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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


1857: M. Harris   |   1879: E. Smith   |   1881: E. Stevenson   |   1887: D. Whitmer   |   1903: B.H. Roberts
1904: B.H. Roberts 1   |   1904: B.H. Roberts 2   |   1905: B.H. Roberts   |   1906: B.H. Roberts
1907: B.H. Roberts   |   1909: B.H.R. 1   |   1909: B.H.R. 2   |   1911: B.H. Roberts   |   1912: B.H. Roberts
1938: W. Bean   |   1939: F.W. Kirkham   |   1945: F. Brodie   |   1946: LDS   |   1946: J.A. Widtsoe
1947: F.W. Kirkham   |   1956: J.F. Smith   |   1951-9: F.W. Kirkham   |   1961: Hugh Nibley


Brigham H. Roberts

Y.M.M.I.A. Manual 7 (1903)

Title Page

Chapter 7 (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments


Young Men's
Mutual Improvement Associations


  1903 - 1904.

   S U B J E C T:

   New Witnesses for God.



   PART I.


No. 7.





Relative to the manner of translating the Book of Mormon the prophet himself has said but little. "Through the medium of the Urim and Thimmim I translated the record by the gift and power of God," [a] is the most extended published statement made by him upon the subject. Of the Urim and Thummim he says: "With the record was found a curious instrument which the ancients called a Urim and Thummim,' which consisted of two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate." [b]

Oliver Cowdery, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and the prophet's chief amanuensis, says of the work of translation in which he assisted: "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 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.'" [c] This is all he has left on record on the manner of translating the book. [d]

David Whitmer, another of the Three Witnesses, is more specific on this subject. After describing the means the prophet employed to exclude the light from the "Seer Stone," he says: "In the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment 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." [e]

There will appear between this statement of David Whitmer's and what is said both by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery a seeming contradiction. Joseph and Oliver both say the translation was done by means of the Urim and Thummim, which is described by Joseph as being two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate;" while David Whitmer says that the translation was made by means of a

a  Wentworth letter, Mill. Star, Vol. XIX., p. 118.

b  Wentworth letter, Mill. Star, Vol. XIX., p. 118. [see also: History of the Church Vol. IV, Ch. XXXI.]

c Book of Mosiah, viii: 13.

d  The above statement was made by Oliver Cowdery at a special conference held at Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848. It was first published in the Deseret News of April 13, 1859: Bishop Reuben Miller, who was present at the meeting, reported Cowdery's remarks.

e  From "An Address to all Believers in Christ," by David Whitmer, "A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," published at Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p. 12.


"Seer Stone." The apparent contradiction is cleared up, however, by a statement made by Martin Harris, another of the Three Witnesses. 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 (i. e., at the time Harris was acting as his scribe) used the Seer Stone. * * * * 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 they were larger. [f]

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. [g] 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. [h]

Another account of the manner of translating the record, purporting to have been given by David Whitmer, and published in the Kansas City Journal of June 5, 1881, says:

"He [meaning Joseph Smith] had two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg-shape, and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters, which were given him with the plates. He 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 his eyes would appear what seemed to be parchment on which would appear the characters of the plates in a line at the top, and immediately below would appear the translation in English, which Smith would read to his scribe, who wrote it down exactly as it fell from his lips. The scribe would then read the sentence written, and if any mistakes had been made, the characters would remain visible to Smith until corrected, when they would fade from sight to be replaced by another line."

It is evident that there are inaccuracies in the above statement, due, doubtless, to the carelessness of the reporter of the Journal, who has confused what Mr. Whitmer said of the Seer Stone and Urim and Thummim. If he meant to describe the Urim and Thummim or "Interpreters" given to Joseph Smith with the plates -- as seems to be the case -- then the reporter is wrong in saying that they were chocolate color and not transparent; for the "Interpreters" given to the Prophet with the plates, as we have seen by his own description, were "two transparent stones." If the reporter meant to describe the "Seer Stone" -- which is not likely -- he would be right in saying it was of a chotolate color, and egg-shaped, but wrong in saying there were two of them.

Martin Harris's description of the manner of translating while he was the amanuensis of the Prophet is 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

f  Harris's Statement to Edward Stevenson, Mill. Star, Vol. XLIV., p. 87. [see also: Deseret News Dec. 28, 1881]

g  Cannon's Life of Joseph Smith, p. 56.

h  Nearly all the Anti-Mormon works dealing with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon speak of the "Seer Stone" and reiterate the falsehood that the Prophet stole it from the children of Willard Chase, for whom Joseph and Hyrum were digging a well.


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." [i]

On one occasion Harris sought to test the genuineness of the prophet's procedure in the matter of translation, as follows:

Martin said that after continued translation they would become weary and would go down to the river and exercise in throwing stones out on the river, etc. While so doing on one occasion, Martin found a stone very much resembling the one used for translating, and on resuming their labors of translation Martin put in place [of the Seer Stone] the stone that he had found. He said that the Prophet remained silent unusually and intently gazing in darkness, no trace of the usual sentence appearing. Much surprised 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 done 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." [j]

The sum of the whole matter, then, concerning the manner of translating the sacred record of the Nephites, according to the testimony of the only witnesses competent to testify in the matter is: With the Nephite record was deposited a curious instrument, consisting of two transparent stones, set in the rim of a bow, somewhat resembling spectacles, but larger, called by the ancient Hebrews "Urim and Thummim," but by the Nephites "Interpreters." In addition to these "Interpreters" the Porphet Joseph had a "Seer Stone," which to him was a Urim and Thummim; that the Prophet sometimes used one and sometimes the other of these sacred instruments in the work of translation; that whether the "Interpreters" or the "Seer Stone" was used the Nephite characters with the English interpretation appeared in the sacred instrument; that the prophet would pronounce the English translation to his scribe, which, when correctly written, would disappear and the other characters with their interpretation take their place, and so on until the work was completed.

It should not be supposed, however, that this translation, though accomplished by means of the "Interpreters" and "Seer Stone," as stated above, was merely a mechanical procedure; that no faith, or mental or spiritual effort was required on the prophet's part; that the instruments did all, while he who used them did nothing but look and repeat mechanically what he saw there reflected. Much has been written upon this manner of translating the Nephite record, by those who have opposed the Book of Mormon, and chiefly in a sneering way. On the manner of translation they have bottomed much of -- not their argument but their ridicule -- against the record; and as in another part of this volume I am to meet what they consider their argument, and what I know to be their ridicule, I consider here a few other facts connected with the manner of translating the Book of Mormon, which are extremely important, as they furnish a basis upon which can be successfully answered

i  Statement of Martin Harris, to Edward Stevenson, Mill. Star, Vol. XXIV., pp. 86, 87.

j Harris's Statement to Edward Stevenson, Mill. Star, Vol. XLIV., pp. 78, 79; 86, 87.


all the objections that are urged, based on the manner in which the translation was accomplished, and also as to errors in grammar, the use of modern words, western New York phrases, and other defects of language which it is admitted are to be found in the Book of Mormon, especially in the first edition.

I repeat, then, that the translation of the Book of Mormon by means of the "Interpreters" and "Seer Stone," was not merely a mechanical process, but required the utmost concentration of mental and spiritual force possessed by the prophet, in order to exercise the gift of translation through the means of the sacred instruments provided for that work. Fortunately we have the most perfect evidence of the fact, though it could be inferred from the general truth that God sets no premium upon mental or spiritual laziness; for whatever means God may have provided to assist man to arrive at the truth, He has always made it necessary for man to couple with those means his utmost endeavor of mind and heart. So much in the way of reflection; now as to the facts referred to.

In his "Address to All Believers in Christ," David Whitmer says:

"At times when Brother Joseph would attempt to translate he would look into the hat in which the stone was placed, he found he was spiritually blind and could not translate. He told us that his mind dwelt too much on earthly things, and various causes would make him incapable of proceeding with the translation. When in this condition he would go out and pray, and when he became sufficiently humble before God, lie could then proceed with the translation. Now we see how very strict the Lord is, and how he requires the heart of man to be just right in his sight before he can receive revelation from him." [k]

In a statement to Wm. H. Kelley, G. A. Blakeslee, of Gallen, Michigan, under date of September 15th, 1882, David Whitmer said of Joseph Smith and the necessity of his humility and faithfulness while translating the Book of Mormon:

He was a religious and straight-forward man. He had to be; for he was illiterate and he could do nothing himself. He had to trust in God. He could not translate unless He was humble and possessed the right feelings towards 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 up stairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, 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 up stairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful." [l]

The manner of translation is so far described by David Whitmer and Martin Harris, who received their information necessarily from Joseph Smith, and doubtless it is substantially correct, except in so far as their

k  Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 30.

l  Braden and Kelley Debate on Divine Origin of Book of Mormon, p. 186. The above debate took place in 1884, several years before the death of David Whitmer, and the statement from which the above is taken was quoted in full.


statements may have created the impression that the translation was a mere mechanical process; and this is certainly corrected in part at least by what David Whitmer has said relative to the frame of mind Joseph must be in before he could translate. But we have more important evidence to consider on this subject of translation than these statements of David Whitmer. In the course of the work of translation Oliver Cowdery desired the gift of translation to be conferred upon him, and God promised to grant it to him in the following terms:

"Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask with an honest heart believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, 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. Now, behold, this is the Spirit of revelation; behold this is the Spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. * * * * Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate a'nd receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred, and according to your faith shall it be unto you." [m]

In attempting to exercise this gift of translation, however, Oliver Cowdery failed; and in a revelation upon the subject the Lord explained the cause of his failure to translate:

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it [i. e. the gift of translation] 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 cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." [n]

While this is not a description of the manner in which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, it is, nevertheless, the Lord's description of how another man was to exercise the gift of translation; and doubtless it is substantially the manner in which Joseph Smith did exercise it, and the manner in which he translated the Book of Mormon. That is, the Prophet Joseph Smith looked into the "Interpreters" or "Seer Stone," saw there by the power of God and the gift of God to him, the ancient Nephite characters, and by bending every power of his mind to know the meaning thereof, the interpretation wrought out in his mind by this effort -- by studying it out in his mind, to use the Lord's phrase -- was reflected in the sacred instrument, there to remain until correctly written by the scribe....

m  Doc. & Cov., Sec. viii.

n  Doc. & Cov., Sec. ix...

Comments: (forthcoming)

Brigham H. Roberts

"Probability of Joseph Smith's Story"

Improvement Era

March, 1904

Transcriber's comments



Vol. VII.                     MARCH, 1904.                     No. 5.





By the probability of Joseph Smith's story, I mean, of course, the probability of the truth of his story concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon -- of Moroni revealing its existence to him -- of Moroni delivering to him the plates and Urim and Thummim -- of his translating the record by the gift and power of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim -- of his returning the plates to Moroni, who to this day, doubtless, has them in charge.

I am aware of the fact that the miraculous is usually regarded with suspicion; that such a thing as the ministration of angels in what are called these "hard and scientific times" is generally scouted by most of those who make any pretensions to science; that a school of scholars has arisen whose main principle in the search of truth is that the miraculous is the impossible, and that all narratives which include the miraculous are to be rigidly rejected, as implying credulity or imposture; that even professed believers in the Bible, who accept as historically true the Bible account of the ministration of angels, insist that the age in which such things occurred has long since passed away and that such ministrations

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are not to be expected now. * But on this subject the word of God stands sure. According to that word there have been ministrations of angels in times past; and there will be such ministrations to the last day of recorded time. As to the ministration of angels in the past, according to holy scripture, the reader will call to mind the circumstance of angels together with the Lord, visiting Abraham at his tent-home in the plains of Mamre, and partaking of his hospitality; of the appearance of angels to direct the flight of Lot from one of the doomed cities of the plain; of Jacob's physical contact with the angel with whom he wrestled until the breaking of the day; of the angel who went before the camp of Israel in its march from bondage, and scores of other instances recorded in the Old Testament where heavenly personages co-operated with men on earth to bring to pass the holy purposes of God.

Of instances in the New Testament, the reader will recall the ministration of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, announcing the future birth of John the Baptist; of the angel who appeared to Mary to make known the high honor bestowed upon her in becoming the mother of our Lord Jesus; of the appearance of Moses and Elias to the Savior and three of his disciples, to whom they ministered; of the angel who rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and announced the resurrection of the Savior; of the men in white (angels) who were present at the ascension of Jesus from the midst of his disciples, and announced the fact that the time would come when that same Jesus should come again to the earth in like manner as they had seen him go into heaven; of the angel who delivered Peter from prison, and a dozen other instances where angels co-operated with men in bringing to pass the purposes of God in the dispensation of the meridian of time.

With reference to the angels who in ages future from that in which the apostles lived ministering to men and co-operating to bring to pass future purposes of God, the reader will recall the saying of the Savior concerning the gathering together of the elect in the hour of God's judgment: "and he shall send his angels with

* See "Life of Jesus," Renan, (E. T.) Introduction; also "New Witneseep," vol. I, chapter 1.

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a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other;" * he will recall, also, the promise in Malachi concerning the same times: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse;" † he will recollect the promised coming of the angel to restore the gospel in the hour of God's judgment: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters;" ‡ also the angel who will declare the fall of Babylon, "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God." §

"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lighted with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit." || The reader of the scriptures, I say, will readily recall all these ministrations of angels; as also the promise of the ministrations of many other angels, in bringing to pass the great things of God in the last days, even to the gathering together in one all things in Christ. **

It cannot be held as unscriptural, then, when Joseph Smith claimed that by the ministration of angels he received a revelation from God -- a dispensation of the Gospel.

Then, again, whatever the position of unbelievers in the Bible may be with reference to Joseph Smith translating the Book of

* Matt. xxiv: 31.

† Malachi iv: 5, 6.

‡ Revelation xiv: 6, 7.

§ Rev. xiv: 8, 9, 10.

|| Rev. xviii: 1-3.

** Ephesians i: 9, 10.

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Mormon by means of Urim and Thummim, or "Interpreters," as they were called by the Nephites, surely believers in the Bible cannot regard such a claim as impossible or improbable, since it is matter of common knowledge that the High Priest in ancient Israel possessed Urim and Thummim, and by means of them received divine communications. I am not unmindful of the fact that a diversity of opinion obtains respecting Urim and Thummim of the scriptures, of what they consisted, and the exact use of them, but this I think may be set down as ascertained fact; they were placed in the breast-plate of the High Priest, and were a means through which God communicated to him divine knowledge -- the divine will. *

* The reader will find the above data concerning Urim and Thummim in the following passages: Exodus xxviii: 29, 30; Leviticus viii: 8; Numbers xxvii: 21; Deuteronomy xxxiii: 8; I Samuel xxviii: 6: Ezra ii: 63; Nehemiah vii: 65. He will also find an excellent article on the subject in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, (Hackett edition) vol. 4, pp. 3356-3363; also in Kitto's Encyclopedia of Biblical Literature, voL 2, pp. 900-903. Josephus' description of Urim and Thummim is as follows: "I will now treat of what I before omitted, the garment of the high priest: for he (Moses) left no room for the evil practices of (false) prophets; but if some of that sort should attempt to abuse the divine authority, he left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent. And he was willing this should be known, not to the Hebrews only, but to those foreigners also who were there. But as to these stones, which we told you before the high priest bore on his shoulders, which were sardonyxs, (and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to everybody): the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence; and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy, as to despise divine revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bore on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks

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Since this kind of means, then, was used by prophets in ancient Israel, it should not be matter of astonishment, much less of ridicule, or a thing to be regarded as improbable that when a colony of Israelites were lead away from the main body of the people, a similar media for obtaining the will of the Lord, and for translating records not otherwise translatable, should be found with them. So also respecting Joseph Smith's claim to having found what he called a "Seer Stone," by means of which he could translate. That cannot be regarded as an impossibility or even an improbability by those who believe the Bible; for, in addition to the Hebrew literature giving an account of Urim and Thummim in the breastplate of the high priest, it is well known that other means were used by inspired men of Israel for obtaining the word of the Lord. That most excellent of Bible characters, Joseph, the son of Jacob, blessed in his boyhood with prophetic dreams, and possessed of the divine gift of interpreting dreams, the savior of Israel in times of famine, and a wise ruler for a time of Egypt's destiny, used such media. When the cup was found in the mouth of Benjamin's sack, Joseph's steward said to him: "Is not this it in which my Lord drinketh, and whereby, indeed, he divineth?" Joseph himself said, when his perplexed brethren stood before him, "What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?" * The fact of ascertaining the word of the Lord by means of this "divining cup" cannot be explained away by suggesting that Joseph merely referred to an Egyptian custom of divining; or that the steward repeated the words which Joseph had spoken to him merely in jest. † As remarked by a learned writer on this subject -- "We need not think of Joseph, the pure, the heaven-taught, the blameless one, as adopting, still less as basely pretending to adopt, the dark arts of a system of imposture." ‡ I

who had veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, called that breastplate The Oracle. Now this breastplate and this sardonyx left off shining two hundred years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgression of his laws (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. III, ch. viii.)

* Genesis xliv: 5-15.

† Such is the Roman Catholic explanation of the matter, see note on the passage, Gen. xliv: 5-15, in Douay Bible.

‡ Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Urim and Thummim.

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agree with that view. It is a reality sustained by Bible authority that there exists media through which divine revelation may be obtained, and hence to the Bible believers the claim of Joseph Smith concerning "Urim and Thummim," and the "Seer Stone," by means of which, through the inspiration of God, he translated the record of the Nephites, is not impossible nor even improbable.

But what shall we say to that very large number of people who do not believe the Bible? How shall we so appeal to them as to secure their attention in these matters? Addressing himself to those who questioned at least the likelihood of the resurrection, Paul asked: "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" So say I respecting those who do not believe in the Bible, but pride themselves on accepting and believing all those things established by the researches of men -- by science -- why should it be thought a thing incredible with them that angels should visit our earth in order to communicate knowledge not otherwise, perhaps, obtainable. Or why should it be thought a thing incredible with them that media should exist through the aid of which inspired men may be assisted in translating records not otherwise translatable. They live in the midst of ascertained facts respecting the universe, that such a thing as communication between the inhabited worlds of that universe ought to be looked upon as a thing so rational that to doubt its probability would be esteemed as folly. They live in the midst of such achievements of man's ingenuity, and in the daily use of such marvelous instruments invented by men for the ascertainment of truth, that surely they ought not to stumble at accepting at least as possible, and even as probable, the existence of media possessed of the qualities ascribed by Joseph to the transparent stones he found with the Nephite plates, -- Urim and Thummim -- and the "Seer Stone," which he sometimes used in translating.

A word as to the first proposition -- viz., men live in the midst of ascertained facts respecting the universe that such a thing as communication between inhabited worlds ought to be regarded as a reasonable probability. Of the change of view respecting our own earth and its relations in the universe, I have already spoken. * Indeed, I may say that with some attention to details I

* New Witnesses, vol. I, chs. xxviii, xxix, xxx.

            THE  PROBABILITY  OF  JOSEPH SMITH'S STORY.             327

have considered the transition from the conception of the earth as the centre of the universe, with the sun, and moon and all the stars brought into existence for its convenience, or beauty, or glory, to the conception of the earth as one of the smaller planets of a group moving regularly about the sun as their centre, and the probability of each fixed star being the centre of such a group of planets. The ascertained existence of millions of other suns than ours, evidently the centres of planetary systems being granted, the view that these planets are the habitation of sentient beings seems a concomitant fact, so probable that one is astonished, if not a little provoked, at that conservatism which hesitates to accept a hypothesis so reasonable in itself, and so well sustained by the analogy of the existence of sentient beings on our own planet. The astronomers tell us some of these fixed stars -- these suns that are probably the centre of planetary systems -- have existed for hundreds of thousands of years, for so distant are they from us in space that it would require that period of time for their light to reach our earth, hence they must have existed all that time. It is evident, then, that they are many times older than our earth; so, too, are the planets that encircle them. From this conclusion to the one that the sentient beings that doubtless dwell upon these planets are far in advance of the inhabitants of our earth, intellectually, morally, spiritually and in everything that makes for higher development and more perfect civilization, is but a little step, which rests on strong probability. From these conclusions, again, to the conceived likelihood of the presiding intelligence of some of these worlds to which our earth may sustain peculiar relations of order or affinity -- having both the power and the inclination to communicate from time to time by personal messengers, or other means, to chosen men of our own race, -- but for the benefit or good of all, -- is but another step, not so large as the others, by which we have been led to this point, and one that rests also upon a base of strong probability. And this is the phenomena of the visitation of angels and revelation testified of in the scriptures. Such phenomena are mistakenly considered supernatural and uncanny. They are not so really. They are very matter of fact realities; perfectly natural, and in harmony with the intellectual order or economy of a universe where intelligence and goodness govern, and love unites

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the brotherhood of the universe in bonds of sympathetic interest.

In view of these reflections, why, I ask, should it be thought a thing incredible with scientific men that there should be such phenomena as the visitation of angels, or other means of communication, among the many planets and planetary systems which make up the universe? Surely it will not be argued that it is impossible for sentient beings to pass from world to world, because man in his present state is bound to earth by the force of gravitation, and that the same force would doubtless operate upon the inhabitants of other worlds, and bind them to their local habitation as we are bound to ours. The beings whom we call angels, though of the same race and nature with ourselves, may pass, and doubtless have passed, through such physical changes as to render them quite independent of the clogging force called gravitation. We may not, therefore, place the same limitations upon their powers in this kind as upon man, in his present physical state.

As for other means of communications from intelligences of other worlds to our own, they will not be regarded as impossible in the presence of the achievements of men in such matters. By means of magnetic telegraph systems, man has established instant communication with all parts of the world. Not the highest mountain ranges, not deserts, not even ocean's wide expanse, have been sufficient to bar his way. He has made the earth a net-work of his cables and telegraph lines, until nearly every part of the earth is within the radius of instant communication. In 1896, the National Electric Light Association celebrated the triumphs of electricity by holding a national electrical exposition in New York City. The occasion was the completion of the electric works at Niagara Falls. For ages, that mighty cataract had thundered out the evidences of its mighty power to heedless savages and frontiersmen; but modern man looked upon it, and by the expenditure of five million dollars, harnessed it, applied its forces to his contrivances, made it generate electric force which lights the cities, drives the street cars, and turns the wheels of industry for many miles around; and even transmitted its force to New York City, four hundred and sixty miles distant. It was on that occasion that Governor Levi P. Morton, upon the declaration being made that the exposition was

            THE  PROBABILITY  OF  JOSEPH SMITH'S STORY.             329

open, turned a golden key by which four cannon were instantaneously fired in the four quarters of the republic, one in Augusta, Maine, one in San Francisco, one in front of the public building at St. Paul, and another in the public park in New Orleans. This discharge was accomplished by a current of electricity generated at Niagara, and transmitted over the lines of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. Later in the course of the exposition, a message was sent all over the world, and returned to New York within fifty minutes. The message was:

God created nature's treasures; science utilizes electric power for the grandeur of the nations and peace of the world.

The reply, also sent over the world, was:

Mighty Niagara, nature's wonder, serving men through the world's electric circuit, proclaims to all people science triumphant and the beneficent Creator.

The distance traversed by each of these messages was about twenty-seven thousand five hundred miles, touching nearly all the great centres of population in the world, and that within the almost incredible time of fifty minutes!

Again, in 1898, on the occasion of California's Golden Jubilee, that is, her semi-centennial celebration of the discovery of gold in the state, William McKinley, then president of the United States, seated in his office at the White House, in Washington, D. C., pressed an electric button which rung a bell in the Mechanic's Pavilion in San Francisco, and formally opened the mining exposition, though the president was distant about three thousand miles. The press dispatches, at the time of the event, gave the following graphic description of the event just related:

By an electric sensation, as indescribable as the thrill of the discoverer's cry of "gold," the president of the nation sent from Washington the signal which announced the opening of the fair. As the bell clanged its clear note, and the Great West was for an instant connected with the distant East, a hush fell on the gathered thousands; then, moved by a common impulse, the vast throng burst into cheers. Close following on the touch which sounded the sweet-toned bell came the greeting of President McKinley, announcing "the marking of a mighty epoch in the history of California." About him, over three thousand

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miles away, stood the representatives of the state in Congress, their thoughts flying quicker even than telegraphic message to the people gathered in the great pavilion. And so, united by the material ties of the electric wire, and the subtle powers of thought, the East and the West were held for a few brief moments by a community of good wishes.

Wonderful as all this is, it is now eclipsed by wireless telegraphy?now passed beyond its experimental stages, and rapidly coming into the practical commerce of the nations. Man is no longer dependent upon a network of wires and cables for means of communication. The atmosphere enveloping the world affords sufficient means for conducting vibrations made intelligible by the instrument of man's invention; and today, even across the surface of the broad Atlantic, messages are transmitted by this means as easily as by means of the cable lines. So delicate and perfect are the receiving instruments, that from the roar of our great cities' traffic, the message is picked out of the confusion and faithfully registered.

The argument based on all these facts, of course, is this: If man with his limited intelligence, and his limited experience, has contrived means by which he stands in instant communication with all parts of the world, why should it be thought a thing incredible that God, from the midst of his glory, from the heart of the universe, may be within instant means of communication with all parts of his creations. Especially since it is quite generally conceded, by scientists, that all the fixed stars and all the planetary systems encircling them, float in and are connected by the ether, a substance more subtle and sensitive to vibrations than the atmosphere which surrounds our planet, and suggests the media of communication. To all this, however, I fancy that I hear the reply of the men of science: "We do not deny the possibility or even the probability of communication from superior intelligences of other planets, we simply say that up to the present time there is no convincing testimony that such communications have been received." This, however, is a miserable begging of the whole question; and an unwarranted repudiation of the testimony of those who have borne witness to the verity of such communications. The testimony of Moses and the prophets, of Jesus and the Apostles, and of Joseph Smith and his associates, may not thus be put out of the reckoning.

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The character of these witnesses, their service to mankind, what they suffered and sacrificed for their testimonies, make them worthy of belief; and, since in the nature of things in the universe, there is nothing which makes their testimony improbable, but, on the contrary, much that makes it very probable, it is not beneath the dignity of scientists to accord to their statements a patient investigation.

Brigham H. Roberts

"Translation of the Book of Mormon"

Improvement Era

April, 1906

Transcriber's comments



Vol. IX.                     April, 1906.                     No. 6.





A number of questions, from their correspondents, have been submitted to the writer, by the editors of the ERA, respecting the Senior Manual for 1905-6.

One of the correspondents calls attention to the fact that on page 464 of the Manual, Solomon Spaulding is said to be a man of -- to quote the words of the correspondent -- "considerable learning and experience; he was even a graduate of Dartmouth College, and had the honor of carrying with him the degree, A. B." While on page 476, of the Manual, his Manuscript Found is described as full of errors of grammar, orthography, etc.

The correspondent should read the Manual more carefully. He would then see that the author himself does not say that Spaulding was a graduate of Dartmouth, but merely remarks that

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it was reported that Spaulding was a graduate from that institution. The author of the Manual does not believe that Spaulding was a graduate of Dartmouth, or any other college, the best evidence being furnished by Manuscript Found that he was not an educated man; but it was claimed by his surviving relatives and friends, when connecting him with the origin of the Book of Mormon, that he was a graduate of Dartmouth, and their reputation of him is merely recorded.

The other questions relate to the manner of translating the Nephite record. In one communication, a president of an association, an aid in a M. I. A. Stake Board, and a bishop's counselor, join in saying:

We are not able to harmonize the theory of translation presented in our Manual with the testimony of the Three Witnesses, especially Harris and Whitmer. We are not able either to harmonize the theory of the Manual with the following passages of scripture regarding the interpreters: Ether 3:22-25; Mosiah 8:13-18; Mosiah 28:11-15; Doctrine and Covenants, Section 130:8-10.

To answer the matter set forth in the above quotation, it is necessary to ask: What is the Manual theory of translating the Nephite record? It is a theory based upon the only statement made by the Prophet Joseph Smith on the subject; viz., "Through the medium of Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God;" * and the Lord's own description of the manner of translating in general by means of Urim and Thummim, contained in his revelation to Oliver Cowdery in the Doctrine and Covenants, sections viii and ix.

That is the only theory the Manual has upon the subject. The foregoing quotation from the prophet is all he has said with reference to the manner of the translation, and we could wish that all other persons, necessarily less informed upon the subject than the prophet himself, had been content to leave the matter where he left it. In this, however, they did not follow his wise example; but must needs undertake to describe the manner of the translation; and from such description has arisen the idea that the Urim and Thummim did all, in the work of the translation, the prophet,

* Wentworth's letter, Millennial Star, vol. 9, page 118.

              TRANSLATION  OF  THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON.               427

nothing; execept to read to his amanuensis what he saw reflected in the seer-stone or Urim and Thummim, which the instruments, and not the prophet, had translated. The men responsible for those statements, on which said theory rests, are David Whitmer and Martin Harris. The former says:

[not quoted by Roberts: "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 did appear, (i.e., in Urim and Thummim), and on that appeared the writing, one character at a time would appear, and under it was the translation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Brother Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and then it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct; then it would disappear and another character with the translation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. *

We have no statement at first hand from Martin Harris at all, only the statement of another, Edward Stevenson, as to what he heard Martin Harris say was the manner of translation. This was 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 engraven on the plates precisely in the language then used. †

These statements have led to the assumption of the theory, I repeat, that the Urim and Thummim did the translating, not Joseph the Seer. Accordingly, it is held that the translation was a mechanical, arbitrary, transliteration; a word for word bringing over from the Nephite language into the English language, a literal interpretation of the record. The prophet, therefore, it is urged, was in no way responsible for the language of the translation, it was not his, but the divine instrument's, and if there are errors of grammar, or faults of diction, (modern words for which in the nature of things there could be no exact equivalents in an ancient language) New England localisms, modern phrases from the English translation of Hebrew scripture, and other sources -- all these must have been in the original Nephite record, say the advocates

* Address to all Believers in Christ, by David Whitmer,
page 12.

Millennial Star, vol. 24, page 86-87 [Deseret News Dec. 28, 1881]

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of this theory, and are arbitrarily brought over into the English language.

This theory of translation led opponents of the Book of Mormon?and some who were not opponents of it, but sincere investigators of its claims?to suggest certain difficulties involved in such a theory of translation.

First. The impossibility of such a thing as a word-for-word bringing over from one language into another. Such a procedure could only result in producing an unintelligible jargon?a fact well known by those who are at all acquainted with translation.

Second. The fact that the language of the English translation of the Nephite record is in the English idiom, and diction of the period and locality when and where the translation took place, and is evidently but little influenced by any attempt to follow the idiom of an ancient language.

Third. The fact that such errors in grammar and diction as occur in the translation are just such errors as might reasonably be looked for in the work of one unlearned in the English language.

From this data the following argument proceeds: It is impossible that the alleged translation, whether by divine or human media, could be a word-for-word bringing over from the Nephite language into the English; and if the translation is not such a word-for-word bringing over affair, then it cannot be claimed that the Nephite original is responsible for verbal inaccuracies and grammatical errors. If the Book of Mormon is a real translation instead of a word-for-word bringing over from one language into another, and it is insisted that the divine instrument, Urim and Thummim, did all, and the prophet nothing -- at least nothing more than to read off the translation made by Urim and Thummim -- then the divine instrument is responsible for such errors in grammar and diction as occur. But this is to assign responsibility for errors in language to a divine instrumentality, which amounts to assigning such errors to God. But that is unthinkable, not to say blasphemous. Also, if it be contended that the language of the Book of Mormon, word for word, and letter for letter, was given to the prophet by direct inspiration of God, acting upon his mind,

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then again God is made responsible for the language errors in the Book of Mormon -- a thing unthinkable.

Rather than ascribe these errors to Deity, either through direct or indirect means, men will reject the claims of the Book of Mormon; and, since the verbal errors in the Book of Mormon are such as one ignorant of the English language would make, the temptation is strong, in the minds of those not yet converted to its truth, to assign to the Book of Mormon an altogether human origin.

In the presence of these considerations, it is but natural to ask, "Is there no way by which such a conclusion may be avoided?" Most assuredly. Set aside the theory based upon the statements made by David Whitmer and Martin Harris, (mark you, I say the theory based on these statements, not necessarily the statements themselves) and accept the more reasonable theory based upon what the Lord has said upon the subject, in sections viii and ix of the Doctrine and Covenants, where, in describing how Oliver Cowdery might translate by means of Urim and Thummim, the Lord said:

I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost which shall come upon you, and it shall dwell in your heart.

Then, Oliver only having partially succeeded, and that to a very limited extent, in his effort to translate, the Lord, in explaining his failure, said,

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it [i. e., the power to translate] 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.

This is the Lord's description of how Oliver Cowdery could have translated with the aid of Urim and Thummim (see context of the revelations quoted), and it is undoubtedly the manner in which Joseph Smith did translate the Book of Mormon through the medium of Urim and Thummim. This description of the translation destroys the theory that Urim and Thummim did everything, and the seer nothing; that the work of translating was merely a

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mechanical process of looking at a supplied interpretation, in English, and reading it off to an amanuensis. This description in the Doctrine and Covenants implies great mental effort; of working out the translation in the mind, and securing the witness of the Spirit that the translation is correct. In all this, Urim and Thummim are helpful. They are an aid doubtless to concentration of mind. They may have held at the time just the characters to be translated at the moment, and excluded all others; the translation thought out in the seer's mind may also have been reflected in the interpreters and held there until recorded by the amanuensis, all of which would be incalculably helpful. But since the translation is thought out in the mind of the seer, it must be thought out in such thought-signs as are at his command, expressed in such speech-forms as he is master of; for man thinks, and can only think coherently, in language; and, necessarily, in such language as he knows. If his knowledge of the language in which he thinks and speaks is imperfect, his diction and grammar will be defective. That errors of grammar and faults in diction do exist in the Book of Mormon (and more especially and abundantly in the first edition) must be conceded; and what is more, while some of the errors may be referred to inefficient proof-reading, such as is to be expected in a country printing establishment, yet such is the nature of the errors in question, and so interwoven are they throughout the diction of the book, that they may not be disposed of by saying they result from inefficient proof-reading, or referring them to the mischievous disposition of the "typos," or the unfriendliness of the publishing house.

In the presence of these facts, only one solution to the difficulties presents itself, and that is the solution suggested in the Manual; viz., that the translator is responsible for the verbal and grammatical errors, in the translation; as it is said of the original Nephite record, so let us say of the translation of that record, "If there be faults, they are the faults of man;" not of God, either mediately or immediately. Nor does this solution of the difficulties presented cast any reflections upon Joseph the Seer. It was no fault of his that his knowledge in the English language was so imperfect. His imperfect knowledge was due entirely to

              TRANSLATION  OF  THE  BOOK  OF  MORMON.               431

his limited opportunity to acquire such knowledge; to environment, not at all to neglect of opportunities or to mental laziness.

But it is objected that this theory unsettles former conceptions of the part taken by Urim and Thummim, in the work of translation. It upsets somewhat the marvelous that has been associated with the translation of the Nephite record. "Shall we understand," writes with some feeling one objector, "that Urim and Thummim are not what they hitherto purported to be?" and cites somewhat indefinitely the testimony of the Three Witnesses; refers, but not definitely, to the History of the Church, and to a sermon by Brigham Young; also to the following passages in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants: Mosiah 28:11-15; Ether 3:22-25; Mosiah 8:13-19; Doctrine and Covenants, section 130. We assure this writer and other correspondents of the ERA that there is no conflict between the Manual theory of translation and these passages of scripture. The strongest passage cited as suggesting a conflict is Mosiah, 28: 13-16, as follows:

And now he translated them (i. e., the Jaredite records) by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow.

Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages; * * * And whosoever has these things, is called seer, after the manner of old times.

Emphasizing and insisting upon a rigid construction of the words, "Now these things were handed down * * * for the purpose of interpreting languages," may seem to fix the power of interpretation in the divine instruments, not in the seer; but when these words are considered in connection with all that one may learn upon the subject, we know better than to insist upon a severely rigid construction. It should be observed in the opening sentence of the very passage quoted that these words occur:

And now he (Mosiah) translated them (the Jaredite records) by means of those two stones, which were fastened to two rims of a bow.

In other words, Mosiah, the seer, did the translating, aided by Urim and Thummim; it was not the Urim and Thummim that did it, aided by Mosiah.

Moreover, the theory that the interpreters did the translating,

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not the seer aided by them, is in conflict with the Lord's description of translation by means of Urim and Thummim; and if old conceptions respecting the part performed by Urim and Thummim are in conflict with God's description of translation, then the sooner we are rid of such conceptions the better.

"We are not able," say some of these objectors, "to harmonize the theory of translation, presented in our Manual, with the testimony of the Three Witnesses." The testimony of the Three Witnesses respecting the translation of the record, mentioned in the foregoing, is simply this:

We also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for His voice hath declared it unto us.

This goes no further than the Prophet's description, already quoted. The only thing Oliver Cowdery ever said, outside of the official testimony of the Three Witnesses, was:

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 by the gift and power of God, by the means of Urim and Thummim.

This is all that he has said on the subject, and that is in harmony, it will be observed, with what the Prophet Joseph Smith said, and at no point contradicts the view of translation set forth in the Manual.

There remains, however, the statement of Whitmer and Harris, and it is claimed that the Manual theory of translation cannot be harmonized with what they have said. If that were true, and the Manual theory is more in harmony with what God has said upon the subject than what they have said, then all the worse for their theory -- "yea, let God be true but every man a liar!" And, by the way, in passing, I want to ask those who stand up so stoutly for the vindication of what Messrs. Whitmer and Harris have chanced to say on the subject of translation -- What about the Lord's description of the same thing in the Doctrine and Covenants? Are they not interested in vindicating that description? I care very little, comparatively, for what Messrs. Whitmer and Harris have said about the subject. I care everything for what the Lord has said about it. Whence did the two

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witnesses in question obtain such knowledge as they had about the manner of translation? Undoubtedly, from the Prophet Joseph; for they claim no revelation from the Lord upon the subject. And this knowledge they did not announce until in the later years of their lives; nothing was said about it, by them, until long after the death of the Prophet. They doubtless have given their recollection of what the Prophet had told them about the manner of translating; but experience and observation both teach us that there may be a wide difference between what is really said to men, and their recollection of it?their impressions about it; especially when that recollection or impression is not formulated into written statement until long years afterwards.

At the same time, it is proper to say, as the Manual suggests, that there is no necessary conflict between the statements of these two Witnesses and the Manual theory of translation. They say the Nephite characters, to be translated, appeared in Urim and Thummim. We say that may be true, or the Prophet may have looked through the interpreters -- since they were transparent stones -- and thus have seen the characters. They say the interpretation appeared in English, under the Nephite characters in Urim and Thummim: we say, if so, then that interpretation, after being wrought out in the Prophet's mind, was reflected into Urim and Thummim and held visible there until written. The English interpretation was a reflex from the Prophet's mind. All this is possible, and is not in conflict with what either the Prophet or Oliver Cowdery said upon the subject; nor in conflict with the Lord's description of translation. But to insist that the translation of the Book of Mormon was an arbitrary piece of mechanical work, wrought out by transparent stones rather than in the inspired mind of the Prophet, is in conflict with the Lord's description of translation, and all the reasonable conclusions that may be drawn from the known facts in the case. This theory -- the Manual theory -- accepted, accounting for errors in grammar and faulty diction, as pointed out in chapter vii, Part I of Manual, and in chapter xlvii, of the Manual, Part III, is easy.

It is asked, however, "Shall we understand that Urim and Thummim are not what they have hitherto purported to be?" By no means; if by "purported to be," is meant what the seers,

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Mosiah of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith, said of them. The former said of them that "he translated by means of them" -- i.e., they were an aid to him in translating. Joseph the seer said that "through the medium" of Urim and Thummim, he translated the Nephite record -- i. e., they were an aid to him in the work of translation. But if by "purported to be" is meant that the Urim and Thummim did the mental work of translating -- that the instrument did everything, and the Prophet nothing, except to read off what the instrument interpreted?then the sooner that theory is abandoned the better; there is nothing in the word of God, or right reason, to warrant it; it is utterly untenable, and affords no rational explanation of the difficulties arising from the existence of verbal and grammatical errors in the translation of the Nephite record.

But the question is asked, "Why bring these matters up at all?" "I seriously question the expediency of any theory, beyond the facts that are definitely known and attested, to explain the details of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon," says one ERA correspondent. So say we all. I wish Messrs. Whitmer and Harris, and those who have worked out theories based upon their statements, had left the whole matter where the Prophet Joseph left it; but this they failed to do. Then opponents took up the question, and insisted that the theory of translation, hitherto commonly accepted, requires us to charge all the faults in diction and errors in grammar, to the Lord; and also urge that we have no right, under this theory of translation, to change a single word of the translation, and some Latter-day Saints take the same view.

The correspondent last quoted also says: "It is enough for me to know that the Book of Mormon was translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, by the gift and power of God, through the means of the Urim and Thummim." The present writer might join in that simple, bigoted refrain, and say -- "for me, too." But what of those for whom it is not enough? What of the many young men in the Church who hear the objections urged by the opponents of the Book of Mormon, based upon the hitherto popular conception of the manner in which the translation was done -- what of them? What of the earnest inquirers, in the world, whose knowledge of languages, and of translation, teaches them that the

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hitherto popular conception of the translation of the Book of Mormon is an absurdity, not to say an impossibility -- what of them? What of the elders in the mission field who are constantly coming in contact with these questions involved in the manner of translating the Book of Mormon, and are asking?as they have been asking for years -- for some rational explanation of these matters -- what of them? It is not enough, in the presence of the controversies that have arisen out of Messrs. Whitmer and Harris's unfortunate partial explanations, to say that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and that is enough for one to know.

It is not a question involving merely the wisdom or unwisdom of setting up a "theory" of the manner in which the translation of the Book of Mormon was accomplished. A "theory" already existed, based upon the statements of Messrs. Whitmer and Harris, which, as generally understood, was untenable. This had to be corrected; and the truth, so far as possible, ascertained and expounded. It was not the desire to create a new theory respecting the translation of the Book of Mormon that prompted the writer of the Manual to advance such explanations as are there made. Indeed, the theory set forth in the Manual did not origiate with him. The difficulties involved in the hitherto commonly accepted theory of translation have long been recognized by Book of Mormon students; and often have been the subject of conversation between this writer and Elder George Reynolds, President Anthon H. Lund, members of the Manual committee, and others; and this writer by no means regards himself as the originator of what is sometimes called the new theory of the Book of Mormon translation.

Meantime, the fact should be recognized by the Latter-day Saints that the Book of Mormon of necessity must submit to every test, to literary criticism, as well as to every other class of criticism; for our age is above all things critical, and especially critical of sacred literature, and we may not hope that the Book of Mormon will escape closest scrutiny; neither, indeed, is it desirable that it should escape. It is given to the world as a revelation from God. It is a volume of American scripture. Men have a right to test it by the keenest criticism, and to pass severest judgment upon

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it, and we who accept it as a revelation from God have every reason to believe that it will endure every test; and the more thoroughly it is investigated, the greater shall be its ultimate triumph. Here it is in the world; let the world make the most of it, or the least of it. It is and will remain true. But it will not do for those who believe it to suppose that they can dismiss objections to this American volume of scripture by the assumption of a lofty air of superiority, and a declaration as to what is enough for us or anybody else to know. The Book of Mormon is presented to the world for its acceptance; and the Latter-day Saints are anxious that their fellow men should believe it. If objections are made to it, to the manner of its translation, with the rest, these objections should be patiently investigated, and the most reasonable explanations possible, given. This is what, in an unpretentious way, is attempted in the Manual. The position there taken is intended to be not destructive, but constructive; not iconoclastic, but conservative; not negative, but positive; and the writer is of opinion that time will vindicate the correctness of the views therein set forth.


Francis W. Kirkham

"Manner of Translating the
Book of Mormon"

The Improvement Era

October, 1939

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1939, Corporation of the President
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[Vol. 32. No. 10. October 1939]

The Manner of Translating The
Book of Mormon

By Francis W. Kirkham Ph.D.


"How and where did you obtain the Book of Mormon?" This was one of twenty questions answered by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Elders' Journal published July, 1838, at Far West, Missouri. "I am answering these questions," wrote the Prophet, "by publication for the reason they are asked me thousands of times."

"Moroni," writes the Prophet, "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."

Another short statement by the Prophet was published in the Times and Seasons at Nauvoo, May [sic - Mar.] 1, 1842. He was then mayor of the largest and most rapidly growing city in Illinois and the Lieutenant-General of a military organization consisting of all its able-bodied male citizens:

Nauvoo, Illinois, March 1, 1842. At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, Editor and Proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints -- of which, I have the honor, under God, of being founder. Mr. Wentworth says that he wishes to furnish Mr. Barstow, a friend of his, who is writing the history of New Hampshire, with this document.

As Mr. Barstow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all I shall ask at his hands is that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation. ...

On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, while I was praying unto God and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of Scripture, on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room; indeed the first sight was as though the house were filled with consuming fire. The appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body. In a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that by which I was already surrounded. The messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenants which God made with ancient Israel were at hand to be fulfilled; that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fulness to be preached in power unto all nations, that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.

I was informed also concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came: a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me.

I was also told where there were deposited some plates, on which was engraved an abridgement of the records of the ancient peoples that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God, unfolding the majesty and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22nd of September, A. D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.

[graphic - not reproduced]

These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold: each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. 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. The volume was something over six inches in thickness, part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. 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. (Also published in History of All Churches, Harrisburg, 1849, p. 345, John Wimebrenner.)

Early in 1838 the Prophet began the writing of his own life story which with other information has become the Documentary History of the Church. In this remarkable account he tells frankly and honestly the details and circumstances of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon so that these may be traced historically. (See Source Material Concerning Origin of the Book of Mormon, by Francis W. Kirkham.) He declares that Moroni, the immortal messenger from God, entrusted to him gold plates upon which was recorded "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel as delivered to the ancient inhabitants of this continent." With these plates were "two stones in silver bows, fastened to a breastplate, called the Urim and Thummim." "By the use of this instrument" and "by the gift and power of God," he translated part of the plates into the Book of Mormon.

In a letter addressed to N. F. Seaton, the Prophet makes the following statement (Times and Seasons, Vol. V, page [sic - no.] 21):

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 1400 years, containing the word of God which was delivered unto them.

The earliest printed account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a series of eight letters by Oliver Cowdery published in the Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, beginning October, 1834. In an introductory letter, Oliver Cowdery declares:

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons that our brother Joseph Smith, Jr., has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.

Here is evidence that the person responsible under God for the book which has become a companion book to the Bible, knew the contents of these letters and had the opportunity to edit and correct them.

Oliver Cowdery writes:

Near the time of the setting of the sun, Sabbath evening, April 5th, 1829, my natural eyes for the first time beheld this brother. He then resided in Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. On Monday, the 6th, I assisted him in arranging some business of a temporal nature and on Tuesday, the 7th, commenced to write the Book of Mormon. These days were 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."

Further on his narrative Mr. Cowdery, with the apparent approval of the Prophet, quotes Moroni as declaring:

Therefore, remember, that they are to be translated by the gift and power of God. By them will the Lord work a great and a marvelous work: the wisdom of the wise shall come as naught, and the understanding of the prudent shall be hid, and because the power of God shall be displayed, those who profess to know the truth but walk in deceit, shall tremble with anger; but with signs and with wonders, with gifts and with healings, with the manifestations of the power of God, and with the Holy Ghost, shall the hearts of the faithful be comforted.

About a year and a half after the publication of this divine record, 44 Elders, 10 Priests, and 10 Teachers were in conference at the home of Brother Sirenes Burnett, at Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio (October 25, 1831). In the minutes of this conference the following appears (Far West Record, p. 16):

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, "that it was not expedient for him to relate these things, etc."

[graphic - not reproduced]

A careful reading of the writings of the Prophet including his messages and sermons fails to reveal any further information regarding the manner of the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Explanations have been advanced by students to explain the diction, form, and construction of the language of the book. Reasons for the appearance of quotations from the King James' Bible in the Book of Mormon have also been given.

Here it is emphasized that the only information left us by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, may be stated in a sentence. "Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God with the aid of the Urim and Thummim from gold plates entrusted to him by Moroni, who being dead was raised again therefrom."

Other witnesses to the writing of the Book of Mormon were Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and John Whitmer. The writings of all these are claimed to be in the manuscript at Independence, Missouri.

The Saints' Advocate, October, 1879, gives the last testimony of Emma Smith Bidamon, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The questions were by her son, Joseph Smith, and were asked in the presence of Bishop Rogers, W. W. Blair, and H. A. Stebbins. A part of the interview follows:

Question: When did you first know Sidney Rigdon?
Answer: I was residing at Father Whitmer's when I first saw Sidney Rigdon. I think he came there.

Q: Was this before or after the publication of the Book of Mormon?
A: The Book of Mormon had been translated and published some time before. Parley P. Pratt had united with the Church before I knew Sidney Rigdon, or heard of him. At the time the Book of Mormon was translated there was no Church organized, and Rigdon did not become acquainted with Joseph and me till after the Church was established. ...

Q: Had he [Joseph] 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 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 table cloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edge of a book...

Q: Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery, and others who wrote for him after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
A: Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well worded letter, let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon, and though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translating of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much so as to anyone else.

Q: Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin of the Book of Mormon?
A: 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 manuscript unless he was inspired; for, when [I was] acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ... unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.

These questions and the answers she had given to them, were read to my mother by me, the day before my leaving Nauvoo for home and were affirmed by her. Major Bidamon stated that he had frequently conversed with her on the subject of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and her present answers were substantially what she had always stated in regard to it.

        Signed, Joseph Smith.
Who is the son of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

In the March, 1836, issue of the Messenger and Advocate, John Whitmer writes as follows:

It may not be amiss in this place, to give a statement to the world concerning the work of the Lord, as I have been a member of this Church of Latter-day Saints from its beginning. To say that the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, I have no hesitancy; but with all confidence have signed my name to it as such; and I hope that my patrons will indulge me in speaking freely on this subject, as I am about leaving the editorial department?therefore I desire to testify to all that will come to the knowledge of this address, that I have handled these plates, and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, Jr., has translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and in this thing the wisdom of the wise most assuredly has perished: therefore, know ye, O ye inhabitants of the earth, wherever this address may come, that I have in this thing freed my garments of your blood, whether you believe or disbelieve the statements of your unworthy friend and well-wisher.

In 1887 David Whitmer writes an address "to all Believers in Christ." This was fifty years after he had separated himself from the Church. He was now past 82 years of age. In this address David Whitmer bears a faithful testimony to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. He states:

I will say once more to all mankind that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world that neither Oliver Cowdery nor Martin Harris at any time denied their testimony; they both died reaffirming the divine authenticity of the truth of the Book of Mormon. I was present at the death bed of Oliver Cowdery and his last words were, "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon."

He also declares:

I testify to the world I am an eyewitness to the translation of the greater part of the Book of Mormon. Part of it was translated in my father's house in Fayette. Seneca County, New York.

He also wrote as follows:

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.

The Deseret Evening News, September 5, 1870, reports in part an address in the Salt Lake Tabernacle as follows:

Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote the 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 engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.

Both David Whitmer and Martin Harris knew positively that they had been shown the plates by Moroni and had so declared since the time of the experience, but the Prophet declared in October, 1831, that no one knew the manner of the translation, neither was "it expedient for him to relate these things." (See quotation above.) When both these men were past eighty years of age, and about fifty years after the event, they undertook to describe the manner of translation, which Elder Brigham H. Roberts has clearly shown is not in harmony with the manner indicated in Section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants. (See New Witness for God, Vol. II, pages 106-133 by B. H. Roberts.) Moreover, they refer to the use of a seer stone by the Prophet. But no publication during his life contains such a statement.

A neighbor, Willard Chase, asserted Joseph stole a "singularly appearing stone" which he had found in 1822 when Joseph and his brother Alvin were employed by him in digging a well. "Joseph put it into his hat and then his face into the top of his hat... alleging that he could see in it." -- Mormonism Unveiled, Eber D. Howe, 1834.

This is an attempt to explain the alleged power of Joseph Smith to translate the plates by a person who denounced him as a fraud and an ignorant deceiver.

In the opinion of the writer, the Prophet used no seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon, neither did he translate in the manner described by David Whitmer and Martin Harris. The statements of both of these men are to be explained by the eagerness of old age to call upon a fading and uncertain memory for the details of events which still remained real and objective to them.

Comments: Kirkham makes some mistakes in his references to Martin Harris. The original source for Harris' reported statement, saying "By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet..." was Elder Edward Stevenson's letter in the Deseret News of Dec. 28, 1881. No details of Martin Harris' public speaking in Utah were published in the News of Sept. 5, 1870 or Oct. 10, 1870. As B. H. Roberts wrote in 1906, "We have no statement at first hand from Martin Harris at all, only the statement of another, Edward Stevenson, as to what he heard Martin Harris say was the manner of translation."

Kirkham reproduced most of the contents of his Oct. 1939 article in the 1942 book A New Witness for Christ in America, as its Chapter XVI. However, in the 1942 reprint he removed his 1939 quotations from David Whitmer and Martin Harris, replacing that material (regarding a seer stone, a hat, etc.) with a single paragraph, suggesting that "the Prophet did not tell them the method" of Book of Mormon translation. Obviously Kirkham was uncomfortable, writing about "the use of a seer stone by the Prophet," even though the Deseret News and B. H. Roberts had years earlier reported such unseemly details. In later editions of his A New Witness, Kirkham found himself having to again review the seer-stone in a hat accounts. He seems to have eventually accepted them as an historical possibility.


Fawn McKay Brodie

No Man Knows My History (1945)

1945 Title-page
1976 Title-page

Preface (excerpt)

Chapter 2 (excerpt)
Appendix A (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1945, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[ 16 ]

Chapter II

Treasures in the Earth

The road that led Joseph Smith into the career of "prophet, seer, and revelator" is overgrown with a tangle of legend and contradiction. Mormon and non-Mormon accounts seem to conflict at every turn. The earliest non-Mormon documents that mention him at all -- an early court record and newspaper accounts -- indicate that Joseph reflected the irreligion and cynicism of his father. The haranguing of the revivalist preachers seems to have filled him only with contempt. But these documents contrast remarkably with Joseph's official biography, begun many years later when he was near the summit of his career. The latter tells the story of a visionary boy caught by revival hysteria and channeled into a life of mysticism and exhortation.

The evidence, however, leaves no doubt that, whatever Joseph's inner feelings, his reputation before he organized his church was not that of an adolescent mystic brooding over visions, but of a likable ne'er-do-well who was notorious for tall tales and necromantic arts and who spent his leisure leading a band of idlers in digging for buried treasure. This behavior is confirmed by the most coldly objective description of young Joseph that remains, which historians have hitherto overlooked or ignored. This description seems also to be the earliest public document that mentions him at all. The document, a court record dated March 1826, when Joseph was twenty-one, covers his trial in Bainbridge, New York, on a charge of being "a disorderly person and an impostor." On the basis of the testimony presented, including Joseph's own admissions of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace.

Four years after this trial Joseph's Book of Mormon appeared, whereupon the local editors in Palmyra, who had never previously considered him worthy of comment, began to explore the vagaries of his youth. The editor of the Palmyra Reflector,


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [17

Obadiah Dogberry, wrote during 1830 and 1831 a series of articles describing in exuberant detail Joseph's adolescent years.

Later, in 1833, when Joseph's church was rapidly gaining in notoriety and power, a disgruntled ex-Mormon named Hurlbut went about Palmyra and Manchester soliciting affidavits from more than a hundred persons who had known Joseph before he began his religious career. These sworn testimonies, which were published in 1834 by Eber D. Howe in a vitriolic anti-Mormon book called Mormonism Unvailed, may have been colored by the bias of the man who collected them, but they corroborated and supplemented the court record and Dogberry's editorials. * Since the story that they relate of Joseph Smith's adolescent years is further substantiated by certain admissions in his own autobiography and in the naive biography dictated by his mother, it is possible to reconstruct Joseph's youth with a fair degree of accuracy.

Significantly, Joseph Smith's first sketch of his early years took the form of an apology for his youthful indiscretions. Shortly after Mormonism Unvailed appeared, he wrote a reply for his church newspaper:
At the age of ten my father's family removed to Palmyra, New YorE where, and in the vicinity of which, I lived, or, made it my place of residence. until I was twenty-one; the latter part, in the town of Manchester. During this tune. as is common to most or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to a me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark that, though, as I have said above, "as is common to most or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies," I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation. †
* Since the books and newspapers in which these documents originally appeared are so rare as to be inaccessible to the general reader, the court record, the significant portions of Dogberry's editorials, and the most important affidavits are reproduced in Appendix A.

Latter-Day Saints Messenger and Advocate, Vol. I (Kirtland, Ohio, November 6, [sic - December?] 1834, p. 40.


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Although fifty-one of Joseph's neighbors signed an affidavit accusing him of being "destitute of moral character and addicted to vicious habits," there is no evidence that viciousness was a part of his nature, and his apology can be accepted at full value. Actually he was a gregarious, cheerful, imaginative youth, born to leadership, but hampered by meager education and grinding poverty.

A landlord class was battening on his labor, driving westward helplessly ensnared families like his own. In the Palmyra newspaper he could read of their mortgage sales, six to ten every week on the front page. He lived far enough east to see opulence and parade and not far enough west to escape a crushing burden of debt. His family, having slipped downhill since those early years when his mother's dowry had been the envy of the neighborhood, had lost security and respectability.

But the need for deference was strong within him. Talented far beyond his brothers or friends, he was impatient with their modest hopes and humdrum fancies. Nimble-witted, ambitious, and gifted with a boundless imagination, he dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future. For Joseph was not meant to be a plodding farmer, tied to the earth by habit or by love for the recurrent miracle of harvest. He detested the plow as only a farmer's son can, and looked with despair on the fearful mortgage that clouded their future.

There is, of course, a gold mine or a buried treasure on every mortgaged homestead. Whether the farmer ever digs for it or not, it is there, haunting his daydreams when the burden of debt is most unbearable. New England was full of treasure hunters -- poor, desperate farmers who, having unwittingly purchased acres of rocks, looked to those same rocks to yield up golden recompense for their back-breaking toil. "We could name, if we pleased," said one Vermont weekly, "at least five hundred respectable men who do in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts believe that immense treasures lie concealed upon our Green Mountains, many of whom have been for a number of years industriously and perseveringly engaged in digging it up." *

When these men migrated west, they brought with them the whole folklore of the money-digger, the spells and incantations,

* Reprinted in the Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, New York), February 16, 1825.


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [19

the witch-hazel stick and mineral rod. But where the Green Mountains yielded nothing but an occasional cache of counterfeit money, western New York and Ohio were rich in Indian relics. Hundreds of burial mounds dotted the landscape, filled with skeletons and artifacts of stone, copper, and sometimes beaten silver. There were eight such tumuli within twelve miles of the Smith farm. * It would have been a jaded curiosity indeed that would have kept any of the boys in the family from spading at least once into their pitted surfaces, and even the father succumbed to the local enthusiasm and tried his hand with a witch-hazel stick. Young Joseph could not keep away from them.

Excitement over the possibilities of Indian treasure, and perhaps buried Spanish gold, reached its height in Palmyra with the coming of what the editor of the Palmyra Reflector called a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters, who so won the accedence of several farmers that for some months they paid him three dollars a day to hunt for buried money on their property. In addition to crystals, stuffed toads, and mineral rods, the scryer's usual paraphernalia, Walters claimed to have found an ancient Indian record that described the locations of their hidden treasure. This he would read aloud to his followers in what seemed to be a strange and exotic tongue but was actually, the newspaper editor declared, an old Latin version of Caesar's [Cicero's?] Orations. The press accounts describing Walters's activity, published in 1830-1, stated significantly that when he left the neighborhood, his mantle fell upon young Joseph Smith. †

Joseph's neighbors later poured out tales of seer stones, ghosts, magic incantations, and nocturnal excavations. Joseph Capron swore that young Joseph had told him a chest of gold watches was buried on his property, and had given orders to his followers "to stick a parcel of large stakes in the ground, several rods around, in a circular form," directly over the spot. One of the group then marched around the circle with a drawn sword "to

* For descriptions and locations of the Indian tumuli in western New York see E. G. Squier: Antiquities of the State of New York (Buffalo, 1851), pp. 31, 66, 97, 99; O. Turner: Pioneer History of the Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase (1851), p. 216; and History of Ontario County (1876), p. 101. The Palmyra Herald on August 14, 1822 and the Palmyra Register on May 26, 1819 reported discoveries of new mounds.

† See Appendix A.


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guard any assault which his Satanic majesty might be disposed to make," and the others dug furiously, but futilely, for the treasure.

Another neighbor, William Stafford, swore that Joseph told him there was buried money on his property, but that it could not be secured until a black sheep was taken to the spot, and "led around a circle" bleeding, with its throat cut. This ritual was necessary to appease the evil spirit guarding the treasure. "To gratify my curiosity," Stafford admitted, "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." *

Joseph's money-digging began in earnest with his discovery of a "seer stone" when he was digging a well for Mason Chase. Martin Harris stated that it came from twenty-four feet underground, and Willard Chase testified that Joseph could see wondrous sights in it, "ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver." Joseph's wife once described this stone as "not exactly black but rather dark in color," though she admitted to none of the early uses to which it was put. †

In later years Joseph frankly admitted in his church newspaper and also in his journal that he had been a money-digger, although, he wrote, it was not particularly profitable as he got

* See Appendix A for texts of all these affidavits.

† Emma Smith's description was written in a letter to a Mrs. Pilgrim from Nauvoo, Illinois, March 27, 1871. It is now in the library of the Reorganized Church in Independence, Missouri. Martin Harris's statement was published in Tiffany's Monthly, 1859, pp. 163-70. He said further: "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."

Joseph exhibited his seer stone as late as December 27, 1842. (See Brigham Young's journal in the Millennial Star, Vol. XXVI, p. 119.) After his death it was taken to Utah. According to Hosea Stout, Brigham Young exhibited to the regents of the University of Deseret on February 26, 1856 "the Seer's stone with which The Prophet Joseph discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon." Hosea Stout said it was almost black, with light-colored stripes. (See the typewritten transcript of his journal in the Utah State Historical Society Library, Vol. VI, pp. 117-18.)


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [21

"only fourteen dollars a month for it." * But that he indulged in all the hocus-pocus attributed to him by his neighbors he vigorously denied.

Crystal-gazing is an old profession and has been an honored one. Egyptians stared into a pool of ink, the Greeks into a mirror, the Aztecs into a quartz crystal, and Europeans into a sword blade or glass of sherry -- any translucent surface that made the eyes blur with long gazing. When Joseph Smith first began to use his seer or "peep" stone, he employed the folklore familiar to rural America. The details of his rituals and incantations are unimportant because they were commonplace, and Joseph gave up money-digging when he was twenty-one for a profession far more exciting.

When in later years Joseph Smith had become the revered prophet of thousands of Mormons, he began writing an official autobiography, in which his account of his adolescent years differed surprisingly from the brief sketch he had written in 1834 in answer to his critics. Here was no apology but the beginning of an epic.

When he was fourteen years old, he wrote, he was troubled by religious revivals in the neighborhood and went into the woods to seek guidance of the Lord.
It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.... I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction -- not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never
* Elder's Journal, Far West, Missouri, Vol. I (1838), pp. 28-9; and Joseph Smith: History of the Church, Vol. III, p. 29. (This history, compiled chiefly from Smith's manuscript journals on file in Salt Lake City, will hereafter be referred to simply as History of the Church.)


22]                                                                    No Man Knows My History
before felt in any being -- just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said -- pointing to the other -- "This is my beloved Son, hear Him,"

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right -- and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt; that "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men: having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." He again forbade me to join with any of them: and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.
Joseph, it will be seen, was even more favored than Moses, to whom God had said: "Thou shalt see my back parts; but my. face shall not be seen."

Lesser visions than this were common in the folklore of the area. Elias Smith, Vermont's famous dissenting preacher, at the age of sixteen had had a strikingly similar experience in the woods near Woodstock, when he saw "the Lamb upon Mt. Sion," and a bright glory in the forest. John Samuel Thompson, who taught in the Palmyra Academy in 1825, had seen Christ descend from the firmament "in a glare of brightness exceeding tenfold the brilliancy of the meridian Sun," and had heard Him say: "I commission you to go and tell mankind that I am come; and bid every man to shout victory!" but Thompson had never described this as anything but a dream. Asa Wild of Amsterdam, New York, had talked with "the awful and glorious majesty of the Great Jehovah," and had learned "that every denomination of professing Christians had become extremely corrupt," that two thirds of the world's inhabitants were about to be destroyed


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [23

and the remainder ushered into the millennium. "Much more the Lord revealed," Wild had said, "but forbids my relating it in this way. I shall soon publish a cheap pamphlet, my religious experience and travel in the divine life." *

But his own vision, as described by Joseph Smith eighteen years after the event, clearly dwarfed all these experiences. One would naturally expect the local press to have given it considerable publicity at the time it allegedly occurred. And Joseph's autobiography would indeed lead one to believe that his vision of God the Father and His Son had created a neighborhood sensation:
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common to all the sects -- all united to persecute me.
Oddly, however, the Palmyra newspapers, which in later years gave him plenty of unpleasant publicity, took no notice of Joseph's vision either at the time it was supposed to have occurred or at any other time. † In fact Dogberry insisted in the Palmyra Reflector on February 1, 1831: "It however appears quite certain that the prophet himself never made any serious pretentions to religion until his late pretended revelation [the discovery of the Book of Mormon]." This he reinforced in a later article on February 28: "It is well known that Joe Smith never pretended to have any communion with angels, until a long period after the pretended finding of his book." ‡ And the detailed affidavits

* See the Wayne Sentinel, October 22, 1823, for Wild's account. The Elias Smith vision is described in The Life, Conversion, Preaching... of Elias Smith, written by himself (Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1816), p. 58. He came originally from Lyme, Connecticut, the home town of Solomon Mack, and migrated to Vermont in the same period that Mack did. Thompson's dream is described in his Christian Guide (Utica, New York, 1826), p. 71.

† The New York State Library at Albany has complete files of the Palmyra newspapers for the whole period of the Smith family's residence in that neighborhood except for the Reflector, which is in the New York Historical Society Library in New York City. I have examined all these newspapers with care.

‡ See Appendix A.


24]                                                                    No Man Knows My History

of his neighbors would lead one to believe that the youth had been immune to religious influence of any sort.

Moreover, Joseph's first autobiographical sketch of 1834, which we have already noted, contained no whisper of an event that, if it had happened, would have been the most soul-shattering experience of his whole youth. The description of the vision was first published by Orson Pratt in his Remarkable Visions in 1840, twenty years after it was supposed to have occurred. Between 1820 and 1840 Joseph's friends were writing long panegyrics; his enemies were defaming him in an unceasing stream of affidavits and pamphlets, and Joseph himself was dictating several volumes of Bible-flavored prose. But no one in this long period even intimated that he had heard the story of the two gods. At least, no such intimation has survived in print or manuscript. *

Joseph's mother, when writing to her brother in 1831 the full details of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the new church, said nothing whatever about the "first vision." And after Joseph's death the members of his own family who mentioned it betrayed a remarkable confusion regarding details. The first published Mormon history, begun with Joseph's collaboration in 1834 by Oliver Cowdery, ignored it altogether, stating that the religious excitement in his neighborhood occurred when he was seventeen (not fourteen). This history began the account of Joseph's religious life with the story of the angel Moroni, who directed him to the golden plates. Joseph's own description of the first vision was not published until, 1842, twenty-two years after the memorable event. †

* Under the date of November 15, 1835 in the History of the Church appears the following statement by Joseph Smith: "I gave him [Erastus Holmes] a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from six years old up to the time I received my first vision, which was when I was about fourteen years old..." (Vol. II, p. 312). But Joseph admittedly did not begin writing his history until 1838, and the editors of this history do not state from what manuscript source in the Utah Church library this journal entry came. Access to all these manuscripts is denied everyone save authorities of the Mormon Church.

† See Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Illinois) March 15, 1842. Cowdery's history was published in the Latter-Day Saints Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland, Ohio, 1834-5). See especially Letter IV, February 1835, p. 78. The letter of Lucy Smith to Solomon Mack, dated January 6, 1831, was published in full in Ben E. Rich: Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, Vol. I, p. 543. When Lucy wrote her biography of Joseph in 1845, with the collaboration of Martha Knowlton Coray, she quoted directly from Joseph's own history of the first vision rather than describing any of it in her


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [25

When Joseph began his autobiography, in 1838, he was writing not of his own life but of one who had already become the most celebrated prophet of the nineteenth century. And he was writing for his own people. Memories are always distorted by the wishes, thoughts, and, above all, the obligations of the moment.

If something happened that spring morning in 1820, it passed totally unnoticed in Joseph's home town, and apparently did not even fix itself in the minds of members of his own family. The awesome vision he described in later years may have been the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1834 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West.

A few discerning citizens in Joseph's neighborhood were more amused at his followers than alarmed at the moral implications of his money-digging. One native, in writing his impressions of the boy in later years, recognized certain positive talents: "Joseph had a litte ambition, and some very laudable aspirations; the

own words. In later years Joseph's relatives constantly confused the first vision with the vision of the angel Moroni. Joseph's brother William said in a sermon in Deloit, Iowa. June 8, 1884: "I will be remembered that just before the angel appeared to Joseph, there was an unusual revival in the neighborhood... Joseph and myself did not join; I had not sown all my wild oats... it was at the suggestion of the Rev. M____, that my brother asked of God. While he was engaged in prayer, he saw a pillar of fire descending. Saw it reach the top of the trees. He was overcome, became unconscious, did not know how long he remained in this condition, but when he came to himself, the great light was about him, and he was told by the personage whom he saw descend with the light, not to join any of the churches. That he should be instrumental in the hands of God in establishing the true church of Christ. That there was a record hidden in the hill Cumorah which contained the fulness of the Gospel. You should remember Joseph was but about eighteen years old at this time, too young to be a deceiver." (Saints Herald, Vol. XXXI, pp. 643-4).

Joseph's cousin George A. Smith made the same kind of error in two sermons in Salt Lake City. See Journal of Discourses, Vol. XII, p. 334, and Vol. XIII, p. 78. Edward Stevenson, in his Reminiscences of Joseph the Prophet (Salt Lake City, 1893), p. 4, stated that in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1834 he heard the prophet testify "with great power concerning the vision of the Father and the Son." But the manuscript autobiography upon which these reminiscences are based, written in 1891, when describing the same incident spoke only of the "vision of an Angel."


26]                                                                    No Man Knows My History

mother's intellect shone out in him feebly, especially when he used to help us solve some portentous questions of moral or political ethics in our juvenile debating club, which we moved down to the old red schoolhouse on Durfee street, to get rid of the critics that used to drop in upon us in the village. And subsequently, after catching a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting, away down in the woods, on the Vienna road, he was a very passable exhorter in the evening meetings." *

This is the only non-Mormon account which indicates that Joseph Smith, for all his enthusiasm for necromancy, was not immune to the religious excitement that periodically swept through Palmyra. His mother wrote that from the first he flatly refused to attend the camp meetings, saying: "I can take my Bible, and go into the woods and learn more in two hours than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time." † But it is clear that he was keenly alert to the theological differences dividing the sects and was genuinely interested in the controversies. Although contemptuous of sectarianism, he liked preaching because it gave him an audience. And this was as essential to Joseph as food.

Daniel Hendrix, who helped set type for the Book of Mormon, once wrote that Joseph had "a jovial, easy, don't-care way about him that made him a lot of warm friends. He was a good talker, and would have made a fine stump speaker if he had had the training. He was known among the young men I associated with as a romancer of the first water. I never knew so ignorant a man as Joe was to have such a fertile imagination. He could never tell a common occurrence in his daily life without embellishing the story with his imagination; yet I remember that he was grieved one day when old Parson Reed told Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits." ‡

Joseph himself spoke frequently of his "native cheery temperament," and it is evident that from an early age he was a friendly, entertaining youth who delighted in performing before his friends. At seventeen he was lank and powerful, six feet tall and moderately handsome. His hair, turning from tow

* O. Turner: History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, p. 214.

Biographical Sketches, p. 101.

‡ Letter of Hendrix dated February 2, 1897, published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat.


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [27

color to light brown, swept back luxuriantly from his forehead. Even at this age there was something compelling in his bearing, and older men listened to his stories half-doubting, half-respectful. He never lacked a following.

His imagination spilled over like a spring freshet. When he stared into his crystal and saw gold in every odd-shaped hill, he was escaping from the drudgery of farm labor into a glorious opulence. Had he been able to continue his schooling, subjecting his plastic fancy and tremendous dramatic talent to discipline and molding, his life might never have taken the exotic turn it did. His mind was agile and eager, and disciplined study might have caused his creative talents to turn in a more conventionally profitable direction.

Stephen A. Douglas, also a great natural leader, was in these same years attending the Canandaigua Academy, some nine miles south, and it was there that he took the measure of his own vigarous talents and proceeded to put them to use. The two probaily did not meet in their youth, but when their paths crossed years later in Illinois the two men had become, each in his own fashion, the most celebrated figures on the Mississippi frontier.

But whether Joseph's ebullient spirits could ever have been canalized by any discipline is an open question. He had only limited formal schooling after leaving New England. And since he never gained a true perspective of his own gifts, he probably was inclined in regard them as more abnormal -- or supernatural -- than they actually were. What was really an extraordinary capacity for fantasy, which with proper training might even have turned him to novel-writing, was looked upon by himself and his followers as genuine second sight and by the more pious townspeople as outright lying.

When Joseph was eighteen his eldest brother Alvin died in sudden and dreadful agony from what his mother described as an overdose of calomel prescribed by a physician to cure a stomach disorder. Lucy Smith in her narrative mentioned the death briefly and almost philosophically, for twenty years had passed to mitigate her sorrow, but she omitted altogether its curious sequel.

Alvin had been no churchgoer, and the minister who preached his funeral sermon "intimated very strongly that he had gone to


28]                                                                    No Man Knows My History

hell." * The family's rage against the parson had barely cooled when they heard a rumor that Alvin's body had been exhumed and dissected. Fearing it to be true, the elder Smith uncovered the grave on September 25, 1824 and inspected the corpse. That day, and for the two weeks succeeding, he published the following paid advertisement in the Wayne Sentinel:

Whereas reports have been industriously put in circulation that my son, Alvin, has been removed from the place of his interment and dissected; which reports every person possessed of human sensibility must know are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations, I, with some of my neighbors this morning repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body, which had not been disturbed. This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested that they would desist therefrom; and that it is believed by some that they have been stimulated more by desire to injure the reputation of certain persons than by a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends.
                         (Signed) Joseph Smith
                         Palmyra, September 25, 1824
It is difficult to explain this cruel practical joke as other than someone's attempt to ridicule the digging activities of the Smith family, which had never seriously been interrupted. In fact, by the time he was nineteen young Joseph was beginning to acquire a reputation for being a necromancer of exceptional talent who numbered even his father and brother Hyrum among his followers. His mother wrote that Josiah Stowel (or Stoal) came all the way from Pennsylvania to see her son "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." †

Stowel, an elderly farmer from South Bainbridge (now Afton), New York, had come north to visit relatives and had met Joseph in Palmyra. Simpson Stowel begged him to display his magic talents before the old man, and Joseph, being Simpson's friend, obliged by describing in detail the Stowel "house

* Statement of William Smith, young brother of Joseph, in an interview with E. C. Briggs and J. W. Peterson, published in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), January 20, 1894.

Biographical Sketches, pp. 91-2.


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [29

and outhouses" in South Bainbridge. Stowel was so impressed that he begged the youth to go south with him and look for a lost silver mine said to have been worked by the Spaniards in the Susquehanna Valley. He would pay him, he said, fourteen dollars a month and board him free. *

Harvest was over, and the prospect of seeing new country probably attracted Joseph as much as the cash salary. Always loyal to his family, he insisted that his father be included in the arrangement, and they set forth with Stowel for the south. They stopped in the Allegheny foothills, staying for a time in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the romantic Susquehanna. Here they boarded with a big, bearish Vermonter named Isaac Hale.

Their host, a famous hunter, spent most of his time in the forests, leaving his wife and daughters to look after the gardens and cows. Joseph was at once attracted to the twenty-one-year-old Emma, a dark, serious-faced girl with great luminous hazel eyes. She was quiet almost to taciturnity, with an unapproachable air to which Joseph, who at twenty was already accounted "a great favorite with the ladies," responded with more than casual attentiveness.

In the beginning Hale helped subsidize Stowel's expeditions into the mountains, but with the first failures he was quickly disillusioned and shortly became contemptuous. Nine years later he wrote of Joseph, who had by then become his son-in-law: "His appearance at this time was that of a careless young man -- not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.... Young Smith gave the 'money-diggers' 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. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825." †

Eventually Joseph's father went back to Palmyra, but the youth remained on the farm of Josiah Stowel, who seems never to have lost faith in the supernatural talents of his protege. Joseph worked on the farm, attended school in the winter, and

* For a complete statement see his testimony in the Bainbridge court trial of 1826, reprinted in Appendix A. See also History of the Church, Vol. III, p. 29.

† For Hale's complete affidavit see Appendix A.


30]                                                                    No Man Knows My History

spent his leisure hunting for treasure and riding into Pennsylvania to see Emma Hale.

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. On the witness stand Joseph denied that he spent all his time looking for mines and insisted that for the most part he worked on Stowel's farm or went to school. He admitted, however, 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 anything to do with this business." *

Stowel defended Joseph with great vigor, insisting that he "positively knew" the latter could see valuable treasures through the stone. Once the youth had told him to dig at the roots of an old stump, promising that he would find a chest of money and a tail-feather. At a depth of five feet he had uncovered the tail-feather, only to discover that the money had "moved down."

His testimony, however well-intentioned, did the prisoner more harm than good. Stowel's relatives attacked Joseph bitterly, and the court pronounced him guilty, though what sentence was finally passed the record does not say. Oliver Cowdery's history, the only Mormon account that ever mentioned this trial, denied that Joseph had been found guilty. "...some very officious person," Cowdery wrote, "complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the

* For the complete text of the court record of this trial see Appendix A.


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [31

county; but there being no cause for action he was honorably acquitted." *

It would seem that this trial, the first in a long series of crises in his life, shocked Joseph into a sense of the futility of his avocation, for he now gave up his money-digging altogether, although he retained his peepstone and some of the psychological artifices of the rural diviner.

It may be that this renunciation came in part from disillusionment with his own magic. Most bucolic scryers are ignorant, superstitious folk who believe profoundly in their mineral rods and rabbits' feet. Professional magicians, on the other hand, are not naive. The great anthropologist Sir James Frazer sagely pointed out that in primitive tribes the intelligent novitiate studying to be a medicine man is likely to see through the fallacies that impress duller wits. The sorcerer who believes in his own extravagant pretensions is much more likely to be cut short in his career than the deliberate impostor, and the ablest are those who plan and practice their trickery. Where the honest wizard is taken aback when his charms fail conspicuously, the deliberate deceiver always has an excuse. Certainly Joseph's mentor, the conjurer Walters, belonged to the latter class.

It is clear that Joseph had no desire to make a life profession of emulating Walters. Perhaps he gave up the trickery and artifice just when their hollowness became most evident to him; perhaps his renunciation was due entirely to Emma Hale. But he could not cast off his unbridled fancy and love of theatricalism, which had attracted him to necromancy in the first place.

After the trial he remained for some months with Stowel, for he was now very much in love and reluctant to return to Palmyra without taking with him Emma as his wife. But Isaac Hale, holding Joseph to be a cheap impostor, thundered a refusal when asked for her hand and drove him out of the house. Joseph now made clandestine visits whenever Hale went hunting, and begged the girl to run away with him.

Skeptical, unsure of him, and concerned over their future, she hesitated. But there were only about two hundred people in

* Latter-Day Saints Messenger and Advocate (Kirtland, Ohio), October 1835. Cowdery states that this trial took place before 1827. It should therefore not be confused with two later trials in the same area, where Joseph actually was acquitted.


32]                                                                    No Man Knows My History

Harmony, and she scorned the scattering of eligible men in the village. Now approaching twenty-three, she may have felt herself threatened with spinsterhood. Moreover, Joseph had all the ardor of a youth of twenty-one, but none of the usual inarticulateness. She was wildly in love with him.

He was big, powerful, and by ordinary standards very handsome, except for his nose, which was aquiline and prominent. His large blue eyes were fringed by fantastically long lashes which made his gaze seem veiled and slightly mysterious. Emma was probably quick to notice what many of his followers later believed had a supernatural cause, that when he was speaking with intense feeling the blood drained from his face, leaving a frightening, almost luminous pallor. However she may have disapproved of his money-digging, she must have had faith in his insight into mysteries that common folk could not fathom; she needed no one to tell her that here was no ordinary man.

Stowel, who was fond of the couple and anxious to further their marriage, arranged for Emma to visit Joseph at his home in South Bainbridge, where on January i8, 1827 they were secretly married. After the ceremony they departed for Manchester to live with Joseph's parents.

Eight months later they returned to Harmony to brave the wrath of Isaac Hale and to secure some furniture and livestock that Emma owned in her own name. Since Joseph had no wagon, he hired Peter Ingersoll to drive them the distance, and it is to him that we are indebted for a description of the meeting. *

Hale met the couple in a flood of tears. "You have stolen my daughter and married her," he cried. "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," Ingersoll said, "and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that 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." Somewhat conciliated, Hale told Joseph that if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would help him get into business, and to this Joseph agreed.

* For the text of Ingersoll's statement see Appendix A.


CHAPT. II Treasures in the Earth                                                           [33

But there was a great impatience in this youth which made grubbing in the soil a hateful labor. In truth he was through with money-digging. But if he had become disillusioned with the profession, he had retained a superb faith in himself. In the next five years Joseph climbed up out of the world of magic into the world of religion. He was transformed from a lowly necromancer into a prophet, surrounded no longer merely by a clientele but by an enthusiastic following with common purposes and ideals.






The earliest and most important account of Joseph Smith's money-digging is in the following court record, 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 Encylopedia of Religious Knowledge. * The trial was held before a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, March 20, 1826:
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 brought into court March 20 (1826). 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
* (New York, 1883). Vol. II, p. 1576.


406]                                                                No Man Knows My History
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 >font color=maroon>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 see 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 leaves on ground.

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, 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


Appendix A                                                                                           [407
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.


Between January 6 and March 19, 1831 Obediah Dogberry published in the Palmyra Reflector six articles describing the youthful Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon...

Brodie reproduces the Reflector articles, as linked below:

Article Number III, February 1, 1831


408]                                                                No Man Knows My History

Reflector articles:

Article Number IV, February 14, 1831


Appendix A                                                                                           [409

Reflector articles:

Article Number V, February 28, 1831

July 7, 1830


410]                                                                No Man Knows My History



D. P. Hurlbut in 1833 collected sworn statements from more than a hundred of the early friends and neighbors of Joseph Smith in the vicinities of Palmyra, New York, and Harmony, Pennsylvania. These have been largely ignored by Mormon historians. "It was simply a matter of `muck raking' on Hurlbut's part," wrote B. H. Roberts. "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...." Since, however, Joseph's money-digging is well established by the previous court record and newspaper stories, Hurlbut's affidavits can hardly be dismissed by the objective student, particularly since they throw considerable light on the writing of the Book of Mormon. The following are the most significant extracts...

Hurlbut affidavits:

Peter Ingersoll


Appendix A                                                                                           [411

Hurlbut affidavits:

Peter Ingersoll


412]                                                                No Man Knows My History

Hurlbut affidavits:

William Stafford


Appendix A                                                                                           [413

Hurlbut affidavits:

Willard Chase


414]                                                                No Man Knows My History

Hurlbut affidavits:

Abigail Harris


Appendix A                                                                                           [415

Hurlbut affidavits:

Lucy Harris

Joseph Capron


416]                                                                No Man Knows My History

Hurlbut affidavits:

Palmyra Residents


Appendix A                                                                                           [417

Hurlbut affidavits:

Isaac Hale

Comments: (forthcoming)


LDS Apostles
(committe head: Albert E. Bowen?)

"Appraisal of the So-called
Brodie Book"

The Deseret News: Church Section

May 11, 1946

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1946, Bonneville International. All rights reserved
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

Vol. 342.                         Salt Lake City, Utah,  Saturday, May 11, 1946.                        No. 36.

   [p. 1]

Appraisal of the So-Called Brodie Book

The News has had some requests for its appraisal of the so-called Brodie Book, "No Man Knows My History."It is the custom of authors and publishers to send advance copies of new books to the press for review, thus getting for them the benefit of attendant publicity. Presumably neither the author nor the publisher wanted this book reviewed by the Deseret News since no copy has ever been sent for its perusal. In the circumstances the News has had no occasion to make any review, but it nevertheless is glad to comply with the request of its correspondents and give its estimate of the publication.

Indications are that reviews of the book are being much more widely read than the book itself. It is desired accordingly to preface this comment by reference to one of them by a certain high ecclesiast. Mrs. Brodie's work has all the lure for him of an inviting pool on a hot summer's day. He plunges in headlong and splashes around with great glee, because of the assumed embarrassment the story will prove to the Latter-day Saint Church. Only an antagonism born of fear could engender his ill-concealed relish. He predicts that time and research "will vindicate both the method and the findings of Mrs. Brodie" thus putting on both his seal of immortality.

Professedly, at least, he is a devout believer in the whole story about Jesus as narrated in the Gospels, including the extremist supernaturalism, for the church whose cloth he wears so proclaims. We must assume his sincerity. Is a professedly Christian Father, in the hope of understanding the faith of another church, willing to help destroy faith in Christ himself? So gushing is his exuberance at a supposed discomfiture to another that he does not have the wit to see that Mrs. Brodie's "method" is to rule out God, the supernatural and the miraculous. The scriptural story about Jesus, to her, is quite as much a fable as she makes the story of Joseph Smith. Yet Father Dwyer gurgles complacently along revelling in the Brodie "method and findings" too dull-witted to perceive that if his prediction shall prove true his own faith must crumble, for she would leave no place for his rituals, pageantry, church or creed.

It is all right for him to smirk down to Mrs. Row in mock-pity because she spent time doing temple work for her dead. But one must wonder if at the same time the Good Father in common with others of his faith, was spending money to keep tapers burning and to have the dead prayed out of purgatory! Or perhaps he was on the other end of the deal and for a price paid him by the devout out of their meagre store was saying the prayers for the rescue of their dead from whatever terrible place he thinks they were in.

And what should the "stalwart defenders of the faith at Brigham Young University" do? Leave their posts and come to the worthy Father to be trained in the highly intellectual discipline of learning how to count beads or be inducted into the mysterious process by which the bread and wine at the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper are transmuted into the very flesh and blood of the Christ? Before he wastes too many tears on Mrs. Row because of what Mrs. Brodie says about Joseph Smith maybe he had better look at the papal skeletons in his own church closet. Has he forgotten, or did he never know of the Inquisition, or what the history books say about the lapses and the degradations charged against his church and a line of its infallible "Holy Fathers?" Does he know that if the history books are right it was his own brother ecclesiasts of high station who condemned Joan of Arc as a heretic which subjected her to be burned at the stake in 1431 and who by his church was canonized as a saint in 1920?

He needn't worry. The Church, beginning a hundred years ago, and continuing at intervals on down through the next half century, met all that Mrs. Brodie has said -- and grew and prospered. There is nothing new in her book

 [p. 6]

and no one is in the least alarmed by it. But Father Dwyer should take note that it will probably be wisest for him to stop his persistent sniping. Now the appraisal.

Mrs. Brodie's intense atheism not only colors but actually determines the approach and, almost completely, the content of her book. There is, in her conception, no place in human experience for the transcendental. No supreme being, no divine power intervenes in or influences the course of events or shapes them toward a goal or destiny. God is not regnant in history. Mormonism, therefore, has to be foundationed in a fable, which she at the very beginning declares. That is her fixed predetermined premise. She would say the same thing of all Christian faiths and for the same reason. If her book is anti-Mormon, it is equally anti-Christian.

She refers to the "second coming of Christ" and the "resurrection" as being among the "irrationalisms" culled by Joseph out of Isaiah and the Revelation of St. John, and to the primitive Christian Church she describes an "antiquated theology." She declares that "In the New World's freedom the church had disintegrated," and, under the impact of the ideas that had brought about the Revolution, "the path away from Christianity was being beaten out." Telling us that America was ripe for a religious leader speaking God's word with authority, "a prophet of real stature," she at once hastens to add: "His mission should be to those who found religious liberty a burden, who needed determinate ideas and familiar dogmas, and who fled from the solitude of independent thinking." That is to say, religion is only a crutch for the timorous and dull-witted, of no use whatever to the courageous and lonely few capable of independent thought, to the "solitude" of which select company she thus deftly elevates herself.

Her husband's "qualities of judgment and perception" she tells us have "affected my whole approach to the book," which likely furnished the key to her attitude, for his tradition and upbringing probably inclined him away from rather than towards acceptance of Christian beliefs. The angel's announcement to Mary, his warning to Joseph to take the child Jesus into Egypt, most of the miracles, the claim to Messiahship, the resurrection, Paul's vision on the way to Damascus, -- the kingdom of God -- all these Mrs. Brodie would chuck as unceremoniously out the window as she does the claims of Joseph Smith to heavenly inspiration and revelation.

Indeed, a predecessor, the Jewish Rabbi, Klausner, has already done just that in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, published more than twenty years ago. Dr. Klausner, however, is not disrespectful. He gives Jesus high praise. His treatise, written in the Hebrew for Jews, exhibits a dignity and a maturity so patently wanting in Mrs. Brodie's work. Still he has a thesis: to prove that Jesus was utterly a Jew, a teacher versed in the law, but not the Messiah nor the Son of God, nor even a Prophet. Between his book and Mrs. Brodie's there is a startling similarity of approach and organization.

He speaks of the complexity of Jesus' character, his gift of imagination and his daydreaming about the redemption of his people, the sudden flashing through his mind at his baptism of the idea that he is the hoped-for Messiah; avers that there is nothing new in Jesus' ethical teachings; that his spiritual ideal is strongly tinctured by the material and worldly, that he was afraid to let his miracles be publicized, because they were not always successful; tells how failures threw him into despondency lest his disciples lose faith in him; that he revealed his real meanings only to the inner circle while teaching the public in ambiguous parables; sets him up for a study in a background of political, social, and economic conditions; dwells upon the humbleness of his beginnings; selects instances and interprets them in light of the thesis, points out alleged weaknesses of character, failure to live up to his own teachings, inconsistencies and contradictions. Point by point Mrs. Brodie's book runs parallel. It would be revealing to set the two in columns opposite each other. If one wanted to be as reckless as she is in deducing conclusions, it would be easy to draw some.

By postulating at the outset that Joseph Smith's claims couldn't be true, Mrs. Brodie greatly simplified her task. His claims being by assumption false, there is left only this question to be resolved: Is the falsity due to an honestly entertained delusion growing out of the superstition of the times, or is it a deliberate imposture? Less wise than Klausner, she chose the second alternative, and having done so pursues it with all the zeal and artifice of the retained advocate, lifting excerpts out of their contexts, wrenching sentences out of their setting, picking one sentence out of a page and skipping over two or three pages to pick another out and coupling the two together without regard to what lies between, calling as witness the hyperbolic railings of disreputable characters whose self-confessed or unknown, and by her admitted, corruption and malicious extravagances render them unworthy of credence, accepting as established fact hearsay gossip--hearsay piled on top of hearsay, attributing motives and assigning purposes with all the license of a novelist and by artful selectivity of episodes and strained correlations of them, bending circumstances, where the exigency of the case requires it, into support of her thesis, even by elliptical quoting, making purported quotations absolutely false. Her book, which she likes to think of as being objective, is really an ardent defense of a predetermined thesis.

This estimate seems to call for a bill of particulars, but the specified defects so permeate the whole structure of the book and are so woven into its interpretations and assumptions and deductions throughout, that to sort them out and expose them severally would involve the writing of another book. A few instances must suffice, and attention is first directed to the author's sources. Joseph Smith had to have a youth conformable to her postulated pattern so she makes him the "ne'er-do-well" leader of a "band of idlers" who spent their time "digging for buried treasure," to locate which they indulged all the necromancies, occultisms. incantations, and humbuggery known to the art of the sorcerer. She calls them "gold diggers" or "treasure hunters," which designations she deftly contrives to convert into terms of special approbrium. Where's the evidence? It lies (1) in affidavits, (2) in Dogberry papers (so named for the editor who published them), (3) in Joseph's alleged admissions in his journal and in an alleged court record.

It would be an easy task to tear the affidavits in shreds, so far as their evidentiary value is concerned, but space compels skipping over such items as the malevplent and vengeful purpose and vile character of the man who assembled them; the time he did it; the widespread frenzied purpose to discredit Joseph Smith who had become a notable person; the inescapable conclusion that they were all conceived in one brain; the notorious ease with which signatures may always be obtained; the equal ease, by proper prompting, of getting the desired ideas incorporated; the total absence of their having been subjected to any ordinarily accepted test for accuracy or credibility; and their language which is wholly out of character with the station of the affiants.

But it will be well to look at some of the less obvious difficulties about the affidavits. These, and the Dogberry papers, too, for good measure, expanded Joseph's alleged "gold digging" humbugs to include the whole Smith family who at the same time were so desperately poor that all had to toil unremittingly merely to live. Yet the author provides Joseph time to be the leader of a band of idlers, and has the entire family digging up the whole countryside, without compensation in their feverish hunt for buried treasure. For no one was found to testify that the Smiths, including Joseph, ever tried to make gain out of their weird magic. Nobody was found to say that he had been solicited for money or had ever been bilked out of a dollar. Neither was anybody found who ever saw the Smiths digging for treasure. Affiants and story writers all rely on rumor, for, as Mrs. Brodie says, it was a "nocturnal" operation. Why couldn't one of Joseph's band of idlers be found to certify their doings, or one of the Smith neighbors to swear that he had seen the treasure hunt in action, or that the desperately poor Smiths had sought to capitalize on their allegedly pretended occult powers or the practice of their necromantic arts?

Mrs. Brodie concedes that some parts of the affidavits are not true. By what divination does she know which part of a man's statement is reliable when admittedly some of it is totally false? She has throughout, the convenient habit of leaving out or denying validity to whatever does not fit into the pattern of her thesis.

All that is said about the affidavits is equally applicable to the Dogberry papers, plus the fact (omitted by Mrs. Brodie) that in Dogberry's first article announcing his intention to publish facts "having any connection with the origin in question" (Book of Mormon), he offers a free subscription to his paper to postmasters or anybody else who can furnish him interesting notices on the subject, certainly a novel way to conduct research, but one sure to be fruitful, as the event discloses. But these Mrs. Brodie accepts and uses to bolster up the affidavits which she tacitly admits to be untrustworthy. To fortify both she brings forward alleged admissions, citing Joseph's journal where he was answering, usually in crisp single sentences, a whole catalog of assembled questions. To the question whether he had been a money digger he answered, "Yes, but it was never a profitable job for him, as he got only $14.00 a month for it." The very nature of the answer indicates that it related to one single transaction and obviously had reference to his working for Mr. Stowell at the latter's solicitation to explore for an old Spanish mine, reputed to be rich and to lie in the neighborhood, and the quest for which Joseph persuaded his employer to abandon and went to work for him on his farm. That together with a so-called court record presently to be mentioned is the whole sum of the alleged admissions. And that is all the basis there is for Mrs. Brodie's assertion that the years 1823 to 1827, the period of waiting for delivery of the plates, were characterized by his most intensive money-digging activities.

There probably is no prospector who has not dug into old caves or abandoned holes probing for rich finds, nor a mining section in America where quest for abandoned Spanish mines has not been prosecuted but never before nor since has that been made a character disqualification. The puerile nature of the evidence attests the desperation of the need. But the author here comes triumphantly forward with evidence thought to impart respectability to the worthless affidavits and Dogberry papers. They must be made acceptable for on them she stakes her whole conclusion that Joseph instead of being a contemplative, pious, truth-seeking youth was an irreligious cynic, contemptuous of revivals and given over to tale-spinning, and playing mischievous pranks upon unsuspecting neighbors, including his own family, going through silly mummeries and weird mysticisms to aid his deceptions.

This clinching evidence "which historians have hitherto overlooked or ignored" in the production of which she takes an obviously special pride, is declared unequivocally to be a court record of a trial of Joseph Smith in a justice of the peace court in Bainbridge in March 1826 on a charge of being "a disorderly person and an impostor." But 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. Neither is it any better than the flimsy documents it is dragged out to support. It is just one more of them, for after all her puffing and promise the author produces no court record at all, though persistently calling it such.

She produces an article on Mormonism written by she does not say whom, for the new Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge published in 1883 wherein is incorporated this purported court record. In a later edition of the same encyclopedia, the reproduced article on Mormonism drops out the alleged court record, obviously having no reliable evidence of its credibility. Mrs. Brodie says the record was "unearthed" by Bishop Tuttle in southern New York. That is a pretty indefinite place. It is to be noted that she carefully avoids saying that it was found among the records of the court, though she clearly intended that the casual reader would assume that it was. Why didn't Bishop Tuttle say something about it in his book? He clearly had the will to use any damaging evidence he thought supportable. Mrs. Brodie knew the court record of this trial was vital to her case for it is because of it that "Hurlbut's affidavits can hardly be dismissed by the objective student." Why didn't she produce it instead of a secondary source, on its face discredited? A justice's court is not what the lawyers call a court of record, the testimony of witness 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. Indeed there is no record that the prosecuting witness testified at all, nor that any witness was sworn. Joseph didn't have to testify against himself at all, but here he is doing it before there is any proof against him. Then the recital is that the court "finds the defendant guilty." Of what? He was charged with being "a disorderly person and an impostor." Which was he guilty of? Mrs. Brodie says he was found "guilty of disturbing the peace." The record does not say so. She must get that out of the air as she does so much else, for it is hard to think he was found guilty of something with which he was not charged. 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. Oliver Cowdery's direct assertion that Joseph was acquitted in a case that was brought against him the author rejects for the astonishing reason that Cowdery says the trial occurred before 1827, whereas the trial in question occurred in 1826, and in place of it the wholly unauthenticated, non-existent record is adopted. Such are the fruits of "objective scholarship." The article in the encyclopedia, in which the spurious court record is incorporated relies for its authority upon the same venomous, anti-Mormon authorities as Mrs. Brodie herself admits are not reliable. It is a great system of documentation. One person publishes a falsehood. Later another writer publishes the same falsehood and cites the first as his authority. Then a third can cite both the others and then a fourth all of them, and so on ad infinitum. Thus a formidable array of footnote documentation slaps the reader in the face, who cannot know that all trace back to an original invention. Is that historical scholarship?

Perhaps the best commentary on the value of the kind of evidence Mrs. Brodie relies upon throughout comes out of the experience of one seeking his doctorate at one of our oldest and most renowned universities. His dissertation had to do with a certain phase of Mormon history, so he thought he should search out and document the various anti-Mormon writings to attest the thoroughness of his research. The faculty examining committee required him to delete them all as being unworthy of mention in a work of scholarly research.

Every argument put forth in the book to sustain the preconceived claim that Joseph fabricated the whole story about the First Vision 18 years after the alleged event rests on evidence as worthless and reasoning as fallacious, and as easily discredited and dispatched as are the affidavits, papers and court record and the arguments based on them. It involves, too, the statements of wholly reliable men speaking out of their own knowledge.

A little more about authorities: Mrs. Brodie asserts categorically that Joseph Smith sais: "Whenever I see a pretty woman I have to pray for grace." For support a footnote reference is given to Wyls. Examination discloses that Wyls said that someone had told him that someone had said that remark to an unnamed friend. Similarly she unqualifiedly asserts that Mrs. Buell had admitted that she did not know whether the Prophet or Buell was the father of her son but the assertion, also impressively footnoted, turns out to rest upon the hearsay report of a Mrs. Etta V. Smith whom Mrs. Brodie was reluctant to believe, as well she might have been, until she found an old blurred photograph allegedly of that son which resolved all doubt, though, too indistinct to be of value for any such use. One might just as well and could just as easily open any old photograph album of a hundred years ago and pick out the picture of almost any pioneer with black hair and a beard and say he resembled the Prophet's children. Again Wyls is appealed to as the authority for the unblushing and hilarious admission of Lucinda Harris that she had been the Prophet's mistress for four years, though Wyls' alleged informant told an entirely different story to another interviewer, and isn't it odd that these women should have been free with declarations of illicit relations when Mrs. Brodie tells us that because of the natural delicacy of the subject, "none of the Prophet's wives ever publicly admitted having conceived a child by him?" Wyls' stories were collected a half century after the purported events, and were all ex parte, taken under extremely questionable circumstances. The utter baseness of the man, his malignancy and total lack of veracity or character are too well known to require comment. But who is Mrs. Etta V. Smith who tells the Buell story? Ten minutes spent reading her book would utterly shatter any intelligent person's faith in it. She relates that she was held prisoner in Salt Lake where many other women were likewise so held; that the governor and some of the most prominent men of the territory were so simple as to plot murder and robbery in her presence and to permit her to witness their accomplishment. She tells a lurid and bizarre tale of her attempted escape and of crimes without number, which she quite inexplicably was always permitted to hear planned and so often to see executed. So ridiculous a narrative so full of impossible occurrences and told in such stilted, artificial language and with such fantastic circumstance that an eighth grade pupil could not br deceived into lending it credence, becomes the source of

 [p. 8]

Mrs. Brodie's scholarly learning. One single, undisputed fact, standing alone, is refutation sufficient of all charges of debauchery. Joseph Smith excommunicated, and from the pulpit denounced men, regardless of their station or influence, for adultery. He declared that any man guilty of it would, unless he repented, deny the faith. Then we are asked to believe that he dared do this, knowing himself guilty of the same offense and that his followers knowing his guilt, still believed in him, gave him full and unquestioned allegiance, and followed him when doing so meant only persecution and suffering. Free, independent, strong, intelligent and honorable men do not do that. As well might one give credence to the awful tales of night orgies of the early Christians or the revolting child-eating practices of the Jews as to accept as historic facts the gossip spun about the name of the Prophet.

It seems incredible too, that Mrs. Brodie should rely on the Kinderhook plates story. She asks us to believe that three men set a trap for Joseph, he walked into it and was subject to complete exposure as a fraud, which was the purpose of the whole frame up. But not a word of the trick or of his being duped or of the disclosure of his fakery, was said for thirty-six years, after he and all but one of the planners was dead, when one of the perennial affidavit gatherers got the bizarre story which the author adopts as sober history and uses it as a basis for her predetermined conclusion

In her treatment of the Prophet it is as if the author had sat down with a thesaurus and called out all the words connoting humbuggery, or insincerity to interlard her whole book with such characterizations as: "disorderly person," "impostor," "nimble-witted dreamer," "magic incantations," "nocturnal excavations," "hocus pocus," "plastic fancy," "necromancy," "fantasy," "deceiver," "cunning," "cabalistic ritual or rural wizardry."

At one time Joseph is a man with the courage of a lion, who stalks into and addresses a meeting attended by threatening enemies who the night before had tarred and feathered him, who does not hesitate to toss an offending person out into the street and is "capable of holding his own with any man ob the frontier." But at another time he is a sniveling coward with love of military display but "little stomach for battle," to whom the "carnage of war was abhorrent" and who "had no ambition to be a famous warrior."

At one time he is "hampered by meagre education," and is afraid to expose his ignorance to Rigdon, while at another he is learned to the point of erudition. With a riotous imagination that runs away with his undisciplined mind, he is yet so sagacious that he selects Egyptian for the language on the gold plates because he knows there is no key to its translation. He also knows that he must not use names beginning with certain letters because there are no words in the Old Testament so beginning. And he sees so clearly in the far distance the future findings of science that by "instinct" he ignored the "Asiatic theory" of the origin of the American Indians.

His talent, when the case so requires is, is "emotional rather than intellectual." but when the demands of the thesis call for it, the intellectual appeal of Mormonism was in the beginning "its greatest strength," appealing as much to reason as to emotion," a quality which drew to it so "many able men." His power lay in his prodigious personal charm" and "his talent for making men see visions," though all but a handful of members joined the Church before they had ever seen Joseph, or come under his hypnotic spell, unless indeed, it jumped continents and leaped the Atlantic. Finally this unlearned, mentally undisciplined impostor promulgated a doctrine and set up a church from which "nothing in universal morals was omitted."

One characteristic artifice employed by the author is to quote from two sources (often a Mormon and an anti-Mormon) and use one symbol for reference to a footnote where both are cited together, giving the impression to the uninformed that the Mormon source is authority for, or in agreement with a discrediting non-Mormon statement. Sometimes her citations actually do not support her textual statements at all. The author also by elliptical quotations, particularly from the revelations or statements of Joseph, drops out language which, if quoted, would entirely alter the meaning she strives for and conveys. In one case she actually makes Joseph marvel at the "brilliance and stylistic beauty" of a bit of his earlier writing when the omitted part of the text elliptically quoted shows that he was actually talking about the Biblical scriptures.

This device reaches its climax when after boldly asserting the truth of some statements made by the corrupt and venomous Hurlbut, for which she has no credible evidence, the author falsifies a statement made by Brigham Young by lifting out of the body of a paragraph parts of three sentences and using them so as implicitly to say that Brigham admitted that Joseph was habituated to constant drunkenness, gambling and degrading licentiousness, when the full paragraph shows that Brigham then had never met Joseph and the quoted statement was used arguende, in a manner common to debate, where it was sought to pin his opponent down to the subject of discussion, namely: the doctrines Joseph taught which the contender apparently could not successfully refute so resorted to personal abuse. Right in the same discourse, and in others in the same book and in other books known to Mrs. Brodie, Brigham Young's estimate of Joseph Smith is given, based on years of intimate association. He declared that he knew Joseph as intimately as any living person, even as his own parents, and avowed that "no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth." All this is ignored. Indeed, while with a flourish of fairness which she felt necessary to her assumptions of objectivity, Mrs. Brodie says obscurely that her sources are not reliable, yet she uses them profusely, often, after saying that a statement is unreliable, on the next page adopting it as unquestioned truth and building pages of argument and assertion upon that assumption. If sources admitted by her to be unreliable were deleted from the book there would be little of it left, so fully do her interpretations, deductions, narrative and argument depend upon their acceptance. But she almost completely ignores the statements of persons of unimpeachable character intimately associated and acquainted with the Prophet. She ignores, too, the appraisals of non-Mormon writers whose testimonials are abundant and at complete variance from the vituperative assertions of avowed enemies. Thus is violence done throughout to every demand of integrity in objective research. It could be safely assumed that readers would not have at hand nor use as they read, the citations listed but would credit the author with accuracy and fairness. There is no escaping the conclusion that Mrs. Brodie knew the commercial value of sensationalism and wrote with one eye on the box office.

It is easy to grant the author the merit of a fine literary style throughout which makes the book altogether enticing reading. But it is the style of the novelist and not of the historian. She has set up a pattern and cuts Joseph to fit it, though to be sure, to give some of her deductions a semblance of rationality she has from time to time, to retailer him till in the end he bears little resemblance to the first cutting. She never hesitates to put into the mind of the fictitious character she has created the ideas she wants him to have nor to supply him with motives. So the book is full of "may have been elaboration of a half-remembered dream," (which no one knows he had), stimulated by "early revival excitement" (which, when the case requires, he held in contempt and never attended), "dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future," "hated farming." "may have felt," "probably quick to notice," "transformed from lowly necromancer into a prophet," "sensed ritual had to be performed with artistry," "each man felt in the pressure of the hands piled on his head the solemn weight of eternity." "had always been fascinated by military lore," "may have" coined "the name Mormon" out of "Morgan and Monroe," "to be authentic, celestial truth must be thrice repeated," "could easily have reasoned," "talent for making men see visions," "stemmed from obscure hunger for power and deference," "Harris hung around... like a begging spaniel," "the summer breeze stirred the leaves above them, and a bird chirped loudly," "must have been overwhelmed by a sense of panic," "he slipped into it (role of prophet) with ease, without inner turmoil..." "success must have stifled any troublesome qualms," "careful not to include in his manuscript" any word beginning with V because there are none in the Old Testament so beginning, (in truth there are several), "felt warm glow of satisfaction at seeing his words in print."

These and innumerable other conjectures and flippancies wholly out of character with sincere historical study, and non-existent outside of her own imaginative creation, she splashes around in her narrative for the sake of atmosphere. She simply can't limit herself to facts. In the language of one of her admiring reviewers: "The biography has the pace and sweep, the bizarre incidents, and compelling suspense of the most extravagant historical novel..." "In the interest of narrative sweep, again, Mrs. Brodie selects her thread of fact without always indicating the complexity of the possibilities; there are more difficult problems about both the selection and the assessment of fact than is always clear from the text. And, finally, in summing up the Prophet's life, what he was, what he stood for, what he accomplished, and what his legacy was and is, Mrs. Brodie's judgment may be subject to both a kinder and a far more rangingly objective reinterpretation."

Whatever else Mrs. Brodie may be, she is not a historian.

Klausner concedes -- insists upon -- the sincerity of Jesus; ["]were it not so he would have been nothing more than a mere deceiver and impostor -- and such men do not make history; they do not found new religions which persist for two thousand years and hold sway over five hundred million civilized people." So relative to the vision the disciples had of the risen Lord he says: "Here again it is impossible to suppose that there is any conscious deception: the nineteen hundred years' faith of millions is not founded in deception." The visions he explains as being purely spiritual and not material. Starting with that conception he escapes the ludicrous absurdity in which Mrs. Brodie involves herself. She disposes of all visions as impostures, mesmerisms worked on the ignorant by a sly knave, and tries to laugh them out of court with her flippancies born of fiction. In no other thing does she more clearly reveal her pathetic immaturity. She was not ready for her essayed task. She hasn't even the most elementary understanding of what Joseph Smith meant when he talked about revelation, nor what it signifies to the Mormon Church. Neither does she show any competency to write about world religions, or their history. But history writing comes easy to her. When facts are lacking she resorts to presumptions which she indulges with amazing liberality. It is no trouble at all for her to assume that the revivals of Kentucky are the same as those in New England, nor that those of 1820 are the same as those of 1798. Saying that it may never be proved that Joseph Smith ever saw "View of the Hebrews" before writing the Book of Mormon, on the next page she declares it "only a basic source book for the Book of Mormon," and for pages proceeds on the assumption that he got from it the legend of a buried Indian book. With admirable complacency she assumes that Joseph was acquainted with another book because years later he possessed a wholly different book by the same author. And so the assumptions multiply on and on to fill the gaps left by an absence of facts,

She had, too, the misfortune to get some very bad psychological guidance; for Joseph Smith and the Church, she realizes too late in her story, refuse to slip comfortably into the moulds she fashions for them. Over the century perhaps nearly two million persons, many highly educated, and all as generally intelligent as any other group of like numbers, have believed his doctrine and have adhered to the Church. All this does not rise out of deception. Klausner was right and she senses that somehow her explanations do not explain. She has not made her case. She simply must lift Joseph Smith above the plane of knavery. So under fictional hand Joseph who starts out as an unconscionable tale-spinner, a vainglorious egotist, an unabashed fraud, willing to conjure up and practice any deception howsoever gross, to feed an insatiable appetite for adulation and gain, and who progresses into a licentious debauchee and a plotter of diabolical crimes, somewhere along the line, when or by what process the author does not even try to explain, is metamorphosed into a sincere religious leader, a real prophet in his own esteem, believing in his own divine calling and in the genuineness of the structure he had raised upon his own consciously concocted, fraudulent base. Her story is more fantastic than the one she assails,

Regarding her accounting for the Book of Mormon one would best use her own characterization of Rigdon when he read the Book of Enoch, "the scholar in him fled," for having exploded the Spaulding story and the Rigdon authorship she propounds a theory more preposterous than both of them together. Joseph starts out to write a money-making novel based upon an unrelated mess of incidents, including revivalist sermons, legends about Indian derivations, and current political wrangles. Then Martin Harris lost certain pages of the manuscript (which Mrs. Brodie knows the nature of though no one has ever seen them since they disappeared over a hundred years ago). Whereupon without a scintilla of evidence she has Joseph suddenly scuttle the whole idea and decide to bring God in and write a religious book. He was encouraged in this by the credulity of his own family, who believed him when he carried home in his frock some white sand and suddenly without premeditation invented on the spot the story that it was a golden Bible. Then he told an acquaintance (a sure way of keeping the secret), that he had "the damned fools fixed and will carry out the fun." This epithet embraced his parents and brothers and sisters, though they were a family of unusual loyalty and devotion, as the author later, for another later purpose, establishes. The climax comes when Joseph takes three witnesses into the woods, and subsequently eight, and by mesmeric powers makes them see the gold plates and an angel turning them. Later Joseph had no hesitancy in excommunicating these men and vilifying them for "he neither expected nor received reprisals. For he had conjured up a vision they would never forget." Never in all history has there been such an exhibition of mass hypnotism, effective throughout life, even after the spell of the hypnotist was broken by disaffection and finally by death, and the victims went freely about on their own power unconscious of and untrammeled by any mesmeric spell. They never did find out that they had been hypnotized.

The author with some show of pride acclaims her book a work of scholarship, and many reviewers join in that appraisal. No doubt copious footnotes with citation of authorities is impressive and is responsible for the characterization. But it takes something besides footnotes to make scholarship. The numerous listing of references show industry, but do not prove historical integrity. As a matter of research the author has produced nothing new. It is essentially all in books so old as not to have been known by this generation to whom the retold stories seem new, but previously printed works told her where to find it all. Her fidelity to the textual matter of vitriolic anti-Mormon writers, and even manner of expression is startling. Little more can be said for the book than it is a composite of all anti-Mormon books that have gone before pieced into a pattern conformable to the author's own particular rationale and bedded in some very bad psychology.

Comments: (forthcoming)


John A. Widtsoe

"What Manner of Boy and Youth
Was Joseph Smith?"

The Improvement Era

August, 1946

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1946, Corporation of the President
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

What Manner of Boy and Youth
Was Joseph Smith?

In his early boyhood, Joseph Smith suffered a very serious leg infection. The bone had been injured to such a degree that the doctors recommended the amputation of the leg between the knee and the ankle. At the earnest request of the parents, the doctors made another attempt to cure the malady by scraping the bone. In those days of no anesthetics this was a most painful operation.

The mother relates that Joseph refused to be bound to the bedstead, as was the custom when such painful operations were to be performed. He also refused to drink the brandy which the doctor thought might help the boy withstand the pain.

"No," exclaimed Joseph, "I will not touch one particle of liquor, neither will I be tied down; but I will tell you what I will do -- I will have my father sit on the bed and hold me in his arms, and then I will do whatever is necessary to have the bone taken out." Looking at me, he said, "Mother, I want you to leave the room, for I know you cannot bear to see me suffer so; father can stand it, but you have carried me so much, and watched over me so long, you are almost worn out." [Lucy Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph, pp. 60-63 (1902 edition); p. 57 (1945 edition)]

The operation, though intensely painful to the lad, proved to be successful.

There is a heroic quality in this story. It seems to foreshadow the courage that led the boy a few years later to seek, independently of the views of others, the true Church of Christ. It revealed also the tender heart, filled with love, which was manifested in his dealings with all men.

Such is the earliest record of Joseph's childhood. He grew up in a Christian household. Family prayers were always held in the home. [William Smith, brother of the Prophet, Deseret News, January 20, 1894. p. 11]   Honesty and respect for sacred things were part of the family life. Pomeroy Tucker, one who knew the family personally, but did not accept the Prophet's claims, spoke of the honesty of the family:
At Palmyra, Mr. Smith, Sr., opened a "cake and beer shop" as described by his signboard, doing business on a small scale, by the profits of which, added to the earnings of an occasional day's work on hire by himself and his elder sons, for the village and farming people, he was understood to secure a scanty but honest living for himself and family. [Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, p. 12]
Such was the household in which Joseph Smith, Jr., the Prophet, was nurtured. It was a very humble life, of daily, hard work, but of an upward look towards the things of heaven.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was an intelligent boy. He had little or no formal schooling. Schools were not plentiful in those days; and he was needed at home to help support the family. Nevertheless, as he grew in years, he learned to read very well. He perused the literature of the day, such as it was; and gave special attention to the Bible until he was able to quote large parts of it. [Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, p. 12]

His friend and disciple of later years, Orson Pratt, speaking of the Prophet as a boy and youth, wrote that as a boy Joseph "could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic." [Orson Pratt, Remarkable Visions, p. 1 (1839)]

Despite such limited school training, he later gained much learning, and did remarkable work among men. Even the bitterest enemy has had to admit that Joseph Smith was possessed of high mental gifts.

The first vision of the lad, when he was between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and perhaps other early visions, influenced notably the years of his adolescence. Otherwise he followed the usual course of growth. He admits of youthful minor indiscretions.

No one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. [Pearl of Great Price, p. 50, No. 28]

There was no question in the minds of the family -- who knew him best?about Joseph's truthfulness. Mother Smith relates how the Smith family would gather of evenings to hear the coming Prophet tell of the spiritual visitations he had had. She says:

We were now confirmed in the opinion that God was about to bring to light something... that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family. This caused us greatly to rejoice, the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house, and tranquility reigned in our midst. [Lucy Smith, op. cit., p. 84 (1902 edition); pp. 82, 83 (1945 edition)]

Joseph's brother, William, confirmed Joseph's truthfulness. He said:
We all had the most implicit confidence in what he said. He was a truthful boy. Father and Mother believed him, why should not the children? I suppose if he had told crooked stories about other things we might have doubted his word about the plates, but Joseph was a truthful boy. That Father and Mother believed him, and suffered persecution for that belief shows he was truthful. No, sir, we never doubted his word for one minute. [Deseret News, January 20, 1894, p. 11]
The first vision of Joseph Smith held to be merely a lad's fantasy, caused little more than ridicule among the few who knew of it and who paid attention to it. But when later he told of plates actually seen and possessed by him, followed by the publication of the Book of Mormon, the devil broke loose in veritable fury. His kingdom of evil was to be invaded!

The resulting mass of anti-Mormon literature did not hesitate to blacken and malign the Prophet's early years. These effusions of hate may be reduced to three charges: 1, The Smith family were unworthy people; 2, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, was a money digger; and 3, he was a user of peepstones.

The charge against the character of the Smith family was based upon several affidavits from people in Palmyra and neighborhood. These affidavits were collected by one P. Hurlburt, of unsavory fame, who had been cast out from the Church for adultery. In revenge he proceeded to write a book against the Mormons, in which these affidavits were included. Even a casual examination of them shows that they were written by one hand in opposition to Joseph Smith and his claims. It was easy to secure signatures. It is easy today. The same method employed in our day, might even secure affidavits that white is black. Competent students have refused to accept the value of these affidavits; or have ignored them. [See, for example, J. H. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, p. 17; also most of the books on Joseph Smith, published during his lifetime.]

It is also to be noted that Hurlburt's reputation was such that the publisher dared not use the Hurlburt name on the title page, but instead used his own, E. D. Howe, thus leaving an infamous heritage to later generations.

The charge that Joseph Smith was a money digger rests first upon the established fact that he once was employed to dig for a "lost" silver mine. One Josiah Stoal so employed the young man. Joseph Smith has fully acknowledged this employment, which did not last long. [Elders Journal, July 1838, p. 43]

Scandal has multiplied this fact into a career of digging for money upon the part of Joseph Smith, until the reader of unprincipled anti-Mormon literature is left with the impression that the citizens of Palmyra did little else than dig for piratical gold under the leadership of a half-grown boy. The further fact that the Book of Mormon plates were buried in a hill, helped to spread the money digging stories. The hunting for "lost" treasure was not unique to that time and place. It is going on merrily today. But it has never achieved community proportions. There is no particular blame attaching to Stoal for hunting for the "lost" silver mine, or for employing Joseph Smith to do the digging. The Smiths sought employment, and in the words of Pomeroy Tucker did such labor jobs as were available, including "gardening, harvesting, well-digging, etc." [Tucker, op. cit., p. 12]

Honest historians cannot safely make the charge that Joseph Smith was a professional money digger.

Likewise, no credence can be placed upon the charge that Joseph was a peepstone user. Anti-Mormon writers are prone to suggest that the Prophet spent his time in leading people into many a fruitless chase for lost money supposed to be revealed by peepstones. Included in these stories are incantations, digging in the full of the moon, sprinkling the chosen spot with blood from a black sheep, and other like absurdities. According to these writers, every form of black art was practiced by this lad. From the age of fourteen on, he must have had the whole community by the ear. It is curious that in the Palmyra newspaper of the day, seldom is a mention made of such affairs! Perhaps the editor was himself a party to these negotiations with Lucifer!

The claims that Joseph Smith had had communication with supernatural beings furnished the foundation for the later tales of Mormon-haters about Joseph's peepstone activities. Then, by the usual accretions from many lips, the story grew, and was fed and fostered by those in whose hearts was a hate of the work to which Joseph Smith was called by God. All of the Prophet's history points away from superstition, and towards belief in an unseen world in which God and his associates dwell.

Carefully examined, the charges against the Smith family and Joseph Smith, the boy and young man, fail to be proved. There is no acceptable evidence to support them, only gossip, and deliberate misrepresentation. The Smith family were poor but honest, hard-working, and religious people. Joseph Smith was not a money digger, nor did he deceive people with peepstone claims. It is almost beyond belief that writers who value their reputations, would reproduce these silly and untrue charges. It suggests that they may have set out to destroy "Mormonism," rather than to detail true history.

The life of Joseph Smith as boy and youth, was normal, and worthy of imitation by all lovers of truth. -- J. A. W.

Comments: (forthcoming)


Francis W. Kirkham

"Joseph Smith in Chenango County
New York and Its Alleged
Court Record"

The Improvement Era

March, 1947

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1947, Corporation of the President
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[Vol. 50. No. 3. March 1947]

Joseph Smith in Chenango County New York
and Its Alleged Court Record

By Francis W. Kirkham Ph.D.

Where did the Prophet Joseph Smith spend his time after his first vision in May 1820 to about July 1, 1829, when the writing of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon was completed? What did he do? Who were his companions? Where and what did he read and study? Did he attend school? Did he come under the influence of persons or books that can in any way explain the writing or the contents of the Book of Mormon?

The Prophet tells us in his story what he did. The Prophet's mother, Oliver Cowdery, John Reid, an attorney, all bear witness to the fact that Joseph Smith went to Chenango County, New York, to work. Undoubtedly, the Prophet had related the account of the visit of Moroni, for Mr. Reid wrote concerning the arrest and trial, and his defense of Joseph Smith in 1830, making this assertion: "This, Mr. Chairman, is a true history of the first persecution that came upon General Smith in his youth among professed Christians. ..." (Italics, author's.)

The first reference in the county papers to the Prophet's influence appears to have been in November 1831 and December 1832, when "two or three wretched zealots of Mormonism created much excitement, and made some proselytes in a remote district on the borders of this county and Lazarne. The new converts then propose removing to 'the promised land,' near Painesville, Ohio." (Appendix, History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, Stocker.)

The writer thus declares that the first reference in the county papers concerning Joseph Smith came after the Church was organized, and at the time which Joseph Smith in his own records in 1830 states that he was arrested because of his religious activities. No mention is made of an arrest or a court record before this time.

In 1883, Daniel S. Tuttle, missionary bishop of Idaho and Utah, wrote an article for the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge regarding the "Mormons." (New York, 1883, Vol. II, pp. 1575-1581.)

After describing the contents of the Book of Mormon, and summarizing the early life of Joseph Smith, Bishop Tuttle wrote:

This was on September 22, 1823 (the first visit to Joseph Smith of Moroni, the immortal messenger) and from this time on, he avers, his days and nights were filled and his life was guided, by "visions," "voices," and "angels."

The Hill Cumorah was about four miles from Palmyra, between that town and Manchester. Here, in the fall of 1827, he claims he exhumed the golden plates. For more than two years, by the aid of the "Urim and Thummim" found with them, he was engaged in translating their contents into English. In March 1830, the translation was given into the printer's hands. This is his history of himself. 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, New York:
"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 brought into court March 20 (1826). Prisoner examined. Says that he came from a town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel in Bainbridge most of the 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 of 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 anything to do with this business."

Then follow the statements of Josiah Stowel, Horace Stowel, Arad Stowel and Jonathan Thompson. "...And thereupon the court finds the defendant guilty."

THIS alleged record of the court does not conform to the requirements of the law as quoted below. It gives a long confession by the defendant, Joseph Smith, which the law does not require. It gives the testimony of five witnesses, whereas, the testimony of any witness is not recorded in a justice of the peace court. There is no record that any witness was sworn. It is announced he was found guilty, but no sentence is recorded. The record does not conform with the procedure of a trail. A reasonable conclusion is that the alleged record was written by a person totally unfamiliar with court procedure.

It appears that this alleged court record is quoted by only three anti-"Mormon" writers since its publication. The first, by Samuel W. Traum, Mormonism Against Itself, 1910, page 43. This writer falsely claims that, "Tullidge, in his Life of Joseph the Prophet, incidentally confirms the record of such a trial having been held, and devotes about eight pages of his volume to Joseph's account of the trial." Tullidge describes the trial of Joseph Smith in 1830, which no historian denies. This is "deliberate misinformation."

The second anti-"Mormon" writer, George Bartholomew Arbaugh, Revelations in Mormonism, 1932, page 28, refers very briefly to the account of the trail. He writes:

Joseph's fame so spread that he was hired by Josiah Stowell of Chenango County, New York, to dig for money. His father and others were employed with him. About five months later Stowell had him arrested as an impostor. At the trial, March 26, 1826, he said he did locate gold mines and hidden treasure, as well as lost property, by looking in his stone, that he had done this for three years but never solicited business and had of late pretty much given it up because it made his eyes sore. He was held guilty. ... At the trial he showed his seer stone; ... This was clearly not the Belcher stone; it must have been the Chase stone, since it resembled "a child's foot in shape" and was opaque.

The alleged court record does not state Stowell had him arrested; it does not state Joseph Smith showed his stone. Such are the misquotations of prejudiced writers.

The third writer to quote the alleged justice of the peace record, Fawn M. Brodie, writes:

This behavior is confirmed by the most coldly objective description of young Joseph that remains which historians have hitherto overlooked or ignored. This description seems also to be the earliest public document that mentions him at all. The document, a court record dated March 1826, when Joseph was twenty-one covers his trail in Bainbridge, New York, on a charge of being a disorderly person and an impostor. On the basis of the testimony presented, including Joseph's own admissions of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace.

A CAREFUL STUDY of all the 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. These are the reasons:

(1) The article written for the religious encyclopedia was printed in the same place and with the same sized letters in later editions, 1889 and 1891. (All editions are in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.) In the 1910 edition and thereafter a much fairer and more nearly correct account of the "Mormons" appears. It was written by Henry King Carroll, LL.D, Department of Minor Denominations.

The alleged court record is not mentioned. Apparently Funk and Wagnalls had found no historical evidence existed to justify its continued publication.

(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 of proving that Joseph Smith by this means practised fraud and claimed to have found the metallic plates of the Book of Mormon. If a court record had been in existence within eighty miles of the residence of the people who signed these affidavits in which Joseph Smith confessed he had used a seer stone, this record would in all probability 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.

(3) 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 Tuttle in 1883, asserts 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.

(4) It is true that Oliver Cowdery refers to a possible arrest of Joseph Smith prior to 1830, and it is true that one historian of Chenango County refers to this arrest in 1826. In these records which are quoted above, nothing appears which would justify the assertion that Joseph Smith made a confession in a court of law regarding the use of a seer stone, and particularly that such a record was in existence.

(5) Thousands of intelligent and devout persons accepted the evidence presented by Joseph Smith during his lifetime. In addition, these believers at that time were able to determine for themselves by personal investigation all the facts that Joseph Smith declared to be true concerning persons, places, events, and conditions which had to do with the writing, translation, the existence of copies of the characters from the plates, and other situations concerning the actual dictation and printing of the Book of Mormon. 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 organize the restored Church.

(6) The following facts are important regarding the possible existence of a justice of the peace court record similar to the one quoted in the article written by Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle:

a. "The revised statutes of the state of New York printed in 1829, require the recording of certain facts not mentioned in the alleged record. The law does not require the recording of the testimony of the defendant. (Revised Statutes of New York, 1829, Vol.I, p. 638 and 243.)

b. "Records as early as 1820-30 of justice of the peace courts of New York state, in the library at Albany, New York, are in the handwriting of the justices and 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." (Charles Titus, Book of Judgments 1808-1817, T. Shipherd.) Docket Book, Washington County, 1828, Docket Book, Cairo County, 1829-1833, Bender's Manual for all Counties and Town Officers, 15th edition, 1837, p. 311, describes the powers and duties of justices of the peace, and designates the record that each justice shall keep. It states:

Powers & Duties of Justices of the Peace:

Each justice shall

(a) Keep a criminal docket and a civil docket. The original docket, in all cases, shall contain the name and residence of the defendant, and the complainant; the offense charged; the action of the justice on the complaint, and the name of the constable or other officer to whom any warrant on the complaint was delivered. It shall also show whether the person charged was or was not arrested; the defendant's plea; whether a trial was had or an examination held or waived; the names and addresses of the witnesses sworn thereon, and the final action of the justice in the premises.

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.

(7) A visit to Norwich, the county seat of Chenango County, New York, and a personal interview with the Mr. Irving D. Tillman, clerk of the county court, revealed that there are no records in this country prior to 1850. Also, there is no knowledge of the destruction of any records. It can be definitely asserted that Daniel S.Tuttle could not have visited this county prior to 1883, and found such a record as he allegedly reports. At this time he was a resident bishop in Idaho and Utah. The anti-"Mormon" writers who quote his article depend entirely upon his statement in the religious encyclopedia. None of them has personal knowledge of the existence of this record.

(8) Two of the anti-"Mormon" writers who copy this record, Samuel W. Traum and George Bartholomew Arbaugh, both declare that the origin of the Book of Mormon was Sidney Rigdon who wrote the religious parts, and Solomon Spaulding, who provided the historical basis for the book. These two writers agree with practically all persons who have tried to prove a human origin of the Book of Mormon, namely, that Joseph Smith did not have the ability to write this book of over five hundred pages of history, prophecy, and religious doctrine. The believers in the book also assert that Joseph Smith did not have the ability to produce the book. In other words, for one hundred years, and especially during the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith, it was definitely known by every person who had personal knowledge of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that the Book of Mormon was entirely beyond his ability to write. He asserted that it was an ancient record translated by the gift and power of God. Those who denied his statement asserted that, for purposes of fraud and deception, he had obtained the assistance of others who had the ability to write the book.

The conclusion must be: Joseph Smith during the four years of 1823 to 1827 or from the time of the first visit to him of Moroni, the immortal messenger, to the time he received the ancient record of the Book of Mormon spent considerable of his time in Chenango County, New York. Here he worked as a common laborer. He may have attended school. No one claims he associated with or had access to any knowledge that would have assisted him to write the Book of Mormon. It was known to some of the people that he claimed to have been visited by a messenger from God and that a book of great religious importance was to be expected. There exists no evidence to prove he lived other than a normal life. 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.

This information will be more fully treated in a new edition of A New Witness for Christ in America.

Comments: (forthcoming)


Joseph Fielding Smith

Doctrines of Salvation III

pp. 225-26

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1956, Bookcraft
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.


...We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church. Statements of translations by the Urim and Thummim after that date are evidently errors. 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.

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. The reason I give for this conclusion is found in the statement of the Lord to the Brother of Jared as recorded in Ether 3:22-24.

These stones, the Urim and Thummim which were given to the Brother of Jared, were preserved for this very purpose of translating the record, both of the Jaredites and the Nephites. Then again the Prophet was impressed by Moroni with the fact that these stones were given for that very purpose. It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently inferior under these circumstances. 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.

Comments: Apostle Bruce R. McConkie (who compiled the selections published in Doctrines of Salvation) provided his own statements on this topic, in his 1959 Mormon Doctrine under the two following headings:

Peep Stones

See DEVIL, REVELATION, URIM AND THUMMIM. 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. An instance of this copying of the true order occurred in the early days of this dispensation. Hiram Page had such a stone and was professing to have revelations for the upbuilding of Zion and the governing of the Church. Oliver Cowdery and some others were wrongly influenced thereby in consequence of which Oliver was commanded by revelation: "Thou shalt take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me, and that Satan deceiveth him." (D. & C. 28:11.)

Urim and Thummim

See BOOK OF MORMON, GOLD PLATES, PEEP STONES, REVELATION. From time to time, as his purposes require, the Lord personally, or through the ministry of appointed angels, delivers to chosen prophets a Urim and Thummim to be used in receiving revelations and in translating ancient records from unknown tongues. With the approval of the Lord these prophets are permitted to pass these instruments on to their mortal successors.

A Urim and Thummim consists of two special stones called seer stones or interpreters. The Hebrew words urim and thummim both plural, mean lights and perfections. Presumably one of the stones is called Urim and the other Thummim. Ordinarily they are carried in a breastplate over the heart. (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8.)

Because of the sacred nature of these holy instruments they have not been viewed by most men, and even the times and circumstances under which they have been held by mortals are not clearly set forth. Undoubtedly they were in use before the flood, but the first scriptural reference to them is in connection with the revelations given the Brother of Jared. (Ether 3:21-28.) Abraham had them in his day (Abra. 3:1-4), and Aaron and the priests in Israel had them from generation to generation. (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Neh. 7:65.) There is no record that Lehi brought a Urim and Thummim to this continent, but King Mosiah had one prior to the discovery of the Book of Ether, and it was handed down from prophet to prophet. (Omni 20-21; Mosiah 8:13-19; 21:26-28; 28:11-20; Alma 63:12; Ether 4:1-7.)

Joseph Smith received the same Urim and Thummim had by the Brother of Jared for it was the one expressly provided for the translation of the Jaredite and Nephite records. (D. & C. 10:1; 17:1; Ether 3:22-28.) It was separate and distinct from the one had by Abraham and the one had by the priests in Israel. 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. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 222-226.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith, with reference to the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim, has written: "We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church. Statements of translations by the Urim and Thummim after that date are evidently errors. 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.)

When Moroni first revealed to the Prophet the existence of the gold plates, he also said "that there were two stones in silver bows -- and these stones, fastened to a breastplate constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim -- deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted `seers' in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book." (Jos. Smith 2:35, 59, 62.) Ammon said of these same stones: "The things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer." (Mosiah 8:13; 28:13-16.)

The existence and use of the Urim and Thummim as an instrument of revelation will continue among exalted beings in eternity. From the inspired writings of the Prophet we learn that angels "reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, 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 Christ's. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known." (D. & C. 130:6-11.)
Copyright © 1959 Bookcraft


Francis W. Kirkham

A New Witness For Christ (2 vols.)

Vol. 1 Ch. 9 (excerpt)
Vol. 1 Ch. 21 (excerpt)
Vol. 1 Supplement (excerpt)
Vol. II Ch. 23 (excerpt)
Vol. II End Matter (excerpt)

Transcriber's comments

  Copyright © 1942, '51, '58, '59. '60, Brigham Young University.
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

A  New  Witness  For
Christ  in  America

The  Book  of  Mormon





Copyright © 1942, '51, '58, '59. '60, Brigham Young University.
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[ 107 ]



Except for very few, the residents of Palmyra rejected Joseph Smith's claim as a fraud that he had both seen and heard an immortal messenger from God and that he had received from him an ancient record from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Nevertheless these persons who knew him so well would be able to testify whether or not he had made such an unusual declaration at the time and at the place and under the circumstances which he asserted.

It would be priceless to the Christian Church if it possessed today the declaration of Christ's acts and teachings by those who knew him personally at Nazareth, at Galilee, and at Jerusalem. Only a few accepted His miracles, or His statement that He was the Son of God. Only a few believed in His resurrection, but they could have known that He lived and acted His life as recorded by His followers.

Fortunately, we have such comparable writings of the life and activities of Joseph Smith by three persons who lived at Palmyra during the eventful years of the life of Joseph Smith when he declared the visits of the immortal messenger to him. These men are Pomeroy Tucker, editor and proprietor for many years of the local newspaper, the Wayne Sentinal; Honorable Stephen S. Harding, later governor of Utah territory; and Reverend John Alonzo Clark, a resident minister of Palmyra, and also an editor of the Episcopal Recorder, a religious periodical published in Philadelphia.


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These writers gave the same details regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon as were declared by Joseph Smith and by Oliver Cowdery. The difference between the writers is one only -- Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery declared the events were by divine power for the production of the Book of Mormon. The other writers declared the events as part of a plan to deceive the public in the publication of a book of no real value, but printed for the purpose of speculation and fraud. (These writers accepted the theory that Joseph Smith was assisted by Sidney Rigdon and had for further help a manuscript of Solomon Spaulding.)

The reader will note with great interest that these persons who knew Joseph Smith agree with him regarding the physical facts of the origin of the Book of Mormon. So far as the writer has been able to find, no one who knew Joseph Smith personally or who was acquainted with the actual production and printing of the book, deny his statements and those of Oliver Cowdery regarding these physical events.


The preface of the book written by Pomeroy Tucker is given in full as it makes clear the residence of the author and his knowledge of the events and circumstances incident to the publication of the Book of Mormon...


Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism


In claiming the statements herein set forth the character of fairness and authenticity, it is perhaps appropriate to add in this connection, that the locality of the malversations resulting in the Mormon scheme, is the author's birthplace; that he was


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well acquainted with Joe Smith, the first Mormon Prophet and with his father and all the Smith family since their removal to Palmyra from Vermont in 1816, and during their continuance there, and in the adjoining town of Manchester, that he was equally acquainted with Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery, and with most of the earlier followers of Smith, either as money diggers or Mormons; that he established at Palmyra, in 1822, and was for many years editor and proprietor of the Wayne Sentinel, and was editorally connected with that paper at the printing by its press of the original edition of the Book of Mormon in 1830; that in the progress of the work, he performed much of the reading of the proof sheets, comparing the same with the manuscript copies, and in the meantime had frequent and familiar interviews with the pioneer Mormons, Smith, Cowdery, and Harris; that he was present at the repeated consultations and negotiations between these men and Mr. Grandin in relation to the printing of the book, and united with the latter in the friendly admonitions vainly seeking to divert Harris from his persistent fanaticism in that losing speculation.

For corroboratory references, the author is permitted to name Messrs. Joseph Capron, Russell Stoddard, Barton Stafford, and Russell M. Rush, of Manchester, New York; and Messrs. George Beckwith, George W. Cuyler, Richard S. Williams, Willard Chase, John H. Gilbert, and Joseph C. Lovett, of Palmyra; who, with himself, (except the last two named) were contemporaries and neighbors of Smith and his family for the whole period of their residence in this locality, and all of whom are familiar with their character and pursuits and with their money digging reputation and fabulous "Golden Bible" discovery. (Pomeroy Tucker, Palmyra, May, 1867.)

  After stating that the Smith family secured a scanty but honest living by their industry, "their hired day's work being divided among the various common labor jobs that offered from time to time such as gardening, harvesting, well digging, etc., also, by chopping and retailing cord wood from their farm, raising and bartering agricultural crops, maple sugar and molasses, the making and selling of black ash baskets and birch brooms, etc,"


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he then relates the spiritual experiences of the Prophet, as follows:

About this time Smith had a remarkable vision. He pretended that, while engaged in secret prayer, alone in the wilderness, an "angel of the Lord" appeared to him, with the glad tidings that "all his sins had been forgiven," and proclaiming further that "all the religious denominations were believing in false doctrines, and consequently none of them were accepted of God as of His Church and Kingdom"; also that he had received a "promise that the true doctrine and the fulness of the gospel should at some time be revealed to him."

Here is a definite declaration by a bitter opponent that Joseph Smith at the age of eighteen years declared he would reveal by the power of God the "fulness of the gospel." How preposterous, how ludicrous, for an unlearned youth, himself and alone, to make such a declaration! But, one hundred years has seen that promise fulfilled. The Restored Church today is a marvelous work and a wonder.

Following this, soon came another angel (or possibly the same one), revealing to him that he was himself to be the favored instrument of the new revelation; that the American Indians were a remnant of the Israelites, who, after coming to this country, had their prophets and inspired writings; that such of their writings as had not been destroyed were safely deposited in a certain place made known to him, and to him only; that they contained revelations in regard to the last days, and that, if he remained faithful, he would be the chosen prophet to translate them to the world.

In the fall of the same year Smith had yet a more miraculous and astonishing vision than any preceding one. He now arrogated to himself, by authority of "the spirit of revelation," and in accordance with the previous "promises" made to him, a far higher sphere in the scale of human existence, assuming to possess the gift and power of "prophet, seer, and revelator." On this assumption he announced to his family, friends, and the bigoted persons who had adhered to his supernaturalism, that he


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was "commanded," upon a secretly fixed day and hour, to go alone to a certain spot revealed to him by the angel, and there take out of the earth a metallic book of great antiquity in its origin, and of immortal importance in its consequence to the world, which was a record, in mystic letters or characters, of the long lost tribes of Israel before spoken of, who had primarily inhabited this continent, and which no human being besides himself could see and live; and the power to translate which to the nations of the earth was also given to him only, as the chosen servant of God! This was substantially, if not literally, the pretension of Smith, as related by himself, and repeatedly quoted by his credulous friends at the time.

Here is positive evidence from a prejudiced source that the declarations by Joseph Smith of the visit of Moroni and his instructions to him were common knowledge at the time of the event and in the village where he lived.

Much pains were taken by the Smith family and the prophet's money-digging disciples to give wide circulation to the wonderful revelation, and in great gravity to predict its marvelous fulfillment. It is unknown, however, if the momentous announcement produced any sensation in the community, though it is fair to presume that the victims of Smith's former deceptive practices regarded it with some seriousness.

Accordingly, when the appointed hour came, the prophet, assuming his practiced air of mystery, took in hand his money-digging spade and a large napkin, and went off in silence and alone in the solitude of the forest, and after an absence of some three hours, returned apparently with his sacred charge concealed within the folds of the napkin. Reminding the family of the original "command" as revealed to him strict injunction of non-intervention and non-inspection was given to them, under the same terrible penalty as before announced for its violation. Conflicting stories were afterward told in regard to the manner of keeping the book in concealment and safety, which are not worth repeating, further than to mention that the first place of secretion was said to be under a heavy hearthstone in the Smith family mansion....


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The mother of the Prophet tells of hiding the plates in the hearthstone of the home, (see page 143).

Mr. Willard Chase, a carpenter and joiner, was called upon by Smith and requested to make a strong chest in which to keep the golden book under lock and key, in order to prevent the awful calamity that would follow against the person other than himself who should behold it with his natural eyes. He could not pay a shilling for the work, and therefore proposed to make Mr. Chase a sharer in the profits ultimately anticipated in some manner not definitely stated; but the proposition was rejected -- the work was refused on the terms offered.

This same incident dealing with the same man is given in Mormonism Unvailed, (see page 134.)

It was understood, however, that the custodian of the precious treasure afterward, in some way procured a chest for his purpose, which, with its sacred deposit, was kept in a dark garret of his father's house, where the translations were subsequently made, as will be explained.... (See pages 28, 29, 30, and 31.)

The marvelous metallic book and its accompaniment soon became a common topic of conversation, far and near; but the sacred treasure was not seen by mortal eyes, save those of the one anointed, until after the lapse of a year or longer time, when it was found expedient to have a new revelation, as Smith's bare word had utterly failed to gain a convert beyond his original circle of believers. By this amended revelation, the veritable existence of the Book was certified to by eleven witnesses of Smith's selection. It was then heralded as the Golden Bible, or Book of Mormon, and as the beginning of a new gospel dispensation....

The spot from which the book is alleged to have been takenis the yet partially visible pit where the money speculators had previously dug for another kind of treasure, which is upon the summit of what has ever since been known as "Mormon Hill," now owned by Mr. Anson Robinson, in the town of Manchester, New York.

Could there be better contemporary evidence given


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by a bitter anti-Mormon writer that plates were said to be taken from an identified hill?

This book of sacred records, after the dispersion of the first vague reports concerning it, was finally described by Smith and his echoes as consisting of metallic leaves or plates resembling gold, bound together in a volume by three rings running through one edge of them, the leaves opening like an ordinary paper book. The leaves were about the thickness of common tin. Each leaf or plate was filled on both sides with engravings of finely drawn characters, which resembled Egyptian or other hieroglyphics. The Urim and Thummim, found with the records, were two transparent crystals set in the rims of a bow, in the form of spectacles of enormous size. This constituted the seer's instrument whereby the records were to be translated and the mysteries of hidden things revealed, and it was to supersede the further use of the magic stone. The entire sacred acquisition was delivered into the hands of the prophet by the heavenly messenger attending him, amid the awful surroundings already stated, after the former had thrown up a few spadefuls of earth in pursuance of the Lord's command. Such was Smith's ingenious story at the time, the characterization of which is left for the reader.

Again this prejudiced writer declares that Joseph Smith announced his message long before he translated and published the Book of Mormon....


[ 281 ]



As noted in the above newspaper articles, the Book of Mormon was advertised and ready for sale the week of March 26, 1830. On April 6th following, or in about one week after the book was printed, the Church was formally organized by six baptized members in conformity with the New York laws. The many newspaper articles published prior to this date and shortly thereafter reveal the attitude and the thinking of the residents of Palmyra and vicinity. These declare that "Joe Smith," a poor, ignorant, lazy, deluded person, had been inspired by Walters, a vagabond magician, to conceive the idea to write a gold bible and to claim the gold record of the book had been given to him by a spirit and that he had translated the gold plates by divine power.

In the opinion of the local people a few deluded, superstitious people might believe the story. Again history will repeat itself, the writer declares, "Man from time immemorial has more or less been the dupe of superstitious error and imposition. Where ignorance is found to prevail, superstition and bigotry will abound."

The careful reader of the six articles that follow which attempt to tell the origin of the Book of Mormon will be impressed with the utter lack of ability on the part of the writer to make any definite statement as


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to time or place or persons. He writes of delusions, of superstitions, of ignorance, of dupes. He concedes the book was produced by "Joe Smith" as was the current belief at the time and place of its publication. But like other fanatical imposters, "Joe Smith," and his "Gold Bible" will soon be forgotten.

Following is the letter from a correspondent of the Palmyra Reflector to which reference has already been made, who signs himself "Plain Truth." It gave rise to the six articles that follow and was written less than nine months after the Book of Mormon was published. The first article appeared Jan. 7, 1831. The others continued weekly thereafter until completed:


                          "Farmington, Ont. Co., Jan. 1, 1831.

"Mr. Editor:

"I observe by the public prints that this most clumsy of all impositions, known among us as Joe Smith's 'Gold Bible,' is beginning to excite curiosity abroad, from the novelty of its appearance, and the assurance of its advocates, who in imitation of too many of our religious sects, who have gone before them, very charitably (at least in this region) threaten all who have the hardihood to refuse to subscribe to their rhapsodies, with 'dire damnation.'

"The two papers published in your village, for reasons easily explained, decline at present throwing any light on this subject. To you, and you alone, do we look for an expose of the principal facts and characters, as connected with this singular business: I say singular, because it was hardly to be expected that a mummery like the one in question should have been gotten up at so


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late a period, and among a people professing to be enlightened.

"It is not from a persecuting spirit that I solicit an exposure, for my maxim is that 'error is never dangerous, where truth is free to combat it,' and that liberty of conscience in matters of religion should be allowed to all. Among the bundle of papers herewith sent to you for inspection, you will find little else, than a dry statement of facts, without much reference to time or order; you will perceive that I have attempted to throw all the light I could upon the 'money digging mania,' which formerly pervaded this, and many other countries, which eventuated in the discovery of Joe Smith's 'Golden Treasure.'

"From your knowledge of ancient and modern history, by which you will be enabled to relieve the dryness of the subject by bringing before the public parallel cases, there can be no doubt that much useful information may result from your labors. I shall from time to time send you such information as I may collect on this piece of legerdemain.
                    "Yours, etc.,
                                  "PLAIN TRUTH."
Palmyra Reflector, Jan. 6, 1831.


'We have long been waiting, with considerable anxiety, to see some of our contemporaries attempt to explain the immediate causes, which produced that anomaly in religion and literature, which has most strikingly excited the curiosity of our friends at a distance, generally known


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under the cognomen of the Book of Mormon, or the Gold Bible.

"The few notices heretofore given in the public prints are quite vague and uncertain and throw but a faint light on the subject. While some have evinced a spirit of rancor without giving the whys and wherefores: others have attached an ominous consequence to this transaction, which may have a tendency to mislead the ignorant.

"It is our intention, so far as in us lies, to give, in accordance with the wishes of our friend 'Plain Truth,' (whose communication will be found in this day's paper), a plain and unvarnished statement of facts, so far as they may come to our knowledge, which may, in our opinion, be considered as having any connection with the origin, rise, and progress of the Book in question: so that our readers may not only judge of this, but of some other matters for themselves.

"By way of introduction, and illustration, we shall introduce brief notices and sketches of the superstitions of the ancients -- the pretended science of alchemy, by which it was vainly supposed that the baser metals might be transmuted into gold -- of Mohamet (properly Ma-hommed) and other ancient impostures -- legends, or traditions respecting hidden treasures, with the spirit, to whom ignorance has formerly given them in charge -- tales of modern "money diggers," and other impostures -- the Morristown Ghost, Rogers, Walters, Joanna Southcote, Jemima Wilkinson, etc.

"Our readers will perceive that we have an ample field before us; -- how well we shall execute our task, time will determine -- we shall publish so much weekly as will not interfere with our variety. Postmasters and others, who can furnish us with interesting notices on


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any of the above subjects, shall receive a copy of our paper gratis."


"The pages of history inform us, that from time immemorable, man has more or less been the dupe of superstitious error and imposition: so much so, that some writers in derision have called him "a religious animal," and it often happens that the more absurd the dogma, the more greedily will it be swallowed, and the more absurd or unnatural the tenet, the more eagerly will it be embraced.

"Where ignorance is found to prevail, superstition and bigotry will abound: hence we discover among the most rude and barbarous nations, objects the most disgusting and abhorrent, exhibited for the purpose of divine adoration and worship, and certain it is that untutored man has generally attributed to the divinities of his choice, passions and feelings like his own.

"The more ferocious and warlike tribes worship deities, whose propensity for blood, is supposed to be in accordance with their own narrow views of the same subject: hence the origin of human sacrifices. The more mild and civilized (the Peruvians for instance) worshipped the sun and other heavenly bodies, believing them to possess the greatest good: their offerings were generally taken from the fruits of the earth, and blood seldom stained their altars.

"Man is as prone to be inconsistent, as he is to be superstitious: he will bestow thousands, under the idle pretense of assisting beings, of whom he has no certain knowledge, and with whom he can never be acquainted, while his next door neighbor may perish unheeded for


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lack of sustenance: and what may yet be considered a still greater anomaly in principle is the conduct of the Hindoos, who believe in the transmigration of the soul, and consequently abstain from animal food, and the destruction of the brute creation, for fear of killing some of their kindred or friends, whose souls may have taken up a temporary abode in some animal: while they immolate human victims on their altars.

"Our present business, however, is not to discuss the tenets of the innumerable sects and denominations, of christians or pagans, which now cover the face of the habitable globe, but to throw some light on the "rise and progress" of a sect, (if they may be so called,) who profess to be governed by the pseudo prophet Joe Smith Junior, who in addition to the precepts contained in the "Book of Mormon," issues his inspired commands daily to his devoted followers, and no mandate of Mohamet was ever more implicitly obeyed.

"Agreeable to the plan laid down in our last paper we shall commence, or in other words preface our subject by giving brief notices of some of the most notorious imposters that have figured either in ancient or modern times, and connecting such other matters as we may consider applicable to the subject, or interesting to our readers. We shall commence with the imposter of Mecca.

"Joe Smith, as a military chieftan, or as a man of natural abilities, can bear no comparison with the author of the Koran, and it is only in their ignorance and impudence that a parallel can be found...."

Then follows a description of Mohamet and his work.


"Joe Smith, Junior, according to the best information


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we can obtain on this subject, was born in the State of Vermont. His father emigrated to the country (Ontario County, N.Y.) about the year 1815, and located his family in the Village of Palmyra. The age of this modern prophet is supposed to be about twenty-four years. In his person he is tall and slender--thin favored--having but little expression of countenance, other than that than that of dullness; his mental powers appear to be extremely limited, and from the small opportunity he has had at school, he made little or no proficiency, and it is asserted by one of his principle followers, (who also pretends to divine illuminations,) that Joe, even at this day is profoundly ignorant of the meaning of many of the words contained in the Book of Mormon.

"Joseph Smith, Senior, the father of the personage of whom we are now writing, had by misfortune or otherwise been reduced to extreme poverty before he migrated to Western New York. His family was large, consisting of nine or ten children, among whom Joe Junior was the third or fourth in succession. We have never been able to learn that any of the family were ever noted for much else than ignorance and stupidity, to which might be added, so far as it may respect the elder branch, a propensity to superstition and a fondness for everything marvelous.

"We have been credibly informed that the mother of the prophet had connected herself with several religious societies before her present illumination: this also was the case with other branches of the family, but how far the father of the prophet ever advanced in these particulars we are not precisely informed. It however appears quite certain that the prophet himself never made


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any serious pretentions to religion until his late pretended revelation.

"We are not able to determine whether the elder Smith was ever concerned in money digging transactions previous to his emigration from Vermont, or not, but it is a well authenticated fact that soon after his arrival here, he evinced a firm belief in the existence of hidden treasures, and that this section of country abounded in them. He also revived, or in other words, propagated the vulgar, yet popular belief that these treasures were held in charge by some evil spirit, which was supposed to be either the devil himself, or some one of his most trusty favorites. This opinion, however, did not originate by any means with Smith, for we find that the vulgar and ignorant from time immemorial, both in Europe and America, have entertained the same preposterous opinion."

Then follows a description of the "mania for money digging."


"Since we have any knowledge of the habits or propensities of the human species, we find that man has been prone to absurdities: and it too often happens that while we carefully attempt to detect them in others, we fondly cherish some gross inconsistencies within our own bosoms. The lust of power doubtless stimulates the few, while ignorance binds the many, like passive slaves to the car of superstition.

"It is passing strange, that in all ages of the world, gross stupidity in an imposter should be considered among the vulgar, irrefragable proof of his divine mission,

The deleted section on money-digging:  "It may not be amiss in this place to mention that the mania of money digging soon began rapidly to diffuse itself through many parts of this country; men and women without distinction of age or sex became marvellous wise in the occult sciences, many dreamed, and others saw visions disclosing to them, deep in the bowels of the earth, rich and shining treasures, and to facilitate those mighty mining operations, (money was usually if not always sought after in the night time,) divers devices and implements were invented, and although the spirit was always able to retain his precious charge, these discomfited as well as deluded beings, would on a succeeding night return to their toil, not in the least doubting that success would eventually attend their labors.  --  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 wizzard 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 that some of these deluded people, by having their imaginations heated to the highest pitch of excitement, and by straining their eyes until they were suffused with tears, might have, through the medium of some trifling emission of the ray of light, receive 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 was nightly opened in various places and men who were too lazy or idle to labor for bread in the day time, displayed a zeal and perseverance in this business worthy of a better cause."


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and the most bungling piece of legerdemain, will receive from them all the credit of a well attested miracle."

(Then follows a long description of Joanna Southcote of London, who proved to be a false prophetess. She claimed she received revelations.)

"If an imposture, like the one we have so briefly noticed, could spring up in the great metropolis of England, and spread over a considerable portion of that kingdom, it is not surprising that one equally absurd, should have its origin in this neighborhood, where its dupes are not, or ever will be numerous.

"In the commencement, the imposture of the 'Book of Mormon' had no regular plan or features. At a time when the money digging ardor was somewhat abated, the elder Smith declared that his son Joe had seen the spirit, (which he then described as a little old man with a long beard,) and was informed that he (Jo) under certain circumstances, eventually should obtain great treasures, and that in due time he (the spirit) would furnish him (Jo) with a book, which would give an account of the ancient inhabitants (antideluvians) of this country, and where they had deposited their substance, consisting of costly furniture, etc., at the approach of the great deluge, which had ever since that time remained secure in his (the spirit's) charge, in large and spacious chambers, in sundry places in this vicinity, and these tidings corresponded precisely with revelations made to, and predictions made by the elder Smith a number of years before.

"The time at length arrived, when young Joe was to receive the book from the hand of the spirit, and he repaired accordingly, alone, and in the night time, to the woods in the rear of his father's house (in the town


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of Manchester, about two miles south of this village) and met the spirit as had been appointed. This rogue of a spirit who had baffled all the united efforts of the money diggers, (although they had tried many devices to gain his favor, and at one time sacrificed a barn yard fowl,) intended it would seem to play our prophet a similar trick on this occasion, for no sooner had he delivered the book according to promise, than he made a most desperate attempt to regain its possession. Our prophet, however, like a lad of true metal, stuck to his prize, (and attempted to gain his father's dwelling, which it appears, was near at hand. The father being alarmed at the long absence of his son, and probably fearing some trick of the spirit, having known him for many years: sallied forth in quest of the youthful adventurer. He had not, however, proceeded far before he fell in with the object of his kind solicitude who appeared to be in the greatest peril. The spirit had become exasperated at the stubborn conduct of the young prophet, in wishing to keep possession of the book, and out of sheer spite, raised a whirlwind, which at that particular juncture, throwing trunks and limbs of trees about their ears, besides the ground, and bruised him severely in the side. The rescue however, was timely; Joe retained his treasure and returned to the house with his father, much fatigued and injured. This tale in substance, was told at the time the event was said to have happened by both father and son, and is well recollected by many of our citizens. It will be borne in mind that no divine interposition had been dreamed of at the period."


"Every imposter since the creation has owed his success


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to the ignorance of the people, and the propensity inherent in their natures, to follow everything absurd or ridiculous. Learning it is said flourished in some parts of Arabia at the time Mohamet made his appearance, and this may sufficiently account for the slow progress that imposter made for the first years of his pretended mission, and had not the Koran been supported by the sword the whole imposition in all probability would have died in embryo, and the disciples and followers of the crescent would never have been able to subjugate the fairest portion of the globe.

"It is said Sergius, a Christian Monk, assisted Mohamet in writing the Koran, which is allowed by the best and most candid writers to be written with the utmost elegance and purity, in the language of the Koreighites, the most noble and polite of all the Arabians. Mohamet had a regular plan from the beginning in the commencement of his imposture, and was afterwards allowed, as he declares, numerous conferences with God Himself. He was too cunning to attempt many miracles before his followers, and even the story of the tame pigeon, who had been taught to light upon the shoulder of the prophet, and eat millet from his ear, is denied by many of the Arabian historians.

"It is well known that Joe Smith never pretended to have any communion with angels, until a long period after the pretended finding of his book, and that the juggling of himself or father went no further than the pretended faculty of seeing wonders in a 'peep stone,' and the occasional interview with the spirit, supposed to have the custody of hidden treasures: and it is also equally well known that a vagabond fortune-teller by the name of Walters, who then resided in the town of Sodus, and was once committed to the jail of this country


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for juggling, was the constant companion and bosom friend of these money digging imposters.

"There remains but little doubt, in the minds of those at all acquainted with these transactions, that Walters, who was sometimes called the conjurer, and was paid three dollars per day for his service by the money diggers in this neighborhood, first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book. Walters, the better to carry on his own deception with those ignorant and deluded people who employed him, had procured an old copy of Caesar's Orations, in the Latin language, out of which 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.

"So far did this imposter carry this diabolical farce that not long previous to the pretended discovery of the Book of Mormon, 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 laborers, with the point of an old rusty sword, and using sundry other incantations, for the purpose of propiating the spirit, absolutely sacrificed a fowl, ('Rooster') in the presence of his awe-stricken wealth; and after digging until daylight, his deluded employers retired to their several habitations fatigued and disappointed.

"If the critical reader will examine the Book of Mormon, he will directly perceive, that in many instances the style of the Bible, from which it is chiefly copied, has been entirely altered for the worse. In many instances it has been copied upwards, without reference to chapter


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(excerpt truncated due to copyright restrictions)

Copyright © 1942, '51, '58, '59. '60, Brigham Young University.
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[ 457 ]



In this supplement are printed important documents pertaining to the writing and publication of the "Book of Mormon" and the activities of Joseph Smith before the book was printed in 1830. These include two early publications concerning the witnesses to the "Book of Mormon" probably reprinted here for the first time since their original publication in 1831.

Since this book was published in 1942, a considerable part of the original manuscript of the "Book of Mormon" has been presented to President George Albert Smith by Charles C. Richards, son of Apostle Franklin D. Richards, who received the manuscript from Major Bidamon, husband of Emma Smith at Nauvoo on May 21, 1885. The statement published by Apostle Franklin D. Richards, at the time, is reprinted in part in this supplement. It gives the very important information that the manuscript is in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery and reflects sincere knowledge of its sacred origin.

On page 214 of this book, a photograph copy of an earlier part of this manuscript is printed. Evidence is given that both parts of the manuscript are in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, thus confirming the conclusions of chapter 18 of this book.

The newspaper article concerning Martin Harris is very important evidence that he left Palmyra to go to Kirtland as early as 1831. It is definite proof that he declared openly his knowledge of the divine origin of the "Book of Mormon."


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(pages 458-466 not transcribed due to copyright restrictions)


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Martin Harris, another chief of the Mormon imposters, arrived here last Saturday from the bible quarry in New York. He immediately planted himself in the barroom of the hotel, where he soon commenced reading and explaining the Mormon hoax, and all the dark passages from Genesis to Revelations. He told all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.--He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God: Curiosity soon drew around thirty or forty spectators; and all who presumed to question his blasphemous pretentions, were pronounced infidels. He was very flippant, talking fast and loud, in order that others could not interpose an opinion counter to his. Every idea that he advanced, he knew to be absolutely true, as he said, by the spirit and power of God. In fine, the bystanders had a fair specimen of the Mormon slang, in this display of one of their head men. The meeting was closed, by a request of the landlord that the prophet should remove his quarters, which he did, and declaring, that all who believed the new bible would see Christ within fifteen years, and all who did not would absolutely be destroyed and dam'd.


May 3, 1877

The newspaper article by W. D. Purple, published in the Chenango Union under date of May 3, 1877, is given as the source of his information by James H. Smith of the History of Chenango County (page 378). It 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.

This is obvious for the following reasons: One says the complaint was by the sons of Isaiah Stowell. The other by Peter Bridgman. One report, "The prisoner was discharged." The other "the court finds the defendant guilty." One accused, "Joseph Smith was a disorderly


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person and an imposter." The other caused the arrest of the deluded young man, Joseph Smith, as "being a vagrant without means of a livelihood." One states that only a "small part of Joseph Smith's time had been employed in looking for mines, the major part was work on the farm and going to school." The other infers his time was used entirely to mislead his employers to find hidden treasures by the use of his seer stone, until the sons caused his arrest as a vagrant when in a few weeks he left the town. One says his information is the court record (where the court record was or how he obtained it is not given). The other declares he was invited to attend the court by the Justice and that he took notes. But he does not quote his notes nor assert he kept them. Both accounts appear more than fifty years after the event.

Through the courtesy and aid of the staff of Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, New York, a letter dated June 4, 1947, written by Helen L. Fairbank, assistant librarian, reported as follows:

"This now completes careful perusal of the following volumes:

"Anti-Masonic Telegraph, April, 1829 - March, 1835; Norwich Journal, September 10, 1828 - September 1, 1830, for early history of Mormonism.

"Chenango Telegraph, March, 1844 - April, 1846, to cover period of Joseph Smith's death.

"Chenango Union, June 1, 1876 - September 4, 1879, for further articles by W. D. Purple.

"We are sending a photostatic negative of the W. D. Purple article."

As a result of this research, twenty-seven double spaced, typewritten sheets (9 X 11 inches) were received and have been deposited with the Church Historian's Library at Salt Lake City. These articles are described briefly in the introductory statement to this supplement.


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Copies of two of these will be printed in this book in connection with the article by W. D. Purple, originally discovered by Helen L. Fairbank.


In the many early newspaper accounts published in this book attempting to explain the claim of Joseph Smith to divine aid in the "coming forth" of the Book of Mormon, the family is accused of being "money diggers." (Pages 264-298.) The term seer stone is not used. Walters, a vagabond Magician, "used a rusty sword, he sacrificed a cock (a bird to Minerva) and when he left, he took his book (written in Latin), his rusty sword, his magic stone, his stuffed toad and all his implements of witchcraft and returned to the mountains near Great Sodus Bay where he holds communion with the Devil even unto this day." (Page 275, Read also Chapter 20, pages 275-298.)

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. It appears that the affidavits of the citizens of Palmyra follow a consistent pattern about money digging and the use of a seer stone. One would be led to believe that one person directed their form if he did not write each one personally. Read Chapter 10, page 129, for further explanation.

Excerpts from some of the affidavits collected, possibly written by Philastrus [sic] Hurlburt, the man who was excommunicated from the Church for immoral conduct, and published in 1834 in Mormonism Unveiled, are reprinted here. The reader will note that Josiah Stoal is mentioned. This is evidence that they knew that Joseph Smith had, when a young man, worked for him. They do not say in their affidavits that he had confessed in a


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Justice of the Peace court that he had used a seer stone for fraud and that his confession was made a part of the record. If such a record had been in existence, what a mighty instrument it would have been for Philastrus Hurlburt to destroy the "religious fraud" of Joseph Smith. Apparently no one ever heard of it until 1877 when W. D. Purple decided to tell the story he remembered so well after fifty years.

The following is part of the affidavit of Peter Ingersoll:

(See another explanation of the seer stone said to have been used by Joseph Smith by J. B. [Buck] in the History of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, 1887, by Rhamanthus M. Stocker {page 376}.)

Then follows a description of a witch hazel bush by Joseph Smith, Sr.

"On my return, I picked up a small stone and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. Said he (Joseph Smith Sr.) 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,' (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."

Mr. Peter Ingersoll further in his affidavit affirms:

"In this dilemma, he (Joseph Smith Jr.,) 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.


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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. Upon my entering the 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 refused to see it, and left the room. Now,' said Jo, 'I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.' Not withstanding, 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 clapboards, and put it into a pillow case, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel it through the case."

In another affidavit in this book, Willard Chase uses over eight pages and tells of finding a peculiar stone while Joseph and his brother, Alvin, were employed by him to dig a well. This he said was used by Joseph Smith as a seer stone. "In April, 1830, I again asked him for a stone which he borrowed from me. He told me I should not have it for Joseph had use of it in translating the Bible." (The translation was completed about July, 1829). Willard Chase writes the following concerning Joseph Smith and Isaiah Stowel:

"Joseph's next move was to get married.... Now being destitute of money, he set his wits at work, how he could get


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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, New York, 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, New York, 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."

Joshua Stafford declares:

"A short time after this, they commenced digging for hidden treasures, and soon after they became indolent and told marvelous stories about ghosts, hob-goblins, caverns, and various other mysterious matters."

David Stafford in his affidavit states:

"It is well-known, that the general employment of the Smith family was money digging and fortune telling."

Roswell Nichols in his affidavit relates:

"He then stated their digging was not for money but it was for the obtaining of a Gold Bible. This contradicted what he had told me before... that the hills in our neighborhood were all full of gold and silver."

Henry Harris in his affidavit states:

"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."

An affidavit from Isaac Hale, father-in-law of Joseph Smith is dated, March 20, 1834.

"Smith, and his father, with several other "money diggers"


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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 could 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."

Mr. Hale states the time when these men were employed in digging for a mine as being the 17th of November 1825. This corresponds very closely to the date given by Joseph Smith and his mother as the time of employment of Joseph with Josiah Stowel. It also conforms to the statement of Joseph Smith that this digging in a supposed old Spanish mine was only for a short time. Mr. Hale makes no mention of the arrest of Joseph Smith or a trial and particularly, of a confession of Joseph Smith at a trial. This book printed in 1834, was republished in 1840. It became the accepted explanation of Joseph Smith and the origin of the "Book of Mormon." W. D. Purple like other writers for nearly another fifty years let his imagination conform to the wanted and accepted explanation of his time. Note the following:

Chenango Telegraph, Norwich, N.Y. Wednesday, April 30, 1845.

The Mormons are in a deplorable state. This abject body of deluded creatures now begin to feel their true condition, and are once again brought to a sense of degradation. Passers from the interior of Illinois say their condition has been growing worse and worse ever since the death of the Smiths and at present is truly pitiable. The great mass at Nauvoo is in a state of


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starvation, -- There is no business going on, and no means of obtaining subsistence only by charitable donations from the richer classes. Subscriptions are passing through the city for the relief of the poor, and every day baskets are carried round to collect provisions for the starving.

One article of particular interest follows. It was written by Mrs. Doolittle, a lady seventy-five years old who claims to have been acquainted with Emma Hale, the wife of Joseph Smith. No mention is made of a trial of Joseph Smith.

Chenango Union, Norwich, N.Y. Thursday, April 12, 1877.


The Binghamton Republican publishes some personal recollections of Mrs. Doolittle, a lady seventy-five years old, who is now visiting with her son-in-law, Chief of Police Johnson of that city. She was personally acquainted with the first wife of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, Miss Emma Hale, whom he married near Susquehanna, Pa.

From her statement it appears that Joe came to the neighborhood of Susquehanna to dig for gold, and made several excavations for that purpose, but it never was known that his labors in that direction were rewarded. While thus employed he became acquainted with Miss Hale, whose parents opposed the proposed marriage, and the young people eloped to Windsor, where they were married.

They returned and settled down upon a farm adjoining the lands of Mr. Hale and Mr. McKune. There was already a small house upon the farm, a story and a half frame building, and Joe put on a small addition. The farm and the house is now the property of Benjamin McKune, a grandson of Joseph McKune. This same McKune farm is again becoming somewhat famous in consequence of preparations to bore into it for oil a short distance from the prophet's first domicile.

While Joe was upon his farm he had the Mormon Bible. Whether he professed to find it before or after marriage Mrs. Doolittle does not remember. Her grandfather was once privileged to take in his hands a pillowcase in which the supposed


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saintly treasure was wrapped, and to feel through the cloth that it had leaves. From the size and the weight of the book, Mr. McKune supposed that in dimensions it closely resembled an ordinary Bible in the print of those days.

Further up the river they have also reminiscences of Joe Smith, which continue Mrs. Doolittle's narrative. In the town Alton, Chenango County, not far from the Broome County line, is a small lake nestled in the hills, and a portion of it is in sight of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad. It is said that Joe Smith baptized his first Mormon converts there; and it is claimed that the Mormon Church was really begun there, instead of being founded at Manchester, Ontario County, the home of the Smith family, and where the first printed copies of the Mormon or Golden Bible were distributed about ten or twelve years after the prophet's first apearance in Susquehanna County to dig for money.

Apparently the first printed account in New York state of an alleged trial of Joseph Smith before the "Book of Mormon" was printed is the article by W. D. Purple in 1877. As already noted, Oliver Cowdery states that Joseph Smith was arrested but mentions no trial.

In 1880, James H. Smith wrote a history of Chenango County and copied from this article by W. D. Purple. He used considerable phraseology of the article in describing the character and early life of Isaiah Stowell. He does not repeat in his history the many ludicrous statements of W. D. Purple about Joseph Smith such as looking at a glass enclosed in a hat until the glass became as bright as the sun and then being able to see a stone 150 miles away which he finds after three years and used as a seer stone.


Historical Reminiscences of the Town of Afton

By W. D. Purple

(As explained in the introduction of this supplement,


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liberty is taken to insert comments, explanations, and interpretations.)

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 later years. He will now present them as historical reminiscences of old Chenango, and as a precursor of the advent of that 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 Book 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. 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.

(In this paragraph, the author emphasizes that Mr. Stowell was a man "of indomitable will." A man "of much force of character." He was "officially connected with the first Presbyterian church of the town." He was industrious, an exemplary man who "by severe labor and frugality had acquired considerable property." He also had grown up sons and daughters. Suddenly he changes. "None of his neighbors could make an impression on his wayward spirit.")


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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 hallucination adhered to him like the fabled shirt of Nesus, 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.

(The author now turns his story to tell about a poor man named Joseph Smith who lived in the vicinity of the Great Bend -- (Joseph Smith never lived at this place). He lived in squalid poverty. Mr. Stowell heard of the fame of one of his sons who by the aid of the magic stone could find hidden treasures. Suddenly visions of untold wealth appeared to the longing eyes of Mr. Stowell. He immediately went to the humble log cabin of this person and transferred him to the place where he believed great treasures could be found.)

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 squalid (sic) 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.


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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 terrestrial 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 Susquehanna 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."

(Finally, the sons of Mr. Stowell decided that their father was wasting their money and caused the arrest of this deluded young person, Joseph Smith, as being a vagrant without means of a livelihood. Note carefully, the exaggerated and fairylike story which the author states the young vagrant confessed in court. He relates when he was a lad of hearing about a girl who lived three miles away who could look into a glass and see anything hidden from others. This attracted the vagrant lad. After much effort, he induced his parents to let him visit her. He was permitted to look into the glass and saw but one thing, a small stone a great way off. Before he saw it, the glass dazzled his eyes, the light was as intense as the midday sun. Notwithstanding, he could still


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see the stone, one hundred and fifty miles away. He thought about this for some years and then left his father's house and traveled west to search for this stone. He had only a few shillings and not sufficient food to eat. He stopped to work on the way for three days and then traveled 150 miles. He did not have the magic glass with him to show him where this stone was hidden, but he remembered the exact place and took an ax and a hoe to the identical tree located 150 miles from his home, a tree he had seen by looking into a glass which shone as bright as the noon-day sun. He took this stone and wiped it dry and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home. He brought this stone with him to the court where he was being tried as a vagrant so that he would be sure to convict himself as a person of the lowest possible type of intelligence, guided by a most ridiculous superstition.)

In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, who lived with their father, were greatly incensed against Mr. 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 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


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when he was a lad, he heard of a neighboring girl some three miles from him, who could look into a glass and see anything however hidden from others, that he was seized with a strong desire to see her and her glass, that after much effort he induced his parents to let him visit her. He did so, and was permitted to look in the glass, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light. He was greatly surprised to see but one thing, which was a small stone, a great way off. It soon became luminous, and dazzled his eyes, and after a short way it became as intense as the mid-day sun. He said that the stone was under the roots of a tree or shrub as large as his arm, situated about a mile up a small stream that puts in on the South side of Lake Erie, not far from the 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 glass with him, but he knew its exact location. He borrowed an old ax and hoe, and repaired to the tree. With some labor and exertion he found the stone, and carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing Eye. He arose with a thankful heart, carried his tools to their owner, turned his feet towards the rising sun, and sought with weary limbs his long deserted home.

On the request of the Court, he exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high-instepped shoe. It was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it. It was very hard and smooth, perhaps by being carried in the pocket.

(As if this fairy tale was not sufficient, the author has his father confess that his son possessed this stone, that he obtained it in the way his son described and that he


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had wonderful triumphs as a Seer. However, he regretted that he had used it only in search of "filthy lucre." But now 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." In other words, that God would use his poor ignorant, deluded son and a seer stone to bring forth "that mighty delusion of the present century, Mormonism." The author states that the senior Joseph Smith had a lank and haggard visage. He was poorly clad, indicating that he also was a wandering vagabond. No mention is made by any Mormon or anti-Mormon writer and there is no reason to believe that Joseph Smith, Sr., was at Afton when his son was employed by Josiah Stoal. The only mention is a statement by Isaac Hale which states Joseph Smith, Sr., worked a short time near his home which is some distance from Afton. Isaac Hale makes no mention of an arrest or a trial of Joseph Smith, Jr. It is absurd to claim the father would testify at a trial where his son is "accused of being a vagrant without visible means of support," for the purpose to help convict him.)

Joseph Smith, Sr., was present, and sworn as a witness. He confirmed at great length all that his son had said in his examination. He delineated his characteristics in his youthful days -- his vision of the luminous stone in the glass -- his visit to Lake Erie in search of the 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


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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 mvery poorly cladindicating a wandering vagabond rather than than an oracle of those future events, has, in view of those events, excited my wonder, if not my admiration.

(To reach the climax of this marvelous tale, the writer asserts that this man who only a short time previous was one of the respected citizens of the community of indomitable will and possessing unusual qualities of character, now confessed as true, all the absurd and ridiculous statements that he says Joseph Smith and his father had told the Justice. He writes that the Justice then soberly looked at the witness and said, "Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God that you believe this young man who is now being tried as a vagabond can see fifty feet below the surface of the earth by the aid of a stone?" Then the author has Deacon Stowell reply that he does not believe it; he positively knows it to be true.)

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."


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(The writer of this story now asserts that other witnesses tell similar stories about this vagabond youth. He showed the diggers a surface of a box of treasure which was struck by a shovel. They eagerly tried to grasp it, but, behold, the box sank deeper into the hard earth and it was gone. Now the venerable Deacon prayed, and the young vagabond sprinkled flowing blood from a lamb so that the spirit which was forcing the box containing the treasure deep in the earth could be stopped in his wicked effort. Again they dug deep, but the box still receded further into the earth. Such is the story related by this man Purple which is evidence "as evincing the spirit of delusion that characterized those who originated that prince of humbugs, Mormonism.")

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 of some untoward mental emotion, was the cause of their failure.

In this emergency the fruitful mind of Smith was called on to devise a way to obtain the prize. Mr. Stowell went to


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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 beacon 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 hallucination of diseased 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 colaborers it is worthy of recital as evincing the spirit of delusion that characterized those who originated that prince of humbugs, Mormonism.

(This conclusion of W. D. Purple will forever exclude his article being accepted as a fact by anyone who asserts that Joseph Smith had the ability to write the "Book of Mormon." Joseph Smith's confession in a court record proves what he did and believed; namely, it could have been done only by the "hallucination of diseased minds that drew all their philosophy from the Arabian Nights." So let no one quote this article as giving facts about Joseph Smith, a youth with a diseased mind and then assert within a few years with no change in his way of life, that he had the ability to write a book which is the foundation of America's most rapidly growing church, to which a million intelligent people adhere with a faith and knowledge that have given them leadership in education, culture, and service for mankind, in keeping with the teachings of the Master. Also let it be emphasized, that undoubtedly Mr. Purple accepted the universal


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belief of the time that Joseph Smith did not have the ability to write the Book of Mormon; it was the joint product of Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spaulding, otherwise his assertions concerning the ability and character of Joseph Smith would be absurd and ridiculous.)

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, New York, April 28, 1877.

On page 59 of this book is printed Joseph Smith's statement regarding his employment with Josiah Stoal. On page 103, Oliver Cowdery tells the same event. On page 141, Mother Smith relates that Josiah Stoal was at their home in company with Joseph Knight at the time Joseph Smith received the plates from Moroni, the immortal messenger. On page 144, a letter dictated by Josiah Stoal is given in part which tells of his experiences and knowledge of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. He was baptized into the Church, but did not move with the Saints to Ohio. C. H. C. 1:85.

John Ried is quoted at length regarding his personal knowledge of Joseph Smith in Chenango County. *

* * * *

Through the interest and courtesy of Stanley Ivins, a Salt Lake City resident, the following publications concerning Joseph Smith in Chenango County, New York, prior to the appearance of the Book of Mormon in 1830, are now made available for reprinting. Apparently the source of the alleged court record published by Bishop


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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. As previously indicated, Bishop Tuttle did not see such a court record in Chenango County. He is quoted as saying that Miss Emily Pearsoll showed to him pages which she tore from a book, and which were at that time already forty-five years old. These pages, she is quoted as saying, contained this record, but they were not identified at the time as having come from the claimed original court record. The book itself, from which the pages were torn, remained in Chenango County. Pages claimed to be taken from a forty-five year old book are not valid evidence until the book and the pages are identified.

Here was a great opportunity to destroy the baneful influence of Mormonism for which Bishop Tuttle and his associates so assiduously labored. Note the following from the pen of Bishop Tuttle:

Anyway the dreadful massacre took place and the Mormons cannot clear themselves from the charge that they did it. This cruel butchery of over a hundred, and the dastardly killing of Dr. Robinson, give pith and point to the assertions popularly made that the Mormons had a "Danite Band" of destroyers to put enemies out of the way, and that they practiced "blood atonement," the doing to death of the offending body, for the securing of eternal salvation to the indwelling soul. *

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

* Reminiscences of a Missionary Bishop, D.S. Tuttle, p. 325


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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.

Why was this marvelous opportunity disregarded? Why was not the ignorance, the superstition, and the fraud of Joseph Smith and his early followers disclosed forever by his confessed statements in a court record?

The life activities of Joseph Smith were known to hundreds of persons in his early life, and by thousands and tens of thousands within five to ten years of the time of this alleged confession. 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?

His own record of his activities, and the record of many persons who knew his early life--records accepted as true by those who knew his personally -- give an opposite account of his activities in Chenango County. Here he worked as a common laborer for Josiah Stowell. For a short time only, he assisted in excavating a mine. Mr. Reid, an attorney and a man who never affiliated with the Church, said that Joseph was highly respected and associated with the best citizens of the community. He writes that Joseph's first court trial was in June, 1830, after the Church was organized.

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


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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. Working by the day in a cave or mine has no connection with an alleged arrest of Joseph Smith on complaint of Peter Bridgman for fraud, or on complaint of the sons of Josiah Stowell that he was a vagrant without visible means of support, as printed by W. D. Purple. Furthermore, there is no relation in this agreement to an alleged confession in a court of law by Joseph Smith to such deceptive superstitious activity which was claimed to have been recorded at the time and the place of the trial.

Before copying these articles, it is important to print here from the writings of Bishop Tuttle2 his identification of the person who it is claimed furnished the pages taken from the alleged court record and the time and place of the event. It will be noted that Miss Emily Pearsoll arrived in Utah in 1870 and died in 1872. She was not living when "C. M." furnished the copy of the alleged court record for publication in Fraser's Magazine, February 1873, in Eclectic Magazine, New York, in the same year,


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in the Religious Encyclopedia in 1883, or in the Utah Christian Advocate, 1886. What her statement might have been at such times when she was quoted as the source of this "alleged court confession by Joseph Smith" of course cannot be known. The only known fact is the claim by the writer, "C. M.," that the pages from the book were shown to him. The copy printed in the Utah Christian Advocate, 1886, claims that Bishop Tuttle made the statement. No such statement or any mention of it is made by Bishop Tuttle in his book, neither does he claim this origin for his own published account of the supposed court record in his article in the Religious Encyclopedia, in 1883.

The silence of Bishop Tuttle is most significant. The statement he makes in his book follows, "Smith was up more than once before Justices of the Peace in Central New York for getting money under false pretenses by looking with his peep stone."3 This was written ten years after Funk and Wagnalls no longer published the claimed court record.

It would appear that Bishop Tuttle had decided there existed no genuine evidence for this claimed court record. All that exists is a claim by a writer that Miss Pearsoll showed him leaves that contained the record. Another writer claims Bishop Tuttle told him the record was taken from leaves torn from a book. It seems reasonable to assume that Bishop Tuttle did not possess evidence to justify him personally to write that the leaves were a part of a court record.


Of one good helper at this period, I want to recall


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the memory and record the worth. Miss Emily Pearsoll, cousin of my junior warden in early days at Morris, had come in 1870, from Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, to help us as "Sister" or "Woman Missionary." Mormonism aimed its fiercest shafts at womanhood. And in helping such sufferers in Utah a woman should accomplish much more than could any man. In my report of 1871, I speak of Miss Pearsoll.

Call her "Sister" if you like, or call her "Deaconess" or name her as you wish, the fact is that her help in our pastoral work, especially among the sick and the poor and the children and the ignorant and the strangers, is simply invaluable. She penetrates homes that we cannot so well enter. She reaches hearts that would dose up against us. She hears confessions that would not be made to us. My decision is that she must remain with us to do her good and true woman's work in our parish. I hope year by year to secure part of her support from the parish and part from givers in the East who appreciate how the efficiency of the pastoral work of a clergyman can be more than doubled by the aid of a trained and devoted Christian woman of intelligence and refinement. Miss Pearsoll gave her work to us and her life for us. She died in 1872. When she was buried in "Mount Olivet" overlooking Salt Lake City, hundreds and hundreds of those whom she had loved and served, and who loved her and wept for the loss of her, followed her saved body to the grave. The poor with their pennies gathered the eight dollars which went to provide a decent head stone for her resting place. Few go down to the grave more loved and regretted than did she.


This article was first published in Fraser's Magazine in London, February 1873, over the signature "C. M." -- apparently Charles Marshall who had contributed articles about Utah and the Mormons to the June and July 1871, issues of the magazine. It was later published in Eclectic Magazine, New York, in April 1873. This article contains


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the claimed court record of "State of New York vs. Joseph Smith," March 20, 1886, published by Bishop Tuttle in the Religious Encyclopedia in 1883 (see page ?).

"C. M." is quoted as follows in the Eclectic Magazine, 1873.

"During my stay in Salt Lake City 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, transaction. I reproduce them here, partly to fulfill a duty of assisting to preserve a piece of information about the prophet, and partly because, while the charges are less vehement than some I might have chosen, the proceedings are happily lightened by the touch of the ludicrous."

Following the printing of the claimed court record, "C. M." comments as follows:

"It was among an ignorant and credulous people of this kind, capable of believing in the necromantic virtues of a big stone held in a hat, and of treasures descending perpetually under the spades of the searchers by enchantment, a people already prepared for any bold superstition by previous indulgence in a variety of religious extravagances that Joseph Smith found his early coadjutors and his first converts."


"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 manuscript was given me by Miss Emily Pearsoll 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 Joseph Smith's time, and before him Smith was tried.

Miss Pearsoll tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's house and brought them to me'."

On the same page of the magazine which contains


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what is claimed to be "An exact copy trial and conviction of Joseph Smith author of Book of Mormon, March 20, 1826, Bainbridge, New York," the following few statements are copied. "The baneful influences of Mormonism on the human mind are beyond credence."

"There is in the Mormon system itself an almost lack of any moral standard. To spoil their enemies is a divine command; to deceive a Gentile is a virtue, to perjure themselves for the gospel's sake is a religious duty; the blood of an apostate is an offering acceptable to God; the defiling of a home to save the soul of the victim is a moral obligation; the alleged will of God, as interpreted by the priests, is their sole rule of faith and practice.... Priests of righteousness daily visit the saloons to hobnob with the ungodly Gentiles.

"The whole structure is based upon materialistic conceptions and scaffolded by animalism. The gospel they preach is a gospel of hate and not liberty and love. Our own Government is their enemy, is tyrannical and unworthy of respect. The true spirit of loyalty to the flag has no place in their conception or utterances and the rankest treason is an every day lesson which must result in a bitter doom."


Yellow Stone Valley, mt    
April 12, 1880.    
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.

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The existence of the "buried treasures" referred to was "revealed" to Joe Smith, Jr., who with his father the prophet, at that time resided on what is now known as the McCune Farm, about two miles down the river from this place, and upon the strength of which revelation a stock company was organized to dig for the aforesaid treasure. After the company was organized, a second communication was received by Joseph Jr., from the "other world" advising the treasure seekers to suspend operations, as it was necessary for one of the company to die before the treasure could he secured.

Harper, the peddler, who was murdered soon after, near the place where the Catholic cemetery in this borough is now located, was one of the original members of the company, and his death was regarded by the remainder of the band as a Providential occurrence, which the powers had brought about for their special benefit. The death of Harper having removed the only obstacle in the way of success, the surviving members, recommenced operations, and signed an agreement giving the widow Harper the half of one-third of all the treasures secured. The following is the agreement, written by the old humbug, Joseph Smith, himself:


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 he 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

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been at (Johs F. Shepherd, 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
David Hale
P. Newton
Charles A. Newton
Joseph Smith Sen.
Isaiah Stowell
Calvin Stowell
Newton Joseph Smith Jr.
Wm. I. Wiley

The place where treasure was supposed to lie buried was on the place now owned by J. M. Tillman, near the McCune Farm, then the property of William Hale. Excavations were also made on Jacob Skinner's Farm, some of which remain well marked today. It was while pursuing this unsuccessful search for treasures, that the Prophet Smith pretended that he unearthed his famous "tablets."

(Brother Wade may have made a mistake in directing his letter to the proper church journal. If he has, Granny has our permission to copy the above by giving the Tribune proper credit.)
    -- The Daily Tribune, Salt Lake, Friday morning, April 23, 1880.

Copyright © 1942, '51, '58, '59. '60, Brigham Young University.
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[ 262 ]



One of the latest anti-Mormon books appeared in 1945. No Man Knows My History, The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet was written by Fawn M. Brodie. In the preface she writes:

"The source of his power lay not in his doctrine but in his person, and the rare quality of his genius was due not to his reason but to his imagination. He was a mythmaker of prodigious talent. And after a hundred years the myths he created are still an energizing force in the lives of a million followers. The moving power of Mormonism was a fable -- one that few converts stopped to question, for its meaning seemed profound and its inspiration was contagious." (Preface ix)

In the acknowledgments she emphasizes that the "qualities of judgment and preception of her husband, Dr. Bernard Brodie, has affected her whole approach to the book."

"Throughout a period of research and writing extending into seven years I have needed and received the constant encouragement of my husband, Dr. Bernard Brodie. His own special perspective on the Mormon society and his enthusiastic interest in my research were of immeasurable value. He read the manuscript many times, each time effecting some improvement in its literary qualities. But all this was secondary to a more intangible kind of assistance which came from his qualities of judgment and perception and which has affected my whole approach to the book." (Acknowledgments)

From these two important introductory statements the reader may conclude, that Joseph Smith a person of "prodigous talents" was a mythmaker, that the Book of

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Mormon is "a fable" and that the energizing force in the lives of a million people who accept Joseph Smith as a Prophet are the myths he created.

The following is the opening statement of Chapter one entitled, "The Gods are among the People."

An old New England gazetteer, singing the charms of Vermont's villages and the glories of her heroes, strikes a discordant note when it comes to Sharon: "This is the birthplace of that infamous impostor, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, a dubious honor Sharon would relinquish willingly to another town."

The shame that Sharon once felt has faded with time. The church that Joseph founded is imminently respectable, and the dreamy town in the White River Valley where he was born has long since abandoned hope of being noted for anything else. Near by, on one of the lovely hills of which New England is fashioned, stands a shrine that draws Mormon pilgrims from afar and stops many a passer by.

Far to the West lie the geographical areas with which Mormonism is generally identified, but one cannot understand the story of its founder without knowing something of Vermont at the turn of the nineteenth century. Joseph Smith was not a mutation, spewed up out of nature's plenty without regard to ancestry or the provincial culture of his state; he was as much a product of New England as Jonathan Edwards. Much about him can be explained only by the sterile soil, the folk magic of the midwives and scryers, and the sober discipline of the schoolmasters. (Chapter 1, page 1.)

Then follows the author's interpretations of the lives and characters of the parents and ancestry of Joseph Smith:

Joseph and Lucy spent twenty years together in New England, yet neither joined a denomination or professed more than a passing interest in any sect. The Methodist revivals in Vermont in 1810 excited Lucy for a time, but only further convinced Joseph "that there was no order or class of religionists that knew any more concerning the kingdom of God than those of the world."

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He reflected that irreligion which had permeated the Revolution, which had made the federal government completely secular and was in the end to divorce the church from the government of every state. In the New World's freedom the church had disintegrated, its ceremonies had changed, and its stature had declined. Joseph's father Asael, had frankly gloried in his freedom from ecclesiastical tyranny. The path away from Christianity was being beaten out for the Unitarianism of William Ellery Channing and the more sophisticated heresy of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Lucy, on the other hand, was devoted to the mysticism so common among those suddenly released from the domination and discipline of a church. Like her father she accepted a highly personalized God to whom she would talk as if He were a member of the family circle. Her religion was intimate and homely, with God a ubiquitous presence invading dreams, provoking miracles, and blighting sinners' fields. Her children probably never learned to fear Him. (Page 5.)

"Of these and other prophets only one was destined for real glory. Jemima Wilkinson was forgotten with the division of her property; the Noyes Oneida community degenerated from a social and religious experiment into a business enterprise; and Dylks was ridden out of the Leatherwood country astride a rail. William Miller, although his Adventists are still an aggressive minority sect, never regained face after 1845, when after two recalculations Jesus still failed to come. But Joseph Smith a century after his death, had a million followers who held his name sacred and his mission divine." (Page 15.)

In Chapter III credit is given Joseph Smith for planning, designing, and writing the Book of Mormon.

Some time between 1820 and 1827 it occurred to the youth that he might try to write a history of the Moundbuilders, a book that would answer the questions of every farmer with a mound in his pasture. He would not be content with the cheap trickery of the conjurer Walters, with his fake record of Indian treasure, although he might perhaps pretend to have found an ancient document or metal engraving in his digging expeditions. Somewhere he had heard that a history of the Indians had been found in Canada at the base of a hollow tree. And

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a Palmyra paper in 1821 had reported that diggers on the Erie Canal had unearthed "several brass plates" along with skeletons and fragments of pottery.

Perhaps Joseph speculated that since his own family took such pleasure in his stories a greater public might do the same. The dream of somehow recouping the family fortune must have been with him since childhood, and his marriage had doubtless doubled his ambition. Alert to the intellectual currents of his period, though only the backwash swirled through his community, he saw in all the antiquarian speculation an unparalleled opportunity.

The plan of Joseph's book was to come directly out of popular theory concerning the Moundbuilders. His "Book of Mormon" was basically the history of two warring races, one "a fair and delightsome people," farmers, stock-raisers, temple-builders, and workers in copper, iron, and steel; the other a "wild and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people; full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey, dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness, with a short skin girded about their loins, and their heads shaven; and their the bow, and the cimeter and the axe." (Pages 35 & 36.)

..."Perhaps in the beginning Joseph never intended his stories of the golden plates to be taken so seriously, but once the masquerade had begun, there was no point at which he could call a halt. Since his own family believed him (with the possible exception of his cynical younger brother William), why should not the world? Martin Harris, who not only accepted but freely elaborated upon the story, was talking openly of financing the publication of the translation and had promised to pay Joseph's debts. His sublime faith in the existence of a record he had never seen argued well for the success of the book, which Joseph was now fully determined to write." (Page 41.)

...Sagacious enough to realize that he could not possibly write a history of the Lost Ten Tribes, he chose instead to describe only the peregrinations of two Hebrew families, headed by Lehi and Ishmael, who became the founders of the American race. He began the book by focusing upon a single hero, Nephi, who like himself was peculiarly gifted of the Lord. This device launched him smoothly into his narrative and saved him from having bitten off more than he could chew." (Page 49.)

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(pages 266-272 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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[Alexander Campbell, who knew Rigdon intimately] described his conversion to Mormonism with great regret in the Millennial Harbinger, attributing it to his nervous spasms and swoonings and to his passionate belief in the imminent gathering of Israel. But of the authorship of the Book of Mormon he wrote bluntly: "It is as certainly Smith's fabrication as Satan is the father of lies or darkness is the offspring of night."

"Rigdon denied the Spaulding story throughout his life. When his son John questioned him shortly before his death, he replied: "My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book was what Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York, and that an angel had appeared to him and directed him where to find it...." (Pages 432, 433.)

The writer is forced to conclude that Joseph Smith dictated the contents of the Book of Mormon. She finds no valid evidence that he had any assistance. He alone produced the book by his own peculiar personality. She assumes to tell the time and conditions when he made the decision and how it was possible for him to create myths and write a fable that are today the energizing power in the lives of a million followers in one of the most rapidly growing churches in America. p.274 She also describes Joseph Smith as a ne'er-do-well youth who practised moneydigging. He then changed to a superstitious believer in the supernatural and finally he developed into a "mythmaker of prodigious talents." As proof of "money digging" a claimed confession by Joseph Smith in a Justice of a Peace Court record in 1826 as published in 1883 is quoted. See New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge vol. II, p.p. 1575-1581. For reply to this claim see "A New

274                     A  NEW  WITNESS  FOR  CHRIST  IN  AMERICA                    

Witness for Christ in America. Volume one, pages 368-394.

This author denies the findings and conclusions of scores of anti-Mormon writers who for more than a hundred years have declared that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon. They declared he was a base deceiver who, by misrepresentation, brought innocent people into lives of deception and disappointment.

Today, it is apparent, that Joseph Smith can no longer be declared a deceiver and the Church he organized built upon fraud and deception. Especially is it clear that Joseph Smith was not an ignorant fanatic of low mentality.

(pages 275-353 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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[Such was the low origin of "The Golden Bible," and "The Book of Mormon" which] have helped more than a quarter of a million souls to feed upon delusion. (Page 19)

"Most of the evidence points clearly toward the conclusion that in some way--not yet fully known, and which may never be known -- the Book of Mormon owes its origin to the unpublished Manuscript of Spaulding." (Page 25)

In 1896 Bishop Daniel Sylvester Turtle wrote a book, "Reminiscences of a Missionary Bishop."

The following quotation from his book regarding his opinion of the origin of the Book of Mormon deserves more than usual attention. He accepts the Rigdon-Spaulding origin of the Book of Mormon and reflects the attitude of anti-Mormon writers regarding Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the members of the Church.

In 1882 Bishop Tuttle wrote an article published at Washington, D.C. in the Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia which relates a claimed trial of Joseph Smith in March, 1826 before a Justice of the Peace at Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York.

In 1945, these writings of Bishop Tuttle are used [by Fawn Brodie] to prove that Joseph Smith did produce the Book of Mormon. According to the book written by Bishop Tuttle in 1906, 24 years after the article was published, as indicated above, he accepts the Rigdon-Spaulding theory of the Book of Mormon. This contradictory situation is discussed at length in the first volume of this series, "New Witness for Christ in America," pages 359-394.

The Right Rev. Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, D. D., L. L. D.
Bishop of Missouri.
New York,
Thomas Whittaker 2 and 3 Bible House,

"This is the belief of the faithful touching the Book of

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Mormon and the reestablishment in the Latter Days of the Church of Christ. The strong probability is that the Book of Mormon is in substance a religious romance written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding of Conneaut, Ohio, an invalid Congregational minister, to while away a time of enforced retirement, and to embody his conviction that the original inhabitants of the Western Continent are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon probably got hold of this manuscript and appropriated it to their use; Sidney, who had been a capable and eloquent "Christian" or "Campbellite" preacher in Ohio, adding to it most of the prophetic, hortatory, and doctrinal ecclesiasticism needed. There is not one word approving the practice of polygamy. On the contrary there is this express prohibition of it (Book of Jacob, Chapter II, v.27), "Wherefore, my brethern, hear me and hearken to the word of the Lord; for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none." Pages 309. 310....

This brutal [Mountain Meadows] massacre, and the execrable murder of Dr. Robinson in Salt Lake City, are two stains upon the Mormons, deep and ineradicable. They claim that the massacre was by Indians. But without doubt, Mormons aided and abetted it. Twenty-one years afterwards, in 1878, Bishop John D. Lee was convicted as one of the murderers and was shot to death. He was taken to the very place, Mountain Meadows, to be executed. In 1857 the Mormons were particularly vain, glorious and arrogant. Their "prophet, seer and revelator" had held his own against everybody. He had ordered that bodies of men should not be allowed to enter or pass through Utah without being under surveillance. Perhaps the resentment of the Mormons against their old Missouri enemies thus took occasion to kindle itself into vengeance. Perhaps the Indians, and the baser sort among the Mormons, were greedy for the plunder promised. Perhaps some Mormon leaders, swollen with pride, were ready by a brutal blow to strike terror into intruding outsiders. Perhaps the emigrants themselves, stung by the inhospitality shown them, had given way to some sharp retaliation. Anyway, the dreadful massacre took place; and the Mormons cannot clear themselves from the charge that they did it. This cruel butchery of over a hundred, and the dastardly killing of Dr. Robinson, give pith and point to the assertions popularly made that the

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Mormons had a "Danite band" of destroyers to put enemies out of the way, and that they practiced constantly "Blood Atonement," -- the doing to death of the offending body, for the securing of eternal salvation to the indwelling soul. Pages 324-325....

On the other hand, one may contemplate what would have been likely to happen if he had lived on, say fourteen years more in addition to the fourteen years he had already spent in the genesis and nurture of his "Church." Nobility of character did not pertain to him, either by inheritance or by acquisiton. The dignity of education was not his. Even with all the care that Sidney Rigdon, who was somewhat of a scholar, gave as co-worker with Joseph, I find in the Book of Mormon such sentences as: -- "They done all these things;" "The people did raise up in rebellion;" "Ye had aught to search these things;" "Cometh on all they that have the law;" "Hath set down on the right hand of God." And the translation of Genesis, and I think of other books of the Bible, which Joseph alleged to have put forth by inspiration, was so full of gross blunders that shame and ridicule worked the suppression of the volume. 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. After organizing his "Church" he and his family got into trouble in New York and so removed to Kirtland, Ohio. They got into trouble at Kirtland, and moved to Jackson County Missouri. They got into trouble there, and moved into Clay and Caldwell Counties. They got into trouble there, and moved to Nauvoo, Ill. Nor were they freed from trouble in Nauvoo. The arrogant claims of the Mormons were probably one cause of trouble. "The earth is the Lord's," they said; and they added, or acted as if they added, "and belongs to His saints, and we are His saints." Also, they sank the state in the church. "Revelation" was for direction of things both temporal and spiritual. Political fealty would cut no figure with them. They were ready to throw their votes unitedly in whatever direction would best serve their Church. This practice made them a disturbing element at elections. There was no forecasting which way they would vote. And American voters round about them grew exasperated with their possession of the balance of power and with their use of it in so irritating a fashion. Pages 327-328.

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The only comment made by Bishop Tuttle regarding early trials of Joseph Smith, is the casual observation that "he was up more than once, when a youth... for getting money under false pretences by looking with his peep stone." (The above quoted books are at Church Historian's Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

The following two articles, concerning an alleged trial of Joseph Smith in 1826 before a Justice of the Peace Court, is copied at the same place in this book for the convenient study of the reader.

These copies, with additional related information, are also, printed in part, in the first volume of "A New Witness for Christ in America." (see pages 349-394, 383-384, 475-485.)

The description of the alleged trial differs as follows in the two articles.

By Bishop Tuttle

A. Date of Publication, 1882.

B. Date of trial, March 26, 1826.

C. Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman.

D. Accusation -- A disorderly person and an imposter.

E. Name of Justice not mentioned.

F. Prisoner confessed to use of seer stone.

G. Witnesses -- Josiah Stowell, Horace Stowell, Arad Stowell, Mr. McMaster, Jonathan Thompson.

H. Defendant found guilty, no fine or punishment mentioned.

By W. D. Purple

A. Date of publication, 1877.

B. Date of trial, February, 1826.

C. Arrest caused by sons of Josiah Stowell.

D. Accusation -- Joseph Smith was a vagrant without visible means of support.

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E. Trial before justice Albert Neeley.

F. Prisoner confessed to use of seer stone, found in a strange and mythical manner.

G. Witnesses -- Joseph Stowell, Joseph Smith Senior, M. Thompson.

H. Prisoner discharged.

No historical reference is made of such a trial, except the W. D. Purple article was copied in part by James H. Smith in History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York, 1880.

The Bishop Tuttle article is mentioned by only two anti-Mormon writers, Samuel U. Traum and George Bartholomew Arbaugh. Both of these writers, accept the Spaulding-Rigdon theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon. The trial is used in 1945, as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon.

Oliver Cowdery in closing his eight letters published in 1834, in the Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, regarding the "Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," writes, "On the private character of our brother (Joseph Smith, Jr.), I need add nothing further, at present, previous to the attaining 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 for action, he was honorably acquitted." (Page 105.) This act of a "very officious person" might have been merely an attempt to bring an action against Joseph Smith before an officer of the law on the petty charge of being a disorderly person. There being no cause of action that could be sustained, nothing came of the complaint.

Eight reasons are given in "A New Witness for Christ in America," vol. I, pages 385-390, for the conclusion

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that no court record was ever made that contained a confession by Joseph Smith that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasures.

The following is a carefully checked exact copy of the article written by Bishop Tuttle:

(remainder of pages 359-370 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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The following two reported interviews, one with Martin Harris and one with the father of Joseph Smith, printed in different magazines, one in 1859 and one in 1870, are important historical documents in the many efforts to give a human origin to the Book of Mormon.

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Each article claims to be an interview carefully recorded with the person who knew the facts. The overall events in obtaining the ancient record and its final publication are recorded. Thus, it is evident that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the manner described by the Prophet Joseph Smith was available and was known.

These two articles, with little similarity of events, persons, and procedure, are evidence that it was difficult to explain the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in a manner to satisfy the average reader, that Joseph Smith had the plates, and that he had translated them.

One writer, definitely states that Sidney Rigdon did not assist in writing the book. Rather, it was a peculiar spiritual experience through the intervention of evil spirits. The other author relates a grotesque and ridiculous description by the father of Joseph Smith, who later suffered death in the persecutions in Missouri because he knew the recorded history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith was true.

At times these claimed interviews with Martin Harris and the Prophet's father are quoted in part to contribute to different efforts to prove the Book of Mormon man-made. It is important, therefore, to reprint the articles in full as originally published. (Original paper at New York City Public Library.)

devoted to the
in the
Physical, Intellectual, Moral and Religious Planes
Editor and Proprietor

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Vol. V.                   MAY, 1859.                   No. 1.
No. 6 Fourth Avenue.


During the past winter we have investigated thoroughly the origin of Mormonism so far as its advent into this world is concerned. We were personally acquainted with Martin Harris, the real father of earthly Mormonism. He was the first associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the one most intimate with him at the time the revelation commenced. Mr. Harris had conversed with us many times upon the subject, giving us the history of its earthly development, and desiring us to write it from his lips. It is but simple justice to Mr. Harris, that we should state that he is still an earnest and sincere advocate of the spiritual and divine authority of the Book of Mormon. He does not sympathize with Brigham Young and the Salt Lake Church. He considers them apostates from the true faith; and as being under the influence of the devil.

Mr. Harris says, that pretended church of "Latter Day Saints," are in reality "latter day devils," and that himself and a very few others are the only genuine Mormons left. He is living in the expectation that the time is at hand when his faith will be in the ascendant, and all other modes of faith will be overthrown. Mr. H. is a great expounder of the Bible, especially of all its dark sayings. He is the greatest stickler for its authority as the word of God; and he proves to his own satisfaction, the genuineness of the Mormon Bible from it.

"Thus saith the Lord," is, with Mr. H., the highest of all authority; and the end of all further question. He recognizes as of supreme authority, the letter of the Bible, only interpreting it by the Spirit of God that is upon him. His common expression when conversing upon the subject is, "the Lord showed me this," and "the Lord told me that." Observing that he frequently used such expressions, we inquired of him, How we were to understand the Lord showed to him certain things, and in what manner He spake with him. He informed us that these (end of page 50) revelations came by way of impression. That he was "impressed by the Lord." We suppose Mr. Harris speaks by the kind of

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influence and authority with which individuals since his revealments, have been "impressed to speak" and declare "mighty truths."

As to the origin of the Mormon Bible, we have been and still are of the opinion that spirits of a peculiar character had something and perhaps much to do with it. The reasons for this opinion will appear as we progress with its history. But while we thus believe in its spiritual origin, we also believe it to be a romance of a very low order, destitute of philosophical, moral, and literary merit. We do not believe there is any substantial truth in its historical statements. (end of page 51)
(To be continued.)

(Continued from May No., p. 51.)

We have made this statement because some have supposed the Book of Mormon to have been originally written as a romance, by one Solomon Spaulding. In truth, it is very well proved by several witnesses that Solomon Spaulding wrote very much such a book as early as 1811, and that he purposed getting it printed; but failed to do so. The manuscript was supposed to be traced to Pittsburgh, and there lost. The supposition was and by some is, that Sidney Rigdon found it there and stole it, and manufactured therefrom the Book of Mormon. We think this idea to be erroneous. We believe that a band of spirits, of no very exalted character, were concerned in the production of this work. That Joseph Smith was a medium, and to a certain extent honest, when he translated the work.

Joseph Smith, junr., was one of a company of money-diggers; and we are obliged to suppose that there was some degree of sincerity among them, or they would not have spent so much time, and performed so much labor, in digging for money. It requires faith to become a money-digger; and there must have been to their minds, some evidence upon which such faith was based. Joseph was the seer. He had a stone, in which, when it was placed in his hat, and his face buried therein, so as to exclude the light, he could see as a clairvoyant. In this manner Joseph looked after money, and it was during one of these seasons of examination, that he obtained his first glimpse of the Golden Bible.

From our examination of the subject, we have no idea that

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there was any "Golden Bible," or that Joseph Smith, junr., ever found any plates of any kind. But we are of the opinion that he was under a psychological influence, which led him to suppose there was something of the kind, and that psychologically he was made to see, hear, and handle what to him were the "Golden Plates."

The whole thing can be accounted for upon purely psychological principles. Joseph Smith, junr., being what is called now-a-days a medium, and being subject to the influence of such a class of spirits, they could present before his vision anything they chose. The whole band of money-diggers were more or less mediative, and could be easily influenced. Had the subject of Mesmerism, Clairvoyance, and Spiritualism been as well understood in 1827, '8, and '9, as they now are, Mormonism would never have obtained a foothold. The wonderful facts which caused the Smiths, Harris, Cowdrey, and others, to believe the Lord was in the work, would then have been explained upon a very different hypothesis.

Many suppose the whole thing was a sheer fraud, deliberately planned, and purposely executed. That the entire pretence was a base lie. We have no doubt that there has been much of the spirit of "pious fraud" in the origin and progress of its development. That Joseph and Martin, and others, have strained their conceptions of the truth, in their representations. This spirit of exaggeration seems to be almost inseparable from the minds of those who become earnest advocates of any cause. Indeed, it will always exist in such cases, where it is not excluded by the most perfect integrity of spirit. This was manifested in the early history of Christianity. The myths and fables connected with all religions have this origin. The same spirit now exists in the Catholic and Protestant Churches, and we are sorry to be obliged to say, prevails to an alarming extent among Spiritualists and Mediums.

But while this spirit of "fraud" and exaggeration exists, it usually has an excuse in a conviction that the thing certified to is true to a certain extent; and, that although the particular fact asserted or pretended, may be false, yet the thing it is designed to prove is true -- and hence the lie is justifiable to establish a truth. Such was the plea of the Pythagoreans, and early Christians, and we doubt not such has been the silent excuse of Mormons and others when they exaggerated.

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We are satisfied that Joseph Smith, junr., Martin Harris, Levi Whitmore, Oliver Cowdry, and others of that faith, have been largely guilty of fraud and exaggeration in their statements; (end of page 120) but we are also satisfied that they earnestly believed the leading facts, which their exaggerations were designed to prove to be true, and that they excused themselves to themselves that the falsehoods thus told were only false in form and not in spirit.

The conclusion to which we have arrived are, that the Book of Mormon is to a very great extent, a spiritual romance, originating in the spirit world. That Joseph Smith, junr., was the medium, or the principal one, through whom it was given. That there was a mixture of sincerity and fraud, both with the spirits and their agents here, in bringing it forth. That morally and religiously it had a very low origin, and that its influence can only tend to evil. Although Brigham Youngism is no part of the letter of original Mormonism, yet it is a natural and legitimate out-cropping of it in that strata of society. All this we will try to make clear as we progress with our history of its facts.
(To be continued.)


The following narration we took down from the lips of Martin Harris, and read the same to him after it was written, that we might be certain of giving his statement to the world. We made a journey to Ohio for the purpose of obtaining it, in the latter part of January, 1859. We did this that the world might have a connected account of the origin of Mormonism from the lips of one of the original witnesses, upon whose testimony it was first received. For it will be remembered that Martin Harris is one of the three witnesses selected to certify to the facts connected with the origin of that revelation.
Mr. Harris says: "Joseph Smith, jr., found at Palmyra, N.Y., on the 22d day of September, 1827, the plates of gold upon which was recorded in Arabic, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Egyptian, the Book of Life, or the Book of Mormon. I was not with him at the time, but I had a revelation the summer before, that God had a work for me to do. 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

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many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates. (end of page 163)

"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 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 he then 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, (end of page 164) 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. Mr. Stowel was at

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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 schoolhouse 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.

"Joseph did not dig for these plates. They were placed in this way: four stones were set up and covered with a flat stone, oval on the upper side and flat on the bottom. Beneath this was a little platform upon which the plates were laid; and the two stones set in a bow of silver by means of which the plates were translated, were found underneath the plates.

"These plates were seven inches wide by eight inches in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book.

"The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they (end of page 165) came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches.

"The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks. I never dared to look into them by placing them in the hat, because Moses said that 'no man could see God and

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live,' and we could see anything we wished by looking into them; and I could not keep the desire to see God out of my mind. And beside, we had a command to let no man look into them, except by the command of God, lest he should 'look aught and perish.'

"These plates were usually kept in a cherry box made for that purpose, in the possession of Joseph and myself. The plates were kept from the sight of the world, and no one, save Oliver Cowdrey, myself, Joseph Smith, jr., and David Whitmer, ever saw them. Before the Lord showed the plates to me, Joseph wished me to see them. But I refused, unless the Lord should do it. At one time, before the Lord showed them to me, Joseph said I should see them. I asked him, why he would break the commands of the Lord. He said, you have done so much I am afraid you will not believe unless you see them. I replied, 'Joseph, I know all about it. The Lord has showed to me ten times more about it than you know.'"--Here we inquired of Mr. Harris--How did the Lord show you these things? He replied, "I am forbidden to say anything how the Lord showed them to me, except that by the power of God I have seen them."

Mr. Harris continues: "I hefted the plates many times, and should think they weighed forty or fifty pounds.

"When Joseph had obtained the plates he communicated the fact to his father and mother. The plates remained concealed in the tree top until he got the chest made. He then went after them and brought them home. While on his way home with the plates, he was met by what appeared to be a man, who demanded the plates, and struck him with a club on his side, which was all black and blue. Joseph knocked the man down, and then ran for home, and was much out of breath. When he arrived at home, he handed the plates in at the window, and they were received from him by his mother. They were then (end of page 166) hidden under the hearth in his father's house. But the wall being partly down, it was feared that certain ones, who were trying to get possession of the plates, would get under the house and dig them out. Joseph then took them out, and hid them under the old cooper's shop, by taking up a board and digging in the ground and burying them. When they were taken from there, they were put into an old Ontario glass-box. Old Mr. Beman sawed off the ends, making the box the right length to put them in, and when they went in he said he heard them jink, but he was not permitted to see them. He told me so.

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"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 traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them, and continued concealing the plates. After they had been concealed under the floor of the cooper's shop for a short time, Joseph was warned to remove them. He said he was warned by an angel. He took them out and hid them up in the chamber of the cooper's shop among the flags. That night some one came, took up the floor, and dug up the earth, and would have found the plates had they not been removed.

"These things had all occurred before I talked with Joseph respecting the plates. But I had the account of it from Joseph, his wife, brothers, sisters, his father and mother. I talked with them separately, that I might get the truth of the matter. The first time I heard of the matter, my brother Presarved Harris, who had been in the village of Palmyra, asked me if I had heard about Joseph Smith, jr., having a golden bible. My thoughts were that the money-diggers had probably dug up an old brass kettle, or something of the kind. I thought no more of it. This was about the first of October, 1827. The next day after the talk with my brother, I went to the village, and there I was asked what I thought of the Gold Bible? I replied, The Scripture says, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is foolishness unto him. I do not wish to make myself a fool. I don't know anything about it. Then said I, what is it about Joe's Gold Bible? They then went on to say, that they put (end of page 167) whiskey into the old man's cider and got him half drunk, and he told them all about it. They then repeated his account, which I found afterwards to agree substantially with the account given by Joseph. Then said I to them, how do you know that he has not got such gold plates. They replied, 'Damn him, he ought to be tarred and feathered for telling such a damned lie!' Then I said, suppose he has told a lie, as old Tom Jefferson said, it did not matter to him whether a man believed in one god or twenty. It did not rob his pocket, nor break his shins. What is it to us if he has told a lie? He has it to answer for if he has lied. If you should tar and feather all the liars, you would soon be out of funds to purchase the material.

"I then thought of the words of Christ, The kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. I knew they were of the devil's kingdom,

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and if that is of the devil, his kingdom is divided against itself. I said in my heart, this is something besides smoke. There is some fire at the bottom of it. I then determined to go and see Joseph as soon as I could find time.

"A day or so before I was ready to visit Joseph, his mother came over to our house and wished to talk with me. I told her I had no time to spare, she might talk with my wife, and, in the evening when I had finished my work I would talk with her. When she commenced talking with me, she told me respecting his bringing home the plates, and many other things, and said that Joseph had sent her over and wished me to come and see him. I told her that I had a time appointed when I would go, and that when the time came I should then go but I did not tell her when it was. I sent my boy to harness my horse and take her home. She wished my wife and daughter to go with her; and they went and spent most of the day. When they came home, I questioned them about them. My daughter said, they were about as much as she could lift. They were now in the glass-box, and my wife said they were very heavy. They both lifted them. I waited a day or two, when I got up in the Morning, took my breakfast, and told my folks I was going to the Village, but went directly to old Mr. Smith's. I found that Joseph (end of page 168) had gone away to work for Peter Ingersol to get some flour. I was glad he was absent, for that gave me an opportunity of talking with his wife and the family about the plates. I talked with them separately, to see if their stories agreed, and I found they did agree. When Joseph came home I did not wish him to know that I had been talking with them, so I took him by the arm and led him away from the rest, and requested him to tell me the story, which he did as follows. He said: 'An angel had appeared to him, and told him it was God's work.'" Here Mr. Harris seemed to wander from the subject, when we requested him to continue and tell what Joseph then said. He replied, "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 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. He told him to go and look in the spectacles,

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and he would show him the man that would assist him. That he did so, and he saw myself, Martin Harris, standing before him. That struck me with surprise. I told him I wished him to be very careful about these things. 'Well,' said he, 'I saw you standing before me as plainly as I do now.' I said, if it is the devil's work I will have nothing to do with it; but if it is the Lord's, you can have all the money necessary to bring it before the world. He said the angel told him, that the plates must be translated, printed and sent before the world. I said, Joseph, you know my doctrine, that cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man, and maketh flesh his arm; and we know that the devil is to have great power in the latter days to deceive if possible the very elect; and I don't know that you are one of the elect. Now you must not blame me for not taking your word. If the Lord will show me that it is his work, you can have all the money you want.

"While at Mr. Smith's I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold, and I knew that Joseph (end of page 169) had not credit enough to buy so much lead. I left Mr. Smith's about eleven o'clock and went home. I retired to my bedroom and prayed God to show me concerning these things, and I covenanted that if it was his work and he would show me so, I would put forth my best ability to bring it before the world. He then showed me that it was his work, and that it was designed to bring in the fullness of his gospel to the gentiles to fulfill his word, that the first shall be last and the last first. He showed this to me by the still small voice spoken in the soul. Then I was satisfied that it was the Lord's work, and I was under a covenant to bring it forth.

"The excitement in the village upon the subject had become such that some had threatened to mob Joseph, and also to tar and feather him. They said he should never leave until he had shown the plates. It was unsafe for him to remain, so I determined that he must go to his father-in-law's in Pennsylvania. He wrote to his brother-in-law Alvah Hale, requesting him to come for him. I advised Joseph that he must pay all his debts before starting. I paid them for him, and furnished him money for his journey. I advised him to take time enough to get ready, so that he might start a day or two in advance: for he would be mobbed if it was known when he started. We put the box of plates into a barrel about one-third full of beans and headed it up.

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I informed Mr. Hale of the matter, and advised them to cut each a good cudgel and put into the wagon with them, which they did. It was understood that they were to start on Monday; but they started on Saturday night and got through safe. This was the last of October, 1827. It might have been the first of November."

People sometimes wonder that the Mormon can revere Joseph Smith. That they can by any means make a Saint of him. But they must remember, that the Joseph Smith preached in England, and the one shot at Carthage, Ill., are not the same. The ideal prophet differs widely from the real person. To one, ignorant of his character, he may be idealized and be made the impersonation of every virtue. He may be associated in the mind with all that is pure, true, lovely and divine. Art may make him, indeed, an object of religious veneration. But remember, the Joseph Smith thus venerated, is not the real, actual Joseph Smith (*) known to the world, but one that art has created. There is nothing in common between them but a name. (Original paper at New York City Public Library.)

NOTES AND QUERIES concerning the
Vol. VII. Second Series.
Morrisania, N.Y.

(view original article from 1870)

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(pages 384-419 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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Their [non-Mormon] writings reveal the prejudice of the time. Without considering the fact that a great Church has been organized, and thousands of converts declare the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, they repeat the only available contrary explanation. The book is not divine; it is the product of Rigdon and Spaulding. Joseph Smith, the witnesses and others who participated in the writing and printing of the book, are base deceivers.

It is very important that both the explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon accepted by Rev. Daniel Sylvester Tuttle in 1906 and the article he wrote regarding the origin of Mormonism in the Religious Encyclopedia be published at the same time and place. In the book written in 1906, he accepts the Rigdon-Spaulding theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon.

His claimed quoted record of a trial of Joseph Smith in 1826 contains a claimed confession by Joseph Smith that he used a seer-stone to deceive people by declaring he could find hidden treasures. It is now claimed that this confession reveals that his activities when 21 years of age were based upon deceit and myticism which finally resulted in his finding the "gold plates" and his ability to write a translation by which he became a prophet, "a mythmaker of prodigious talents," who wrote a fable that is today "the energizing force in the lives of a million believers."

A newspaper article concerning the same event is reprinted for comparison and study.

The growing claimed use by Joseph Smith of the contents of the book by Ethan Smith, "View of the Hebrews" published in 1823, is answered by the printing of the introduction to the book, its table of contents and two earlier similar books used by the author. This

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information is very important to the earnest student of the Book of Mormon.

The reprinted newspaper articles in 1831-1841 serve careful consideration. Here is important evidence of the result of presenting the Gospel message.

Can it be true that God in His mercy has revealed again, in its fullness, the way to peace, joy, and eternal progress?

These early newspaper articles are definite proof that such a message was declared, that many accepted it as true and that the Book of Mormon is evidence that the power of God has again been made manifest to all men.

Joel Tiffany in Tiffany's Monthly magazine in 1859 asserts he is personally acquainted with Martin Harris with whom he reports a long claimed interview.

Fayette Lapham in The Historical Magazine reports an interview with the father of Joseph Smith.

Today, we ask the question, Is it possible that people once believed such absurd statements regarding the leader of the Church now tested by a century and a quarter of growth?

Surely the life long activities of Martin Harris and the Prophet's father are a sufficient answer to such claimed statements.

The testimony of William Smith reveals the knowledge of the family and others that the writings of Joseph Smith describing his first vision and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are true and were accepted by those who had the ability to know all the facts.

Copyright © 1942, '51, '58, '59. '60, Brigham Young University.
Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.

[ 423 ]


The last frantic effort of Fawn M. Brodie in 1957 to prove
The Book of Mormon man-made.

The Claim of "Established Authenticity" of the Alleged
Court Confession of Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1826.

In the 1957 reprint of No Man Knows My History, Fawn M. Brodie makes this remarkable and challenging statement, an exact copy of which was added at the end of the book. *

On May 11, 1946, the L.D.S. Church in Utah published an official review of this book in the Church Section of the Deseret News. It denounced the 1826 court record, published here, pp. 405-7, as "patently a fabrication of unknown author-ship and never in the court records at all." Since then, thanks to the expert detective work of Mr. Stanley Ivins, Mr. Dale L. Morgan, and Miss Helen L. Fairbank, I have collected the following data, which establish the authenticity of this record beyond any doubt.

Mr. Ivins unearthed the fact that the original pages of the court record were torn out of the record book of Justice Albert Neely of Bainbridge, N.Y., who presided at the trial, by his niece Miss Emily Pearsall, who was a missionary assistant to Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle in Salt Lake City. For Bishop Tuttle's statement on this point see the Utah Christian Advocate, January 1886. For biographical data on Miss Pearsall see Clarence E. Pearsall: History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family in England and America 1928.

The court record was first published by Charles Marshall in Fraser's Magazine, London, February 1873. Marshall had visited Salt Lake City in the spring of 1871. See also his articles on Utah in Fraser's Magazine, June and July 1871. 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.

* Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), pp. 418-418A.

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There are two newspaper accounts of this trial, published independently, each by a local Bainbridge resident. Mr. Dale L. Morgan discovered the earliest, an article titled "Mormonites," in the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, Utica, N.Y., April 9, 1831. This was only five years after the trial. It is signed A.W.B., and Mr. Morgan identifies him from subsequent articles as A.W. Benton. This account will be republished in Mr. Morgan's forthcoming Mormon history.

The second and more detailed description, discovered by Miss Helen L. Fairbank, of the Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, N.Y., was published in the Chenango Union, Norwich, N.Y., May 3, 1877, p. 3. It is called "Joseph Smith, the Originator of Mormonism, Historical Reminiscences of the Town of Afton," and was written by Dr. W. D. Purple, a local doctor, who had been town clerk, postmaster, and county historian. Purple was an eye-witness to the trial, and took notes. His account has been republished by Mormon historian Francis W. Kirkham in the enlarged 1947 edition of a New Witness for Christ in America, pp. 475ff. Kirkham faces the reality but not the implications of this document."

Photostat copies of all of the above quoted magazines are filed in the Church Historian's Office, except History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family.

The above described data obtained by Fawn M. Brodie by the claimed expert detective work of Stanley Ivins and Helen Fairbank were given by both Mr. Ivins and Miss Fairbank to the writer and published by him in A New Witness for Christ in America, Vol. I, 1947 and 1951, p. 485-492. These are reprinted in part in this present study. The newspaper account of 1831 found by Dale L. Morgan of this supposed trial of Joseph Smith in 1826 also follows. The original copy may be seen at the Congressional Library, Washington, D.C.

The thesis and purpose of the book No Man Knows My History, namely, to prove that Joseph

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Smith was a "myth maker of prodigious talents" and that the "Book of Mormon is a fable" are based almost entirely on the truth and accuracy of this supposed confession in a justice of the peace court record in 1826. It is claimed, for the purpose of fraud and deception, Joseph Smith had used a seer stone claiming to be able to see hidden treasures below the surface of the earth. By this confession of Joseph Smith it is inferred that it is now positively and finally proved that his claims of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by divine revelation and the coming forth and translation of the Book of Mormon by divine power are false, designed to deceive the tens of thousands who will declare him a prophet of God.

Fawn M. Brodie writes:

The road that led Joseph Smith into the career of prophet, seer, and revelator is overgrown with a tangle of legend and contradiction, Mormon and non-Mormon seem to conflict at every turn. The earliest non-Mormon documents that mention him at all, an early court record and newspaper account, insists Joseph reflected the irreligion and cynicism of his father. The haranguing of the revivalist preachers seems to have filled him only with contempt. But these documents contrast remarkably with Joseph's official biography, begun many years later when he was near the summit of his career. The latter tells the story of a visionary boy caught by revival hysteria and channeled into a life of mysticism and exhortation.

The evidence, however, leaves no doubt, that, whatever Joseph's inner feelings, his reputation before he organized his church was not that of an adolescent mystic brooding over visions, but of a likeable ne'er-do-well who spent his leisure leading a band of idlers in digging for buried treasure.

This behavior is confirmed by the most coldly objective description of young Joseph that remains, which historians

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have hitherto overlooked or ignored. This description seems also to be the earliest public document that mentions him at all. The document, a court record dated March 1826, when Joseph was twenty-one (twenty, insert by writer), covers his trial in Bainbridge, New York, on a charge of being a disorderly person and an impostor. On the basis of the testimony presented including Joseph's own admissions of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace.... Page 16.

She also states...

(remainder of pages 426-465 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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Both Accounts of the Alleged Trial and
Confession of Joseph Smith in 1826
Compared and Analyzed

The reader is now invited to consider carefully the differences of the two following accounts of this same claimed trial of Joseph Smith Jr. before a Justice

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of a Peace court in March 1826. One is claimed to be an exact copy from leaves torn from the record of the justice and one written by a person invited to attend the court and to make notes.

The differences together with exact copies of the record were published in this book New Witness for Christ in America, Vol. II, 1951, pp. 357, 354-368, which the reader is urged to study and analyze carefully.

The Discovered Printing of the Alleged Trial of 1826,
by Dale L. Morgan

The greatly anticipated record of the alleged trial of Joseph Smith in March, 1826, discovered by Dale L. Morgan follows. *

In this brief account it is stated the public had Joseph Smith arrested as a disorderly person, tried, and condemned before a Court of Justice. But considering his youth, he then being a minor, he was designedly allowed to escape.

The public does not sign a complaint. The name of the Justice is not given. "A. W. B.," later identified, as claimed by Fawn M. Brodie, as A. W. Benton, declares in his article written in 1831, "During the past summer, 1830, he (Joseph Smith) was arrested and arraigned before a bar of Justice." A. W. Benton then gives his own account of the 1830 trial which Joseph Smith also describes. It is not the description of the assumed trial of March, 1826.

* It is copied carefully from a photostat obtained by my son, Dr. Grant Kirkham, Washington, D.C., at my request, from the Evengelical Magazine and Gospel Sdvocate, Utica, New York, April 9, 1831.

                              THE  LAST  FRANTIC  EFFORT                               467

A photostat copy is deposited at the Church Historian Library together with a microfilm of all issues of this paper, 1828-1832.

The original paper is at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The finding and now the printing of this important document was made possible by reference to its publication in the above described paper by Fawn M. Brodie as quoted in the supplement to the reprinting of her book in 1957, No Man Knows My History.

This is Mr. Benton's account:

Messrs. Editors -- In the sixth number of your paper, I saw a notice of a sect of people called Mormonites; and thinking that 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 the infamous imposter. 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, etc.

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. 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), thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape.

This is all A. W. Benton records concerning this trial in 1826. He was arrested, appeared before the Justice and was condemned because he was sponging

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his living from the earnings of the people. The Justice then decides "considering his youth (he then being a minor)" to give him instruction to reform his conduct and thus ends the complaint against him. Smith then left the country except to return occasionally for two or three years.

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.

It was during this time, and probably by the help of others more skilled in the way of iniquity than himself, that he formed the blasphemous design of forging a new revelation, which hacked 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 scandlous [sic.] honor of being the founder of a new sect, which might rival, perhaps the Wilkinsonians, or the French Prophets of the 17th Century.

There is not the least suggestion that he confessed to anything at the trial and especially that the confession as claimed by Fawn M. Brodie, was recorded. A.W. Benton now describes what happened after the trial and declares he was arrested last summer (1830) and then describes the same trial concerning which Joseph Smith has made a long record.

During the past summer (the article as printed April 9, 1831, insert by author) he was frequently in this vicinity, and others of the baser sort, as Cowdery, Whitmer, etc., holding meetings, and proselyting a few weak and silly women, and still more silly men, whose minds are shrouded in a midst of ignorance which no ray can penetrate, and whose credulity the utmost absurdity cannot equal.

* Ibid.

                              THE  LAST  FRANTIC  EFFORT                               469

In order to check the progress of delusion, an open the eyes and understanding of those who blindly followed him, and unmask the turpitude and villainy of those who knowingly abetted him in his infamous design; he was again arraigned before a bar of Justice, during last summer (1830, insert by writer) to answer to a charge of misdemeanor. This trial lead 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 magic power by which he pretended to tell fortunes, discover hidden treasures, etc. Oliver Cowdery, 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 injury 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 anybody else. The following questions were then asked him, to which he made the replied 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

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some time, but finally replied, "To be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or anybody else; but any way to get a living." Here, then, we have his own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest imposter. 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. Paramount to this, in truth and consistency, was the testimony of Joseph Knight, another Mormonite. Newel Knight, son of the farmer 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 his place, are, without exception, children who are frightened into the measure, or ignorant adults, whose love for the marvelous 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 the book, it is only the counter-part 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.

This report should be compared with the report of the trial of 1830 made by Joseph Smith. (See page 451.)

It is interesting to note the slanderous, vile, and untrue declarations made against the Prophet Joseph Smith and the members of the Restored Church which made possible the two differing, absurd, fanatic claims of Rev. Daniel S. Tuttle and of W. D. Purple and A. W. Benton. The following letters are from the "Editorial Correspondence" section of the Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, Utica, New York, circa June, 1831. Photostat copy of this magazine 1828-1832 is filed in the Church Historian's Office.

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(pages 471-483 not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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Additional Information Concerning the Claimed
1826 Court Recordand the Newspaper Article
of 1831 by A. W. Benton.

The printing of the alleged court record in 1831 by A. W. B. states:

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

                              THE  LAST  FRANTIC  EFFORT                               485

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.

After this statement A. W. Benton refers no longer to the claimed court record of 1826 and shortly describes another trial in 1830 which Joseph Smith also describes but differently in his History of the Church.

The following is the statement made by Oliver Cowdery:

On the private character of our brother I need add nothing further, at present, previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites (1827), 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 for action, he was honorably acquitted.

These two quotations are evidence that there was no long court session and no testimony of witnesses, and especially no confession of Joseph Smith, as recorded by Bishop Tuttle in 1883 and by W. D. Purple in 1877. It appears Joseph Smith was interviewed by the Justice and then dismissed. This required no record. 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. As quoted above, Joseph Smith, Jr., wrote in his own story: "The celebrated Dr. Boyington, also a Presbyterian, was another instigator of these deeds of outrage; whilst a young man named

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Benton, of the same religious faith, swore out the first warrant against me."

May the reader be now referred to pages 79-87 of this book. In the February 15, 1831, issue of the Painesville Telegraph, only nine miles from Kirtland, a person signing M.S.C. writes a long detailed description of Sidney Rigdon, his belief and life activities. He states that while Mr. Rigdon was at Palmyra during December of 1830 -- that

Mr. Rigdon with great show of good nature, commenced a long detail of his researches after the character of Joseph Smith; he declared that even his enemies had nothing to say against his character; he had brought a transcript from the docket of two magistrates, where Joseph Smith had been tried as a disturber of the peace, which testified he was honorably acquitted. But this was no evidence to us that the Book of Mormon was divine, page 84.

If there were in existence a court record confession of Joseph Smith in 1826, M.S.C. would have known and published it.

Another very important additional evidence that the claimed court record of March 1826 at which time Joseph Smith was said to have confessed that he had used a seer stone for the purpose of fraud and deception, is not true is the fact that the first explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon by persons who denied its divine origin does not directly accuse Joseph Smith of using a seer stone for the purpose of fraud and especially that he had made such a confession in a a court of law. This evidence may be found in Volume II of A New Witness for Christ in America, beginning with chapter 2, page 23.

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(page not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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(page not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

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Further additional proof that the claimed trial of 1826 is not a true court record is the fact that some of the witnesses who are quoted as giving evidence in the trial of 1826 are definitely known to have given evidence in the 1830 trial.

Following are the witnesses as named by Bishop Tuttle in the 1826 trial: Josiah Stowell, Horace Stowell, Arad Stowell, Mr. McMaster and Jonathan Thompson.

The witnesses claimed by W. D. Purple in this same trial are Joseph Stowell, Joseph Smith, Sr., and M. Thompson.

Joseph Smith writes, "Cyrus McMaster, a Presbyterian of high standing in his church, was one of the chief instigators of these persecutions."

If Joseph Smith (as claimed by W. D. Purple, and claimed to have been confirmed by his father) had made a confession, and it had been recorded in a court record in 1826, in the same county, it would have been known to the prosecutors at the 1830 trial. These same witnesses would have been required to tell again their knowledge of the claimed confession of

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Joseph Smith in the 1826 trial to be again recorded in the 1830 trial. It must be evident by these facts that because no such testimony against Joseph Smith was made by any witness and no mention is made of the supposed 1826 trial in the 1830 trial, the claim of the 1826 testimonies of these witnesses in the 1826 trial cannot be true, and in all probably were never made.

The only claimed action against Joseph Smith in 1826 was a complaint against him that he was a vagrant. As he was a minor, the court dismissed the charge against him with the admonition that he must reform. It definitely appears no record was required by law for such an action and therefore none was made.

This Summary and Additional Conclusions Refer in Part to the
Challenge that there Exists Irrefutable Proof of the Supposed
Court Confession of Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1826.

The following conclusions seem inevitable:

Fawn M. Brodie states that after long research, Mr. Dale L. Morgan now reaches the conclusion that the man who made the complaint against Joseph Smith in 1826 was named Benton. Joseph Smith in his own history quoted above, states that a young man named Benton swore out the first warrant against him (page 457). There is no inference in the statement by Oliver Cowdery or by Joseph Smith, or by A. W. Benton, who wrote the article published in 1831, that Joseph Smith made any confession of any kind in a court of law regarding his life or

                              THE  LAST  FRANTIC  EFFORT                               491

character. He was taken before a justice of the peace with a false accusation and dismissed because there was no evidence of wrong doing.

Joseph Smith worked for Josiah Stowell in Chenango County beginning October 1825. Mr. Stowell had information which caused him to believe the Spaniards had buried treasures in caves or mines. He employed persons including Joseph Smith, to dig in these caves or mines for this treasure. After a relatively short time -- Joseph Smith said about one month -- he discontinued discontinued the effort.

The mother of Joseph Smith said he then returned to work for his father. In September 1826, age 20 years, he conversed again at the Hill Cumorah with Moroni, the resurrected immortal messenger from God, regarding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He now worked for Joseph Knight or Josiah Stowell or for both and visited at the home of Isaac Hale father of Emma Hale, whom he married in January 1827, shortly after his 21st birthday. He then returned to work with his father. In this same year on September 23, he received the metal plates of the Book of Mormon. No one living at Palmyra at that time denied the fact that he dictated the contents of the Book of Mormon.

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. After the Church was organized in 1830, all persons agree that Joseph Smith was arrested and

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tried both in Chenango County and Broome County, at which time no intimation is made that he testified in that court trial.

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. It is claimed she said she tore leaves from a record but does not mention directly the name of the justice as quoted by Fawn M. Brodie. 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, and copied in the Eclectic Magazine in April of the same year. This article was later published by Bishop Tuttle in the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge in 1883. Why were these leaves torn from a book lost or destroyed?

Both Oliver Cowdery and A. W. Benton agree that Joseph Smith was discharged by the justice. There is no mention of Joseph Smith making a confession before the justice of the peace or of any person being a witness against him. 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.

Proofs against the claimed court record are in part as follows:

(1) It does not conform to the requirements of the law for a record of a justice of the peace.

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(2) The claimed confession of Joseph Smith, not required by law is so ridiculous and fantastic as known to thousands of people, who knew him personally that no one printed such grotesque statements during his lifetime and not until about 30 years after his death.

(3) The W. D. Purple long, absurd and, unbelievable descriptions of the claimed confession of Joseph Smith, which was also claimed to have been confirmed by his father, forever eliminates these statements as the truth and especially as a part of a trial before a justice of peace court.

(4) The record of the Claimed Court Trial from the leaves of a book brought to Utah by Miss Emily Pearsall and printed later by Charles Marshall and Bishop Tuttle and the account of a trial written by W. D. Purple at some time but not published until 51 years after the event, differ so radically in content including names of witnesses and their asserted statements that it appears both were written by different persons at different times. It is absurd and ridiculous for any one to infer these two printed accounts each prove the fact of the same trial and that the vile character and life purpose described concerning Joseph Smith are true, and that his early followers were ignorant, deluded, fanatic.

(5) At the time of the publication of the record taken from the leaves of a book and the notes taken at the trial, it was popular to assert that the Book of Mormon was a product of Sidney Rigdon and Solomon Spaulding, and that Joseph Smith was therefore a vile deceiver.

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A court record of a supposed trial in which Joseph Smith confessed he was a deceiver, pretending to find lost treasure by means of a stone in a hat would confirm this belief. Therefore, W. D. Purple, A. W. Benton, Charles Marshall, and Bishop Tuttle could with public approval write 45 to 50 years after the claimed event, the lurid and unbelievable assertions to the writer on file at the Church Historian's Library, dated February 7, 1949, Dr. John A. Widtsoe, wrote, "I can easily understand how a person using that (W. D. Purple) trial as a basis would write the famous letter brought to Utah as a ridicule of Joseph Smith himself."

(6) The 1831 statement of A. W. Benton regarding an assumed trial in 1826 eliminates the possibility that Joseph Smith made the assumed confession in a court of law in 1826.

(7) Oliver Cowdery writes only, "some very officious person complained of him (Joseph Smith) as a disorderly person and brought him before the authorities of the county, but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquitted." Joseph Smith may have appeared only before the sheriff of the county, or a judge, and not in regular court session.

It is ludicrous and beyond reason to state Oliver Cowdery in any way confirms the supposed court confession. It seems impossible that he would make such an inference or claim. Oliver Cowdery's statement regarding the life of the Prophet has been quoted in part in this treatise which completely refutes this accusation.

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(8) If there were a court record of a confession of Joseph Smith in 1826, it would have been known to the prosecutors of the 1830 trial. It would have been known also to many people who defiled his character and persecuted his followers. No one mentions such an assumed confession at the 1830 trial or in any anti-Mormon books until a person brings sheets torn from a record in 1871, 45 years after the event. She did not bring the original record and even the leaves she brought with her to help defame the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith were lost a few years after they were claimed to have been copied.

(9) The people who lived at Palmyra and knew Joseph Smith's life activities personally, call him ignorant, deluded, fanatic. They do not accuse him of possessing or using a seer stone until 1834 when it became necessary to make some such accusations for the reason they could no longer say the Book of Mormon was written by a person who had the ability they claimed. Joseph Smith was now called a base deceiver for he declared he translated the contents of the Book of Mormon from an ancient record by the gift and power of God while he knew it was the work of another person, Sidney Rigdon assisted by Solomon Spaulding. No mention is made by the people of Palmyra of this supposed trial and particularly a supposed confession Joseph Smith had made in a court of law.

(10) After 126 years since this claimed confession of Joseph Smith and assertedly confirmed by his father in a justice of a peace court, not required by law with no positive evidence of its validity, it

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must now be evident to all honest investigators that the Church itself with its marvelous achievements make impossible the purported claim of ignorance, deception and fraud against Joseph Smith, their Prophet-leader, and that original Mormons were ignorant, deluded and deceived fanatics.


After long and careful study of all the information regarding this assumed trial and confession of Joseph Smith in 1826, my opinion grows that no such trial was ever held. This conclusion is supported by the following:

John Reid, a non-Mormon, reporting the 1830 trial states: "This was the first time the Prophet Joseph Smith was brought before a court of law."

In a History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania 1873, by Emily C. Blackman, "Joe Smith, the Mormon prophet, A madman, or a fool, hath ever set the world agog," states:

The first reference in the county papers to Joe's influence appears to have been in November 1831, and December, 1832 when "two or three wretched zealots of Mormonism created much excitement and made some proselytes in a remote district on the borders of this county and Lucerne." The new converts then proposed removing to "the promised land" near Painesville, Ohio.

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 some time, somewhere, by some one. But it was not

                              THE  LAST  FRANTIC  EFFORT                               497

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, but he does not mention this trial in his own book written a number of years afterwards which bitterly denounces the Mormon people.

This supposed record, published in 1883, after 10 years is replaced in the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge by a much fairer account of the Mormon Church by another writer who does not mention the assumed trial.

After Bishop Tuttle has published this assumed confession of Joseph Smith in a claimed court trial, Helen Fairbank in 1947 discovered a long, ludicrous account of an assumed trial at about the same time with not the same witnesses, a different accuser with a claimed confirmation by Joseph Smith's father of his son's wicked deception, etc. All this was written by W. D. Purple who said he was invited to attend and take notes at the trial. But, and may I repeat, but it was not printed until 1877, 33 years after the death of Joseph Smith and 51 years after the supposed trial.

Now comes the startling claim.

There is irrefutable proof of the validity of the trial of 1826 now found by the expert detective work of three persons.

Fawn M. Brodie who made this claim of expert detective work, must have known that the material

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found by Stanley Ivins and Helen Fairbank, two of the detectives, had been printed ten years previous with their consent by this writer in Vol. 1, A New Witness for Christ in America. "Evidence of divine power in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon." Page 475 (also printed in this book pages 357-368). She refers to the article by saying, "Francis W. Kirkham faces the reality but not the implications of this document." Probably without the consent of the third detective worker, Dale L. Morgan, who had apparently told his confidential friends not to divulge the contents of another account of the assumed trial, published only five years after the event, Fawn M. Brodie names the newspaper where it was printed. Now this last irrefutable evidence is found and is here published. Its contents are additional evidence to the writer that probably no such trial occurred. It quotes in a distorted manner the 1830 trial of Joseph Smith and states only while he was still a minor in 1826 he was brought before a justice of the peace and dismissed after the judge told him, because he was under twenty-one years of age, to reform his conduct. Oliver Cowdery states only, "He was brought before the authorities of that county but there being no cause for action he was honorably acquitted." Joseph Smith, Jr., states, "a young man by the name of Benton swore out the first warrant against me." When it is realized that any defaming incident against the life of Joseph Smith was relished and believed at the time of the printing of this assumed court record, it can be understood why it was printed as a fact. No objective scholar today would originate or believe such a vile and ridiculous accusation against Joseph Smith...

(remainder of text not transcribed, due to copyright restrictions)

Comments: (forthcoming)


Hugh Nibley

The Myth-Makers (1961)


Part 1 (pgs. 09-87)
Part 2 (pgs. 89-190)
Part 3 (not transcribed)

Transcriber's comments

Copyright © 1961, Bookcraft, Inc. Only limited "fair use" excerpts presented here.
(If copyright holder wishes the on-line excerpts shortened, please contact transcriber)

[ 5 ]


The exotic literature into which this little book guides the general reader has always been esteemed by Latter-day Saints as something beneath notice, and by their enemies as a treasure beyond price, the value of which, to quote Pomeroy Tucker?s panegyrist, "will increase as time takes the world farther from the origin of the delusion." And indeed the passing of time has invested with an aura of antiquity and hence of authenticity documents which have no other merit than their age. It is these documents which remain to this day the rock on which the critics of Joseph Smith and the Mormons have built their house. The experts accept them with straight faces because they have no choice: these are not merely the standard sources for early Mormon history, they are virtually the only sources, unless one is willing to make the supreme sacrificium intellectus and listen to the Mormon side of the story. As the only witnesses against Joseph Smith these poor gossips must be allowed permanent tenure; we can expect that for years to come they will be solemnly quoted in scholarly writings which will in turn be solemnly praised by overworked reviewers who are only too glad to believe that every footnote is authentic and that an appendix is enough to establish the total veracity of any book. But if some waggish reviewer were to take off a few hours some day to make a spot-check of the references in the latest books and articles on Mormon beginnings, he would soon find out what the fortunate reader of this book is about to discover -- that the whole structure of anti-Mormon scholarship rests on trumped-up evidence.

We recommend a rapid reading of the following pages to bring out the peculiar flavor of their nonsense. We have chosen a shot-gun method of presentation, our witnesses testifying in rapid confusion. The reader may be annoyed that so little effort has been made to follow through numerous blunders and delicious absurdities, but this forebearance is deliberate -- we see no point in laboring the obvious. Our witnesses spoke to a world that was only too


[ 6 ]

eager to believe everything they said; immune to criticism and sure of popular acclaim, they told the best stories they could think of, without particularly caring whether they were true or not. Thus Mr. Kidder, the author of one of the most highly respected books about Joseph Smith, in reviewing the equally respected work of Professor Turner, noted that while Turner was hopelessly inaccurate in telling about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon "the question at issue here is one of comparative unimportance," the main point being to agree that Joseph Smith was a rascal, for which "we hail his (Turner's) work as one of... an eminently practical bearing." With such principles to guide them, these men play right into the hands of any who are uncharitable enough to call them to account. Many of our witnesses would be worth a study in depth, but this is not the time or place for such profundities.

What we offer here is merely a preliminary investigation to decide if there is enough evidence of fraud to justify a full-scale examination. We think there is, but gladly leave the real work to others. Even so, the reader will find before him in these pages more extensive and representative quotations from the cloud of witnesses than he will ever discover in those writers who now receive their garbled reports with joy and thanksgiving. For, we must repeat, these are the very documents on which their every effort to explain Joseph Smith must rest.

As was to be expected, the present growth and prosperity of the Church has again turned the attention of the world to these shop-worn fantasies. In foreign lands, where distance and language make it impossible for readers to check sources, the old libels are now being dusted off and confidently displayed as contemporary first-hand records of the real Joseph Smith; and even in this country the latest books and articles lean on them as heavily as ever before. It is high time to ask seriously just how good these sources are; it is high time to take a new look at a pack of story-tellers who have been getting away with too much for too long.   HUGH NIBLEY, 1961.

(Note: 1961 1st edition text transcribed -- footnotes have been updated from later editons)

[ 9 ]


The Crime of Being a Prophet

Scene i.  Everybody knew him when...

Scene ii.  Come, now, Mr. Tucker!

Scene iii.  Portrait of a Prophet

[ 11 ]


i. Everybody knew him when...

Scene: The assembly hall of a public school in Palmyra, New York, at the turn of the century. There is a low platform at one end of the hall. At the center table sits the Chairman; at the table to his left the Clerk is taking notes amid a heap of documents; at the table on the right sits E. D. Howe with bulging dossiers. The hall is full of people. The Chairman looks like a combination of Aristophanes, Rabelais, and Rhadamanthus.

Too many witnesses

Chairman: Let us have a little order, please. This is the time and place fixed by stipulation for the deposition of a number of witnesses in the case of the World versus Joseph Smith, for the purpose of examining parties of record without being bound by the answers.

We want it understood that this is not a formal trial. This is merely an inquiry into some phases of the evidence that has been brought against Mr. Smith, who will not be present.

E. D. Howe (who has made no effort to conceal his disgust): As counsel for these good people here I object to the whole procedure. The witnesses have already given their sworn affidavits....

Chairman:... and we will do no more than to ask them to repeat those affidavits. We have instructed the Clerk to put their original statements in quotation marks.

E. D. Howe: But why is the defendant not present? We can't have a trial without him.

Chairman: No one should know that better than you, sir! It was you and all these people here who have insisted on trying and condemning Smith in absentia through the years. Actually it is your claims rather than Smith's that we are examining at this time. Now, we want this to be a very informal investigation. Anyone who has anything relevant to say is invited to speak up at any time. All we


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really want to find out is what you people actually knew about Joseph Smith, since your testimony has convicted him of fraud in the eyes of the world. I warn you that I may be a little rough on some of the witnesses, but I have been directed to get to the bottom of this thing. In 1875 a Jesuit writer sought to discredit the work of Smith by appealing to "a published statement by sixty-two contemporary residents of Palmyra." [01] Are the sixty-two present?

J. C. Bennett: (looking very much like Napoleon): It was fifty-one, your honor. Fifty-one reputable citizens of Palmyra, plus eleven prominent citizens of Manchester, make 62 in all. [02]

Chairman: The clerk has the record here. How many was it, clerk?

Clerk: According to some sixty-four, according to others seventy or seventy-four. There seems to be some disagreement.

Lu B. Cake: What difference does it make how many? What is important is that they all said the same thing. "Sixty-four sworn reputables to one reprobate. Now do you believe Joe?" [03]

Chairman: That will do. We are here to let the witnesses speak for themselves. Will the clerk please read the primary document -- the one signed by sixty-two male residents of Palmyra on 3 November 1833?

Clerk (reads): "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.... Joseph Smith, Sen., and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits." [04]

J. C. Bennett: It was the 51 who said that. Now let him read the testimony of the other eleven.

1. John S. C. Abbott, The History of the State of Ohio (Detroit: New World, 1875), 180.

2. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; Or, An Expos? of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842), 79-80.

3. Lu B. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript (New York: Cake, 1899), 20.

4. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed; Or, a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion (Painesville, OH: the author, 1834), 261-62.


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Clerk (reads): Eleven prominent citizens of Manchester signed the following: "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 were also intemperate, and their word was not to be depended upon; and that we are truly glad to dispense with their society." [05]

Chairman: Are there any others?

P. Chase: Parley Chase speaking. My affidavit was taken separately a month after the others. What I said was that "I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., both before and since they became Mormons.... They were lazy, intemperate, and worthless men, very much addicted to lying. In this they frequently boasted of their skill." [06]

Chairman: "Frequently"? A liar's "skill," sir, consists in not being recognized as a liar. Skillful liars don't boast about it. Your own technique is defective. Next witness.

J. Hyde: Mr. Stafford here can tell you how "Joseph Smith, Sen., was a noted drunkard, that most of his family followed his example, especially Joseph Smith, Jun., the Prophet, who was very much addicted to intemperance," and that "he got drunk in my father's field, and that when drunk would talk about his religion." [07]

Chairman: Let him speak for himself, Mr. Hyde. You say, Mr. Stafford, that Smith would get drunk in your father's field and in that condition would talk about his religion?

B. Stafford: Though Mr. Hyde put my words in quotes, that is not the way I said it. What I said was that "he one day while at work in my father's field, got quite drunk on a composition of cider, molasses and water [and]... fell to scuffling with one of the workmen, who tore his shirt nearly off from him." [08]

Chairman: That is quite a different story from Mr. Hyde's, who on your testimony has Smith making a regular

5. Ibid., 262.

6. Ibid., 248.

7. John Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs (New York: Fetridge, 1857), 246.

8. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 250-51.


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practice of getting drunk in the Stafford field and giving sermons in that situation.

J. Hyde: I didn't say he always gave his drunken sermons in the field.

Chairman: No, you merely implied it, so that others could take it up from there. Mr. Weil, I believe you have something to say about Joseph Smith's discourses in the horizontal.

C. C. Weil [sic - Robert Richards?]: Indeed I have. While I was on my way to California in the 1840s, I visited Montrose, Iowa, where "looking over a fence I saw Joseph Smith himself lying alone on the grass, with a whiskey bottle by his side, and decidedly far gone in a state of intoxication. He was talking and laughing, and evidently congratulating himself, in a soliloquy, on the success of his devices. 'I am a prophet,' he said, 'a profitable profit.'" [09]

Chairman: That will do for now; we shall hear the rest later. You see, gentlemen, how these things grow. Who is next?

W. Chase: I am Willard Chase. "I have regarded Joseph Smith Jr. from the time I first became acquainted with him... as a man whose word could not be depended upon.... After they [the Smith family] became thorough Mormons, their conduct was more disgraceful than before." [10]

H. Harris: I appended my testimony to Chase's: "The character of Joseph Smith, Jun., for truth and veracity was such that I would not believe him under oath." [11]

E. D. Howe: Before we hear from the others I would like to introduce the testimony of a man of impeccable character and cultivated mind, President Fairchild [sic - Fairfield?] of Michigan College. President Fairchild, would you please tell us your story?

President Fairchild [sic - Fairfield?]: "It was in August, 1850, that I found myself spending a week in the immediate vicinity of Palmyra and Manchester. Three men were mentioned to me who had been intimately acquainted with Joseph Smith

9. Robert Richards, The California Crusoe (London: Parker, 1854), 84.

10. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 247.

11. Ibid., 251.


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from the age of ten years to twenty-five and upwards. The testimony of these men was given under no stress of any kind. It was clear, decided, unequivocal testimony in which they all agreed." [12]

Chairman: Since the three men are here in person, and all present have been duly sworn, we would like to hear from them personally what they told Dr. Fairchild.

No. 1: "Joseph Smith was simply a notorious liar."

No. 2: "We never knew another person so utterly devoid of conscience as he was."

No. 3: "The thing for which Joseph was most notorious was his vulgar speech and his low life of unspeakable lewdness." [13]

Lu B. Cake: Think of it! "Seventy reputable men who knew, stated under oath that this Smith family was ignorant; that the males were drunkards, blasphemers, liars, thieves; who put in their time digging for hidden treasures of the Captain Kidd kind, and defrauding their neighbors. Reputable citizens aver under oath that these Smiths were a low, wicked household and Joe was the worst of the lot." [14]

John Hyde: That about sums up the case. May I call the attention of our worthy Chairman (who as an outsider seems to be somewhat prejudiced in favor of the accused) to the fact that this evidence is irrefutable: "Here are positive statements by men who knew Smith well; who had known him long; who had no motive to exaggerate.... No attempt has been made to meet them." [15]

Cake: May I underline that last point. "The Smiths never controverted these affidavits, which is a silent plea of guilty. They left, which is equivalent to -- no defense." [16]

Chairman: They left?

Lu B. Cake: Yes, they moved right out of Palmyra, bag and baggage.

J.Hyde: "The Smiths never could, and did not, oppose to these affidavits anything but a bare denial, but moved out

12. D. H. C. Bartlett, The Mormons or Latter-day Saints, Whence Came They? (Liverpool: Thompson, 1911), 5-6. [The following quotation by Dr. Edmund B. Fairfield, late President of Michigan College, throws light upon the character of Joseph Smith: "It was in August, 1850, that I found myself spending a week in the immediate vicinity of Palmyra and Manchester (U.S.A.). Three men were mentioned to me who had been intimately acquainted with Joseph Smith from the age of ten years to twenty-five and upwards. The testimony of these three men was given under no stress of any kind. It was clear, decided, unequivocal testimony, in which they all agreed. 'Joseph Smith is simply a notorious liar.' 'We never knew another person so utterly destitute of conscience as he was.' 'The thing for which Joseph was most notorious was his vulgar speech and his life of unspeakable lewdness.'" (This quotation is from a booklet, The Mormons or Latter-Day Saints, by Rev. D. H. C. Bartlett) -- see also "THE MYSTERY OF MORMONISM" by Stuart Martin, p. 28]

13. Ibid., 6.

14. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 9.

15. Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 246.

16. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 20 (emphasis added).


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of that part of the country."... "No attempt has been made to meet them, only to cry persecution and run away.... To run away is to tacitly admit, if not the direct charge, certainly their inability to refute it." [17]

Chairman: And by leaving they in effect pled guilty to the charges?

Cake: That is what we said.

Chairman: When did they leave?

Cake: Let me see. I think it was some time early in 1831.

Chairman: So they left Palmyra in 1831 because they could not face up to "these affidavits" which were made in 1833? I don't think further comment on that is necessary. Let's see how reliable these witnesses are. Mr. Hyde's statement goes to the root of the matter. If you will recall, he made three unqualified claims: (1) that the affidavit swearers had known Smith well and long, (2) that they made positive statements about him, and (3) that they had no motive to exaggerate. As to the first point, the most specific claims were made by Dr. Fairchild's three witnesses. Will they please come forward? It was stated that you three were "intimately acquainted with Joseph Smith from the age of ten years to twenty-five." Will the clerk please confirm that?

Clerk (reads): "...from the age of ten years to twenty-five and upwards."

Chairman: So you all knew the defendant intimately for at least fifteen years?

The Three: That is right.

Chairman: How could you be acquainted with him when he was "twenty-five and upwards" when he left Palmyra for the last time at the age of twenty-five?

E. D. Howe: A mere quibble!

Chairman: Not when absolute accuracy is the point in question. Since he is posing as the discoverer of perfect and unshakable testimony, Dr. Fairchild at least should have taken the pains to check his facts. But the point we wish to emphasize here is that these men knew Smith very

17. Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 243, 247.


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intimately for at least fifteen years. Now why would these three honest and reputable men, and for that matter all the "prominent residents" of Palmyra and Manchester who knew Smith so long and so well, have persisted in associating with this monster for so many long years?

No. 2: "Monster" is putting it a bit strong, sir.

Chairman: Your actual words were, "notorious liar,... utterly devoid of conscience,... low life of unspeakable lewdness." Is that strong enough for your boon companion?

The Three: He wasn't a boon companion. We just knew him.

Chairman: Already you are weakening your priceless testimony. The term Dr. Fairchild used was "intimately associated." Did you at any time share in Smith's "low life of unspeakable lewdness?"

The Three: (horrified): Of course not!

E. D. Howe: I object to these insinuations that blacken the character of my clients.

Chairman: Exactly. If they were really Smith's cronies, they must have been pretty low-life themselves. And if they were not his cronies, how could they have discovered the vices they know so much about?

Intimate strangers

E. D. Howe: I will tell you how: Everybody knew about those vices. You heard all the witnesses say that Smith was notorious for them.

Chairman: Indeed I did hear them say it, and it immediately made me very suspicious. The worth of all these testimonies lies entirely in the fact that the witnesses are supposed to have known the accused personally and intimately -- that they are in a position to give concrete and specific information not known to the general public. Yet every last one of them is careful to specify that what he knows about Smith is "notorious" general knowledge. Even so, I wonder just how notorious these things were.


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Take Mr. Harris's notorious "Gold Bible Company," for example. Mr. Harris, what did you say about it in 1833?

H. Harris: I said that "a while before the gold plates were found... Joseph Smith, Jun., Martin Harris and others" were "familiarly known by the name of the 'Gold Bible Company.'" [18]

Chairman: You see, they were so well known as to be given a familiar, popular moniker. Yet of all the witnesses of the time, racking their brains to remember every scandal, only Mr. Harris remembers this notorious Company. So when I read that the sixty-two signers confine their testimony exclusively to characteristics for which Smith was "particularly famous," I wonder the more. In all those years of intimate association with Smith did these three or any of the others ever see him commit any specific crime? I notice that the most eloquent witnesses of all, Messrs. Stafford, Ingersoll, and Chase, confine their testimony not to what they saw Smith do, but to what they claim other people told them about him, and to secret private conversations between themselves and Smith. The utter viciousness and depravity of the Smith family to which all testify must have expressed itself from time to time in overt acts odious to society and punishable by law. Why was no legal action ever taken against them? Why are none of those acts ever reported? Can it be that our witnesses are holding back from feelings of modesty? Were they in any way reluctant to testify, President Fairchild?

Dr. Fairchild: Indeed they were not. They volunteered their testimony frankly, as I said before, and "it was clear, decided, unequivocal testimony in which they all agreed." [19]

Chairman: Thank you. Well, it is plain that these men had no intention either of shielding Smith or denying their own association with him.

E. D. Howe: Have you considered, sir, that there might have been some youthful peccadillos which the witnesses might not wish to be made public?

Chairman: Youthful peccadillos at twenty-five and upwards? We are not talking about youthful peccadillos but

18. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 251.

19. Bartlett, Mormons or Latter-day Saints, 6.


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gross immorality. Here three men rush forward, eager to tell all -- after fifteen years of intimate association with the most notorious scoundrel alive! We wait with bated breath for their report -- what stories they can tell! And what do we get? The monotonous repetition of familiar generalities as they lamely fall back on what they insist are matters of common knowledge. This brings us to Mr. Hyde's second point, which is that the witnesses all make positive statements. Positive statements about what? About Smith's "notorious" traits of character. Consider again what these three say about Smith. Will the clerk read from their testimony?

Clerk (reads): "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 -- "

Chairman: Thank you, that will do. The key to the whole thing, you will observe, is "we consider" -- the Smiths were not what these people thought they "ought to" be. Much has been made of the claim that "no attempt was made to meet" the charges. Only there were no charges -- only opinions. If you swear that in your opinion I am a scoundrel, you have said nothing at all, and I could only deny it by saying you were another. But if you say I robbed a bank on the 13th then we would have something to go on. Read the testimony of the third witness.

Clerk (reads): "The thing for which Joseph was most notorious was his vulgar speech and his low life of unspeakable lewdness."

Chairman: Here we have the sort of thing that promises to be most intimate and personal -- yet even here our witness sticks to things "for which Joseph was most notorious," i.e., charges that could not and in the public's mind need not be examined or proved. He is playing it safe. But what did our sixty-two star witnesses say Smith was "most notorious" for?

Clerk (reads): The 62 testified "that they were particularly famous for visionary projects."


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Chairman: And what did Mr. Stafford swear to?

Clerk (reads): "Joseph Smith, Sen., was a noted drunkard, that most of his family followed his example, especially Joseph Smith, Jr., the Prophet."

Chairman: Apparently some of these witnesses who knew Smith so long and so well (as Mr. Hyde assures us they did) overlooked his most conspicuous trait -- his drunkenness, while others failed to comment on his gross licentiousness, and still others failed to make any mention of his visionary propensities, though the sixty-two claimed that the Smiths were "particularly famous" for them. When certain parties diligently trying to recall all the worst traits of the so-well-known Smith fail even to mention characteristics described as "most notorious" and "particularly famous" by others, a person cannot but wonder just how well those people really knew Smith.

[Additional dialog inserted into later editions: Cake: Think of it! "Seventy reputable men who knew, stated under oath that this Smith family was ignorant; that the males were drunkards, blasphemers, liars, thieves; who put in their time digging for hidden treasures of the Captain Kidd kind, and defrauding their neighbors. Reputable citizens aver under oath that these Smiths were a low, wicked household and Joe was the worst of the lot." (Cake, L.B., Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 9.)

Hyde: That about sums up the case. May I call the attention of our worthy Chairman (who as an outsider seems to be somewhat prejudiced in favor of the accused) to the fact that this evidence is irrefutable: "Here are positive statements by men who knew Smith well; who had known him long; who had no motive to exaggerate.... No attempt has been made to meet them." (Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 246.)

Cake: May I underline that last point. "The Smiths never controverted these affidavits, which is a silent plea of guilty. They left, which is equivalent to -- no defense." (Cake, L.B., Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 20.)

Chairman: They left?

Cake: Yes, they moved right out of Palmyra, bag and baggage.

Hyde: "The Smiths never could, and did not, oppose to these affidavits anything but a bare denial, but moved out of that part of the country." "No attempt has been made to meet them, only to cry persecution and run away.... To run away is to tacitly admit, if not the direct charge, certainly their inability to refute it." (Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 243, 247.)

Chairman: And by leaving they in effect pled guilty to the charges?

Cake: That is what we said.

Chairman: When did they leave?

Cake: Let me see. I think it was some time early in 1831.

Chairman: So they left Palmyra in 1831 because they could not face up to "these affidavits" which were made in 1833? I don't think further comment on that is necessary....]

Infallible in-laws

Howe: But here we have members of the family to testify! I think Mrs. Abigail Harris has something to tell us.

A. Harris: Yes, I have plenty to tell! One night I was at the Martin Harris house and Joseph Smith, Sr., and his wife were there; we talked "until about 11 o'clock" about Joseph Smith and his Golden Bible. [20]

Chairman: Was Joseph Smith, Jr., present?

A. Harris: No. He was away in Pennsylvania.

Chairman: Yet your entire affidavit is taken up with what you heard during that one visit to the Harrises, when Joseph Smith was nowhere around. Now the fact that you are introduced as an inside witness speaks well for the defendant.

Howe: What do you mean, "speaks well"?

Chairman: I mean that whether or not Mrs. Harris has rightly remembered after a lapse of five years what was said in an evening of gossip, all she has to report of Smith's evil doings through all those years of family association is what she remembers of that one night's chin-fest. It is perfectly plain that the lady had never seen or even heard

20. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 253-54.


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of Smith doing anything really bad. Her silence, taken with her willingness to tell the worst, is most eloquent in Smith's favor.

Howe: Here's something that isn't in his favor! Mrs. Harris, tell us what you heard Martin Harris say to his wife that time at your house.

A. Harris: It was in "the second month following." Mrs. Harris "observed, that she wished her husband would quit them [the Mormonites], as she believed it was all false and a delusion. To which I heard 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... and I give it to the world for the good of mankind." [21]

Chairman: Thank you for telling us your motive for embellishing this important report, Mrs. Harris.

A. Harris: Motive? Embellishing?

Chairman: Yes. Five years after the event you tell this story "for the good of mankind," and in doing so you slip in a damning confession by Martin Harris: "What if it is a lie." It is that remark that makes your tale what you intend it shall be -- a weapon against the Mormons. But what did Mrs. Martin Harris herself report? What is your version, Mrs. Harris?

Lucy Harris: "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." [22]

Chairman: Are you sure that is what your husband said?

L. Harris: I should know, he said it to me!

Chairman: Yet though both you and Abigail Harris swear that you are quoting the man's very words, your speeches are not the same...

E. D. Howe: O sir, a mere quibble!

Chairman: They are the same except where that all-important "What if it is a lie" comes in. That, you will notice, is underscored by Mr. Howe, yet Mr. Harris' wife

21. Ibid., 254; Bennett, History of the Saints, 75.

22. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 256.


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failed to mention it entirely. I am sure she would be the last person in the world to overlook the outright admission by her husband that Smith was a fraud -- she could have taxed him with that the rest of his days. I think it is plain enough that Mrs. Abigail Harris in her zeal "for the good of mankind" has displayed an adequate motive for adding those six little words which have been heavily exploited by anti-Mormon writers. From all accounts, Mrs. Harris, you had some terrible tiffs with your husband. Were his words on the occasion in question calm and considered?

L. Harris: What difference does it make? "It is vain for the Mormons to deny these facts; for they are all well known to most of his former neighbors." [23]

Chairman: Mrs. Harris, the "facts" contained in your testimony I find to consist exclusively of very private remarks exchanged between you and your husband. How could all of them be "well known" to most of the neighbors? Were the neighbors invited in?

L. Harris: It wasn't our neighbors, but Smith's neighbors -- "most of his former neighbors."

Chairman: So you appeal to Smith's neighbors to confirm "these facts," namely, what passed secretly between you and your husband?

E. D. Howe: We can get a lot closer than that. Smith's own father-in-law has something to say about his character. Could you ask for more reliable evidence than that?

Chairman: To be frank, Mr. Howe, the answer is yes -- I can think of more reliable character references than one's in-laws, though I realize that Mr. Hale because of his daughter is generally regarded as the star witness for the case against Joseph Smith. Mr. Isaac Hale, what can you tell us about Joseph Smith's character?

I. Hale: He was "very saucy and insolent to his father." [24]

Chairman: Indeed, that seems to be a rather common vice in young people -- it hardly suggests unspeakable depravity. But Joseph Smith was always very close to his father, and you are the only person to report any signs of

23. Ibid.; Bennett, History of the Saints, 76.

24. Ibid., 263.


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disrespect. Sauciness and insolence in the young are not usually regarded as criminal. You knew both Smith and his father well?

I. Hale: "Smith, and his father, with several other 'money-diggers' boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine." [25]

Chairman: Was it their mine?

I. Hale: No, they were merely employed by others.

Chairman: Well, every mine is a speculation, and every owner hopes to make money; I hardly see how that makes out the Smiths to be money-diggers. They were digging for hire, not for gold.

E. D. Howe: So what?

Chairman: So it is evident that Mr. Hale is stretching a point to make Smith look as bad as possible. I notice that you don't accuse Smith outright of being a money-digger, gentlemen, but put the words in quotes. Your successors were not so careful. Did they stay long at your place, Mr. Hale?

I. Hale: No, "they 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."

Chairman: Was it one of the Smiths who did that?

I. Hale: No. If that was the case I would have said so. Joseph Smith came back soon after and asked to marry my daughter.

Chairman: Before we get to that, may I observe that the peevish and gratuitous little note about the deadbeat gives an unpleasant color to your account, some of which of course rubs off on Smith. It indicates a desire on your part, sir, to put Smith in the worst possible light. Why?

I. Hale: He ran off with my daughter.

Chairman: Why wouldn't you let him marry your daughter? Why did you refuse?

I. Hale: I "gave my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business I could not approve."

25. Ibid.


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Chairman: Is that all?

I. Hale: I said those were only some of the reasons.

Chairman: And plainly the worst you could think of. But is it a crime for one to be a stranger? Many people don't approve of the mining business -- but that was not Smith's business at all; he was merely in the employ of others, who paid him wages. I will admit that that is not a very promising outlook to a man with ambitions for his daughter, but I find nothing criminal about it.

I. Hale: But consider this. "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."

Chairman: That must have rankled, but where is the crime? Did your daughter protest?

I. Hale: No. She wrote me soon after, asking for her property, which I let her have.

Chairman: How old was she at the time?

I. Hale: Let's see, Emma was born on 10 July 1804, and this took place in November 1825. That would make her twenty-one.

Chairman: So she was of age, and all that was required was her consent. Smith at the time was not yet twenty, incidentally, and from all accounts Emma was a very strong-minded lady. I mention this because many authors play this episode up as a shocking case of bride-stealing. It was nothing of the sort. Didn't the couple soon come back to your house?

I. Hale: Oh yes, they lived there a while, though I wouldn't let Smith keep the gold plates in the house. "I... informed him that if there was anything 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." [26]

Chairman: So you won't let anybody stay at your place who won't let you examine his personal effects, including his mail. You seem to be a rather bossy and possessive person, sir.

26. Ibid., 264.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       25

E. D. Howe: Just a minute, here! It is Smith's character we are examining, not Mr. Hale's.

Chairman: Well, Mr. Hale, what about Smith's character? So far we have learned that he sassed his father, married your daughter, and worked for a mining company. Haven't you anything worse than that?

I. Hale: Well, a short time after, when Smith was living in another house, I dropped in and got a look at a paper which Smith and Harris "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.... 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." [27]

Chairman: So you vaguely recall "something said" about "some of the words" on a paper, whose meaning you merely surmised -- "supposed" -- at the time, and were told by Joseph or Emma -- you don't remember which, but "rather think" it was Joseph, that they were the words of Christ. It is too bad you were never cross-examined, sir. But even if you were clearly and correctly remembering things nine years after the event, instead of groping and guessing as you are, where is the crime in all this? Is this all you have to say about the monster?

I. Hale: "I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed... 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 and unwary -- and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallow the deception." [28]

Chairman: So you don't judge the book on its own merits, but solely from the "facts you have detailed." But we have seen what those facts are, and they prove nothing except that you were a disgruntled and angry father. Your testimony, however, has been heavily exploited for one

27. Ibid., 265.

28. Ibid., 265-66.


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thing -- your positive knowledge of the profit motive involved. But as you have so well expressed it, that is merely your conscientious opinion -- an opinion of the witness and nothing more. But I assure you, sir, that anyone who reads the Book of Mormon as far as the second chapter of the first edition (chapter 6 of the standard edition) will find serious reason for doubting your profit motive. For at the beginning of that chapter we find, "Wherefore the things which are pleasing unto the world, I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto them which are not of the world." You see, the author knew he was not writing a popular book. In a society which recognized only one Word of God, the author of the new revelation invariably chose the most dangerous, the most unpopular, and the most laborious imaginable way of making money. Now to get back to the other affidavits -- their remarkable unanimity disturbs me.

The open conspiracy

Howe: What do you mean, sir, "disturbs"? It is the very unanimity of the affidavits that offers their most striking confirmation.

T. Gregg: Exactly. "With great unanimity" all these people report that Smith was "indolent, ignorant, untruthful, and superstitious." [29]

Chairman: If there was such perfect unanimity regarding Joseph Smith's depravity, how did he get any followers at all?

T. Gregg: Oh, there were many people who thought Smith was wonderful, and some of the neighbors testified that he was a very good boy, but "as this is the testimony of interested witnesses only, we are bound to reject it."

Chairman: Do you mean to say that you reject all testimony in a man's favor as prejudiced while you accept everything against him as reliable?

T. Gregg: Of course! Those who believed him followed him?they were hopelessly biased, while those who denounced him "could have no reason for falsifying or traducing his character."

29. Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra (New York: Alden, 1890), 9.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       27

Famous Editor: As the editor of the most intellectual American magazine of the mid-nineteenth century I wish to confirm Mr. Gregg's position: "There is the most satisfactory evidence -- that of his enemies -- to show that from an early period he [Smith] was regarded as a visionary and a fanatic." [30]

Chairman: So our affidavit-swearers were no friends of the Prophet?

Editor: Of course not. I said they were his enemies, didn't I?

Chairman: But Mr. Hyde's third point was that all these witnesses "had no motive to exaggerate." Mr. Hyde, if all these people were Smith's enemies, wouldn't they have a very good motive to exaggerate? And you, Mr. Gregg, have discovered a most remarkably useful principle of psychology -- that while one's friends are always, as friends, biased in one's favor, one's enemies, since they are not friends, are free of bias. With equal skill and cunning you parade a specious unanimity of opinion regarding Smith: having declared it your policy to discount all testimony in the defendant's favor, you then triumphantly point to the marvelous unanimity of the testimony that is left. All the testimony admitted tells the same story for the simple reason that you will not admit any that does not. Who collected these affidavits?

E. D. Howe: Mr. Hurlburt, Mr. Bennett, and I did nearly all of the work, I believe.

Chairman: And did Joseph Smith ever have more openly avowed enemies than you three?

Howe: But we did not sign the affidavits. We merely gathered them.

Chairman: Rather, you wrote them and asked people to sign them.

J. Hyde: What difference does that make? The so-called three witnesses of the Book of Mormon all signed the same statement. [31]

Chairman: But they claimed to have been together when they witnessed the phenomena described. The claim made

30. "Mormons," Knowledge, A Weekly Magazine 1/9 (2 August 1890): 175-76.

31. Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 250.


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for your 70-odd witnesses is that they are testifying to knowledge acquired individually and separately. The value of these affidavits lies in the claim that each testified independently and that there was absolutely no collusion among them. The fact that we find many signatures on one document shows that we are not dealing with independent testimonies at all. Instead of testifying separately, the witnesses simply say "yes" to suggestive and leading statements. Did any of the affidavit swearers ever go back on their testimony, by the way?

Clerk: When nine of them were interviewed years later, some of them spoke very well of Smith, and had nothing bad whatever to say about him. [32]

C. M. Shook: But can't you see that such denials, since they are not unanimous, leave Smith's reputation just about where it was before? [33]

Chairman: No, sir, I do not see it.

C. M. Shook: But surely in a case of a few against many...

Chairman: This is not a case of a few against many, but of unanimous as against far from unanimous.

Howe: Well, against the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon, we place the respectable host which are here offered, we claim that "no credit ought to be given to those witnesses [of the Book of Mormon]." [34]

Chairman: But your mighty band have nothing to testify to at all about the Book of Mormon. The eleven said they saw and felt the plates, while your "respectable host" aver that they were aware of certain indications that Smith was a rascal, in which case he cannot have been a prophet, in which case no angel would visit him, in which case there would be no plates, in which case Smith invented the story. [35] We are not interested in syllogisms. No, sir, there are altogether too many witnesses. Will anyone here who has a close personal friend raise his hand -- I mean a friend who is so dear and intimate as to know one's real thoughts and give a true picture of one's character? (Almost all raise their hands.) Splendid. Now think hard. How many have

32. Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Mendota, IL: W.A.C.P. Association, 1910), 28-40.

33. Ibid.

34. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 95-98.

35. Ibid., 231.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       29

two such friends? Still impressive. Now think very carefully: is there anyone here who can boast twenty such intimate personal friends?

Howe: We see plainly enough what you are getting at. But these persons do not claim ever to have been Smith's friends. They only say they knew him well for a long time. You know how it is in a small town -- everybody knows everybody else pretty well.

Chairman: The affidavit signers are regularly designated as "prominent residents," as if that title gave more weight to their testimonies. Wouldn't you say that everyone is prominent in a small town?

Howe: No. Not in the sense of being leading citizens.

Chairman: Then Joseph Smith was not prominent?

Howe: Of course not. He was an utterly contemptible nobody.

Chairman: Then how did all the prominent people get to know him so well? Did he seek them out, or did they seek him? If three or four or maybe even five people had said about Joseph Smith what all this cloud of witnesses swore to, their testimony might have borne some weight. But when we get up into the fifties and sixties and seventies -- isn't it just possible that some of those did not really know Joseph Smith very well after all?

Howe: Well, you know how it is in a small town -- everybody sees a lot of everybody else.

Chairman: Yes, and everybody talks a good deal about everybody else; and people learn to keep pretty much to themselves. Knowing people is a very different thing. I believe your American literature is full of comment on the devastating gossip of the small town -- especially of the rural New England town. Now, according to many reports, the Smiths kept pretty much out of circulation -- shunning and shunned by all.

Howe: Yes, indeed. "He spent his days and nights among the rugged fastnesses of the forest, went and came stealthily, wrapping his movements in a mystery.... Vicious


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and vulgar, he was shunned by the boys of his own age, while the girls fled in terror from the 'Money-Digger.'" [36]

Chairman: Then when and where did all this intimate contact occur?

Howe: You know what we mean. For example, when Joe was a boy he used to come once a week to the printing office to pick up the newspaper for his father.

Chairman: And how did he act on those occasions?

Howe: He was very shy, and the boys who worked in the shop used to have fun with him -- you know, throw inkballs at him and things like that. [37]

Chairman: So you saw him in the printing shop once a week...

Howe: Yes, and at the store, and at the mill where he worked sometimes.

Chairman: Such were the occasions on which all these people got to know Smith so intimately. Now on these occasions in which Smith appeared in public, just what acts of "unspeakable lewdness" did the shy and awkward fellow commit?

Howe: Well, now of course you are speaking of very private affairs...

Chairman: On the contrary, those who report these things say Joe was notorious for them. Since all of these people claim to have been close neighbors and intimate acquaintances of Smith for years, I think we have a right to demand some specific instances of criminal behavior on his part, preferably such instances as were witnessed by more than one person. According to testimony given, Joseph Smith's misdemeanors were matters of perpetual public display. What, then, were some of the things he did in the sight of any of these good people to acquire his tremendous reputation for wickedness? As late as the year 1955 the world has been assured that "these accounts are not idle gossip or empty accusations; they are simply a matter of cold hard facts. Joseph Smith was a

36. Orvilla S. Belisle, Mormonism Unveiled: A History of Mormonism from Its Rise to the Present Time (London: Clark, 1855), 18.

37. Ruth Kauffman and Reginald W. Kauffman, The Latter-Day Saints: A Study of the Mormons in the Light of Economic Conditions (London: Williams and Norgate, 1912), 23.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       31

notoriously immoral man." [38] So naturally we are exceedingly curious to be shown just one cold, hard fact, but so far none of the so-called witnesses has given us any satisfaction.

Howe: You must bear in mind, sir, that Smith was very cunning and adroit. Of course he would not let himself get caught at anything.

N. C. Lewis: Exactly. When I made my deposition I had admittedly never seen him do anything reprehensible -- but why not? I will tell you: "From my standing in the Methodist Episcopal Church, I suppose he was careful how he conducted or expressed himself before me," so of course I would see nothing wrong. [39]

Chairman: But the fact that you saw nothing wrong did not prevent or discourage you from signing an affidavit against Smith?

N. C. Lewis: Of course not! I signed an affidavit stating that he was "an imposter, hypocrite and liar." [40]

Chairman: How did you know he was, since he never did anything wrong, to your observation?

Howe: A character witness need not describe overt actions. These people are all giving a uniform and unbiased account of Smith's character in the community. As Mr. Hyde put it, "they had no motive to exaggerate."

Chairman: Unbiased? Will Miss Nancy Towle please come forward? Miss Towle, your activities as a traveling evangelist took place between the years of 1818 and 1831, did they not?

Miss Towle: That is correct.

Chairman: Did you ever visit western New York during those years?

Miss Towle: I did indeed. I preached on the Geneva Road, near Manchester. [41]

Chairman: And did you ever meet with any opposition in those parts?

Miss Towle: I most certainly did. I was vilely treated.

38. Walter R. Martin, The Rise of the Cults (An Introductory Guide to the Non-Christian Cults) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), 50.

39. Bennett, History of the Saints, 83; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 266.

40. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 267; Bennett, History of the Saints, 83.

41. Nancy Towle, Vicissitudes Illustrated, in the Experience of Nancy Towle, in Europe and America (Charleston: Burges, 1832), 164.


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Chairman: And what would you say was the main source of the opposition?

Miss Towle: Corrupt and "rotten-hearted" ministers. [42]

Chairman: But what motive could they possibly have had for opposing you? Didn't you preach the same religion they did?

Miss Towle: Certainly I preached the gospel. But you, my good man, obviously do not understand the workings of the human heart -- jealousy is a most powerful motive; nor do you seem to be aware how very limited are the views of "unregenerate men!!" [43] In matters of religion "the world abounds with priestcraft and superstition!" [44] That has made me the "butt of envy to all the combined powers of earth and hell, during my stay below." [45]

Chairman: Now take the case of Joseph Smith. Would you say his claims were primarily religious ones?

Miss Towle: They were utterly abominable. They were blasphemous. When I visited Joseph Smith and his people in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831, "I viewed the whole, with the utmost indignation and disgust." [46]

Chairman: And just what was it that you saw and heard to fill you with indignation and disgust?

Miss Towle: Well, as I said in my book, I was only in Kirtland one day, and while there was treated with great kindness and courtesy, and it is only fair to say that during that time "I saw nothing indecorous; nor had I, any apprehension, of any thing of the kind." [47]

Chairman: Then I must ask you again -- whence the loathing and disgust?

Miss Towle: Young man, don't you realize that this Smith person was misleading "so many men of skill [of whom]... many, had actually intended, forsaking all for Christ, [by his] 'cunningly devised fables'?" Need I say more? [48]

Chairman: Thank you, Miss Towle. I think Miss Towle and Mr. Lewis have given us a pretty good idea of the real charges that all these witnesses are bringing against

42. Ibid., 185.

43. Ibid., 229.

44. Ibid., 16.

45. Ibid., 17; cf. 33, 57, 170-71, 185, 212, etc.

46. Towle, Vicissitudes Illustrated, 154.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid., 143.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       33

Joseph Smith. Miss Towle has exploded the popular argument that all who were not actually supporting Smith were innocent of any bias, prejudice, or motive for exaggeration. Why was Miss Towle herself so meanly handled by the same ministers who attacked Smith? And why does she boil with indignation when she mentions Smith's name? Combine the ambition and jealousy of small souls with the sanctions of religion and you have the most powerful motivation for persecution and chicanery, however the guilty parties may protest their freedom from bias and their Christian motives.

Weak memories and weak heads

Howe: May I call the Chairman's attention to the fact that he is overlooking a good deal of the concrete evidence which he says is lacking. Here is a "seceder from the delusion" who can prove Smith a fraud. He was at a meeting once and heard him speak in tongues.

Chairman: Your name, sir?

J. H. Hunt: He prefers not to tell his name. But listen to his story.

Seceder: I was present at a meeting in an upper room in Kirtland, where were assembled from fifteen to twenty elders and high priests.

Chairman: When was this?

Seceder: On a certain occasion, Joseph Smith gave a sermon and "next arose, and passing round the room, laying his hand upon each one, spoke as follows, as near as the narrator can recollect: -- 'Ak man oh son oh man ah ne commene en holle goste en haben en glai hosanne hosanne en holle goste en esac milkea jeremiah, ezekiel, Nephi, Lehi, St. John,' &c., &c." [49]

Chairman: What does the double et cetera stand for?

Seceder: Well, it was things like that.

Chairman: And why didn't you capitalize jeremiah and ezekiel as you did Nephi and Lehi?

Hunt: (indignantly): The question is absurd. The man didn't speak in capitals!

49. James H. Hunt, Mormonism (St. Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844), 125.


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Chairman: Why did our witness capitalize the other names, then? He is the one who claims a knack for detecting when Smith spoke in capitals or lower case. You assume, sir, that if you put in an etc., etc., any reader will be able to carry on the speech at will?

Seceder: Well, you get the idea.

Chairman: And once one has the general idea, one is free to compose what one will, and attribute it to Joseph Smith as his actual words -- or deeds?

Seceder: It is not as bad as that.

Chairman: Are these Smith's actual words?

Seceder: As nearly as I can remember.

Howe: This is only one of many such experiences. "This gibberish was for several months practiced almost daily" at that time in Kirtland. [50]

Chairman: Indeed. Could you describe some other such events?

Hunt: No! Please don't! "We will not dwell upon this part of our history. A particular recital of such scenes of fanaticism gives too much pain to the intelligent mind, and excites a contempt for our species." [51]

Chairman: Then the reason you people do not give specific details is that the whole business offends your sensibilities? You are afraid of exciting too much contempt?

Hunt: That is correct.

Chairman: Then why did you write your book at all, Mr. Hunt?

Hunt: "It has been our purpose to set Mormonism in such a light before those whose reason cannot perceive the truth, that they may nevertheless see its inherent grossness, and look upon it with utter contempt." [52]

Chairman: Yet you expect to achieve that end by avoiding unpleasant details? I think it is plain enough, sir, that you are by no means lacking in the will to publish the worst things about the Mormons, and the worse the better. I believe that the delicacy with which you avoid a recital of particulars is dictated only by the fact that you have none to recite.

50. Ibid., 121-25.

51. Ibid., 125.

52. Ibid., iv.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       35

Hunt: But we were just considering such particulars, sir, when you changed the subject!

Chairman: Forgive me. When did this meeting take place, by the way?

Seceder: Early in 1833.

Chairman: And when did you report it to Mr. Howe?

Seceder: In December of that year.

Chairman: And for a year you remembered Smith's nonsense-syllables to the letter?

Howe: As near as the narrator can recollect.

Chairman: Let us test his recollection again. The clerk has taken the words down -- now would the witness mind repeating them again?

Seceder: Well, it was almost a year, and there were lots of other meetings, I can hardly be sure...

Chairman: NOT a year, sir; three minutes! It has been barely three minutes since you recited those words.

Hunt: This is hardly fair. You are confusing the witness.

Chairman: If he is a genius with a phenomenal memory, a little thing like that should not disturb him.

Hunt: He makes no claim to be a genius.

Chairman: Very well, then, let us spare his feelings, and ask you, Mr. Hunt, or Mr. Howe, or anyone else in the room -- or for that matter, let us ask the reader of this report -- to repeat those words we all heard a few minutes ago without looking at them. Bear in mind that our witness, who claims to be no mnemonic wizard, heard those words just once, and yet from that one hearing he can repeat them almost a year later. Will anyone offer to repeat the thirty nonsense syllables that the witness uttered a few minutes ago?

E. D. Howe: But can't you see that the witness is only referring to the general KIND of speech uttered -- the sort of thing that went on?

Chairman: I see it only too clearly. Everybody knows the kind of nonsense Joe Smith would utter, so everybody


36                                     THE  MYTH  MAKERS                                    

can fill in that "&c., &c." And now it is plain enough that that is all the witness himself is doing. Either he is making up the speech attributed to Smith, or else he is remembering it. It is clear that he does not remember it, though he maintains that they are Smith's actual words...

Howe: "As near as the narrator can recollect." Please remember that!

Chairman: That is the whole point, in fact. If you are going to exploit this man's memory as a deadly weapon, you can hardly ask us to excuse him in case his memory breaks down! It was his idea to tell the story that way, and the strength of his testimony is no more nor less than the strength of his memory. Have you nothing better than this?

Howe: Here we have some sayings of Smith that are worse than nonsense syllables! Mr. McKune, tell the people here what you reported in 1834 under oath.

H. McKune: Joseph Smith said that "he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ; that he was a prophet sent by God to bring in the Jews." [53]

Levi Lewis: That's right. He told me that "he was as good as Jesus Christ." [54]

Sophia Lewis: I heard him say it another time. Once when he was having an argument with the Reverend J. B. Roach, I heard Smith call Mr. Roach "a d -- -- d fool. Smith also said in the same conversation that he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ." [55]

Eminent Editor: As editor of the American Whig Review, I can affirm that Joseph Smith "was often heard during his life to declare himself far superior to our Savior." [56]

Chairman: And when did you first affirm that, sir?

Eminent Editor: In 1851.

Chairman: Well, you see how these things grow. First Mr. McKune in 1834 says that Smith claimed he was "nearly equal" to Jesus; then the Lewises improved on that -- each of them heard Smith say he was "as good as Jesus Christ"; finally in 1851 it is remembered that he "was often

53. Bennett, History of the Saints, 84; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 268.

54. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 268.

55. Ibid., 269.

56. "The Yankee Mahomet," American Whig Review 7 (June 1851): 559 (emphasis added).


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       37

heard... to declare himself far superior to our Savior." In 1833 Smith's nearest neighbors remember nothing of this great blasphemy, which by 1851 is numbered among his habitual daily vices.

Howe: What do you mean, none of his neighbors remembered? We have just heard three separate and independent testimonies?

Chairman: Were they separate and independent? Mr. McKune, didn't you and the Lewises go together to make your depositions before the justice?

McKune: Yes. But you will notice that we testified to three separate experiences.

Chairman: Indeed I did notice it, and it struck me as very significant. Here the only witnesses to a thing Smith is supposed to have done many times are a husband and wife and a close friend of theirs, all testifying together. Isn't it odd that of all the witnesses, Smith told only the companions McKune and Lewis -- separately -- that he was as good as Christ, and that it was Mrs. Lewis who just happened to be listening when he said it to the Reverend Roach, from whom we have no report? Isn't it fairly probable that the three cooked the story up among themselves before they went to the magistrate? Any others?

Howe: Here is a man who can tell you a thing or two.

Wm. Bryant: I knew the Smiths.

Chairman: You seem rather old, sir; how long ago did you know them?

Wm. Bryant: Well, let's see. This affidavit was taken in 1880 -- that's more than fifty years after I saw any of them. [57]

Chairman: But you remember them?

Wm. Bryant: As I was saying, I knew the Smiths, but did not associate with them, for they were too low to associate with.

Chairman: You were apparently more fastidious than your respectable and prominent fellow-citizens. What was wrong with the Smiths?

57. Shook, True Origin of Mormon Polygamy, 25.


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Bryant: "There was no truth in them. Their aim was to get in where they could get property. They broke up homes in that way. Smith had no regular business. He had frequent revelations." [58]

Chairman: Though you didn't associate with those people, you seem to have known a good deal about the more intimate aspects of their activity. Whose were some of the homes they broke up? The victims must have been your neighbors, too. How does it happen that in fifty years none of them has come forward to testify? Whose homes did the Smiths break up?

Howe: I will not have my witness badgered in this way!

Mrs. Bryant: Please cease molesting my husband, sir. "For the last few years his mind has been somewhat impaired." [59]

Chairman: Yet it was in that state that he made his affidavit against the Smiths.

Processed gossip: the laundry legend

Howe: If you must have particulars, here is Mrs. Eaton. She can tell you all about the Smiths.

Chairman: Can you, Mrs. Eaton?

Mrs. Eaton: Indeed I can. My speech on the early life of Joseph Smith has become a classic. Let me say at the outset that "as far as Mormonism was connected with its reputed founder, Joseph Smith, always called 'Joe Smith,' it had its origin in the brain and heart of an ignorant, deceitful mother." [60]

Chairman: Indeed, that fact seems to have escaped the early witnesses to the crimes of the Smiths. Perhaps they were just being gallant. When did you make your report on the Smiths, Mrs. Eaton?

Mrs. Eaton: My celebrated and much-quoted address was first delivered 27 May 1881, before an important religious body.

Chairman: You delivered the speech on other occasions?

58. Ibid.

59. Shook, True Origin of Mormon Polygamy, 29.

60. Ibid., 23; Mrs. Dr. Horace Eaton, "Speech Delivered May 27, 1881," in Handbook of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Handbook, 1882), 1.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       39

Mrs. Eaton: I traveled about the country giving authoritative lectures on the Mormons. I was billed as Mrs. Dr. Horace Eaton of Palmyra -- the fact that I actually came from Palmyra puts my authority, you will agree, beyond question.

Chairman: Very interesting. How well did you know the Smiths?

Mrs. Eaton: Well, I never knew them personally. I first moved to Palmyra in 1850.

Chairman: That was twenty years after the Smiths had departed. Where did you get your information about them?

Mrs. Eaton: From talks with neighbors, who of course knew and remembered the Smiths very well.

Chairman: So your famous report was issued in 1881, that is, thirty years after you had settled in Palmyra and long after anyone who had known the Smiths as an adult was dead. Even so, you do not name a single one of your valued informants. In your report you specialize on the early period of the Smith's residence in Palmyra, that is, at least thirty years before you went there and a good sixty-four years before your report -- and you were paraded and advertised as one (at last) who could give an intimate, firsthand report of the doings of the Smith family! Tell us, please, how the Smiths used to operate.

Mrs. Eaton: "Mrs. Smith used to go to the houses of the village and do family washings. But if the articles were left to dry upon the lines and not secured by their owners before midnight, the washer was often the winner -- and in these nocturnal depredations she was assisted by her boys, who favored in like manner poultry yards and grain bins." [61]

Chairman: At long last we have the Smiths charged with specific crimes. But do you think it is clever to steal clothing one has been paid to wash? How can you steal a thing which the owner knows is in your possession?

Mrs. Eaton: You can say it has been stolen.

Chairman: Since the clothes are at your house in the first place do you have to go out after midnight with your

61. Shook, True Origin of Mormon Polygamy, 23-24; Eaton, "Speech," in Handbook on Mormonism, 1.


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boys and steal them? Can't you say they were stolen -- that they simply aren't there -- without having to go through the motions of stealing them yourself? What could Mrs. Smith do with the clothes she stole? The owners would recognize them if anybody wore them. Can you make more selling old clothes than washing them? And what would happen to the laundry business if customers regularly failed to get back their clothes?

Mrs. Eaton: Regularly?

Chairman: Yes. You said that Mrs. Smith "used to" do this, and that she was "often the winner." She must have made a regular practice of hanging up clothes by day and stealing the same clothes by night. Isn't the woman who washes the clothes expected to be responsible for them and to take them off the line personally when they are dry? Apparently everyone was on to Mrs. Smith and her trick, but went on contributing steadily to her growing collection of used clothing; while she continued to wash and wash without getting paid for it.

Howe: Oh, your honor, now you are deliberately attempting to make my client look ridiculous.

Chairman: Not at all. It is, I admit, a monstrously ridiculous situation; but that which she herself has depicted as such furnishes proof of malicious slander.

J. E. Mahaffey: I think I can clear up this business. What happened was this: "Mrs. Smith did washing by the day, but her employers soon learned that it was not safe for the clothes to remain out after dark. Young Joseph assisted generally and soon had a reputation of being adept at robbing henroosts and orchards. Indeed the reputation of the Smith family is said to have been of the worst kind. 'They avoided honest labor, were intemperate, untruthful and suspected of sheep-stealing and other nefarious practices.' From all accounts they were the terror and torment of the neighborhood." [62]

Chairman: From your language, sir, it is obvious either that you have borrowed from Mrs. Eaton (directly or indirectly)

62. J. E. Mahaffey, Found at Last! 'Positive Proof' That Mormonism Is a Fraud and the Book of Mormon a Fable (Augusta, GA: Chronicle Job Office, 1902), 6.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       41

or she has borrowed from you. When did you make this declaration?

Mahaffey: In 1902, and naturally I used Mrs. Eaton's material.

Chairman: And you have made changes in it. Who authorized you, for example, to change "poultry yards and grain bins" to "hen-roosts and orchards," and to read "she was assisted by her boys" as meaning "young Joseph assisted generally?"

Mahaffey: No fundamental changes: If the first statements are true the others must be.

Chairman: And so you take the liberty to improve on your source. You say her employers soon learned of Mrs. Smith's tricks, where Mrs. Eaton says "the washer was often the winner." Mrs. Eaton puts midnight as the deadline for getting in the clothes, but you, with better logic, say they could not remain out after dark.

Mahaffey: Thank you for the compliment. I have made a few rational emendations -- to make the thing more plausible, you know.

Chairman: In other words, you feel free to correct the obvious inconsistencies and absurdities that prove Mrs. Eaton's story a piece of vicious gossip, so that it can pass muster as reliable testimony. That, I may observe here, is an extremely common practice among the biographers of Joseph Smith. Yet even when you get through, what do you tell us, Mr. Mahaffey? That Smith "had a reputation of being adept at robbing hen-roosts," that the reputation of the Smiths was of the worst kind, that they were suspected of sheep-stealing. Now, I will not ask you to prove that there were any grounds for such a reputation and such suspicions -- Mr. Tucker can tell us about that -- but I would like to know whether you have discovered a scrap of evidence to show that the Smiths had such a reputation before they were Mormons. I know that the affidavits claim to refer to that earlier period, but they were all given in retrospect. If the Smiths really had been "the terror and torment of the neighborhood" for many years


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before the Book of Mormon, there should certainly be some evidence of it. How well known were the Smiths before 1830?

Tricks with the calendar

J. H. Hunt: I can answer that! "The Smith family... emigrated from... Vermont, about the year 1820, when the Prophet was, as is supposed, about sixteen years of age. From their peculiar habits of life... they became known to a vast number of persons in that portion of the country, and without a single exception, as I am informed, every person knowing them united in representing the general character of the family as unprincipled, idle, ignorant, and superstitious." [63]

Chairman: Thank you, sir. So "a vast number of persons" knew the Smiths so well before 1830 that they could later swear oaths as to their character -- though apparently they did not get close enough to Joseph to distinguish a ten-year-old from a sixteen-year-old. But where is the earlier evidence?

T. B. H. Stenhouse: I think I can answer that. "After Joseph's announcement of his prophetic mission, the neighbors of his parents who were opposed to his claims remembered, with wonderful facility, that the Smith family had always been 'dreamers and visionary persons,' and applied these terms in their most offensive meaning." [64]

Chairman: If I recall, the same sort of thing happened when the Spaulding story came out. During the years before, no one ever so much as mentioned a hint of the Rigdon-Spaulding-Pratt-Cowdery-Harris-Smith, etc., plot; but as soon as the Spaulding theory was proposed, everybody suddenly remembered strange visits by mysterious strangers, and, as Mrs. Fawn M. Brodie so nicely puts it, "Through the years the 'Spaulding theory' collected supporting affidavits as a ship does barnacles." [65] That stirs familiar echoes. One noted affidavit-collector of antiquity was Celsus, who ran down some scandalous stories about Jesus' family. Will Celsus please come forward?

63. Hunt, Mormonism, 5.

64. T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons (New York: Appleton, 1873), 14.

65. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Knopf, 1947), 68.


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Celsus: I must say I am here under protest. This is not my show -- I belong in the second century.

Chairman: And we are not asking you to leave that century. Tell us where you got your affidavits about the scandalous youth of Jesus.

Celsus: The Jewish doctors sent people out to the village to gather them.

Chairman: Years after the death of Christ.

Celsus: What difference does that make? The neighbors all remembered the clever, ambitious boy who was ashamed of his low parentage and overawed the yokels with the magic tricks he had picked up in Egypt, and how he gave out those wild reports about being the son of God and the rest.

Chairman: And did they remember anything about his disciples?

Celsus: Of course. "He gathered some ten or eleven notorious men about him, publicans and sailors of the most vicious type, and with these he tramped up and down the country, eking out a miserable existence by questionable means." [66]

Chairman: Such as raiding hen-coops? Note the parallels, ladies and gentlemen: Our informant is not even sure of the number of the apostles -- where facts are concerned all is characteristically vague -- but the charges are the very same as those against Smith. But what I want you particularly to note is that our authority insists that the apostles were notorious for their wicked ways before Jesus ever chose them. This is the old trick of building up a case in retrospect. Do you remember what happened after Tom Sawyer found the treasure? "Wherever Tom and Huck appeared they were courted, admired, stared at. The boys were not able to remember that their remarks had possessed weight before; but now their sayings were treasured and repeated; everything they did seemed somehow to be regarded as remarkable.... Moreover, their past history was raked up and discovered to bear marks of conspicuous

66. Origen, Contra Celsum I, 1, 7, in PG 11:652, 668; cf. Hugh W. Nibley, "Early Accounts of Jesus' Childhood," Instructor 100 (January 1965): 35-37; reprinted in CWHN 4:1-9.


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originality. The village paper published biographical sketches of the boys." [67] You see, it works both ways, gentlemen, and Joseph Smith's case is perhaps unique, since from being as obscure a person as ever lived he became in a matter of months one of the most talked-about men in the world. Then, of course "a vast number of persons" suddenly remembered everything the Smiths ever did -- though how they could get away with crimes like theirs for a week, let alone for decades, no one has bothered to explain.

E. D. Howe: It is all very well to talk of inventing evidence in retrospect, but we have positive proof that Joseph Smith was a public menace before he ever claimed to have had a vision.

Chairman: That is just the sort of thing we are looking for. By all means, sir, produce this evidence.

Howe: You must have it here. It is the invaluable Bainbridge Court Record of 26 March 1826.

Chairman: Will the clerk please read that record?

Clerk: (after much searching and fumbling among his papers) I'm sorry, sir, we don't seem to have such a document.

E. D. Howe: What do you mean, you don't have it? Why man, that is the most important if not the only existing piece of evidence to Joseph Smith's early character and activities. You must have it!

Clerk: (after much searching): This is all we have, your honor. This is not a court record but a printed article from a religious encyclopedia. The item is reprinted in that encyclopedia in 1889 and 1891, but in subsequent editions thereafter it does not appear. [68]

Howe: But Mrs. Brodie specifically says that the document was "first unearthed in southern New York by Daniel S. Tuttle." [69]

John Quincy Adams: Mrs. who said it? That's what I wrote in 1916!

Eminent Critic: You must be mistaken, sir. Mrs. Brodie's work is the last word in "primary scholarship," [70] and this is one of her finest discoveries.

67. Samuel L. Clemens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (New York: Saalfield, 1931), 305.

68. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1951), 1:386; 2:480.

69. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 427.

70. Dale L. Morgan, "The 'Peculiar People,'" Saturday Review 40 (28 December 1957): 9.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       45

Chairman: Let me see what Mrs. Brodie and Mr. Adams have written, clerk. This is what Adams said in 1916:

An interesting record of one of these visits was unearthed a few years ago by Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle in the records of a justice's court in Bainbridge, Chenango County. The story is told and documents quoted in the article on Mormonism in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. [71]

And this is how Mrs. Brodie announces her great discovery in 1947 and after:

The earliest and most important account of Joseph Smith's money-digging is the following court record, 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. The trial was before a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. [72]

I find these two statements substantially the same. Does Mrs. Brodie anywhere mention the Adams book in her writing?

Clerk: Adams is nowhere mentioned. His book is not even listed in Mrs. Brodie's extensive bibliography.

Chairman: In view of the obvious resemblance between the two passages, that may be significant. Of course, the later one is not a literal quotation, but it seems to bear just those marks of retouching which one would expect in case of borrowing; it is to be noted that while nothing essential has been added to the later text, neither has anything essential been omitted. And then there are hints, like that interesting word "unearthed," a little bit unusual, vague, yet colorful -- a clue, I would say. That would seem to me to be a link between the two writings. But let us get back to the court record. It was stated that the vital document was actually found "in the records of the justice's court." In that case, it should be easy to produce today. Where is it?

Clerk: If it please the court, a communication just received from the present clerk of the court in question informs

71. John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham, 1916), 17-18.

72. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 427.


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us that no court records were ever kept in Chenango County before the year 1850, and that there is no knowledge of the destruction of any records of that court. [73]

Chairman: Well, that seems to settle it. The 1826 record was somebody's invention. [74] We shall look further into this matter. But first, is there anyone else who can give personal testimony?

The total oaf

Peter Cartwright: I can. I was personally acquainted with Joe Smith.

Chairman: Your name?

Cartwright: I am Peter Cartwright, the Frontier Preacher. "On a certain occasion I fell in with Joe Smith, and was formally and officially introduced to him in Springfield, then our county town. We soon fell into a free conversation on the subject of religion, and Mormonism in particular. I found him a very illiterate and impudent desperado in morals, but, at the same time, he had a vast fund of low cunning." [75]

Chairman: How's that again -- "a vast fund of low cunning"?

Cartwright: That's what I said.

Chairman: Are you trying to tell the investigators that a man who displayed a vast cunning also revealed himself as an impudent desperado in the course of a formal conversation carried on with a total stranger in the presence of witnesses at a county seat? What kind of clowning could he have done to advertise his utter moral depravity to the world? And how could such abandoned behavior possibly be accompanied by the smallest iota of sense, let alone "vast cunning"? It seems that Smith was determined at any price to wreck his chances in Springfield. Did he go up to you and start talking wildly?

Cartwright: No, it was a civilized enough conversation, formal and official, as I said.

Chairman: Yet in the course of that conversation, carried on in an atmosphere of formality, Smith demonstrated

73. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, 1:389; 2:482.

74. [Useful research on the 1826 trial includes Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," BYU Studies 12 (Winter 1972): 223-33; and Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," BYU Studies 30 (Spring 1990): 91-108.]

75. W. P. Strickland, The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright: The Backwoods Preacher (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1856), 341-42.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       47

in your presence that he "was an impudent desperado in morals." How?

Cartwright: He didn't say very much. I did nearly all the talking. He tried to flatter me, and "upon the whole, he did pretty well for clumsy Joe." [76]

Chairman: Cunning but clumsy. In a few words he contrived to make it clear to you that he was an impudent desperado in morals. And you call that doing pretty well. He must have staged quite a pantomime. Since you have given the whole conversation at length, why don't you report any of the things Smith said or did to advertise his depravity?

Cartwright: Now you are being facetious, sir. I had other dealings with Smith's people. One old Mormon woman wanted to speak at one of my meetings, but I gave her a sermon, believe me. Her husband tried to interfere.

Chairman: How did he interfere?

Cartwright: He said I could not speak to his wife that way, but we threw them out. My actual words were, "Now start, and don't show your face here again, nor one of the Mormons. If you do, you will get Lynch's Law." [77]

Chairman: Isn't lynching rather harsh treatment for people whose only offense is that they wanted to speak at your meeting? I believe it was common practice at religious revivals to allow many persons to speak.

Cartwright: With Mormons it's different. "They should be considered and treated as outlaws in every country and clime." [78]

Chairman: I am afraid the American Constitution would not allow that here.

Cartwright: No law applies to them: "Any man or set of men that would be mean enough to stoop so low as to connive at the abominations of these reckless Mormons, surely ought to be considered unworthy of public office, honor, or confidence." [79]

Chairman: So you would disfranchise not only the Mormons but any who tolerate them?

76. Ibid., 342.

77. Ibid., 345.

78. Ibid., 346.

79. Ibid.


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Cartwright: That's it.

Chairman: Yet we search your book in vain for any account of what might be by any stretch of the imagination called an abomination; and you are supposed to have lived close to Joseph Smith and the Mormons. Have we any other witnesses?

J. Hendrix: I knew Joseph Smith. "Everyone knew him as Joe Smith. He was the most ragged, lazy fellow in the place, and that is saying a good deal." [80]

Chairman: What do you mean, "saying a good deal"?

Hendrix: I mean of course, that to be the most ragged and lazy fellow in that place was an achievement!

Chairman: Then lots of fellows were ragged and lazy?

E. D. Howe: (caustically): Our esteemed chairman begins to get the idea.

Chairman: But do you? In a community where the ragged and lazy abound it can hardly be a crime for a boy to be ragged and lazy. Yet by far the commonest charge against Joseph Smith is that he was lazy and slovenly -- a common charge against Jesus Christ also, by the way. Now what is so bad about being lazy?

Hendrix: Isn't that a foolish question?

Chairman: Not at all. Have you practiced your oboe today?

Hendrix: What do you mean, practiced my oboe? I have no oboe.

Chairman: Then you are lazy. You have never learned to play the oboe. You have never even tried! Lots of times, perhaps even today, you have done little or nothing at all, while you could have been practicing the oboe.

Hendrix: I have plenty of other things to do besides practicing an oboe, sir.

Chairman: So the fact that you do not play the oboe does not prove that you are lazy?

Hendrix: Of course not. You judge a man's industry not by what he doesn't do but by what he does. There are millions of things that you don't do, for that matter!

80. Bartlett, Mormons or Latter-day Saints, 5.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       49

Chairman: At last you see my point. Everybody says Joseph Smith was lazy because of the things he didn't do, but what about the things he did do? What good does it do to say that you, with your tiny routine of daily busywork, think another man is lazy if that man happens to accomplish more than ten ordinary men in a short lifetime? Joseph Smith's activities are a matter of record and they are phenomenal. You might as well claim that Horowitz doesn't know how to play the piano to a man who owns a library of Horowitz recordings, or that Van Gogh couldn't paint to the owner of an original Van Gogh, or that Dempsey couldn't fight to a man who had fought him, as to maintain that Joseph Smith was a lazy loafer to the historian who gets dizzy merely trying to follow him through a few short years of his tremendous activity. I think this constantly reiterated unfailing charge that Joseph Smith was a raggle-taggle, down-at-the-heels, sloppy, lazy, good-for-nothing supplies the best possible test for the honesty and reliability of his critics. Some of them reach almost awesome heights of mendacity and effrontery when, like Mrs. Brodie, they solemnly inform us that Joseph Smith, the laziest man on earth, produced in a short time, by his own efforts, the colossally complex and difficult Book of Mormon.

Howe: But you can't just brush public opinion aside.

A quick check-up

Which is just what you do when you discount all but one segment of that opinion. Did anyone, by the way, ever check up on all this public opinion about Smith?

An Editor: When I was working for a St. Louis newspaper I attempted to test public opinion about the Mormons.

Chairman: Sort of a Gallup poll?

Editor: The nearest we could get to it in those days. "What do you think of the Mormons? I asked. I had scarcely spoken before my ears were saluted from all quarters, from high and low, rich and poor.... They would


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rob and plunder,... and after they had stripped the poor stranger of his all, they confined him in a kind of dungeon, underneath the Temple, where he was fed on bread and water, until death put a period to his sufferings." [81]

E. D. Howe: There's public opinion, for you! Unanimous -- no "segment" about it!

Chairman: Could all, or any, of those people have had firsthand experience of what they declared so emphatically?

Editor: It was obvious that they had not, but I was not satisfied with mere rumors -- I went to Nauvoo to see for myself.

Chairman: Excellent. And what did you find?

Editor: I can only repeat what I wrote at the time: "Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet, is a singular character; he lives at the 'Nauvoo House' which is, I understand, intended to become a home for the stranger and traveler; and I think, from my own personal observation, that it will be deserving of the name. The Prophet is a kind, cheerful sociable companion. I believe he has the good-will of the community at large, and that he is ever ready to stand by and defend them in any extremity." [82]

J. C. O'Hanlon: I can confirm that report.

Howe: Who are you, sir?

O'Hanlon: I was a Roman Catholic priest and missionary in Missouri. Though I came west after Smith's time, I was soon "made aware of the fact... that during the lifetime of their prophet Joe Smith, Catholic bishops and priests were courteously received and hospitably entertained by him, whenever they had occasion to visit his growing city of Nauvoo; and they often spoke in praise of his personal kindness and generosity." [83]

Lily Dougall: That reminds me. When I was gathering material for my writings about Joseph Smith in and around Kirtland --

Howe: May we ask this lady to identify herself before she proceeds?

81. Charles McKay, The Mormons; Or, Latter-Day Saints, with Memoirs of the Life and Death of Joseph Smith, the "American Mahomet" (London: Office of the National Illustrated Library, 1852), 127.

82. Ibid., 129.

83. J. C. O'Hanlon, Life and Scenery in Missouri (Dublin: Duffy, 1890), 122.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       51

L. Dougall: I am Lily Dougall, sir, and if you suspect that I am prejudiced I'll have you know that my stories about Joseph Smith are as scandalous as anything you ever wrote! But as I was saying, "I visited a sweet-faced old lady -- not, however, of the Mormon persuasion -- who as a child had climbed on the prophet's knee. 'My mother always said,' she told us, 'that if she had to die and leave young children, she would rather have left them to Joseph Smith than to anyone else in the world: he was always kind.'" [84]

Howe: Then how could you write such scandalous things about Smith, madam?

L. Dougall: My stuff was fiction -- and it sold well.

Howe: I can give you an editor who tells a very different story. Here, Mr. Editor, tell us about Joe Smith.

Editor No. 2: "It was asserted that he inculcated the legality of perjury and other crimes.... It was reported that an establishment existed in Nauvoo for the manufacture of counterfeit money, and that a set of outlaws was maintained for the purpose of putting it in circulation. Statements were circulated to the effect that a reward was offered for the destruction of the Warsaw Signal... and that the Mormons... threatened all persons who offered to assist the constable in the execution of the law, with the destruction of their property and the murder of their families. There were rumors that an alliance had been made with the Western Indians, that in case of war --" [85]

Chairman: I think we have heard enough: "It was asserted... it was reported... statements were circulated... there were rumors..." What is the date of this man's report?

Howe: 1879.

Chairman: Haven't we something more contemporary?

Mr. Flagg: Way back in 1838 I made an inquiry something like that of the first editor, but without results. Everybody had strong feelings about the Mormons, but when it came to facts that was a different story: "no one

84. Lily Dougall, The Mormon Prophet (London: Richards, 1899), viii-ix.

85. History of Tazewell County, Illinois (Chicago: Chapman, 1879), 107.


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with whom I met could, for the life of him, give a subsequent expose of Mormonism, though often requested." [86]

Chairman: Did anyone else follow the example of our first editor and visit Nauvoo?

The Man from Quincy: Yes. I was one of a party from Quincy, Illinois, that went to look into matters there. "We had supposed from the stories and statements we had read of 'Jo Smith,' (as he was termed in the papers) to find him a very illiterate, uncouth sort of man; but from a conversation, we acknowledge an agreeable disappointment. In conversation he appeared intelligent and candid, and divested of all malicious thought and feeling towards his relentless persecutors." [87]

Chairman: This is interesting. Public opinion had prepared you, as you describe it, to find one sort of Joseph Smith, while the real Joseph Smith gave you quite a surprise. There was no such surprise in store for Mr. Cartwright. I think we have here irrefutable proof of extreme prejudice.

Howe: Yet the same Quincy newspaper that gave this favorable report some years later charged the Mormons with a specific crime, the shooting of Boggs!

Chairman: What does the newspaper report say? Will the clerk please read it?

Clerk (reads): "A man was suspected, and is probably arrested before this. There are several rumors in circulation in regard to the horrid affair. One of which throws the crime upon the Mormons." [88]

Howe: There you have it. Many books charge this crime to the Mormons.

Chairman: On such flimsy evidence? That was but one of many rumors -- an inevitable one, I might add. What crimes were they not charged with?

Howe: But there is more to it than that. Read on, clerk!

Clerk (reads): "Smith... , the Mormon Prophet, as we understand, prophesied a year or so ago, his death by

86. Edmund Flagg, The Far West, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1838), 2:84.

87. Missouri Republican, 3 May 1839,

88. See subheading, "Assassination of Ex Governor Boggs of Missouri," Quincy Whig, 21 May 1842.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       53

violent means. Hence, there is plenty of foundation for rumor." [89]

Chairman: So instead of proving him a true prophet, the prophecy made him a tactless assassin. That little sophism was often used against the Christians in ancient times: since they prophesied evil, whenever evil came -- in fulfillment of the prophecy -- they, of course, were to blame for it. "Plenty of foundation," indeed! Before we recess let us hear the reports of any others who have tried to get to the bottom of all the mere talk and rumor about Smith. Let's hear from these three who have raised their hands. Don't I know you, sir?

J. G. Whittier: Yes, we have met elsewhere. I am John Greenleaf Whittier, once considered something of a poet. I was visited by some Mormon missionaries in the 1840s and made something of a study of Joseph Smith and his background. My conclusion was that "the reports circulated against them [the Mormons, that is] by their unprincipled enemies in the west are in the main destitute of foundation." [90]

Chairman: Thank you. And the next gentleman?

Editor: I was the editor of the American Whig Review when we undertook a rather ambitious investigation into the early life of Smith. Our finding was that "the knowledge of his early life which has been given to the world is limited; for all that seems to have been desired by those who made researches or gave testimony concerning him, was either to establish the bad character of the Smith family, or to show the real origin of the Book of Mormon." [91]

Chairman: And after all these years that still holds true of the critics today. Our next witness seems rather reluctant. Come on up, sir. What have you to report?

E. B. Greene: Not very much. We of the Illinois State Historical Society set out to solve the riddle of Joseph Smith, but the documents wouldn't take us through. We found that after 1865 "the life of the prophet... has furnished material for a flood of literature, which has failed to

89. Ibid.

90. William and Mary Howitt, eds., Howitt's Journal (London: Lovett, 1847), 158.

91. "Yankee Mahomet," 556.


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a great extent in establishing the truth or falsity of the story as told by Smith and his followers." [92]

Chairman: So it seems that our cloud of witnesses have not succeeded in their purpose.

Howe: We are not through yet. Far from it. Since our really powerful testimony is to come, I move we take a recess before hearing from the next witness.

92. Evarts B. Greene and Charles M. Thompson, eds., Illinois State Historical Society Publications Governors' Letter-books, 1840-1853, 2 vols. (Springfield, IL: Illinois State Historical Library, 1911), lxxviii.

[ 55 ]

ii. Come now, Mr. Tucker!

Scene II -- Same as Scene I.

Le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche

Mr. Pattengill has requested and been granted permission to address us. Mr. Pattengill.

Pattengill: I have been asked by Mr. Howe to speak a few words on the singular qualifications of the next witness, Mr. Pomeroy Tucker of Palmyra, New York. He is the one and only real authority on the early life of Joseph Smith. His book "is a standard work on the rise and early progress of Mormonism. The only authentic one on that subject, and its value will increase as time takes the world farther from the origin of the delusion." In short, "no man, probably, was so well qualified as himself to give a veritable account of that imposition, especially in its incipient stages." [01]

Chairman: Very pretty. And what makes Mr. Tucker so peculiarly qualified in the field indicated?

Pattengill: "From the office of the Wayne Sentinel the first Mormon Bible was issued." [02]

Chairman: And you think printers are authorities on the books they print?

Pattengill: Tucker had the searching, objective mind of an editor. "Had he drawn somewhat on his imagination, he might perhaps have made a book that would have been more popular, but it would have been less valuable." [03]

Chairman: So Mr. Tucker does not ever draw on his imagination -- even "somewhat"?

W. R. Martin: Not in the least. "Witness his unprejudiced testimony.... It should be noted that this is contemporary evidence, not the product of flowery Mormon historians who distorted the true character of Smith." [04]

Chairman: And what is the date of Mr. Tucker's "contemporary evidence"?

1. C. N. Pattengill, Light in the Valley: Memorial Sermon Delivered at the Funeral of Pomeroy Tucker (Troy, NY: Times Steam, 1870), 8-9.

2. Ibid., 8.

3. Ibid.

4. Walter R. Martin, The Rise of the Cults (An Introductory Guide to the Non-Christian Cults) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), 49.


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Pattengill: His immortal book first appeared in the year 1867.

Chairman: Did you know Smith as late as 1867, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: Of course not. He was dead then. I distinctly remember him "from the age of twelve to twenty years." [05]

Chairman: That would be between 1818 and 1826 about, whereas your report is dated 1867. And you call that "contemporary evidence" -- Mr. Martin -- a mere gap of forty to fifty years?

Pattengill: I submit that Mr. Tucker's memory was an unusually good one; his absolute refusal to draw on his imagination makes his report completely trustworthy.

Chairman: May I see the book, clerk? I find here a rather interesting frontispiece; who put it in the book?

Pattengill: The publisher, I suppose.

Chairman: Since Mr. Tucker is himself a publisher, isn't it pretty certain that this picture, the only illustration in the book, was put there with Mr. Tucker's knowledge and consent?

Pattengill: It could hardly be otherwise. After it appeared in Mr. Tucker's book the picture was often reproduced. [06]

E. D. Howe (with impatience): What's all the fuss about? It is Mr. Tucker's book, isn't it -- the first edition? Of course the frontispiece is his.

Chairman: Thank you. Now, it is maintained that the peculiar value of this book is that its author never allows himself to draw upon his imagination. But what do I see here? The engraving shows Smith on a hillside, on his knees, facing a small, nearly nude female figure floating in the air in a semiprone position with upraised arms and very long white wings. On the ground around Smith a host of tiny devils, little men about eight inches high with horns and forked tails, seem to be dancing and cavorting about. Aren't the unearthly beings depicted here by Mr. Tucker's arranging just a little bit fanciful?

5. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: Appleton, 1867), 16.

6. R. W. Beers, The Mormon Puzzle and How to Solve It (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1887), 25-26, uses it as evidence.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       57

E. D. Howe What if they are? Every engraver takes some artistic license with his subjects.

Chairman: The engraver made the picture, but the engraver did not write the caption under it. It is to this that I would draw your attention, for it says that this fantastic drawing actually depicts "Smith's account of taking the 'golden Bible' from Mormon Hill." But how did Smith describe angels?

Howe "Smith describes an angel as having the appearance of 'a tall, slim, well-built, handsome man.'" [07]

Chairman: Thank you. No one denies that the story of the angel Moroni was told and retold from 1830 on, while others of Smith's persuasion also reported seeing angels. Whether such reports were reliable or not, the fact is that those people always described angels in the same terms. Did Joseph Smith or any of his followers ever state at any time that the angel Moroni, a mighty warrior of the Book of Mormon, was a little woman, as shown in this picture? Or was he ever described as a nude figure? Or was he ever said to have wings -- as angels were supposed to have in conventional Christian imagining? Did Smith or any Mormon ever describe Satan as an imp with horns and a tail?

E. D. Howe Well, as I say, the engraver obviously took some liberties...

Chairman: And somebody obviously took still greater liberties in attributing that engraver's fancies to Joseph Smith. I would say that this oft-reprinted frontispiece shows that Mr. Tucker, the author of this book, not only drew "somewhat on his imagination" but relied heavily on it to score a point against Smith. Now Mr. Tucker, I would like to ask you, first of all, just how well you knew Joseph Smith.

Tucker: Very well indeed: "he is distinctly remembered by me... from the age of twelve to twenty years."

Chairman: You can remember a person distinctly without ever having known him at all; many people distinctly

7. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed; Or, a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion (Painesville, OH: the author, 1840), 187.


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remember seeing the President of the United States. The years indicated would run from 1818 to 1826, then?

Tucker: Yes. Smith was twelve in 1818. I was four years older, having been born in August 1802.

Chairman: Did you live in Palmyra between 1818 and 1826?

Tucker: I lived there during that period.

Chairman: All of it?

E. D. Howe Quibbling again!

Chairman: Mr. Pattengill can tell us whether we are quibbling. Mr. Pattengill, didn't Mr. Tucker leave Palmyra early in his career?

Pattengill: Well, yes, there was a time. Before he was twenty-one he moved to Canandaigua.

Chairman: That would have been in the year 1822 or 1823. How far is Canandaigua from Palmyra?

Pattengill: About thirty miles away.

Chairman: And how long did Mr. Tucker stay in Canandaigua after he left Palmyra?

Pattengill: "Nearly four years." [08]

Chairman: Now, Mr. Tucker emphatically stated --

Clerk (reads): "I distinctly remember him from the age of twelve to twenty years."

Chairman: Mr. Tucker, were you referring to your age or his age?

Tucker: His age, of course. That is clear enough if you read the rest of the description.

Chairman: So you claim to be giving a firsthand account of Joseph Smith between 1818 and 1826, and yet you left Palmyra at the latest in the middle of 1823. In other words, for at least three and a half of the eight years during which you say you knew Smith so well, you were not in Palmyra at all.

Howe: Mr. Tucker could have kept in touch with affairs in Palmyra while he was away.

Chairman: What kind of affairs interested him?

8. Pattengill, Light in the Valley, 5.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       59

Pattengill: I can answer that, if Mr. Tucker is too modest to do so. From early youth Mr. Tucker was extremely ambitious to succeed; even at seventeen "he determined to excel as a writer as well as a compositor." Of course he sought only the best society and in Canandaigua "was thrown into the constant society of those who were foremost in political affairs." [09]

Chairman: And Smith was an important figure in Palmyra from the age of twelve to twenty years?

Tucker: Don't make me laugh, sir. "From the age of twelve to twenty years he is distinctly remembered as a dull-eyed, flaxen haired, prevaricating boy -- noted only for his indolent and vagabondish character." [10]

Chairman: So during all the time you knew him, Smith was noted for one thing only -- being a lazy tramp. Was he much of a public figure?

Tucker: On the contrary, "taciturnity was among his characteristic idiosyncrasies, and he seldom spoke to anyone outside of his immediate associates.... He nevertheless evidenced the rapid development of a thinking, plodding, evil-brewing mental composition -- largely given to inventions of low cunning, schemes of mischief and deception, and false and mysterious pretensions. He... was never known to laugh." [11]

Chairman: From what you say, Mr. Tucker, it is clear that you not only remember Joseph Smith distinctly, but that you knew him very well indeed -- perhaps better than anyone else. It is plain that Smith was exceedingly hard to get acquainted with and that he was devilishly secretive, but even if he had been frank and open, the intimate knowledge you profess of his mental composition could only come from the closest association. Now, what was it that induced you, a very hard-working and ambitious young man, to spend your time with a perfectly worthless vagabond four and a half years your junior? You were no child when you first met Smith.

Tucker: You don't have to be a man's close friend to observe his character.

9. Ibid., 4, 37.

10. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 16.

11. Ibid., 16-17.


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Chairman: According to you, you had to get close to Smith to observe him at all, since he wouldn't even speak to anyone "outside of his associates." And to say immediately what any man "largely" devoted his time and energy to, and what things he "was never known" to do, requires spending a good deal of time with him -- unless, of course, your famous firsthand report is only hearsay. Did you think associating with Smith could contribute to your career? Did you perhaps find him an interesting person -- even in a bad way?

Tucker: Of course not. As I told you, he was "noted only for his indolent and vagabondish character." He was "a dull-eyed, flaxen-haired, prevaricating boy" who never spoke to anybody and "was never known to laugh."

Chairman: That answers my question. It would be hard to imagine duller company. What did he do all day?

Tucker: The Smiths spent their time "hunting and fishing, trapping muskrats, digging out woodchucks from their holes, and idly lounging around the stores and shops in the village." [12]

Chairman: And where were you all that time? I must insist on this, sir, because you claim to be telling all from personal observation. If you were hard at work all the time, as your panegyrist Mr. Pattengill assures us you were, then you were far from the picturesque scenes you are describing, and your testimony is no better than that of the other affidavit-swearers -- who, incidentally, paint a very different picture of Smith -- bad, but very different.

The homey touch

Tucker: Oh, Joe came to town, all right. He used to go around selling cakes that his mother had baked. It was quite amusing: "The boys of those bygone times used to delight in obtaining the valuable goods intrusted to Joseph's clerkship in exchange for worthless pewter imitation two-shilling pieces." [13]

12. Ibid., 14.

13. Ibid.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       61

Chairman: Didn't you say Smith was pretty sharp at some things? Read it, clerk.

Clerk (reads): "He nevertheless evidenced the rapid development of a thinking, plodding, evil-brewing mental disposition -- largely given to inventions of low cunning."

Chairman: A pretty shrewd operator, I take it, as sharp as he was crooked.

Tucker: He was cunning, all right.

Chairman: And also, he spent a good deal of time "lounging around the stores and shops in the village." Money didn't interest him, I take it.

Tucker: Joe the money-digger? Don't make me laugh. [14]

Chairman: Yet Joe the money-digger was the only boy in the village who couldn't tell a real coin from a "worthless pewter imitation." That was the point of the joke, as I recall.

Tucker: Well, that was when they first came to Palmyra... he was very young.

Chairman: On the contrary, by your own testimony he must have been at least twelve years old. But apparently his greedy family didn't know real money when they saw it, either.

Tucker: What do you mean?

Chairman: As you so romantically recalled it, "the boys of those bygone times used to delight in" "buying good cakes for worthless tokens. They made a practice of it -- a habitual source of merriment."

O. Turner: That is right!

Chairman: Who are you, sir?

O. Turner: The author of an early study on the settlement of western New York. "The young people of the town considered him not quite full-witted and, with the cruelty of youth, made him the butt of their practical jokes." [15]

Chairman: Mr. Tucker, are we to believe that Mrs. Smith continued to bake cookies day after day while her

14. Ibid., 23-30.

15. Ruth Kauffman and Reginald W. Kauffman, The Latter-Day Saints: A Study of the Mormons in the Light of Economic Conditions (London: Williams and Norgate, 1912), 23, citing Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, NY: Alling, 1851), 213-14.


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unsuspecting son continued to sell them for pewter coins? The story does have the homey touch that biographers love as a mark of guileless candor -- but it is phonier than the pewter two-shilling pieces. If it is true, then it was the Smiths who were the gullible victims, with all the "schemes of mischief and deception" on the other side. Were they that innocent?

The dragon's lair

Tucker: "In unbelief, theory, and practice, the Smith family, all as one, so far as they held any definable position upon the subject of religion -- basing this conclusion upon all the early avowals and other evidences remembered, as well as upon the subsequent developments extant -- were unqualified atheists." [16]

Chairman: That puts it on the line: A formidable store of things both heard and seen, "evidences remembered" by you, authorized you to brand all the Smiths unqualified atheists both in theory and practice. We couldn't ask for a plainer or more unequivocal statement. But where does that leave Smith's other neighbors, that host of prominent and respectable residents who knew him so well? None of their eager affidavits ever mentions this blatantly paraded atheism! Indeed the famous sixty-two (to cite but one group) said the Smiths were "particularly famous for visionary projects." Atheists don't have visions. How did all the neighbors, bent on telling the worst, happen to overlook the Smiths' atheism?

E. D. Howe: A person can be an atheist and conceal the fact.

Chairman: But no gross, unqualified atheist can display his convictions in all his "avowals" and acts for fifteen years without having his close associates come to suspect that he may not be an orthodox believer. You seem to have been a very privileged character, Mr. Tucker, to be taken so much more into the confidences of the Smiths than anyone else was. What was your interest in them -- did they show signs of future greatness?

16. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 18.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       63

E. D. Howe: I can answer that. "With the exception of their natural and peculiar habits of life, there is nothing in the character of the Smith family worthy of being recorded, previous to the time of their plot to impose upon the world by a pretended discovery of a new Bible." [17]

Chairman: Then I must ask again, how did it happen that an ambitious and eminently respectable young man like you, Mr. Tucker, fully occupied with your busy career and high political connections, had time and inclination to cultivate the miserable Smiths, who didn't even live in town, and to follow the backwoods odysseys of worthless Joe with such keen personal interest that forty years later you alone can recall conversations word for word and vividly remember "all the early avowals" of the Smiths on religion?

E. D. Howe: Mr. Tucker was a newspaperman. It was his business to know about people.

Chairman: And did Mr. Tucker shadow everybody in and around Palmyra as faithfully as he did the most uninteresting boy in the place? Could he have written an intimate biography of every other boy in Palmyra? If he found the Smiths so uniquely interesting, why are they never mentioned in his paper?

Tucker: They are, after 1830.

Chairman: That is just the point. After 1830 "vast numbers of people" suddenly become authorities on the Smiths. But how do you prove your case? The clerk will read your remarks about the foundations of your testimony.

Clerk (reads): "The Smith family,... basing this conclusion upon all the early avowals and other evidences remembered, as well as upon the subsequent developments extant -- were unqualified atheists."

Chairman: Just what are the "subsequent developments extant" that prove the Smiths to be atheists?

Tucker: "Can their mockeries of Christianity, their persistent blasphemies, be accounted for upon any other hypothesis?" [18]

Chairman: Well, the cat is out of the bag again. What gives unique value to your book, Mr. Tucker, is that it

17. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 11.

18. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 18.


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rests upon your personal testimony of the Smiths. If you know from personal experience that the Smiths were atheists, what need to try to prove it by dragging in "subsequent developments" with which you were not acquainted? You say the Smiths were unqualified atheists in practice -- to what practices do you refer? You say you base this conclusion on "evidences remembered" -- why don't you tell us the evidences, if you remember them?

Tucker: As I said, "their mockeries of Christianity, their persistent blasphemies... "

Chairman: Are you a Christian, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: Well, I never belonged to any church or "made a public profession of religion," but towards the end of my life I did discuss things with clergymen. [19]

Chairman: But that was long after you knew Smith. What in his behavior would you, who were not a confessing Christian, say made a mockery of Christianity?

Tucker: Everybody knows the answer to that: I specifically stated that these were "subsequent developments."

Chairman: And you also indirectly admitted that Smith's atheism was a hypothesis, based on a conclusion of your own, which you can only prove by referring to the behavior of the Smiths after you knew them. Don't you know that a court is not interested in a "conclusion" of the witness, and that you are not supposed to be testifying to any "hypothesis" but to fact? You should confine your testimony to the Smiths as you knew them, and not lamely appeal to "subsequent developments" to prove your conclusion.

Tucker: But the Smiths never changed; we know that.

Chairman: In that case, how did gloomy Joe, who, according to you, "was never known to laugh," become the "merry prophet" that so many other witnesses describe? Lots of people believed that your atheist was an exceedingly devout and religious man.

Tucker: I know that. They were his dupes and gulls.

18. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 18.

19. Pattengill, Light in the Valley, 9.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       65

Chairman: Nevertheless, their conviction means that your charges of mockery and blasphemy are purely a matter of opinion. Even though you may hold the majority opinion, there are large numbers of intelligent people who view Smith's teachings in a totally different light. It is a very suspicious thing when a witness who is supposed to be giving impartial and objective testimony to things seen and heard tries to shore up that testimony with theological arguments and beseeching appeals to public opinion and hearsay. Now, we have only time here to deal with the Book of Mormon; can you give us anything specific on that head?

The wonder-cave

Tucker: I certainly can. "The work of translation" on the Book of Mormon was carried out "in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence, now owned by Mr. Amos Miner." [20]

E. D. Howe: There you have it! You asked for particulars, now you are getting them. The witness knows the very name of the man who owned the land!

Chairman: Yes, tricks like that do give the impression of intimate knowledge. But Mr. Tucker is merely giving us the name of the man who owned the land when he wrote his book in 1867 -- actually it has nothing to do with the story. It is not a contemporary or very relevant fact. So the Book of Mormon was translated in a cave, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: That is correct, "a dark artificial cave. At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity." [21]

Chairman: What, again? Already backing out?

Tucker: What do you mean?

Chairman: That you are trying to pass the buck. Is it you or the Mormons who are telling about this cave?

Tucker: Naturally my reports, being inside information, come from them. They told "another version that the prophet continued... at his house, and only went into the

20. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 48-49.

21. Ibid.


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cave to pay his spiritual devotions and seek the continued favor of Divine Wisdom." [22]

Chairman: By either account, the Mormons must have thought it a very holy place. Why do they never mention it? Why have they never sought to locate its remains? Was it secret?

Tucker: Not at all. Our local "men and boys" passing by used to see Smith at work in the cave translating the Book of Mormon. [23]

Chairman: Then there were plenty of non-Mormons who witnessed the cave business?

Tucker: That is what I reported.

Chairman: Then why don't you follow their reports instead of those of the Mormons, whom you obviously distrust? The clerk will please read your words.

Clerk (reads): "At least such was one account given out by the Mormon fraternity."

Chairman: Why bother with such dubious stuff, when you have a host of men and boys from the town who can tell you all about it? Confine yourself for the present to their accounts.

Tucker: According to them, "Joseph Smith's stays in the cave varied from fifteen minutes to an hour or over -- the entrance meanwhile being guarded by one or more of his disciples. This ceremony scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders."

Chairman: Frankly, it is hard for me to imagine any "ceremony" more perfectly calculated to excite the wildest curiosity than mysterious comings and goings at a theatrical grotto placed under armed guard. What was the cave like?

Tucker: "This excavation was at the time said to be 160 feet in extent, though that is probably an exaggeration." [24]

Chairman: That is a pretty large cave, isn't it? It would require a great deal of hard work of somebody, and you

22. Ibid., 49.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       67

said Smith caused it to be dug. The lazy Smiths really got things done, and there must have been a huge dump of tailings. Why did they need to make it so very deep?

Tucker: I didn't say it was that deep. I only said it "was at the time said to be" that deep, and that that was "probably an exaggeration."

Chairman: Are you sure it was an exaggeration?

Tucker: I said it was probably an exaggeration.

Chairman: Then it may have been an exaggeration, but you are not sure. Why didn't you go out and measure it yourself?

Tucker: That was impossible. Not only was there an armed guard placed at the cave, but it was closed by "a substantial door of two-inch plank, secured by a corresponding lock." [25]

Chairman: These Smiths seem to have been immensely industrious and resourceful to run a show like that -- which is totally out of keeping with their character as you have depicted it. But it is your behavior that amazes me.

Tucker: How so?

Chairman: Here this Smith, whose nefarious career has always attracted your most penetrating scrutiny, is at last doing something really spectacular, only two miles from your house (you said the cave was "near his residence"), and you are the editor of the local newspaper; yet from the nature of your report it is very clear that you neither walked out to inspect the cave yourself nor sent anyone else to. Didn't you think it would make a pretty good news story? You are willing to allow that the whole story of the translating in the cave may be a Mormon myth. But don't you know? Didn't you make any effort to find out? What kind of a newspaper man are you? Why did you never question Smith about it, since you claim he confided so much in you?

Tucker: I said the place was guarded.

Chairman: But you were Smith's old buddy; why didn't you ask him about it? And by whose permission was the

25. Ibid.


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cave guarded, anyway? Smith didn't own the land. Why wasn't he ordered off? You make a point of naming the later owner: if the owner of the land is so important to you, why don't you get in touch with him? You are completely vague and noncommittal about the dimensions and even the existence of this cave. Now, the Mormons deserted the place for good in 1830, just a few months at most after it had been used for the "ceremony" of translating the Book of Mormon. There was no guard then, and the sturdy door of two-inch plank, open or shut, would have most irresistibly invited inspection. Yet you ask us to believe that all the people of Palmyra, and you, their ever-inquiring editor, were so utterly devoid of normal human curiosity, at a time when the Book of Mormon was exciting the wildest speculation everywhere, that you did not even bother to take a short walk with a candle and tape measure after the Mormons had left, to see what was really out there. And in all the ensuing forty years during which you continued to live in Palmyra and discuss the Mormons [26] you never so much as took an after-dinner stroll to look at the wonderful cave, nor did you ever delegate anyone to make a study of the fateful place, nor did you even interview anybody who had done so! You tax our credulity, sir.

Tucker: Well, as I said, the whole thing "scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders."

Chairman: The story of the origin of the Book of Mormon attracted the curiosity of the nation, yet the melodramatic properties of the most secret cave where it was made interested nobody! What kind of a story is that? Don't you see, sir, that the probability of your story can be checked at a dozen points and collapses at every one?

Tucker: You can't check it now. "From the lapse of time and natural causes the cave has been closed for years, very little mark of its former existence remaining to be seen." [27]

Clerk: If you will excuse the interruption, sir. Mrs. Dickinson here has given a later account of the cave.

26. Pattengill, Light in the Valley, 42-43.

27. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 49.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       69

Mrs. Dickinson: In 1885 I reported, "Just beyond the well... is shown a cave, or excavation, that was used by Smith and his close followers while engaged in deciphering the golden plates. It was originally boarded." [28]

Chairman: This is interesting. In 1867 Mr. Tucker says there was nothing left of the cave -- "Very little mark of its former existence remaining," while almost twenty years later Mrs. Dickinson says it was still one of the sights. Did you ever see the cave, Mr. Tucker?

The wide-eyed innocents

E. D. Howe: I protest this badgering of the witness. Let him tell what he knows about the crimes of the Smiths!

Chairman: What about their crimes, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: Many things were stolen and people began to guard their sheepfolds and suspect the Smiths. [29]

Chairman: With everybody suspecting them and watching them, the Smiths must have been at a terrible disadvantage. They lived, it would seem, in a goldfish bowl of public attention, yet, stupid and tactless as they were, nobody ever caught them at anything! Did they steal sheep, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: "It is but common fairness to accompany this fact... "

Chairman: Which fact, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: The fact that they were suspected.

Chairman: Thank you. You gave the impression that the fact in question was not that they were suspected but that they stole. Proceed.

Tucker: "...though it is but common fairness to accompany this fact by the statement, that it is not within the remembrance of the writer... if the popular inferences in this matter were ever sustained by judicial investigation." [30]

Chairman: Through the years, then, "popular inferences" burdened the Smiths with all kinds of crimes that could never be proven. If they were the stupid criminals that you make them out to be, the Smiths would certainly

28. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, with an introduction by Thurlow Weed (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 247.

29. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 15.

30. Ibid.


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have been caught a hundred times over. All we have here is slander.

Tucker: Not a bit of it! "The whole idea of an attempt to harm Smith in any way... is purely a Mormon invention." [31]

J. B. Turner: That is correct. It was perfectly absurd for Smith to complain, as he often did, that he was persecuted for his opinions. [32]

E. D. Howe: He pretended he was being persecuted, simply because people wouldn't believe his wild stories. That's why he left Palmyra. [33]

W. Chase: Yes. "His neighbors having become disgusted with his foolish stories, he determined to go back to Pennsylvania, to avoid what he called persecution."

Chairman: And when was that, sir?

W. Chase: At the end of September in the year 1827. [34]

Chairman: But according to you, Smith had been telling his foolish stories in Palmyra since early 1820, and in 1830 you and your fellows in Palmyra were still having intimate dealings with him. How long did it take you good people to discover that Smith's stories were foolish? Did Smith's opinions deserve censure, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: "His interpretations of scriptural passages," when he was a child, "were always original and unique, and his deductions and conclusions often disgustingly blasphemous, according to the common apprehensions of Christian people." [35]

Chairman: "Original and unique" exegesis is hardly the business of adolescents noted only for indolence and dullness. And are you, Mr. Tucker, as a shrewd observer of human nature, so unaware of the normal reactions of "Christian people" to opinions which they consider "disgustingly blasphemous?" Persecution takes many forms. Are we to understand that this Joe Smith, whose mere memory inspires your impassioned invective a quarter of a century after his death, was never the object of severe treatment while he was alive?

31. Ibid., 119 (emphasis added).

32. J. B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages (New York: Platt and Peters, 1842), 302.

33. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 246.

34. Ibid., 245.

35. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 17.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       71

Tucker: As I have said, "the whole idea of an attempt to harm Smith in any way... is purely a Mormon invention."

Chairman: And your own book is written only as a kindness to your old bosom friend? Come, now, Mr. Tucker! Don't you believe that spreading unsubstantiated criminal charges against a man constitutes an "attempt to harm" him? You have said that the Smiths were suspected of stealing many things, you have charged them "one and all" with the grossest atheism, and described young Joseph as brewing and executing one evil plot against society after another -- and you meant him no harm by telling such stories?

Tucker: They were the truth.

Chairman: Then what kind of a community was Palmyra, and what kind of a man were you, to allow such monstrous goings-on to continue year after year without so much as raising a finger of protest? The Smiths, we are told, were the terror and torment of the neighborhood, "a pest to society," says Mr. Chase; [36] theft, fraud, and "unspeakable lewdness" were the order of the day, but never an arrest or trial. Those who give the most lurid reports claim to have their knowledge from the most intimate and prolonged personal association with the Smiths: a day or a week of such association would disgust and sicken any normal person, yet these eminently respectable people, including yourself, go on month after month and year after year receiving and encouraging the confidences of Smith and his family.

E. D. Howe: Encouraging their confidences?

Chairman: Would Smith have continued to air his vices and expose his intrigues through the years to these intimates if they had showed any tendency to upbraid or discourage him? You all knew what he was up to -- but none of you ever did anything about it. As his most intimate associate and public-spirited man, were you, Mr. Tucker, not under any obligation to society to check and expose his

36. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 247.


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awful deeds? Why did you wait until the culprit was dead twenty-three years to expose him? Don't you know that makes you virtually an accessory to his crimes?

E. D. Howe: Oh, lots of people knew what Joe was up to. Joseph Capron here can tell you.

J. Capron: Joe Smith "would often... urge them [his neighbors] to embark in the money digging business" with him. [37]

Chairman: And you call that being secretive. Did any join up?

J. Capron: Yes, indeed. "Some of them were influenced by curiosity, others were sanguine in their expectations of immediate gain." [38]

Chairman: This is worse than I thought. Specifically, did any of our affidavit-swearers participate in Joe's activities?

E. D. Howe: Yes. Peter Ingersoll helped Joseph Smith, Sr., practice dowsing, and William Stafford and Willard Chase both assisted Smith in digging operations accompanied by magical rites. [39]

W. Chase and W. Stafford: It was just out of curiosity! [40]

Chairman: Whatever their excuse, the fact is that all three of the witnesses just named claim to have enjoyed the intimate confidences of Joseph Smith from 1820 to 1830, a thing which would have been utterly impossible unless they had given him sympathy and encouragement--such intimacy cannot be wholly unilateral. So I ask again, Mr. Tucker, since you knew Smith so long and so well in all his wickedness, why you never took steps to put an end to it.

Pattengill: Mr. Tucker had no personal prejudice against Smith, sir. What motive could he possibly have for such?

Chairman: You yourself supplied the motive, sir, when you told how at seventeen Mr. Tucker was determined to make his mark in the world, to shine as a writer and publisher; driven by fierce ambition, at the age of 21 he

37. Ibid., 259.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., 234, 238-39.

40. Ibid., 238.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       73

was an editor and at twenty-three he owned his own newspaper. [fn] Cultivating the society of important people, he never stopped pushing himself, and in the end, what was his sole claim to fame? That he had known Joe Smith! Can you imagine anything more perfectly calculated to excite the jealous rage of a boundlessly ambitious, self-centered man -- a frustrated prodigy, bachelor, and free-thinker, whose whole life and religion was his own career -- than to see a nobody from the farm give Palmyra the only celebrity it ever had? Let me sum up a few points:

Twenty-three years after the death of Joseph Smith and thirty-seven years after Smith had left Palmyra, a citizen of that town brings out a book telling most intimately of the mind and doings of Smith at the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon. (1) Now, since the author of the book is an editor by profession, I find it very strange that he should have waited so long to tell the public what it had been clamoring to hear for decades. (2) He prefaces his book with a purely fanciful drawing depicting an angel and devils as neither Smith nor his followers ever described them, yet he labels the picture "Smith's account of the finding of the golden plates." Here is a plain fabrication. (3) Then he describes young Smith as a totally uninteresting tramp whose every characteristic disgusts him -- and yet goes on to depict himself, an ambitious and important young man, as spending his days observing Smith's every move and receiving all his secret confidences. (4) He describes the Smith family as cynical and cunning, but makes them the simple dupes of a pewter-coin joke that could not have fooled the village idiot. (5) He describes them also as outspoken atheists constantly parading their atheism in public; yet none of the public in question, when requested to think of all the bad things they could about the Smiths, ever mentioned their atheism -- far from it, superstition was their charge. (6) While Tucker was intimate with the Smiths for some 14 years, he tells none of the countless firsthand experiences that he should have had with them, but instead offers as proof of their villainy their subsequent


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behavior, which he did not observe. (7) Tucker tells of a wonderful cave, but can give no certain information about it, though he lived very near to it for forty-two years. (8) True, he insists that nobody was particularly interested in the mysterious doings at the cave, but that only makes me more suspicious, since the whole country was then talking about Smith and his gold plates, and it is inconceivable that he, who took the pains to write a whole book about Joseph Smith, simply wasn't interested enough in the cave to look it over himself or have somebody else do it. (9) He has the lazy Smiths running a full-scale Army Command Post at the cave, with extensive digging and construction work, changes of guard and all the rest, on land that did not belong to them, but with never a word of protest from anybody. (10) In fact, he insists that no one opposed Smith's operations at any time or had the slightest intention of harming him, even while he reports the most vicious slanders and adds his own against the Smiths. (11) He describes Joseph Smith as brewing and executing one evil plot after another, while he, a public-spirited man and witness to all this depravity, raised no word of protest until forty years after. (12) Finally, we have seen in the career of Tucker and his unguarded expressions of passion what we think is ample indication of a motive and will to malign the Smiths. It would be instructive to examine Mr. Tucker's book page by page, but we have had time here only to consider the parts dealing with the Book of Mormon, and I think we have heard enough to form a pretty fair opinion of his trustworthiness.

This court is adjourned until tomorrow morning at ten o'clock.


[ 75 ]

iii. Portrait of a Prophet

Scene: The same. The hall is empty save for the presence of the Chairman and his Clerk, who is gathering papers together preparatory to departure. It is obviously late at night.

"... in the mind's eye, Horatio"

Chairman: Before you go, Mr. Beckmesser, there are some things I would like to talk over with you. Since this is not a trial but only an investigation, I would like to get your reaction to Mr. Tucker's portrait of the youthful Smith. A sulky, taciturn, evil-minded brat gains a loyal and devoted following simply by telling wild and wonderful stories -- how does it strike you?

Clerk: A bit odd, sir. But then, didn't a mischievous boy in East Side New York have a million people in a high state of religious excitement a few years back by announcing that the Virgin had appeared to him in a back lot?

Chairman: Yes, I recall the case. But how long did that kid's glory last -- five days? A week, maybe? That only shows what a different sort of thing we are up against here. By the way, have you got that material for a portrait of Smith?

Clerk: You mean all those intimate descriptions of what he looked like? Yes sir, I collected them as you asked. Here they are.

Chairman: Do they present a uniform picture of the man? I mean, did Smith make a consistent impression on people?

Clerk: If you mean, do they all think he is a scoundrel, the answer is yes; otherwise, their books would not be classified as anti-Mormon. His friends praise him, his enemies hate him, but aside from hating him they don't seem to be able to agree on a thing. Here is one, for example,


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who writes: "I can see him now in my mind's eye, with his torn and patched trousers held to his form by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico shirt as dirty and black as the earth, and his uncombed hair sticking through the holes in his old battered hat." [01]

Chairman: Very picturesque. The "mind's eye," indeed. Is this the child Joseph Smith?

Clerk: By no means, sir. This is supposed to describe the man when "he was about twenty-five years old" -- that would be after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the founding of the Church. [02]

Chairman: But does anybody take this seriously?

Clerk: Mr. Linn accepts it as an accurate portrait. Here is a homey touch that gives it an air of simple honesty: "Joe had a jovial, easy, don't-care way about him that made him warm friends. He was a good talker, and would have made a fine stump-speaker with training." [03]

Chairman: A sloppy tramp with the gift of gab.

Clerk: So it seems, sir. But here is another eyewitness description from the same period: "He was always well dressed, generally in black with a white necktie. He looked like a Reverend.... Joseph was no orator. He said what he wanted to say in a very blundering sort of way." [04] So now he's a well-dressed gent who can't talk at all. And that is typical. Mr. Tucker said taciturnity was one of Smith's most conspicuous characteristics, and here another witness says, "Joseph did not talk much in society, his talk was not very fluent,... he was by no means interesting in company." [05] Stephen S. Harding, one-time governor of Utah Territory, who claims to have known Smith personally in Palmyra, says, "Young Joe was hard to be approached. He was very taciturn, and sat most of the time as silent as the Sphinx." [06]

Chairman: Silent Smith, eh?

Clerk: That is what some say, but others say the opposite: "very voluble in speech, having great self-confidence," [07] "endowed with the requisite cunning and volubility." [08]

Chairman: But isn't that the later Smith?

1. From an interview with Daniel Hendrix in the New York Times, 15 July 1898.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits; Or, the Truth about the Mormon Leaders (Salt Lake City: Tribune, 1886), 25, 27.

5. Ibid., 26.

6. Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra (New York: Alden, 1890), 38.

7. W. Lang, History of Seneca County (Springfield, OH: Transcript, 1880), 649.

8. John S. C. Abbott, The History of the State of Ohio (Detroit: Northwestern, 1875), 697.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       77

Clerk: No, sir, this is the boy of Palmyra, who used to attend "revival meetings praying and exhorting with great exhuberance of words," [09] "used to help us solve some portentous question of moral or political ethics in our juvenile debating club... and subsequently... was a very passable exhorter in evening meetings." [10] Here is another: "At times he would be very active in a religious revival, praying and exhorting with unusual fervor, in that exuberance of words which he had wonderfully at his command." [11] It is rather puzzling -- blundering, stammering, taciturn Sphinx with a wonderful exuberance of words. "His address is easy," wrote Mr. Howe himself of this stammerer, "rather fascinating and winning, of a mild and sober deportment," though at times inclined to jest and be exceedingly merry. [12] This is the boy whom Mr. Tucker says "was never known to laugh." And while Mr. Tucker also assures us from the most intimate experience that everything Joe and his family did proclaimed their sordid atheism, the other neighbors report him as zealously active in religious circles.

Chairman: So somebody is lying.

Clerk: At least they can't all be right. You remember Mr. Tucker said Joseph Smith was of a "plodding, evil-brewing mental composition," that "he seldom spoke to anyone outside of his intimate associates," and above all, that he "was never known to laugh." [13] And Mrs. Eaton, taking the cue, says "he rarely smiled or laughed. 'His looks and thoughts were always downward bent.'" [14] Yet one high authority says he had "a deep vein of humor that ran through all he said and did," [15] and Charles Dickens declares that "the exact adjective for Joe's religion is -- jolly!" [16] The poet Whittier speaks of Smith's "rude, bold, good-humoured face," [17] and even some of the most damning witnesses tell us "Joe had a jovial, easy, don't-care way about him," [18] and that "he used to laugh from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, it shook every bit of flesh in him." [19] Also, while Mr. Hendrix assures us that he made "warm friends," other neighbors say "he was shunned by the boys of his own age" and that he was " awkward and unpopular

9. Lang, History of Seneca County, 649.

10 W. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, New York (Syracuse, NY: Mason, 1895), 78.

11. Abbott, History of the State of Ohio, 697.

12. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed; Or, a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion (Painesville, OH: the author, 1834), 13.

13. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: Appleton, 1867), 16-17.

14. Mrs. Dr. Horace Eaton, "Speech Delivered May 27, 1881," in Handbook on Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Handbook, 1882), 1.

15. "The Yankee Mahomet," American Whig Review 17 (June 1851): 556.

16. Charles Dickens, "In the Name of the Prophet -- Smith!" Household Words 69 (19 July 1851): 387.

17. William and Mary Howitt, eds., Howitt's Journal (London: Lovett, 1847), 158.

18. From an interview with Daniel Hendrix in the New York Times, 15 July 1898.

19. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 26.


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lad." [20] Here is a nice impasse: Chase, Ingersoll, and Stafford, who knew him so well, describe him as a brawler, who frequently got drunk, and "when intoxicated was very quarrelsome," [21] while Tucker and Harding, who knew him just as well, assure us that Smith "was noted as never having had a fight or quarrel with any other person." [22] Whom are we to believe?

Chairman: It might be easier to check up on his physical appearance. What do they say to that?

Clerk: He is described by eyewitnesses in 1830 as being "tall and slender -- thin favored." [23] Mr. Dogberry calls him "spindle shanked"; [24] here is a remarkable description by Harding, who "describes him as having been a tall, long-legged and tow-headed youth, who seldom smiled, hardly ever worked and never fought, but who was hard on truth and bird's nests." [25]

Chairman: At least we know that Smith was tall and skinny.

Clerk: But do we? Thurlow Weed's description of Smith from that time is of "a stout, round, smooth-faced young man." [26] Tall he may have been, but how he could have been "thin-favored" and stout and round at the same time is not so obvious. And just two years later another eyewitness who claims to have known Smith very well says he is "a man of mean and insignificant appearance, between forty and fifty years of age." [27] Later on we are told that "the gait of this person was heavy and slouching, his hands were large and thick, his eyes grey and unsteady in their gaze." [28] A year after this was published, another opus describes the prophet as "a tall, elegant-looking man with dark piercing eyes, and features, which if not handsome, were imposing." [29] Another calls him "a man of commanding appearance, tall and well-proportioned." "A noble-looking fellow," says another, "a Mahomet every inch of him." [30] Josiah Quincy says "he was a hearty, athletic fellow, with blue eyes standing prominently out

20. Ruth Kauffman and Reginald W. Kauffman, The Latter-Day Saints: A Study of the Mormons in the Light of Economic Conditions (London: Williams and Norgate, 1912), 23.

21. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; Or, An Expos? of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842), 72.

22. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 39.

23. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Utah, 1951), 2:68.

24. Ibid., 56.

25. Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy (Cincinnati: Standard, 1914), 17.

26. Thurlow Weed, Autobiography, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1884), 1:358.

27. E. S. Abdy, Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States of North America from April 1833 to October 1834 (London: Murray, 1835), 324-25.

28. Robert Richards, The Californian Crusoe (London: Parker, 1854), 60.

29. Maria Ward, The Mormon Wife (Hartford, CT: Hartford, 1872), 19.

30. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 28.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       79

upon his light complexion.... 'A fine-looking man' is what the passer-by would instinctively have murmured." [31] Another visitor says Smith had dark hair and eyes and a "strong rugged outline of face" with features exactly like those of Oliver Cromwell. [32] Charles Francis Adams described him as "a middle-aged man with a shrewd but rather ordinary expression of countenance." [33]

Chairman: So far we have shifty grey eyes, prominent blue eyes, and dark piercing eyes.

Clerk: Yes, and while one illustrious visitor says he could not see Smith's eyes since the man refused to look people in the face, [34] others speak of his "penetrating eagle eyes." [35] Some think Smith's huge, fat, enormous awkward hands worthy of special mention, [36] while others comment on the remarkably small size of his hands. [37] One says that he had "a Herculean frame and a commanding appearance," [38] another that he was sloppy and slouching, "very lank and loose in his appearance and movements." [39]

Chairman: A portrait artist would have a wonderful time depicting him from these honest firsthand descriptions. How do you account for the discrepancies?

Clerk: I think the report of the celebrated Mr. Conybeare, the foremost literary critic of the midnineteenth century, can help us out there. His classical description of Joseph Smith's appearance is warranted solely by the contemplation of a small wood engraving of the prophet, the work of neither a sympathetic nor a skillful hand. This has been reproduced in numerous anti-Mormon books as the official non-Mormon portrait of Smith. As he views the small and clumsy drawing, Mr. Conybeare gives forth: "It is inexplicable how anyone who had ever looked at Joseph's portrait [it was not really a portrait, of course, since Smith did not pose for it], could imagine him to have been by possibility an honest man. Never did we see a face on which the hand of heaven had more legibly written rascal. That self-complacent simper, that sensual mouth, that leer of vulgar cunning, tell us at one glance the character of their owner...." [40]

31. Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past from the Leaves of Old Journals (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883), 380-81.

32. Edwin de Leon, Thirty Years of My Life on Three Continents, 2 vols. (London: Ward and Downey, 1890), 1:56.

33. Henry Adams, "Charles Francis Adams Visits the Mormons in 1844," Proceedings of Massachusetts Historical Society 68 (October 1944-May 1947): 21.

34. Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the 19th Century; Or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of Mormons or Latter-Day Saints (London: Rivington, 1843), 223.

35. M. H. A. van der Valk, De Profeet der Mormonen, Joseph Smith Jr. (Kampen: Kok, 1921), 28.

36. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 223; Henry Brown, History of Illinois (Chicago: Brown, 1844), 401.

37. John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham, 1916), 101.

38. "Yankee Mahomet," 556.

39. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 26.

40. W. J. Conybeare, "Mormonism," Edinburgh Review 202 (April 1854): 338.


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Chairman: Dear me, all this from a crude woodcut the size of a postage-stamp! Our artist must have been a supreme caricaturist.

Half-witted superman

Clerk: Not at all. If you will look at the picture you will see that it is a perfectly ordinary performance -- typical of the nineteenth-century school of engraving at which Robert Louis Stevenson poked fun in his Moral Emblems. All that consummate viciousness is simply what Mr. Conybeare reads into it. Yet a Dutch scholar has taken Conybeare's interpretation of this grotesque little vignette as solid psychological evidence for the character of Smith. [41] You get the same sort of thing when you deal with Joseph Smith's intelligence and knowledge. Here we read of "a natural genius, strong inventive powers of mind, a deep study, and an unusually correct estimate of the human passions and feelings," [42] "a fertile immagination," [43] "an omnivorous reader of the 'buckets of blood' literature," [44] "highly original and imaginative,... an audacious and original mind," [45] "a retentive memory; a correct knowledge of human nature," [46] "a strong mind (says Quincy) utterly unenlightened by the teachings of history," [47] and "a great shrewdness and worldly wisdom,... boundless energy and intrepidity of character, of most fearless audacity." [48] "Great powers of reasoning were his natural gift,... and a deep vein of humor ran through all he said and did." [49] "Joseph was the calf that sucked three cows. He acquired knowledge very rapidly.... He soon out-grew his teachers." [50] "His own autobiography shows him well studied at an early period in the nice shades and differences of modern sectarian creeds, and... well-read in the history of Mohammed and other religious imposters." [51] "The skill with which he carried out his imposture,... his eloquence, rude but powerful -- his letters, clever and sarcastic -- the manifold character and boldness of his designs -- his courage in enterprise -- his perseverance despite great obstacles -- his conception and partial execution of the temple of Nauvoo -- these and other things mark

41. Van der Valk, Profeet der Mormonen, 28.

42. James H. Hunt, Mormonism (St. Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844), 7.

43. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Knopf, 1947), 26.

44. George Seibel, The Mormon Saints (Pittsburgh: Lessing, 1919), 15.

45. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 48-49.

46. "Yankee Mahomet," 556.

47. Ibid., 399.

48. Lamps of the Temple (London: Snow, Paternoster Row, 1856), 477.

49. "Yankee Mahomet," 556.

50. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 25.

51. Benjamin G. Ferris, Utah and the Mormons (New York: Harper and Bros., 1856), 66.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       81

him as a man of more than ordinary calibre...." [52a] "...highly original and imaginative... an audacious and original mind..." [52b]

Chairman: A sort of superman. And on the other hand...?

Clerk: On the other hand, the same Smith in 1830 is "that spindle shanked ignoramus, Joe Smith. This fellow appears to possess the quintessence of impudence... having but little expression of countenance other than that of dullness; his mental powers appear to be extremely limited." [53] One of the earliest says, "I thought the man either crazed or a very shallow imposter." [54] "His knowledge was slight and his judgment weak." [55] "He was lounging, idle (not to say vicious), and possessed of less than ordinary intellect. The author's own recollections of him are distinct ones." [56] "He was as self-indulgent as he was ignorant," [57] "a dissolute, unprincipled young rake, and notorious only for his general wickedness." [58] "Jo from a boy appeared dull and utterly destitute of genius." [59] "His untutored and feeble intellect had not yet [in 1830] grasped at anything beyond mere toying with mysterious things." [60] "We can discover in his career no proof of conspicuous ability.... His chief, if not his only talent, was his gigantic impudence." [61] He was never "noted for much else than ignorance and stupidity, to which might be added... a fondness for everything marvelous." [62] "Joseph was unkempt and immoderately lazy. He could read, though not without difficulty, wrote a very imperfect hand, and had a limited understanding of elementary arithmetic." [63] "Ignorant and ill-prepared, as he confessedly was for such a work, he made no special effort to qualify himself." [64] "He had neither the diligence nor the constancy to master reality," [65] a "completely undisciplined imagination" [66] not to be "canalized by any discipline." [67] He was not liked. The young people of the town considered him not quite full-witted, and with the cruelty of youth, made him the butt for their practical jokes. [68]

52a. T. W. P. Taylder, Mormon's Own Book or Mormonism (London: Partridge/Patternoster Row, 1847), li.

52b. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 48f.

53. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:56, 68.

54. Weed, Autobiography, 1:359.

55. Samuel M. Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 15 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 8:13.

56. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, NY: Alling, 1851), 213.

57. George Townsend, The Conversion of Mormonism (Hartford, CT: Church Mission, 1911), 21.

58. History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri (St. Louis: National Historical Company, 1886), 106.

59. John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia: Simon, 1842), 225.

60. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 4.

61. Conybeare, "Mormonism," 338.

62. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:68.

63. Jackson, ed., New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 8:12.

64. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 20..

65. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 69.

66. Ibid., 84.

67. Ibid., 27.

68. Kauffman and Kauffman, Latter-Day Saints, 23.


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Chairman: So it was the village idiot who wrote the Book of Mormon. This brings up a little question of motive. Surely there are easier ways of fooling people than by composing a large and complex book which, as the book itself foretells, simply invites persecution. How do these people explain the colossally exhausting and dangerous task of writing, publishing, and spreading it abroad as the enterprise of the laziest man on earth?

Clerk: There are two schools of thought. One holds that Smith was sincerely religious, the other that he was not; the latter is the larger faction by about one hundred to one. We are to believe that he undertook the writing of the Book of Mormon out of sheer impudence, "his only talent." According to Mrs. Brodie this silly, sneaky, shallow, prevaricating boy dictated the whole Book of Mormon as a sort of practical joke on his parents "to carry out the fun." This is her idea of fun. Here are some other verdicts: "That he was a religious enthusiast we cannot grant.... One principle... actuated him through life, and that was -- selfishness,... [which makes his religion] one of the most unfounded and abominable systems that ever sprung from the depths of human or Satanic depravity." [69] His Book of Mormon is "but a wicked, silly, filthy romance, founded in ignorance, nay, the quintessence of ignorance, even the ignorance of Joseph Smith, got up for speculation, in order to gull the American Indians, and dupe the English!" [70] "You have not even the poor merit of either talent or originality," wrote Professor Turner to Joseph Smith. "You have at once outraged and disgraced human nature itself." [71] "If there is one fact in American history that can be regarded as definitely established it is that the engaging Joe Smith was a deliberate charlatan." [72] "The camel-driver of Medina was probably a sincere fanatic, whereas the seer of Palmyra was almost certainly a cunning imposter." [73] "His only object at that time was to play upon the credulous, earn applause from the debased, and extort money from the simple, under the plea of a divine mission...." [74] He was very vain of his notoriety, although it was that of a notorious liar. Indeed he had no conscience..."

69. Taylder, Mormon's Own Book, li-lii.

70. J. Theobald, Mormonism Harpooned (London: Horsell, 1855), 24.

71. J. B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages (New York: Platt and Peters, 1842), 301.

72. Earnest S. Bates, American Faith (New York: Norton, 1940), 346.

73. W. S. Simpson, Mormonism (London: Pigott, 1853), 6.

74. Orvilla S. Belisle, Mormonism Unveiled: A History of Mormonism from Its Rise to the Present Time (London: Clark, 1855), 37.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       83

The effrontery of the fellow was really superb.... Probably his well-grounded contempt for his early followers caused him to justify his methods...." [75a] "He was one of those indolent and illiterate young men ... who hope to shun honest labor, and who have imbibed the pernicious doctrine embraced in the phrase: 'The world owes me a living.' [75b] ..a shrewd schemer whose ethical sense was poorly developed...." [75c] "Colossal egotist, ribald wit, handsome giant, ruthless enemy, loudmouthed braggart, religious charlatan, great administrator, master politician, cheap exhibitionist." [76] "Smith was a bank-note forger,... shifty, illiterate and credulous," [77] "the greedy speculator without conscience, and without shame." [78] "Their leaders are evidently atrocious imposters, who have deceived a great many weak-minded but well-meaning persons, by holding out to them the promise of great temporal advantage." [79]

Joseph Smith's "own character gives no shred of prestige for his pretentious claims. Yet, most individual Mormons are sturdy, sincere, honorable, and fine citizens." [80] Mormonism grew from "the pure rascality of the Mormon prophet," "an uneducated youth, without wealth or social standing; indeed, without a prestige of common morality (for the founder of Mormonism is said to have been a dissolute, unprincipled young rake, and notorious only for his general wickedness)." [81] "I have yet to find anybody, or any book, not Mormon, that has a single good word to say of Joseph Smith." [82] For Mrs. Brodie, Joseph Smith was "utterly opportunistic." Mr. Conybeare calls him "a profligate and sordid knave,... making the voice of heaven pander to his own avarice and lust." [83] And so on and so on; you get the idea: Smith was the last word in depravity, but he wanted power and money, and that explains everything. His success can be attributed either to audacity or cunning or both.

Chairman: So I ask myself, Why would a cunning and ambitious rogue too lazy to do any work invariably choose the hardest, the most dangerous, and the least rewarding ways of getting what he wanted -- especially since he is supposed to have had an uncanny insight into the foibles

75a. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 4.

75b. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 4.

75c. Jules Remy, A Journey to Great Salt Lake City, 2 vols. (London: Jeffs, 1861), 1:xxxi.

76. Sidney Bell, Wives of the Prophet (New York: Macaulay, 1935), introduction.

77. Horton Davies, Christian Deviations (London: SCM, 1954), 80.

78. Jules Remy, A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City, 2 vols. (London: Jeffs, 1861), 1:xxxi.

79. History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 106.

80. Phillips E. Osgood, Religion without Magic (Boston: Beacon, 1954), 79.

81. History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 106.

82. T. W. Young, Mormonism: Its Origin, Doctrines, and Dangers (Ann Arbor, MI: Wahr, 1900), 16-17.

83. Conybeare, "Mormonism," 336-37.


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of human nature? Or is he?

Clerk: He is, all right. Mr. Howe himself says Smith has "a natural genius, strong inventive powers of mind, a deep study, and an unusually correct estimate of the human passions and feelings." [84] He knew his public -- no doubt about it. And so he proceeded to make and keep himself the most unpopular man of the century.

Chairman: Does that strike you as being believable?

Clerk: Historians admit the inconsistency, but they won't discuss it. Here is one who admits that it is "marvelously strange that... a dissolute, unprincipled young rake... should excite a revolutionary movement in the religious world... and that, too, in an age of refinement and scientific intelligence." [85] By admitting that this is "marvelously strange," this author seems to think he has relieved himself of any further responsibility of explaining the paradox. Mrs. Brodie has her own characteristic solution of the problem. She explains away all her whopping contradictions by what she calls "the unusual plasticity of Joseph's mind." [86] By having him sufficiently plastic you can have one man take any form you want to.

Chairman: But again the word simply describes the phenomenon -- it does not explain a thing. Does a biographer or a portrait painter, when his picture fails to resemble anything human, have a right to introduce new and unexampled dimensions into his art, and attribute the weird results not to his own creativity but to the "unusual plasticity" of his subject? Here we have a young man producing large and difficult books by his own efforts, converting thousands of deeply religious people to a willingness to give their lives for what he teaches, leading great migrations, founding many cities and societies -- structures of solid and enduring quality -- and all the time enduring persecution and opposition of great persistence and ferocity. And this young man is not only a complete cynic but incredibly tactless and silly; he is in fact the most unprincipled, irresponsible, shallow, undisciplined, lazy young man alive. Does it make sense to you?

84. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 12.

85. History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 106.

86. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 70.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       85

Clerk: I would feel much better about it if there were some historical parallels to match this, but I know of none. In real life, lazy loafers do not write big books, opportunistic charlatans do not risk their lives in hard and exhausting projects when by changing their tune they could become rich and respectable, and ambitious men with keen insight into human nature don't insist on doing and saying just the things that are bound to offend the most people the most. Here is one authority who confesses that "a mere imposter... would have been broken down under such a tempest of opposition and hate as Smith's preaching excited. Smith must have been at least in part honest in his delusion." [87]

Chairman: Now there is a generous concession -- he "must have been at least in part honest." That explains everything; he's going to have his cake and eat it. But is anyone going to tell us in which "part" he is honest? Where was Smith's real genius?

Clerk: I think Mrs. Brodie answers that in a passage that takes all the prizes. She assures us that "the facility with which profound theological arguments were handled is evidence of the unusual plasticity of Joseph's mind. But this facility was entirely verbal. The essence of the great spiritual and moral truths with which he dealt so agilely did not penetrate into his consciousness.... He knew these truths intimately as a bright child knows his catechism, but his use of them was utterly opportunistic." [88]

Chairman: A remarkably revealing statement. It was Theodore Schroder, the rabid anti-Mormon, who once observed that psychological studies of Joseph Smith only reveal the minds of those who make them and leave Smith untouched. Mrs. Brodie might as well have discoursed on the qualities of silent music, invisible etchings, or odorless perfume as to talk of dealing in "great spiritual and moral truths" without grasping anything of their "essence" -- without such a grasp there is simply nothing to talk about; how on earth can one know things "intimately" or at all unless they do somehow penetrate into one's consciousness? They exist nowhere else. Since "Mrs. Brodie's

87. "Mormons," Knowledge, A Weekly Magazine 1/9 (2 August 1890): 176.

88. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 70.


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intense atheism... actually determines... the content of her book," [89] it would be interesting to know what are the "profound spiritual truths" which she grasps so well and which so completely escaped Joseph Smith.

Clerk: Here are some more descriptions: "A shrewd schemer whose ethical sense was poorly developed," "an ever-inventive and fertile genius" who succeeded because he had no scruples whatever. It beats me how such a clever man bent on deception could be so clumsy at the same time. Josiah Canning laughs at Smith's "school-boy tact," [90] and Peter Cartwright calls him "clumsy Joe." [91] Kidder is amazed that a "miserable plagiarist... had... the unaccountable stupidity" to include extensive Bible passages in the Book of Mormon, which was designed to fool a public that knew the Bible better than any other book. [92] A classic example of his shrewdness is the oft-repeated story of how the youthful Smith went around town singing the song of his hero Captain Kidd, whose autobiography he eagerly and often perused. "He chanted it at play, quoted it over and over at the village store until it became indelibly associated with him in the minds of the people of Manchester and Palmyra," [93] who incidentally never mention the fact in the early period. Not a very sly way to begin a life of religious deception.

Chairman: To say the least. Yet that Captain Kidd story is a great favorite with twentieth-century writers on Mormonism. I wonder where they got it.

Clerk: I think I have a pretty good idea. In 1830 a Rochester newspaper recalled that back in 1815 there had been considerable interest among "a certain class" of people in western New York in searching for Captain Kidd's treasure. The article makes it clear that there is no necessary connection between this mania and any of Joseph Smith's activities. [94] Taking up from here, E. D. Howe reports that the Smiths went around "pretending to believe that the earth was filled with hidden treasures, buried there by Kidd or the Spaniards." [95] From there on it is easy: Joseph Smith soon emerges as the unique disciple of the

89. "Appraisal of the So-Called Brodie Book," Deseret News, Church News, 11 May 1946, 6.

90. Josiah D. Canning, Poems (Greenfield, MA: Phelps and Ingersoll, 1838), 107.

91. W. P. Strickland, ed., The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright the Frontier Preacher (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1856), 342.

92. Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1842), 255.

93. Harry M. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire (Boston: Riverside, 1931), 17-18; Seibel, The Mormon Saints, 15-16; R. W. Beers, The Mormon Puzzle and How to Solve It (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1887), 27; Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, with an introduction by Thurlow Weed (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 29.

94. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:48-49.

95. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 11.


                      THE  CRIME  OF  BEING  A  PROPHET                       87

terrible pirate. It is fascinating to see how Smith's critics can turn anything and nothing into direct evidence against him. But we are going to look into the treasure-digging stories in the morning. They should be good.


[ 89 ]


Digging in the Dark

Scene i. The man who was never there

Scene ii. What is behind it


[ 91 ]


i. The Man Who Was Never There

Scene: -- The same. Ten o'clock the next morning.

Dig for that crazy, mixed-up kid!

Clerk The meeting will come to order.

Chairman: As we all know, the commonest, most uniform, and most damning charge against Joseph Smith is that he was a money-digger. This morning we want to look into that accusation. Let us first hear from those who assisted Smith in his treasure-digging operations. Will the diggers please come forward? (A long wait. Nobody moves.) Come, come; the charge is that Smith for some years was head of a band of diggers; there must be someone here who took part in those notorious activities. Did they all just vanish?

P. Tucker: No, sir. In 1867 I could still report that "several of the individuals participating in this,... and many others well remembering the stories of the time, are yet living witnesses of these follies." [01]

Chairman: So "several" of the diggers were still in town forty-seven years after the operation, and "many... living witnesses" were still around. But how can you call them witnesses to an activity they never witnessed?

Tucker: What do you mean?

Chairman: You call them "living witnesses," but to what? Will the clerk please read Mr. Tucker's first statement?

Clerk (reads): "And many others well remembering the stories of the time, are yet living witnesses."

Chairman: So all they can report is what they remember, forty-seven years after, not of the events, but of the stories "of the time." You, Mr. Tucker, claim to have been the most intimate associate of Smith during his digging period. How long did that period last?

1. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: Appleton, 1867), 22.


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Tucker: For at least seven years. [02]

Chairman: And do you in your book ever so much as hint at ever having witnessed any phase of those operations?

Tucker: I tell all about the digging in my book.

Chairman: But as an eye-witness to any of it?

Tucker: No. I got all my information from Smith himself. I report what I have "recollected from his own accounts."

Chairman: Exactly. In seven or eight years of secret conversations Smith told you everything. But in all that time you never saw a thing! Who were these diggers?

W. Stafford: The Smiths "had around them constantly a worthless gang, whose employment was to dig money nights." [03]

Chairman: Did you ever join in the digging yourself?

W. Stafford: Well, yes. Of course, all of Smith's wild tales "I regarded as visionary. However, being prompted by curiosity, I at length accepted of their invitations, to join them in their nocturnal excursions." [04]

Chairman: So that made you one of the "worthless gang."

W. Stafford: I resent that, sir! I was merely a curious spectator.

Chairman: Were these digging activities secret?

W. Stafford: Indeed they were. Once when I came by accident upon Joseph Smith, Sr., and two other men with hoes and shovels in the woods, "on seeing me they ran like wild men to get out of sight." [05]

Chairman: Yet they constantly invited you to witness their indiscretions. Did they invite others?

J. Capron: Yes, all the time. Smith "would often tell his neighbors of his wonderful discoveries, and urge them to embark in the money digging business."

Chairman: And did they accept?

J. Capron: They did: "A gang was soon assembled.... Some of them were influenced by curiosity, others were sanguine in their expectations of immediate gain." [06]

2. Ibid.

3. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed; Or, a Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion (Painesville, OH: the author, 1834), 239.

4. Ibid., 238.

5. Ibid., 249-50.

6. Ibid., 259.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               93

P. Ingersoll: "I had frequent invitations to join the company, but always declined." [07]

Chairman: But didn't you say something earlier about helping Smith, Sr., in such a project?

P. Ingersoll: Oh yes. I just did it for a joke. "The old man, finding that all his efforts to make me a money-digger had proved abortive, at length ceased his importunities." [08]

Chairman: Now Mr. W. Stafford has told us that the Smiths "had about them constantly a worthless gang" of diggers. And Mr. Capron gives us to understand that this gang was recruited among the neighbors, some of whom even admit their complicity. Not very nice neighbors, I would say.

E. D. Howe: Oh, they weren't the regular gang. That was Joe's "phalanx," regularly designated as the "money-diggers." [09]

Chairman: And did they believe that Joe could lead them to treasures?

Tucker: Absolutely! It is amazing what complete trust they had in him. [10]

Chairman: Did the Smiths themselves believe there was treasure there?

E. D. Howe: The affidavits make that clear enough. Old Smith, Sr., was especially infatuated by the idea.

P. Ingersoll: Once he said to me, "You notice, said he, the large stones on the top of the ground... They are, in fact, most of them chests of money raised by the heat of the sun." [11]

Chairman: If he believed all these treasures were on top of the ground, why was the old man always urging you to help him dig?

P. Ingersoll: Ask him.

Chairman: I don't need to. There is one thing that everybody knows about treasure-hunters, and that is that they are desperately determined not to share their secrets.

E. D. Howe: Well, our witnesses say that the Smiths were very mysterious and secretive about the business.

8. Ibid., 234.

9. Ibid., 263.

10. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22-23.

11. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 233.


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Chairman: And also that they not only invited but constantly importuned all the neighbors to join in with them, welcoming them even as idle spectators. That was a necessary fiction to account for the presence of witnesses, but it won't do. Gangs of professional diggers who are sure they have their fingers on the loot don't go around inviting others to learn their secrets and share their swag. It just won't wash, as the saying goes. Who is the earliest witness to all this? You sir, what is your name?

Dogberry: Dogberry, editor of the Palmyra Reflector.

Chairman: What can you tell us about this digging?

Dogberry: It certainly "did not originate by any means with Smith [Sr.]" At that time "the MANIA of money-digging soon began rapidly to diffuse itself through many parts of this country; men and women without distinction of age or sex became marvelous wise in the occult sciences, many dreamed, and others saw visions disclosing... rich and shining treasures." [12]

Chairman: You are not just describing Smith, Sr.'s, activities?

Dogberry: No. As I say, everybody everywhere had the mania.

J. B. Turner: Smith, Jr., simply followed the trend. "While he condemned all else as the work of the devil," he accepted "the stone mania" in his followers. [13]

Chairman: What is the "stone mania"?

Dogberry: "Mineral rods and balls... 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... applied their eyes, and... declared they saw all wonders of nature, including of course, ample stores of silver and gold." [14]

Chairman: Treasure-hunting and visions seem to go hand in hand.

12. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1951), 2:69.

13. J. B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages (New York: Platt and Peters, 1842), 29.

14. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:69.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               95

E. Bates: Yes, Smith, Sr. "was much addicted to the popular frontier sport of digging for buried treasure and was also given to religious visions." [15]

Chairman: So there was nothing unusual at the time in being a money-digger and even a visionary, after all. And yet these things were held as crimes against the Smiths?

Rev. Caswall: The Smiths "spent much of their time in digging for money, which they pretended had been hidden in the earth during the revolutionary war.... Their whole object appears to have been to live without work, upon the industry of others." [16]

Chairman: They merely pretended there was buried treasure? How could they know whether there was or not, so as to be able to pretend?

Mrs. Cooley: I have often heard my relative, "Jeremiah Lyke,... say that Joe Smith, whom he knew well, was a lazy, shiftless fellow, hunting and fishing day times, and at night pretending to dig for treasures in that hill" in front of his house. [17]

Chairman: Apparently this lazy, shiftless fellow found no time for anything as tiring as sleep, and "to wrap his movements in a mystery," to quote Mr. Howe, he did his digging right in front of his own house. Now you say, according to your relative who knew Smith very well, that he only pretended to dig for treasures. Why did he pretend to do a disreputable thing like that if he did not actually do it?

P. Tucker: Oh, he did it, all right. "The fame of Smith's money-digging performances had been sounded far and near. The newspapers had heralded and ridiculed them. The pit-hole memorials of his treasure explorations were numerous." [18]

Chairman: Strange that none of the newspaper notices have ever turned up. It was you, sir, who stated that Smith's great cave near Palmyra, his greatest digging of all, "scarcely attracted the curiosity of outsiders," yet now you tell us that the newspapers even "heralded" his minor diggings. What are we to believe?

15. Earnest S. Bates, American Faith (New York: Norton, 1940), 345.

16. Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the 19th Century; Or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of Mormons or Latter-Day Saints (London: Rivingtons, 1843), 28-29.

17. T. W. Young, Mormonism: Its Origin, Doctrines, and Dangers (Ann Arbor, MI: Wahr, 1900), 16.

18. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 27.


96                                     THE  MYTH  MAKERS                                    

Mrs. Eaton: I can explain that. "Little or no attention was paid to the performances of Smith near his home." [19]

Chairman: Then how did his digging make him so famous?

Tucker: Famous is hardly the word, sir.

Chairman: You said his fame went far and wide, and George Arbaugh, following W. D. Purple, tells that it was because Joseph Smith's fame had spread so that Josiah Stowell hired him to dig for money. [20]

Mrs. Eaton: Well, it's true that "lovers of the marvelous" came from far away, and "visited the several excavations and wondered." [21]

Chairman: You mean that a few holes in the ground, which, according to all reports, never yielded a thing, actually brought sight-seers, "lovers of the marvelous" to your part of the country? What was marvelous about the holes?

E. D. Howe: It wasn't the holes themselves, but the idea of the treasure hunters.

Chairman: But Mr. Dogberry has told us that everybody was digging away all over the country before Smith ever got started. What could be less interesting than just another hole dug by just another treasure-hunter? And why would Joseph Smith get fame and a title for doing what everyone else was doing -- only more secretly?

J. Q. Adams: It must have been the immense scope of his operations that distinguished him from the others.

Chairman: Mrs. Eaton mentioned only "the several excavations" near Palmyra, which did not sound like very much. Were there more?

J. Q. Adams: Were there? "Acres of ground near Palmyra, and elsewhere, were dug over." [22]

G. Arbaugh: "In 1822... under Jo's direction fourteen men dug a great hole on the farm of Joseph McKune, which fifty years later was used as a swimming pool.... It seems that he superintended many similar diggings." [23]

Chairman: Dear me. In less than forty years "the lapse of time and natural causes" had completely obliterated

19. Mrs. Dr. Horace Eaton, "Speech Delivered May 27, 1881," in Handbook on Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Handbook, 1882), 2.

20. George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), 28.

21. Eaton, "Speech," in Handbook of Mormonism, 2.

22. John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham, 1916), 16.

23. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism, 27.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               97

Mr. Tucker's 165-foot cave and Smith's last digging; the original dimensions of these other digs must have been tremendous. Do you realize, sir, how much digging with picks and shovels it takes to make just one swimming pool? And what the chances are of keeping such an operation secret while you are doing it and after? And can you imagine the most lazy, shiftless man on earth, at the age of sixteen "superintending many similar diggings"? Oliver Cowdery has commented on this. Will the clerk please read Cowdery's Eighth Letter?

Clerk (reads): They say "that he was always notorious for his idleness," yet he has "been accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehannah, or causing others to do it by some art of necromancy." [24]

J. H. Hunt: The indolent character of Smith is not incompatible with the accomplishment: indeed, it explains it. "Being withal too lazy to make a living by honest industry, their minds [the Smiths', that is] seemed entirely directed towards discovering where these treasures were concealed.... Our hero... gather[ed] a horde of idle, credulous young men to perform the labor of digging.... In the course of time numerous excavations were made." [25]

Chairman: And all that work was done by idle young men at the behest of a lazy kid who was "shunned by the boys of his own age?" What was the secret of his irresistible appeal?

E. D. Howe: It was money. He promised them wealth.

Chairman: And did he ever deliver?

Mrs. Cooley: I can answer that. "Jeremiah Lyke (the one who knew Smith so well)... never for a moment thought that they ever found any treasure." [26]

Gen. John Eaton: That is right. Joe "found people who could be fooled; considerable digging was done under his direction, but he never discovered any treasures." [27]

J. H. Hunt: "In the course of time numerous excavations were made, but, unfortunately, they never dug deep enough to find the object of their search." [28]

24. Oliver Cowdery, letter to W. W. Phelps, in Latter-Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 (October 1835): 200-201.

25. James H. Hunt, Mormonism (St. Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844), 5-6.

26. Young, Mormonism: Its Origin, Doctrines, and Dangers, 16.

27. John Eaton, The Mormons of Today (Washington, D.C.: Eaton, 1897), 5.

28. Hunt, Mormonism, 6.


98                                     THE  MYTH  MAKERS                                    

C. S. Jones: I must disagree with these witnesses. "The turning point in Smith's career" came when, "learning from a strolling Indian of a place where treasure was said to be buried, Smith had gone out to dig for it. On the way he met with another party of diggers, intent on the same object, and a dispute arose as to the locus of the treasure. Now Smith's father had claimed to be a "diviner,"... and young Joe claimed now -- perhaps not for the first time -- to have inherited the power. He boldly located the treasure, and challenged his rival to test his belief as to where it lay. By a coincidence, one of the most fruitful in his life, it turned out that he was right. The treasure, a few gold coins, was found at the spot he indicated, and Joe Smith became a force! [From that moment the] ragged, ill-clad young man was a person to be reckoned with, and everywhere his services were in request." [29]

Chairman: A very remarkable story, sir, not the least remarkable thing about it being that you are apparently the only person who has ever heard of it. How does it happen that none of the earlier "witnesses" knows anything about this sensational and vastly publicized discovery that made Smith a real figure in the world? And what is this "perhaps not for the first time"? Don't you know whether this was Smith's first treasure-locating exploit or not? Here Smith is supposed to have been digging for years, yet you describe this as his first find.

J. S. C. Abbott: It was certainly not his first find. Smith "had seer stones, in which the illiterate had faith. He had already exhumed from the Indian mounds many mysterious antiquities, not a few of which, it was conjectured, were of his own manufacture." [30]

Chairman: So lazy Joe not only dug everywhere, but toiled away at forging antiquities -- what a worker! And you say that this was before the great and sensational find which Mr. Jones reports?

Editor of the American Whig Review: Since "his childhood was spent following the occupation of a money-digger... we find Smith, in his early youth, following his father,

29. C. Sheridan Jones, The Truth about the Mormons: Secrets of Salt Lake City (London: Rider, 1920), 10-11.

30. J. S. C. Abbott, The History of the State of Ohio (Detroit: New World, 1875), 697-98.


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pickaxe on shoulder, digging eagerly into whatever might seem an Indian tomb... and subsisting by the plunder of henroosts, or upon whatever else fortune might throw in his way." [31]

E. C. Blackman: And it was "a straggling Indian" who told Joe of the buried treasure that Mr. Jones referred to. Only he didn't find anything. He "dug a great hole which can still be seen." [32]

Chairman: Another of his many swimming pools. Jones says the treasure was "found at the spot indicated," but if he had any divination at all, or if anyone believed he had, why would it be necessary to dig over the area of a swimming pool? Smith is supposed to have put his finger on the spot, isn't that so, Mr. Tucker? I believed you have described what you claim to be Smith's first digging.

Tucker: In a "dead hour of night... the work of digging began at his signal,... the magician meanwhile indicating, by some sort of wand in his hand, the exact spot where the spade was to be crowded into the earth." [33]

Chairman: Thank you. Here we have them digging over the area of a swimming pool after the exact spot has been indicated. Hunt says it was because they never went deep enough that the diggers never found anything -- why didn't they dig more deeply and less widely? It is all too absurd. Your youthful Joseph must have been a phenomenally industrious boy.

Chorus of Voices: Oh, he didn't do the digging!

Chairman: But Mr. Abbott said he had exhumed lots of stuff from Indian mounds, and the American Whig Review said he followed his father with his pickaxe and dug eagerly, and Mrs. Blackman said he dug a great hole that can still be seen. Let's get this straight: did Joe dig or didn't he?

J. H. Hunt: He did not. "We cannot learn that the Prophet ever entered those excavations, to perform any portion of the labor, his business being to point out the locations of the treasures, which he pretended to do by looking at a stone placed in his hat." [34]

31. "The Yankee Mahomet,"American Whig Review 7 (June 1851): 555-56.

32. Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 1873), 579-80.

33. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 21 (emphasis added).

34. Hunt, Mormonism, 6.


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E. D. Howe: Mr. Hunt's statement is correct because it is stolen from me. What I wrote was that Smith "soon collected about him a gang of idle, credulous young men to perform the labor of digging.... In the process of time many pits were dug in the neighborhood.... But we do not learn that the young impostor ever entered these excavations for the purpose of assisting his sturdy dupes in their labors." [35]

Chairman: In other words, there is actually no evidence that Smith ever dug for treasure at all! But if I find it hard to believe that the lazy and shiftless Joe should have excavated many acres in and around Palmyra and dug many excavations similar to the swimming pool on the McKune farm, I find it just as hard to believe that he could have induced a number of "idle, credulous young men" to do the same. How did it happen?

The mighty band

J. C. Bennett: The Smiths "kept around them, constantly, a gang of worthless fellows who dug for money at nights, and were idle in the daytime.... It was a mystery to their neighbors how they got their living." [36]

Chairman: So Joe inherited the gang from his family?

S. B. Emmons: Not at all! "He had the address to collect about him a gang of idle and credulous young men, whom he employed in digging for hidden treasures." [37]

Chairman: At least you agree on one thing: Joseph Smith "employed" these men to dig for him, and it was he who organized the gang, which he "collected about him." What did he pay them with?

Mrs. Eaton: He hired them "with cider and strong drink." [38]

E. Dickinson: No, it wasn't that; they were after treasure. Joe "became the head of a band that slept during the day and wandered in the night-time to such places as they were directed to by their leader to dig for hidden treasures. Joe laid down certain laws to his 'phalanx' in their operations." [39]

Chairman: When was this?

35. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 12.

36. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; Or, An Expos? of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842), 72.

37. S. B. Emmons, The Spirit Land (Philadelphia: Potter, 1857), 101.

38. Eaton, "Speech," in Handbook of Mormonism, 2.

39. Ibid., 3.


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E. Dickinson: It was well before 1819. There were fourteen in the band. [40]

Chairman: So Joe at the age of twelve rules his band with an iron hand and makes them work their heads off -- for cider?

Lu B. Cake: Mrs. Dickinson is mistaken. "He first organized a society at the house of Joe Knight, on the South side of the river, near the Lobdell House, in Broome County. Excavations were made in various places for treasures, and rocks containing iron pyrites were drilled for gold." That was "somewhere about 1828 or 1829." [41]

Chairman: That, you say, was his first society. What about the gang of fourteen?

R. C. Doud: In 1822 I was employed, with thirteen others, by Oliver Harper, to dig for gold under Joe's directions. [42]

Chairman: So it was not Joe at all, but Mr. Harper, who hired the fourteen, and there was no "phalanx" at all. Did any others hire Joe?

Isaac Hale: "I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jun., 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." [43]

Chairman: So it seems that the "money-diggers" employed Smith, and not the other way around. Now Mr. Doud says the others were digging "under Joe's directions." How did he direct them, Mr. Doud?

R. C. Doud: I don't know. Smith "was not present at the time." [44]

Chairman: So Joseph Smith, only it wasn't Joseph Smith, organized a gang, only it wasn't a gang, to dig for treasure, only it wasn't treasure, under his direction, only he didn't direct it. Perhaps Mr. Tucker, Smith's closest associate, can enlighten us.

Tucker: Smith claimed to spy out treasures in the ground. "Of course but few persons were sufficiently

40. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 30.

41. Lu B. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript (New York: Cake, 1899), 13-14.

42. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 580.

43. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 262-63.

44. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 580.


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stolid to listen to these silly pretentions.... Yet he may have had believers." [45]

Chairman: So Mr. Howe's band of idle and credulous young men now fades to a mere conjecture. When would Smith have got these helpers?

Tucker: It was not until 1820 that he finally got people to help him dig on "the then forest hill, a short distance from his father's house."

Chairman: Then 1820 was his first digging, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: Yes. "This was the inauguration of the impostor's money-digging performance,... [the] first trial," though as has been said, Joe didn't dig -- he merely located the treasure. [46]

J. E. Mahaffey: But he had already been doing that for years!

Chairman: How do you know that, Mr. Mahaffey?

J. E. Mahaffey: Because "his name appears in the criminal records of 1817. An old man testifies that Smith was about this time employed to locate wells and look for gold with his 'divining rods' of witch-hazel and his 'seerstone' in that community. He was put in the Onondago County jail for 'vagrancy and debt.'" [47]

Chairman: But people went right on hiring the eleven-year-old criminal. It occurs to me that "sturdy dupes" and "indolent young men" no matter how "credulous" do not let a fourteen-year-old or twelve-year-old kid make fools of them night after night while they go on with their back-breaking toil. They want results. What did they do when the treasure failed to materialize? Does anyone remember?

Isaac Hale: I do. "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." That was on November 17, 1825." [48]

45. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 21 (emphasis added).

46. Ibid., 21-22.

47. J. E. Mahaffey, Found at Last! 'Positive Proof' That Mormonism Is a Fraud and the Book of Mormon a Fable (Augusta, GA: Chronicle Job Office, 1902), 14.

48. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 262.
Chairman: That, at least, is a natural and understandable reaction -- nobody likes to go on digging for nothing:


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               103

"They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed." But how long did these pointless operations continue? What kept them going?

E. D. Howe: "Whenever the diggers became dissatisfied at not finding the object of their desires, his inventive and fertile genius would generally contrive a story to satisfy them. For instance, he would tell them that the treasure was removed by a spirit just before they came to it, or that it sunk down deeper into the earth." [49]

Chairman: And that satisfied them, after all their toil -- those lazy young men?

E. D. Howe: I said it generally satisfied them.

Chairman: But if Smith was to stay in business -- and keep his health! -- he would have to satisfy them every time. "Whenever" means always but "generally" means sometimes. Which was it?

Mrs. H. Eaton: Smith always gave them the same explanation: Someone "always broke the spell by speaking -- the riches were spirited away to another quarter, and the digging must be resumed another night. Thus matters went on for seven or eight years." [50]

Chairman: You mean the idle, credulous young men took this beating for seven or eight years?

Tucker: That is right: "The imposture was renewed and repeated at frequent intervals from 1820 to 1827." [51]

Chairman: And in all that time they went right on digging, though they never found a thing. And what kind of people were these?

E. Dickinson: "'The diggers,' as they were called, consisted of a band of genuine vagabonds, with Joe as their leader." [52]

Chairman: One does not give orders to "genuine vagabonds" or get them to do a lot of hard work by "satisfying" them over and over again with the same lame, repetitious explanation. You expect us to be as credulous as they.

Tucker: "It certainly evidences extraordinary talent or subtlety, that for so long a period he could maintain the

49. Ibid., 12.

50. Eaton, "Speech," in Handbook of Mormonism, 2.

51. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22.

52. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 247.


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potency of his art over numbers of beings in the form of manhood, acknowledging their faith in his supernatural powers." [53]

Chairman: Yet this is the identical Smith, Mr. Tucker, whom you "distinctly remembered" between the ages of twelve and twenty as being "noted only for his indolent and vagabondish character." And now you want to attribute "extraordinary talent or subtlety" to him! It is hardly extraordinary, sir, that of the "numbers of beings" who for seven or eight years dug vigorously all about the landscape, neither you nor anyone else has ever given a single name, though the rascals must all have been as well known to you as Smith himself; it is indeed extraordinary that in seven or eight years of digging up "acres of ground around Palmyra and elsewhere" Smith never got arrested for trespassing on anyone's property, though he made holes as big as swimming tanks, and was never sued for damages; it is most extraordinary that of the hundreds of people he bilked out of their money in his digging projects, not one ever came forward either to sue him or complain of his practices. What did Smith have to gain by all of this?

J. D. Kingsbury: "He could see where there was lost treasure and guide people to find chests of gold. In this way he picked up many a penny, and he learned the credulity of man." This was before his vision at fifteen. [54]

C. S. Jones: "Joe did well on his 'peek stone.'... He raised money to enable him to dig for larger treasure. And if his failures were many and his successes few, still his reputation grew and he prospered." [55]

Chairman: Then he did have some success in locating stuff?

Tucker: Of course not! "It is... needless to add that no genuine discoveries of stolen property were made in this manner, and that the entire proceeds derived from the speculation went into Joe's pocket." [56]

Chairman: Why is it "needless to add"?

Tucker: Naturally, he never found anything.

53. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22-23.

54. John D. Kingsbury, Mormonism: Whence It Came, What It Is, Whither It Tends (New York and Salt Lake City: Congregational Home Missionary Society, n.d.), 5.

55. Jones, Truth about the Mormons, 11.

56. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 20.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               105

Chairman: Then how did he stay in business through the years? How could his reputation grow if it was only a reputation for failure? What kind of customers did he have?

H. Beardsley: "Gullible customers, seeking to recover lost articles, locate stray calves, etc.... contributed appreciable to the family exchequer. True, these customers found no chests of gold.... But there was always some plausible reason why the magic failed. The moon was not in the right phase, Joe explained." [57]

Chairman: So through the years what people paid for in making their substantial contributions to the family exchequer was not the finding of objects by Smith but a routine explanation of why he never found anything. Even Mr. Tucker has testified that the only action ever taken against Smith was one suit to obtain payment of a small debt (though he gave no evidence); yet now we are asked to believe that he openly, systematically, notoriously took people's money in a confidence racket which over the years never returned a penny to the victims -- and got away with it! How did he do it?

Tucker: "Individuals were impelled, in their donations in this business, by the motive of ridding themselves of Smith's importunities." In this way he secured "a handsome surplus." [58]

Chairman: So they paid him to tell them where to dig for treasure, just to get rid of him and his "importunities" -- this unsocial boy whose one outstanding trait, according to you, was his "taciturnity," -- who hid out in the woods and only spoke to his closest associates? How did he "importune" people to distraction -- with sign-language? You say his power over his gang was extraordinary, but what was his secret with the general public, to compel them ("impelled" is a feeble attempt to dodge the issue) not only to tolerate a fraud, but actually to contribute their hard-earned money to support it? From all you have said, sir, you and your fellow citizens were either Smith's puppets or accessories to his crimes. Now if Smith pocketed all the proceeds

57. Harry M. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1831), 18.

58. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 23.


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from these operations, how did his gang stay alive -- and satisfied?

Mrs. Eaton: They got cider for their work! "All who could be hired with cider or strong drink were organized into a digging phalanx." [59]

Tucker: Yes, he paid them with money and whiskey. [60]

Chairman: Then they were simply hired workers. They were neither idle nor credulous, since they worked hard not for promises but for pay. I believe some solid citizens are supposed to have paid a good deal.

O. Belisle: That is right. Mr. Stowell "swallowed with avidity his [Smith's] monstrosities," and gave him "several large sums of money" to dig for treasure for him. [61]

H. Caswall: He told Stowell "that he had discovered a cave on the banks of Black River in New York in which he had found a bar of gold as thick as his leg, and about three or four feet long,... that if Stowell would convey him with his wife to Manchester, he would get a chisel and mallet and accompany him to the cave.... The old Dutchman gladly acceded to this arrangement." [62]

Mahaffey: You see how "he fooled the credulous and superstitious and eked out a precarious subsistence." [63]

Chairman: A "precarious subsistence" hardly sounds like Mr. Tucker's "handsome surplus." But since the credulous and superstitious were willing to pay, why were the operations conducted at night?

Digging techniques

J. Q. Adams:Because "midnight, with a full moon, was the most desirable time" to dig for treasure. [64]

C. S. Jones: "Certain weird ceremonies were invariably connected with the money-digging operations. Midnight and a full moon were held to be essential, and Good Friday was the best date. Joe Smith would direct operations with a wand, sternly enjoining silence, and the simple neighbors would stand around with chattering teeth, afraid to utter a word lest it should break the spell." [65]

59. Eaton, "Speech," in Handbook of Mormonism, 2.

60. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 23.

61. Orvilla S. Belisle, Mormonism Unveiled: A History of Mormonism from Its Rise to the Present Time (London: Clark, 1855), 20.

62. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 33.

63. Mahaffey, Found at Last!, 6.

64. Adams, Birth of Mormonism, 17.

65. Jones, Truth about the Mormons, 11.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               107

O. S. Belisle: "Many a night between the witching hours of twelve and one, when there was neither moon, nor stars to spy upon them, had they stolen out to unearth the hidden treasure; but as often they averred, the gnomes that guarded it thwarted them, and they were forced to do as they always had, resort to their wits." [66]

Chairman: Was that the gang, or the Smith family?

E. D. Howe: It began with the family: "One night, when darkness had closed over the earth, and ghosts and spirits are supposed to leave their nooks, the elder Smith, followed by Joseph and Hyrum, wended their way... to a spot [where]... tradition said that, during the Revolutionary war, the British paymaster, while at New York had been robbed of three kegs of gold.... All through that night, the next, and many other nights, incantations were made, spirits called, but they refused to give any sign of their presence or reveal the spot of the precious deposit. As months went on, and even years, Joseph Smith, Sr., relinquished the sceptre to the more hopeful hands of his son." [67]

Chairman: And how did you find out about these ultra secret operations? They were very secret, weren't they?

E. D. Howe: We have agreed on that -- "wrapped in secrecy."

Chairman: Yet according to Mr. Jones the operations were open to the public, with "the simple neighbors" standing around "with chattering teeth," in the light of the full moon, which we are also assured was "essential" to success, though Mrs. Belisle assures us that they dug "when there was neither moon, nor stars to spy upon them." Whom are we supposed to believe? We are told that certain weird ceremonies were "invariably connected with the money-digging operations," requiring among other things a full moon or, according to some, the dark of the moon. What were the ceremonies?

D. Stafford: "Joseph Sen. first made a circle.... He then stuck in the ground a row of witch-hazel sticks.... He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles....

66. Belisle, Mormonism Unveiled, 16.

67. Ibid., 17-18.


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After we had dug... [he] went to the house to inquire of young Joseph the cause of our disappointment." [68]

Chairman: Then Smith, Jr., was not on the scene?

Howe: As has been stated by me and others, there is no evidence that Smith, Jr., ever participated in the digging.

Chairman: Yet we have been told that he "would direct operations with a wand, sternly enjoining silence." Now it seems we can find not a single eyewitness who ever saw Joseph Smith at one of these diggings. These circles were essential?

American Whig Review: Yes. In their treasure digging they would form a circle of stones. The neighbor that described this "sagely concludes, 'that the business brought them more mutton than gold.'" [69]

The sheep story

Chairman: Why more mutton than gold?

G. Seibel: Because once "one easy-going and superstitious farmer furnished a sheep for a blood offering." [70]

American Whig Review: That's right. There is a report that "once a black sheep was sacrificed to the evil spirit guarding the treasure, and when this too failed, the Smiths went home and ate the sheep." [71]

W. Stafford: So "the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business" was when the Smiths ate the sheep. I furnished the sheep. [72]

Chairman: You, Sir?

W. Stafford: Yes. "To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep.... This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business." [73]

Chairman: If I remember correctly, Mr. Stafford, you accepted an invitation to join the "worthless gang," as you called them, in another of "their nocturnal excursions." Was this before or after you gave them the sheep?

W. Stafford: It was before.

Chairman: Was the first expedition successful?

68. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 238-39.

69. "Yankee Mahomet," 557.

70. George Seibel, The Mormon Saints (Pittsburgh: Lessing, 1919), 16-17.

71. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 239.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid.


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W. Stafford: It was a complete fiasco, with a mystic circle, witch-hazel wands and all the rest, but no treasure.

Chairman: Just what did Smith, Jr., do on that occasion?

W. Stafford: I didn't see him. He stayed in the house. [74]

Chairman: Dear me. And what did Smith do on the second excursion?

W. Stafford: I don't know. I wasn't there.

Chairman: Is it possible! Why did you go the first time?

W. Stafford: I was "prompted by curiosity."

Chairman: And why did you give the Smiths "a large, fat sheep"?

W. Stafford: "To gratify my curiosity," as I said.

Chairman: So having satisfied yourself the first time that the whole thing was a fraud, you were still dubious enough to pay a high price for more of the same? And having paid a fabulous fee for a ringside seat at the second performance (wouldn't a small, skinny sheep have done just as well?), you failed to attend, in spite of urging!

W. Stafford: Oh, I knew it was a fraud. I just wanted to see what would happen -- "to gratify my curiosity."

Chairman: And did they gratify your curiosity?

W. Stafford: "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."

Chairman: So they told you what happened after it was all over, and you were willing to pay a fat sheep for the routine explanation. Your story is fantastic, sir. It is a famous story for which you are the only witness, and it turns out that you are not a witness at all. You are a rustic yarn-spinner.

L. B. Cake: But there wasn't just one sheep. There were many. Before this, when Smith was drilling iron pyrites for gold, "previous to digging in any place a sheep

74. Ibid.


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was killed and the blood sprinkled upon the spot. Lot 62 was the seat of one of these mining operations." [75]

Chairman: So now it would seem that sheep were not killed just once but always, and that in the course, not of treasure hunting, but of perfectly legitimate mining operations.

E. Dickinson: "When Joe wanted fresh meat for his family he gave out that it would be necessary to insure the success of the 'diggers,' as these worthies were called, by having a black sheep killed, as a sacrificial offering before going to work." [76]

Chairman: Now our single sheep has grown into a regular meat supply.

J. H. Kennedy: No, that is wrong. Only one story of that character has been placed on record. [77]

D. Stafford: You are mistaken, sir. "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... and found Joseph Smith, Sen, in company with two other men, with... meat that looked like mutton. On seeing me they ran like wild men to get out of sight." [78]

Chairman: You are not consistent, sir. You say you saw this "at different times," and then clearly imply that you saw it just once, and by accident.

E. C. Blackman: It wasn't always mutton. When he was digging for Mr. Harper, Smith said he would have to have a perfectly white dog, though some say it was a black dog, since it was substituted for a black ram. But then he said a white sheep would do as well, and when the treasure failed to turn up, he said it was because a white sheep had been offered instead of a white dog. [79]

Chairman: So, being in the mutton business, Smith would not accept a white sheep for a black sheep, but insisted on a white dog -- or a black dog, Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: There was only one sheep, and its flesh was eaten by the starving Smiths, for "meat was a rarity at his father's home." [80]

75. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 14 (emphasis added).

76. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 31.

77. J. H. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo (New York: Scribner, 1888), 31.

78. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 31; Bennett, History of the Saints, 72.

79. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 580.

80. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 24-25.


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E. M. Austin: When Smith was digging on Old Uncle Joe Knight's farm, "he told them there was a charm on some of the pots of money, and if some animal was killed and the blood sprinkled around the place, then they could get it. So they killed a dog... but again money was scarce in those diggings. Still, they dug and dug, but never came to the precious treasure.... And now they were obliged to give up in despair, and Joseph went back again to his father's, in Palmyra." [81]

Chairman: And this is the sort of thing that put his talents in such demand?

E. Dickinson: Yes. He would have the black sheep killed when his family wanted meat, "as a sacrificial offering before going to work. This state of affairs continued for some time, and his reputation extended to the adjacent counties, which he often visited." [82]

Chairman: And the Knight exploit was typical?

E. M. Austin: "While I was visiting my sister, we... walked out to see the places where they had dug for money, and laughed to think of the absurdity... in such a thought or action." [83]

Chairman: I am laughing too, but not at Smith.

S. Bell: (indignantly, tears streaming down his face) It is no laughing matter, sir! You may find these stories very contradictory, and say there is not a scrap of evidence to prove them, but there was one piece of evidence which was grim enough, even if "but one evidence of the dark deeds of the night remained -- the lifeless body of a little black dog." [84]

Chairman: How do you know it was little?

S. Bell: Haven't you any feelings at all, man? Haven't you any imagination?

Chairman: I have enough to see how you people have been playing with this legend as you pass it around. Now, is there any agreement among you tale-tellers as to how Smith got started in the peeping and digging business?

81. Emily M. Austin, Mormonism; Or, Life among the Mormons, Being an Autobiographical Sketch (Madison, WI: Cantwell, 1882), 32-33.

82. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 31.

83. Austin, Mormonism; Or, Life among the Mormons, 32.

84. Sidney Bell, Wives of the Prophet (London: Rich and Cowen, 1936), 6.


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How it all began, or something

J. H. Kennedy: "The first venture made by young Smith in the line of mystification was as a 'Water Witch,'... gaining reputation thereby: and meeting with many failures, of which all mention was discreetly omitted by himself and [his] followers.... From locating subterranean veins of water he advanced to the discovery of hidden riches." In September 1819 he started looking for treasures with a peepstone. [85]

J. E. Mahaffey: No, it couldn't have been 1819, "as his name appears in the criminal records of 1817. An old man testifies that Smith was about this time employed to locate wells and look for gold with his 'divining rods' of witch hazel and his 'seer-stone.'" [86]

Tucker: You are both wrong! I have given a full account of his very first digging, which I had from Smith himself, and which took place in 1820. [87]

W. Chase: Wrong! It was not until 1822 or after that "Joe began to aver that with his stone he could discover treasure, and see all things both above and beneath the earth."

Chairman: So now it is not only water and treasure beneath the earth but "all things both above and beneath the earth." Just how far did his claims go?

G. Seibel: "Many people paid [Smith] money for the exercise of his clairvoyant gifts," and when they failed, as they always did, "Joe had ever an ingenious explanation for the failure, and nearly always managed to placate the wrath of his disappointed dupes." [88]

Blackman: He "was in the habit of 'blessing' his neighbors' crops for a small consideration" -- with disastrous results to the crops. [89]

Chairman: So his hard-headed Yankee neighbors went right on paying him good money to ruin their crops, just as they paid him to find all those treasures which he never found? I find all this a bit far-fetched. What of those whom he did not placate? I must remind you again that

85. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 19.

86. Mahaffey, Found at Last!, 14.

87. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22.

88. Seibel, Mormon Saints, 16-17.

89. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 580.


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people do not like being made dupes of, yet the neighbors testify that no action of any kind was ever taken against this much-publicized menace, operating with impunity in many counties. It has been said that Smith began as a "water witch" with a witch-hazel rod; is that so?

W. Chase [sic - Stafford?]: There is a misunderstanding here. The family used witch-hazel sticks, to detect and drive away evil spirits, when digging for money. [90]

Chairman: So it was not water but money after all, and it was a family affair?

Caswall: Yes. "When the worthless family engaged in their nocturnal excursions for money-digging," Joseph was always their conductor. [91]

Chairman: If Joseph was always in charge, what of all the tales about Smith, Sr., running the show?

American Whig Review: The father trained the son, who was "constantly revelling amid the wildest fictions which the avarice-stimulated imagination of his parents could fabricate." [92]

Caswall: It was his father who trained him, as Mr. Linn will confirm. [93]

E. Dickinson: No, it was his mother; "very early Mrs. Smith instructed her son Joseph to set up a claim for miraculous powers, which he willingly adopted." [94]

M. W. Montgomery: You are both wrong! "Even this 'peep-stone' humbug was an idea borrowed from a fortune-telling old woman who lived not many miles distant." [95]

A. Linn: Wrong again! Joe picked up "crystal-gazing" in Pennsylvania. [96]

Chairman: Mr. Tucker does not think so.

A. Linn: "Tucker was evidently ignorant both of Joe's previous experience with 'crystal-gazing' in Pennsylvania and of crystal-gazing itself." [97]

Chairman: Who told you about this previous experience in Pennsylvania? After all, since Mr. Tucker is intimately acquainted with all of Smith's activities from the

90. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 238.

91. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 29.

92. "Yankee Mahomet," 556.

93. William A. Linn, The Story of the Mormons, from the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901 (New York: Macmillan, 1902), 15.

94. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 30.

95. M. W. Montgomery, The Mormon Delusion (Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, 1890), 16.

96. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 21.

97. Ibid.


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time he was twelve years old, there could hardly have been much "previous experience!"

A. Linn: The key to the digging is Mr. Blackman.

E. C. Blackman: I was merely quoting Mr. J. B. Buck.

J. B. Buck: I never said I saw Joe dig. I only said he was in Pennsylvania "soon after my marriage, which was in 1818, some years before he took to 'peeping' and before diggings were commenced under his direction. These were ideas he gained later." [98]

Chairman: So all Mr. Linn's prize witness can say is that Joe did not peep or dig when he knew him. It was only "some years" after 1818 that he gained those ideas, that is, not before 1821 at the earliest. When did Smith, Jr., learn about money-digging, Mr. Linn?

A. Linn: "The Elder Smith... was known as a money-digger while a resident of Vermont." [99]

Chairman: Then how can you insist that "these ideas were gained later" if Smith was exposed to them from childhood?

A. Linn: Sir, may I remind you that to this day my book is hailed as the most "scientific" work in existence on the life of Joseph Smith. It explains everything. Please pay attention:

(1) The Elder Smith was known as a money-digger while a resident of Vermont.

(2) Of course that subject was a matter of conversation in his family, and

(3) his sons were of a character to share in his belief....

(4) The son Joseph... professed to have his father's gifts, and

(5)... soon added to his accomplishments the power to locate hidden riches.

(6) It can easily be imagined how interested any member of the Smith family would have been in an exhibition like that of a 'crystal-gazer,' and we are able to trace very consecutively Joe's first

98. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 577.

99. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 15.


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introduction to the practice, and the use he made of the hint thus given. [100]

Chairman: To what hint do you refer?

A. Linn: To the hint picked up in Pennsylvania.

Chairman: Yet according to your only witness it took him several years to react to the hint -- though the so-called witness was nowhere around when he did. Allow me a brief commentary on the scientific objectivity of your report, point by point:

(1) First you merely state that Smith, Sr., "was known as a money-digger" in Vermont, though you do not say by whom, when, and how that was known and reported; (2) then you say the family discussed the business -- and your evidence for that is simply a casual "of course"; (3) next you say the Smith boys went along, not because there is any evidence that they did, but because in your estimation they "were of a character" to do it; (4) then you say that Joseph Smith, Jr., "professed to have his father's gifts" -- when and where did he ever make such a profession? and (5) that he "soon added" to it "the power to locate hidden riches." But what gift did he profess, if the treasure-finding was an added gift? (6) Further, there is no evidence that the Smiths ever took to crystal-gazing, and your only proof for it is that "it can easily be imagined"; (7) finally, you claim "to trace very consecutively Joe's first introduction to the practice" to a "hint" he received when he was eleven years old in Pennsylvania. But a hint is only a possible source, never a proven one.

A. Linn: He reacted to the hint, didn't he?

Chairman: But not until "some years" later, according to your informant. And how was he to know what particular hint Smith was reacting to far away and years later? But do you actually think this is a "scientific" presentation of evidence?

Dr. Beardsley: I consider myself quite as scholarly as Mr. Linn. Let me tell you what happened. "On the outskirts of a little village in New York State in

100. Ibid., 18.


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the year James Monroe became President of the United States for the second time, a barefoot boy waded along a gravelly creek, looking for "lucky stones" when he should have been hoeing corn. Wearying of the search, he threw himself face downwards in the grass in the shade of a maple tree, pulled a precious 'lucky stone' from his pocket, and placed it in the crown of his battered old felt hat. That's how it all began. [101]

Chairman: Dr. Beardsley, did you ever read the story of Susannah and the elders? If you will recall, two vile old men accused the chaste Susannah of immoral practices which they claimed to have witnessed together in a garden. The youthful Daniel proved them both liars by asking each separately, "Under what kind of a tree and where in the garden did you behold her?" The one promptly answered, "It was under a schinon [a mastich tree]," and the other just as emphatically declared, "It was under a prinon [an evergreen-oak tree]." Now tell me, doctor, how do you know it was a maple tree under which the boy reclined, and who was there to report it?

Dr. Beardsley: That is, after all, a very trivial point.

Chairman: Not when your authority and Smith's reputation depend on it. Is there anything at all in your little story that is not fanciful?

Dr. Beardsley: Certainly there is. The peepstone and the hat. Those are realities. All the books tell about them.

Chairman: Then let us hear about the peepstone. How did Smith get it?

J. Smith, peepstones for all occasions

F. Lapham: According to Joseph Smith, Sr., "his son Joseph,... when he was 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

101. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire, 3.


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stone, and where it was, in which he could see whatever 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 treasures." [102]

Chairman: But a number of other witnesses have already told us that Smith was in the peeping business years before that. Aren't you a bit late?

W. Chase: Lapham doesn't put the date too late, he puts it much too early! It wasn't until 1822 that they dug the well, and there was no "pretense" about it! I was digging it myself -- in fact there was no one in the well but myself when the stone was found. "After digging about 20 feet below the surface... we discovered a singularly appearing stone which excited my curiosity." [103]

Chairman: There is no doubt but that this is the same well -- the "20 feet" line proves that -- but you say it was you who dug the well, not the Smiths, that you discovered the stone, and that yours was the first curiosity attracted by it. What did you do with it?

W. Chase: Smith asked to see it, "put it into his hat and then his face into the top of the hat." He borrowed it from me and "began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it.... He had it in his possession about two years." [104]

Chairman: That disposes of Mr. Lapham's story. But there seem to be some objections. Mr. Tucker?

Tucker: "Joseph Jr." was at the well-digging "as an idle looker-on"; it was Joseph Sr., Alvin, and Hyrum Smith who were doing the digging; when they dug up the stone the "lounger manifested a special fancy for this geological curiosity; and he carried it home with him, though this act of plunder was against the strenuous protestations of Mr. Chase's children, who claimed to be its rightful owners." [105]

Mrs. Eaton: That's almost right. "At the age of 15 while watching his father digging a well, Joe espied a stone

102. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 19-20.

103. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 240-41.

104. Ibid.

105. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 19.


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of curious shape.... 'This little stone was the acorn of the Mormon oak."'

Chairman: Is that the way it happened, Mr. Chase?

W. Chase: No! What happened was that "the next morning he came to see me, and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; I told him I did not wish to part with it, on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it." After that "he made so much disturbance, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years." [106]

Chairman: Did you get it back at the end of that time?

American Whig Review: Certainly not! "Smith could never be prevailed upon to give it up." This very stone was "used in the translation of the Book of Mormon." [107]

Tucker: That's right. After he took it from the children, "Joseph kept this stone, and ever afterward refused its restoration to the claimants." [108]

Chairman: What kind of a stone was it?

G. W. Cowles: I can answer that. It was "such a pebble as might any day be picked up on the shore of Lake Ontario -- the common hornblende." [109]

Chairman: So any kind of stone would do for this peeping business?

P. Ingersoll: Just about. Once after a conversation with Joseph Smith, Sr., in the fields, in which he urged me to become a money-digger, "on my return I picked up a small stone and was carelessly tossing it from one hand to the other. Said he (looking very earnestly), what are you going to do with that stone? Throw it at the birds, I replied. No, said the old man, it is of great worth; and upon this I gave it to him." [110]

Chairman: What did he do with it?

P. Ingersoll: He put it into his hat, and after "sundry manoeuvres... took down his hat, and being very much exhausted, said in a faint voice, 'If you knew what I had

106. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 241.

107. "Yankee Mahomet," 557.

108. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 19 (emphasis added).

109. George W. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County New York (Syracuse, NY: Mason, 1895), 80.

110. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 232-33.


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seen, you would believe.' His son Alvin then went through the same performance, which was equally disgusting."

Chairman: Did you ever try to get the stone back?

P. Ingersoll: Of course not. It was just an ordinary stone.

Chairman: And we have heard that Mr. Chase's stone was also just an ordinary stone. Why was he so eager to get his stone back? Could Smith really see things in the stone, Mr. Chase?

W. Chase: Don't be absurd. It was all a hoax.

Chairman: Then why were you so extremely eager to get possession of this perfectly ordinary stone, which you or Smith could have duplicated with ease any day? Why did Hyrum and Joseph have fits when you asked them for it? If we are to believe our witnesses, they have drawers full of stones -- and every one phony. Why all the excitement about one stone?

W. Chase: "It excited my curiosity." I asked for it back the first time because "he made so much disturbance, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years."

Chairman: Couldn't he have caused just as much disturbance with any other stone, since he was only faking? If it was such a menace, why did you lend it to him again and again? If not, why was he so anxious to have it?

Tucker: Can't you see? It was Mr. Chase's children who clamored for the stone. Joe Smith, "an idle looker-on and lounger" at the well-digging, "manifested a special fancy for this geological curiosity; and he carried it home with him, though the act of plunder was against the strenuous protestations of Mr. Chase's children, who claimed to be its rightful owners." [111]

Chairman: And where was Mr. Chase? Was he going to let a fifteen-year-old kid walk off with his property while his children howled in protest? Mr. Chase tells us that he found the stone while digging his well on his property, and that it excited his curiosity, and two years later, when he

111. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 19.


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"ordered the stone to be returned," Smith gave it back to him. I think it rather obvious why Mr. Tucker told a totally different story fifty years after the event: it had to be the Chase children who got excited about the stone, because of the patent absurdity of having Chase, a grown man, get all worked up about a thing which he declared worthless, and which could be duplicated without any trouble.

E. Dickinson: I think if we study the matter we can give a more cautious and rational explanation of the whole thing. Let us put it this way: "While he [Smith] was watching the digging of a well, or himself digging it, he found, or pretended to find, a... stone." [112]

Chairman: That is the safe, conservative school, followed by some of Smith's latest biographers. Let me tell you a story: "While I was walking to work last week or today, or lying in my bed, I saw or heard, or my friend saw, a horse or a dog running or lying down in the street, or in a field." Notice with what exemplary caution I avoid the pitfalls of positive statement. Doesn't it give my story an air of modest objectivity? But can you tell me what happened? Did Smith find the stone or didn't he?

E. Dickinson: I don't think he did. "It has been said that this little stone... had been in the possession of Mrs. Smith's family for generations, and that she merely presented it to Joseph when he was old enough to work miracles with it: and that he hid it in the earth to find again when it was convenient." [113]

Chairman: You realize, of course, that what you say makes a hash of Mr. Chase's Revised Standard Version? Mr. Linn says that Smith first looked into a second-class peepstone in which he saw not any treasures, but another peepstone, which was the one he finally used. Did he use more than one stone?

J. Stowell: He must have, for when he was tried for fraud, he displayed in court a stone "about the size of a small hen's egg, in the shape of a high instepped shoe. It

112. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 30.

113. Ibid., 30.


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was composed of layers of different colors passing diagonally through it." [114]

Dr. Arbaugh: That "must have been the Chase stone, since it resembled 'a child's foot in shape' and was opaque"; it "was clearly not the Belcher stone." [115]

Chairman: What is this Belcher stone?

E. C. Blackman: Oh, don't you know? That was "the stone he afterwards used."

Chairman: After what?

J. B. Buck: After he took to peeping; that is, after I knew him in 1818. "The stone which he afterwards used was then in the possession of Jack Belcher, of Gibson, who obtained it while at Salina, New York, engaged in drawing salt. Belcher bought it because it was said to be 'a seeing stone.' I have often seen it." [116]

Chairman: In Smith's possession?

J. B. Buck: No. I told you I only knew Smith "some years before he took to 'peeping,' and before the diggings were commenced under his direction.... These were ideas he gained later."

Chairman: How do you know that Smith ever used that particular stone?

J. B. Buck: As I said, "I have often seen it. It was a green stone, with brown, irregular spots on it. It was a little larger than a goose's egg, and about the same thickness."

Chairman: Your description shows that Mr. Arbaugh is right. That cannot possibly be the stone that the other witnesses described. Also, there is no doubt that you saw the stone. But since that was years before Smith got interested in stones, I don't see how you connect it up with him since you last saw him use it.

G. W. Cowles: What do you mean, years before? Haven't we been told that his father practiced peeping already in Vermont, and that the Chase stone had been in the family for a long time?

114. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism, 28.

115. Ibid.

116. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 577.


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J. E. Mahaffey: That is right: "It had been in the family for generations."

Chairman: Then how could Mr. Chase claim that he personally dug it up in 1822?

E. Dickinson: The contradiction vanishes if we realize that Smith planted the stone there. [117]

Chairman: Why? Is a stone any more wonderful that is found by digging a well than if it has been in the family for years? Smith, we are told, was much too lazy to do any digging himself -- he was only a lounging onlooker -- yet the men had to dig down twenty feet before they came to it. A nice bit of stone-planting by Smith, so that Chase could lay legal claim to his precious stone! All this rationalizing and explaining is obviously meant to reconcile conflicting reports that discredit each other at every step.

G. W. Cowles: Oh, there were earlier stones, all right. "Long before the Gold Bible demonstration, the Smith family had with some sinister object in view, whispered another fraud in the ears of the credulous. They pretended that in digging for money, at Mormon Hill, they came across 'a chest, three feet by two in size, covered with a dark-colored stone.' In the center of the stone was a white spot about the size of a sixpence. Enlarging, the spot increased to the size of a 24-pound shot, and then exploded with a terrible noise. The chest vanished and all was utter darkness." [118]

Chairman: If I were giving prizes, Mr. Cowles, you should certainly get something for that one. There were no witnesses to the phenomenon?

G. W. Cowles: Of course not; the Smiths only "pretended" that it happened.

Chairman: And why would they pretend such a thing?

G. W. Cowles: "With some sinister object in view."

Chairman: You can't even guess what the object might have been yet you know it was "sinister." And to achieve it, they claimed there was something there which really wasn't there, and then, boom! It really wasn't there -- and

117. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 30.

118. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 81.


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so they tell their story and prove their case. Are you sure there were any stones at all?

O. Turner: Yes, there were the stone spectacles. Actually they were the only stones Smith ever used. [119]

Chairman: How do you know that, sir?

O. Turner: I was very intimately acquainted with the Smith family at Palmyra, where I grew up with Joseph Smith, Jr. I know all about his money digging and treasure hunting, and have given a lengthy deposition on the subject, but I know nothing of any stone except "a pair of large spectacles" found with the gold plates. "The stones or glass set in frames were opaque to all but the prophet." These were the only peepstones he ever used. [120]

Chairman: More contradictions. Some important witnesses have stated that the Chase stone was actually identical with what Smith called the Urim and Thummim, is that not correct?

American Whig Review: That is correct. Chase tried to get the stone back, "but Smith could never be prevailed upon to give it up. It was afterwards used in the translation of the Book of Mormon and styled the mysterious Urim and Thummim." [121]

E. D. Howe: Imagine it! Two of the sixteen stones that belonged to the brother of Jared! We are asked to believe that "two of these stones were sealed up with the plates, according to a prediction before Abraham was born. How, and in what manner they became set in the 'two rims of a bow,' and fell into the hands of the Nephites, has not been explained, nor what has become of the remaining 14 molten stones, is likewise hidden in mystery." [122]

T. Gregg: One impeccable witness says they were "two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg-shaped and perfectly smooth, but not transparent... which were given him with the plates." [123]

Chairman: Then they cannot have been the stones mentioned by Mr. Howe, which were perfectly transparent. It is marvelous, sir, how you, the most-quoted authority on

119. Ibid., 77-80.

120. Ibid., 80.

121. "Yankee Mahomet," 557.

122. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 90.

123. Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra (New York: Alden, 1890), 26.


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these matters should blithely identify any stone that comes along with Smith's peepstone.

E. D. Howe: Does it make so much difference? The main idea is that Smith had an obsession for magic stones. Any stone would do, as Mr. Ingersoll's testimony shows. Mrs. Brodie has discovered clear evidence of Smith's stone mania in the Book of Mormon itself.

Chairman: Indeed, and what is the evidence?

E. D. Howe: Here it is (reads): "Joseph's preoccupation with magic stones crept into the narrative..." and here is the proof: God "had given the Nephites... two crystals with spindles inside which directed the sailing of their ships." [124] There you have it -- two crystals, Urim and Thummim!

Chairman: But what the Book of Mormon says is that the compass was given to Lehi, not Nephi, and that it consisted of a "round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles" (1 Nephi 16:10). For Mrs. Brodie a bronze sphere becomes without the slightest effort "two crystals with spindles inside." Now this is most instructive: in the middle of the twentieth century an expert pretending to high scholarly objectivity sits at her desk and unwittingly turns out a brand-new original peepstone story, as if there were not enough already. Having glanced at the text only long enough to sustain the trend of her own wishful thinking, she gives us two new crystals, bred of an airy word. After that performance, can anyone maintain that any of the peepstone stories are not or cannot be pure fabrication? Another point: Didn't you say, Mr. Howe, that the Book of Mormon was discovered by peeping in the first place?

E. D. Howe: I said that "the mineral-rod necromancy of Joseph Smith, Jun., searching after Robert Kidd's money... found the plates of Nephi." [125]

Chairman: Then by peeping and dowsing the plates were discovered?

Arbaugh: It was search for buried treasure that gave Joseph Smith the idea of the "Golden Bible." [126]

124. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Knopf, 1947), 71 (emphasis added).

125. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 31-32.

126. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism, 26.


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S. B. Emmons: You will recall, sir, that Smith led "a gang of idle and credulous young men, whom he employed in digging for hidden treasures. It is pretended that, in one of the excavations they made, the mysterious plates from which the Golden Bible was copied were found. Such briefly is the origin of the Mormon faith." [127]

E. D. Howe: By this gang "many pits were dug in the neighborhood, which were afterwards pointed out as the place from whence the plates were excavated." [128]

W. R. Martin: Smith "was engaged for the most part of his youth in seeking Captain Kidd's treasure and in gazing through 'peep stones.'" [129]

J. Hunt: Let a real old-timer get in a word, here! "In the course of time numerous excavations were made, but unfortunately, they never dug deep enough to find the object of their search. However, the good resulting from their labors overbalances their misfortunes, as Joe has since informed us that here the golden plates were found, containing the important facts upon which the salvation of the world depends." [130]

Chairman: So it is very clear that Smith found the gold plates while he was digging for treasure. It is equally clear that he never dug without first using his peepstone.

J. Clark: That is correct! "Long before the idea of a Golden Bible entered into their minds, in their excursions for money-digging... Jo used to be usually their guide, putting into his hat a peculiar stone he had through which he looked to decide where they should begin to dig." [131]

Chairman: So we know that Smith always used a stone when digging. Some of the best and oldest witnesses insist that he only had one peepstone, and with that stone he discovered the buried plates, and with the plates were found buried -- guess what? The wonderful stone! Where did he get the stone? He found it with the plates. How did he find the plates? By looking in the stone! You see, gentlemen, how silly this all is. Now let's talk a little about that hat. Did Smith always use a hat in peeping?

127. Emmons, Spirit Land, 101.

128. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 12.

129. Walter R. Martin, The Rise of the Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), 47.

130. Hunt, Mormonism, 6.

131. John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia: Simons, 1842), 225.


[ 126 ]

... and that hat!

Isaac Hale: "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!" [132]

Chairman: Why hid in the woods?

I. Hale: Because, as I explained yesterday, I would not allow the plates in my house. So they took them and hid them in the woods.

Chairman: But you were describing the translation as it took place at Smith's house, not at your house. Did they still have to keep the plates in the woods? This I am afraid is another example of the vagueness of your testimony and the eagerness with which you seize upon every opportunity to make Smith look ridiculous. Such things can backfire. But let's get back to the beginning. Smith always used a hat?

Dr. Beardsley: He did. When our history opens we see Joe, the "barefoot boy" looking at "a precious 'lucky stone'... placed... in the crown of his battered old felt hat." [133]

D. Hendrix: That hat! "I can see him now... with his uncombed hair sticking through the holes in his old battered hat." [134]

Chairman: Why did he put the stone in his hat?

Tucker: Because in his peeping for treasures his "discoveries finally became too dazzling for his eyes in daylight, and he had to shade his vision by looking at the stone in his hat." [135]

Chairman: Indeed. I thought everybody knew that eyes are better accustomed to strong light in the daylight than at any other time, and that the one way to make an object brighter is to look at it in the dark. If you have ever driven a car, Mr. Tucker, you would know that oncoming headlights that are painfully bright at night are hardly noticed in the daytime. You have got it just backwards. How did the stone and hat operate?

132. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 265.

133. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire, 3.

134. From an interview with Daniel Hendrix in the New York Times, 15 July 1898.

135. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 20-21.


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J. H. Kennedy: "With a bandage over his eyes he would fall upon his knees and bury his face in the depths of an old white hat, where the stone was... hidden." [136]

Chairman: How could he hope to see anything with a bandage over his eyes?

J. H. Kennedy: Don't you see? It was necessary to shut out every bit of light.

Chairman: But Mr. Hendrix, an eyewitness, tells us Joe's hat was full of holes.

E. D. Howe: It may have been another hat.

Chairman: No. Joe, it seems, was famous for a particular hat. An old hat.

J. C. Bennett: That's right. He was called the "Holy Old White Hat Prophet." [137]

Chairman: And when did Smith start using the white hat?

E. Dickinson: From the very beginning. From the time when Mrs. Smith presented her son with the family peepstone -- "from that time on Joseph Smith fooled the credulous residents of the sparsely settled vicinity with the 'peeker' in his white stove-pipe hat." [138]

E. C. Blackman: That is right. "He would sit for hours looking into his hat at the round colored stone." [139]

Chairman: Do I understand that it was a stovepipe hat?

J. E. Mahaffey: That is correct. "In these ways, decked in his white stove-pipe hat, he fooled the credulous and superstitious and eked out a precarious subsistence." [140]

Chairman: But we have been told most emphatically that it was a "battered old felt hat." Stove-pipe hats are not made of felt. The picture of a notoriously ragged and dirty teenager going about the country "decked out" in a white stove-pipe hat is a comical one, I will admit, but how could he keep it white all those years?

E. D. Howe: All those years?

136. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 20.

137. Bennett, History of the Saints, 220-21.

138. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 30.

139. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, 580.

140. Mahaffey, Found at Last! 6.


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Chairman: Yes, the old stove-pipe hat that Smith wore and used at the beginning of his peeping career was still in use at the time of translating the Book of Mormon, I believe.

M. W. Montgomery: True enough. While translating "Joseph kept his face in 'the old white hat.'" [141]

Chairman: You see, it was old at that time -- he had not got him a new white hat. And later in Nauvoo, as General Bennett has told us, Smith was the "Old White Hat" Prophet. [142] Now, Smith began treasure-peeping, some have told us, as early as when he was eleven or twelve years old, an amusing figure in the old white stove-pipe hat. In the year before his death we find him going about in the same old "white stove-pipe hat." [143] Apparently his head never grew and the hat never lost its whiteness -- which always caused comment -- and being already ancient when he got it, never went out of style: it is invariably described as "old." The white hat is an interesting "control" for the reliability of a lot of stories about Joseph Smith. There is another such key, I believe, in the frequent and significant references to boxes in the stories of the Book of Mormon. To expedite matters let us hear from our witnesses in chronological order. Mr. Ingersoll, most writers give you priority in this matter. What is your story?

The sand-box epic

P. Ingersoll: Joseph Smith said to me: "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 by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the 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

141. Montgomery, Mormon Delusion, 23.

142. W. Wyl, Mormon Portraits; Or, the Truth about the Mormon Leaders (Salt Lake City: Tribune, 1886), 79.

143. R. W. Beers, The Mormon Puzzle; and How to Solve It (Chicago: Funk and Wagnalls, 1887), 28.


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to let no one see it; for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live.... 'Now,' said Joe, 'I have got the d--d fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.'" [144]

Chairman: When was this?

P. Ingersoll: In 1825, Joe at the time was being urged "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 confidant, and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths." [145]

Chairman: But at that time, Joe had barely begun his peeping. It was convenient that he made you his confidant instead of his family, with whom, until now, we have been told he worked most closely. Why did he turn to you for comfort and guidance in his perplexity?

Dr. Fairfield: He had other confidants.

Chairman: The dictionary says a confidant is "a confidential or bosom friend," -- one who is by nature a unique friend, and certainly from his words Mr. Ingersoll claims to have been such a friend: "in his dilemma, he made me his confidant." There could be no others.

Dr. Fairfield: But there were! I talked to two of them. Here they are.

Nos. 1 and 2 (together): "One day he told us that his 'Daddy' and 'Mammy' were very ignorant and superstitious and that he was going to play a trick on them. He said he would fill a little box with sand and set it on the hearth in the spare room.... He said that no one but himself could see one of the plates and live.... This trick was played several years before the finding of the Book of Mormon." [146]

Chairman: But this trick is quite different from that reported by Mr. Ingersoll; yet I need only point out the element of premeditation in the two stories, and such details as the sand and the box to show that they are meant to be the same tale.

E. Dickinson: What really happened was that "in 1826 Joe Smith returned to Palmyra, and began to act his role

144. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 235-36.

145. Ibid., 235.

146. Samuel Fellows and Helen M. Fellows, The Mormon Menace (Chicago: Women's Temperance, 1903), 14-16.


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(he had been spending his time until then with Pratt and Rigdon).... At dinner-time, one day, he told his family that in crossing through a grove he found a book in some white sand." [147]

Chairman: So it was his family he told about the white sand. From then on, he pretended to have the plates?

P. Ingersoll: Yes. He immediately got to work on Martin Harris. "I there met that damn fool Martin Harris," he said to me, "and told him that I had a command to ask the first honest man I met for fifty dollars in money, and he would let me have it." [148]

Chairman: Apparently Smith called everyone who supported him a damn fool, and made "confidential or bosom friends" of those who loathed him.

Jonathan Lapham: He and "Martin Harris, and others, used to meet together in private, awhile before the gold plates were found, and were familiarly known by the name of 'The Gold-Bible Company.'" [149]

Chairman: So here we have a Gold-Bible Company going full-blast before Smith ever claimed to have found any plates, though the Gold-Bible idea did not pop into his head until the day he pretended to have found them: and here we have Smith "several years before finding the Book of Mormon" claiming to possess the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; and here we have Smith using a peepstone for years before that identical stone was discovered buried with the plates. But how about the box? Witness Number One said it all began when Smith found some beautiful white sand, quite unexpectedly, and hid it in his coat. Witnesses Two and Three said he planned ahead of time to fill a little box with sand and then tell his family about the book. Number Four said he told them right off that he had discovered a book in some white sand.

P. Ingersoll: He put the sand in a box later. "He told me that he actually went to Willard Chase to get him to make a chest." [150]

147. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 34.

148. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 236; John Bowes, Mormonism Exposed (London: Edinburgh, 1849), in Tracts, 8-9.

149. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 251.

150. Ibid., 236.


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H. Caswall: Smith made the box himself after Chase refused to make it. Then "he put the sand in a pillow-case and then into the box." [151]

Chairman: Why did Chase refuse to make the box?

H. Caswall: He did not want to be party to a fraud. [152]

Chairman: So he knew it was a fraud. Joe was telling everybody in town about the trick -- except his family.

J. H. Montgomery: But not for long! "The Smith family joined in the hoax and declared their firm belief in the story. They seemed to expect that their love for notoriety and for unearned money was about to be gratified from this stupid fraud. And they were not mistaken." [153]

Chairman: "Stupid fraud" is putting it mildly, since insiders and outsiders alike were all in on the secret. So the "little box" was the one with the plates in it?

J. C. Bennett: It had a predecessor. Abigail Harris told Mr. Howe who told me that Mrs. Smith had told her that Joseph Smith had told her that "Joseph had also discovered by looking through his stone, the vessel in which the gold was melted... and also the machine in which they [the plates] were rolled." [154]

Chairman: Thank you for your valuable firsthand testimony. Mr. Chase, what about that box?

W. Chase: Smith told me "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 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,... he... went home... found it safe, took off his frock, wrapt it round it, put it under his arm and ran all the way home, a distance of about two miles.... 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." [155]

151. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 36.

152. Ibid.

153. Montgomery, Mormon Delusion, 18-19.

154. Bennett, History of the Saints, 74.

155. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 245-46.


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Chairman: And he couldn't simply have ordered a chest without telling your neighbor that wild story? If he didn't have the book, why did he want to have the chest?

W. Chase: Obviously, to fool people with.

Chairman: But he told other people that he had no book, and that he told the story to you only to get you to make a chest -- that was as far as his interest in the deception went. He told you he had a book so you would make him a chest. Why a chest? To put the nonexistent book in, of course!

W. Chase: To make people think there was a book in it.

Chairman: After telling the neighbors that he only wanted you to think so? But this is too ridiculous. Incidentally, the frock and the d -- d fool motif seems to be falling into a sort of pattern. But I believe the plates were already in a box.

W. S. Simpson: Yes, but they were taken out of it. It was a wonderful box. Smith said "the chest in which they [the plates] were preserved was exhibited to him, but shortly moved, and glided away out of his sight. 'Joe Smith,' however, and his father who had accompanied him, succeeded in obtaining another view of its dimensions; but then, as the account blasphemously relates, 'the thunders of the Almighty shook the spot... lightning swept along over the side of the hill, and burnt around the spot' where Joseph had been excavating; 'and again, with a rumbling noise, the chest moved out of their sight.'" [156]

Tucker: "Smith told a frightful story of the display of celestial pyrotechnics on the exposure to his view of the sacred book." That was when at the appointed hour "the prophet, assuming his practiced air of mystery, took in his hand his money-digging spade and a large napkin, and went off in silence and alone in the solitude of the forest, and after an absence of some three hours, returned, apparently with his sacred charge concealed within the folds of the napkin." [157]

156. W. Sparrow Simpson, Mormonism: Its History, Doctrines, and Practices (London: Pigott, 1853), 11.

157. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 30.


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Chairman: If I may be allowed a comment, it has been agreed that Smith, the lazy lout, never did any excavating himself -- now you have him with his trusty spade; also you have him going alone, while our other witness said his father was with him.

W. Chase: No, it wasn't his father at all; it was his wife. [158]

Chairman: And still another version of the cloth wrapping. What about the box?

Isaac Hale: I was shown a box... which had to all appearances, been used as a glass box, of the common[-sized] window glass." [159]

Chairman: So it wasn't necessary to make a box after all: they just used a glass box.

J. Abbott: But Joseph Smith also displayed along with the plates the original chest in which the plates came.

Chairman: Really now, after all we have heard of wrapping up and trying to get a box made for the book?

J. Abbott: Absolutely. He "also showed a very highly polished marble box, which he said had contained the plates, and which in that case, must have miraculously retained its lustre for countless centuries." [160]

Chairman: Then Smith had the original chest all along?

E. Dickinson: Indeed. "To his adherents Smith said he had been shown the box... and had tried many times to open it, but was struck back by an invisible blow coming from Satan." [161]

J. Q. Adams: "There is a story -- quite generally believed, but of course it cannot be true! -- that a party of Palmyrans were taken into the room, or at least obtained entrance into it, and were shown a box within which rested the precious plates decently covered with a cloth. They were not satisfied, and with speech more vigorous than reverent, raised the cloth, and, behold, nothing but a brick was seen! Either Moroni had substituted the brick for the plates while they were talking, or else had anticipated their visit. Both explanations are given." [162]

158. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 245.

159. Ibid., 264.

160. Abbott, History of the State of Ohio, 699.

161. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 35.

162. Adams, Birth of Mormonism, 39.


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Chairman: By whom?

Tucker: By no one! Mr. Adams has taken the story from my account: "An anecdote touching this subject used to be related by William T. Hussey and Azel Vandruver. They were notorious wags, and very intimately acquainted with Smith."

Chairman: Naturally. Proceed.

Tucker: Well, Hussey said, "'Egad! I'll see the critter, live or die!' and stripping off the cover, a large tile-brick was exhibited. But Smith's fertile imagination was equal to the emergency." He said it was a trick; "and 'treating' with the customary whiskey hospitalities, the affair ended in good nature." [163]

Chairman: And this is your dark, taciturn, unsocial Smith of 1825? What had happened to the sand?

G. W. Cowles: Smith's mysterious boxes were even earlier than that. His peepstone was "carefully wrapped in cotton and kept in a mysterious box." [164]

Chairman: Now even the peepstone has to have its mysterious box.

G. Townsend: It was Joseph Smith, Sr.'s, dream about "the Magic Box discovered in a wilderness of 'dead and fallen timber' [that] suggested the finding of the Golden Bible; that of the Fruit Trees is incorporated in the Book of Mormon." [165]

Chairman: But we have already been told that it was a story from Canada that suggested it. What about this dream of Joseph Smith, Sr.?

G. Townsend: You can read it in 1 Nephi 8. [166]

Chairman: (turning to the chapter) I find nothing here about a magic box, and no dream of Joseph Smith, Sr.

G. Townsend: How can you be so naive? Lucy Smith herself told of her husband dreaming of a wilderness of dead and fallen timber.

Chairman: But no such dream is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Because Joseph Smith, Sr., has one dream, and Lehi has another, are we to assume as proven that dream number two is simply a copy of number one?

163. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 32.

164. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 80.

165. George Townsend, The Conversion of Mormonism (Hartford, CT: Church Mission, 1911), 13.

166. Ibid.


                              DIGGING  IN  THE  DARK                               135

J. Hunt: The Book of Mormon itself proves that it was written by a money digger -- just read page 126 of the first edition! Here Jacob says explicitly: "Providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches." That absolutely proves the money-digging charges!

Chairman: Well, I will admit that the proof is as good as any we have had so far.

G. Cowles: "Long before the Gold Bible demonstration, the Smith Family... pretended that in digging for money, at Mormon Hill, they came across 'a chest, three feet by two in size, covered with dark-colored stone.'" I have already told about that stone and how it exploded and vanished. [167]

Chairman: Just like the chest that vanished in a clap of thunder in another and totally different version.

Preston T. Wilkins: The Mormons were crazy about chests. "At the time of the Mormon excitement and while on a visit to a Mormon family" in Broome County, I "learned that there was a chest of Mormon Bibles in the barn, that it was guarded by an angel, and that it would be utterly impossible for anyone to steal one of them." So I "prepared a key that would unlock the chest, and taking one of their Bibles carried it home in the evening and placed it over the front door.... The Mormons declared that an angel had brought the book, and... would never acknowledge that one of their books was missing." [168]

Chairman: Aren't you confusing the original gold plates with an ordinary printed edition, sir?

Mr. Wyl: I know where all this talk about sand and window-glasses came from.

Chairman: Indeed, sir, do you know anything about sand and window-glass boxes?

Mr. Wyl: Yes. When Smith was pretending to run a bank in Kirtland in 1837, "in the bank they kept eight or nine window-glass boxes, which seemed to be full of silver;

167. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 81.

168. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 15.


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but the initiate knew very well that they were full of sand, only the top being covered with 50-cent pieces." [169]

Chairman: So the old motifs still crop up. That might explain something.

J. A. Clark: Only it is all wrong. It wasn't eight or nine boxes of sand at all: "he had some one or two-hundred boxes made, and gathered all the lead and shot that the village had or that part of it that he controlled, and filled the boxes with lead, shot, &c, and marked them $1000 each. Then, when they went to examine the vault, he had one box on a table partly filled for them to see,... and they saw that it was silver, and they hefted a number and Smith told them that they contained specie." [170]

Chairman: The "hefting" is another familiar note. Why did he bother to fill all two hundred boxes with lead and shot, if only a few were to be hefted?

P. Ingersoll: A correction, please: "The prophet... filled one box with dollars, and about 200 others with iron and stone. Having called together his creditors, Smith pointed out to them the 200 boxes all marked '1000 dollars,' and showed them the one which contained the silver. The trick answered for a time." [171]

Chairman: There seems to be some disagreement as to the real contents of the boxes.

O. H. Olney: There were all sorts of stuff in the boxes: "They got hold of a quantity of boxes, And nearly filled them with sand, Lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles, And covered it up with clean coin. That darkened the deception beneath, That showed they were not to be run, By the men of the world. But the skim on the top soon disappeared." [172]

A. Campbell: But just the same they continued selling bogus money -- and also stones and sand for bogus. [173]

Reed Peck: "While the 'money fever' raged in Kirtland the leaders of the Church and others were more or less engaged in purchasing and circulating 'bogus' money, or counterfeit coin." [174]

Chairman: "More or less"? Who are you, sir?

169. Wyl, Mormon Portraits, 36.

170. Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 334.

171. Is Mormonism True or Not? (London: Religious Tract Society), 5-6.

172. O. H. Olney, Absurdities of Mormonism (Hancock Co., IL: n.p., 1843), 4-5.

173. Cf. Alexander Campbell and W. K. Pendleton, eds., "The Mormons -- Counterfeiters," Millennial Harbinger 3 (March 1846): 180.

174. Cake, Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, 86.


[ 137 ]

R. Peck: I was one of Smith's neighbors in Palmyra.

Chairman: But you are testifying to what happened years after in Kirtland. Did you know Smith in Kirtland?

Alex. Campbell: It was afterwards that they counterfeited. "It appears that counterfeiting has been the principal part of the business [in Nauvoo] for some years, and that it has been carried on by the heads of the Church. The amount counterfeited has been immense, and the execution has been so nice, as in many cases to prevent its being detected. The Prophet, Joe Smith, used to work at the business with his own hands." [175]

Chairman: If the stuff can't be detected as such, how can you call it counterfeit? And how can you tell the source of this counterfeit money that is so nicely executed as to prevent detection? Do you, or does anyone else, possess or remember having possessed any of that clever counterfeit which you say was circulated in "immense" quantities as "the principal part of the business at Nauvoo for some years?" Don't you know that large-scale counterfeiting even for a month or two cannot possibly be concealed, and if the source is known invites immediate disaster? What you say is patently absurd, sir, but you are not the only one. How casually you drop the charge of counterfeiting against Joseph Smith -- working "at the business with his own hands," forsooth! Have you or do you even pretend to offer one iota of evidence to support that terrible charge? You should all be ashamed of yourselves!

E. D. Howe: That does it! The time has come to call upon our star witnesses. Bishop Tuttle, will you...

Chairman: Just a moment please. Before these stars come out, does anyone else have anything to say about boxes?

D. H. C. Bartlett: Yes indeed! Smith's original Book of Mormon story was about an iron box, a dream he had of "an iron box, containing gold plates which he was to translate into a book over which stood a Spaniard having a long beard with his throat cut from ear to ear.... Smith

175. Campbell and Pendleton, eds., "The Mormons -- Counterfeiters," 180.


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at that time had no thought of God, angels, or divine revelations. He was simply the magical dreamer, beholding the ghost of a murdered Spaniard." [176]

W. A. Linn: Hear, hear! That is just what I said: "In all this narrative there was not one word about visions of God, or of angels." They were all "afterthoughts revised to order." [177]

Chairman: And what is the source of this narrative you both tell?

Bartlett: It was the Lewis boys. They wrote it in a letter.

Chairman: What is the date of the letter?

Bartlett: 23 April 1879.

Chairman: And those men both remember Smith telling them a dream before 1827 -- fifty-two years before?

Linn: It wasn't told to them; it was told to their father, the Rev. Nathaniel Lewis.

Chairman: But that man, I believe, gave Mr. Howe one of his longest affidavits -- in 1833, not 1879 -- and he knew nothing about the Spanish chest.

Bartlett: It didn't have to be so long before. After all, that stuff about heavenly visions leading to the Book of Mormon was first "written by Smith... some eleven years later when in Nauvoo." [178]

J. Q. Adams: That's right. "It is well for us to remember also that the story of these experiences and of the great discovery was not written before 1838." [179]

Chairman: So you men all agree that the heavenly element in Smith's story of the Book of Mormon was a late interpolation...

Adams: "Others say positively that the story was revised from time to time, always gaining in its miraculous and mysterious character." [180]

Chairman: In that case, how does it happen the affidavit swearers back in 1833 all accuse Smith of pushing the miraculous and the mysterious to their absolute limits from childhood? Why should this talented liar begin with a

176. D. H. C. Bartlett, The Mormons or, Latter-day Saints, Whence Came They? (Liverpool: Thompson, 1911), 8.

177. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 28-29.

178. Bartlett, Mormons or, Latter-day Saints, Whence Came They? 8.

179. Adams, Birth of Mormonism, 20.

180. Ibid., 20-21.


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dream that anybody might have, when as a little child he was already imitating the exploits of Captain Kidd?

Linn: Well, it's "the heavenly visions and messages of angels" that are introduced late -- 1838 at the earliest.

Chairman: Mr. Linn, when was the Book of Mormon published?

Linn: In 1830.

Chairman: And in case you gentlemen don't know it, the Book of Mormon is full of "heavenly visions and messages of angels" from the beginning to the end. If you would read a little of it you would see that it could not possibly have been written with "no thought of God, angels, or divine revelations," to quote Mr. Bartlett. It is a religious book and nothing else, from cover to cover. Just a novel to make money, forsooth! Tell that to Mrs. Brodie -- she believes you.

The Tuttle-tale

E. D. Howe: That brings us back to our star witnesses. When I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to call on Bishop Tuttle and Mr. Purple. These are the gentlemen whose evidence, as Mrs. Brodie assures us, proves "beyond any doubt" the tales of Smith's early peeping. [181] Could we hear from Mr. Tuttle first?

Chairman: Bishop Tuttle, did you know Joseph Smith?

Tuttle: Of course not. Smith lived before my day.

Chairman: Did you "unearth in southern New York" the original court record of a trial of Smith in 1826, as Mr. Adams (in 1916) and Mrs. Brodie (in 1947) say you did?

Tuttle: I did not. "The [manuscript] was given me by Miss Emily Pearsall, who... was a woman helper in our mission and lived in my family, and died [there]." [182]

Chairman: When and where did she give you the manuscript?

Tuttle: In Salt Lake City, in 1871. "Miss Pearsall tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's house and brought them to me."

Chairman: Who was her father?

181. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 440.

182. Utah Christian Advocate 2 (January 1886): 1.


140                                     THE  MYTH  MAKERS                                    

Tuttle: "Her father or uncle was a Justice of the Peace in Bainbridge, Chenango Co., New York, in [Joseph] Smith's time, and before him Smith was tried."

Chairman: Before whom?

Tuttle: "Her father or uncle." [183]

Chairman: Which one?

Tuttle: She didn't say.

Chairman: Then it's plain she didn't know. Where is the document? Don't you want to present it as Exhibit A?

Tuttle: I do not have it. I "presented the original manuscript pages of the trial to the Utah Christian Advocate, which published them in January 1886."

Chairman: Published what? Will you say that again.

Tuttle: I am quoting Mrs. Brodie: the Utah Christian Advocate published "them" -- that is, "the original manuscript pages of the trial." [184]

Chairman: But that is absurd. You can't publish original manuscript pages. You might publish a copy or even a photograph of them, but you cannot publish a unique document. Don't you mean that they published the contents of the manuscript?

Tuttle: Of course.

Chairman: Ah, that is something entirely different! Having seen the purported contents of the court record in print, we must determine whether they were correctly copied or not. That is no minor issue when Mrs. Brodie herself can turn a bronze sphere into two crystals just by sloppy note-taking. As soon as the document was published, in Utah, the Mormons had the duty and right to challenge the original manuscript. Where is it? What happened when it was "published" in 1886?

Tuttle: (quoting Brodie) "At this point the manuscript seems to have disappeared." [185]

Chairman: Most convenient. No one has seen the document since 1886. How did you know it was genuine?

Tuttle: "Miss Pearsall tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's house and brought them to me."

183. Ibid.

184. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 440.

185. Ibid., 141.


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Chairman: So you didn't see her tear them?

Tuttle: No. As I said, she brought them to me.

Chairman: Did she ask her father about them?

Tuttle: Obviously not. Her father was not available for consultation -- she did not even know whether he or her uncle had been the justice. After all, the trial had taken place forty-five years before.

Chairman: Why didn't she bring you the whole book?

E. D. Howe: Obviously because it did not belong to her; it was an official document.

Chairman: Is it any worse to walk off with an official document than to disfigure it by tearing pages out of it? The former offense could well be an oversight, the latter never. Why wasn't the official document returned to the official archives where the Bishop and Miss Pearsall could have called the world's attention to it and made their case stick? Was it because there were no such archives and no such records before 1850?

E. D. Howe: Let us admit that it was foolish to tear the book. But people often do foolish things on impulse.

Chairman: We are not speaking of impulse, sir, but of very long and deliberate calculation, not only on Miss Pearsall's part but on Bishop Tuttle's part as well. For at least eighteen years he exploited this document. Miss Pearsall gave it to him in 1871: why didn't he, a high church dignitary and expert on the Mormons (he even wrote encyclopedia articles about them) -- why didn't he publish it at once? Why did he arrange to have another person, who did not even give his name, publish it years later in a foreign country? Did he have some doubts about the manuscript?

Tuttle: But I did expose it to the world!

Chairman: Yes, ten years after "C.M." published it in England! Now, you are an intelligent man, sir. Between the time of your first coming into possession of the document and its first publication you had plenty of time to study it. You knew its immense value as a weapon against


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Joseph Smith if its authenticity could be established. And the only way to establish authenticity was to get hold of the record book from which the pages had been purportedly torn. After all, you had only Miss Pearsall's word for it that the book ever existed. Why didn't you immediately send her back to find the book or make every effort to get hold of it? Why didn't you "unearth" it, as they later said you did?

E. D. Howe: Bishop Tuttle may have done just that. He may have looked for it.

Chairman: In which case his researches were vain. The book never materialized. The authenticity of the record still rests entirely on the confidential testimony of Miss Pearsall to the Bishop. And who was Miss Pearsall? A zealous old maid, apparently: "a woman helper in our mission," who lived right in the Tuttle home and would do anything to assist her superior. The picture I get is that of a gossipy old housekeeper. Now, Bishop Tuttle, if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith. Why, then, was it not republished in your article in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge after 1891?

E. D. Howe: Why don't you ask the editors?

Chairman: Because they would have to have the author's approval. But to come closer to home, in 1906 Bishop Tuttle published his Reminiscences of a Missionary Bishop in which he blasts the Mormons as hotly as ever. Now bear in mind that he is the key witness to the existence of the Bainbridge court record, and that that record is the most devastating blow to Smith ever delivered, yet in the final summary of his life's experiences he never mentions the story of the court record -- his one claim to immortal fame and the gratitude of the human race if it were true!

So what is the evidence that proves to Mrs. Brodie "beyond any doubt" that Smith was a peeping rascal? In 1873 a certain A, who does not give his name, says that a certain B (Bishop Tuttle), told him that a certain C ("a woman helper [who]... lived in my family, and died


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there" -- a euphemism, we suspect, for old-maid housekeeper) told him that some pieces of paper she gave him had been torn by her from a court record which she found in her father's house. She knew enough to recognize the value and authority of a court record when she saw one -- and yet it was she who proceeded to destroy that authority by forcibly detaching the incriminating pages from the authentic binding that alone gave them authority! In the end, we have only Miss Pearsall's word, through Tuttle, that that document, the court record, ever existed, while the pages supposedly torn from it disappeared promptly after their publication in Utah, though completely in possession and control of the non-Mormons. No wonder Bishop Tuttle thought twice and dropped the whole business.

Some Purple patches

E. D. Howe: But that is not all. Here is a man who, as Mrs. Brodie says, "was an eye-witness to the trial, and took notes." I give you W. D. Purple. [186]

Chairman: When did you write your report of the Smith trial, Mr. Purple?

W. D. Purple: My report was published in 1877.

Chairman: Rather a suspicious year, I would say.

E. D. Howe: Why "suspicious"?

Chairman: For two reasons. In the first place, that is just a few years after 1873, when the Pearsall court record was first published both in England and America. That means that Mr. Purple could very well have heard of it from that source. If not (and this is our second point), why did he wait fifty-one years to report his sensational information?

Purple: But I didn't wait fifty-one years. Through the years I gave "public and private rehearsals" of the events described. [187]

Chairman: And were these "public rehearsals" given near the place where the events occurred?

Purple: They were given "in this County." [188]

Chairman: Then how does it happen that the affidavit-collectors and scandal-seekers know nothing of you or your story?

186. Ibid., 418.

187. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 1:476.

188. Ibid.


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E. D. Howe: Perhaps they didn't get around to Mr. Purple.

Chairman: They didn't have to. "Public rehearsals" means that Mr. Purple's story got around widely enough, even if he didn't. There should have been many people in and around Palmyra who remembered those public recitations when the affidavits were taken -- but there were none; there should have been eager souls to refer the investigators to Mr. Purple or at the very least have repeated bits of his story, whether they knew the source or not. Yet no bits or fragments of that all-important tale, which Mr. Purple says he circulated so widely and so long, are found floating about anywhere from 1830 to 1877! Doesn't that strike you as odd? Why do Mr. Purple's juicy tidbits never turn up in the local gossip of half a century?

E. D. Howe: Purple and the others might not have seen the significance of the thing at the time. It may well have been the article of 1873 that brought its true importance to their attention.

Chairman: But that is just the point. Purple did realize the importance of his information at the time, for he not only gave "public and private rehearsals [of it]... in later years," but actually took full and complete notes at the trial. [189] That claim to have taken notes is another very suspicious circumstance.

E. D. Howe: I would say just the opposite. It is the one thing that places Mr. Purple's testimony "beyond any doubt."

Chairman: And that is just what it was intended to do. Anyone can see that without those notes the Purple testimony is the object of the very serious doubts and misgivings that naturally attach to a tale for which the only authority is an old man's memory more than fifty years after the event. Suspicion increases when one considers the great length and detail of that story. Mr. Purple simply had to add that touch about taking notes, but it is plainly nothing but a trick to disarm criticism.

189. Ibid., 1:476, 479.


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E. D. Howe: How can you prove that, sir?

Chairman: Very easily, by the fact that Purple made no use of the notes in writing up his 1877 report. If he didn't use them, why bother to mention them, unless it was to give the impression of high reliability?

E. D. Howe: How do you know he didn't use them?

Chairman: Mr. Purple, you entitle your opus on the Smith trial "Historical Reminiscences." You were simply remembering all those things, I take it?

Purple: As I wrote, "The scenes and incidents of that early day are vividly engraven upon his [the writer's] memory, by reason of his having written them when they occurred, and by reason of his public and private rehearsals of them in later years." [190]

Chairman: There we have it. He states most explicitly that the taking of notes at the time and the repetitions of the story later served to make the whole thing "vividly engraven upon his memory." If he had the original notes, that would settle everything, and he would not need to convince us that his memory was adequate. Indeed the whole advantage to having notes is that one does not have to trust one's memory at all. So when Mrs. Brodie tells us simply that "Purple was an eye-witness to the trial, and took notes," she is up to her old tricks, since the casual reader would naturally assume that Purple's report was based on those notes; she is doing exactly what Purple himself has done -- creating by implication an impression of high reliability in testimony which actually has every mark of being spurious. So we are back on the old familiar ground: Smith is shown to be a rascal not on the testimony of any prosecution witnesses, but by pouring out his soul in a gratuitous and foolish confession, for which the only authority is the word of one man who claims to have remembered it all years afterwards. If we are to get any farther with this evidence we must consider its internal consistency and inherent probability. It will not be necessary to have Mr. Purple repeat his long account at length; we will simply ask him a few questions referring to his

190. Ibid., 1:476; Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 441.


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written report. Mr. Purple, Mr. Josiah Stowell was not a child at the time Smith was working for him, or was he?

Purple: Of course not. "He had at that time grown-up sons and daughters to share his prosperity and the honors of his name." [191]

Chairman: Irresponsible fools do not achieve honor and prosperity. What kind of a man was he?

Purple: "Mr. Stowell was a man of much force of character, of indomitable will.... He was a very industrious, exemplary man." [192]

Chairman: Mr. Stowell had an established reputation and considerable wealth?

Purple: Yes.

Chairman: How did the trial turn out?

Purple: "It is hardly necessary to say that, as the testimony of Deacon Stowell could not be impeached, the prisoner was discharged." [193]

Chairman: So Stowell's prestige overrode everything. And this Stowell hired Smith?

Purple: Yes.

Chairman: Did Smith come to Stowell looking for work, or did Stowell seek him out? How did the two come together?

Purple: "Mr. Stowell, while at Lanesboro, heard of the fame of... Joseph, who... had become a famous seer of lost or hidden treasures.... [Stowell] harnessed his team, and filled his wagon... and started for the residence of the Smith family. In due time he arrived at the humble log cabin,... and found the sought for treasure in the person of Joseph Smith Jr.... He, with the magic stone, was at once transferred from his humble abode to the more pretentious mansion of Deacon Stowell." [194]

Chairman: So Smith went to live with the Stowell family after Mr. Stowell had sought him out and taken him into his employment. Did Stowell hire other men?

Purple: Of course. A Mr. Thomas said in court that "he and another man... always attended the Deacon and Smith in their nocturnal labors." [195]

191. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 1:476.

192. Ibid.

193. Ibid., 1:485.

194. Ibid., 1:477-78.

195. Ibid., 1:483.


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Chairman: Would you say Smith was Mr. Stowell's favorite employee?

Purple: Yes. "The youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of" Stowell. [196]

Chairman: Did Stowell pay him well?

Purple: It wasn't a matter of mere pay. Things reached the point where, according to Mr. Stowell's sons, Smith "as they believed, was eating up their substance, and depriving them of their anticipated patrimony."

Chairman: This state of things had been going on for some time at the time of the trial?

Purple: Yes. The Stowell boys stood it for some time but at length "they made up their minds that 'patience had ceased to be a virtue.'" [197]

Chairman: How long had Smith been working for Stowell at the time?

Purple: It must have been several months at least, since Mr. Stowell went to fetch Smith in 1825 and the trial took place in March of 1826.

Chairman: And Mr. Stowell's sons had about all they could stand?

Purple: Yes, "in February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, who lived with their father, were greatly incensed against Mr. Smith." [198]

Chairman: It was high time to get rid of him?

Purple: It was. They "resolved to rid themselves and their family from this incubus, who, as they believed, was eating up their substance." [199]

Chairman: Did old Mr. Stowell stand up for Smith at the trial?

Purple: Absolutely. He swore that he not only believed all Smith had told him, but, he said, "I positively know it to be true." [200]

Chairman: Did he admit employing Smith, having him live at his house, and the rest?

Purple: Certainly. Mr. Stowell "confirmed all that is said above in relation to himself," that is, he confirmed everything I have said about his relationships with Smith. [201]

196. Ibid., 1:479.

197. Ibid.

198. Ibid.

199. Ibid.

200. Ibid., 1:482.

201. Ibid.


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Chairman: Did Smith continue on at Stowell's after the trial?

Purple: Yes, after "the prisoner was discharged, and in a few weeks he left the town." [202]

Chairman: So Smith was living on the bounty of Stowell before, during, and after the trial, precisely as Mr. Stowell's own "grown up sons" were -- that, in fact, was the very thing those men objected to. Now, what was the charge they brought against Smith to get rid of him?

Purple: "They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [203]

Chairman: And that was the grounds of arrest?

Purple: Yes. "The affidavits of the sons were read and Mr. Smith was fully examined by the court." [204] I have given a long and detailed account of the trial.

Chairman: But isn't that all rather preposterous, since you have just stated that Smith was very securely and profitably employed at that very time? How could you accuse him of being "a vagrant, without visible means of support" if Mr. Stowell, a rich man, was paying him excellent wages and stoutly endorsing his honesty? I notice that you have not so much as hinted that the prosecution presented any evidence whatsoever to support their case, or that the defense did what they must have done if there ever was such a trial. Why were not Mr. Thomas and the other man who worked with Stowell and Smith arrested for being vagrants "without visible means" of livelihood? And why were not Mr. Stowell's grown sons arrested as vagrants "without visible means of support"?

Purple: The question is absurd. I have said that his sons "shared his prosperity" and "lived with their father."

Chairman: But that is exactly what Smith was doing -- the very thing that angered the brothers, according to you. How old was Smith at the time?

Purple: He was "a lad of some eighteen years of age..." [205]

202. Ibid., 1:485.

203. Ibid., 1:479.

204. Ibid.

205. Ibid., 2:364.


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Chairman: So if the rich and respected Mr. Stowell wanted to hire Smith, that was his business. If he wanted to support him in style without doing any work at all (and Mr. Smith was still a minor), that was still Stowell's business. In either case, you should see that there was absolutely no case against Smith; on the contrary, he was in a perfect position to sue for false arrest. All the elder Stowell or Joseph Smith himself had to do to quash the whole thing would be to point out that Smith had a job. Mr. Purple says "the affidavits of the sons were read, and Mr. Smith was fully examined by the court." Since the affidavits were that Smith was a vagrant without visible means of support, how could such an examination fail to reveal that he had a very good job? Though the charge is vagrancy, not one mention is made in Purple's story of Smith's being a vagrant!

Purple: Not a vagrant at the time, maybe. But Smith told how he had wandered over the country far and wide looking for a seer stone "when he was a lad." [206]

Chairman: You can't arrest a man for having had no visible means of support years ago, when he was a mere child -- not if he has a good job today. Now according to you, Mr. Purple, Smith was not convicted. You cite no evidence against him save the stories that he and his loyal employer, Mr. Stowell, told in court. All either man had to do to have the case dismissed was to show that Smith was employed. But instead of that, each of them gets up and tells long, lurid, and scandalous tales about himself! What a trial! How do you describe the testimonies of the two, Mr. Purple?

Purple: "What a picture for the pencil of a Hogarth!... It could have been done only by the hallucination of diseased minds, that drew all their philosophy from the Arabian Nights and other kindred literature of that period!" [207]

Chairman: And you call that Stowell's unimpeachable testimony?

Purple: I called it that?

206. Ibid., 1:480.

207. Ibid., 1:484.


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Chairman: The clerk will read what you said of the outcome of the trial.

Clerk (reads): "As the testimony of Deacon Stowell could not be impeached, that prisoner was discharged."

Chairman: That is enough. But even that is not as preposterous as having the shrewd Mr. Stowell and the sly and canny Smith exhibit themselves as obsessed with "the hallucination of diseased minds," when all in the world either of them had to do was to show that Smith had a job. Now, Mr. Purple's account of the trial differs substantially from that of Miss Pearsall's missing document. That means that they cannot both be telling the truth, but both can be lying. In both cases the testimony is half a century overdue.

Star witness

E. D. Howe: Well, sir, prepare for a shock. Here is a witness who told all about the trial of 1826 in 1831! Here is Mr. "A. W. B." who in that year wrote a letter to the Evangelical Magazine, and that letter proves that the trial did take place.

Chairman: To whom was your letter addressed, Mr. A. W. B.?

A. W. B.: To a "correspondent in Ohio, where [as I explained], perhaps, the truth concerning him [Jos. Smith] may be hard to come at." [208]

Chairman: The paper, apparently, had a wide circulation, and though you would not sign your name you were willing to pose as something of an authority on Smith.

A. W. B: Not "pose," sir. I lived right in Bainbridge, Chenango County, where the trial took place. Let me tell you about it. "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, etc.

208. A. W. Benton, "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate (9 April 1831): 120.


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Although he constantly failed in his pretentions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words." [209]

Chairman: Why do you think he did all that?

A. W. B.: "So that he might secure to himself," as I explained, "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." [210]

Chairman: There seems to be some commotion here. What seems to be the trouble, Mr. Dogberry?

O. Dogberry: I would like to ask Mr. Benton when he wrote all this to the paper?

A. W. B.: It was on 9 April 1831.

O. Dogberry: I thought it sounded awfully familiar. I wrote all that stuff in the Palmyra Reflector two and three months earlier, and the Painesville Telegraph took it up a couple of weeks later; but that stuff about the Wilkinsonians had already appeared in the Rochester Gem in May of 1830.

E. D. Howe: But the part about the trial isn't there. That is what interests us! Tell us about the trial, Mr. Benton.

A. W. B.: "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 being then a minor), and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape." [211]

Chairman: But according to Mr. Purple he did not escape, but was acquitted and went right on living at Stowell's for "a few weeks."

209. Ibid.

210. Ibid.

211. Ibid.


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A. W. B.: Well, "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." [212]

Chairman: By your references to "this town" and "this place" it is plain, sir, that you lived on the spot. And now you tell us that Joseph Smith continued to operate there for two or three years?

A. W. B.: Privately, I said -- secretly, just with his dupes.

Chairman: But that is exactly what he was doing before! He was in a business in which, as you describe it, his communications with his wealthy employers could only have been very private and confidential at any time. You say "the public" became "wearied" of the spectacle of this youngster imposing on the ignorant and "sponging" off the rich. Since when does the public have such a tender conscience for the ignorant? Your expression, sir, is lifted right out of Dogberry. And who are the ignorant? "Josiah Stowell, together with others" -- rich, respected, successful Squire Stowell. Was it the responsibility of his poor neighbors to see to it that he suffered no financial loss? But no, the public was not worried about what was going on, they were just "wearied" by it. So they "arrested him as a disorderly person." What could that have to do with his "clandestine" swindling?

A. W. B.: Well, it was all that digging that was going on.

Chairman: But that wasn't Smith's doing; it was Stowell and the others who "spent large sums of money in digging." Smith was merely their hired help, and the whole responsibility was theirs, not only for digging but for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This is the silliest thing I ever heard of.

E. D. Howe: However silly, it does mention a trial -- the trial of 1826.

Chairman: What was the date of the trial, Mr. A. W. B?

212. Ibid.


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A. W. B.: In 1831 I wrote that it was "four or five years ago."

E. D. Howe: But that wasn't the only trial! Tell them about the 1830 trial, Mr. Benton, the one you attended in person.

A. W. B.: I didn't say I attended it in person, though I lived in the town. In the summer of 1830 Smith "was again arraigned before a bar of Justice... to answer a charge of misdemeanor.... 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 treasures, &c." [213]

Chairman: Most interesting. I have never heard of Joseph Smith himself ever stating that he had that power. Just how was it shown?

A. W. B.: "Oliver Cowdery, 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." [214]

Chairman: Well?

E. D. Howe: Well what?

Chairman: That is exactly what Smith himself always said. We know all about those stones. Where do the peepstones come in?

A. W. B.: Don't you see? The "two transparent stones [were] 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."

Chairman: That is only your conclusion, sir, as that "undoubtedly" makes clear.

A. W. B.: But "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."

213. Ibid.

214. Ibid.

215. Ibid.

216. Ibid.


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Chairman: The fact that you must appeal to an unidentified and unverified rumor now makes it perfectly clear that nothing was said about any peepstones in the court. Did anyone else testify?

A. W. B.: Yes, Josiah Stowell, Joseph Knight, and Newell Knight did, but their testimony "needs no comment" since they stoutly supported Smith. But we have Smith's "own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest imposter." [217]

Chairman: Now we are getting somewhere. Those were his words in court?

A. W. B.: Not exactly. What he said when asked whether he could see this money or not was "To be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way to get a living." [218]

Chairman: And he confessed that in court?

A. W. B.: No. He said it once to Addison Austin when he "was in company with said Smith alone." Austin reported it in court. [219]

Chairman: Don't you know that such a report cannot be used as evidence? And do you really believe the ignorant farmboy used such urbane language? I am glad you have mentioned this trial of 1830, Mr. Benton, but if you had been wiser you would never have brought it up.

A. W. B.: Why so?

Chairman: Because while it produced nothing whatever to incriminate Smith, it supplies the clue to the whole mythical trial of 1826. Consider. The only mention of peepstones in this 1830 story is what you yourself supplied in your own comments and reflections, made in 1831. Though the seerstones were actually described in the court by the Mormons, yet there was no discussion or mention of any other stones -- which you, sir, would have been the last person on earth to overlook had there been such. Then in the spring of the following year the accounts of the seerstones widely circulated by the Mormons suggested to Mr. Dogberry what he thought to be a significant parallel,

217. Ibid.

218. Ibid.

219. Ibid.


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which he pointed out in a purely speculative and half-serious way in a series of articles in the Palmyra Reflector. Such information, "hard to come at" in Ohio, as you put it, was readily available to you, sir, where you lived. So I find it significant that a few weeks after these articles appear you write a letter to a correspondent in distant Ohio in which you show both by the things you say and the way you say them that you have most certainly read Mr. Dogberry's articles: you also show that you know a good deal about a trial of Joseph Smith, less than a year before, at which nothing damning was brought out -- by the way, you never reported how that trial turned out. Or did you? Did you perhaps use it in the story you told of another trial, a wishful-thinking trial which took place in a safely vague and distant time four or five years before?

E. D. Howe: Are you insinuating, sir, that Mr. Benton invented the trial of 1826?

Chairman: Let me call your attention to a few peculiar facts, sir. In the first place the two trials, in 1826 and 1830, are so much alike that even the experts confuse them. In both cases the charges are vague and unconvincing, the accused is not found guilty, the only solid evidence for the prosecution is all given freely by the defense; in both cases Stowell is a star witness and puts on the same foolish defense of Smith. Notice further that Addison Austin has Smith making a damning confession to him in secret "at the very same time that Stowell was digging for money," yet still no mention of peepstones or of any trial of 1826! Now, I am wondering if Mr. Benton did not transfer this confession, freely embellished, to the trial of "four or five years ago"; if he did not combine the trial motif, which he had at firsthand, with the peepstone motif, which he got from Dogberry, in an imaginary trial for which he cannot or dare not even give the year. If there really was an earlier peepstone trial, why did not Mr. Benton himself, or anybody else for that matter, bring it to the attention of the prosecutor in 1830? Why did nobody in 1830 remember a case the recollection of which (Mr. Purple assures us


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fifty years later) was to electrify the countryside for years? Cowdery himself in 1830 actually brought up the issue of the seerstones in the court, and yet even that did not suggest to anybody Smith's supposedly notorious career in peeping. It is only a year later that Benton, having read Dogberry's surmise, sees in Cowdery's speech a clue connecting Smith with the old peepstone mania. Even in Purple's and Pearson's accounts of the trial of 1826 nobody shows up to tell about Smith's peeping and digging -- instead he and Stowell must tell it all themselves, confessing to crimes of which no one had accused them, and baring all their secret past and present as they regale the court with their Arabian Nights tales.

E. D. Howe: But even though they don't agree at all, the Pearson and Purple stories show at least that there was a trial in 1826, and now Benton's evidence corroborates them.

Chairman: It only corroborates them if it is an independent witness. But I doubt that very much. I think all these stories are connected. The reports of Pearson and Purple both rest on documents purportedly written right in the court, but upon examination they turn out to be sham documents -- the one is a page never openly exhibited, taken from a document never proven to have existed, while the other consists of notes taken in the court but not available to their writer at the time we are supposed to assume he was using them in preparing his long and detailed report fifty years later. Now, since Mr. Benton's letter was printed in a very popular sectarian journal that circulated far beyond the bounds of New York State (Mr. Benton's own correspondent is in Ohio), his story must have been spread abroad: and there is no reason why it cannot have been the ultimate source of the stories of Pearson and Purple. The wide disagreements between those two documents prove that at least one of them is corrupt, while their inherent absurdities show that both are -- at best they do not have their information at firsthand, as they pretend. What they have in common they share with A. W. B.'s tale, and

[Another of Nibley's errors is a failure to consider Mormon sources when they concur with non-Mormon accounts. Nibley makes light of non-Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon was originally discovered by the same means Joseph Smith claimed to use for locating buried treasures, but he chooses to ignore Martin Harris's statement of 1859: "Joseph ? described the manner of finding his 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." -- Harris, who was the first convert to Mormonism outside the Smith family, here confirms Orsamus Turner's 1851 recollection that the Smith family "said it was by looking at this stone in a hat, the light excluded, that Joseph discovered the plates." Nibley ignores Harris's statement, for to do otherwise would lend an air of respectability to one of those sources Nibley condemns as "beneath notice."]


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that is the scandal-story of how Joseph Smith, when he was still a minor, imposed on the rich Mr. Stowell, was hauled into court -- and acquitted. But in view (1) of the improbability of the Stowell trial occurring twice, (2) of Benton's failure to get a peepstone into the trial of 1830 (which he could not fake, since it was less than a year away), and (3) of the close resemblance of his peepstone commentary to that of Dogberry and the Rochester Gem, we are inclined to regard Benton's story of the 1826 trial as fiction. Please remember that the two earlier peepstone essays were both admittedly guesses, purely theoretical reconstructions. So that part, at least, of Benton's story is made up. But without the reality of the peepstones, 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 Benton's own wishful thinking. By now it should be clear to all of us that people are not above such invention. The tall story was not unknown to early rural America, I am told, and I can believe it.

E. D. Howe: But as Mrs. Brodie herself observes, one must face not only "the reality but... the implications of this document." [220]

Chairman: I agree that Mrs. Brodie specializes in implications. But what are the implications of a fifty-year gap and drastic disagreements? Just consider these digging stories. It all began in Vermont, in Pennsylvania, in Broome County, in Chenango County, in Palmyra, in 1817, in 1819, 1820, 1822, 1828, 1829; the Smiths "kept around them constantly" a gang of diggers; Joseph "may have had believers," "he laid down laws to his phalanx," he hired them, they hired him; full moon was the best time for digging, or was it the dark of the moon? Smith himself dug, he never dug; he found stuff, he never found anything; he sacrificed one black sheep, a whole flock of them, a white dog, a black dog. What are we to make of all this? And the stones! It was a glass Smith looked into, [221] a "dark glass," [222] a clear white stone, a glassy stone,

220. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 441.

221. Benton, "Mormonites," 120. [Cf. Dennis Rowley, "The Ezra Booth Letters," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Autumn 1983): 133-37.]

222. Ezra Booth, cited in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 187.


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[[ need to fix]] a "dark colored stone," [223] "a white, glasslike... opaque" stone, [224] "a curious piece of quartz," [225] "a transparent stone," [226] "a glassy stone," [227] "a green stone with brown irregular spots on it," [228] a "peculiar shape resembling that of a child's foot [229] which must have resembled the stone foot of Buddha at Bangkok, Siam," [230] Or it had colored stripes running through it diagonally, [231] "two small stones of chocolate color," [232] "two large bright diamonds," [233] a couple of prisms, [234] a little longer than a goose's egg, [235] "a stone of peculiar quality [luminous]," [236] a "stone of singular appearance," [237] "a curious stone," [238] a perfectly ordinary pebble, [239] a piece of "common hornblende;" [240] we have been informed that the stone was nothing less than the Urim and Thummim found buried with the plates, we have been told by the most intimately close observers that Smith never had or used more than one stone, yet the same observers describe different stones.

"...but their witness agreed not together," or who's lying?

E. D. Howe: Hold on here! We admitted from the first that the testimonies were full of contradictions, but can't you see the implications of that -- that merely proves that the Smiths were lying! "We show by the witnesses, that they told contradictory stories, from time to time, in relation to their finding of the plates, and other circumstances attending it, which go clearly to show that none of them had the fear of God before their eyes." [241]

Chorus of Voices from the Audience: Hear! Hear!

Wm. Stafford: "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 at other times he would say he had not seen the plates at all." [242]

J. Hunt: "Various verbal accounts, all contradictory, false, and inconsistent,... were given out by the Smith family." [243]

J. C. Bennett: If all these stories about the Smiths conflict, the reason for that is obvious: it is because "their statements were always discordant." [244]

J. Clark: "The statements of the originators of this imposture varied.... At first it was a Gold Bible -- then golden

223. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchanse and Morris' Reserve (Rochester, Alling, 1851), 216.

224. Harry M. Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire (Boston: Riverside, 1921), 28.

225. Seibel, The Mormon Saints, 16.

226. Belisle, Mormonism Unveiled, 20.

227. Benton, "Mormonites," 120; "Oliver Cowdery, 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."

228. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 18; Beardsley, Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire, 28.

229. Tucker, Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism, 19.

230. Beers, Mormon Puzzle, 27.

231. I. W. Riley, cited in George B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mormonism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932), 28.

232. Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 26.

233. Book review of Caswall, The City of the Mormons in Visitor or Monthly Instructor (1842), 407: cf. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons, or Three Days at Nauvoo (London: Rivington, 1842), 27.

234. William E. Biederwolf, Mormonism under the Searchlight (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman, n.d.), 6.

235. Linn, Story of the Mormons, 18.

236. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 237.

237. Ibid.

238. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 19.

239. O. Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement, 216.

240. Cowles, Landmarks of Wayne County, 80; Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement, 216.

241. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 232.

242. Ibid., 240.

243. Hunt, Mormonism, 12.

244. Bennett, History of the Saints, 66 (emphasis added).


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plates engraved -- then metallic plates stereotyped or embossed with golden letters." [245]

Parley Chase: "In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike." [246]

H. C. Sheldon: I think we must agree, gentlemen, that "the different stories which Smith himself told about the plates of the Book of Mormon impeach his honesty and veracity in the matter." [247]

Chairman: Thank you, gentlemen. I think we are agreed that the wide discrepancies among the stories about Smith are an indication of skulduggery, impeaching somebody's "honesty and veracity in the matter." But whose? The claim is that the various witnesses tell conflicting stories only because the Smiths told them conflicting stories. Is that right?

J. Hyde: Exactly. In my book I cited eight conflicting testimonies against Smith. These stories were all by his enemies, it is true, yet what do those conflicts prove? That "either they are perjurers, or Smith is an impostor.... Either they are all perjurers [I wrote], or they all tell the truth. The above [the eight] are but a selection from many.... They must be believed; Smith did contradict himself, and should therefore be rejected." [248]

Chairman: That is a remarkable line of reasoning, sir. Why must your conflicting witnesses be believed?

J. Hyde: Because, as I pointed out, "they are perfectly disinterested." [249]

Chairman: Can you say that seriously in view of what we have heard from them?

J. Hyde: Yes. Because "had they been disposed to assist in the imposture, they could have made a great deal." [250]

Chairman: Are you trying to tell us that the Book of Mormon was ever a profitable business in Palmyra? I think you will agree that since the prosecution has placed the whole responsibility for the conflicting stories on the shoulders of the Smiths, it is up to them to show that said stories actually did originate with the Smiths. How early

245. Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 228-29.

246. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 248.

247. Henry C. Sheldon, A Fourfold Test of Mormonism (New York: Abingdon, 1914), 15.

248. John Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs (New York: Fetridge, 1857), 243.

249. Ibid.

250. Ibid.


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do these contradictions begin? Do we have any witnesses from 1830?

Editor of the Painesville Telegraph: When the Book of Mormon was just six months old I wrote that "to record the thousand tales which are in circulation respecting the book and its propagators would be an endless task and probably lead to the promulgation of a hundred times more than was founded in truth." [251]

Chairman: Well, we have heard that the Mormons circulated a lot of conflicting stories, but did all these thousand tales come from them?

Editor of Painesville Telegraph: Of course not. Everybody was speculating on the subject -- there was no law limiting wild stories to Mormons. As I said at the time, my own contribution on the subject would only add to the misunderstanding. [252]

Chairman: So we can be sure that at least some of the stories did not originate with the Smiths. But what about the others, those that are actually attributed to them? Is there any firsthand evidence incriminating the Smiths?

A. W. Benton: Indeed there is, and from Joe Smith himself. "We have his own confession, that he was a vile, dishonest impostor." [253]

Chairman: That's plain enough. And where may we find this vital confession?

A. W. Benton: Addison Austin testified that once when "he... was in company with said Smith alone," Smith told him, when asked whether he could really see money with his peepstone, "To be candid, between you and me, I cannot, any more than you or any body else; but any way to get a living." [254]

Chairman: Here we go again. I asked for Smith's confession, and you want to give me Mr. Austin's report of a secret conversation with Smith which of course can never be checked up on; and you call that "his own confession!" The really damning evidence of Chase, Ingersoll, Tucker, Stafford, and the rest all goes back to the same secret, private conversations. Smith is always brutally frank when

251. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:43.

252. Ibid.

253. Benton, "Mormonites," 120.

254. Ibid.


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he talks to these people -- but there is never anyone else present. Mr. Howe sneers that the only Mormon reply to these tales was a categorical denial. What other reply is possible? Mr. Tucker can give us a good demonstration of what we are up against. Mr. Tucker, you gave, I believe, a full firsthand account of Joseph Smith's first digging venture?

Tucker: That is right, "and the description given of this first trial and of its results is as near exactitude as can at this time be recollected from his own accounts." [255]

Chairman: From whose accounts?

Tucker: From the impostor Smith's. "Such," I wrote, "was Joe's explanation." [256]

Chairman: So it is from him and him alone that you have the story. You did not witness the operation at all. You simply heard it all in a confidential confession by Smith. You wouldn't touch the Smiths with a forty-foot pole, to hear you tell it, yet they were always baring their souls to you. And you weren't the only one. Here is Mr. Harris, who can tell us what he and the community always thought of the Smiths. Mr. Harris?

Henry Harris: They were always regarded "as a lying and indolent set of men and no confidence could be placed in them." [257]

Chairman: So that was his opinion of Smith. Yet after the Book of Mormon was published, Smith in a private confidential discourse to Lapham told him a wild story about the plates that could only discredit everything else he had said about them. [258] Why to Lapham? Why to him alone? What good could possibly come of a secret, damning admission to a man who had always hated him? Here are Messrs. Chase, Ingersoll, and Stafford, whose testimonies consist almost entirely of what Joseph Smith Senior, told them each in private. Willard Chase can spin out the old man's long account verbatim from memory six and a half years later. And after a long and unpleasant affair about the peepstone in which Chase seeks to thwart the

255. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22.

256. Ibid.

257. Henry Harris cited in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 251.

258. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 252.


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activities of the Smiths, who in turn heap threats and abuse on him, we suddenly find Smith confiding in Chase alone and telling him privately the true story of the gold-plate hoax. [259]

W. Chase: But "I might proceed... by relating one transaction after another, which would all tend to set them in the same light... viz: as a pest to society." [260]

Chairman: So you might give us some concrete testimony, Mr. Chase, but all you do give is the wild stories which you say your detested enemy insisted on confiding to your hostile ear.

E. D. Howe: "Detested enemy?" "Hostile ear?" Mr. Chase and Mr. Smith may have been good friends once.

Chairman: Not if we believe Mr. Chase's original testimony. Will the Clerk please read it?

Clerk (reads): "I have regarded Joseph Smith, Jun., from the time I first became acquainted with him,... as a man whose word could not be depended upon." [261]

Chairman: That will do. So, Mr. Chase, from the time you first met Smith until you swore your affidavit you had only one opinion of him. And are we to suppose that Smith, with his uncanny insight into human nature, was not aware that you were hardly the man for him to confess to? Then there is your co-swearer, Mr. Ingersoll, who hates Smith as much as you do and whose testimony is the most lurid of all. What does Smith do when he is tempted to resume digging against his better judgment? Does he consult with his family or any of the "many warm friends" he has in Palmyra? Not a bit of it. How was it, Mr. Ingersoll?

P. Ingersoll: "In this dilemma, he made me his confidant and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths." [262]

Chairman: So during the most crucial days of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Smith sought out and daily confided in one man alone -- his mortal enemy Peter Ingersoll, who had been displaying his contempt for the Smiths ever since 1820. What a complete fool this Smith

259. Ibid., 242-43.

260. Ibid., 247.

261. Ibid.

262. Ibid., 235.


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must have been, to let the cat out of the bag any time he could confide in an enemy, while consistently referring to his loyal supporters as d -- d fools! Why did the ancient law insist on things being established "in the mouths of two or three witnesses"? Not as a check on the accused but as a direct test of the witnesses themselves. If their stories disagree it is the witnesses that must be suspect. But now we have an interesting theory of evidence, that when the witnesses for the prosecution all tell conflicting stories, that proves not that they are lying but that the accused is a rascal for giving so many false impressions.

J. Hyde: But Smith has "contradicted himself in his own words, but still more extensively in the statements he has made to his companions and neighbors; many of these testified to such contradictions." [263]

Chairman: What you are saying, Mr. Hyde, is that it is not the words of Smith but those of his "companions and neighbors" that are full of contradictions. You must realize that it is not enough for a person to say that the Mormons told him this or that, to prove that they actually did so. Here, for example, is a book printed as late as 1957, in which the baseless story of the Spaulding manuscript is told at length under the heading: "This is the Mormon Story of It." [264] As if the Mormons had ever propounded or accepted the Spaulding theory! It is the easiest thing in the world when public opinion is on one's side, to pick up and repeat any absurd twaddle that is going around, and when questioned as to its authenticity, simply shrug one's shoulders and say, "Well, that's the way the Mormons tell it!" No other group on earth has done more journal writing and record keeping than the Mormons, upon whom a meticulous recording of events is imposed as a duty (cf. D&C 128). In all the mountains of material they have turned out there should be masses of evidence for these wild and conflicting stories if the Mormons were the authors of them.

E. D. Howe: O, but there is, plenty of it!

Chairman: In that case, why is it necessary to use any of this third and fourth-hand hearsay at all? Why not

263. John Hyde, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, 241.

264. Biederwolf, Mormonism under the Searchlight, 5.


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convict Smith out of his own voluminous writings? If he is the absolute ninny these "witnesses" make him out to be his own recorded words are more than ample to prove it.

E. D. Howe: Well, as Mrs. Brodie says, "there are few men... who have written so much and told so little about themselves." [265] He deliberately made himself mysterious, he "was well skilled in legerdemain.... He doubtless had become acquainted with mystifying everything." [266]

Chairman: Yet in all the stories about Smith we never hear of his legerdemain. A supreme exhibitionist, he never on any recorded occasion yielded to the natural temptation to display his sleight-of-hand. But he was mysterious, very mysterious. We have heard a lot of that.

E. G. Ferris: Yes, "he affected great mystery in his movements,... traveled about the country, appearing and disappearing in a mysterious manner." Many witnesses mention it. [267]

Chairman: Of course. When you say a man's doings are mysterious, you are simply admitting that you don't know what he is up to. It is a regular practice of writers on Joseph Smith to palm off their extreme ignorance about his life as useful information about the man himself. Latin, I am told, is a most mysterious language to those who can't read it. But is the mystery in the language or in the lazy student? Is the mystery of Joseph Smith, the enigmatic quality which Mrs. Brodie finds so conspicuous, in him or in his biographers? Of course, if you don't believe his story, then in view of his actual proven accomplishments, the whole thing becomes a whopping mystery.

J. Hunt: We must bear in mind that the Smiths covered up their contradictions. "The various verbal accounts, all contradictory, false, and inconsistent, which were given out by the Smith family," are contained in the affidavits and go back to an early time. "Since the publication of their bible, they have been less contradictory in their statements respecting it." [268]

Chairman: So they started to watch themselves in 1830?

265. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, vii.

266. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 43.

267. Benjamin G. Ferris, Utah and the Mormons, the History, Government, Doctrines, Customs and Prospects of the Latter Day Saints (New York: Harper, 1856), 53.

268. James H. Hunt, Mormonism (St. Louis, MO: Ustick and Davies, 1844), 12.


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E. D. Howe: Mr. Hunt is simply paraphrasing (without acknowledgment, as usual) what I wrote in 1834: "Since the publication of the book they have been generally more uniform in their relations respecting it." [269]

J. B. Turner: No, it wasn't until 1834 that they started exercising caution. Things were "related and varied to suit the exigencies of the case, until the year 1834, when... the whole story [was] new vamped, stereotyped, and given to the world." [270]

Chairman: So the Mormons went on all that time trying to convince the world that their story was true, yet apparently blithely unaware that it would not do to tell a thousand conflicting versions!

Kelly and Birney, Inc.: "The testimony relative to the actual origin of the Book of Mormon is conflicting, due to the Prophet's telling various stories before selecting one and deciding to stick to it." [271]

W. E. Biederwolf: "There are irreconcilable discrepancies between Joe Smith's earlier and later accounts of how the plates were discovered to him." [272]

Chairman: Where do we find the "earlier" accounts?

Biederwolf: "Willard Chase on affidavit swore that Joe told him he discovered the plates by means of his peep-stone. Peter Ingersoll testified." [273]

Chairman: One moment, sir. Those are not Smith's affidavits you are referring to, they are the statements of Chase and Ingersoll, and there are "irreconcilable discrepancies" between them. But what are Smith's "later accounts" to which you refer?

Biederwolf: "The final version as set forth in Joe's biography written in 1838." [274]

Chairman: So Smith is a liar for not telling the same stories about himself that his enemies do. He certainly would have been a suicidal fool to repeat those stories -- and an even greater fool to have told them to his enemies in the first place. Do you really believe he went about telling such damning things about himself to anybody, friend

271. Charles Kelly and Hoffman Birney, Holy Murder: The Story of Porter Rockwell (New York: Minton, Balch, 1934), 5.

272. Biederwolf, Mormonism under the Searchlight, 7.

273. Ibid.

274. Ibid.


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or foe? Now, some have said that Smith decided to stick to one story as early as 1827, others say Smith and the Mormons followed a consistent account only after 1830, others after 1834, 1838, or 1842. But while all admit that the Mormon story does become more or less consistent after this or that date, the stories of the anti-Mormons about them do not show any tendency to become less exotic and contradictory down through the years to the present time. Do you know what that means? It means that these wild contradictions are the critics' very own; they are not due to Mormon fabrication at all, it is the others who are lying.

J. Clark: But how about all those conflicting Mormon stories about the plates? "The statements of the originators of this imposture varied.... At first it was a Gold Bible -- then golden plates engraved -- then metallic plates stereo-typed." [275]

Chairman: Indeed, I know of no Mormon source that mentions stereotyping, and I fail to see any necessary contradiction between a Gold Bible and golden plates, since a Bible can be written on any type of writing surface. From whom do you have your information?

J. Clark: From "several gentlemen in Palmyra" reporting what Harris and others told them. [276]

Chairman: Well, here we go again! Are these "gentlemen in Palmyra" the "originators of the imposture?"

J. Clark: Of course not.

Chairman: But it is their "statements" you are citing, while confidently labeling them "statements of the originators." What you have actually given us is a written report of other written reports (Mr. Howe's) of statements made orally by certain anti-Mormons regarding what they said "Harris and others" (not the Smiths) told them. Do you follow?

E. D. Howe: But you cannot rule out "the various verbal accounts, all contradictory, vague, and inconsistent, which were given out by the Smith family respecting the

275. Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 228-29.

276. Ibid.


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finding of certain gold or brazen plates." [277]

Chairman: Did the Smiths sign these statements?

E. D. Howe: No. I specifically said they were "verbal accounts."

Chairman: Then actually we have no check on them at all.

E. D. Howe: Fortunately they have been written down.

Chairman: Then they are not verbal accounts, but written accounts. Granted that the Smiths didn't write them, who did? You and Mr. Hurlbut. From whose dictation -- the Smiths? No. What you wrote down were the "various verbal accounts" given out not "by the Smith family" at all, but by their gossipy neighbors years after they had moved away.

Dogberry: Leaving Smith out of it, there still "appears to be a great discrepancy, in the stories told by the famous three witnesses to the Gold Bible." [278]

Chairman: And in what does this discrepancy consist?

Dogberry: "Whitmer's description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris." [279]

Chairman: Entirely? Didn't both men say the plates were gold, that they were on rings, that they were written in strange characters?

E. D. Howe: I think I gave a more accurate estimate of the situation when I wrote, "this account is sometimes partly contradicted by Harris." [280]

Chairman: "Sometimes" and "partly" is certainly a comedown from "entirely." What is this entire disagreement, Mr. Dogberry?

Dogberry: Well, Whitmer says "that the leaves were divided... so that the front might be opened... while the back part remained stationary and immovable,... a sealed book.... On opening that portion of the book which was not secured by the seals, he discovered... divers and wonderful characters." [281]

Chairman: So, according to Whitmer, the back part of the plates was sealed by being soldered so as to form a

277. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 17.

278. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:75-76.

279. Ibid.

280. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 16.

281. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:75-76.


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single block. And what does Harris say that is entirely contrary to this?

Dogberry: "Harris... gives the lie to a very important part of Whitmer's relation, and declares that the leaves or pages of the book are not cut, and a part of them sealed, but that it opens like any other book, from the edge to the back, the rings operating in the place of common binding." [282]

Chairman: Does Harris specifically state that Whitmer was lying or mistaken?

Dogberry: No, he does not say he was lying, he "gives the lie" to his report by a different description of his own.

Chairman: Does he specifically say that the book is not cut into two parts or three or four, or that no part of it is sealed?

Dogberry: No, he gives the lie when he says that it opens like any other book.

Chairman: But Whitmer also gives us to understand that it opens like any other book.

Dogberry: Only the part that was not sealed.

Chairman: Harris chose not to talk about the part that was sealed, because it was sealed and secret. He was specifically asked to testify about the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. The two descriptions agree perfectly as far as they go, and the one man talks about something that the other discreetly omits. Ask any two people to describe a book to you, and I guarantee that their descriptions will not be identical -- the one party will surely mention something important that the other omits. But that does not mean that he is giving the other the lie. Even Mr. Howe saw that. Haven't you a better case of conflicting reports?

Dogberry: Yes, there is one other. "In the first place,... Smith and Harris gave out, that no mortal save Joe could look upon it [the book] and live." Yet a short time after, we have three witnesses looking on it and living! [283]

Chairman: Where did Smith ever make that statement about no one seeing the book and staying alive?

282. Ibid.

283. Ibid.


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Tucker: It was when he came in that day with the sand in his coat. [284]

Chairman: And Smith himself tells that story in his own writings?

Tucker: No. Peter Ingersoll is the authority for it. [285]

Chairman: And is he any more reliable than Willard Chase, who tells a very different story?

D. P. Kidder: The conflicting stories of those two only show that "as is usual, in such cases of fibbing, his [Smith's] stories were contradictory." [286]

Chairman: Then no matter who made them up, the stories were not true?

Kidder: Of course not.

Chairman: How then can they be used to incriminate Joseph Smith? Here he is telling all these awful things about himself, which show that he is a terrible sinner but they are not true! His crime is not that he did wicked things, but made up a lot of sensational crime stories (all false) with himself as the hero. And this brings up a fatal objection to the theory that the "various verbal accounts" reported by the affidavit swearers, "all contradictory, false, and inconsistent," were actually "given out by the Smith family." The most contradictory and inconsistent of them could not possibly have been given out by the Smiths.

E. D. Howe: Why not?

Chairman: First, consider that almost any of these stories standing alone makes Smith look pretty bad. Is it likely that Smith or his followers would go around telling such things against themselves? Did Smith spread abroad tales of his own "unspeakable lewdness?" Did his family tell how they were suspected of sheep-stealing? Was it they who claimed to have dug up acres of ground around Palmyra? Did Smith announce to the world that he used to forge Indian relics? Did he say he made a "handsome profit" by bilking his gang? Or that people paid him to get rid of his importunities? Or that he stole the Chase stone? Mr. Kennedy, you said something interesting about

284. Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 22.

285. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 236-37.

286. Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons (New York: Lane and Tippett, 1844), 23.


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how the Smith crowd covered up his early fiascos. Do you remember it?

J. H. Kennedy: I said Smith gained a reputation, but met with many failures, "of which all mention was discreetly omitted by himself and his followers." [287]

Chairman: This nice bit of double-talk (do Smith and his followers ever mention their successes in the business?) tells us that the scandalous information regarding Smith's operations does not, as is charged, come from the Smiths, and indeed as we have just noted, it would be absurd to expect it to do so. Consider the most lurid digging stories. They all rest on what the neighbors claim they actually saw independently of what the tactless Smiths might have reported; yet no tales are more contradictory, wild, improbable, and inconsistent than they. Did Mr. Tucker and Mr. Dickinson get their description of the cave from the Smiths? Not a bit of it, yet they give totally different accounts. Did Joseph Smith tell one party that he was notorious for his drunkenness and another that he was a forger? Did he insist that he was an atheist or describe his own fervid preaching at the revivals? Did he tell one person that he was always scrapping and another that he never had a fight? Who told all those stories about the sheep sacrifices -- the Smiths? No one pretends it, yet where can you find wilder contradictions? Take the descriptions of the youthful Joseph Smith: they are as contradictory as anything you can find -- but did Joseph Smith supply the clashing details, or did the Mormons invent them? Not for a moment -- they go back to the neighbors who knew Smith so well and recount what they maintain were their own experiences, yet they are in complete disagreement. Plainly in these cases there is an awful lot of lying going on that cannot possibly be laid to the charge of the Mormons.

W. Graham: But these people only seem to disagree; "these conflicting stories only appear to be at variance as to the origin of the much-discussed plates." [288]

Chairman: And if they appear to be at variance, it is only because they are. If not, why have such pains been

287. Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 19.

288. Winifred Graham, The Mormons: A Popular History from Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1913), 4.


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taken to attribute their variations to the Smiths? Why should contradictory statements be damning when the Smiths make them and only apparent contradictions when their enemies make them? We have been told by Mr. Sheldon that "the different stories which Smith himself told about the plates of the Book of Mormon impeach his honesty and veracity in the matter." Now, if it can be shown that the people who report those stories, and who are the only authority for them, frequently tell different tales on their own authority in situations in which the Smiths cannot possibly be implicated, does not that impeach their honor?

Our experts on Joseph Smith would have no difficulty at all condemning Jesus. They could have been of real assistance to the high priest when he was embarrassed because his witnesses contradicted each other -- "their witness agreed not together" (Mark 14:56, 59). The Sanhedrin could have used the useful theory that such disagreement was proof positive that Jesus had been deceiving all those people. And to what did the diligent perjurers bear witness? It was the old story: "We heard him say..." "Once he told me..." (Mark 14:58; Matthew 26:61). In vain the Lord pointed out that he did not make secret disclosures to individuals (John 18:20-21). They convicted him in the end for claiming he was the Messiah (Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:63) -- which was legally no crime at all.

E. D. Howe: Hold on a minute here! Badly garbled though these accounts may be, they still must have had an original. They may be widely ranging variations on a theme -- but somebody or something furnished the theme in the first place. Say what you will, there must be something behind all this, and it must concern Joseph Smith!

Chairman: I am inclined to agree with you there, Mr. Howe. I think we should look more closely into the earliest digging stories. The court will take a ten-minute recess.


[ 175 ]

ii. What is behind it

Scene: The same, after a brief recess.

Enter the real diggers

During these hearings it has occurred to me, as it has no doubt occurred to many of you, that no matter how wild and contradictory these stories may be, there must be something behind them. Can anyone doubt that there was some sort of digging and some sort of peepstone from which the stories took their rise? We can't accept any of these stories as they stand -- there are too many objections to each one: but can we get back to the primordial cell from which they are all derived? The only way to do it is to interview the earliest witnesses we can find. So let us begin with Mr. Obadiah Dogberry. According to you, Mr. Dogberry, the idea of hidden treasures guarded by the spirits was a familiar one in Joseph Smith's part of the world before he ever took to digging. Is that correct?

Dogberry: It is. "This opinion... did not originate by any means with Smith." There was "the MANIA of money-digging... through many parts of this country" at the time. "Men and women without distinction of age or sex... dreamed, and... saw visions disclosing to them deep in the bowels of the earth, rich and shining treasures,... and although the SPIRIT was always able to retain his precious charge, these discomfited as well as deluded beings, would on a succeeding night return to their toil." [01]

Ch.: All this was well before Smith's story of the gold plates. And did these people use peepstones?

O. Dogberry: They did indeed. "Peep-stones or pebbles, taken promiscuously from brook or field" would show these people "all the wonders of nature, including of course, ample stores of silver and gold." [02]

Ch.: And how did these multitudes of people "in many parts of this country" operate these wonderful PEEP-STONES?

1. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959), 2:69.

2. Ibid.


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O. Dogberry: The "PEEP-STONES... were placed in a hat or other situation excluded from the light, when some WIZARD or WITCH... applied their eyes." [03]

Ch.: But Mr. Pomeroy Tucker, the learned editor and Mr. Smith's very intimate personal friend, assures us that the practice with the hat was peculiar to Smith, who resorted to it not to make his peepstone look brighter, but to make it look dimmer. The very oddity of Smith and his peepstone techniques has been exploited as a prime explanation of the Book of Mormon. Mr. Lu B. Cake calls his invaluable collection of affidavits, Peepstone Joe, as if Smith was the only man who ever peeped; and the most devastating blow dealt to Smith's pretensions has always been the claim that he was known as a money digger. Now we learn that peeping and money digging were everybody's business. Mr. Howe, you said these stories must have a foundation in fact, and now it is apparent that you were right. According to the first mention of the business, the peeping and digging stories do not begin with Smith at all, yet his critics, especially in the twentieth century, labor mightily to prove to the world that he and his family were absolutely unique and peculiar in peeping and digging, which queer practices made their doings well known "to vast numbers of people." But I think we can be more specific than this. With everyone around him digging like mad, so to speak, how did young Smith get into the business?


O. Dogberry: I can tell you that. It was a man called [Luman] Walters, a sort of conjurer, who "was paid three dollars per day for his services by money diggers in this neighborhood." [04]

Ch.: As a conjurer, he would find the treasures for them, and they would dig, I take it? That is exactly the business in which Smith was so long engaged, we have been told.

O. Dogberry: Yes, it was Walters who "first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book." [05]

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 2:74.

5. Ibid.


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Ch.: How did he do that?

O. Dogberry: He "had procured an old copy of Cicero's Orations, in the Latin language, out of which 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." [06]

Ch.: Just like Solomon Spaulding, eh? But what proof have you that Smith was ever among his hearers?

O. Dogberry: I wasn't there, of course, but it stands to reason.

Ch.: How do you know it was Walters who suggested the idea of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith?

O. Dogberry: "There remains but little doubt, in the minds of those at all acquainted with these transactions." [07]

Ch.: It is clear from the way you put it that these people were not witnesses to anything significant: witnesses do not testify to things which are in their minds or matters on which they have "but little doubt"; they either know or they don't know, because they have seen and heard, not because they are "at all acquainted with these transactions." Now tell us, can you name any of these people, or tell how they might have overheard the secret and private conversations between Walters and Smith -- whom you earlier describe as Walters' intimate disciple? Can you even give evidence that Smith and Walters ever met?

O. Dogberry: There are significant coincidences. "Not long previous to the pretended discovery of the 'Book of Mormon,' Walters assembled his nightly band of money diggers in the town of Manchester, at a point designated with his magical book, and... absolutely sacrificed a fowl, 'Rooster,' in the presence of his awe-stricken companions, to the foul spirit." [08]

Ch.: And here we have been told all along that it was Smith's very own idea to organize a digging gang. What has all this to do with Joseph Smith?

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.


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O. Dogberry: I told you this happened "not long previous to the pretended discovery of the 'Book of Mormon.'" [09]

Ch.: But according to our most reliable witnesses, Smith could not possibly have learned his art from Walters, since he had already been practicing peeping and digging with his own gang for years! Indeed, by the time he met Walters, according to nearly all our other "witnesses" he would have given up the business -- he stopped, they tell us, in 1827, after he had discovered the plates and after seven or eight years of digging. You say repeatedly that the "mantle" of Walters "fell upon the Prophet Jo. Smith Jun.," but it should have been the other way around -- Joseph was an old hand at all this stuff, according to all the others. He learned it from his father who, we have been assured on high authority, practiced it in Vermont.

O. Dogberry: "We are not able to determine whether the elder Smith was ever concerned in money-digging transactions previous to his emigration from Vermont." [10]

Ch.: Well then, others tell us it was his mother who taught him the black arts; that the peepstone had been in her family for generations: but others say it was a little old woman who lived down the road; others say Smith first learned divination from a young girl; still others say it was a man in Pennsylvania who introduced Smith to peeping. If Smith learned his art from Walters, who told people where to dig for treasure and, according to you, led "his motley crew of tatterdemalions" on ritual diggings in the woods around Manchester at night, then what happens to all the peepstone stories, which put Joseph Smith in the very same business in 1822 and earlier? He needed no mantle from you -- he had it all down cold! Why did you say that Walters "absolutely sacrificed a fowl, 'Rooster'" in his digging ritual?

O. Dogberry: Because he actually did, shocking and incredible as it may seem.

Ch.: Shucks, man, that was nothing! Don't you know that the Smiths had been sacrificing black sheep all over the

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., 2:52.


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place for years? We have been told by more than one witness that whenever Smith wanted meat for his family he ordered the sacrifice of a black sheep, and from those claiming to have been his closest neighbors and observers we have heard how he would sometimes substitute a white sheep or a white dog or a black dog for his black sheep. And all this in the years before 1827 and long before the meeting with Walters which Mr. Dogberry says took place "not long previous to the pretended discovery of the 'Book of Mormon.'" Now, it has been admitted by the most hostile witnesses, and denied by none, that there is no evidence that Joseph Smith himself ever engaged in digging for treasure, but there must be something behind it all, they tell us. There was: the tales of Walters, not his "mantle" but the stories about him, were simply transferred whole to Smith. Professor Turner speaks of another mantle falling on Smith.

O. Turner: Yes, it was "the mantle of the prophet which Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smith and one Oliver Cowdery had wove of themselves -- every thread of it." [11]

Ch.: That doesn't leave much for Walters, you see. But when you say as you do, Mr. Dogberry, that the mantle of Walters fell upon Joseph Smith, you are expressing a truth: the whole fabric of digging-stories about Walters, even down to small and peculiar details: the stone, the circle, the sword, the book, the rabble band, the midnight digs, the sacrifices, the ever-disappointing treasure, the clever explanations -- all those things we have been taught were the peculiar stamp of Smith's genius, now seem to have belonged to another and much older man, and to have been transferred to Smith not by Walters but by you, Mr. Dogberry.

O. Dogberry: But the resemblance between the two impostors is much too full and perfect to be a coincidence.

Ch.: True. And therefore Smith must have got his stuff from Walters if the stories about Smith are true. But he denies that those stories are true, and what is worse, ninety percent of them rule Walters out of the picture. The

11. Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase and Morris' Reserve (Rochester: Alling, 1851), 213.


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striking resemblance on which you rest your case is not between Walters and Smith, but between Walters and Smith as you describe him.

The Rochester Gem: But Walters was not the only person that Smith resembled most remarkably. In fact his resemblance to Walters may have been just a coincidence after all.

O. Dogberry: Out of the question, sir!

The other Smith and Mr. Northrop

Ed. of the Gem: Not at all! Let me give you one. Smith's whole "story brings to our mind one of similar nature once played off upon the inhabitants of Rochester and its vicinity, near the close of the last war." [12]

Ch.: Let's get this straight. To what war do you refer?

Gem: The War of 1812, of course. "If we remember aright, it was in the year 1815, that a family of Smiths moved into these parts."

Ch.: By "these parts" you mean "Rochester and its vicinity," and since the final peace treaty was signed just one day after Joseph Smith turned eight, he would have been seven years old "near the close of the last war." I want to get this clear, that the Smiths you are talking about are not the family of Joseph Smith.

Gem: That is right. This is simply a case "of similar nature." Time and place alike make it impossible to confuse them.

E. D. Howe: Then why all the fuss?

Ch.: Pay close attention, Mr. Howe, and you will see. Proceed, witness.

Gem: They had a wonderful son, of about 18 years of age, who, on a certain day, as they said, while in the road, discovered a round stone of the size of a man's fist, the which when he first saw it, presented to him on the one side, all the dazzling splendor of the sun in full blaze -- and on the other, the clearness of the moon. He fell down insensible at the sight, and while in the trance produced by the sudden and awful discovery, it was communicated to

12. Kirkham, New Witness of Christ in America, 2:47.


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him that he was to become an oracle -- and the keys of mystery were put into his hands, and he saw the unsealing of the book of fate. He told his tale for MONEY. Numbers flocked to him to test his skill, and the first question among a certain class was, if there was any of Kidd's money hid in these parts of the earth. The oracle, after adjusting the stone in his hat, and looking in upon it some time, pronounced that there was. [13]

Ch.: So here we have a young man by the name of Smith peeping for treasure -- Captain Kidd's treasure -- less than thirty miles from Palmyra. You say there must be something behind the peeping stories -- there is, but it has nothing to do with Joseph Smith. I suppose next a band of diggers was organized?

Gem: Of course, how did you guess it? "The question of where, being decided upon, there forthwith emerged a set, armed with 'pick-axe, hoe and spade,' out into the mountains, to dislodge the treasure." [14]

Ch.: Did they ever find it?

Gem: Need you ask? "We shall mention but one man of the money diggers. His name was Northrop.... Northrop and his men sallied out upon the hills east of the river, and commenced digging --"

Ch.: By night, of course?

Gem: How did you know? Yes, "the night was chosen for operation -- already had two nights been spent in digging, and the third commenced upon, when Northrop with his pick-axe struck the chest! The effect was powerful, and contrary to an explicit rule laid down by himself he exclaimed, 'd--m me, I've found it!' "[15]

Ch.: So he laid down strict rules for his phalanx, just like Joe. Of course this breaking of silence spoiled everything.

Gem: True. "The charm was broken! -- the scream of demons, -- the chattering of spirits -- and hissing of serpents, rent the air, and the treasure moved!" [16]

Ch.: Of course.

13. Ibid., 2:47-48.

14. Ibid., 2:48.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.


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Gem: What do you mean, "of course"?

Ch.: Didn't you know? Joseph Smith's treasures always moved away like that when somebody spoke.

Gem: Now you are being facetious.

Ch.: Not at all. I can give you a dozen reports on that. And I suppose the treasure kept moving that way and they never found it.

Gem: You happen to be right.

Ch.: And what happened to young Smith?

Gem: Well, a magistrate came to take his stone away, and the boy said that "he who should take away the inspired stone from him, would suffer immediate death!" But the magistrate "demanded the stone, and ground it to powder." So the Smiths moved away, "the money-diggers joined in the general execration... and all turned out to be a hoax!" [17]

Ch.: If all this has nothing to do with Joseph Smith, why do you tell it?

Gem: Because the stories are so much alike: "Now in reference to the two stories, 'put that to that, and they are a noble pair of brothers.'" [18]

The Belcher boy

Ch.: Exactly. They are twins, in fact, identical twins: nay, one is the mirror-image of the other. Here we have a parallel just as close as that between Smith and Walters, but in this case it cannot possibly be maintained that the younger Smith borrowed anything from the older Smith or his diggers or from the Northrop gang: yet the resemblance is too striking to be mere coincidence. How do we account for it, then? One of these Smiths was the real peeper, the other his borrowed reflection. We have seen how clumsily, persistently, and absurdly the experts have attempted to hang a lot of digging stories on Joseph Smith -- they don't fit at all. But here we have other men to whom these stories do apply, and they come first, robbing Joseph Smith of all claims to originality. But he makes no such claims! -- his

17. Ibid., 2:48-49.

18. Ibid., 2:49.


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friends and followers protest that the digging stories about him are not true. They never tell such tales. But those who do tell them disagree among themselves and make an awful botch of things. They are trying to dress Joseph Smith in other men's clothes. Here, for example, we have another peepstone story just as good as the others. Mr. Buck, you are credited with the earliest report of Joe's peeping. What was his stone like?

J. B. Buck: The stone he used after he took up peeping was the "green stone, with brown, irregular spots on it." It was somewhat larger than a goose-egg. [19]

Ch.: How did the stone work?

J. B. Buck: "When he brought it home and covered it with a hat, Belcher's little boy was one of the first to look into the hat, and as he did so he said he saw a candle." The second time he looked he found his hatchet. "The boy was soon beset by neighbors far and near" to find lost things for them, which he did with great success. [20]

Ch.: And this was before Joseph Smith took to peeping?

J. B. Buck: Certainly. "Joe Smith was here lumbering soon after my marriage, which was in 1818, some years before he took to 'peeping'... the stone which he afterwards used was then in the possession of Jack Belcher, of Gibson." [21]

Ch.: Of course you realize that Joe didn't turn thirteen until the last ten days of 1818 -- so that makes him a twelve-year-old lumberman, but let it pass. The point is that we have a youngster peeping at a stone in a hat to find lost objects for people before Joseph Smith ever did such a thing. And then later we find Smith using that very stone (though we are not told how he got it) to do the same. Here again a story told originally about one boy is transferred to another one -- this time consciously so. Mr. Buck's unique data are in conflict with all other versions, he makes no claim ever to have witnessed Joseph Smith's peeping, and does not even suggest the time, place, or manner in which the valuable stone, which was kept and greatly

19. Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehannah County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen and Haffelfinger, 1873), 577.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.


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prized in Pennsylvania, changed hands. That is to say, there is nothing firsthand about his testimony, and since he is the only witness for the story he tells (the cornerstone of Dr. Linn's learned thesis), there is only one thing we can say about it for sure: that the story of the peeping Belcher boy was transferred by him from the Belchers to Smith.

O. Dogberry: Can you prove such a transfer?

Ch.: By direct testimony, of course not -- no one is going to admit it. But let us take your own case. One of the most intrinsically absurd aspects of many digging stories about the Smiths is that though they never found anything, their faithful band of lazy loafers continued to dig all over the countryside for years. The picture is preposterous, it cannot be true -- but I can tell you where it comes from. What was it you said about the other diggers of the time? The clerk will please read it.

Clerk (reads): "And to facilitate those mighty mining operations (money was usually if not always sought after in the night time), divers devices and implements were invented, and although the SPIRIT was always able to retain his precious charge, these... deluded beings, would on a succeeding night return to their toil, not in the least doubting that success would eventually attend their labors." [22]

Ch.: There you have the same picture with the Smiths left out, and this time it is plausible. In terms of vast numbers of diggers it is easy to picture the work going on night after night and year after year all over the country, regardless of innumerable disappointments. But that this should apply to but one small household, the lazy Smiths, is quite unthinkable. The earlier and more believable situation has plainly been transferred to a setting in which it simply does not fit. Now, Mr. Dogberry, the number of references you made to "the mantle of Walters the Magician falling upon Joseph, surnamed the prophet" are all found in a writing by you entitled the "Book of Pukei." Is that work to be regarded as a serious piece of historical writing or newspaper reporting?

22. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 2:69.


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O. Dogberry: Mrs. Brodie thinks it is serious -- she swears by it.

Ch.: But do you?

Dogberry sows the seed

O. Dogberry: Of course not! That was only a joke. My serious writing on the subject was in a series of articles entitled "Golden Bible" in the Palmyra Reflector for the first three months of 1831.

Ch.: And in those articles you have but one sentence dealing with Smith's relationship to Walters. The clerk will please read it.

Clerk (reads): "There remains but little doubt, in the minds of those at all acquainted with these transactions, that Walters... first suggested to Smith the idea of finding a book." [23]

Ch.: That is all you say on this crucial point and, as we have seen, your statement is cautiously noncommittal; you do not vouch for yourself and designate no witnesses, places, or dates. Yet half a year earlier you wrote a long rigmarole on Joseph Smith as Walters' disciple.

O. Dogberry: As I said, that was a joke. It was a parody.

Ch.: It did not pretend to be factual?

O. Dogberry: There's many a true word spoken in jest.

Ch.: But I am talking about the charges you did not repeat in your serious articles. You do not claim that any effort was made to be accurate in your "Book of Pukei"?

O. Dogberry: Read some of it, if you think I was serious!

Ch.: We shall do that. Will the clerk please read?

Clerk (reads): The Book of Pukei - chapter I: And it came to pass in the latter days, that wickedness did much abound in the land, and the "idle and slothful said one to another, let us send for Walters the Magician, who has strange books, and deals with familiar spirits, peradventure he will inform us where the

23. Ibid., 2:74.


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Nephites, hid their treasure.... And it came to pass, that when the Idle and Slothful became weary of their night labors, they said one to another, lo! This imp of the Devil, hath deceived us, let us no more of him, or peradventure, ourselves, our wives, and our little ones, will become chargeable on the town.... [24]

So Walters the Magician   took his book, his rusty sword, and his magic stone, and his stuffed toad, and all his implements of witchcraft and returned to the mountains near Great Sodus Bay, where he holds communion with the Devil, even unto this day. Now the rest of the acts of the magician, how his mantle fell upon the Prophet Jo. Smith, Jun., and how Jo. made a league with the spirit, who afterwards turned out to be an angel, and how he obtained the "Gold Bible"... will they not be faithfully recorded in the Book of Pukei? [25]

Later Joseph Smith says:

Behold! hath not the mantle of Walters the Magician fallen upon me... for lo! yesternight stood before me in the wilderness of Manchester, the spirit, who, from the beginning, has had in keeping all the treasures, hidden in the bowels of the earth. And he said unto me,... I am the spirit that walketh in darkness, and will shew thee great signs and wonders. [26]

And I looked, and behold a little old man stood before me, clad, as I supposed, in Egyptian raiment, except his Indian blanket and moccasins -- his beard of silver white, hung far below his knees. On his head was an old fashioned military half cocked hat such as was worn in the days of the patriarch Moses -- his speech was sweeter than molasses, and his words were the reformed Egyptian. [27]

Ch.: Thank you, that will do. You are quite playful, Mr. Dogberry.

O. Dogberry: It is jolly, isn't it. Let the clerk read what the angel says next.

24. Ibid., 2:51-52.

25. Ibid., 2:52.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.


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Clerk (reads):

And again he said unto me, "Joseph, thou who has been surnamed the ignoramus, Knowest thou not... that I have been sent unto thee by Mormon,... who was chief among the last ten tribes of Israel? Knowest thou not that this same apostle to the Nephites conducted that pious people... to these happy shores in bark canoes, where... God sent the smallpox among them, which killed two-thirds of them, and turned the rest into Indians? Knowest thou not... that this same Mormon wrote a book on plates of gold... concerning the aforesaid Nephites and their brethren the Lamanites, and their treasures (including a box of gold watches on which thou shalt hereafter raise money)? [28]

Ch.: Thank you again. That is enough to show the type of writing we are dealing with. It is the broadest satire, the typically heavy-handed Yankee humor of the nineteenth century -- or am I wrong? Does anyone want to maintain that this is a serious paraphrase of the Book of Mormon, or that Joseph Smith himself would go around telling stories like this on himself? The description of the backwoods angel is obviously meant to be sidesplitting, but do you know, Mr. Dogberry, that some of the most eminent scholars have taken this document in dead earnest?

O. Dogberry: Impossible!

Ch.: Mrs. Brodie prefers it to your serious writing -- she would be lost without it. You recall how your funny angel tells a funny story about the Nephites, including their treasure, a box of gold watches? Well, years later the little old man and the box of watches turn up as a serious part of the Mormon story. Mr. Stafford?

J. Stafford: Joseph Smith, 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.'... He wished to go east with them." [29]

28. Ibid., 2:53-54.

29. John C. Bennett, The History of the Saints; Or, An Expos? of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842), 77-78.


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Ch.: If he could hear the thing tick at forty rods, why did he put it to his ear -- how would he dare?

J. C. Bennett: That would be just a manner of speaking.

Ch.: Still in the tradition of broad American humor. Since your work is the earliest on Smith, Mr. Dogberry, later investigations, honoring its high antiquity, have picked out of the extravaganza whatever suited their theories of Joseph Smith. Mrs. Brodie chooses to believe that Walter's mantle actually did fall on Smith, though you don't say so in your serious attack written later; others take the funny touch about the gold watches quite seriously; still others describe the original Moroni as a little old man in a cocked hat! So your fantasy has borne fruit. But let no one claim hereafter that because there "must be something behind all these stories" that that something is the true history of Joseph Smith. That is Brodian logic. Now, since all these full and close parallels between Joseph Smith and Walters and the Rochester Smith and the Belcher boy and Northrop cannot be accidental, either Smith's doings were transferred to those other people, or theirs to him. Which is it? The first alternative must be rejected out of hand, since Joseph Smith was much younger than all but one of the other people, and their stories all come first -- which nobody will deny. Was he their zealous disciple, then? No, no one claims that Smith ever saw Northrop or the other Smith or the Belcher boy. For a hundred years the unanimous charge against Joe Smith was that he was the author of all this nonsense, a unique and original character. He didn't get it from them, and they didn't get it from him. And there is not a shred of proof that he got it from Walters.

E. D. Howe: So we are back where we started.

Ch.: Not at all. The solution is simple: Smith didn't get it, period. Here we have two bodies of literature containing the same strange, fantastic tales. We admit that this cannot be a mere coincidence: one corpus was inspired by the other. Which was the original? Of that there can be no doubt -- the stories not about Smith are all the older, they are the original. How then did they all get attached


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to Joseph Smith? Did he borrow them? Did his followers insist on attributing them to him? Not a bit of it! He and they always deny any connection with the great Digging Cycle. Those who unload the stories on Smith are all his enemies, and what is more, they have an extremely difficult time connecting him with those tales in time and place, while they contradict each other at every step.

The time has come to sum up our little investigation. I will be brief. First, as to our witnesses -- their quality and their quantity. The latter was excessive, the former defective. There were altogether too many witnesses; they were too eager; they all knew Smith so very, very well, though there is not the slightest indication that Smith ever knew them. All of which might be forgiven if their stories were not intrinsically absurd and thoroughly conflicting. Mr. Tucker, our prize witness, at no time gave any information that would indicate personal acquaintance with Joseph Smith or even firsthand observation of any act performed by him; whenever his testimony became specific it became absurd; whenever it became rational and confident it became also generalizing and editorial in nature. We were unable to discover any diggers or any victims, living or dead, of Smith's purported treasure-hunting promotions. We were told with the greatest assurance that Smith found treasure and that he found none; that he prospered in the business and that he starved; that he dug in a few places and that he dug everywhere; that he merely pretended to dig; that he first learned peeping from his father, his mother, an old neighbor lady, a man in Pennsylvania; that he learned it from infancy, as an adolescent, and as a disciple of Walters -- half-a-dozen specific and conflicting dates being confidently assigned to his acquiring of the black art. We have been told that Smith regularly dug and that he never dug at all; that he had to dig in the full moon and that he preferred the dark of the moon; that his band broke up at the first failures and that they went on for years; that he killed only one sheep and that he slaughtered herds of them; that he had a stone box and a wooden box;


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-- at least five different peepstones have been described. And the constant and glaring contradictions between these damning and disgraceful tales have been blithely attributed to conflicting versions circulated by the Smith family themselves!

Finally, when challenged to explain the factual realities which usually hide behind even the wildest rumors, we have not had to part company with the witnesses themselves to discover ample evidence for the efflorescence of strange and exotic tales of treasure digging in early nineteenth-century America among which every weird detail of the stories later attached to Joseph Smith is found in full bloom before Smith can possibly have been involved. In some cases the actual transfer of a story from an earlier setting to the orbit of the Smith family can be clearly demonstrated. If Joseph Smith is to be condemned, I fear it must be on far better evidence than this. The meeting is dismissed.


(comments forthcoming)