual Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, 1872, p. 34. Also cf. below note 56. Bridgman served as one of the original trustees of the West Bainbridge (now North Afton) Methodist Church, organized February 17, 1829 ("Incorporation of Religious Societies," p. 107, Chenango County Office Building. Information kindly supplied by Mrs. Louella B. Nelson, Acting Deputy Clerk).

[40] Deeds, Lib. 45, 400, Ontario County Court House, Canandaigua, N.Y. A search of Palmyra's Wayne Sentinel both by the writer and by Mr. Jerald Tanner failed to disclose any mention of Simpson Stowell. The Ontario County papers housed in Canandaigua as well as the 1820 and 1830 census of Palmyra and Manchester showed no reference to him. Even the 1830 and 1840 census of Phelps, where Simpson purchased land in 1827, did not contain his name that we could discover. Dr. Larry Porter, in his BYU thesis, indicates he could not place him in the Palmyra area, but in the card file of the Tioga County Historical Society he did find reference to a Simpson Stowell, born July 29, 1791, died March 27, 1868 with burial in the Smithboro Cemetery, New Township of Barton, Tioga County. Dr. Porter finds the place of burial interesting since in 1833 Josiah Stowell "became a resident of this same locale, his wife Miriam Bridgman, dying at Smithboro, New York, September 23, 1833" ("A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831," August 1971, p. 123 fn.). With only this meager verification Dr. Porter cited the trial record as factual in regard to Simpson Stowell (Id.; also BYU Studies, Spring 1970, x, 366). Martin Harris stated to Joel Tiffany that Josiah actually participated with Smith and the other money-diggers in their treasure hunting during his stay at Palmyra (Tiffany's Monthly, [August ?] 1859, v, 164).




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was independently attested years ago by a resident of Amboy, Illinois, Mr. Asa B. Searles, who when information was being collected on the early settlers of Amboy (he came in 1837) for the county history, recalled that when he had lived at South Bainbridge for four or five years, he "attended school where his brother Lemuel taught. Joe Smith, the coming prophet, was a fellow-pupil." [41] Thus the Neely trial record displays a verifiable accuracy in all its personal, historical and legal details that should be more than sufficient to establish its genuineness beyond question.


Mormon Objections

However, because the official record contains statements in the testimony of Joseph Smith and others which explicitly link Joseph with a superstitious type of stone-peeping and treasure-hunting, Mormons have been reluctant to admit the force of the evidence [42] and have sought to discredit the document from every angle possible. Sometimes the attack has taken the form of rather inane questions that hardly merit attention. Thus Dr. Hugh Nibley of Brigham Young University asks, "Why didn't he [Bishop Tuttle] publish it at once! Why did he arrange to... publish it years later in a foreign country?" [43] But the Bishop had an extremely heavy schedule, as his "Private Register" shows, traveling in the east to raise money for his work as well as throughout Utah, Montana, and Idaho, so why should he have published it at once? The fact that in his 1883 article he mistakenly speaks of the record as "never before published" shows he did not "arrange" to publish it "in a foreign country" in the 1873 Fraser's Magazine. Again, Dr. Nibley wants to know why the Bishop did not send Miss Pearsall back immediately

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[41] History of Lee County, 1881, p. 397. Mr. Searles adds that with young Joe be "had many a wrestle; but young Smith was a large, strong fellow and could handle any of the boys."

[42] Mr. Kirkham asks, "How could be be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been the superstitious fraud which 'the pages from a record' declared he confessed to be?" (op. cit. i, 486f; ii, 475f). Dr. Nibley concludes that "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith" (op. cit. p. 142).

[43] Nibley, Id. p. 141.




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to find the Docket Book. [44] It might be asked in return why the Bishop should subject her to a rugged trip of some four thousand miles when he already had the document and he knew her word was truthful. Would a record book with some pages missing have silenced all further objections? Similarly, Mrs. F. L. Stewart in exploiting the fact that the Bishop made no further mention of the document after his publication of it, asks whether it could be that Albert Neely's son, Bishop Henry Adams Neely, informed his cohort Bishop Tuttle that the record was a hoax and the Bishop therefore dropped the matter." But how do we know he did not assure Tuttle it was genuine so that Tuttle didn't bring the matter up again because he thought the issue was settled?

At other times the Mormons' objections take the form of thoughtless assertions. Mr. Kirkham in substance asserts that if a court record had existed Hurlbut would have uncovered it or at least it would have showed up in Eber Howe's Mormonism Unveiled. [48] But Hurlbut gathered no testimonies from Chenango County where the trial took place and never even got to central Pennsylvania to interview personally Joseph Smith's in-laws, as The Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834, shows. Since Howe's book does not mention Smith's 1830 trial either, should we conclude that that trial never took place as well? Mr. Kirkham further asserts that if such a trial record had existed it would have been used in the 1830 trial. [47] But we have no transcript of the 1830 trial to know what was or was not used.

Some objections appear to have genuine validity but will not stand up in the face of closer examination. Mr. Kirkham, who devotes over a hundred and fifty pages of his two volumes to attempts to disprove the 1826 trial, reports that Chenango County has no court records earlier than 1850 and none apparently were destroyed, the point seemingly being that if none go back earlier than 1850 then no 1826 trial record could have existed. [48] The writer, however, found numerous volumes of old

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[44] Id. p. 142.

[45] Stewart, op. cit. p. 74.

[46] Kirkham, op. cit. i, 386; ii, 480; cf. i, 469f.

[47] Id. ii, 495, 489f, 456f.

[48] Kirkham, op. cit. i, 389; ii, 482. 443.




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court record books in the basement of the county jail, some containing cases appealed from the court of Albert Neely in 1827. Of course, justice of the peace court record books were not required to be filed with the county, so the whole criticism falls apart upon closer examination. Mr. Kirkham also raises the question of whether the trial record brought to Utah by Miss Pearsall could have been altered by Charles Marshall or Bishop Tuttle prior to publication since neither of them published the record until after Miss Pearsall's death. [49] However, Marshall necessarily obtained his copy prior to Miss Pearsall's death for his visit to Salt Lake was in the spring of 1871 and his first articles describing his visit appeared in the June and July issues of Fraser's Magazine. When compared with the other two printings of the record the slight variations appear to arise from a common difficulty in reading the handwritten copy. It thus becomes evident that just one document lies behind all three printings. The knowledgeable young Mormon scholar, Michael Marquardt, has made a detailed comparison of the three and comments, "my comparison of the printed accounts of Fraser's Magazine (1873), New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia... (1883), and Utah Christian Advocate (1886) seem to confirm rather than to deny the authenticity of the trial of Joseph Smith the Glasslooker as taken individually from the Docket Book of Judge Albert Neely." [50]

Mr. Kirkham raises an even weightier objection when he claims that the Neely record does not follow the pattern that a genuine justice of the peace record book was required to follow, and shows that it "was written by a person totally unfamiliar with court procedure." He lists as irregularities the fact that it puts the defendant on the stand first, cites witnesses without recording they had been sworn, records their testimonies when it was not required to be recorded in justice of the peace records, and gives the verdict of guilty without indicating the sentence that was given. [51] He cites from Bender's 1837 Manual a list of items that should appear in a justice's

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[49] Id. ii. 496f; i, 488f; cf. i, 486, ii, 474, 492.

[50] Michael Marquardt, letter August 11, 1973. Marshall, apparently in a copying error, omitted the thirty-five word summary of Horace Stowell's testimony.

[51] Kirkham, op. cit. i, 384f, 388; ii, 431, 492, 481f.




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docket book, a number of which are missing from the Neely record, such as the addresses of the defendant and witnesses, the name of the arresting officer, and the plea. However, if Neely's record falls short of the pattern set down in Bender's Manual so do the other justice books of the period, for Mr. Kirkham ruins his own point by noting that the justice records of 1820-1830 on file at Albany "contain only the names of the plaintiff, the defendant, the statement of the case, the date of judgment, the amount of judgment, the cost and fees," lacking all the points for which he faults Neely's record. [52] As for the irregularities, an 1839-1842 docket book from New Berlin, Chenango County (about 30 miles from South Bainbridge), recently microfilmed by the LDS Genealogical Society exhibits exactly the same procedures for which Mr. Kirkham declared the Neely record "a fabrication of unknown authorship and never in the court records at all." [53]

A final valid-sounding objection was raised by Mrs. Stewart who noticed that the Neely record refers to Joseph Smith and not to Joseph Smith, Jr., as one might have expected. She

__________
[52] Id., i, 388; ii, 481. Mr. John Moore of the New York State Court of Appeals' office had cautioned that local magistrates, "a large number of whom were neither lawyers nor legally trained, but rather well-to-do farmers or merchants of some substance... did not always slavishly 'go by the book' but meted out rough and ready informal justice" ("Re: Trial of Joseph Smith, 1826," letter August 10, 1973, p. 2). The New York State Historical Society reports (letter October Z7, 1971) that a justice docket from Montgomery County, N.Y., 1810-1822 does not contain the addresses of the people in the case, the offence charged, or the sentence.

[53] Sidney Mills Skinner, "Docket Book, 1839-1842," New Berlin, Chenango County (typescript, Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, on Microfilm L312C 104 Box 112). For example, in the People vs Joseph Sheffield no addresses are given, there is no mention of swearing the defendant or the defendant's witness, Ezekiel Shippy, and the defendant's statement is recorded first. (p. 10; typescript p. 2). In Jeroan King vs David Webb there is a summary of the testimony of each witness (pp. 23-25; typescript p. 5). In James Robinson and Mahitibel Robinson vs Brown Foster there are no addresses given, no record of anyone being sworn except James Robinson and the testimony of the witnesses is given in considerable detail (pp. 41-45; typescript pp. 8-10). The basis, therefore, on which Kirkham calls the Neely record "a fabrication... never in the court records at all" (ii, 431) disappears in the light of an unquestionably authentic record from the area and the period involved.




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 147


seems to suggest two possibilities, both of which rescue her prophet from the embarrassment of an 1826 trial. On the one hand it could be held that it was the father and not the son that is being tried for some superstitious practices. On the other hand, if one insists that the reference is to the Mormon leader, then the date of composition must be placed after his father's death in 1840 when he would be legitimately known simply as Joseph Smith. Thus the anachronism would prove the trial record a forgery. [54] It should be noted that the newly discovered 1826 bills are in complete agreement with the Neely record in speaking of the defendant simply as Joseph Smith. Yet there seems to be little question that it is really the son and not the father who is on trial in 1826. This not only appears from the very early Benton statement about his being a "minor," but from an early Mormon source as well. In 1835 Oliver Cowdery, Smith's associate, made a passing reference to the 1826 trial in the church's periodical, the Messenger and Advocate. In referring to Smith's stay in the Bainbridge area Cowdery wrote:
While in that country, some very officious person complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the county; but there being no cause of action, he was honorably acquitted. [55]
Cowdery dates this event "previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites," that is, the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. The most natural reference of this pre-1827 legal difficulty is the March 20, 1826 trial. [56] Since Cowdery's narrative was copied into Joseph Smith's 1835-1836 history compiled under Joseph's personal supervision, there is at least tacit approval of the accuracy of the statement. [57] It seems clear, therefore, from both

__________
[54] Stewart, op. cit. pp. 67-69.

[55] Messenger & Advocate, October 1835, ii, 201.

[56] Mrs. Stewart attempts to escape the force of this Cowdery statement by relating the incident to litigation that occurred in 1829. However, Dr. Richard Anderson in reviewing Mrs. Stewart's book rightly rejects this interpretation because it "violates Cowdery's description both in location and chronology" (BYU Studies, Winter 1968, viii, 232). Cowdery's description of the one lodging the complaint as "officious," or meddlesome, is well suited to describe Joseph's and Josiah's feelings about the intrusion of Josiah's nephew, Peter Bridgman, into the affair.

[57] The quotation appears in the "Manuscript History," Book A-I, p. 103, in the journal portion compiled 1835-1836.




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Mormon and non-Mormon early sources, that Joseph Smith Jr. and not his father was the person involved in the South Bainbridge trial. However, the evidence that ultimately undermines Mrs. Stewart's thesis is that which comes from the 1830 trial. In that trial, which admittedly relates to Joseph Smith the son, Joseph is called "Joseph Smith Jr" on Chamberlin's bill, but on the constable's bill it appears simply as "Joseph Smith." Unless one wishes to maintain that they arrested the father but tried the son, it can only be concluded that such precise distinctions as Mrs. Stewart wishes to maintain were not, in fact, observed in this early period.

On the recommendation of the Law School of Syracuse University the writer submitted the Neely trial record and the 1826 bills to the office of the New York State Court of Appeals for their legal appraisal. Their reply stated:
In view of the rather early year in the area's history and of the resultant conditions obtaining in the law-enforcement processes and judicial institutions of that day, the documents you copied certainly seem consonant with the local criminal procedure of that time. [58]
There is therefore neither a legal nor a factual basis for rejecting the Neely trial record as an authentic record of Smith's 1826 trial. The main Mormon objection really seems to rest upon an emotional reaction to the admissions Smith makes in the court record, which seem tantamount to making him a religious fraud. However, at the time of the trial it was the only way he could establish that he was not a fraud. The point of the trial was that while he claimed to be a "glass-looker," he actually only pretended to have such powers and was therefore an "Impostor." Smith's only defense against this charge was to claim that he did have such ability, but had never sought customers for it, had used it very little, and really intended to give it up, as the record states:
People of State of New York vs Joseph Smith. Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an Impostor. Prisoner brought befor court 20 March. Prisoner examined, says, that he came from town of Palmyra, and, had been at the house of Josiah
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[58] "Re: Trial of Joseph Smith, 1826" p. 5.




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Stowels in Bainbridge most of time since, had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, -- but the major part had been employed by said Stowel on his farm, and going to school. 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 had 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 the stone to find lost property for 3 years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of injuring his Health, especially his eyes, made them sore -- that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.
This line of defense now proves a source of great embarrassment to Mormons in view of the lofty claims Smith made a few years later. It may have been that Smith himself came to feel that glass-looking for treasure was somewhat beneath the dignity of a genuine prophet and this led him to omit all reference to his 1826 trial from his own 1838 history and to assert that his first legal entanglement occurred after he had organized his new church. Mormons today might even admit to an 1826 trial if they can somehow escape the Neely Record with its embarrassing testimony to Joseph's superstitious "glass-looking." [59]

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[59] Dr. Anderson seems willing to acknowledge an 1826 trial when he labels the Neely record "a fictitious transcript of a genuine trial" (BYU Studies, Winter 1968 (viii, 232). Mrs. Stewart goes further and lays the groundwork for an admission of Smith's money digging, stating, "If... Joseph had been guilty of treasure hunting, it would seem not to disqualify him as being worthy of a divine mission," and it "would hardly preclude Joseph Smith's religious worthiness" (op. cit., p. 65). Prof. Hill in the same vein states, "For the historian interested in Joseph Smith the man, it does not seem incongruous for him to have hunted for treasure with a seer stone and then to use it with full faith to receive revelations from the Lord" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1972, vii, 78). Earlier he had noted that if the glass-looking charge proved to be authentic our generation would view him as a religious fraud, but "this is a view, however, of our own generation, not of Joseph Smith's" (BYU Studies Winter 1972, xii, 231). This overlooks, however, the fact that




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Conclusions

Now, however, even if the Neely record could be discredited, Joseph's early glass-looking is established as an incontrovertible fact by the discovery of the bills for the 1826 trial of "Joseph Smith The Glass looker." Prof. Hill, one of the few Mormon scholars who has looked seriously at these bills in relation to Smith's trial has concluded, "There may be little doubt now, as I have indicated elsewhere, that Joseph Smith was brought to trial in 1826 on a charge, not exactly clear, associated with money digging. [60] There can be no question in this instance about the genuineness of these 1826 bills since we not only have the original bills available for examination [61] but also they display the same interrelatedness with other bills as seen in the 1830 bills, thus ruling out the possibility of forgery. [62] In addition, the handwriting on the respective bills matches the handwriting on other bills handed into the county by both Mr. Neely and Mr. De Zeng, [68] and the total costs of both bills are, like

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the affidavits associating Smith with money digging, published in 1834, were considered very damaging and implies that in most people's thinking even in the early nineteenth century this association seemed to label him a religious fraud.

[60] Dialogue, Winter 1972, vii, 77.

[61] According to a letter from the County Attorney, Mr. James A. Haynes, Jr. (August 9, 1973) viewing the bills is presently being restricted until conferral with state authorities has worked out some policy procedures governing future research on all the bills. The remainder of the county bi11s, once stored in the county jail basement, fortunately have now been removed to drier quarters in the Historical Society Building, Norwich, but remain in a general1y disorganized state.

[62] Of the nine defendants mentioned in Neely's bi11, four appear on Justice Tarble's bill, four on Constable Chamberlin's and three on De Zeng's. If the 1826 bills of Justices Bigelow and Humphrey should turn up, there should likewise be cases on those which were tried jointly with Neely as is evident from the constables' notifying them. It is possible that these two bi11s were among some of the 1826 bills the writer unfolded which were so water-stained the entire page was illegible. On the other hand, when the County Historian has completed the organization of all the bills they may yet show up.

[63] De Zeng's 1825 bill has already been al1uded to. According to Bainbridge Village Clerk Marshall Andrews (letter March 2, 1970), the town records show that Neely was elected Commissioner of Schools March 7, 1826. Neely's bill for services in this capacity is extant among the 1826 bills and displays the same handwriting as his justice's bill. Prof. Hill




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 151


the 1830 bills, recorded in the "Supervisor's Journal" for the town of Bainbridge for 1826. Therefore no longer is there any way that Smith's peep-stoning can be written off as a charge invented by his enemies after he had given the world the Book of Mormon and instituted his new religion. Although Joseph Smith and his associates later tried to depict his association with Stowell as being that of tla common laborer," as Oliver Cowdery expressed it,[64] Smith's own mother had indicated that his going to work for Stowell involved more than being a hired hand. In her history she dearly states that Stowell had sought her son's help not because he was a good worker, but because "he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [65] Furthermore, Joseph Lewis, cousin of Joseph Smith's wife and acquainted with Smith from this early period, once pointed out how ridiculous it would have been for Stowell to travel "one hundred miles more or less, to Palmyra, N.Y., to get common laborers to work in Harmony, Pa.," and he reported that Alva Hale, Smith's brother-in-law had specifically stated to him that
Joe Smith never handled one shovel full of earth in those diggings. All that Smith did was to peep with stone and hat, and give directions where and how to dig, and when and where the enchantment moved the treasure. That Smith said if he should work with his hands at digging there, he would lose the power to see with the stone. [66]
In addition, sworn statements issued by half a dozen members of his wife's family and published in their county paper just a few years after Smith had organized his church, give further evidence that the Mormon Prophet had once earned part of his livelihood by hiring out as a glass-looking treasure hunter. [67]

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went to Norwich after the discovery of Justice Neely's 1826 bill was announced and obtained copies of some other bills signed by Neely. Even though he did not see the original trial bill, it being at Yale at the time, he wrote, "As of now I am fairly convinced that the material is authentic" (letter September 3,1971).

[64] Messenger & Advocate, October 1835, ii, 200.

[65] Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 1853, p. 92.

[66] The Amboy Journal, June 1,1879, xxiv, 1.

[67] The Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834, p. 1 (cf. note 12). The testimonies from the Register were reprinted in The New York Baptist




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In fact, testimony from some early adherents of Mormonism has disclosed that at the first Joseph even claimed he had located the plates from which he had translated his book by gazing in his Seer Stone, [68] and that he was able to use this same peep stone to obtain the translation itself. Therefore, the discovery of the 1826 bills provides a firm historical point around which to organize the massive amount of testimony concerning Smith's money digging activities. This testimony is equally strong from both of the two different locations of Smith's early activity, locations separated by over a hundred miles. [69] Such testimony

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Register, June 13, 1834, xi, 68 (original in Colgate University), and the main portions incorporated in E. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 262-269, where most Mormons have mistakenly credited Hurlbut with collecting them.

[68] Martin Harris in an 1859 interview declared concerning Joseph's gazing powers that, "In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates" (Tiffany's Monthly [August ?] 1859, v, 163, original in New York's Public Library, photomechanically reproduced from their copy in Tanners' Revealing Statements by the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon; reprinted in Kirkham, op. cit., ii, 376f). Dr. Anderson seeks to offset Mr. Tiffany's interview by suggesting that the interview may have misquoted ("if Harris is quoted correctly") Harris' story or else, because Tiffany had read Howe's book, had "contaminated" the reporting of Martin Harris ("Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," BYU Studies, Spring 1970, x, 303f., fn.). The report is so detailed, however, that one can hardly write off that much material on the basis of misquotation or even "contamination." That the interview is a reliable reporting of Harris's beliefs in this regard is supported by the fact that several years later in Utah Harris reported having himself engaged in a money digging venture to look for more treasure directly after Smith claimed to have found the gold plates, according to a Mormon source (cf. Utah Pioneer Biographies, x, 65; full text in Tanners' Joseph Smith and Money Digging, p. 2). Hosea Stout also refers to the plates being found through the stone (On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, ed. J. Brooks, ii, 593). Cf. also O. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps & Gorham's Purchase, 1851, p. 216.

[69] Dr. Richard Anderson, in an article that needed sharp criticism from the moment it appeared (BYU Studies, Spring 1970, x, 283-314), has made the most definitive attempt to date to discredit the testimonies gathered in the Palmyra area. The article displays serious errors in scholarship, if not intentional misrepresentation. For example, Anderson seeks to weaken a dozen of the Palmyra testimonies collected in Howe's book (op. cit. pp. 231-262) by crediting their composition to Mr. Hurlbut. To establish this he adduces what he regards as phrases common to the




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 153


appears almost immediately after Smith announced his new religion in 1830 from both locations and is now indisputable as a result of the discovery of the 1826 bills. They show that the often repeated charge of treasure hunting with a peepstone cannot be dismissed as issuing from some sort of massive, state-wide conspiracy against the founder of Mormonism. Rather it is the accumulated testimony of many who knew firsthand that before Joseph assumed the roll of Joseph Smith the Prophet, he had in fact been "Joseph Smith The Glass looker."


ADDENDUM

Because the two 1826 bills had not only suffered from dampness, but had severe water damage as well, Mr. Poffarl hand-carried the documents to Yale University's Beinecke Library, which has one of the best document preservation centers in the country. The County Historian was immediately informed of this action and a request was made to Chenango County for permission to store their two bills there. The discoverers

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various affidavits demonstrating that the interviewer, Hurlbut, had so colored the language and even the substance of the statements that they are no longer valid testimony. He lists as typical Hurlbutian touches such phrases as "acquainted with... Smith," "liar" and "addicted to" "lying," "intemporate," "pretended" and "digging for money" (pp.287-289). What Dr. Anderson fails to mention is that the Pennsylvania affidavits, which appeared in The Susquehanna Register and which Anderson knows were gathered independent of Hurlbut (Dialogue Summer 1969, iv, 25 fn.), display the same Hurlbutian traits. Five of those testimonies speak of being "acquainted with" Smith; five speak of Smith, or Smith and his associates, as a "liar," "an imposter and a liar," "lying impostors," and "artful seducers." They speak variously of him as "pretending," "intoxicated," and "money-digging." Dr. Anderson's article is further crippled by following his own arbitrary rules of evidence. Whenever the testimonies make a direct statement of personal knowledge that implicates Smith in money-digging activities, Dr. Anderson dismisses the account as undoubtedly "garbled." Thus he disposes of Roswell Nichols, Joshua Stafford, Henry Harris (p. 291) and Willard Chase (p. 297 fn.). Where the witness does not directly state that he observed Smith in the act of peeping for treasure, Dr. Anderson credits the information to "Secondhand Stories" from community gossip (p. 297, cf. note 12 above). To list the article's further failings would require an article in itself. It is tragic that other scholars depend uncritically upon Anderson (cf. Dialogue, Winter 1972, vii, 77).




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offered personally to bear the expense of the necessary de-acidification and preservation measures to prevent complete disintegration of the documents, but the County preferred to have them returned to their hands and the writer was so notified by the County Attorney (James A. Haynes, Jr., letter September 16, 1971). In the light of subsequent developments perhaps it would have been wiser simply to have obtained from the county certified copies of all the bills and allowed them to be returned to the damp basement to disintegrate.

Recently, however, persons who have gone to Norwich to examine these bills personally were reportedly informed by someone close to the County Historian's Office that the writer had tried to sell the bills to Yale University and that the University may have doctored them. Such a charge, if ever made, is completely false. The writer has a personal letter from Dr. Archibald Hanna, director of Yale's noted Western Americana Collection, stating to the writer that "in all our conversations relating to the Joseph Smith documents, your only concern was that they should be safely housed so that they might be preserved for future generations" (letter 21 August, 1973). In strong language, Dr. Hanna vigorously denies that the documents were in any way altered by the University.

That no forging, alteration, or doctoring of these documents has ever taken place is easily demonstrable. The two bills in question were discovered late in the day on July 28, 1971. Xerox copies were directly obtained and a set dispatched in the morning mail on July 29th to Mr. Jerald Tanner, who within a few days had them in print in his August publication. (see note 11). The bills were next photostated in Philadelphia by Mr. Poffarl before they were taken to Yale by Mr. Poffarl, who still has in his files the receipted bills for the work. In addition, the several sets of photostats made at the time were mailed to various individuals: Mrs. Mae Smith, Chenango County Historian; Mr. Richard P. Howard, Historian of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Prof. Marvin S. Hill, Brigham Young University; and a set is presently on file in the County Clerk's Office, Chenango County, Norwich, N.Y., and at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. At the latter institution the original Xerox copies made on July 29, 1971 are also on file.

When the bills were returned from Yale by registered mail, an inquiry was received from a Mormon scholar at Purdue, Mr. Danel Bachman, with whom a meeting was arranged before forwarding the bills by registered mail to the County Clerk's office. Mr. Bachman requested that the documents be photographed in color for him, which was done before returning the bills to the County. With such repeated copying at various points, it is easy to demonstrate that the bills have never been




                 JOSEPH  SMITH'S  BAINBRIDGE, N.Y., COURT  TRIALS                 155


altered in any way either before, during, or after their deposit at Yale.

In addition, Mr. Bachman thoughtfully made an affidavit, the original of which is on file at Westminster Theological Seminary, in which he states: "Although I am not qualified to state authoritatively that the documents shown to me were authentic and genuine, I have no reason to believe that they were forgeries. They had the appearance to me of being genuine particularly because of their age, the style of writing, and the water damage. The paper was crumbling away in several places where the paper had been folded" (sworn affidavit October 19, 1971). These two bills, after being received by the Clerk's Office, were on February 25, 1972, placed in the custody of the County Historian, Mrs. Mae Smith.

Marissa, Illinois

[ image ]

Constable Philip DeZeng's 1826 bill




 

(comments forthcoming)






Wesley P. Walters
(1926-1980)


"From Occult to Cult
With Joseph Smith, Jr."

Journal of Pastoral Practice
Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1977)


121-137 (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1977, Journal of Pastoral Practice. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 121 ]





From Occult to Cult
With Joseph Smith, Jr.


A  NEWLY  FOUND  DOCUMENT  CONFIRMING
THE  MORMON PROPHET'S  EARLY  MONEY DIGGING


Joseph Smith, Jr., before he became the founder and prophet of Mormonism, had made part of his living as a "glass looker." By gazing into a peep-stone or seer stone, placed in a hat to obscure the light, he would attempt to see where buried treasure was hidden or to locate lost objects for people. This money digging activity and the court trials that grew out of that illegal practice have received new clarification through a recently discovered letter from a judge who, in 1830, tried Joseph Smith in Colesville, south central New York. The letter was written in 1842 by Joel King Noble, a justice of the peace in Colesville, Broome County (not far from Binghamton), in answer to an inquiry from Prof. Jonathan B. Turner of Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. [1] Scholars have for a long time had affidavits and testimonies about Joseph Smith's treasure hunting activities in his home area of Palmyra and Manchester in western New York. They also have had sworn statements and interviews concerning such activity from the Harmony area in north central Pennsylvania, where his wife's parents lived. [2] These two areas Mr. Noble mentions as part of the

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1. The letter, now in the Turner Collection of the Illinois Stale Historical Library in Springfield, Ill., arrived too late to be included in Prof. Turner's book, Mormonism in All Ages, 1842. (See correspondence from Absalom Peters, Jan. 1 and July 6, 1842, Regarding the printing, in another Turner Collection in the Illinois State Historical Survey Library, Urbana, Ill.) Mr. Noble after 1850 moved to Hartland Township, Huron Co., Ohio, where be died Feb. 19, 1874.

2. For central Pennsylvania see the affidavits of his father-in-law's family in the Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834; the interviews of journalist Frederic Mather in Lippincott's Magazine, Aug. 1880; and Mather's more detailed account in the Republican (on file in the Susquehanna County Historical Society). For the Palmyra area see the affidavits in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, 1834, and the interviews in Arthur Deming's Naked Truths About Mormonism (original publication in the Yale University Library). The interviews of William H. Kelley (The Saints' Herald, June 1, 1881) were built up from the extremely sketchy notes (on file in




[ 122 ]


"triangle" of Joseph Smith's early operations. Mr. Noble's letter now provides us with valuable new material on the third and least known part of that triangle, the Bainbridge/Colesville field of operation.

Our knowledge of Joseph Smith's activities in the Bainbridge area had previously, to a large extent, depended on the printed record of a trial at South Bainbridge in 1826, in which Joseph had admitted to his "glass looking" practices and was accordingly found guilty of breaking the law, though no sentence is recorded. The record of this trial from the docket book of Judge Albert Neely was published in three independent printings between 1873 and 1886, but because the docket pages subsequently were lost, Mormons labeled the whole matter a fabrication. Mormon writers like Francis Kirkham and Dr. Hugh Nibley vigorously denied that their prophet could have participated in such a superstitious practice, or had ever been found guilty in a court of law of what was clearly a confidence game.

However, the discovery in 1971 of the bills of cost handed in to the county by Constable Philip DeZeng and Justice Neely for their services during the arrest and trial of Joseph Smith in 1826 have now established beyond doubt that the young "Glass looker" (as Mr. Neely's bill calls him) was indeed involved in glass looking for hidden treasure and lost objects, and that he was brought to trial for that crime. [3] While the bills thus confirm the authenticity of the printed trial record, they do not, of course, directly state that Joseph had been found "guilty" in that trial, nor do they explain why a sentence was not imposed following the guilty verdict. For these reasons Mormons have recently been inclined to grant that Joseph Smith, Jr., was tried in 1826, but they do not believe he was found guilty, and they therefore tend to regard the printed record as a falsification. [4] Mr. Noble's letter, however, now fills in the missing details and

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the RLDS Library) and their accuracy was subsequently challenged by some of those interviewed (see affidavits in "Miscellaneous Papers," filed 30 Nov. 1881, in the Canandaigua Court House and printed in Charles Shook, The True Origin of the Book of Mormon, pp. 37f.).

3. For a full presentation of this discovery see, "Joseph Smith's Bainbridge N. Y. Court Trials," The Westminster Theological Journal, Winter, 1974, pp. 123-155 (available in reprint from Modem Microfilm Co., Box 1884, Salt Lake City, UT 84110). After Neely's bill, the earliest reference to Joseph's glass looking is by the Rev. John Sherer, a Congregational pastor of the Oneida Association (Chenango Presbytery Minutes, bk. A, 142, 161). On Nov. 18, 1830, from Colesville he wrote the American Home Missionary Society: "This man has been known, in these parts, for some time, as a kind of juggler, who has pretended, through a glass, to see money under ground. Ec. Ec." (original in Amistad Research Center, Dillard University, New Orleans).

4. This is implied, for example, in the way Donna Hill handles the trial material in her new biography, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 1977. p. 65. She makes the erroneous assertion that the accounts are "diverse." The detailed study cited in note 3 makes it abundantly clear that, except for one or two minor ambiguities, they are in exact agreement. Cf. al50 Francis M. Gibbon's Joseph Smith. Martyr, Prophet of God. 1977. Though pathetically ignorant of the factual data and erroneous




[ 123 ]


confirms the entire incident, so that there is no longer any reason to doubt the authenticity of the printed docket.

Judge Noble says quite unequivocally that "Jo. was condemned" in what he calls Joseph's "first trial." [5] Then he adds a detail that provides the clue to why no sentencing appears in the docket record even though Joseph was found guilty. Mr. Noble succinctly states that the "whisper came to Jo., 'Off, Off!'" and so Joseph "took Leg Bail," an early slang expression meaning "to escape from custody." [6] What is obviously happening is that the justices are privately suggesting to this first offender to "get out of town and don't come back," and in exchange they will not impose sentence. This is why no sentence was recorded in the docket record of Mr. Neely.

In reporting the court's method of clemency, Judge Noble's statement agrees precisely with an early account of this 1826 trial published just five years after the trial had taken place. It was written by a young medical doctor who lived in South Bainbridge at the time, Dr. Abram Willard Benton, who like Mr. Noble mentions that Joseph had been involved in glass looking, and that he had been "tried and condemned." [7] Dr. Benton adds that because Joseph was a minor at the time, being 20 years old, "and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape." Therefore, the court, though it found him guilty of being in violation of the law, had intentionally not imposed sentence as a way of showing mercy on this youthful offender. Young Joseph, aware that returning to the Bainbridge area might find him suddenly sentenced to jail, was careful to return, as Noble puts it, "in Dark corners" and "in the Dark." Even in his return to marry Emma Hale in January of 1827, the ceremony was performed by the one justice, Zechariah Tarble, who had not participated in his 1826 trial. Joseph, therefore, seems to have been very much aware of the guilty verdict he stood under and was careful to stay out of the way of the law.

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in many of his assertions, even this secretary to the first presidency of the Mormon Church now acknowledges an 1826 trial (pp. 45f.).

5. Mr. Noble at the outset of his letter promised to distinguish hearsay from information he personally could vouch for as correct. He therefore indicates the dependable nature of his information about this 1826 trial by adding tersely, "all things Straight."

6. Eric Partridge. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Macmillan Co., 1967). p. 476. Since the expression could be either to "give or take" leg bail, Noble uses both forms, placing the former in parenthesis and using his familiar wavy line where he knows the reader can fill in the word without his needing to write it out in full.

7. Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, Apr. 9, 1831, p. 120. Dr. Benton, according to the family Bible record, was born July 16, 1805, and was received into the Medical Society Oct. 13, 1830 (James H. Smith, History of Chenango and Madison Counties, 1880, p. 100). For a while he lived on the east bank in South Bainbridge just north of the bridge (Chenango Co. Deeds RR 587). About 1838 he moved to Sterling. IL and then to Fulton, where he died Mar. 9, 1867.




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The Noble letter tells us even more about the trial, however. Mr. Noble states that the "Civil authority brought up Jo. standing (as the Boys say) under the Vagrant Act." In the early legal compilation known as The Revised Laws of 1813, the laws in force at the time of Joseph Smith's trial, various types of vagrancy were collected together under the broad heading of "Disorderly Persons." That law not only called for the arrest and trial of "all persons who, not having wherewith to maintain themselves, live idle without employment," but also specifically named other areas of idleness, including "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" (emphasis mine). [8] If found guilty, the punishment could be up to two months at hard labor, with an additional extension to as much as six months, and whipping administered when it was deemed necessary.

Joseph Smith put himself in the position of meriting such punishment by the line of defense he took at his 1826 trial. According to the docket record, Joseph's defense at his trial was that he really could discover where lost goods could be found and was therefore not an imposter trying to sponge off the public as a vagrant might do. Such a defense, however, was a virtual admission that he was in violation of the law against "pretending... to discover where lost goods may be found." The court, therefore, after hearing a few witnesses who corroborated that fact, summarily pronounced Joseph "guilty." A newly published Mormon document written by Joseph Knight, Sr., an early Mormon convert and friend of Joseph, confirms and supplements Mr. Noble's statement at this point. Mr. Knight, in commenting on a second legal encounter Joseph Smith had in South Bainbridge (this one in 1830), stated that "Docter Benton" swore out the 1830 warrant against the young Mormon leader "for as they said pertending [sic] to see under ground," and indicated that this action could be taken because of "a little Clause they found in the york Laws against such things." [9] What this shows is that the same law against money digging, under which Joseph Smith was convicted but never sentenced in 1826,

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8. Laws of the State of New York, Revised and Passed..., revisers William P. Van Ness and John Woodworth, 2 vols., 1813, vol. I, 114 (usually cited as Revised Laws, or simply R.L.). The act Noble calls the Vagrant Act is officially entitled "An ACT for apprehending and punishing disorderly Persons," the term used in the trial record itself. However, it is clear from reading the act that its primary concern was with vagrancy, and the index under "Vagrants" (I R.L., 589) states, "See Disorderly persons -- gaming -- horse racing -- poor -- and vol. 2, Immorality." In the Revised Statutes of 1829 the material from the act is redistributed, some into a section "Of Beggars and Vagrants" and some into the section "Of Disorderly Persons" which includes "all persons pretending to tell fortunes, or where lost or stolen. goods may be found" (I R.S. 638).

9. Dean Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies, VII (Autumn 1976), p. 38.




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was invoked against him again in 1830. Since Joseph originally claimed to have found the gold plates by the same means he used to hunt for treasure, [10] the prosecution probably felt they could make the former money digging charge hold up again and this time with the sentence being imposed.

More significant yet is what the Noble letter tells us about the religious overtones connected with Joseph's early money digging. He summarizes the sworn testimony concerning one attempt to obtain buried treasure in which they tried first one thing and then another until finally, a "black Bitch" was obtained, "the Bitch was offered a sacrifice," the "blood Sprinkled" and "prayer made at the time," but there was "no money obtained" in spite of this occult ritual. This same incident is also mentioned in greater detail by an early Mormon convert, Mrs. Emily Coburn Austin, and from her we learn that it took place some time between the summer of 1825 and Joseph's leaving the area, which followed his 1826 trial. [11] Miss Coburn, during that period, would visit the Joseph Knight farm (on the east bank of the Susquehanna, just across from the village of Nineveh in Colesville Township) to see her sister Sarah, who had married Joseph Knight's son, Newel. There, in addition to meeting Joseph Smith occasionally, she and her sister would "walk out to see the places where they had dug for money" on the Knight farm. She mentions that at the time both of them "laughed to think of the absurdity of any people having common intellect to indulge in such a thought or action," and continues:
...in the time of their digging for money and not finding it attainable, Joseph Smith told them there was a charm on the pots of money, and if some animal was killed and the blood sprinkled around tbe place, then they could get it. So they killed a dog and tried this method of obtaining the precious metal.... Alas! how vivid was the expectation when the blood of poor Tray was used to take off the charm, and after all to find their mistake... and now they were obliged to give up in despair.
Another incident similar to this one was related in the 1826 trial itself. Dr. William D. Purple happened to be in South Bainbridge. at the time and attended the trial. Years later he wrote his recollections of it and mentioned

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10. Dr. Benton. in his article printed nine months after the 1830 trial, mentions that, "During the trial it was shown that the Book of Mormon was brought to light by the same magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasure, &c." (op. cit., p. 120). Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, in an interview in Tiffany's Monthly of 1859, also stated that it was by means of his money digging stone Joseph first discovered the gold plates: "Joseph had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He found them by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing" (V, pp. 163, 169). Cf. also Howe, op. cit., pp. 252f.

11. Emily M. Austin, Mormonism; or, Life Among the Mormons, 1882, pp. 32f. Her sister Sarah married Newel Knight in June, 1825, and Mrs. Austin places the incident after the time of that marriage and before Joseph's leaving the area and then returning to marry Emma Hale (Jan. 1827). Cf. pp. 30, 33.




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that Joseph on that occasion had been digging for Mr. Stowell, a deacon in the Presbyterian church. According to the testimony of Mr. Thompson given at the trial, Joseph told Mr. Stowell that
very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his [Stowell's] flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences. So after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith.... In a few feet from the surface the box of treasure was struck by the shovel, on which they redoubled their energies, but it gradually receded from their grasp.... After some five feet in depth had been attained without success... the fruitful mind of Smith was called on to devise a way to obtain the prize. Mr. Stowell went to his flock and selected a fine vigorous lamb, and resolved to sacrifice it to the demon spirit who guarded the coveted treasure. Shortly after the venerable Deacon might be seen on his knees at prayer near the pit, while Smith, with a lantern in one hand to dispel the midnight darkness, might be seen making a circuit around the pit, sprinkling the flowing blood from the lamb upon the ground, as a propitiation to the spirit that thwarted them. They then descended the excavation, but the treasure still receded from their grasp, and it never was obtained. [12]
From these and other similar statements it is quite clear that Joseph Smith surrounded his money digging activities with a religious atmosphere that flavored of the occult. [13]

This occult religious setting showed itself in the use of other "talismanic influences," as Dr. Purple called them, to break the charm or enchantment that held the treasures. One such feature was the use of a circle marked off on the ground, a practice inherited from medieval magic and considered to aid the magician in his dealing with dangerous spirits. [14] Joseph's use of such magic devices in his early years gave his mother concern in

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12. The Chenango Union (Norwich, N. Y.), May 2, 1877, p. 3. For treasures that slip away into the ground in the Book of Mormon, see Hela. 13:34-36; Mor. 1:18.

13. William R. Hine, who lived in Colesville at the time of Joseph's money digging, stated that Joseph "claimed to receive revelations from the Lord through prayer, and would pray with his men, mornings and at other times" (Naked Truths, Jan. 1888, p. 2). Cf. similar statements about his receiving revelations where to dig, in the statements of Henry A. Sayer (id., p. 3) and of C. M. Stafford and Joseph Rogers (id., Apr. 1888, p. 1). Joseph's use of sacrifice in his Palmyra diggings is referred to in William Stafford's testimony (Howe, op. cit., p. 239); in the New York Herald, June 25, 1893, p. 12; and in Naked Truths, Jan. 1888, p. 3. The same ritual in the Pennsylvania diggings is recorded in E. Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, Pa., 1873, p. 580, and in Mather's interviews (Lippincott's Magazine, Aug. 1880, p. 200).

14. Francis King, Magic, The Western Tradition, 1975, p. 12. The use of the circle in Joseph's (and his father's) money digging can be found in James G. Bennett's article in Courier & Enquirer, Aug. 31, 1831; in Howe, op. cit., pp. 238, 259; and in Naked Truths, Jan. 1888, p. 3 (statement of K. E. Bell, whose original affidavit in his own hand is in the Chicago Historical Society's Deming Collection).




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later life that the family not be thought of as having devoted their entire time to such occult matters. In the preliminary draft of her history of that early period (but omitted from the printed version) she wrote:
...let not the reader suppose that... we stopt our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles, or sooth saying, to the neglect of all kinds of business. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation. [15]
Thus it is quite clear from all sides that Joseph wove occult religious material into his money digging practices, and this led the communities where he dug for treasure to associate him with divination, necromancy, and wizardry.

Whether this blending of religion and magic was inherited from his father's connection with the "Rodmen" movement of Middletown, Vermont, [16] or was picked up from a magician named Walters with whom Joseph seems to have been associated for a while, [17] or was stirred by the influence of the revival in Palmyra over the winter of 1824-1825, [18] it is impossible to say. It is possible that this whole occult procedure was a mere theatrical trimming to make his confidence game seem more convincing. Mr. Noble reports that he heard one witness testify that he had asked Joseph on one occasion whether he could actually "see or tell" more than anyone else, and Joseph had admitted he could not but added, "Anything for a living. I now and then get a Shilling." [19] However, it seems likely that he came at least half-way to believe in that realm of the occult, for he

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15. In the Historical Department, LDS Church, Salt Lake City, p. 77 of Xerox copy, punctuation mine. Abrac derives from Abracadabra and Abraxas, both of which were used by the Gnostics on magic amulets. To make the charm work required a knowledge of how the amulet was to be used. The Masonic Lodge of the 18th century claimed they knew how to conceal "the way of obtaining the faculty of Abrac" (James Hardie, The New Free-Mason's Monitor, N. Y., 1818, p. 203). Since Joseph's brother Hyrum claimed membership in the Palmyra Masonic Lodge, the Smiths may have been encouraged in some of their occult lore from that source.

16. On the Rodmen, see provisionally Judge Barnes Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont (reprinted for the bicentennial) and the Tanners, Joseph Smith and Money Digging, pp. 16-18. Some of the Rodmen were counterfeiters and Noble's reference to Joseph's father being involved with counterfeiting probably has that in view.

17. On "Walters the Magician" see the Palmyra Reflector, July 7, 1830, Feb. 28, 1831; reprinted in Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 1971, pp. 431f.

18. On the revival see the discussion in Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1969, pp. 59ff.

19. The same testimony had been given the day before at the South Bainbridge 1830 trial by Addison Austin, according to Dr. Benton's report. Mr. Austin testified "that at the very same time that Stowell 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.'"




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carried with him as a prized possession most of his life a talisman bearing the signs of Jupiter, and had it on him at the time of his death. [20] Whatever his personal beliefs, his use of the religious elements of prayer and faith, as well as revelations telling where treasure could be found, shows a certain religious bent to his thinking and an inclination to use religious exercises as a means of manipulating people. Therefore, once he had determined to give up money digging after his close brush with the law in 1826, [21] this occult religious interest made it easy for him to think in terms of producing a religious book from the gold plates he claimed to have discovered through the same stone he had used for his treasure hunting.

It was this shift from the occult in money digging to the cult of Mormonism that more than ever aroused the Bainbridge/Colesville community, when Joseph a few years later returned and appeared "bold as a Lion again." Joseph had by then exchanged his gold hunting practice for what he termed in 1829 the "Gold Book business." [22] He was no longer just a juvenile "con-man" preying upon a few persons "given to the marvelous," but now the leader of a religious sect that actively proselytized members from the established churches of the area. The religious community, especially the Presbyterians, who were threatened with the loss of two of their young members to Smith's new religion, were aroused to action. [23]

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20. The talisman was brought to the attention of scholars by Dr. Reed C. Durham, Jr. (a director of the Mormon Institute of Religion in Salt Lake City) in his presidential address to the Mormon History Association in 1974. It is designed after the pattern and magic square in Francis Barrett's The Magus, 1801 (plates facing pp. 174 and 143) and was supposed to bring the wearer "riches and favour, love, peace, and concord, and to appease enemies, and to confirm honors, dignities. and counsels" (p. 143) Mr. Wilford Wood, who purchased it from the step-son of Joseph's widow, mistakenly thought it was Joseph's "Masonic Jewel." A poor photo reproduction along with Dr. Durham's paper was published in Mormon Miscellaneous, Oct. 1975, pp. 11ff.

21. After his marriage to Emma Hale in January 1827, Joseph told his father-in-law that he "had given up what he called 'glass-looking'" (affidavit of Isaac Hale, the Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834). Joseph also told Martin Harris in the fall of 1827 that an "angel told him be must quit the company of the money-diggers.... He must have no more to do with them" (Tiffany's Monthly, V, 169). Harris mentioned that the money digging company of which Joseph was a member had agreed to share any profits. When Smith announced the gold plate find, the others wanted their share and tried to get the plates from him (pp. 164, 167). Joseph, in later retelling this, transformed it into persecution by the community and attempts by them to seize the plates.

22. Letter of Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, Harmony, Pa., Oct. 22, 1829, in the Kirtland Letter Boot, p. 9, Historical Department, LOS Church, Salt Lake City. Cf. the similar expression in Howe, op. cit., p. 253.

23. The Presbyterians had already lost Josiah Stowell to Smith's sect at South Bainbridge, and they would soon lose Emily Coburn and her sister Sarah Knight (probably the "2 Presbyterians" Noble mentions). Newel Knight had joined the Mormon Church in May 1830, and while Emily was visiting with them the rumor spread that she, still under 18, was about to join also. This brought quick action by members of her family and by her pastor, Rev. John Sherer. Emily returned to her




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Seizing upon that "little Clause in the york Laws," Dr. Benton, at the time a Presbyterian, [24] swore out the warrant. But the crime had been a misdemeanor and the time limit for prosecution had run out. [25] Joseph was able, therefore, to escape sentencing in this second Bainbridge trial because, Noble tells us, Joseph pleaded at the bar the statute of limitations.

The opposition did not give up that easily, however, and no sooner had Joseph stepped out of the justice's court on to "terifirma" in South Bainbridge, Chenango County, than he was arrested again and taken a few miles across the county line into Colesville, Broome County, where he was arraigned before Justice Noble. The prosecution was conducted by a "Gentleman well Skilled in the Science of Law." This was undoubtedly William Seymour, another Presbyterian, the "Lawyer Seymour" whom Joseph Smith himself tells us brought up at this Colesville trial the matter of his having been a money digger. [26]

Joseph was now on firmer footing than he had been in 1826, for it is far more difficult to prove religious fraud than mere secular deception. The trial lasted 23 hours and called some 43 witnesses, [27] and the evidence was sufficient to convince Judge Noble that Joseph was a "Vagrant idler," a "Liar," a "Deceiver," and "anything but a good man," but there was

__________
family on Monday, June 28th, her sister joined the Mormons on the 29th (cf. Larry Porter, BYU Studies, Spring 1970, p. 373) and the South Bainbridge community brought Joseph to trial on July 1st (according to the bill of cost). The purpose of the trials was "to check the progress" of the new cult, as Donna Hill has noted (op. cit., p. 113). The Presbyterian fears were not unfounded, for Emily joined the Mormons a few months later (d. her book, pp. 36ff., and the Rev. John Sherer's letter) and remained with the IDS until the Nauvoo period.

24. Oddly enough, Dr. Benton, while opposing Joseph's occult practice at Bainbridge, went into spiritualism after moving to Illinois, offering both conventional and clairvoyant diagnosis in his medical practice. It seems likely that he was the "Catspaw" as Joseph Knight, Sr., had asserted (op. cit., p. 38; d. also Mrs. Austin, op. cit., p. 44).

25. The law limited the time for prosecution of a misdemeanor to three years (I R.L, 187, sec, VII), while four had elapsed. The prosecution may have felt it still had a case since part of that time Joseph had been living in Harmony, Pa., and the law did not reckon the time spent outside the state as a pan of the three year limitation.

26. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, I, 93, William Seymour had been one of the pioneer settlers in Binghamton and after studying law moved to Windsor Township, next to Colesville, There he became an elder and clerk of Session in the Presbyterian church as well as a justice of the peace and town clerk. Returning to Binghamton, he became a county judge, a member of the U.S. Congress, and finally Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He died Dec. 28, 1848, highly commended by the Bar Association (Binghamton Democrat, Jan. 2, 1849, p. 3).

27. John Reed, who defended Smith at South Bainbridge and Colesville, spoke of the prosecution having introduced some "twenty or thirty witness before dark" (Joseph Smith, op. cit., I, 96). One who testified on Joseph's behalf was Newel Knight (id., p. 92), and since he claimed to have had the devil cast out of him by Joseph Smith and to have seen Christ in Glory and received an assurance of his eternal salvation, it seems clear that Mr. Noble is referring to Newel on the third page of his letter (cf. Scraps of Biography, 51ff.).




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nothing that he could be legally convicted of in his new religious role of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. Noble, in respect for the letter of the law therefore, had to dismiss the charges. [28]

Thus the 1830 trials marked Joseph's successful transition from a practitioner of the occult, searching for money, to the prophet of the new cult of Mormonism. When Joseph later recounts this early period of his life, he minimizes his money digging as a minor affair of manual labor for an old gentleman named Josiah Stowell, whom he finally "prevailed" with to abandon such useless activity, and the many testimonies to his money digging come to be regarded as slander manufactured to persecute the young prophet of the Lord. [29] That period when he was a sorcerer and glass looker using occult religious practices in a superstitious confidence enterprise is transformed by Joseph into the period of preparation for him to become the instrument of the Lord for bringing forth the fullness of the gospel by the publication of the Book of Mormon. [30] The new religion he offered was unfortunately a counterfeit copy of the Christianity of his

__________
28. Noble mentions another trial in which Joseph was condemned. Though poorly written, the name appears to read "Quinntown," possibly the section of Fenton Township, Broome County, now known as Quinneville (just west of Colesville, where the Quinn family once lived). The surrounding counties also have traditions of Joseph Smith's legal difficulties in their areas. Bishop Daniel Tuttle, who became an Episcopal missionary to the Mormons and who was the publisher of one of the printed accounts of Neely's docket record, early in his career had a church northeast of Bainbridge at Morris, N. Y., and revisited the area frequently to raise funds for the work among the Mormons. His Reminiscences of a Missionary Bishop (p. 327) comments: "Smith was up more than once, when a youth, before justices of the peace in Central New York for getting money under false pretenses, by looking with his peep stone." It is highly possible that further research may turn up other enlightening legal entanglements in the early career of Mormonism's founder.

29. Joseph Smith, op. cit., p. 17. Joseph's paper, Times and Seasons, went so far as to speak of "the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith, about money digging" (IV, p. 32).

30. Cf. Joseph Smith, op. cit., I, p. 16. Donna Hill (op. cit.) after equivocating somewhat about Joseph Smith's trial for money digging (p. 65), seems to concede that he was involved in the practice with the use of his peep stone. She further admits that "to some extent he had accepted the myths which often accompanied belief in buried treasure at that time" (p. 66), but she fails to see the occult connections of those beliefs. She seeks to remove the onus of the money digging practice by emphasizing that it was a regretful misuse of Joseph's spiritual gift for divining through his stone (p. 66); further that the money digging stories "proliforated" (p. 67), implying that the incidents were made more frequent than they really were; and finally that other "respected citizens" were heavily involved in similar treasure hunting (pp. 67f.), suggesting that Joseph was not to be blamed too harshly for his involvement. The authoress overlooks the fact that the law against such crafty practices had been on the books since 1788 and it was accordingly in that day considered a crime; that the letters of both Noble and Sherer and the story of Emily Coburn show that the practice was popular only with a few "given to the marvelous," but not with most thinking persons; and finally that once the Mormon religion had been launched even the Prophet himself was embarrassed by it and intentionally lied, shifting the blame to a single incident involving Josiah Stowell.




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day, and still leaned heavily in the direction of acquiring wealth through surrendering personal property to Joseph's control, real estate transactions that added to the wealth of the church, and even a banking enterprise that siphoned off the reserves for the church's use. Sadly, his new role of prophet and seer ultimately led him further and further from the Bible's Good News about a Savior who was rich but impoverished Himself to the extreme in dying forsaken on a cross for our sins, so that we might become truly rich beyond all dreams of earthly avarice through His free gift of eternal life. -- W. W.








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Joel K. Noble letter. page 1 reference to the 1826 trial











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Joel K. Noble letter, page 3 reference to the black Bitch sacrifice











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Joel K. Noble letter, page 3 reference to the Devil cast out











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(comments forthcoming)






Richard Van Wagoner
& Steve Walker


"Joseph Smith:
'The Gift of Seeing'"

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer 1982)


49-60 (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1982, Dialogue Foundation. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


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Richard Van Wagoner • Steve Walker
_____________________________________________

Joseph Smith:
"The Gift of Seeing"


Analysis of eyewitness accounts of the Book of Mormon translation is long overdue. Studies of the statements of early witnesses [1] have not attempted to clarify the method of translation, even though testimony is occasionally contradictory, often tainted with bias, always sketchy. We retrace history's footsteps to the scene of the translation in pursuit of better understanding of how the Book of Mormon was translated.

The primary witness to the translation of the Book of Mormon record is the translator himself. But Joseph Smith's procedural descriptions are too brief and general to be of much help. In an 1831 Church conference in Orange, Ohio, Joseph's older brother Hyrum requested a firsthand account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The Prophet vetoed the idea: "It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; it was not expedient for him to relate these things." [2] Joseph maintained this close-mouthed attitude on the subject of the translation throughout his lifetime. His first recorded account of the process, in an 1833 letter to N. E. Seaton, is typically terse: "The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western tribes of Indians, having been found through the ministrations of an holy angel, and translated into our own language by the gift and power of God." [3]

In 1835 he gave an even more abbreviated version to "Joshua the Jewish Minister": "I obtained them [the plates] and translated them into the English language by the gift and power of God and have been preaching it ever since." [4] Joseph's 1838 account in the Elder's Journal adds the additional detail of Urim and Thummim assistance: "Moroni, the person who deposited the plates... 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." [5]

The Prophet's 1842 description of the translating procedure, in the Wentworth Letter, is no more specific: "Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God." [6] Public interest in Church history, stirred by this letter, impelled the Times and Seasons to initiate an 1842 serial publication of the Prophet's history of the Church, which provides an amplified statement on Book of Mormon translation: "Immediately after my

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1 Two excellent discussions of primary sources are James E. Lancaster, "By the Gift and Power of God -- The Method of Translation of the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 109 (15 Nov. 1962):798-817, and Robert F. Smith, "Translation of Languages," a 1980 unpublished account of primary sources respecting the Book of Mormon translation, privately circulated by the author.

2 Minutes of general conference, 25 Oct. 1831, cited in Far West Record, p. 13, Historical Department Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT; hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives.

3 Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, B. H. Roberts, ea., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 1:315. Hereafter referred to as History of the Church.

4. Warren Cowdery, Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1, pp. 121-2, LDS Church Archives.

5 Elder's Journal 1 (July 1838): 43.

6 Joseph Smith, "Church History," Times and Seasons 3 (March 1842): 707.




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arrival there [Harmony, Pennsylvania] I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife's father in the month of December [1827], and the February following." [7]

The Prophet's final statement about translation procedure, in a 13 November 1843 letter to James Arlington Bennett, adds little more to our understanding of the process: "By the power of God I translated the Book of Mormon from hieroglyphics; the knowledge of which was lost to the world: in which wonderful event I stood alone, an unlearned youth, to combat the worldly wisdom, and multiplied ignorance of eighteen centuries." [8]

To find exactly what the Prophet meant in his repeated insistences that the plates were translated through the medium of Urim and Thummim by the gift and power of God, we must turn to other eye-witness accounts. Martin Harris [9] served Joseph as the first of several scribes in the work of translation. [10] His description of the method of translation is specific, though we have it only at second hand. Edward Stevenson, later of the First Council of Seventy, recorded the testimony of his friend Harris:
The Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he used the seer stone.... By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say, "Written," and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used. [11]
Martin served as scribe only between 12 April 1828 and 14 June 1828, when his part in the loss of the first 116 pages of completed manuscript cost him the privilege of further transcription.

The second scribe to serve Joseph was his wife, Emma. In 1879 Emma, interviewed by her son Joseph Smith III concerning important events in early Church history, explained, "In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.... The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table-cloth, which I had given him to fold them in." [12] Emma's service as scribe, interrupted as it must have been by the necessity of household chores, was at best brief. Her handwriting is not found on any original manuscript material now available. [13]

Full-time transcription did not become possible again until a young schoolteacher, Oliver Cowdery, arrived 5 April 1829. Cowdery wrote in 1834: "These were days never to be forgotten -- to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven.... Day after day I continued uninterrupted to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites

__________
7 Joseph Smith, "History of Joseph Smith," Times and Seasons 3 (May 1842): 772.

8 Times and Seasons 4 (Nov. 1843): 373.

9 Harris, a family friend of the Smiths, was one of the few persons outside the family to know of the "plates of gold" prior to their retrieval from the Hill Cumorah in 1827. -- Joseph Knight, Sr., close friend and neighbor of the Smith's, also knew of the plates: "I went to Rochester on business and resumed by Palmyra to be there about the 22nt of September I was there several days I will say there was a man near by By the name of Samuel Lawrence he was a Sear and he had Bin to the hill and knew about the things in the hill and he was trying to obtain them he had talked with me and told me the Conversation he had with the personage which told him if he would Do right according to the will of god he mite obtain the 27nt Day of September next and if not he never would have them. Now Joseph was some affraid of him that he mite be a trouble to him he therefore sint his father up to Sams as he called him near night to see if there was any signs of his going away that night he told his father to stay till near Dark and if he saw any signs of his gang you till him if I find him there I will thrash the stumps with him" Joseph Knight, Sr., untitled and undated manuscript in LDS Church Archives written between the last date of entry mentioned in the manuscript, 1833, and Knight's death in 1847).

Brigham Young in 1855 mentioned an additional person, "a fortune-teller... who knew where those plates were hid. He went three times in one summer to get them... the same summer in which Joseph did get them. -- ... He had not returned to his home from the last trip he made for them more than a week or ten days before Joseph got them." (The Journal of Discourses. Report of Addresses by Brigham Young and others, 26 vols. (Liverpool and London: F. O. and S. W. Richards, 1853-86), 19 July 1857, 5:55. Hereafter cited as Journal of Discourses.

10 Dean C. Jessee, "The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript," BYU Studies (Spring 1970): 259-78, lists the scribes as Martin Harris, Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Reuben Hale, John Whitmer, and David Whitmer. The Prophet's brother, Samuel H. Smith, is also mentioned as a scribe in the Kirtland Letter book , 1829-35, pp. 1-6, LDS Church Archives.

11 Edward Stevenson, "One of the Three Witnesses," Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881. Reprinted in Millennial Star 44 (6 Feb. 1882): 86-87.

12 Saints' Herald 26 (1 Oct. 1879): 289-90.

13 Jessee, "Original Manuscript," pp. 276-77.




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would have said, 'Interpreters,' the history or record, called The Book of Mormon.'" [14] Shortly after leaving the Church in 1838, Oliver expanded his description of the translation process: "I have sometimes had seasons of skepticism, in which I did seriously wonder whether the Prophet and I were men in our sober senses, when he would be translating from plates, through 'the Urim and Thummim,' and the plates not be in sight at all." [15] When Cowdery returned to the Church in 1848, Reuben Miller recorded in his diary that Oliver confirmed his testimony to the Council Bluffs, Iowa, Saints: "I wrote with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon [save a few pages], as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters'" [16] (The bracketed material is Cowdery's).

After approximately two months of translating at the Isaac Hale home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, Joseph was invited by a friend of Cowdery, David Whitmer, to continue the translation work at his father's farm on the north end of Seneca Lake near Fayette, New York. Thus the Whitmer family witnessed the Book of Mormon translation process as the manuscript grew day by day throughout June 1829. Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, who married Oliver Cowdery in 1832, recorded in 1870, when she was fifty-five: "I cheerfully certify that I was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith's translating the Book of Mormon. He translated the most of it at my Father's house. And I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together. Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating. He would place the director [17] in his hat, and then place his face in his hat, so as to exclude the light." [18]

David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, served as scribe during this brief period. He provides us with more specific information about the translation procedure than any other person. In 1887 he published a booklet in Richmond, Missouri, entitled An Address to All Believers in Christ, which includes this detailed description:
I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated by Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. [19]
Whitmer reiterated that account on many occasions, explaining the translation process in a consistent fashion: "Joseph did not see the plates in translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light, and before him would appear what seemed to be parchment

__________
14 Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834):14.

15 Oliver Cowdery, Defense in a Rehearsal of My Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter Day Saints (Norton, OH, 1839); also Saints' Herald, 54 (20 May 1907): 229-230.

16 Reuben Miller Diary, 21 Oct. 1848, LDS Church Archives. Also Deseret News, 13 April 1859.

17 In Book of Mormon editions from 1830-1920, Alma 37:24 read "directors" instead of the present "interpreters." RLDS Book of Mormon editions have retained the original and printer's copies reading of "directors."

18 Original not available; cited in William McLellin letter to "My Dear Friends," from Independence, Missouri, February 1870, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, MO; hereafter cited as RLDS Church Archives. Reference courtesy Robert F. Smith.

19 David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: n.p., 1887), p. 13.




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on which would appear the characters of the plates on a line at the top, and immediately below would appear the translation in English." [20] In an 1881 interview with the Kansas City Journal, David Whitmer even details characteristics of the seer stone (multiplied by an enthusiastic reporter into two stones):
I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris were present during the translation. The translation was by Smith, and the manner as follows: He had two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg shaped and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters, which were given him with the plates. He did not use the plates in the translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light. [21]
Whitmer explicitly confronted the general confusion between the seer stone and the Nephite "interpreters," or Urim and Thummim, when he tried to set the record straight through a friend, Edward Traughber:
With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim; but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a 'Seer Stone,' which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said. [22]
Other early witnesses tend to corroborate Whitmer's account. Joseph Knight, Sr., a close friend of Joseph Smith, recorded an account of the translation process, possibly as early as 1833: "Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkened his Eyes then he would take a sentence and it would appear in Brite Roman Letters then he would tell the writer and he would write it then that would go away the next Sentence would Come and so on." [23]

Emma Smith's father, Isaac Hale, provides a valuably frank perspective of the translation process because of the hostility he came to harbor toward son-in-law Joseph Smith during the few months the translation proceeded in the Hale home: "The manner in which he [Joseph Smith] pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for money-diggers, with a stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods." [24]

Michael Morse, husband of Emma Smith's sister, Trial Hale, described the procedure as he witnessed it, a description remarkably consistent with previous accounts. He is quoted in 1879 by W. W. Blair, of the RLDS First Presidency:
When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, [Morse] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation.

The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a
__________
20 Kansas City Journal, 5 June 1881.

21 Ibid.

22 Saints' Herald 26 (15 Nov. 1879): 341.

23 Joseph Knight, Sr., account, LDS Church Archives.

24 The Susquehanna Register, 1 May 1834. Cited in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled (Painesville, OH: Eber D. Howe, 1834), p. 77.




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hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes -- Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down. [25] These eyewitness accounts to the translation process must be viewed in proper perspective. Most were given in retrospect and may be clouded by the haze of intervening years. Many were reported second hand, subject to skewing by nonwitnesses. Yet there are persistent parallels among these scattered testimonies. Consensus holds that the "translation" process was accomplished through a single seer stone from the time of the loss of the 116 pages until the completion of the book. Martin Harris's description of interchangeable use of a seer stone with the interpreters, or Urim and Thummim, refers only to the portion of translation he was witness to -- the initial 116 pages. The second point of agreement is even more consistent: The plates could not have been used directly in the translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior light, would have been unable to view the plate s directly even if they had been present during transcription.

A mental picture of the young Joseph, face buried in a hat, gazing into a seer stone, plates out of sight, has not been a generally held view since the early days of the Church. The view raises some difficult questions. Why, for example, was such great care taken to preserve the plates for thousands of years if they were not to be used directly in the translation process? Is it possible that they were to serve primarily as evidence to the eleven witnesses of the Book of Mormon that the record did in fact exist?

The concept of a single seer stone is another problem area, for we have been taught since the Prophet's day that the Urim and Thummim were used. The term itself is problematic. The Book of Mormon does not contain the words "Urim and Thummim." Ammon describes the instrument as "the things... called interpreters" -- "two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow" which were "prepared from the beginning" and "handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages" (Mosiah 8:13, 28:13-14). Joseph Smith adds in the Pearl of Great Price that "God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book" (Joseph Smith -- History 1:35). Furthermore, the Nephite interpreters were not referred to as Urim and Thummim until 1833, when W. W. Phelps first equated the two in the first edition of the Evening and Morning Star: "It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles -- (known, perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)." [26]

That the Prophet should have used a seer stone rather than the Nephite interpreters is puzzling in itself. Martin Harris's 1875 mention of convenience in using a seer stone may refer to the fact that by all accounts the Nephite interpreters were large. [27] An additional reason for using the seer stone Harris conveniently omits, since it directly involved him. David Whitmer explains that after Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of Book of Mormon manuscript,
...the Lord... took from the prophet the Urim and Thummim and other wise
__________
25 Saints' Herald 26 (15 June 1879):190-91.

26 Phelps was Church printer in Independence, Missouri, and editor of the Evening and Morning Star. He was also publisher of the Book of Commandments and while living in Joseph Smith's Kirtland home, assisted the 1835 First Presidency in compiling the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

27 William Smith, the Prophet's brother, described the interpreters as "too large for Joseph's eyes; they must have been used by larger men (William Smith interview by J. W. Peterson and W. S. Pender, 4 July 1891, reported in The Rod of Iron 3 (Feb. 1924): 6-7; Saints' Herald 79 (9 March 1932): 238. -- Professor Charles Anthon, retrospectively recalling Martin Harris's description, agreed: "These spectacles were so large that if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face (Charles Anthon letter to E. D. Howe, 17 Feb. 1834, in Mormonism Unvailed, p. 17). Though Anthon's account seems exaggerated, Martin Harris refutes that the lenses were "about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre.... They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eights of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which with the two stones, would make eight inches" Harris read proofs of this article before publication and verified the accuracy of the reporting. (Joel Tiffany, Tiffany's Monthly, June 1859, pp. 165-66.)




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expressed his condemnation. By fervent prayer and by other wise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange, oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing Urim and Thummim.... With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated. [28]
When Zenas H. Gurley, editor of the RLDS Saints' Herald, interviewed Whitmer in 1885 and specifically asked if Joseph used his "'Peep stone' to finish up the translation," David replied that
he used a stone called a "Seers stone," the "Interpreters" having been taken away from him because of transgression. The "Interpreters" were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by the use of a "Seers stone" which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English. [29]
Whitmer's accounts also find support in the Historical Record of the Church: "As a chastisement for this carelessness, the Urim and Thummim was taken from Smith. But by humbling himself, he again found favor with the Lord and was presented a strange oval-shaped, chocolate colored stone, about the size of an egg, but more flat which it was promised should answer the same purpose. With this stone all the present book was translated." [30]

Joseph had apparently possessed this seer stone for several years before using it in the translation process, despite the accounts of a divine "presentation." Willard Chase, a neighbor of the Smiths in Palmyra, New York, relates how the stone was discovered on his property.
In the year 1822,1 was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me.... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but I would lend it. [31]
Confirmation of Chase's account is made by Martin Harris in 1859: "Joseph had a stone which was dug from the well of Mason Chase twenty-four feet from the surface. In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge." [32] Wilford Woodruff, writing in 1888, recalled that Joseph Smith found the "sears stone... by revelation some 30 feet under the earth." [33]

Several accounts document that Joseph often carried the Chase seer stone on his person between 1822 and 1830. In an 1826 trial, "on the request of the court he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing

__________
28 Chicago Inter-Ocean, 17 Oct. 1886. Also Saints' Herald 33 (13 Nov. 1886): 706.

29 "Questions asked of David Whitmer at his home in Richmond Ray County, Mo. Jan. 14 1885 relating to book of Mormon, and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS by Elder Z. H. Gurley," holograph in LDS Church Archives. Another supportive account is a Whitmer interview recorded in the Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885: "The plates were never restored to Joseph -- nor the spectacles, but a different Urim & Thummim -- one oval or kidney-shaped -- a seer's stone, which he pieced in his hat, and, face in hat, he would see character and translation on the stone." Whitmer's account is also corroborated by William E. McLellin, an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve: "After the 116 pages were lost Joseph translated the rest of the Book of Mormon with a stone," Saints' Herald 19 (1 Aug. 1872): 473.

30 The Historical Record. Devoted Exclusively to Historical, Biographical, Chronological and Statistical Matters. p. 632, LDS Church Archives.

31 Howe, "Mormonism," pp. 241-42. The use of seer stones in upstate New York was not unusual. The Wayne Sentinel, 27 Dec. 1825, refutes: "A few days since was discovered in this town, by the help of a mineral stone (which becomes transparent when pieced in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it provided he is fortunes favorite) a monstrous potash kettle in the bowels of old Mother Earth, filled with purest bullion."

32 Tiffany's Monthly, June 1859, p. 163.

33 Wilford Woodruff Journal, 18 May 1888 , holograph in LDS Church Archives.




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diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket." [34] Martin Harris in 1859 recalled an incident that occurred in the early 1820s:
I was at the house of his father in Manchester, two miles south of Palmyra village, and 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. I jumped from the bars and looked for it. Joseph and Northrop Sweet also did the same. We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him -- I said, "Take your stone." I had never seen it, and did not know that he had it with him. He had it in his pocket. He took it and placed it in his hat -- the old white hat -- and placed 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. [35]
A third attestation of the Prophet's possession of a seer stone is the difficulty between Joseph and the family of his 1825 employer, Josiah Stoal, a difficulty which apparently arose from Joseph's reputation with such a stone. According to the Prophet's mother, Stoal "came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye," [36] and engaged him to seek Spanish treasure near the Susquehanna River. Stoal, who later became a member of the Church, related that the young Joseph, who was in his employ for some five months, "pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were by means of looking through a certain stone." [37] Joseph explains the incident in some detail in the Pearl of Great Price:
In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, [38] to dig for the silver mine at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. (Joseph Smith -- History 1:56)
Though Stoal professed "implicit faith" in Joseph's psychic abilities, the Stoal family remained unconvinced. In 1826, Peter Bridgeman, a nephew of Stoal's wife, preferred charges against Joseph Smith as a "disorderly person and an imposter" -- charges evidently referring to Joseph's "glass looking" psychic abilities. Though the full court record has not yet been discovered and recorded accounts of the trial fail to agree on all points, there is consensus that the Stoal family became convinced that Josiah Stoal was squandering his resources and urged him to stop. [39]

Another account corroborating Joseph's habit of carrying a stone on his

__________
34 W. D. Purple's account in The Chenango Union, 3 May 1877, cited in Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness For Christ in America, 2 vols. (Independence, MO: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1951), 2:365.

35 Tiffany's Monthly, June 1859, p. 164.

36 Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith The Prophet, And His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards, 1853), pp. 91-92.

37 Fraser's Magazine, February 1873, pp. 229-30.

38 Martin Harris adds that Stoal's "hands" included "Mr. Beman (Alva), also Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, Joseph Smith, jr., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith," Tiffany's Monthly (June 1859), p. 164.

39 The trial, reported in Fraser's Magazine, February 1873, and Chenango Union, 3 May 1877, has long been disputed: But in 1971 Judge Neely's bill of costs for the trial ($2.68) was discovered. This document designates Joseph Smith as "the glass-looker" and charges him with a "misdemeanor" (Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," BYU Studies (Winter 1972): 222-33. -- Joseph Smith's cousin, Church Historian George A. Smith, was apparently referring to this case when he related in 1855 that Joseph Smith "was never found guilty but once... the magistrate, after hearing the witnesses, decided that he was guilty, but as the statutes of New York did not provide a punishment for casting out devils, he was acquitted" (Journal of Discourses, 2:213).




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person comes from Lucy Smith, the Prophet's mother: "That of which I spoke, which Joseph termed a key, was indeed, nothing more nor less than the Urim and Thummim, and it was by this that the angel showed him many things which he saw in vision; by which also he could ascertain, at any time, the approach of danger, either to himself or the Record, and on account of which he always kept the Urim and Thummim about his person." [40] Since the Urim and Thummim was too large, by all accounts, to be concealed on Joseph's person, Mother Smith must have been referring here not to the Nephite interpreters but to the Chase seer stone.

That a seer stone was divinely prepared for Joseph's use is suggested in the Book of Mormon. Alma 37:23 reads: "I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations." "Gazelam," with a slight difference in spelling, is identified, in three sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (78:9, 82:11,104:26, 43), as Joseph Smith. W. W. Phelps, scribe and personal friend to the Prophet, declared in Joseph Smith's funeral sermon that the Prophet was "Gazelam" in the spirit world. [41]

The Prophet related in his Pearl of Great Price account that during Moroni's first conversation with him 23 September 1823, "the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it" (Joseph Smith-History 1:42). Joseph does not relate how the vision was opened to his mind, but parallel accounts indicate that it may have been through the Chase seer stone. [42] Martin Harris recalled in 1859: "Joseph had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He found them by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing." [43]

Willard Chase, on whose property the stone was discovered, points out that in 1827 Joseph Smith, Sr., explained to him "that some years ago, a spirit had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold; and that he was the person that must obtain them. He [Joseph Smith] then observed that if it had not been for that stone, he would not have obtained the book." [44]

Henry Harris, an acquaintance of the Smith family, confirms these accounts: "He [Joseph Smith] 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." [45] Further corroboration is provided by W. D. Purple, who had taken notes for Judge Albert Neely during Joseph Smith's 1826 trial: "Smith, by the aid of his luminous stone, found the Golden Bible, or the book of Mormon." [46] And in 1856, after attending a meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of Deseret, Judge Hosea Stout recorded in his journal that "President Young

__________
40 Lucy Mack Smith, Sketches, p. 106.

41 Joseph Smith Funeral Sermon in W. W. Phelps Papers, LDS Church Archives. In a 10 April 1854 letter to Brigham Young, Phelps, who served as Joseph Smith's scribe in Kirtland, Ohio, states that Gazelam refers to "The Light of the Lord," Brigham Young Letter Collection, LDS Church Archives.

42 An interesting account related by Joseph Knight, Sr., suggests that Emma Smith's involvement in the recovery of the plates on 22 September 1827 was shown in vision through the Chase Seer Stone: "Joseph says when can I have it [the Nephite Record] the answer was the 22nt Day of September next if you bring the right person with you Joseph says who is the right person the answer is your oldest Brother But before September Came his oldest Brother Died [Alvin died 19 November 1823] then he was disappointed and did not [k]now what to do but when the 22nt day of September came he went to the place and the personage appeared and told him he could not have it now But the 22nt day of September next he might have the Book if he brot with him the right person Joseph says who is the right person the answer was you will know then he looked in his glass and found it was Emma Hale daughter of old Mr. Hale of Pennsylvany," Knight manuscript, LDS Church Archives.

43 Tiffany's Monthly, June 1859, p. 169.

44 Cited in Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 246-47.

45 Henry Harris Affidavit cited in Kirkham, New Witness, 1:133.

46 Chenango Union, 3 May 1877.




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exhibited the 'seer's stone' with which the Prophet Joseph discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon." [47]

The Prophet's 1838 account of the manner in which he discovered the plates, though it makes no mention of the Chase seer stone, does not preclude its use: "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." [48] The seer stone could have been the medium through which Moroni's instructions were given. The fact that the Smith brothers who shared Joseph's bedroom were not disturbed by Moroni's visitation adds support to the possibility of a seer stone vision.

Lest the Prophet's omission of mention of such matters be taken as proof they did not occur, it should be noted that his hesitation to divulge details of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon might be expected in light of the vitriolic public reception of his accounts of sacred matters. If the early response of a nonbelieving Methodist minister as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price is typical, it is obvious why Joseph would hesitate to provide detailed disclosure: "I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them" (Joseph Smith- History 1:21). Given that sort of reaction, it is not surprising that Joseph seldom discussed the Chase seer stone, and showed it only to trusted associates.

Historical evidence indicates that he retained possession of this stone for a brief period after the completion of the Book of Mormon translation. In early 1830, Martin Harris, who had consented to finance publication of the book, was unable to come up with the necessary funds quickly. Hyrum Smith and others became impatient and suggested that Joseph send some of the brethren to Toronto, Ontario, to attempt to sell the copyright. David Whitmer records the Prophet's use of the seer stone in seeking inspiration on the matter:

Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copy-right, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada. Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man; and some revelations are of the devil." [49]

__________
47 Juanita Brooks, ed., On The Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press/Utah Historical Society, 1964), 2:593.

48 Elder's Journal, (1 July 1838): 43.

49 Whitmer, Believers in Christ, pp. 31-32.




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Oliver Cowdery, after he had been excommunicated from the Church, related his own account of the 1830 revelation
that some among you will remember which sent Bro. Page and me, so unwisely, to Toronto, with a prediction from the Lord by "Urim and Thummim," that we would there find a man anxious to buy the "First Elder's copyright." I well remember we did not find him, and had to return surprised and disappointed. But so great was my faith, that in going to Toronto, nothing but calmness pervaded my soul, every doubt was banished, and I as much expected that Bro. Page and I would fulfill the revelation as that we should live. And you may believe, without asking me to relate the particulars that it would be no easy task to describe our desolation and grief. Bro. Page and I did not think that god would have deceived us through "Urim and Thummin [ sic]," exactly as came the Book of Mormon. [50]
David Whitmer indicated that the seer stone was later given to Oliver Cowdery: "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 anymore." [51] Whitmer, who was Cowdery's brother-in-law, stated that on Oliver's death in 1848, another brother-in-law, "Phineas Young, a brother of Brigham Young, and an old-time and once intimate friend of the Cowdery family came out from Salt Lake City, and during his visit he contrived to get the stone from its hiding place, through a little deceptive sophistry, extended upon the grief-stricken widow. When he returned to Utah he carried it in triumph to the apostles of Brigham Young's 'lion house.'" [52]

Whatever the exact circumstances of its acquisition, the Chase seer stone remained in Brigham Young's possession until his death in 1877. [53] Hosea Stout described in detail the stone President Young displayed to the University of Deseret Board of Regents on 25 February 1856, "a silecious granite dark color almost black with light colored stripes some what resembling petrified poplar or cotton wood bark. It was about the size but not the shape of a hen's egg." [54]

This same seer stone was carried by President Wilford Woodruff to the dedication of the Manti Temple in 1888: "Before leaving I consecrated upon the Altar the sears stone that Joseph Smith found by Revelation some 30 feet under the earth carried by him through life." [55] Another description of the stone was given by Richard M. Robinson when he returned from a Southern States mission in 1899 and presented a strange coin he felt might be of Nephite origin to President Lorenzo Snow. Robinson relates that President Snow
went and got the money purse or leather bag that President Young had brought to the Rocky Mountains with him, also the Seer Stone and said, "This is the Seer Stone that the Prophet Joseph used. There are very few worthy to view this, but you are." He handed the Seer Stone to me and I couldn't express the joy that came to me as I took that stone in my hands. Words are not equal to the task of expressing such a sublime joy! He then told me to hand the Seer Stone to my wife and I handed it to her. He then blessed us with the greatest blessing I have ever heard fall from the mouth of man!
__________
50 Cowdery, Defense, p. 229. An important distinction here is that though Cowdery writes, "through 'Urim and Thummin,' exactly as came the Book of Mormon," David Whitmer's description of the same medium refers to the seer stone. Eyewitness accounts corroborate Whitmer's account.

51 Whitmer, Believers in Christ, p. 32.

52 David Whitmer interview in Des Moines Daily News, 16 Oct. 1886.

53 President Brigham Young's estate included two seer stones. His daughter, Zina Young Card, in a letter to her cousin, Apostle F. D. Richards, related: "There is a matter that I wish to lay before you, that weighs upon my mind, and seems very important to me. I refer to some very sacred articles I bought at the sale of my father's personal effects, -- articles that never should have been given up to the idle gaze; but being brought out, my mother and myself felt it a wish of our hearts to get them, that their sacredness might not be sullied. -- "They are: two sear-stones and an arrow point. They are in the possession of President Woodruff now, and very properly too, but I feel dear cousin, that they should ever be the property of the President of the Church, and not of individuals; that at his demise, they are not retained as they were before among 'personal effects,' but considered ever the legitimate property of God's mouth-piece," Zina Young Card to F. D. Richards, 31 July 1896, F. D. Richards Letter Collection, LDS Church Archives. -- In addition to the seer stones, President Young also possessed a "bloodstone" which he wore about his neck on a chain "when going into unknown or dangerous pieces" (See display #1076, Brigham Young Collection, Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah).

54 Brooks, Hosea Stout, 2:593.

55 Wilford Woodruff Journal, 18 May 1888, LDS Church Archives. Though the reason for the consecration is not given, Orson Pratt refuted in 1873 that through the m edium of Urim and Thummim, "which the Lord God has ordained to be used in the midst of his holy house, in his Temple... books of genealogy, tracing individuals and nations among all people back to ancient times will be revealed," Journal of Discourses, 16:260.




[ 59 ]


The Seer Stone was the shape of an egg though not quite so large, of a gray cast something like granite but with white stripes running around it. It was transparent but had no holes, neither in the end or in the sides. I looked into the stone, but could see nothing, as I had not the gift and power of God that must accompany such a manifestation. [56]
Though we seldom hear the Chase seer stone mentioned in the Church today, it remains in the possession of the First Presidency. Joseph Fielding Smith, as an apostle, made clear that "the Seer Stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days... is now in the possession of the Church." [57] Elder Joseph Anderson, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and long-time secretary to the First Presidency, clarified in 1971 that the "Seer Stone that Joseph Smith used in the early days of the Church is in possession of the Church and is kept in a safe in Joseph Fielding Smith's office.... [The stone is] slightly smaller than a chicken egg, oval, chocolate in color." [58]

The final word as to what happened to the Nephite interpreters or Urim and Thummim is usually thought to be the Pearl of Great Price account in Joseph Smith-History 1:59-60:
At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate.... By the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them I delivered them up to him: and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight [italics added].
Though "them" in this account could refer solely to the plates, Patriarch Zebedee Coltrin, an early acquaintance of Joseph Smith, related in an 1880 high priests' meeting in Spanish Fork, Utah, that he had once asked Joseph what he had done with the Urim and Thummim and that "Joseph said he had no further need of it and he had given it to the angel Moroni. He had the Melchizedek Priesthood, and with that Priesthood he had the key to all knowledge and intelligence."59 Joseph Smith apparently did not have the Nephite interpreters after the completion of the Book of Mormon translation; Moroni had them in his possession when they were shown to the Three Witnesses in June 1830. David Whitmer explained to Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith in 1878 that he, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery, in fulfillment of a promise made in Doctrine and Covenants 17:1, were shown "a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the Sword of Laban, the Directors -- i.e., the ball which Lehi had -- and the Interpreters." [60]

If the Nephite interpreters were in fact returned to Moroni before June 1830, as the evidence strongly suggests, then why are so many references made to "Urim and Thummim" in Church history after this date? Wilford Woodruff's journal entry describing a Quorum of the Twelve meeting held 27 December 1841 in Nauvoo shows the problem: "The Twelve, or part of them, spent the day with Joseph the Seer, and he confided unto them many glorious things of the

__________
56 "The History of A Nephite Coin," a personal experience of Elder Richard M. Robinson of Grantsville, Utah, recorded 30 Dec. 1934, LDS Church Archives.

57 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City : Deseret Book, 1956), 2:225.

58 David C. Martin, Restoration Reporter, 1 (June 1971):8.

59 High Priests Record, Spanish Fork, Utah, September 1880, p. 128, LDS Church Archives.

60 Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith to President John Taylor and Council of the Twelve, 17 Sept. 1878, cited in Millennial Star 40 (9 Dec. 1879): 772.




[ 60 ]


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 [italics added]." [61]

Yet Brigham Young, attending the same meeting, recorded:
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 seer stone, 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 seer stone [italics added]. [62]
Which apostle was mistaken? Was there actual confusion of objects or simply confusion of terminology? We suggest that the discrepancy results from the popularity of Urim and Thummim terminology. Jane Manning James, a black convert living in Joseph's Nauvoo home, uses the "Urim and Thummim" terminology in her autobiographical reminiscence:
One morning I met Brother Joseph coming out of his mothers room he said good morning and shook hands with me. I went in to his mothers room she said good morning bring me that bundle from my bureau and sit down here. I did as she told me, she placed the bundle in my hands and said, handle this and after I had done it she said sit down. Do you remember that I told you about the Urim and Thummim when I told you about the book of Mormon, I answered yes mam. She then told me I had just handled it, you are not permitted to see it, but you have been permitted to handle it. You will live long after I am dead and gone and you can tell the Latter-day Saints, that you was permitted to handle the Urim and Thummim. [63]
Lucy Clayton Bullock, wife to Brigham Young's clerk, Thomas Bullock, also tells of "seeing the urim and thummim" during the Nauvoo period. [64]

The brother apostles Orson and Parley P. Pratt relate separate accounts of the Urim and Thummim being used to "translate" the book of Abraham from the Egyptian papyri. Parley was quoted in 1842 as having said: "The Pearl of Great Price is now in course of translation by means of the Urim and Thummim and proves to be a record written partly by the father of the faithful, Abraham, and finished by Joseph when in Egypt." [65] Orson added in 1878: "The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said, is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation, the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim." [66] Wilford Woodruff similarly associates the Urim and Thummim with the translation of the Egyptian papyri: "The Lord is blessing with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate by the Urim and Thummim ancient records and hieroglyphics old as Abraham or Adam." [67]

In short, the term "Urim and Thummim" appears repeatedly. Joseph Smith's personal secretary, William Clayton, records that in 1843 Hyrum Smith "requested

__________
61 Wilford Woodruff Journal, 27 Dec. 1841, LDS Church Archives.

62 Widen J. Watson, ed., Manuscript History of Brigham Young 27 Dec. 1841. Also in "History of Brigham Young," Millennial Star, 26 (20 Feb. 1864):118.

63 Jane Manning James Autobiography, p. 19, holograph in LDS Church Archives. Reference courtesy of Linda King Newell.

64 Lucy Clayton Bullock, Biographical sketch, LDS Church Archives.

65 Millennial Star, 3 (July 1842): 47.

66 Journal of Discourses, 25 Aug. 1878, 20:65.

67 Wilford Woodruff Journal, 19 Feb. 1842.




[ 61 ]


Joseph to write the revelation [on celestial marriage] by means of the Urim and Thummim [italics added], but Joseph in reply said he did not need to, for he knew the revelation perfectly from beginning to end." [68] President Heber C. Kimball testified in 1853, after the Chase seer stone had been brought to Salt Lake City by Phineas Young: "Has Brother Brigham got the Urim and Thummim? Yes, he has everything that is necessary for him to receive the will and mind of God to this people." [69]

In addition to Joseph's use of a seer stone in "translation" work with the Book of Mormon and the book of Abraham, evidence suggests that several of the early revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants may have come through this medium. Orson Pratt, who lived for a time in the Prophet's home, related in 1878 "the circumstances under which revelations were received by Joseph... he [Elder Pratt] being present on several occasions of the kind.... At such times Joseph used the 'seer stone' when inquiring of the Lord, and receiving revelations, but that he was so thoroughly endowed with the inspiration of the Almighty and the spirit of revelation that he often received them without any instrument or other means than the operation of the spirit upon his mind." [70] Headings to eight sections in the present LDS Doctrine and Covenants -- 3, 6, 7, 11, 14-17 -- describe revelations received from July 1828 through June 1829 by "Urim and Thummim." David Whitmer, who stated he was "present when Brother Joseph gave nearly every revelation that is in the Book of Commandments," [71] records "Brother Joseph giving the revelations of 1829 through the same stone through which the Book was translated.... He then gave up the stone forever." [72]

Revelations given through the seer stone at the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, during 1829 include not only sections 14 through 17, but also section 18. Headnote references, which were not added until the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, list sections 14-17 as having been given through "Urim and Thummim," but David Whitmer also mentions the 18th section (which directs him and Oliver to select the first Quorum of the Twelve) as having come through the Chase seer stone.

Section 10:1 describes the "power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim." But the reference to Urim and Thummim is a retrospective addition which does not appear in the original revelation in the Book of Commandments (Chapter IX).73 This change first appeared in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (section 36:1). The Prophet's handwritten 1832 account of his early history says "the Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the Book," [74] and he did not begin to use the phrase "Urim and Thummim" to describe his translation vehicle until after W. W. Phelps equated the interpreters with the "Urim and Thummim" in an 1833 Evening and Morning Star article.

President Joseph Fielding Smith thought all "statements of translations by the Urim and Thummim" after 1830 "evidently errors." [75] If by "Urim and Thummim" we mean exclusively the Nephite interpreters, President Smith is correct. A more feasible explanation, however, is advanced by Apostle Orson Pratt: "The Urim and Thummim is a stone or other substance sanctified and

__________
68 Statement of 16 Feb. 1874, cited in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century 1, 6 vols. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 2:106.

69 Journal of Discourses, 13 Aug. 1853, 2:111.

70 "Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40 (16 Dec. 1878): 787.

71 David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in the Book of Mormon (Richmond, MO: n.p., 1887), p. 3. Also All Believers in Christ, p. 30.

72 Whitmer, Believers in the Book of Mormon, p. 3.

73 Robert Woodford, "Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974), presents strong evidence that section 10 was given in May 1829 as originally recorded in the Book of Commandments and not in the summer of 1828 as stated in the heading of current editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.

74 Kirtland Letterbook, 1829-35, pp. 106.

75 Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:225.




[ 62 ]


illuminated by the Spirit of the living God, and presented to those who are blessed with the gift of seeing." [76] Evidence suggests that the Prophet Joseph Smith used the term "Urim and Thummim" in a much broader fashion than we have become used to. After Martin Harris had lost the 116 pages of completed Book of Mormon manuscript, Lucy Smith said that Moroni appeared to Joseph and demanded the return of the Nephite interpreters. The Prophet responded:
I did as I was directed, and as I handed them to him, he remarked, "If you are very humble and penitent, it may be you will receive them again; if so it will be on the twenty-second of next September [1828]." After the angel left me I continued my supplications to God, without cessation, and on the twenty-second of September, I had the joy and satisfaction of again receiving the Urim and Thummim, with which I have again commenced translating, and Emma writes for me. [77]
Though Joseph's account appears at first glance to refer to the return of the Nephite interpreters, an 1870 statement by Emma Smith indicates that Joseph in all likelihood meant the Chase seer stone: "Now the first that my husband translated was translated by the use of the Urim and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color." [78]

Another Joseph Smith application of the term "Urim and Thummim" to mean "seer stone" is recorded in the journal of Wandle Mace, a Nauvoo acquaintance of the Prophet. Mace explains that a group of Church members in England had been using two seer stones in exploring "magic or astrology." These two stones, often referred to as the "Sameazer Stones," were given to Joseph Smith's cousin, George A. Smith, who brought them to the Prophet in Nauvoo. Mace records that "Apostle Smith gave them to Joseph the prophet who pronounced them to be a Urim and Thummim -- as good as ever was upon the earth -- but he said, 'They have been consecrated to devils.'" [79]

These stones could not have been the Nephite interpreters, yet Joseph specifically calls them "Urim and Thummim." The most obvious explanation for such wording is that he used the term generically to include any device with the potential for "communicating light perfectly, and intelligence perfectly, through a principle that God has ordained for that purpose," as John Taylor would later put it. [80]

Though a seer stone is referred to many times in the early days of the Church as "Urim and Thummim," the reference is not always to the Chase seer stone. The Prophet used several seer stones during his lifetime. One of the accounts of his 1826 trial in New York records testimony that "Prisoner [Joseph Smith] laid a book up on a white cloth, and looking through another stone which was white and transparent.... 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 colored stone, as he said that it hurt his eyes." [81]

Philo Dibble, a friend of Joseph Smith who made early replicas of the Smith

__________
76 N. B. Lundwall, Masterful Discourses of Orson Pratt (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962), p. 452.

77 Lucy Mack Smith, Sketches, p. 126.

78 Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870, RLDS Church Archives. Joseph described the interpreters in his 1842 Wentworth Letter as "two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow." But Martin Harris described them in an 1859 Tiffany's Monthly interview as "white, like polished marble, with a few grey streaks." -- An interview with David Whitmer ("The Golden Fables," The Chicago Times, 7 Aug. 1875) clarifies this confusion by explaining the interpreters as "shaped like a pair of ordinary spectacles, though much larger, and at least half an inch in thickness, and perfectly opaque save to the prophetic vision of Joseph Smith."

79 Wandle Mace Journal, p. 66, microfilm in LDS Church Archives. Priddy Meeks, a Nauvoo acquaintance of Joseph Smith, recorded in his journal, Utah Historical Quarterly, 10 (Oct. 1842): 80: "It is not safe to depend on peepstones in any case where evil spirits have the power to put false appearance before them while looking in a peepstone.... That is my experience in the matter; also the Patriarch Hyrum Smith... stated that our faith was not strong enough to overcome the evil influences." -- Imitative use of a seer stone in the early days of the Church was demonstrated by Book of Morm on witness Hiram Page who, in September 1830, "had in his possession a certain stone, by which he had obtained certain 'revelations' concerning the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church, etc.,... many-- especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery -- were believing much in the things set forth by this stone." (History of the Church, 1:110). Doctrine and Covenants 28:11 responded for Oliver Cowdery: "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 m e, and that Satan deceiveth him."

80 Journal of Discourses, 24 June 1833, 24:262-63.

81 Fraser's Magazine, Feb. 1873, pp. 229-230.




[ 63 ]


brothers' death masks, preserved a third stone used by the Prophet in Nauvoo: "At the time of the martyrdom, [Dibble] rescued a small seer stone, at the Nauvoo Mansion House, from falling into the hands of the apostates. He brought this seer stone across the plains. Later, as curator of church history, he showed the death masks, the seer stone, and other items of historical value on his lecture tours throughout the territory of Utah." [82] Though a description of this stone is not given, it is definitely not the Chase seer stone, which was still in the possession of Oliver Cowdery. It may well be the same stone that the Prophet showed to the Quorum of Twelve in 1841, which Wilford Woodruff referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" and which Brigham Young called a seer stone.

Brigham Young documents that Joseph had more than one seer stone: "I met with President W. Richards and the Twelve on the 6th. We spent the time in interesting conversation upon old times, Joseph, the plates, Mount Cumorah, treasures and records known to be hid in the earth, the gift of seeing, and how Joseph obtained his first seer stone [italics added]. [83]

Joseph Smith further expanded the meaning of "Urim and Thummim" on April 2, 1843, in response to a William Clayton question:
God and the planet where he dwells is like crystal, and like a sea of glass before the throne. This is the great Urim & Thummim whereon all things are manifest both things past, present & future and are continually before the Lord. The Urim & Thummim is a small representation of this globe. The earth when it is purified will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim & Thummim whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom or all kingdoms of a lower order will be manifest to those who dwell on it. and this earth will be with Christ Then the white stone mentioned in Rev. c.2 v.17 is the Urim & Thummim whereby all things pertaining to an higher order of kingdoms even all kingdoms will be made known and a white stone is given to each of those who come into this celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word. [84]
Though all events surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are not yet fully known, some things seem clear: Joseph Smith discovered a "singular-looking seer stone" in 1822 which not only served as a medium through which, according to numerous descriptions, all of the present Book of Mormon was translated but which also played a vital role in the discovery of the Nephite record. "Urim and Thummim," the traditional nomenclature for the Nephite interpreters which were used as the medium for translating the 116 Book of Mormon manuscript pages Martin Harris lost, has a broader meaning; any mechanism capable of eliciting the mind and will of God can correctly be referred to as "Urim and Thummim." Apparent historical discrepancies between references to the Nephite interpreters and the prophet Joseph Smith's seer stones evaporate once this generic use of "Urim and Thummim" is understood. Whatever the actual device used, the Prophet in 1842 provided the most important insight about his Book of Mormon translation: "Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God." [85]

__________
82 Millennial Star 11 (Jan. 1849):11-12.

83 Manuscript History of the Church, 6 May 1849, Church Archives. The Quorum of the Twelve Minutes of this date record that the Brethren spent the "evening in conversation upon many little incidents connected with finding the Plates, preserving them from the hand of the wicked, & returning them again to Cumorah, who did it &c, also about the gift of seeing & how Joseph obtained his first seer stone. Treasures known to exist in the earth of money & records."

84 William Clayton Diary, 2 Apr. 1843. Cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 1980), p. 169.

85 Joseph Smith, "History of the Church," Times and Seasons 3 (March 1842):707



 
(comments forthcoming)






Ronald W. Walker

"Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer"

(BYU Studies, 24:4, Winter 1984)



(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1984, Brigham Young University. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 461 ]



Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer

Ronald W. Walker


My diary tells how things began. 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 and 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."

(Transcriber's Note: The 1825 Harris Letter was found to be a forgery,
all mention of it has been deleted from the following transcript)







462                                                                                           BYU Studies




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Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer                                                           463




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464                                                                                           BYU Studies


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. [1] The same story also emerges from other eyewitness, including the less negatively biased interviews gathered by RLDS churchman William H. Kelley. [2] 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.

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 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 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 has so miraculously given... [Joseph, Jr.] should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures." [3]

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 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 neighborhood "peculiarity" and transformed their religious fervor and folk customs into chicanery

__________
1. E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Published by Author, 1834).

2. "The Hill Cumorah and the Book of Mormon," Saints Herald (1 June 1881): 161-68.

3. Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith 17 June 1829, Joseph Smith Letterbook, 2:59-61, Joseph Smith Papers, Library-Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives); Book of Commandments, 7:3 Dean Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," Brigham Young University Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 29-39; Lucy Mack Smith, "Preliminary Notes to Autobiography," folder marked chapter 24. p. 39, LDS Church Archives; W. D. Purple, "Joseph Smith the Originator of Mormonism," The Chenango (New York) Union, 2 May 1877.




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and fraud. In her interpretation, Joseph became a skilled confidence man who stumbled onto religion.

This brings us to the second meaning of our current search to understand Mormon origins. Contrary to Brodie's view, our untraditional money-digging documents help to reveal that Joseph and his early converts were part of a broad but now virtually defunct culture whose meaning is basic to our process of historical reconstruction. With the importance of this culture in mind, I wrote "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting", the preceding paper in this BYU Studies. In my research, I found that during the lifetime of Joseph Smith an ancient set of beliefs coexisted with the rising tide of Enlightenment culture. The old Weltanschauung accepted reality of digging for buried treasure, but its cultural tentacles were actually far more extensive. Some of its believers practiced alchemy, astrology, herbalism, or even "white magic", which its adepts or seers claimed to be a beneficent storehouse of humankind's proven nostrums. Others claimed to be preserving the higher and mystical biblical truth, especially those drawn from the Old Testament, that the established religions had abandoned or ignored. The wide-range interests of these seers and the degree to which they addressed the everyday needs and concern of the folk actually made them, in some periods (for example, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England), nearly as numerous and influential as the established clergy. There were scores of these men and women (often they were boys and girls) still quietly practicing their arts in America when Joseph Smith was born.

The role of this culture in America should not be exaggerated. While some influential early Americans, such as John Wentworth, Jr., were attracted to it, by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Enlightenment rationalism dominated most educated circles. Thus by Joseph Smith's time, the old ways persisted largely as a people's movement, often in a cultural backwaters like New England's hill country, German Pennsylvania, or the emerging frontier areas of the Old Northwest.

Did this culture influence young Joseph? While a rigorous weighing of evidence is yet to be undertaken, there are abundant clues that it did. Besides the magic and money-digging sources already cited, neighbors often recalled the boy's spiritualistic activity. He blessed crops, found lost articles, predicted future events or prophesied -- the classic labor of an Old Testament-oriented village seer. Moreover, by using divining rods and seer stones, he employed




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the adepts' common techniques. [4] If the several accounts of his 1826 trial can be trusted, Joseph himself admitted as much. "He has occasionally been in the habit of looking through his stone to find lost property for 3 years," one report has him saying, "but of late had pretty much given it up on account of injuring his Health, especially his eyes." [5]

Undoubtedly, the Smith's New York penury exacted relentless labor and prevented the wholesale money digging that some Palmyra neighbors later charged young Joseph with. But on occasion, the spiritually gifted boy apparently followed the enthusiasm of his father and searched for treasure. Even more likely, he sought lost articles and perhaps foretold the future. And when the young Prophet proclaimed his Restoration mission, they were many believers who came from this same culture. Early converts such as Jared Carter, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Hiram Page, and the Whitmers possibly saw Joseph as acting within the tradition of a village wise man or seer. When he set aside the informal, unstructured, charismatic, and visionary religion of the early 1830s for his larger, worldwide mission, these men left the Church in disappointment.

Elements of Joseph Smith's boyhood culture, then, explain a great deal. We now understand the context and content of many sources that traditional LDS scholars have previously dismissed out of hand. As a result, the process of synthesizing Mormon and non-Mormon materials can proceed at a quickened pace. In addition, we see that the Smiths were not the idiosyncratic folks many neighbors and later historians have claimed. An understanding of the culture also helps us to decipher early nineteenth-century conversion and apostasy patterns. None of this should be too surprising. As R. Laurence Moore has observed, "No historical belief or activity can be wholly deviant with respect to the age in which it appeared. Everything, after all, is a product of its cultural milieu and, therefore, has some more or less normal meaning within the culture." [6] The growth and early success of Mormonism provide prima facie evidence that the movement was not the aberration some have suggested.

The third insight of our study has already been suggested. The documents that have emerged in recent years provide a context for harmonizing many of the seemingly ill-fitting facts of Joseph's early religious life. From Abner Cole to Fawn Brodie to several recent authors, historians have struggled with the apparent paradox of the Smith's unquestioned religious feeling and their money digging. Mormon believers, in turn, have asked themselves how Joseph's

__________
4. The sources that deal with Joseph's early spiritualistic activity are generally unsympathetic if not hostile. See for example Emily M. Austin, Mormonism or Life Among the Mormons (Madison Wis.: M. J. Cantwell 1882), 31-33; Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Claxton, Ramsen and Haffelfinger, 1873), 580; Howe, Mormonism Unavailed, 11-12; Orasmus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, N.Y.: William Alling, 1851), 216; S. F. Anderick's affidavit in Naked Truths about Mormonism, January 1888, 2; Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1867), 19-20; Oneonta (New York) Herald, 18 January, 1900, as cited in Larry C. Porter and Jan Shipps, eds., "The Colesville, New York Exodus Seen from Two Documentary Perspectives," New York History 62 (April 1981): 205; E. W. Wanderhoof, Historical Sketches of Western New York (Buffalo N.Y.: Matthews Northrup Works, 1907), 138-39.

5 Utah Christian Advocate 2 (January 1886): 1.

6 Laurence Moore, "Insiders and Outsiders in American Historical Narrative and American History," American Historical Review 87 (April 1982): 390.




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youthful epiphanies can be reconciled with his Palmyra search for lost articles or his scouring the Susquehanna River headwaters for salt, silver, and other valuables.

If authentic, the Martin Harris letter suggests that some of these difficulties are the result of imposing modern values on the past. Certainly Harris and other early converts found no incongruity between religion and scrying. The latter was often overlaid with religiosity. Prayers, fasting, and acts of Old Testament sacrifice often accompanied the search for buried wealth. Joseph himself reportedly employed devotional rituals when searching for wealth and led a digging company that claimed the treasure could not be unearthed "except by faith." [7] Elsewhere, as with Vermont's celebrated "Wood-scrape" incident or in a Wayne County, New York, congregation, treasure hunting, the use of divining rods or seer stones, and formal religious worship were interrelated. [8]

Martin Harris personified this mixture of religion and the old culture. By his own account, prior to accepting Joseph Smith's religious mission he was "taught of the Spirit" in 1818 to reject Trinitarian creeds and consequently became a seeker. [9] Neighbors recalled his attraction to a series of churches, though he apparently failed to affiliate with any, and the great extent of his Bible reading and memorization. [10] Yet, despite these rather traditional religious interests, there is evidence that Harris understood and accepted the prevailing money-digging lore, ascribed sacred significance to at least one of the Palmyra neighborhood digs, and may have dug for treasure himself at sites that included Cumorah, or "Mormon Hill." [11]

(remainder of page 467 not transcribed)

__________
7 Purple, Chenango (New York) Union,   2 May 1877.

8 Barnes Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont, (Middletown Springs Historical Society, 1975, photocopy of 1867 edition), 49-60; W. H. McIntosh, History of Wayne County, New York (Philadelphia: Everts, Ensign and Everts, 1877). 155-56.

9 "Testimony of Martin Harris," 4 September 1870, LDS Church Archives.

10 John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way, (Philadelphia: W. J. and J. K. Simon, 1842), 222-23; Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, 40.

11 [Joel Tiffany], "Mormonism," Tiffany's Monthly, (5 May 1859): 46-51, 119-21, 163-70; Wallace Miner, "Statement," M. Wilford Poulson Collection, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ole A. Jensen, "Testimony as to the Divinity of the Book of Mormon" (interview with Martin Harris), July 1875, 1, LDS Church Archives; While they are many years after the fact the Miner and Jensen accounts receive additional weight from Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses (17 June 1877), 19:37. Harris was apparently one of Rockwell's Companions.

12 "Golden Bible," Rochester (New York) Gem, 5 September 1829.




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between their personal culture and the divine voice. In addition to those already suggested, such converts as Alva Beaman, Joseph Knight, Orrin P. Rockwell, and Brigham Young probably knew and approved of Joseph's earlier activity. As suggested previously, some of these men were predisposed to follow him because he first appeared in the familiar folk lore of village seer. But they also believed that Providence had given Joseph a special role. "The gift of seeing was a natural gift," President Brigham Young later taught. "There are thousands in the world who are natural born Seers, but when the Lord selected Joseph Smith to be his vice-regent and mouthpiece upon the earth in this dispensation, he saw that he would be faithful and honor his calling." [13]

As with any people at any moment of time, the first Latter-day Saints (including Joseph Smith himself) required some time and effort to separate religious truth from their own sincerely held, culture-derived ideas, some of which today appear unfounded or irrational. "It may be admitted that some of... [the Prophet's ancestors] believed in fortune telling, in warlocks and witches," Elder B. H. Roberts observed. "To have been incredulous in such matters in that age and locality, would have stamped them [as being] abnormal." [14] But in addition to the folk elements, there were from the beginning transcendental religious moments, which men like Hiram Page found irrefutable. Page, who used a seer stone and may have dug for money, left organized Mormonism but could not forget the past. In 1847, Hiram Page wrote:

To say that a man of Joseph's ability, who at that time did not know how to pronounce the word, Nephi, could write a book of six hundred pages, as correct as the book of Mormon, without supernatural power, and to say that those holy Angels who came and showed themselves to me as I was walking through the field, to confirm me in the work of the Lord of the last days -- three of whom came to me afterwards and sang an hymn in their own pure language [would be an injustice]; yea, it would be treating the God of heaven with contempt, to deny these testimonies, with many others to mention here." [15]

While the personal and the divine clearly mixed in the lives of early Mormon converts, they nevertheless believed the heavenly voice was unmistakable.

A fourth dimension of our study involves the historical setting of early Mormonism. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, upstate New York was, to borrow Carl Carmer's phrase, "a broad psychic highway, a thoroughfare of the occult." [16] Rachel Baker

__________
13 "Report of Remarks Made at the Tabernacle, 23 December 1860," Deseret News Weekly 10 (26 December 1860): 338.

14 B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 1:26-27.

15 Hiram Page to William E. McLellin, 30 May 1847, printed in Ensign of Liberty, 1 (January 1848): p. 63. For a discussion of Page's seer stone and money digging see Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 26 September 1830, LDS Church Archives, and Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 215.

16 Quoted quoted in Arch Merrill, Pioneer Profiles (New York: American Book -- Stratford Press, 1957), 162.




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(page 469 not transcribed)







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(page 470 not transcribed)







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...

There certainly is parable here. We have spoken about our changing view of Joseph Smith's youth. We have talked about his money digging, the Smith's folk culture that was so different from our own, Joseph's mixing of personal and divine concepts within the context of his religious experience, and the historical and psychological setting that makes the Latter-day prophet's youth understandable. Confronted by such fare and by the unusual documents that prompted it, and lacking the suppleness and poetic insight that the interpretation of religious experience requires, some may contemplate their own distant journey -- a journey that will take them from their spiritual hearth. In time, they may come to realize that, after all, their treasure lay buried in a familiar, dusty corner behind the stove.



 
(comments forthcoming)






Dale Morgan / J. P. Walker

Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
(SLC: Signature, 1986)


(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1986, Signature Books. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


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Chapter Two.

A Stone in a Hat

The precise by-path by which Joseph Smith reached the highroad of his calling has been obscured by the dust of time, but from the perspective of 1830, the Palmyra Reflector considered that he had followed in the steps of a local conjurer, "Walters the magician."

A vagabond fortune-teller who lived at Sodus and had once been committed to the county jail for "juggling," Walters was said to have been paid three dollars a day for the services he rendered to the early seekers after buried treasure. With his rusty sword, his peepstone, his stuffed toad, and other paraphernalia no less impressive, Walters carried a copy of Cicero's Orations in Latin, from which, said the Reflector, "he read long and loud to his credulous hearers, uttering at the same time an unintelligible jargon, which he would afterwards pretend to interpret, and explain, as a record of the former inhabitants of America, and a particular account of the numerous situations where they had deposited their treasures previous to their final extirpation.... Walters assembled his nightly band of money-diggers in the town of Manchester, at a point designated in his magical book, and drawing a circle around the laborers, with the point of an old rusty sword, and using sundry other incantations, for the purpose of propitiating the spirit, absolutely sacrificed a fowl, ('Rooster') in the presence of his awe-stricken companions, to the foul spirit, whom ignorance had created the guardian of hidden wealth; and after digging until day-light, his deluded employers retired to their several habitations, fatigued and disappointed." [1]

There were, in the neighborhood, other practitioners of the necromantic arts. [2] From all of them Joseph may have derived instruction, but with his lively fancy, his abounding faith in himself, and above all his will to be foremost, he soon had a peepstone and a clientele of his own. Before he was done, he all but obliterated his rivals from Palmyra's collective memory.

How Joseph found his peepstone, or as Mormon annals call it indignified reproof, his "seerstone," was related by his father in 1830 to two curious callers. Some years before, he said, his son had happened upon a man who looked into a dark stone and told people where to dig for money and other things. "Joseph requested the privilege of looking into the stone, which he did by putting his face into the hat where the stone was. It proved to be not the right stone for him, but he could see some things, and among them, he saw the

__________
1. See the accounts of Walters in the Reflector for June 12, July 7, 1830, and Feb. 28, 1831, the quotations being from the latter issue. Walters is also mentioned in a letter signed by ten citizens of Palmyra under date of March 12, 1831, in the Painseville, Ohio, Telegraph, March 22, 1831. In his debate with E. L. Kelley at Kirtland in 1884, the Campbellite preacher, Clark Braden, remarked that Walters was of British birth and knew something of mesmerism (The Braden-Kelley Debate [St. Louis, 1884]). The existence of such a person having been called in question by Mormon writers, it is interesting to note that Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York, 1867), p. 38, includes among "the pioneer Mormon disciples" one Luman Walters of Pultneyville, New York. The census returns for 1830, in the National Archives, show the presence in Sodus Township of "Luman Walters," aged between thirty and forty, and having a wife and five children. There was no separate return for Pultneyville, then part of the township of Sodus.

2. See the sworn statement of Mrs. C. R. Smith, a sister of the celebrated Orrin Porter Rockwell, in Naked Truths about Mormonism, April 1888: "There was considerable digging for money in our neighborhood by men, women, and children. I never knew of their finding any. I saw a large hole dug on Nathaniel Smith's farm, which was sandy. I saw Joshua Stafford's peep-stone which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center. Sallie Chase, a Methodist, had one and people would go to her to find lost and hidden things." Sally Chase's stone was described by her brother Abel in March 1881 as "dark looking... a peculiar stone" (Saints' Herald, June 1, 1881), while Lucy Mack Smith has referred to it as "a green glass" (Biographical Sketches [Liverpool, 1853], p. 109).




[ 235 ]


stone, and where it was, in which he wished to see." The place where he saw the stone was not far from their house; and, under pretense of digging a well, they found water and the stone at a depth of twenty or twenty-two feet. After this, Joseph spent about two years looking into this stone, telling fortunes, where to find lost things, and where to dig for money and other hidden treasures. [3]

Joseph clung to this seer stone the rest of his life, even after his first employment of it had become a memory to be curtained off by his will, and as late as 1841 he exhibited it to some of his followers. "Every man who lived on the earth," Joseph said to them, "was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make evil use of it." [4] The persistence of peepstones among the early Saints, and also this view of them, was attested by Priddy Meeks, who has explained that "seer stones, or peepstones, as they are more commonly called" were the connecting link between the visible and the invisible worlds. "It is not safe," he stipulates, "to depend on [a] peepstone in any case where evil spirits have the power to put false appearances before [the seer] while looking in a peep-stone. If evil influences will not interfere, the verdict will be as true as preaching. That is my experience in the matter; also the Patriarch, Hiram Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, held the same idea, but stated that our faith was not strong enough to overcome the evil influences that might interfere, but seemed to think that [that] time would come.... I believe a peepstone is of the same piece with the Urim and Thummim, if we understand it." [5]

Joseph's own stone was found, as his father was to say, during the digging of a well on the Chase farm in Manchester, sometime in the year 1822. [6] Willard Chase, working with Alvin and Joseph Smith at the digging, says that when they reached a depth some twenty feet below the surface of the earth he discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat. It has been said by Smith, that he brought the stone from the well; but this is false. There was no one in the well but myself. The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of [the] community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years. I believe, some time in 1825, Hiram Smith (brother of Joseph Smith) came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone, alledging that they wanted to accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone. I

__________
3. [La]Fayette Lapham, "Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, Forty Years Ago," Historical Magazine 7 (May 1870): 305-306. Conceivably the seer alluded to was Walters.

4. Brigham Young described the occasion in his journal under date of Dec. 27, 1841, in Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 26:118, 119. Therefore Joseph did not give this famous stone to Oliver Cowdery in 1830, as David Whitmer asserted in his An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Missouri, 1887), p. 32. It is possible that the seerstone Cowdery preserved was a whitish stone Joseph made use of later, before and during the writing of the Book of Mormon. This stone was carried off to Utah by Cowdery's brother-in-law, Phineas Young, after the death of the former in 1850 (see the letter of Cowdery's daughter, Maria L. Johnson, to David Whitmer, South West City, Missouri, Jan. 24, 1887, the original of which is preserved in the library of the Reorganized LDS church). Phineas was an elder brother of Brigham Young, and it therefore is quite likely that the church in Salt Lake City today has both of Joseph's stones.

5. "Journal of Priddy Meeks," Utah Historical Quarterly 10 (1942): 179, 180. Hyrum Smith also told Priddy that in ancient times the Nephites (the name given by the Mormons to certain American aborigines) had "had the advantage of their enemies by looking in the seerstone which would reveal whatever they wished to know."

6. On Pomeroy Tucker's authority, the date is usually given as September 1819, but Willard Chase, clearly the best authority, gives the year as 1822. That date squares well with the court record printed in Appendix A and with what Joseph Smith, Sen., told LaFayette Lapham in 1830. Martin Harris has said that the stone "was dug from the well of Mason Chase, twenty-four feet from the surface," Tiffany's Monthly 5 (July 1859): 163-70. Both a Clark and a Mason Chase are shown resident in Manchester by the census returns, the former with many children, the latter with none; Clark seems better to answer the requirements of the sources, and he is named by Pomeroy Tucker. The site of this historic well, which continued in use until filled up in the 1880s, is pointed out by Thomas L. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity (Palmyra, 1930), p. 238.




[ 236 ]


told him it was of no particular worth to me, but merely wished to keep it as a curiosity, and if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it; which he did and took the stone. I thought I could rely on his word at this time, as he had made a profession of religion. But in this I was disappointed, for he disregarded both his word and honor....[O]n [my] going to Smith's [in the fall of 1826] and asking him for the stone, he [Hyrum] said, "you cannot have it;" I told him it belonged to me, repeated to him the promise he made to me at the time of obtaining the stone; upon which he faced me with a malignant look, and said, "I don't care who in the Devil it belongs to, you shall not have it!"... In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph made use of it in translating his Bible. I reminded him of his promise, and that he had pledged his honor to return it; but he gave me the lie, saying the stone was not mine nor never was. [7]

Pomeroy Tucker remembered this remarkable stone to have had a peculiar shape resembling that of a child's foot, [8] and William D. Purple, who saw the stone in 1826, said that it was "about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it" and was very hard and smooth. [9] Descriptions of the stone vary with individual memories, but Hosea Stout had seen it within a few hours when he wrote in his diary on February 25, 1856, that it was apparently "a silecious granite dark color almost black with light colored stripes some what resembling petrified poplar or cotton wood bark...about the size but not the shape of a hen's egg." [10] Joseph's own wife remembered it as "a small stone, [which was] not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color." [11] These descriptions are consistent except that Tucker describes the stone as "of a whitish, glassy appearance, though opaque, resembling quartz." It may be that Tucker confused the first stone with the one Joseph used later. [12] The church Joseph Smith founded has not cared to exhibit either stone with the other relics of its early history, and these contemporary descriptions must suffice.

The remarkable occupation which Joseph called "glass-looking" [13] has a history old if not always honored. To recover the lost, divine the unknown, and reveal the future, the ancient Greeks employed magic mirrors, sacred springs, and even pure water in a goblet. Round pieces of rock crystal and other stones of strange shape or color were used by scryers in Europe at least from the second century, and three hundred years before Joseph's time, a "cristal stone wheryn a chylde shall loke, and see many thyngs" was an object of curious note in England. [14] Divining rods, which usually were forked twigs cut from witch hazel, willow, peach, or some other favored tree, have a similar antiquity, dating back to the times of the Medes and the Persians, but the employment of rhabdomancy

__________
7. Affidavit of Willard Chase, Dec. 11, 1833, in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio, 1834), pp. 241-42, 247.

8. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, p. 19.

9. See the reminiscences of Dr. Purple reprinted in Appendix A.

10. Brigham Young on this evening had exhibited the stone to Stout and other regents of the University of the State of Deseret in Great Salt Lake City as being "the Seer's stone with which The Prophet Joseph discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon." See Stout diary, Feb. 25, 1856. Orasmus Turner, History of Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase (Rochester, 1851), p. 216, says the stone was horn blende, which is one of the green, brown, or black forms of the mineral amphibole.

11. Emma Smith Bidamon to Mrs. Charles Pilgrim, Nauvoo, Illinois, March 27, 1871, original letter in the library of the Reorganized LDS church."

12. See the court record of 1826 reprinted in Appendix A. Arad Stowell mentioned a second stone "which was white and transparent," and McMaster testified that Joseph claimed he "could discern objects at a distance by holding this white stone to the sun or candle," and "rather declined looking into a Hat at his dark-colored stone as he said that it hurt his eyes." The white stone reappears prominently in connection with the translation of the Golden Plates."

13. This was the term Joseph used when, in 1827, he promised his father-in-law, Issac Hale, that he would turn to other pursuits. See Hale's affidavit, March 20, 1834, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 264.

14. Theodore Besterman, Crystal-Gazing: A Study in the History. Distribution, Theory and Practice of Scrying (London, 1924), and compare Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science During the First Thirteen Centuries of Our Era, 6 vols. (New York, 1923-41), 6:498-99, 520. A work by Johannes Rivius of Attendorn, published in 1541, says Thorndike, "admitted to a few vestiges of superstition remaining even among the Protestants, some of whom still sought hidden treasure by crystal-gazing or employed incantations and arts of divination." Besterman and Thorndike develop something of the early history of crystal-gazing, but provide no information of any value on its later spread to and development in America.




[ 237 ]


specifically for locating mines and buried treasure seems to have developed about the fifteenth century in the Harz Mountains of Germany. The practice was brought to Cornwall by German miners in Elizabethan times, and became general in England and western Europe during the next century. [15] The evolution of practice and belief in America has not been the subject of a scholarly investigation, [16] but the matured folklore as it found expression at the backwoods level was graphically described in the Palmyra Reflector early in 1831:
Mineral rods and balls, (as they were called by the imposter who made use of them,) were supposed to be infallible guides to these sources of wealth -- "peep stones" or pebbles, taken promiscuously from the brook or field, were placed in a hat or other situation excluded from the light, when some wizard or witch (for these performances were not confined to either sex) applied their eyes, and nearly starting their balls from their sockets, declared they saw all the wonders of nature, including of course, ample stores of silver and gold.

It is more than probable [said the Reflector in the skeptical tradition to which it was dedicated] that some of these deluded people, by having their imaginations heated to the highest pitch of excitment, and by straining their eyes until they were suffused with tears, might have, through the medium of some trifling emmision of the ray of light, receive[d] imperfect images on the retina, when their fancies could create the rest. Be this however as it may, people busied themselves in consulting these blind oracles, while the ground nightly opened in various places by men who were too lazy or idle to labor for bread in the day time, displayed a zeal and perserverance in this business worthy of a better cause. [17]
To probe the mysteries of his own stone, Joseph placed it in the depths of a battered white stovepipe hat and buried his face in the hat. [18] The wonders developed were many - chests of money, bars of gold and silver, lost property of all kinds, and even spirits of malevolent disposition. William Stafford and Rosewell Nichols were two neighbors who listened in fascination to stories of "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." Nearly all the hills in this part of New York, it was impressed upon them, had been thrown up by human hands. In these hills were large caves containing gold bars and silver plates [19] -- and spirits in ancient dress, in whose charge these treasures remained. One evening, William Stafford relates, the senior Joseph came to see him and told me, that Joseph, Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three

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15. Arthur J. Ellis, The Divining Rod: A History of Water Witching, U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 416 (Washington, 1938). The faith tenaciously held by the elder Joseph Smith in divining rods has not perished; see Life Magazine's story on the American historical novelist, Kenneth Roberts, "Can He Find Water?", Oct. 4, 1948.

16. Cultural anthropologists have traveled to the ends of the earth to enquire into rain rituals among the Toradya, the power of bonga among the Ho, and the making of magicians among the Kaingang, but none have been found, so far as I can learn, willing to travel six blocks by streetcar to begin some investigations into the character and cultural persistence of horoscopy, numerology, palm-reading, crystal-gazing, and kindred practices and beliefs. A fortune-teller in Chicago in 1950, say, strikes me as no less interesting and perishable within a societal complex than a rain-maker in Zuni, and I think the narrow preoccupation of anthropolgists with primitive man should be broadened to include those studies of modem society without which other studies lose much of their meaning.

17. Palmyra Reflector, Feb. 1, 1831. These remarks, made in the third of a series of six articles on the "Gold Bible," appear to have been made not by the editor, as has been inferred, but by a correspondent living in Farmington. See the Reflector, Jan. 6, 1831.

18. As described to Frederick G. Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincott's Magazine 26 (Aug. 1880): 199, "When 'peeking' he (Joseph Smith) kneeled and buried his face in his white stovepipe hat, within which was the peek-stone. He declared it to be so much like looking into the water that the 'deflection of flight' [i.e. deflection of light] sometimes took him out of his course." Martin Harris mentions "the old white hat," and John C. Bennett, History of the Saints (Boston, 1842), even prints a letter purporting to have been written by Joseph, signed "Old White Hat." Without specifically describing the hat, Joseph Smith's later father-in-law, Issac Hale, similarly pictures Joseph's methodology with his stone, which was "placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face."

19. The emphasis on great caverns not only in the literature of the money-digging but later on in Mormon folklore owed in some part to a "stupendous cavern" discovered near Watertown, New York, in the spring of 1822, which was widely publicized in the contemporary press, e.g., Nile's Weekly Register 22 (June 22, 1822): 270, 271, and the Palmyra Herald and Canal Advertiser, June 19, 1822. Other caverns had been described in the press from time to time, but without making quite such an impression.

Willard Chase, in his affidavit of Dec. 11, 1833, pictures Joseph as declaring, at a later date, that he "had discovered on the bank of Black River, in the village of Watertown, Jefferson County, N.Y., a cave, in which he had found a bar of gold, as big as his leg, and about three or four feet long." This allusion clearly derived from the newspaper story of 1822, whether the mind of origin is held to be that of Joseph Smith or Willard Chase. See Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 244. -- It may be convenient here to point out that various stories published in the newspapers through the early 1820s were by no means of a kind to discourage seekers after treasure. From Vermont to Georgia, pirate treasure and gold and silver mines were universal objects of search. The gold deposits discovered in North Carolina in 1823 were enough to confound the complacence of those who supposed it long since since settled that the United States were barren of this yellow metal. There were reports of a silver mine found in Indianna, another in Westchester County, New York, and even, to give spice to the possibilities, twenty-nine guineas found by a wood-chopper in the trunk of a tree near Utica, all these discoveries duly chronicled in the village paper.




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kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them. I accordingly consented to go, and... repaired to the place of deposit. Joseph, Sen. first made a nice circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch-hazel sticks, around the said circle, for the purpose of keeping off the evil spirits. Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of this last circle, muttering to himself something which I could not understand. He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles, and then enjoined profound silence upon us, lest we should arouse the evil spirit who had the charge of these treasures. After we had dug a trench about five feet in depth around the rod, the old man by signs and notions, asked leave of absence, and went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment. He soon returned and said, 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. We then went into the house, and the old man 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. [20]

The spirits in whose charge the treasures had been left were pertinacious in the discharge of their trust. Joseph Capron describes another unavailing effort to outwit them, after Joseph's peepstone discovered, near Capron's house in Manchester, a buried chest filled with gold watches. A number of large stakes were driven in a circle, several rods in circumference, around the place where the treasure was deposited, after which, a messenger having brought from Palmyra a polished sword, Samuel E Lawrence, with sword in hand, marched around and around to frighten off the devil. Meanwhile the rest of the money-diggers dug for the watches, working until they were exhausted. But despite their earnest labors, their bulwark of stakes, and their formidable defender, the devil came off victorious and carried away the treasure. [21]

What made the seeking so peculiarly difficult was the facility with which the treasures moved around the earth. It was the opinion of Joseph, Senior, as we have seen, that the heat of the summer sun could pull chests of money up through the earth to the surface of the ground, but magic also could affect this subterranean movement, and with far greater celebrity. Often the treasures were wisked away from the diggers at the very moment of seeing triumph. No lesser authority than Brigham Young preserved for us the memory of such a happening. He once told a Mormon congregation:

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20. See Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 238-39, 257-58.

21. Affidavit of Joseph Capron, Nov. 8, 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 258-60. This affair of the gold watches was among the better remembered of Joseph's treasure-hunting exploits; it is mentioned by Joshua Stafford and by the Palmyra Reflector, July 7, 1830.




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Or[r]in P. Rockwell is an eye-witness to some powers of removing the treasures of the earth. He was with certain parties that lived near by where the plates were found that contain the records of the Book of Mormon. There were a great many treasures hid up by the Nephites. Porter was with them one night where there were treasures, and they could find them easy enough, but they could not obtain them.... He said that on this night, when they were engaged hunting for this old treasure, they dug around the end of a chest for some twenty inches. The chest was about three feet square. One man who was determined to have the contents of that chest, took his pick and struck into the lid of it, and split through into the chest. The blow took off a piece of the lid, which a certain lady kept in her possession until she died. That chest of money went into the bank. Porter describes it so [making a rumbling sound]; he says this is just as true as the heavens are. I have heard others tell the same story. I relate this because it is marvelous to you. But to those who understand these things, it is not marvelous. [22]

Marvelous or not, in this treasure-seeking it invariably turned out that some mistake had been made, or that some uncontrollable spirit or impenetrable enchantment met with. Once only, in Palmyra's remembrance, were the Smiths' efforts clearly rewarded. The scene of this exploit, the hill called "Old Sharp," is still pointed out. One day the elder Joseph came with one of his sons to tell William Stafford that Joseph had discovered some treasures which could be procured in one way only. It would be necessary to take a black sheep to the ground where the riches lay concealed, and after cutting its throat, lead it around a circle while bleeding. Thus the wrath of the evil spirit might be appeased and the treasures obtained. [24] "To gratify my curiosity," Stafford says, "I let them have...[the] sheep. They afterwards informed me that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect." There remained the mutton, gratefully received on the Smith table, which in Stafford's view signalized this as "the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business." [25]

In later years Joseph found it expedient to ignore the tales by his old neighbors at Palmyra. His followers have improved upon his example. [26] Their prophet gave them a sufficient history of his youth to run a church on, and they have never been willing to go back of that history. It has been easier to believe there was no one of any

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22. Discourse by Brigham Young at Farmington, Utah, June 17, 1877, Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, 1878), 19:37-38. Young vouched for Rockwell's veracity: "When he tells a thing he understands, he will tell it just as he knows it; he is a man that does not lie." Joshua Stafford declared in 1833 that "Joseph once showed me a piece of wood which he said he took from a box of money, and the reason he gave for not obtaining the box, was, that it moved." Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 258.

23. These are of course the rituals of magic everywhere, the magic circle, and the magic force of blood in sacrifice. The latter reappears in Joseph's church at a later date, in connection with the doctrine of blood atonement. -- Stafford had a black wether both large and fat, but though promised a four-fold share in the treasure, he was unconvinced of the necessity for the sacrifice of this wether until it was pointed out to him that because the treasures were to be obtained through the black art, none but a black sheep would do." The Prophet of Palmyra (New York, 1890), p. 56.

24. Stephen S. Harding heard this detail while in Palmyra in the summer of 1829. See his letter of February 1822 to Thomas Gregg, printed in the latter's The Prophet of Palmyra.

25. William Stafford tells the story himself in his affidavit of Dec. 8, 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed.

26. It has remained for a later generation of believers to deny the stories altogether. Joseph himself never denied that he had been a seer in peep-stones before establishing himself as a prophet of God.... The adventure of the black sheep recurs in every reminiscent account of Palmyra. Cook, Palmyra and Vicinity, p. 222, on the authority of an old resident, Wallace W. Miner, who had known Stafford well, adds a fresh detail. According to this version, after the sacrifice of the sheep Joseph came to Stafford and offered to make the latter a number of sap-buckets in repayment; this he did to Stafford's satisfaction.




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integrity in the whole town of Palmyra than to open the door upon doubt. Even the most responsible of the Mormon historians, B. H. Roberts, simply waved aside the universal testimony of Palmyra concerning their old neighbor -- mere idle stories, dark insinuations, anything to discredit the prophet. [27] It may be, as Joseph once maintained, that he engaged in his glass-looking only at the importunities of others, [28] and it is certainly true that the more extravagant stories of what he could see in his stone issued from other members of his family. But the picture of Joseph, his family, and their friends as indefatigable searchers after buried treasure, limned in contemporary newspapers and the recollections of their neighbors, stands forth clearly after every discount has been made for malice and dislike. [29]

During the two years after the finding of the seerstone, the fortunes of the family progressed only from bad to worse -- whether an effect or a cause of the unremitting treasure-seeking it is impossible now to say. [30] The loss on November 19, 1823, by what would appear to have been acute appendicitis, of the eldest son, Alvin, not only cost the family their most energetic wage earner but soon made them the butt of a cruel wit directed, it is obvious, at their nocturnal excavations. It was bruited about that body-snatchers had made off with the corpse, and in September 1824 the elder Joseph had the grave opened to establish that Alvin lay undisturbed, a fact he publicized with a pathetic notice in the village paper which attributed the reports in circulation more to "a desire to injure the reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends." [31]

The same day Joseph had his son's grave opened, September 25, 1824, the Methodists began a historic two-day camp-meeting in Palmyra. The town had been smoldering with religious unease since early in the spring, and now it caught fire. Through the fall of 1824 and the winter and spring of 1825 a powerful revival raged, catching up the Smiths with the other townsfolk, and eventually bringing Lucy and some of the elder children into the bonds of Christian fellowship. Joseph and his father hesitated on the fringe of conversion, half persuaded by the arguments of the Methodists, but finally turned their backs upon this opportunity for salvation. [33] moreover, Willard Chase has said that for a time he reclaimed the peepstone from Joseph, apparently in 1824. [34] But this is an interregnum only; late in the summer of 1825 an old Vermonter by the name of Josiah Stowell, who made his home in the Susquehanna Valley, heard from his son at Palmyra of the wonders Joseph could see in the stone, and journeyed north to talk with the seer. Sending Hyrum to borrow the peepstone from Willard Chase,

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27. Brigham H. Roberts, Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate, October 1835, speaking through Oliver Cowdery, he admitted to having spent "a few months with some others in excavating the earth," in pursuit of treasure down in the Susquehanna country. Again, in the Elder's Journal, July 1838, replying in the third person to the question whether he had ever been a money-digger, Joseph said, "Yes, but it was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it." This may well be taken as a literal statement of so much of the truth as he admitted. Still later, writing in his autobiography of this employment in the Susquehanna country which had paid him the fourteen dollar wage, he concluded somewhat disingenuously, "Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger." At no time did he ever squarely meet the question whether he had used his peepstone in the country roundabout Palmyra for treasure seekers of that neighborhood. As a matter of fact, such early converts to Mormonism as the Rockwell and Beman families had been actively associated with him in the treasure-hunting at Palmyra and Manchester, and others, like Martin Harris, were well informed about it and accepted it naturally as a part of his history.

28. See his testimony in his trial at Bainbridge, New York, in March 1826, reprinted in Appendix A. Comprehensive History of the Church, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1930), 1:41. Roberts accepted the incontrovertible fact that Joseph had a seerstone, but came only reluctantly to the admission that it was the stone from the Chase well. Compare his Defense of the Faith and the Saints (Salt Lake City, 1907), 1:257, and his Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:129.

29. The only effort ever made to vindicate the Smiths through interviewing old residents of Palmyra was by William and E. L. Kelley in March 1881. Their inquiries developed little more than that the Smiths had been neither much better nor much worse than their contemporaries. Three of the persons questioned alluded to Joseph's use of a peepstone for money-digging purposes, but detailed inquiries were apparently made only of Abel Chase, brother of Willard, who was too young to be able to say he had seen the stone himself.

30. The stringency of the times is at least suggested by an item in the Saints' Herald, June 1, 1881. The accuracy of the Kelleys' report of the interviews was shortly after attacked by some of those who had been interviewed. Their statements are to be found in Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Mendora, Illinois, 1910), pp. 39-43.

More characteristic of the Mormon reaction to the Palmyra stories has been the vilification of the affiants, "a set of blackguards, liars, horse jockeys and drunkards." See, e.g., Benjamin Winchester, The Origin of the Spaulding Story (Philadelphia, 1840).

31. This notice appears in the Western Farmer, June 20, 1821, "It appears by a letter written near Cadiz (Ohio) dated April 30, 1821, -- that the times there if possible are more embarrasing than here; that wheat will fetch but from 12 1/2 to 25 cents per bushel -- Money is not to be had -- no means whatever will extort it. Lawsuits are generally stopped as property will not buy money at any rate."

32. See Chapter 3. Wayne Sentinel from Sept. 29 through Nov. 3, 1824. It had been supposed on his mother's authority that Alvin died in November 1824, but this card in the Sentinel, like his actual gravestone in the Church Street cemetery in Palmyra, demonstrates that the death occured a year earlier. See Willard W. Bean, A.B.C. History of Palmyra and the Beginnings of "Mormonism" (Palmyra, 1938).

33. 32 It seems likely that for some months the hectic treasure-seeking was neglected, for the revival plunged the community into anxious preoccupation with thir state and standing before the Lord, and the Palmyra Reflector speaks of a time anterior to the first rumors about the golden plates "when the money-digging ardor was somewhat abated;" Palmyra Reflector, Feb. 14, 1831.

34. See his statement in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed.




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Joseph gave the old man so convincing a demonstration of his powers -- first describing Stowell's house and out-buildings at Bainbridge, and then descrying the whereabouts of buried money which so much engrossed the old man -- that Joseph was engaged upon the spot. He and his father were assured, as a minimum, of a wage of fourteen dollars a month for labor through the winter on Stowell's farm; Joseph would have the opportunity of going to school while there, and he and his father would receive a share amounting to two-elevenths of all the treasures that should be brought to light. [35]

Since the money-digging he did for Josiah Stowell is the sole activity of the kind to which Joseph ever made anything resembling forthright confession, it is instructive to see what his autobiography makes of the episode. All he has to say, actually, is that he "hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stowell, who... had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, state of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring, been digging in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it." [36]

In the autobiography of any but a prophet of God, the experiences Joseph thus lightly passes over would provide one of its most fascinating chapters. Just why Stowell was seeking Joseph was more clearly set forth in 1835, with Oliver Cowdery serving him as spokesman. Some forty miles south of Stowell's home at Bainbridge, in the township of Harmony, just below the Pennsylvania border, Cowdery explained, there was said to be "a cave or subterraneous recess" of some kind. "A company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the country was uninhabited by white settlers, [had] excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money: after which they secured the cavity and evacuated, leaving a large part still in the cave, purposing to return at some distant period. A long time elapsed and this account came from one of the individuals who was first engaged in this mining business. The country was pointed out and the spot minutely described." Enough was credited of the Spaniard's story to excite belief in many "that there was a fine sum of the precious metal lying coined in this subterraneous vault," and among those so persuaded was Stowell. [37]

Active digging in search of this treasure seems to have begun in 1822, only to be suspended when the seer who directed operations informed the seekers that the enchantment resisting their efforts could not be dissolved except through the death of one of their number. Providentially, as it was thought, one of the band of treasure-hunters was murdered early in 1824, [38] but from some cause, the diggers were no better able than before to locate the object of their search, and the work had reached a standstill when Stowell heard of Joseph's singular powers and came to seek his aid.

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35. Compare the testimony of Stowell and Joseph himself at Joseph's trial in Bainbridge early in 1826, reprinted in Appendix A. Joseph's mother writes in her Biographical Sketches, pp. 91, 92, that Stowell journeyed to Palmyra "with the view of getting Joseph to assist him in digging.... He came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." This is the nearest any member of the Smith family ever came to the outright admission that Joseph had a peepstone which he used for the benefit of treasure seekers. Martin Harris, who faced the facts more frankly, mentioned not only the peepstone but the money-digging: "There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients. Of this company were old Mr. Stowell -- I think his name was Josiah -- also old Mr. Beman, also Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, Joseph Smith, Jr., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith. They dug for money in Palmyra, Manchester, also in Pennsylvania, and other places. When Joseph found this stone, there was a company digging in Harmony, Pa., and they took Joseph to look in the stone for them" Tiffany's Monthly 5 (July 1859): 164. Three of the money-diggers mentioned by Harris -- Lawrence, Proper, and the elder Smith -- are shown as residents of Manchester by the census returns of 1830, and Alva Brown is located by the same census at Livonia. -- It is assumed that Joseph and his father were given advanced assurances of the fourteen dollar wage, though the only evidence that he was paid such an amount is his statement in Elders' Journal, July 1838. There is no reason to think they were seriously concerned about meeting the payments on the farm, and that this was a controlling consideration in their agreement to accompany Stowell back to his home.

36. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:17. Joseph first published this version of his association with Stowell in Times and Seasons 3 (May 2, 1842) 1: 772.

37. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835.

38. See Appendix A and particularly Note 1.




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Stowell and the two Smiths arrived back in the Susquehanna country late in October 1825. A few days later the parties concerned drew up a curious document to apportion the anticipated rewards of their labors. Among other things it provided: 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 and 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.

Generously, the agreement also provided that three men who had dug unavailingly prior to this time should be considered equal sharers in the mine after all the coined money and bars or ingots obtained had been removed. This agreement was drawn up at Harmony on November 1, 1825, doubtless at the home of Issac Hale, who signed it as witness. [39]

Hale was one of the most famous hunters in the Susquehanna country, his celebrity attested even on the worn stone that marks his grave today in the little cemetery south of Oakland, Pennsylvania, but it was game rather than buried treasure that took him so often into the hills. A one time Vermonter, he had at first a lively interest in Stowell's project and willingly boarded the treasure seekers at his home, but soon decided that it was all nonsense. In a statement a few years later he declared: I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr., in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money-diggers;" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasures. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man -- not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith, and his father, with several other (money-diggers) boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the (money-diggers) great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to hear the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found—he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon

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39. For the full text of this agreement, see Appendix A. The original, the present whereabouts of which is unknown, is declared to have been in Joseph's own hand."




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after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12.68 for his board, which is still unpaid. [40]

In his autobiography Joseph passes delicately over the outcome of this treasure-seeking, saying only that after working unsuccessfully for nearly a month, he prevailed with Stowell to cease digging. So far as it went, this was indeed the case. But if Joseph returned with Stowell to spend the winter working upon the latter's farm at Bainbridge, and attending school there, he was not done with glass-looking. Throughout the winter, the scenes familiar to Palmyra were reenacted with a fresh cast of characters -- digging for money buried on Bend Mountain, seeking after gold on Monument Hill, tramping through the night in quest of a salt spring. Joseph could translate Indian pictographs without the smallest hesitation; and if an inquirer would know what miscreant had made off with money missing these sixteen years, Joseph could inform him. lit turned out to be the person suspected all along.) Besought to say where a chest of dollars lay buried in Windsor, Joseph looked into his stone to find out, and even marked out its dimensions with leaves on the ground. As had happened at Palmyra, the diggers came near seizing this treasure, only to have it sink into the ground. [41]

By now Joseph was a grown man, at the threshold of his majority. A lithe six feet in height, blonde hair darkened to light brown, his blue eyes curiously mild, even innocent, in his pale, expressionless face, he was a figure to bring a second glance from any woman. At Palmyra his name had not, so far as his contemporaries have left record, been coupled with that of any girl, but in Bainbridge there were curious eyes to note that he was keeping company with the Stowell girls, and malicious tounges to find fault with his association with Eliza Winters, to the point of saying, even, that he had attempted to seduce her. [42] Presently it became apparent that it was not these girls but Issac Hale's second daughter, the tall, dark, hazel-eyed Emma, who had caught his eye.

The courtship proceeded under difficulties, for Hale had come to the blunt opinion that Joseph was a lazy whelp who would never be good for anything. Emma herself must have been troubled what to make of this young man so unlike anyone else she knew, and was disturbed by her father's contempt for him. But in her twenty-second year Emma was still unmarried, the specter of spinsterhood following her ominously about, and her heart took no heed of his prospects. Perhaps she would have married him that spring. Late in the winter, however, Joseph's wooing was brought up short. Charging him with being "a disorderly person and an imposter," Josiah Stowell's sons haled him before a magistrate, thereby plunging him into the first great crisis of his career.

The trial took its painful course in Bainbridge March 20, 1826, before Albert W. Neely, a pioneer merchant who also served the town in the capacity of justice of the peace. Joseph unhesitatingly

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40. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 262-63. At the time Hale swore to this statement, March 20, 1834, he had become Joseph Smith's father-in-law. Though published by Howe in 1834, Hale's statement seems to have been published earlier in the Montrose, Pennsylvania, Susquehanna Register, and the New York Baptist Register. W. R. Hines, whose statement is reprinted in part in Appendix A, Note 8, says that D. P. Hurlbut wrote Hale at his suggestion to obtain the affidavit, and that thereafter he, Hines, publicly defended Hale in Kirtland, Ohio, against Mormon detractors. The embarrassed reaction of the Saints to Hale's story is evidenced by Oliver Cowdery's remarks in the Evening and Morning Star, Sept. 1834, and again in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835.

41. In addition to the records reprinted in Appendix A and the contemporary statements printed by Howe, there are many reminiscent accounts of Joseph's experiences as a seer in the country about the Great Bend of the Susquehanna. See, especially, Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehanna County (Philadelphia, 1873), pp. 577-82; Frederick G. Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincott's Magazine 26 (Aug. 1880): 198-204; James H. Smith, History of Chenango and Madison Counties (Syracruse, 1880), ; and Naked Truths about Mormonism, January 1888. Some of these accounts picture Joseph as having been in the region for a year or two prior to 1825, probably a misapprehension arising from the fact that he lived there intermittently from 1825 to 1830.

42. There are only oblique allusions in the sources to Joseph's sexual maturation, which is interesting and important for its bearing on his later history. He himself mentions the Stowell girls (History of the Church, 1:90), while Eliza Winters figures in one of the statements printed in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, p. 268. Under her married name, Eliza Winters Squires, she was one of these who about 1879 gave information to Frederick Mather, concerning the early days of Mormonism in the Susquehanna country. Her life is briefly sketched in Rhamanthus M. Stacker, Centennial History of Susquehanna County (Philadelphia, 1887), p. 537.




[ 244-45 ]


admitted to possession of his peepstone, and exhibited it to the court; he also admitted to its uses, but maintained that he had largely given up looking through the stone, having found it injurious to his eyes. Far from soliciting such business, he said deprecatingly, he had always rather declined having anything to do with it. Stowell himself testified to the glass-looking Joseph had done for him, but denied that the seer had either pressed his services upon him or deceived him in their use. When the justice asked incredulously, "Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plainly as you can see what is on my table?", Stowell answered stoutly, "Do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I positively know it to be true!" Stowell's hostile sons described how Joseph had undertaken to locate, through the use of his dark stone, the chest of dollars reputedly buried in Windsor, and a "palpable deception" by which he had undertaken to demonstrate the qualities of his white stone. Stowell's hired man, however, was as convinced as his employer of Joseph's rare powers, and said so bluntly. [43]

It was an awkward decision for the justice to make; apart from this aberration, Josiah Stowell was a respected member of the community, and a pronouncement of guilty must be a verdict upon the intelligence of the old man. In the fact that Joseph was still a minor, nine months short of his twenty-first birthday, the justice seems to have found a way out of the dilemma. He pronounced Joseph guilty, but, as it appears, saved the situation by placing him on probation with a stern warning to end his conduct. [44]

The fact of the trial, as much as its outcome, must have shaken Joseph Smith to his center. During the three years he had communed with his stone in the depths of his white stovepipe hat, he had enjoyed an awe and consideration no other youth of his age could command, and had experienced the strange, intoxicating power of being able to move men as he would. The experience had been astonishing and gratifying, lifting him out of the tuck of common humanity. But it had ended by bringing him to this contretemps: what had happened in Bainbridge could happen again, in Palmyra or anywhere he went. In December he would reach his majority, and his youth would not serve him again if brought to the bar of justice.

It must have been with a feeling as of a world come apart at the seams that Joseph returned, without Emma, to take up once more at Palmyra the depressing burden of the farm.

__________
43. See the testimony in detail in Appendix A.

44. In A. W. Benton's language (see Appendix A), "considering his youth, (he being then a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he [Joseph] was designedly allowed to escape," though condemned. Oliver Cowdery, through whom alone Joseph ever admited to the fact of such a trial, wrote in the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, "some very officious person complained of him (Joseph) as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the country; but there being no cause for action he was honorably acquitted." Cowdery makes it clear that this occurred during the time of Joseph's association with Stowell, and before he became involved with the Book of Mormon.

From the point of view of Mormon history, it is immaterial what the finding of the court was on the technical charge of being "a disorderly person and an imposter;" what is important is the evidence adduced, and its bearing on the life of Joseph Smith before he announced his claim to be a prophet of God.


 
(comments forthcoming)








Rodger I. Anderson

J. Smith's NY Reputation Reexamined
(SLC: Signature, 1990)


(excerpt)

Transcriber's comments








John L. Brooke

The Refiner's Fire
(NYC: Cambridge University Press, 1994)


Ch. 2 (excerpt)
Ch. 7 (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1994, Cambridge University Press. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 30 ]



2
______________

The True Spiritual Seed



The family of Smiths held Joseph Jr. in high estimation on account of some supernatural power, which he was supposed to possess. This power he pretended to have received through the medium of a stone of peculiar quality. The stone was placed in a hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light, except that which emanated from the stone itself. The light of the stone, he pretended, enabled him to see anything he wished. Accordingly he discovered ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver, and many other invaluable treasures deposited in the earth. He would often tell his neighbors of his wonderful discoveries, and urge them to embark on the money-digging business.
Joseph Capron, Manchester, Ontario County, New York,    
November 8, 1833 [1]      

In the years before his assassination in 1844, Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, revealed to his people the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Fulfilling the dream of paradisial hermeticism, the Mormon faithful, by the sealing powers of Elijah, would become gods, carried up in an endless progression to the highest kingdoms of glory.

This American realization of the hermetic theology was rooted in a very different hermetic experience. For at least five years in the mid-1820s, and possibly for many years thereafter, Joseph Smith was deeply involved in occult divination. From 1822, when he discovered a seer-stone in Willard Chase's well, through 1827, when he renounced "glass-looking" in a dramatic confrontation with his father-in-law, Isaac Hale, Smith was known for his powers with the seer-stone. He could see unknown things, locating his neighbors' lost possessions and stolen goods and advising groups of money-diggers on the location of buried treasure, hidden mines, and salt deposits. [2]

Joseph Smith was only one of many occult practitioners who worked with seer-stones and divining rods across the landscape in the half-century following the American Revolution. Throughout the postrevolutionary Northeast, the unsettled economic and religious conditions of the 1780s and 1790s drew hundreds of people into "money-digging companies" in a

__________
1. Originally published in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio, 1834), 259; reprinted in Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined (Salt Lake City, 1990), 118. All subsequent references to the Howe affidavits will be to the Anderson volume.

2. For one of many accounts, see Bushman, Joseph Smith, 69-78.




                                   The  True  Spiritual  Seed                                    31


futile search for an easy way to wealth. Recently, historians have documented the extent of the treasure-hunting tradition in the Palmyra neighborhood, the Burned-over District, and throughout the Northeast: Smith was not unique in his belief in occult divination. Legends of treasures buried by Spaniards and pirates, even the wording of colonial charters, contributed to a fascination with precious metals. Diviners located metallic treasures with stones and rods and then attempted to overpower guardian spirits by casting magic circles and invoking astrological influences. [3]

Woven into the fabric of these divining cults were connotations and fragments running back to medieval alchemy and Renaissance hermeticism. One of the central themes in the treasure-hunting sagas was the volatility of precious metal: chests of money "bloom" to the surface of the earth only to fall away when the diggers utter a sound or violate a ritual practice. Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Mormon prophet, told his Palmyra neighbor Peter Ingersoll that "the best time for digging money was in the heat of the summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise to the top of the ground." Smith also claimed that the chests were ruined by the summer sun when they reached the surface, the heat transmuting them into "large stones on the top of the ground." More usually, such chests would disappear into the earth from which they had risen, controlled by spirits that resisted the money-diggers' efforts; Joshua Stafford recalled Joseph Smith showing him "a piece of wood which he said he took from a box of money" that had slipped away; far into the nineteenth century Brigham Young recounted the story of Mormons Porter Rockwell and Martin Harris breaking off a corner of a chest as it sank into a money-diggers' pit. [4] These volatile treasures reflected a continuing, if truncated, belief in the hermetic concept of metallic growth. The spirits and enchantments guarding the treasures seem to be rooted in a residual belief in the spiritual powers inherent in metals, beliefs that in the German tradition were personified in gnomes and mine spirits.

Accounts of divining often incorporated references to very specific knowledge of alchemy and the transmutation of metals. Ransford Rogers, a fraudulent diviner who operated up and down the new states in the 1780s and 1790s, "had a pretended copious knowledge in chemistry, and could raise and dispel good and evil spirits." A sect of New Israelites emerged briefly in Rutland County, Vermont, between 1799 and 1802, claiming descent from ancient Jewish tribes and divining for both revelations and buried treasure. According to an early account, they claimed to have
inspired power, with which to cure all sorts of diseases -- intuitive knowledge of lost or stolen goods, and ability to discover the
__________
3. See n. 8, Preface.

4. Peter Ingersoll and Joshua Stafford affidavits, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 134-5, 142-3; Ronald Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," BYUS 24 (1984), 430-4, 444; Brigham Young, Apr. 29, 1877, JD 19:37.




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hidden treasures of the earth, as well as the more convenient talent of transmuting ordinary substances into the precious metals.
Mercury, or quicksilver, that most volatile of metals and a central alchemical emblem, went into the construction of ever more complex divining rods, as in the celebrated case of the "Old Rodsman" in the Ohio country in the mid-1820s, whose divining rod incorporated "a young heifer's horn... filled with quicksilver, oil of amber, and dragon's blood" mounted on a whale bone pivot. [5]

Like great alchemic mystics, the treasure-hunting diviners had to be in a state of grace, spiritually pure, to achieve a gnostic control over volatile metals. [6] The account of the Old Rodsman suggests that residual alchemical ideas could have a more profound religious quality, harking back to the language once used by the Ranter Lawrence Clarkson. The Old Rodsman "had a natural turn for physic," treating the sick with Thompsonian herbal remedies and his jug of "Hot stuff," but he sought out more expert advice when it came to judging the qualities of the ores he discovered with his divining rod. On one expedition far up a tributary of the Ohio he was "accompanied by B. Devoe, a good judge of ores, and a thorough proficiency in the mysterious science of alchimy, at which he had experimented for several years." Several years later, after a long trek up into the Big Sandy-Clinch River country of the. Tennessee-North Carolina border region in search of a lost silver mine, the Rodsman brought hundreds of pounds of ore to be tested by another man "who had considerable skill in metallurgy, having worked several years at alchimy, the transmutation of metals, and the discovery of the philosopher's stone." Building a secret furnace, they charged several crucibles with the ore, whose "obstinacy... bid defiance to the skill of the alchimist." Despite the failure of his alchemic adept, the Rodsman retained a basic faith in the alchemical scheme. A Universalist in belief, he had a strikingly material conception of the universal perfectibility of humanity.
He compared the soul of a vile man at death to a puddle of fetid, putrid water. However putrid it might be, he said the particles of vapor which rose from it, were pure and sweet, forming the clouds and nice clear rainwater. Thus... the souls of the wicked at death would be cleansed, and ascend to Heaven in a purified state. [7]
Far out on the Ohio frontier a metallic diviner had absorbed some of the lessons of the ancient alchemical tradition: his scheme of salvation incorporated the concepts of putrification, sublimation, and distillation central to the alchemical cycle of experiments that would lead to the philosopher's stone. Expressed in language akin to that of Lawrence Clarkson, the seventeenth-century mystic, the Rodsman's construct anticipated the [Mormon doctrine of blood atonement...]

__________
5. [Ransford Rogers], A Collection of Essays on a Variety of Subjects... (Newark, N.J., 1797), 9; "The Rodsmen," Vermont American, May 7, 1818, p. 2; [Hildrith], "A History of the Divining Rod," 218, 225.

6. Walker, "The Persisting Idea"; Marvin S. Hill, "Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion," BYUS 24 (1984), 473-89; and Alan Taylor, "Rediscovering the Context of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s Treasure Seeking," Dialogue 19 (Winter 1986), 18-28; all emphasize the religious and spiritual qualities of the divining cults.

7. [Hildrith], "A History of the Divining Rod," 318, 326-7.




                                   The  True  Spiritual  Seed                                    33



(pages 33-49 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)








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adopted statutes against witchcraft that were "biblically inspired and followed theological principles," the law against witchcraft in Rhode Island rested on the English statute of 1604. This law made no reference to the devil, and -- in Keith Thomas's estimation -- "left a loophole for magicians," who could claim to be dealing with good spirits rather than "evil" ones. [66] Magic in sectarian Rhode Island was not necessarily in "the Devil's Dominion."

The fate of the occult in the eighteenth century is a much discussed topic, complicated by evidence that points to persistence and decline. Certainly a basal "folklorized occult" persisted among the people of ordinary farming and artisanal households throughout early America. Almanacs continued to carry the man of signs and detailed astrological charts, and witchcraft beliefs continued to have a hold on popular imagination. Rather than being feared, witches were now threatened by a variety of easy remedies, such as twisting a branch of witch hazel or shooting a silver button or a copper coin at a cat. People in many parts of New England still had available scraps and fragments of magical protection from unseen harm. [67]

But scholarly efforts have come up with relatively few examples of magical practitioners in New England between the era of the Salem witch trials and the Revolution. Some could be found in coastal towns, providing predictive services to the maritime trades, but the evidence suggests that cunning folk and occult practitioners could best survive in the dissenting environment in and around Rhode Island. [68] Shielded from the harassment of a Calvinist ministry, the cunning folk here thrived well into the eighteenth century, fed on the mystical dimensions of antinomianism, Gortonism, Quakerism, and Sabbatarianism, and the Arminian universalism of General and Sixth Principle Baptists. This seems to explain why, when a child was lost in northern Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1755, one of the search party had to journey forty miles south to Scituate, Rhode Island, to consult "a Wise-Man," a blacksmith named Williams Wood. Writing of the occult in 1773, the Reverend Ezra Stiles found that "[i]n general the System is broken up, the Vessel of Sorcery shipwreckt, and only some shattered planks and pieces disjoyned floating and scattered on the Ocean of... human Activity and Bustle." Noting that "it subsists among some Almanack Makers and Fortune Tellers," he could think of only two of the cunning folk. Granny Morgan, living in Newport, dabbled in "hocus-pocus" and divining with pin-stuck urine cakes. And there was "Mr. Stafford of Tiverton lately dead," who, Stiles wrote, "was wont to tell where lost things might be found and what day, hour and minute was fortunate for vessels to sail." [69]

The life of Joseph Stafford provides the most detailed view available for

__________
66. Godbeer, The Devil's Dominion, 158; Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 442-3.

67. Demos, Entertaining Satan, 387-94; Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment, 66-125; Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, 83-97.

68. In a survey of all evidence for occult practitioners available for early New England, data collected by Peter Benes indicates that, of eleven known conjurers working between 1700 and 1775, five were located in Rhode Island. See Peter Benes, "Fortunetellers, Wise-Men, and Transient 'Witches' in New England, 1644-1850," paper presented at "Wonders of the Invisible World, 1600-1900," Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, June 30, 1992.

69. Diary of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782, First Part, ed. Francis G. Walett (Worcester, 1974), 288; Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, ed. Franklin B. Dexter (New York, 1910), 1:385-6.




                                   The  True  Spiritual  Seed                                    51


an understanding of the relationship of sectarian religion and the occult in eighteenth-century New England, and -- usefully for our purposes -- his descendants would be among the money-diggers associated with Joseph Smith in the Burned-over District.

Stafford came from a family who arrived in the colonies relatively late, well outside the orbit of Puritan orthodoxy, settling first in Maine in 1649 and in the 168os removing to Tiverton, a Baptist and Quaker town transferred from Massachusetts to Rhode Island in 1746. Born around 1700, Joseph Stafford was a Rhode Island justice of the peace and doctor as well as almanac-writer and fortune-teller. It is impossible to say exactly which sect he adhered to, but there were Staffords among the Quakers, and in 1778 his brothers Abraham and David were attending the Sixth Principle Baptist church located on the Tiverton-Dartmouth line. [70]

Something of this religious environment shaped Joseph Stafford's earliest almanacs, the 1737 and 1738 issues of The Rhode Island Almanack, published in Newport by Anne Franklin, widow of Benjamin Franklin's older brother James. Unlike that of the Franklins, Stafford's filler in 1737 and 1738 was explicitly religious, and reflected a sensibility nurtured on spiritual certainties rather than Calvinist fears. For April 1737 there was this gentle reminder, suggesting Quaker sensibilities: "What Pains men take to fit their Land to bring the Grain, But the true Spiritual Seed makes the greatest Gain." A year later there was a similar message: "The plowman guides his Plow with all his care and Skill, So does the Spirit guide all true Believers still." In 1739 Anne Franklin began putting out her own almanac, and for the next seven years Stafford carried his work to Boston for publication. In 1740 he described himself as "A Lover of the Truth," and by 1744 he was boldly calling himself "A Student of Astronomy and Astrology." [71]

Such is the published corpus of Joseph Stafford, but much more evidence of his life and practice has survived in a collection of books and manuscript fragments held in the family for two centuries. [72] Reflecting his role as a country physician, his collection was dominated by English medical texts, twenty volumes in all, dating from 1653 to 1757, comprising a comprehensive sample of medical opinion over this century. Numerous slips of paper with, notations, page numbers, and transcribed formulas suggest that Stafford had a busy practice. Some of these notes suggest the intersection of magical and medical purposes. One hints at the hermetic ritual of transmutation. In a section on tinctures in R. James's 1752 English Dispensary, there is a slip with a Latin phrase repeated twice, translated on the reverse as "to make New Bodies out of old shapes." Beyond his formal medical texts, Stafford also had copies of Aristotle's Masterpiece, Aristotle's Problems, and Aristotle's Last Legacy,

__________
70. F. M. Angellotti, "Sylvester Stover of York, Me., and Some of His Descendants," New England Historic Genealogical Register 85 (1931), 300-5; Don Charles Nearpass, "Materials for a Genealogy of Josiah Stover, Who Became Josiah Stafford of Tiverton, R.I.," data filed at LDS Family History Center; Lenore Evans et al., A Patchwork History of Tiverton, Rhode Island (Tiverton, 1976), 42; Peleg Burrough's Journal, 1778-1798: The Tiverton, R.I. Years of the Humbly Bold Baptist Minister, ed. Ruth W. Sherman (Warwick, 1981), xv, 5, 31; McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1:582 n. 34.

71. James Franklin, Joseph Stafford, and Anne Franklin, The Rhode Island Almanack... (Newport, 1735, 1737, 1738, 1739); Joseph Stafford, An Almanack for the Year... (Boston, 1739, 1740, 1744). None of the Stafford almanacs survive for 1741-3 and 1745.

72. Joseph Stafford's books, manuscript fragments, and some articles of furniture were passed down through the Stafford family to Marie Stafford Stokoe and her son, William Stokoe. At Professor Stokoe's invitation, I examined this material at his home in May 1988. The Joseph Stafford collection has since been donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society.




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[ image - not reproduced ]

Fortune written by Joseph Stafford, Tiverton, Rhode Island.
Courtesy of the Rhode Island Historical Society.


the classic texts in early American occult medicine and sexual advice. [73] Most important, his 1685 edition of William Salmon's Synopsis Medicinae included illustrated sections on the drawing up and interpreting of "judicative figures," and apparently he consulted these pages in preparing horoscopes for his neighbors. Fragments of these "figures" survive scattered among the texts as bookmarks. Among these slips is a blessing (see above) protecting a woman either from occult harm or from an accusation of witchcraft. Finally, another cluster of slips is dated to 1767 and 1768, five years before his death in 1773. In February 1768 Stafford wrote a figure for a Samuel Russell, noting "for A sea Voyag if safe & has not paid." Seven months later he wrote another for Keziah Davis "for the party[?] desired," perhaps a fortune for the outcome of a courtship. The most interesting of these slips, written in the shaking hand of an elderly man, shows that Stafford had hopes of finding buried treasure.
December the 12 day 1767
Joseph Stafford for treasuers
hid by one wing in Sandwitch
And 2 question by Beziah
hammon for treasures hid by
Indians...
__________
73. See Otho T. Bealls Jr., "Aristotle's Master Piece in America: A Landmark in the Folklore of Medicine," WMQ 20 (1963), 207-22.




                                   The  True  Spiritual  Seed                                    53


Another slip notes money paid to Abraham Stafford in 1768 for "digging," perhaps in the search for Mr. Wing's treasure in Sandwich, a Quaker town forty-five miles to the east on Cape Cod.

Joseph and Abraham Stafford probably found nothing at Sandwich, and their brother David's children and the descendants of other Tiverton families were still looking for treasure a half-century later after they had taken up land in the Quaker settlement of Farmington, New York. And here they knew another family of money-diggers, the family of Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, arriving from Vermont in 1816. It would be among such people of the postrevolutionary migrations that the occult search for treasure reached epidemic proportions.



The story of Joseph Stafford brings us back to the "Old Rodsman" of the Ohio Valley. According to the account of his life in the "History of the Divining Rod," the Rodsman was born in 1775 in the Westport section of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a neighborhood immediately adjacent to Tiverton on the east and known as the "devil's pocket hole" and "prolific in witch stories." The Rodsman emigrated first in 1797 to the town of Sydney in Kennebec County, Maine, and then in 1813 to western New York, arriving in Marietta, Ohio, in 1816. [74] Research by Mormon historian Thomas L. Revere indicates that the Rodsman was a man named Stephen Davis, born in Westport in 1777. There were a number of Davises among the Seventh-Day Baptists in Rhode Island and New Jersey; as was the Rodsman they were descendants of Welsh immigrants. Davis was apparently related to Aron Davis, an early preacher in the Sixth Principle Baptist church attended by Joseph Stafford's brothers Abraham and David in the 1770s; the Keziah Davis for whom Stafford wrote a fortune in 1768 might have been an aunt or a cousin. And when the Rodsman moved west from Maine in 1813, his first stop was in Palmyra, New York, adjacent to Farmington, where David Stafford's son Joshua had settled around 1800, and adjacent to Manchester, where the Smith family would settle on Stafford Road. [75]

The alchemical universalism of Stephen Davis, as we may safely call the "Old Rodsman," was thus very much derived from the world of Joseph Stafford, a world compounded of magical belief and the Arminian theology passed down from the seventeenth-century General Baptists and Sabbatarians. Similar circumstances also characterized the origins of at least one other noted postrevolutionary diviner, Ransford Rogers. Born in the New London area, Ransford was still a minor when his father, Joseph Rogers, died in 1763. Joseph was a great-nephew of John Rogers, the Rogerene founder, and of Bathsheba Fox, who put witch's puppets in the

__________
74. [Hildrith], "A History of the Divining Rod," 221.

75. I am grateful to Thomas L. Revere for the use of his research on Stephen Davis. Working back from a Stephen Davis in the 1850 and 1860 census in Marietta, born in Maine around 1813, Revere found Stephen Davises in Westport in 1790, in Kennebec County in 1800, in Sydney in 1810, in Marietta in 1820 and 1830, and elsewhere in Washington County, Ohio, in 1840. The Stephen born in 1813 presumably was the Rodsman's son; his occupation in 1850 and 1860 was listed as "pilot." These references can be found using the U.S. census indexes, with the exception of the 1820 reference, which is in vol. 10 of the Ohio 1820 manuscripts (roll 95), p. 191, U.S. Census manuscripts, National Archives. The Rodsman's alchemist "B. Devoe" was probably a misprint of "B. Devol," a common name in Westport, Tiverton, and Marietta. Joseph Stafford's children married Devols as had his brother David. Various Davises and Devols were Freemasons in Marietta as early as 1790. History of the American Union Lodge No. 1, Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio, 1776 to 1833 (Marietta, Ohio, ,934), 118-20, 162. On the Welsh Davises among the Seventh Day Baptists, see The Seventh Day Baptist Memorial (1853), 2:101-616; Richard M. Baylies, History of Newport County, Rhode Island (New York, 1888), 924; Dartmouth Vital Records, 2:154; Westport Vital Records, 39. On Stafford Road, see Bushman, Joseph Smith, 48, 70-4.




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New London meetinghouse in 1694. He may have named his youngest son for Mary Ransford, John Rogers's common-law wife. [76]

The career of Ransford Rogers leads us back to the primary center of the occult in eighteenth-century America: the sectarian Mid-Atlantic. Old enough to be mustered into a Colchester company of the Connecticut Line in May of 1775, Rogers may have served in the Mid-Atlantic, perhaps near Morristown, New Jersey, where in the late 1780s, impersonating "the spirit of a just man" and distributing magic powders, he conned the locals into paying for his services as a diviner and a conjurer. A decade later, after spending time in the southern states, Rogers played the same confidence game in York County in central Pennsylvania, and still later in Exeter, New Hampshire, from whence he departed for Philadelphia with several hundred dollars. In York County he teamed up with a Dr. Dady, a former Hessian soldier, tricking a community into conjuring for treasure by means of magic circles and expensive elixir powders. [77]

The Mid-Atlantic and German connection appears in other accounts of treasure-divining,78 and German metallurgical knowledge, running back to Agrippa and Paracelsus, was a central theme in the continuing efforts to discover and exploit minerals. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, mines were as obsessively sought as was treasure after the Revolution....

__________
76. For Ransford Rogers and the Rogers family, see New London Probate District Document 4467, Apr. 7, 1763, Connecticut State Archives ("Mrs Charity Rogers is apointed Guardian to her Son Joseph Rogers on his Choice -- & to Benjamin & Ransford in Minority"); and Rogers, comp., James Rogers of New London, 56.

77. I am indebted to Thomas L. Revere for locating Rogers in the U.S. census, and in Rolls and Lists of Connecticut Men in the Revolution, 1775-1783 (Hartford, 1901), 50. See also Alan Taylor, "The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830," American Quarterly 38 (1986), 26; [Rogers], A Collection of Essays, 22-4; Charles H. Bell, The History of Exeter, New Hampshire (Exeter, 1888), 412-14; Andrew M. Sherman, Historic Morristown, New Jersey: The Story of Its First Century (Morristown, 1905), 406-30; W. C. Carter, History of York County from Its Erection to the Present Time [1729-1834], new ed., ed. A. Monroe Aurand Jr'. (Harrisburg, 1930), 126-30.

Note: For more on the Stafford family and a probable connection with early 19th century treasure seeking in Ohio, see Brooke's mention of "Gad Stafford" on page 174 n.73, as well as information pertaining to Gad (Gadius) Stafford's re-location from Manchester to the Kirtland Tract, Auburn Twp., Geauga Co., Ohio, prior to publication of the Book of Mormon. For an obscure statement from a Stafford neighbor of the Smith family at Manchester, see the Rochester Daily Democrat of March 16, 1904


Copyright © 1994, Cambridge University Press. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 149 ]



7
______________

Secret Combinations
and Slippery Treasures
in the Land of Zarahemla



[A]nd Ammaron said unto me... when ye are about twenty and four years old... go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there I have deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people. And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people. And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi, (and my father's name was Mormon) I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me. And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla.
The Book of Mormon [1]    

The Smiths' move to Palmyra began in the summer of 1816, when Joseph Sr. departed on a trip west to Ontario County. [2] Lucy and the family followed the next winter, but their journey was not made without yet more encounters with fraud and deceit. Having thought that she had cleared their debts in Norwich, Lucy was confronted by creditors whose books showed outstanding balances, and on the road through Utica their teamster attempted to steal their team of horses. Once in Palmyra the family set up a small "cake and beer shop" and began to make a living peddling pies, boiled eggs, gingerbread, root beer, and hand-painted oilcloth table-coverings and by working as day laborers in gardens, shops, and farms in the vicinity of the growing town. By 1818 they had accumulated sufficient cash to begin making payments on a hundred-acre farm several miles south of town over the line in east Farmington, soon to be incorporated as the town of Manchester. [3]

Despite these setbacks and small beginnings, emigration ushered in a nine-year period of relative calm and stability for the Smiths. The Manchester farm gave the Smiths their first hopes of independent competency

__________
1. Mormon 1:2-6. (See Abbreviations.)

2. The consensus regarding the Smith decision to settle in Palmyra revolves around the apparently chance encounter with a Caleb Howard, who traveled with Joseph Sr. and then -- generating some controversy -- drove the family's team the following winter. See Bushman, Joseph Smith, Jr. But the real question remains of why the Smiths did not join Asael Smith and several of the Smith brothers who had already emigrated to St. Lawrence County, roughly one hundred and fifty miles northeast of Palmyra. Several points may be significant: Dr. Jacob Cowdery had lived in Palmyra in the 1790s, and the offspring of his bigamous relationship apparently were still in the town in the 1820s; William Cowdery (Oliver's father) had moved his family to Ontario County temporarily around 1810 and would return in the late 1820s; and Luman Walter, the diviner who would influence Joseph Smith Jr. in Manchester, married a Harriet Howard in Andover, Vermont, in 1819. Was Harriet a relative of Caleb Howard? Michael Quinn has also noted that an Anna Walter (perhaps a relative of Luman) lived in Royalton in 1810. These scraps of evidence suggest that the Smiths' move to Palmyra was determined in part by their connections with a hypothetical network of divining families stretching from Tunbridge to Poultney to Andover. I am indebted to Thomas L. Revere for this insight and for much of the reconstruction of the divining network discussed below. See also Mary B. A. Mehling, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy (New York, 1911), 83-4, 95-6; June S. Parfitt, A Genealogy of the Walter Family (Manchester, N.H., 1986), 128; Quinn, Early Mormonism, 95.

3. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 67-70; Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism: Biography of Its Founders and History of Its Church (New York, 1867), 12-13; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 47; John P. Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism (Salt Lake City, 1986), 221-2.




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since their early days in Tunbridge, and in this setting Joseph Smith Jr. came of age. But if their life was more stable, it was not without its troubles and pressures. Joseph's experience with religion and the occult was shaped in great part by a continuing conflict over religion between his father and mother, and by the pressing need for income to pay the farm mortgage. There were other familial stresses. Joseph's eldest brother, Alvin, died suddenly in 1823, done in, the family feared, by a doctor's mismedication. A year later there were rumors that his body had been stolen, and the family had to exhume his body, a gruesome process. And there seem to have been tensions among the surviving brothers: on one occasion someone fired a shot at Joseph, and his brother William carried a grudge against him for decades. The Book of Mormon itself would be filled with violent fraternal struggle. [4] It was in these circumstances, around 1825, that the hermetic-restorationist dialectic of purity and danger -- of divining, Freemasonry, and counterfeiting -- reemerged in the history of the Smith family, formatively shaping the story of Mormon origins.



In 1824, as commerce began to move on the Erie Canal, religious revival struck Palmyra and Manchester, reopening deep divisions within the Smith household. Lucy Mack Smith, long searching for a stable church environment, settled on the Presbyterian church, joining with three of her children, Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia. But Joseph sided with his father, attending briefly but then staying away. Apparently Joseph Sr. was having dreams of finding spiritual peace in a meetinghouse, suggesting that it was time to join a church. But he bore ill will toward the Presbyterian minister, who had implied that his oldest son, Alvin, was doomed to hell for not attending church before his death in 1823. [5] According to several accounts Joseph Jr. caught "the spark of Methodism" during the revival summer of 1824, attending "the camp meeting away down in the woods, on the Vienna Road" east of Palmyra village. He wanted to "feel and shout like the rest" and became what was described as "a very passable exhorter in evening meetings." But Joseph Sr. was still opposed to the evangelical churches, and his son accommodated to his opinion. Without the reinforcement that the patriarch Asael had provided in Vermont, however, he was unable to dissuade his wife from remaining with the Presbyterians. [6]

One point of harmony in the Smith family's religious culture, however, lay in the area of dreams and visions. Both Joseph Sr. and Lucy experienced dreams filled with religious symbolism in the decades after 1800, in a family tradition that stretched back to the Macks' life in Montague and

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4. Hill, Joseph Smith, 59-60; Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 414-15; Smith, Biographical Sketches, 73, 88-90; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 64-6.

5. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 144; Smith, Biographical Sketches, 72; Hill, Joseph Smith, 59-60; Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 27-8.

6. Wesley P. Walters, "New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra (N.Y.) Revival," Dialogue 4 (Spring 1969), 60-81, dated this revival to 1824, but has been challenged by Milton V. Backman Jr., in "Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the First Vision," BYUS 9 (Spring 1969), 301-20. Marvin Hill reviewed the evidence and sides with Walters on the dating of the revival, in "The First Vision Controversy: A Critique and Reconciliation," Dialogue 15 (Summer 1982), 31-46, although he dissents from Walters's conclusions on the implications about the prophetic visions. Quotations from Orasmus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham Purchase and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, 1851), 214; and from "Alexander Neibaur Report, 1844," in Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, I:460 (see also Hill, "First Vision Controversy," 41-2). The importance of gender relations in the Smith family religious culture was stressed by Paul Johnson, "Patriarchy and Plebeian Revivals, 1790-1850," commentary delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians, Louisville, Ky., Apr. 11, 1991.




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probably back to the perfectionist environment of East Haddam. Exactly when Joseph Jr. began to have visions is a point of intense debate, of critical importance to questions about prophetic legitimacy and authority.

Smith wrote his first descriptions of early visionary experiences in his 1832 manuscript history of his life. He wrote that between the ages of twelve and fifteen (1817 and 1820) he "pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world" and came to the position that his father espoused: "by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised [sic] from the true and living faith." This conclusion was confirmed in a dream or vision: "in the 16th year of my age a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day" filled him with "the spirit of god" and told him that "the world lieth in sin." [7] This was the controversial First Vision, which stands as the primal authority for the Mormon dispensation. What is certain is that Joseph Jr. followed his father's path, interpreting his dreams as admonitions to avoid the organized denominations. It is also certain that his vision was not taken very seriously by other members of his family, because his mother and three of her children remained in good standing with the Presbyterians through 1828. [8]

In addition to working the family farm and probably helping in the cooper shop, a trade handed down among the Smiths from Topsfield days, Joseph joined his older brothers in working as a seasonal laborer, harvesting crops, building fences, and digging wells to build a cash reserve to cover the farm mortgage. This round of labor took him out of the household to neighbors, to adjacent towns, and to more distant places; it brought him into new relationships with other households and with shifting gangs of young men working the seasonal circuit. With that of his father, the influence of his peers and employers shaped Joseph's fascination with divining for hidden things. [9]

Joseph Smith's reputation as a diviner emerged in a culture of historically rooted magical practice filled with some very familiar names and traditions. The Smiths lived on Stafford Street in northwest Manchester, named for relatives of Joseph Stafford, the Tiverton almanac writer, doctor, and fortune-teller. Descended from Joseph Stafford's brother David, these families had brought the divining culture when they settled in this Quaker area around the turn of the century. The Staffords formed one of several circles of money-diggers that dug in the hills of northern Ontario County; Joshua Stafford had a seer-stone "which looked like a white marble and had a hole through the center." [10] The Chase family also had deep roots in early dissent, coming from a Quaker tradition running back through Tiverton, Swansea, and Cape Cod to Stephen Batchelor's Husbandmen. Sally Chase had a seer-stone of green glass that she used to

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7. "1832 History," in Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, I:5-7; in Jessee, comp. and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 4-6; and in Dean C. Jessee, "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision," BYUS 9 (Spring 1969), 175-94.

8. The accounts of Joshua McKune and Michael Morse, published in 1879, state that Joseph Smith Jr. himself considered joining the Methodist church in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in 1828, casting further doubt on the First Vision story. See Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? 4th ed. (Salt Lake City, 1982), 156-62a; and the discussion in Hill, "First Vision Controversy," 37-44. See Jan Shipps, "The Prophet Puzzle," JMH I (1974), for an extended analysis of the debate over the First Vision.

9. Joseph Ketts, Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America, 1790-Present (New York, 1977); Bushman, Joseph Smith, 59, 82, 84; Larry Porter, "The Church in New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831," in F. Mark McKiernan et al., eds., The Restoration Movement: Essays in Mormon History (Lawrence, Kans., 1973), 31; Willard Chase affidavit, in Rodger Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined (Salt Lake City, 1990), 120-6.

10. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 70-2; Stafford Family AFGS prepared by Don Charles Nearpass.




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divine for money -- and to search for the Golden Plates after Joseph announced their discovery. [11]

Joseph Smith learned divining lore from his father and also from Luman Walter, who lived to the north in the town of Sodus. Walter arrived in Ontario County some time after August of 1818, when he escaped from jail in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, having been convicted of a charge of "imposing himself upon the credulity of people in this vicinity, by a pretended knowledge of magic, palmistry, conjuration, &c." Described as a "clairvoyant" in a family history, Walter was notorious in Ontario County during the 1820s as a "conjuror." Like the Youngs and Macks, the first American Walter was a post-Restoration immigrant, arriving in Salem in 1679, and the family moved from northwest Connecticut to Vermont around 1800. Just as Joseph Stafford combined the occult with medicine and handed his knowledge down to subsequent generations, medical knowledge ran in this family, which included an Indian herbalist and a Thompsonian botanical doctor. The magical orbit of the Smith family in Ontario County was thus filled with influences running back to the various sectarian-occult traditions of the late-seventeenth century migrations. [12]

Joseph Smith Jr. used three seer-stones during his divining years. He apparently found the first of these, described as "a whitish opaque stone," in September 1819, by borrowing Sally Chase's green glass; he found his favorite stone, a brown one, while he and his brothers were digging a well for the Chases in 1822. Sometime after 1825, while in the Susquehanna Valley, he was given a green stone by one Jack Belcher, a diviner and salt digger. [13] There are many accounts of Joseph Jr.'s gift with the seer-stone. In one story, Smith himself described his discovery of his first, white stone in mystical, even Masonic, terms. Looking in Sally Chase's glass, he saw the stone a hundred and fifty miles away, buried under a tree. "It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short time it became as intense as the mid-day sun." Digging up the stone after an arduous journey, Smith related that he "placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place, and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing Eye." If the stone gave Joseph the "second sight," perhaps bordering on the divine powers of the hermetic magus, this sight was put to mundane purposes. Pomeroy Tucker wrote that Joseph used the stone for fortune-telling and divining for stolen property; Martin Harris described Joseph's divining for a lost pin in a pile of wooden shavings, with the stone and his face buried in "an old white hat." William Stafford recounted going with the Smiths to dig for "two or three kegs of gold and silver" near their farmhouse; while Joseph Sr. laid out the ritual circles of hazel

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11. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 70; Oliver Chase, Genealogy of the Ancestors and Descendants of Joseph Chase, who died in Swanzey (Fall River, 1874), 9-11, 13, 18; William F. Reed, The Descendants of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, R.I., 2 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1902), 1:213-14; Lenore Evans, A Patchwork History of Tiverton, Rhode Island (Tiverton, 1976), 41; AFGS.

12. Notices of Walter's jail escape were printed in the New Hampshire Patriot, Sept. 1, 1828, and the Concord Gazette, Sept. 1, 1818. I am obliged to Peter Benes for this reference. See also Parfitt, Walter Family, 3-10, 62, 71, 109-10, 128, 146. Michael Quinn, in Early Mormonism, 53-111, presents an extremely detailed discussion of possible magical influences on the Smith family that differs somewhat from the short discussion I have presented here. Quinn discounts the Masonic influence that I develop throughout this chapter and focuses on a series of artifacts apparently passed down from Hyrum Smith, including parchments, a dagger, and a "jupiter talisman" thought to have been in Joseph's possession at his death. The interpretation of these artifacts is highly complex and controversial, and without direct access to these materials, I must reserve judgment. The interested reader is referred to Quinn's study. If Quinn is correct, then the story is significantly more complex, but not essentially different, from the one presented here.

13. On the seer-stones, see Quinn, Early Mormonism, 38-41.




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[ image - not reproduced ]

Joseph Smith's green seer-stone.
Courtesy of Princeton University Library.

sticks and the central steel rod, muttered appropriate incantations, and "enjoined" the crew to silence, Joseph Jr. remained in the house, "looking in his stone and watching the motions of the evil spirit." [14] By 1825 a well-defined group of participants in the Smiths' money-digging ventures had emerged. According to Martin Harris, "There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients.... They dug for money in Manchester, Palmyra, also in Pennsylvania, and in other places." Peter Ingersoll claimed that he "had frequent invitations to join their company, but always declined being one of their number." But on one occasion he did join in working the mineral rod with Joseph Sr., being "at leisure" while his oxen were feeding. When the elder Smith challenged him for his skepticism, Ingersoll "thought it best to conceal my feelings, preferring to appear the dupe of credulity, than to expose myself to his resentment." Family and neighborhood and broader peer group provided the recruits and an audience with varying levels of belief. [15]

It was in the context of money-digging that Joseph Smith received a second vision, this time from a spirit informing him of the sacred plates buried in the Hill Cumorah. Joseph recounted his vision of the plates to his money-digging friends, who would be known to the public as the

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14. Quotations from Martin Harris interview, originally published in Tiffany's Monthly V (May 1859), reprinted in Francis W. Kirkham, ed., A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City, 1959), 2:377; and from William Stafford affidavit, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 144. Also see W. D. Purple's reminiscences, Norwich Chenango Union, May 3, 1877, republished in Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism, 333-4; Tucker, Mormonism, 20; and Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism, 233.

15. Lists of the money-diggers are given in the Harris interview, in Kirkham, ed., New Witness, 2:377, and Tucker, Mormonism, 38-9. For Peter Ingersoll, see affidavit, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 134-8.




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"Gold Bible Company," just as the early Mormon converts of 1830-1 would be called the followers of the "Gold Bible speculation." [16]

Although Joseph told the money-diggers about the plates, he went alone to receive them. According to Willard Chase's account, on September 22, 1823, Joseph Smith put on black clothes and rode to the hill on "a black horse with a switch tail." Finding and opening the stone box holding the Golden Plates, he encountered "something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of the head." Denied possession of the plates, he was told to return in a year's time. When Smith began to write his personal history in 1832 the framework of money-digging was still a part of his recollection. In this account, the spirit kept the plates in punishment because Smith "had been tempted of the advisary and saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God." Though he returned every year on the same day to the Hill Cumorah to attempt to gain the treasure, it would not be until September 1827, after his marriage to Emma Hale, that Joseph Smith would recover the plates that he would claim to be the source for the Book of Mormon. [17]

Well before 1827 there was an important -- and familiar -- turn in the family's fortunes and Joseph's life. In the fall of 1825 the Smiths were again threatened with the loss of their property when the carpenter building their house obtained rights to the title from the local land agent and tried to evict them. In this crisis the Smiths turned to trusted sectarian neighbors. An old Quaker farmer was willing to help but had no cash, but Lemuel Durfee Sr., a Quaker whose family once had been neighbors of the Staffords in Tiverton, bailed them out, purchasing the farm and allowing them to stay on as tenants. [18]

That October Joseph Jr. moved a hundred miles southeast to the Susquehanna River valley, where his skills with the seer-stone brought him work with a farmer and miller in South Bainbridge, Josiah Stowell (once of Guilford, Vermont), who hoped to find a storied silver mine supposedly discovered centuries before by wandering Spaniards. Smith would spend a good part of the next four and a half years in the Susquehanna Valley, in Colesville and South Bainbridge on the New York side and in Harmony on the Pennsylvania side. For his part in Stowell's magical excavations Joseph was brought before a local justice of the peace in Bainbridge in March 1826 and convicted of disturbing the peace as a "glass-looker," "a disorderly person and an Impostor." [19] The annual pilgrimage to the Hill Cumorah brought him back to Manchester in September 1826, and in the following January Isaac Hale's opposition to Joseph's secret marriage to Emma Hale brought him back to Manchester from Harmony for the better part of 1827. Taking Emma with him to the Hill Cumorah at the

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16. Shipps, "The Prophet Puzzle," is the most important non-Mormon discussion of the relationship between the occult and religion in this critical period in Joseph Smith's life. See also Bushman, Joseph Smith, 64ff., for a Mormon perspective. Quotations from Jonathan Lapham and Rosewell Nicholls affidavits, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 131, 139.

17. Willard Chase affidavit, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 120-6; Smith, "1832 History," in Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 7. The celebrated "White Salamander" letter, a forgery crafted by Mark Hofmann in the early 1980s, is a description of this episode, supposedly written by Martin Harris.

18. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 91-8; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 66-8; Reed, The Descendants of Thomas Durfee, I:127, 318-19; Evans, Patchwork History of Tiverton, 41.

19. The most direct evidence on the Bainbridge court trials is developed in Wesley P. Walters, "Joseph Smith's Bainbridge, N.Y., Court Trials," Westminster Theological Journal 36 (1974), 123-55. See also Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism, 239-43, 331-9; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 64-9, 74-5; and Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," BYUS 12 (Summer 1972), 223-33.




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[ image - not reproduced ]

The Hill Cumorah, Manchester, New York, depicted in John W. Barber,
Historical Collections of the State of New York... (New York, 1845).
Courtesy of Harvard University Libraries.

stroke of midnight on the morning of September 22, 1827, Joseph found what he claimed were golden plates inscribed with records of ancient peoples in America. From these plates he would "translate" the Book of Mormon, with the help of an "interpreter" -- the jewels of the biblical Urim and Thummim used by Israelite priests to divine the future -- that he claimed to have found with the plates. [20]

Decades ago Fawn Brodie noted that the Book of Mormon can be read in part as a veiled autobiography. Particularly in its latter sections, we can see Smith reflecting upon the scene of his coming of age in the 1820s, turning the Lake Ontario countryside into a sacred landscape and painting himself into the picture as the creator of the plates that he claimed to discover in 1827. [21] Thus the hero Mormon, who had been told of ancient plates buried in a certain hill, is taken by his father, Mormon, at the age of eleven to "the land of Zarahemla... by the waters of Sidon," just as Joseph, son of Joseph, had been taken by his father to Ontario County, by the waters of Lake Ontario. In the wake of a war, perhaps an allegory of the ongoing conflict among the Protestant denominations, the young Mormon, "being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind... was visited of the Lord and tasted of the goodness of Jesus," a clear parallel to Joseph's First Vision. As Joseph was to claim of himself, Mormon "did endeavour to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them." As wars and calamities assail the Nephites, Mormon recovers the sacred plates from

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20. The discovery of the plates has been described in detail most recently by Bushman, Joseph Smith, 79-84, and Quinn, Early Mormonism, 112-49.

21. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 413-17. The Book of Ether, a fragment set at roughly 2500 B.c., describes a band called the Jaredites as the first settlers of the Americas; one of the first settlers in Manchester was a man named Stephen Jared. See David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (Jefferson, N.C., 1985), 207.




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the hill of Shim. And finally, the climax of the story is reached on an oddly pointed hill two miles south of the Smith homestead in Manchester, as narrated by Mormon:
And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents round about the hill Cumorah.... I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord. [22]
Thus, on the eve of the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites, the plates were hidden by the hero Mormon for Joseph Smith to recover fifteen hundred years later.

In the fall of 1827 this sacred translation was two years away, but people scattered through the neighborhood and region knew of his boasts of finding a "Gold Bible." Crowds came to the Smith homestead demanding to see the plates. Conjurors -- including Sally Chase with her green glass and another diviner brought in from sixty miles away -- tried to locate the plates by the stone. As Martin Harris recalled, "The money diggers claimed that they had as much right to the plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been a traitor, and had appropriated that which belonged to them." With the ominous threat of a mobbing hanging over them, Joseph and Emma headed out of Manchester on a late October night for her father's house in Harmony, with the precious plates buried in a barrel of beans. [23]

Once in Harmony, Joseph and Emma would suffer the curiosity and scorn of her family and neighbors as they set up house in a dependency of the Hales, prepared for winter, and slowly began the "translation" of the plates. This process would take place in several stages, with Joseph sitting behind a curtain with the supposed plates and interpreters or out in the open with only his seer-stone, dictating to a series of different scribes. Emma Hale filled this role for several weeks, and Martin Harris took over between April and June of 1828. Harris almost derailed the entire project when he took the completed 116 pages of manuscript, comprising the Book of Lehi, to Palmyra to prove to his wife the worthiness of the project. She promptly threw the manuscript into the hearth fire. After about six months of delay, Joseph and Emma took up the translation the next winter, beginning where the Mormon story had ended in the destroyed manuscript, at about 130 B.C. In April 1829, Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony with his own gift of divining, and he and Joseph took the Book of Mormon story down to the climactic battle between the Nephites and Lamanites at the Hill Cumorah in A.D. 385. In May, after a series of revelations, Joseph and Oliver were baptized into the Priesthood of Aaron by John the Baptist, appearing in a vision. Moving north to the

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22. Mormon 1:6-16, 4:23, 6:6.

23. Harris interview, in Kirkham, ed., New Witness, 2:379-83; see also Bushman, Joseph Smith, 80-5.




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Whitmer farm in Fayette, Seneca County, in June, Joseph and Oliver wrote the first two books of the Book of Mormon, covering the first 450 years of Mormon history and replacing the destroyed manuscript. While the book was at the printers in Palmyra, Joseph began to take on the role of a religious prophet, receiving visions and revelations, baptizing his key followers, and inspiring eleven witnesses to sign affidavits that they had seen and held the Golden Plates. In April 1830 the church was formally established in Fayette, and the institutional history of Mormonism began. [24]



Such is the outline of the formative story of Mormonism. This story was deeply entangled in the popular hermeticism of the divining culture, but this entanglement went beyond Joseph Smith's early experiences as treasure-seer. The accounts of the discovery of the plates, the language and narrative structure of the Book of Mormon itself, and contemporary circumstances in Ontario County all point to a wider hermetic influence.

Freemasonry provides a point of entry into this very complex story. As it had been in Vermont, Masonic fraternity was a dominant feature of the cultural landscape in Joseph Smith's Ontario County. The Ontario Lodge at Canandaigua had been formed in 1792, and the Mount Moriah Lodge at Palmyra, which Joseph's brother Hyrum joined, dated to 1804. Ten miles to the west in the town of Victor, Heber C. Kimball was a member of the Milner Lodge, formed in 1818, and in 1816 a lodge was formed in Manchester village, five miles south of the Smith homesite. All told, the thirty-six towns of old Ontario County (before its division in 1821) contained twenty-six lodges and seven Royal Arch chapters, one of each located in Canandaigua and Palmyra. [25]

This dense network of lodges and chapters helps explain the Masonic symbolism that runs through the story of the discovery of the Golden Plates. Most obviously, the story of their discovery in a stone vault on a hilltop echoed the Enoch myth of Royal Arch Freemasonry, in which the prophet Enoch, instructed by a vision, preserved the Masonic mysteries by carving them on a golden plate that he placed in an arched stone vault marked with pillars, to be rediscovered by Solomon. [26] In the years to come the prophet Enoch would play a central role in Smith's emerging cosmology. Smith's story of his discoveries got more elaborate with time, and in June 1829 he promised Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris that they would see not only the plates but other marvelous artifacts: the Urim and Thummim attached to a priestly breastplate, the "sword of Laban," and "miraculous directors." Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Mack Smith later described three or four small pillars holding up the

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24. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 85-113, 143ff.

25. Extracts from the Proceedings of the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of New York... (New York, 1836), 47-9, 52, 58-9; Extracts from the Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of the State of New York, at its Annual Meeting, February, 1828 (Albany, 1828), 4-9.

26. For several decades scholars have been exploring Masonic influences on early Mormonism, and my discussion -- owes a lot to their analyses. The seminal essay on this relationship is C. M. Adamson, "The Treasure of the Widow's Son" (University of Utah, n.d., unpublished paper); followed by Reed Durham, "Is There No Help for the Widow's Son?" (unpublished presidential address to the Mormon Historical Association, 1974); and Robert N. Hullinger, Mormon Answer to Skepticism: Why Joseph Smith Wrote the Book of Mormon (St. Louis, 1980), 100-19. Earlier accounts that suggested this line of analysis include Samuel H. Godwin, Mormonism and Masonry: A Utah Point of View (Salt Lake City, 1925); and Kenneth W. Godfrey, "Joseph Smith and the Masons," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 64 (1971), 79-81. I use the version of the Royal Arch Enoch tale transcribed in Webb, Freemason's Monitor (1802), 246-60. I am very grateful to Jan Shipps and Thomas L. Revere for providing much of this material.




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plates. All of these artifacts had Masonic analogues. Swords were carried in the Templar rituals, and the third, or Master Mason, degree told a story of a sword being used to behead a sleeping enemy, as the sword of Laban was used in the Book of Mormon. The Royal Arch priests wore breastplates covered with symbolic jewels, and a version of the Royal Arch myth told of three Masons finding a translating "key" in the Ark of the Covenant, analogous to the Urim and Thummim. Smith claimed to have worn the priestly breastplate with the Urim and Thummim attached while he translated a part of the Book of Mormon. Smith's directors were modeled on metal balls attached to the top of Enoch's pillars; these balls were engraved with maps and acted as mystic oracles. [27]

Smith's sources for these Masonic symbols were close at hand. Most obviously, Oliver Cowdery would have been a source, given that his father and brother were Royal Arch initiates; one Palmyra resident remembered Oliver as "no church member and a Mason." [28] But there were earlier influences, including the Masonic Smith relatives in Vermont and Hyrum Smith, a member of the Mount Moriah Lodge in Palmyra. A comment by Lucy Mack Smith in her manuscript written in the 1840s, protesting that the family did not abandon all household labor to try "to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing magic circles, or sooth-saying," suggests a familiarity with Masonic manuals: the "faculty of Abrac" was among the supposed Masonic mysteries. [29] Among the money-digging clans there was at least one contemporary connection with Royal Arch Freemasonry; Sally Chase's brother Durfee Chase was a member of the Palmyra Royal Arch chapter until he was expelled for "unmasonic conduct" in 1825. [30] Given the subsequent history of William Morgan, the Antimasonic martyr, one wonders whether this conduct involved the divulging of the ritual secrets of the Royal Arch to the money-digging circles.

Such secrets included the ritual setting of the degree of the Knights of the Ninth Arch, associated with the Enoch tale. This setting was to be "a most secret place," preferably "a vault under ground" with a trapdoor above, replicating the entry into Enoch's arched temple vault. Underground vaults and caves had powerful and ambiguous connotations in late-eighteenth-century popular culture. Among New Englanders, since well before the Revolution, caves had been associated with counterfeiting rings, and during the war they had been refuges for Tories. They were also an important element in a Gothic-Romantic culture available to young people of the early Republic. Titles such as The Cavern of Death: A Moral Tale and Haunted Cavern: A Caladonian Tale, which could be purchased in the upper Connecticut Valley in the 1790s, featured turgid plots of romantic love, murder, and spectral ghosts. [31] If Freemasonry, building on themes running back to the Rosicrucians, made caves places of mystery

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27. This information is derived from Hullinger, Mormon Answer to Skepticism, 105-10. See also DC 17:1; and Oliver Cowdery's Letter VIII, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, pp. 196-7.

28. D. Booth interview with William R. Kelley, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 170.

29. William Hutchinson, The Spirit of Masonry (London, 1775; repr., 1987), appendix, 6; John E. Thompson, "The Facultie of Abrac': Masonic Claims and Mormon Beginnings," The Philalethes 35, 6 (1982), 9, 15. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 72, contains a full quotation of this passage from Lucy Mack Smith's manuscript. A note in George Oliver, The Antiquities of Free-Masonry... (London, 1823), 122-4, contains an extended discussion of "Abraxas," described as an ancient heathen mystery.

30. Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, From its Organization in 1798, to 1867, Inclusive (Buffalo, 1871), I:231.

31. Catalogue of Books, for Sale at the Bookstore in Hanover... (Hanover, N.H., 1799), 8, 15; Clay Perry, New England's Buried Treasure (New York, 1946), 13, 34-47, 107, 116, 123-5, 133-5, 274, 374-5.




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and purity, other themes running through contemporary culture made them places of mystery and danger. And anyone familiar with the Bible would have associated caves with places of refuge, burial, and the revelations of the prophet Elijah. [32]

Not only did Joseph Smith claim to find golden plates and Masonic artifacts in a stone vault atop the Hill Cumorah, but he and the money-diggers dug a long tunnel into Miner's Hill, three miles to the north and a mile from the Smith homesite. Several oral accounts referred to this man-made cave, claiming that "the Mormons dug into the hill" for a distance of forty feet in search of golden furniture left by ancient peoples, and that they covered the entrance with a wooden door. Brigham Young placed the cave at the Hill Cumorah and claimed that Smith and Cowdery had found "many wagon loads" of golden plates piled up in a subterranean room, with the sword of Laban hanging on the wall. There were rumors that Smith had translated the plates in this cave rather than at Harmony or Fayette, and according to Christopher Stafford, "some people surmised it was intended for counterfeiting." Such a cave, carved out of dense clay with picks and shovels, would not have been impossible for a family of well-diggers whose experience may have run back to the Towne's copper mine in Topsfield. [33]

With all of these occult and hermetic influences on the Smith family experience, it is not surprising that a culture of metalworking and hints of the alchemical worldview found their way into the language of the Book of Mormon, and metallurgical themes go far beyond simple references to plates of gold and brass.

The story of the Book of Mormon begins with the flight of the family of a worthy Israelite, Lehi, from a doomed Jerusalem to a western promised land. The bulk of the text then details the division of the family into virtuous Nephites and corrupt Lamanites and the long and bloody history of conflict between these houses and with shadowy Gadianton Bands, culminating in the final slaughter of the Nephites by the Lamanites. Throughout the book histories and prophecies are engraved on brass and golden plates; Smith claimed to have recovered at the Hill Cumorah only the last set of records, written by the lone Nephite survivor, Mormon.

As the story unfolds, metalworking proper emerges as a primary concern for Nephi as he builds a ship to convey his people to the New World. With divine instruction he made "a bellows wherewith to blow the fire" and "tools of the ore which [he] did molten from the rock." Arriving in "the land of promise" Nephi's band found "all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper;" their first commandment was "to make plates of ore... [to] engraven upon them the record of my people." When the Nephites were separated from the Lamanites, the latter cursed

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32. Genesis 23:49-50; Joshua 10; i Samuel 24; I Kings 19:18.

33. See affidavits of Peter Ingersoll, Christopher M. Stafford, and Sylvia Walker, in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 136, 166, 179; Brigham Young, Apr. 29, 1877, in JD 19:38. This cave was rediscovered in 1974, with fragments of a wooden door (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Apr. 24, 1974; Palmyra Courier Journal, May 1, 1974).




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with a "skin of blackness" for their "iniquity," the hero Nephi "did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance." Subsequently, at regular intervals in the narration of the cyclical rise and fall of societies, Smith described peoples waxing prosperous with a litany of precious metal and the means by which it was acquired: "they did dig it out of the earth.... they did cast up mighty heaps of earth to get ore, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of copper," and "there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich." Joseph Smith was fascinated with the technology of metalworking. [34]

Several words rooted in this metalworking language stand out as particularly important given their sacred contexts and connotations. The first of these is "refine": the Nephites refined ore, and the evil King Riplakish had "his fine gold... refined in prison." These were simple references to the processes of extracting metal from ore, also conveyed in the term "molten," and of enhancing the purity of gold. The term took on metaphoric qualities when the missionary Amulek told the people that "if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men." [35]

But the more powerful metaphor conveyed by the language of "refining" involved the Lord's power and fire. The plates engraved after landing in the "land of promise" included the Lord's commitment to his covenanted people, loosely based on Isaiah 48:10: "I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." In the Third Book of Nephi Smith borrowed an equally powerful verse from the Book of Malachi, comparing Jesus Christ to "a refiner's fire," who would "sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver [to] purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." [36] Refine, purify, purge: throughout the Book of Mormon and Smith's subsequent revelations, codified as the Doctrine and Covenants, these terms and others convey the consuming and transforming power of the Lord, particularly his fire. Among the dozens of references to fire, the fire of judgment and the millennial firestorm are perhaps the most common: the Lord will "destroy the wicked by fire," "the world shall be burned with fire." But the chosen people would pass through these fires, purified and refined. A vast array of terms describes the people of the Lord and the nature of perfection and heaven as pure, bright, chastened, cleansed, and white.

"Furnace" is a second metalworking term with sacred connotations in the Book of Mormon. The people refined by the Lord survived the fires of

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34. I Nephi 1:1-5, 17:9-11, 16, 18:25, 19:1; 2 Nephi 5:15-22.; Ether 10:23; Helaman 6:11. See also Jacob 2:12; Jarom 1:8; Mosiah 11:10; Alma 1:29, 4:6; Ether 7:9, 9:16-17; Helaman 6:9; Moses 5:46. (For the Book of Moses, see below, note 55.)

35. Ether 10:7; Alma 34:29.

36. 3 Nephi 24:2-3; see also DC 128:24; Malachi 3:2-3.




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the furnace. On three occasions Smith referred to Nephite disciples, including the character of Mormon, as "cast... into furnaces of fire and... [coming] forth receiving no harm." In another context he stated that "the life of King Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace"; in another the heroes Nephi and Lehi "were encircled about as if by fire." [37] In an 1835 account of his First Vision, Smith related seeing two figures emerging from a "pillar of flame, which was spread all around and yet nothing consumed." The image of a human cast into the fire of a furnace was a common metaphor among the people attracted to Joseph Smith. In 1830, when Smith was brought to trial for a second time in South Bainbridge, one follower exulted in biblical language from the Book of Daniel that Smith "came out like the three children from the furnace, without the smell of fire upon his garments." By extension, all the Nephites -- and ultimately all faithful latter-day Mormons -- would pass through the divine furnace, surviving and purified by the refiner's fire to pass into the celestial kingdom. As Smith put it in a revelation of 1830, echoing the biblical injunction of John the Baptist, after baptism by water "cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost." [38] A central image in Utah folklore would be that of the "Three Nephites," spirits who would appear in human form to perform miracles, heal the sick, and testify to the Mormon gospel. [39]

Fire, refining, and the furnace had long been symbols connecting experimental alchemy with Christian themes of salvation, perfection, and the millennium. As Carl Jung demonstrated at length, "alchemical symbolism is steeped in ecclesiastical allegory," and Smith and the medieval alchemists used many of the same biblical images. A spiritual metallurgy, the alchemist's work was driven by the "philosopher's fire," often termed in biblical typology "the refiner's fire." This fire was a manifestation of the Holy Ghost, the divine fire symbolized by the sun, which turned elements into gold and by which "man, who before was dead, is made a living soul." For alchemists, the key figure in Daniel's parable of the three children in the furnace was a fourth person, who emerged from the furnace fires "like the Son of God." Alchemic literature often called the philosopher's stone the "three and one," the four figures in the parable representing the four elements, with the fourth figure being a symbol both of fire and of "the spirit concealed in matter" so central to alchemical purposes. [40] Magical white stones that appear at various points in the Book of Mormon echo the symbolism of the philosopher's stone. The Pearl of Great Price, the title of a collection of Smith's writings from the 1830s, similarly had ancient mystical and alchemical connotations. Most fundamental to the fusion of alchemy with Christianity was the parallel drawn between the philosopher's stone and Christ. The critical stage in

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37. 3 Nephi 28:21; 4 Nephi 1:32; Mormon 8:24; Mosiah 12:3; Helaman 5:23.

38. Hill, Joseph Smith, 113; Jessee, comp. and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 75; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; DC 33:11.

39. Austin Fife and Alta Fife, Saints of the Sage and Saddle: Folklore among the Mormons (Bloomington, 1956), 233-49.

40. Daniel, 3:19-26; Carl G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, vol. 12 of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 2d ed., trans. R. F. C. Hull (New York, 1967), 343-4; Carl G. Jung, Alchemical Studies, vol. 13 of The Collected Works, 2d ed., trans. R. F. C. Hull (New York, 1967), 95, 346-7, 357.




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the alchemical work was a fusion of elements in the furnace, followed by their "death" and "resurrection," the resulting stone having a Christ-like perfection, a source of immortality. Smith used analogous language, borrowed from Genesis 49:24, when he called Christ the "good shepherd... the stone of Israel." [41]

The Smith family lore contained a number of such biblical-alchemical symbols, beginning with Asael Smith's language from the Book of Daniel about "the stone... cut out of the mountain without hands." Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith were more oriented toward the Book of Genesis and the symbolism of the Tree of Life. In hermetic thinking the Tree of Life stood for the alchemical work of transmutation to perfection, and it was sometimes linked to the story in Daniel of the three boys in the furnace, who were given fruit from the Tree. [42] One of Lucy's early dreams equated two trees with her husband and his brother Jesse, who rejected the Mormon restoration. Joseph's tree was "surrounded with a bright belt, that shown like burnished gold, but far more brilliantly," and waved in a gentle breeze that she interpreted as "the breath of heaven;" Jesse's tree "was not surrounded with the belt of light as the former, and it stood erect and fixed as a pillar of marble." [43] These paired trees -- one animated and alive, the other frozen as in death -- echoed the paired Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge planted in the Garden of Eden. [44]

Joseph Sr. had two dreams that, taken together, illustrated the dangers of the Tree of Knowledge and the blessings of the Tree of Life. In one dream he traveled through a barren land to find a box that would give him "wisdom and understanding," and upon opening the lid, "all manner of beasts, horned cattle, and roaring animals rose up on every side in the most threatening manner possible." This was Pandora's Box or, by implication, Eve's temptation to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, leading to the Fall from the Garden of Eden. In another, he saw a beautiful tree in a pleasant valley bearing "a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut burr, and as white as snow." The interior was "of dazzling whiteness" and "delicious beyond description." As Joseph and his family sat eating this fruit, they saw a "spacious building" at the opposite end of the valley, representing the "Babylon" of competing sects. [45] True to the ideal of restoration, in language with decided hermetic implications, the Smiths stood with the Tree of Life and the promise of paradisial immortality, with the world of the competing sects in the distance, perhaps assembled around the death-dealing Tree of Knowledge.

These dreams were reproduced early in the Book of Mormon. Like Joseph Sr., the patriarch Lehi has a vision of eating white fruit from a tree, counterposed to crowds of people in a "spacious building." Lehi's vision was followed by similar visions experienced by his virtuous son, Nephi,

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41. Jung, Alchemical Studies, 357-431; F. Sherwood Taylor, The Alchemists: Founders of Modern Chemistry (New York, 1949), 148-53, 222, 241; Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, 2d ed., rev. (Boston, 1958), 125; Matthew 13:46; DC 50:144.

42. Jung, Alchemical Studies, 419-20.

43. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 55; Bushman, Joseph Smith, 37.

44. Genesis 2:9.

45. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 57-9.




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including specific interpretations that "this thing which our father saw in a dream... was a representation of the tree of life." [46] It seems immaterial to ask whether the parents' dreams or the language of the Book of Mormon came first. What is important is that these formative Mormon texts revolved around symbols of perfectionism that had deeply hermetic connotations. The Mormon search for the fruit of the Tree of Life -- described as the keys to the Lord's mysteries -- would culminate in Nauvoo, when the adoption of temple endowments promised the hermetic divinization to which generations of radical restorationists had aspired. [47]

If the Book of Mormon eventually led to a promise of hermetic divinization, this was not its central, manifest theme. More obviously, the central themes of the book revolve around the depiction of the American Indians as transplanted Israelites. This idea had a long history in the millennial Protestant tradition. English millenarian Joseph Mede had posited in 1634 that the Indians were led to the New World by the devil as his chosen people; by 1650 Thomas Thorowgood was writing of them as the Lost Tribes, inspiring John Eliot's missionary work among the Natick Indians. In 1775 and 1816 the writings of James Adair and Elias Boudinot revived the thesis of Israelite origins, and Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews, published in Poultney in 1823, attempted to confront the problem of the lack of recorded evidence, a flaw in the Israelite theory that Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon resolved. [48] If Smith's Nephites and Lamanites were not the Lost Tribes but the descendants of a later band of Israelite emigrants, nevertheless the story of the Book of Mormon provided a satisfactory answer to settlers' questions about the burial mounds scattered across New York State and the Ohio Valley. The treasure-diviners dug through these sites, and many of their seer-stones were in fact polished-stone implements made by Native Americans of the so-called Woodland period. [49] For the Smiths, the people buried in the mounds were the "ancients," who had hidden treasures protected by spirits in the hills around Palmyra and Manchester. There was a history here too. Cotton Mather, although skeptical of Israelite origins for Native America, was fascinated with the discovery of mastodon bones at Claverack on the Hudson River. In 1712. he wrote to the Royal Society that these bones provided evidence of a race of "antedeluvian GIANTS" who had walked with their heads in the clouds, called the "Nephilim" in Jewish tradition. [50]

There were contemporary and local sources for many of these ideas. The Palmyra Herald and the Wayne Sentinel carried stories throughout the 1820s speculating on Indian origins and describing finds in Indian burials throughout the trans-Appalachian interior. Elias Boudinot and Sylvester Lamed, the latter a minister in contact with Ethan Smith of Poultney, both lectured in the area around 1820. The Smiths apparently

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46. I Nephi 8:10-30, 11:25, 15:21-30; see also Alma 12:21, 14:1-6.

47. It should be noted that when it was published, Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches incorporated these dreams into the family's history in Vermont. However, her original account of the Vermont years in her "Preliminary Manuscript" did not include these dreams. They were written out on separate sheets and later included in the revised transcription by Martha Coray. In the manuscript file of "Lucy Mack Smith. History" in the collections of the LDS Historical Department ("Preliminary Manuscript"), the original text (unpaginated), with no reference to dreams, is in folder 2, and accounts of some of the dreams are in folder 5. I am obliged to Jan Shipps for pointing this out. For the tangled history of the text of the Lucy Mack Smith manuscript, see Shipps, Mormonism, 87-108.

48. Kenneth Silverman, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (New York, 1984), io8; Theodore D. Bozeman, To Live Ancient Lives (Chapel Hill, 1988), 271, 272n; Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, 1986), 35-43.

49. See illustrations of the Whitmers' seer-stones, in Quinn, Early Mormonism, figs. 11-13, following p. 228. Compare with the polished and drilled gorgets and pendants illustrated in William A. Ritchie, The Archaeology of New York State (Garden City, N.Y., 1965), 181, 192, 224, 249, and 256.

50. David Levin, "Giants in the Earth: Science and the Occult in Cotton Mather's Letters to the Royal Society," WMQ 45 (1988), 751-70.




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had their own version of the Pittsfield parchment story, telling Peter Ingersoll of a book discovered in a tree in Canada that recorded the pre-Columbian history of America. A competing money-digging gang in Rochester had accounts of ancient conflicts very similar to those of Smith's Nephites and Lamanites. These money-diggers heard tales that ancient pygmies had hidden "great stores of gold and precious stones" in "great vaults" buried in the hills to protect them from a race of giant enemies. Accounts of violent primeval giants could be found in the text of the "Book of Enoch," an ancient manuscript discovered in Ethiopia in 1773 and published in English in 1821. Alternatively, such ideas might have had a more indigenous origin. In 1807, devastated by an epidemic, the Seneca Iroquois of the Allegheny River, a hundred miles to the southwest, dug huge pits in an unsuccessful effort to kill a subterranean monster thought to be the cause of the disease. This failing, their prophet, Handsome Lake, turned to witchcraft accusation. [51]

Joseph Smith's transplanted Israelites were a very violent people, and his book is in great part a record of endless warfare, epochal struggles of good versus evil. Throughout the Book of Mormon, and especially the latter half, the Nephites struggle to survive both the onslaughts of Lamanites and Gadianton Bands and their own cyclical declension from virtue to corruption. This theme of dyadic conflict between opposing forces of good and evil requires our close attention, especially in light of the autobiographical qualities of much of the Book of Mormon, and in light of the broader problem of hermetic purity and danger.



Just as the landscape of Ontario County and Joseph's idealized coming of age were immortalized in the Book of Mormon, so too were a pair of dramas involving hermetic culture that unfolded during Joseph's final years in his father's household. If the Smiths saw in Freemasonry a means to knowledge that would lead to the restoration of divine mysteries, their faith would have been undermined by a wrenching schism in the ranks of New York Freemasonry in the early 1820s, with implications of worldly corruption only reinforced by the murder of William Morgan in 1826 and the furor over a judicial conspiracy in the year following. And, immersed in the world of treasure-divining, the Smiths in the early 1820s would once again brush up against the threat of counterfeiting they had encountered in Vermont. When viewed against these contemporary hermetic dramas and in light of Masonic mythology, the conflict between good and evil that occupies so much of the Book of Mormon can be read in terms of a contest between hermetic purity and danger, between diviners and

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51. The contemporary sources are detailed in Hullinger, Mormon Answer to Skepticism, 48-64; and Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon, 22-69; Peter Ingersoll testimony in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New England Reputation Reexamined, 136; Rochester story in George H. Harris, "Myths of Ononda" (c. 1887), George H. Harris Collection, Rochester Historical Society, Rochester, New York; and Dorothy Dengler, "Tales of Buried Treasure in Rochester," New York Folklore Quarterly 2 (1946), 174-81. For the "Book of Enoch" see James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Garden City, N.Y., 1983), 8, 26. For the Seneca, see Anthony F. C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York, 1969), 291-2.




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counterfeiters, and between pure, "primitive" Freemasons and corrupt, "spurious" Freemasons.

I have suggested that divining and counterfeiting were symbiotic yet opposed elements in a common popular hermetic culture rooted variously in sectarian magic, the high occult, and common crime. Divining cults offered a quick way to wealth for those who feared the "witchcraft" of counterfeiting. More formally and explicitly, the foundation myths of Freemasonry, as they were being popularized in the 1820s, offered a similar dyadic model of hermetic purity and danger. Before we can look at the contemporary hermetic dramas and their implications for the composition of the Book of Mormon, we need to look briefly at these foundation myths.

This version of Masonic mythology embedded the tale of Enoch burying engraved texts of the mysteries in an arched vault, to be discovered by Solomon, in a long history of dyadic segmentation and declension. At the heart of all Masonic mythology lay the divine Adam in the Garden of Eden, "in direct communication with God and the angels" and in "a state of perfection." With the Fall, Adam lost his divine immortality, but he retained "a perfect recollection of that speculative science which is now termed Masonry," the central principle of which "was to preserve alive in men's minds the true knowledge of God." From Adam's sons Seth and Cain descended two races of men, good and evil, carrying pure and spurious versions of Masonic knowledge. Not unlike Smith's Nephites in the Book of Mormon, the virtuous Sethites suffered declension and merged with the Cainites, mixing together pure and spurious Masonry. The pure Masonic tradition was preserved from the Flood by Enoch, who buried the mysteries in his arched vault before being taken bodily up to heaven, and by Noah, who alone with his family was saved from the Flood. But once again there was declension and schism, and Noah's son Ham became the new progenitor of spurious, Cainite Masonry, which became even more deeply entrenched after the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. A debased tradition of pure Masonry was passed down from Noah to Solomon, to be revitalized with the discovery of Enoch's buried plates in the arched vault. Following Solomon, pure, "primitive" Masonry was a secret tradition, theoretically transmitted through the medieval guilds, whereas the spurious tradition survived as the pagan mysteries. Masonic orders founded in eighteenth-century France and Germany developed various versions of this theme of schism and transmission, creating a profusion of conflicting rites and degrees, each order in some way promising to be the true source of an "antediluvian" purity. [52]

In the 1820s the outlines of this struggle were available in The Antiquities of Freemasonry, published in London in 1823 by George Oliver, an

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52. George Oliver, The Antiquities of Freemasonry; Comprising the Three Grand Periods of Masonry from the Creation of the World to the Dedication of King Solomon's Temple (London, 1823), chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 (quotations from pp. 41-5). The theme of primitive and spurious Masonry is summarized in Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 2:584-5, 706-8.




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(pages 166-172 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)









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July 7. Though the newspapers cite Forbes as formerly residing in east Farmington, this was only a temporary location. He had been born in Manlius, near Syracuse, in 1803; his father, John G. Forbes Sr., was a prominent lawyer, militia colonel, and Bucktail politician in Onondaga County, moving from Manlius to Salina in the early 1820s and to the growing city of Syracuse in the 1830s. His powerful political connections go a long way toward explaining his son's rapid pardon. [70]

After decades of such exposure throughout New England, in moving to the Palmyra region the Smiths once again were surrounded by shadowy and menacing webs of counterfeiting. At least one firsthand account of their early days in Palmyra describes them again as victims. Pomeroy Tucker wrote that during the years of the Smith's proprietorship of the cake and beer shop in Palmyra village, "the boys of those by-gone times used to delight in obtaining the valuable goods entrusted to Joseph's clerkship, in exchange for worthless pewter imitation two-shilling pieces." Tucker also claimed that Joseph read Stephen Burroughs's Memoirs during these formative years. The Smiths seem to have known something of the material culture of counterfeiting, for Abigail Harris was told by the elder Smiths that with the Golden Plates Joseph had found "the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled," fantastic analogues to the crucibles and rolling mills necessary for coining and printing. [71]

The Smiths may have been tempted to pass money for these local gangs, but the evidence suggests that, like many others throughout the postrevolutionary northern backcountry, they turned to divining for treasure as a spiritual alternative to the temptation to counterfeit. The counterfeiters and their passers, particularly those involved in the Butler-Forbes ring in east Farmington, maintained an insidious presence in the immediate neighborhood. James Carr and George Butler, acquitted in 1823, were from Palmyra and Phelps respectively, towns immediately adjacent to Manchester. Witnesses testifying for and against them fell into two geographic clusters, one of which suggests the impact of this counterfeiting group in the Smiths' locality and the second of which points to an important connection to the Syracuse area. The larger group was composed of people from towns adjacent to or near Manchester: eight from Palmyra, Farmington, Phelps, and Canandaigua, and five from Lyons, Seneca, and Perinton. [72]

These details are not unimportant, for among the witnesses for Carr and Butler were two men with connections to the Smiths' circle of money-diggers in Manchester and Palmyra. Thomas Ingersoll and Stiles Stafford testified on behalf of George Butler and James Carr in July i 823. Stiles, or Tyle, Stafford was the grandson of David Stafford and a cousin of the

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70. John G. Forbes Jr. is identified in the Auburn Prison records as having been born in Manlius in 1803. According to the U.S. census, John G. Forbes Sr. lived in a succession of towns around Syracuse: Manlius in 1820 and Salina in 1830; by 1840 he had moved to Syracuse, where he had law offices and was on the executive committee of a library association. John G. Forbes Sr. rose in the militia from lieutenant in 1809 to colonel in 1817; he was the town attorney for Salina at its incorporation in 1824 and was elected as a Democrat to the Assembly in 1825. He was involved in a number of railroad and turnpike projects and by the late 1830s was a Whig. See Carroll E. Smith, Pioneer Times in the Onandaga Country (Syracuse, 1904), 295, 350; Dwight H. Bruce, ed., Onondaga's First Centennial: Gleanings of a Century (Boston, 1896), 1:276-7, 430, 2:947-8; indictments, Livingston County Clerk's Office; Wayne County Court of Oyer and Terminer, Minutes, vol. 1; Monroe County Court of Oyer and Terminer, Minutes; Ontario County Court of Oyer and Terminer, Minutes, 1793-1847, 167, 170, 171. I am particularly obliged to Dr. Ann Filiaci at the Ontario County Clerk's Office, Kathy Muzdakis at the Monroe County Clerk's Office, and Margaret McCaughey at the Livingston County Clerk's Office for locating and copying this material for me.

71. Tucker, Mormonism, 14, 17. Oliver P. Alderman, Autobiography of O. P. Alderman... (Merchantville, N.Y., 1874), 55-66, provides a detailed account of the dimensions and mechanics of the trade in bad money in central New York in the 1830s. Burroughs's Memoirs was republished in abbreviated form in Albany, Hudson, Otsego, and Canandaigua between 1810 and 1813; the 1811 Albany edition was available at the lending library in Manchester village. See Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," BYUS 22 (Summer 1982), 347. Abigail Harris affidavit in Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 130.

72. Another four witnesses were located to the east: two near Syracuse in Salina and Cazanovia, one to the northeast in Whitestown, and one to the west at Brutus. These Syracuse area witnesses suggest that the gang operated along the Erie Canal and add credence to the connection between the Butlers and John G. Forbes Jr., the Salina lawyer's son convicted in Livingston County. Ontario County Court of Oyer and Terminer, Minutes, 1793-1847, 167, 170, 171; indexes of the U.S. census for 1820 and 1830.




174                                   The  Mormon  Dispensation                                  


Stafford diviners in Palmyra. [73] The Ingersolls are more difficult to pin down, but Thomas Ingersoll was either a brother or a third cousin of Peter Ingersoll, whom the Smiths had tried to recruit into their money-digging club. [74]

Thus some of the money-digging crowd had connections among the counterfeiters operating in east Farmington and along the canal or with others who found their way before the county courts for a range of serious crimes. These connections may help explain Joseph's efforts to extricate himself from the money-digging company. Martin Harris recalled in 1859 that "Joseph said the angel told him that he must quit the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them." [75] And, as Richard Bushman has pointed out, one account of Joseph's March 1826 trial in South Bainbridge quotes his father as saying "that both he and his son were mortified that this wonderful power which God had so miraculously given him should be used only in search of filthy lucre, or its equivalent in earthly treasures." [76]

The question remains why Joseph suddenly decided to go to the Susquehanna country, a hundred miles from home, just as his family was facing a major crisis concerning their farm mortgage. The standard explanation has been that he was going to help pay off the annual payment by divining for Josiah Stowell, but surely work was available closer to home. His two subsequent moves, in January and November 1827, were closely connected to personal crises, marriage and the recovery of the plates. His sudden move to the Susquehanna coincided with the wave of counterfeiting -- hermetic danger -- in the Manchester region. One motive for his departure may well have been to avoid the "wicked men" on the fringes of the money-digging company, men who had connections with the world of counterfeiting. Given Joseph Sr.'s brush with this world in Vermont in 1807, it seems likely that Joseph Sr. was the critical influence, sending his son out of the way of temptation down into the Susquehanna country on a quixotic divining mission, into a region that had seen little counterfeiting activity for several years. In any event, during the last two years of Joseph's life in his father's household, a dramatic confrontation between counterfeiting and the law swept through his immediate neighborhood.



New York Antimasons, meeting in convention in 1829, detected a connection between counterfeiting and Freemasonry, and such a connection can be read in Smith's description of the Gadianton Bands in the Book of Mormon. These robber bands appear throughout the latter half of the Book of Mormon, from the Book of Helaman through the Book of Mormon

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73. Among those enumerated by Pomeroy Tucker as followers of Joseph Smith in money-digging who never became Mormons are Peter Ingersoll of Palmyra and William, Joshua, and Gad Stafford of Manchester (Tucker, Mormonism, 38-9). A "Tile Stafford" in Palmyra in the 1820 census is apparently Stiles, listed in Ontario County in 1810. A "Tilor" Stafford, the son or grandson of David Stafford, was listed in Washington County in 1800. For the connection to David Stafford, see Nearpass, "Materials for a Genealogy of Josiah Stover who became Josiah Stafford." Census data from Thomas L. Revere.

74. The Ingersolls were living in both Ontario and Onondaga counties. Peter Ingersoll was a teamster who -- according to his statement in 1833 -- lived in the Smith neighborhood "until about 1830." This must have been a relatively short residence, because the 1810 census lists a Peter in Williamson, north of Palmyra, the 1820 census put him in Tompkins County, and the 1830 census recorded two, one in Onondaga County in the town of Pompey and a second far to the west in Chautauqua County. Similarly, there was a Thomas Ingersoll in Bloomfield in 1810 and in Victor in 1820 (adjacent towns just west of Farmington), in Salina in 1820, and in Onondaga in 1830. All of these Ingersolls were part of a large family originally located in Westfield and Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Peter Ingersoll, the teamster and Smith family neighbor, seems to have moved between Ontario and Tompkins counties before settling in Onondaga County, dying in 1863. Both his wife and his father, Thomas, died in Liverpool, the postal village of Salina township, where John G. Forbes Sr. was located prior to his move to Syracuse. Either his father or an older brother named Thomas could have been the witness for George Butler in 1823. The other possibility is that the Thomas Ingersoll located in Victor, west of Farmington, was the witness for Butler. If that was the case, the connection between Thomas the witness and Peter the teamster is more distant, third cousin rather than brother, but there is still an interesting connection. Thomas of Victor was the father of Dorus Ingersoll, born in Ontario County in 1808 according to the Auburn Prison records and convicted at Canandaigua of grand larceny in May 1816. The information in the U.S. census for 1810, 1820, and 1830 for New York State on the Ingersolls fits well with the data in Lillian D. Avery, A Genealogy of the Ingersoll Family in America, 1629-1925 (New York, 1916), 151-2, 173-4, 178. For witnesses for Carr and Butler see Ontario County Court of Oyer and Terminer, Minutes, 167, 170, 171. Convictions are listed in alphabetical and chronological order in "Auburn Prison Register of Convicts." A Charles Butler who testified on behalf of George Butler in 1823 probably was the same Charles Butler who was convicted of passing counterfeit money in Steuben County in 1827. There is always the chance that the indictments of Forbes as well as of Carr and Butler were part of an elaborate political game, with Clintonians trying to discredit Bucktails. But the important question is not the reality of counterfeiting but the public perception of counterfeiting, particularly the Smiths' perception of it as an all-pervading force. I have chosen to accept these court and prison records at face value.

75. Harris interview, in Kirkham, ed., New Witness, 2:381. Harris was referring to the fall of 1827, but at this point in the interview "Mr. Harris seemed to wander from the subject," so I feel free to make this a general statement.

76. W. D. Purple's account, quoted in Bushman, Joseph Smith, 75.

 
(comments forthcoming)







D. Michael Quinn

Early Mormonism and
the Magic World View

(SLC: Signature, 1998)


Ch. 2 (excerpt)


Transcriber's comments




Copyright © 1998, Signature Books. Limited "fair use" excerpts transcribed.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)


[ 30 ]




2.

Divining Rods, Treasure-
Digging, and Seer Stones


Despite the fact that folk magic had widespread manifestations in early America, the biases of the Protestant Reformation and Age of Reason dominated the society's responses to folk magic. The most obvious effect was that every American colony (and later U.S. state) had laws against various forms of divination. In particular, many early Americans regarded participation in the folk magic of treasure-seeking as disreputable. To the present, this evangelical and rationalist view has dominated any discussion about whether or not members of the Smith family in general (and Joseph Jr. in particular) engaged in the treasure-quest. In this sense, early anti-Mormon authors and modern LDS apologists shared the assumption that if Mormonism's founding prophet engaged in "money-digging," then his religious claims could be discredited. However, the substantial evidence of their participation in treasure-seeking in no way discredits Joseph Smith or his family. This was even the view of some of their neighbors who had no interest in the family's religious claims. Magic and treasure-seeking were an integral part of the Smith family's religious quest.

Joseph Smith's family was typical of many early Americans who practiced various forms of Christian folk magic. As a New York medical journal reported in 1812: "These irrational and preposterous opinions are still found to predominate over the minds of a numerous class of honest, but credulous and unlettered citizens. Indeed, they are sometimes cherished by those who have just pretensions to information above mediocrity." [1] The latter phrase was the academic publication's condescending acknowledgement that even well-educated Americans shared many of the beliefs of the "credulous and unlettered citizens." Folk magic's folk included all social and educational classes.

Jon Butler has commented that early Americans were "indeed religious, but many resorted to occult and magical practices unacceptable to most Christian clergymen and lawmakers." This historian noted that "for many Americans, it must be emphasized, the occult has not always seemed a counterculture, a mutually exclusive alternative to accepted religious, social, or scientific values." [2]

In light of the efforts of ordained clergy to suppress folk magic, Joseph Jr.'s 1820 theophany ("first vision") is important (see ch. 5). By the early 1820s the

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1. Aaron C. Willey, "Observations on Magical Practices," Medical Repository 15 (1812): 377.

2. Jon Butler, "Magic, Astrology, and the Early American Religious Heritage, 1600," American Historical Review 84 (Apr. 1979): 318; Jon Butler, "The Dark Ages of American Occultism, 1760-1848," in Howard Kerr and Charles L. Crow, eds., The Occult in America: New Historical Perspectives (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 68-69; also rephrased in Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 3.




              DIVINING  RODS,  TREASURE-DIGGING,  AND  SEER  STONES              31


Smith family had already participated in a wide range of magic practices, and Smith's first vision occurred within the context of his family's treasure-quest. His first emphasis was God's forgiveness, yet some of Smith narratives state that God told him the clergymen of any organized church were wrong. [3] At this time the revivals of western New York's so-called "Burned-over District" [4] were bringing thousands out of private folk religion and into organized churches, whose clergy opposed folk magic. Nonetheless, Smith's vision of the divine gave him every reason to ignore the clergy's instructions, including denunciations of the occult.

Several generations of the Smith family were influenced by the magic world view before the 1800s. During the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 the "deposition of Samuell Smith of Boxford about 25 ye[a]rs [of age]" accused Mary Easty of committing acts of witchcraft at Topsfield five years earlier. The deposition of "John Gould aged about 56 yeares or theire about" accused Sarah Wilds of acts of witchcraft fifteen years before the trial. These accusers were Joseph Sr.'s great-grandfather Samuel (who was actually twenty-six years old at the time) and Samuel's father-in-law John Gould (actually fifty-seven years old at the time). The two women were hanged as witches at Salem on the basis of the accusations by Smith's ancestors. [5] After the Salem trials, other generations of his ancestors resided in areas noted for beliefs and practices of folk magic and alchemy. [6]

In 1930 an official historian of the LDS church wrote: "It may be admitted that some of [Smith's ancestors] believed in fortune telling, in warlocks and witches." B. H. Roberts added: "Indeed it is scarcely conceivable how one could live in New England in those years and not have shared in such beliefs. To be credulous in such things was to be normal people." [7] The family's neighbors in Palmyra and adjacent Manchester [8] did not know about the role of Smith's ancestors in the Salem witchcraft trials, yet reported that his family retained witchcraft beliefs in the 1820s.

For example, Richard L. Anderson, a professor of religion at Brigham Young University, has described Orlando Saunders as a Palmyra neighbor who was "the most favorable to the Smith reputation," even "totally positive on the reliability of the Smiths, and particularly Joseph. [9] In one interview Orlando Saunders also said that Joseph Sr. and Jr. "believed in witchcraft." Anderson endorsed the accuracy of this "independent interview" by "Frederic G. Mather, a non-Mormon professional writer." [10] A resident of adjacent Monroe County, Fayette Lapham traveled to Manchester in 1830 to learn about Mormon claims directly from the Smiths. He spoke at length with the prophet's father and later wrote: "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." [11] In fact, Joseph Jr. continued to express his belief in witches as LDS church president (see ch. 7).

In three separate interviews, Orlando's brother Lorenzo Saunders said he observed a folk magic activity of Joseph Smith, Sr. At "turky shoots" [sic] ,Joseph Sr. "pretend [ed] to enchant their guns so that they could not kill a turky." Asked "How would he do that?" Lorenzo replied: "He would blow in the gun and feel around the lock [and] then tell them it was charmed and they could not kill the turky." [12] This was a widespread belief in Joseph Sr.'s generation. In 1784 a South

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3. Joseph Smith et al., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Period I: History of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and... Period II: From the Manuscript History of Brigham Young and Other Original Documents, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902-32; 2d ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978]), 1:6 (hereafter History of the Church); Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2+ vols., with a different subtitle for each volume (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989-92+), 1:xxxix, 272-73, 430, 444, 448-49; Dan Vogel, comp. and ed., Early Mormon Documents, 1+ vols. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-), 1:28, 37-39, 43-44, 60-62, 170, 182, 184, 189-90.

Emphasizing Smith's reminiscence that the religious revival was "in the place where we lived" prior to his vision in "the spring of 1820," several authors have insisted that historical evidence does not support 1819-20 but leaves 1824-25 as the only possibility they will admit. See Wesley P. Walters, "New Light on Mormon Origins From Palmyra (N.Y.) Revival," Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 10 (Fall 1967): 238; Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:58n19, 61n25, 288n87, 306n103, 494-95, 494n5; H. Michael Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record ([San Francisco]: Smith Research Associates, 1994), xxvi-xxviii, 18-33, 36n13 (which also dismisses the significance of the Palmyra newspaper's June 1820 report of "a Methodist camp meeting in the vicinity of the village"); Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 193n54 (which actually departs from his previous acceptance of an 1820 revival and dating; see below).

On the other hand, LDS scholars have emphasized Smith's phrase that "the whole district of country seemed affected by it," and they show evidence of extensive religious revivals in 1819-20 within a twenty-mile radius of Smith home. Despite some conflicting evidence, these authors support the traditional 1820 dating for Smith's first vision. See Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences," BYU Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 404; Peter Crawley, "A Comment on Joseph Smith's Account of His First Vision and the 1820 Revival," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 6 (Spring 1971): 106-107; Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2d ed., rev, and enl. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 67-71, 74, 79-89, 157-166; Marvin S. Hill, "The First Vision Controversy: A Critique and Reconciliation," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1982): 41-42; Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 50-53, 56, 203-204n31; Backman, "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in Robert L. Millet, ed., "To Be Learned Is Good If..." (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 35; Backman, "Lo, Here! Lo, There! Early in the Spring of 1820," in Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, eds., The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 19-35; Walter A. Norton, "Comparative Images: Mormonism and Contemporary Religions as Seen by Village Newspapermen in Western New York and Northeastern Ohio, 1820-1833, Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1991, 254-56; Richard L. Bushman, "Just the Facts Please," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies 6 (1994), no. 2:126-29; Larry C. Porter, "Reinventing Mormonism: To Remake or Redo," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies 7 (1995), no. 2:129-31; Davis Bitton, Images of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1996), 3-4. See also Palmyra's front-page emphasis on the 1820 wave of revivals nationally in "Great Revivals in Religion," Palmyra Register (Palmyra, NY), 7 June 1820, [1].

I accepted the evidence supporting the 1820 date of the revivals which led to Smith's theophany before I realized the significance of statements by his neighbors that 1819-20 was the year he also became involved as a treasure-seer (see ch. 4 and following narrative text of ch. 2). For me this is sufficient evidence from two different directions that Smith's vision of Deity occurred in spring 1820, as officially dated. However, from a perspective I do not share, G. St. John Stott, "Joseph Smith's 1823 Vision: Uncovering the Angel Message," Religion 18 (Oct. 1988): 358n6, stated that he was "persuaded that there was an 1820 vision by the parallels between the biography Smith gives to the youthful Mormon (the Book of Mormon, pp. 518-19) and the events of his own youth."

4. Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950); also Gordon S. Wood, "Evangelical America and Early Mormonism," New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 359-86; Glenn C. Altschuler and Jan M. Saltzgaber, Revivalism, Social Conscience and Community in the Burned-Over District: The Trial of Rhoda Bement (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983); Michael Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium: The Burned-Over District of New York in the 1840s (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986).

5. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1929), 54-55, 101-105; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds., The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witch Outbreak of 1692, 3 vols. (New York: DaCapo Press, 1977), 1:301-302, 814-15; Richard Weisman, Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in 17th-Century Massachusetts (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984), 220; Thomas S. Catherall, "Joseph Smith's Progenitors and the Salem Witchcraft Trials," 8, 13, paper delivered at Sunstone Theological Symposium, 23 Aug. 1986, Salt Lake City, Utah, copy in fd 25, box 141, H. Michael Marquardt papers, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 66-67, emphasized the Easty case and "the Smith-Gould connection," but made no reference to the Wilds case, not even in the source-notes (339-40).

6. Brooke, Refiner's Fire, 43, 45, 71, 74-78, 133-34.

7. B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church... 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 1:26-27.

8. Joseph Sr. first moved to Palmyra, where the Book of Mormon was later published. In between those two events,