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Rivers

Brigham Young appearing as Joseph Smith

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It's not that people would wait years before mentioning a transformation that causes me to question it—it's that people who did mention the speech at the time made no mention of a transformation.

Are you saying that believers think the manifestation was unfolded to everyone who was present and heard the speech on that occasion? I don't make that claim; I don't know of any believer who does.

I also don't buy the idea that they wouldn't mention it in their accounts because it would have been too sacred to share.

Many people regard certain spiritual experiences and manifestations as being too sacred to disclose in public or in written accounts. Do you deny this is the case? I give myself as an example of one who would refuse to share certain spiritual experiences on, say, an Internet message board such as this, where such things are apt to be mocked. I would even be judicious about doing so in a personal journal or diary, for one cannot know what might become of such writings. I might, however, discuss such spiritual experiences confidentially with trusted friends and family members.

Some later accounts say hundreds jumped to their feet in shock and exclamation.

If that's true, it contradicts the notion that there was no contemporaneous acknowledgement of the miracle, does it not?

The event would have been no secret, and why would anyone consider such an amazing, public sign—one that people did not hesitate to shout about at the moment it occurred—to suddenly be unfit for sharing later that day, or in the following days (especially when there was so much discussion about who should lead the Church)?

Who says it was a secret? All that can be definitively stated is that there are no known contemporaneous journal entries or newspaper accounts about it. It may well have been a topic of conversation among certain of the people at the time, conversation of which, for whatever reason, there does not happen to be any written record.

Another thing that raises a red flag for me is how a great many of the later accounts use the same phrase, "the mantle of Joseph," when describing the transformation. It seems like a catch-phrase. It would not be difficult to imagine a sermon or two about the mantle of Joseph resting on Brigham that day, whether meant supernaturally or not, and to have it then become a supernatural event in many people's minds.

The imagery of the mantle has a scriptural origin. See 2 Kings 2, wherein is the account of the mantle of Elijah falling on Elisha. Based on that scriputral passage, the mantle has come to be emblematic of the authority of the prophet in Mormon thought and vernacular. "Mantle of the prophet" is a phrase that is used so often in the Church it has almost become cliche. Therefore, it is not at all strange or suspicious that witnesses in Nauvoo, recalling the incident years after the fact, would apply this commonly understood metaphor to what they viewed as a spiritual manifestation showing that Brigham now held the keys and authority that Joseph had.

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Are you saying that believers think the manifestation was unfolded to everyone who was present and heard the speech on that occasion? I don't make that claim; I don't know of any believer who does.

Even those who wouldn't have seen a transformation themselves would have undoubtedly noticed the supposedly hundreds who sprang to their feet and exclaimed: "Look, it's Joseph!" But not only is there no trace of a transformation in any of the accounts that mentioned the speech at the time, but there is also no mention of hundreds having jumped up and claimed one. That is just as substantial an omission in my opinion.

Many people regard certain spiritual experiences and manifestations as being too sacred to disclose in public or in written accounts. Do you deny this is the case?

No, but the supposed witnesses did disclose it—both in written accounts and, as many of them claimed, publicly when the speech took place. That there would be an interim period of sacred silence between their public exclamations at the time of the speech and when they documented their accounts years later strikes me as odd. It would also be odd that such a sacred silence be carried out by 100% of known witnesses.

Also, a sacred silence does not explain the absence of uninterested observer testimony to the supposed behavior and exclamations of the crowd that day.

[in response to: "Some later accounts say hundreds jumped to their feet in shock and exclamation"]

If that's true, it contradicts the notion that there was no contemporaneous acknowledgement of the miracle, does it not?

Some of the supposed witnesses claim, years after the fact, that hundreds at the speech behaved in a manner that would have undoubtedly impressed all in attendance. That we then have no mention of it in any of the accounts made when the speech actually took place diminishes, not reinforces, their version of events in my opinion.

The imagery of the mantle has a scriptural origin. See 2 Kings 2, wherein is the account of the mantle of Elijah falling on Elisha. Based on that scriputral passage, the mantle has come to be emblematic of the authority of the prophet in Mormon thought and vernacular. "Mantle of the prophet" is a phrase that is used so often in the Church it has almost become cliche. Therefore, it is not at all strange or suspicious that witnesses in Nauvoo, recalling the incident years after the fact, would apply this commonly understood metaphor to what they viewed as a spiritual manifestation showing that Brigham now held the keys and authority that Joseph had.

That is interesting about the connection to 2 Kings. However, I still maintain that as a life long Latter-day Saint it strikes me as odd that so many of the witnesses used that phrase in their accounts. But that's just me.

In any case, whether or not Brigham Young actually appeared as Joseph Smith to some attendees at a speech should have no bearing on the faith of any Latter-day Saint. But that's beside the point.

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This is very interesting.

So what you seem to be telling us is that the fans did in fact see the scenes in question -- they just didn't see them in the movie. But having actually seen them, they "retrofitted" them into their memories of the movie.

Got it.

And so the parallel to this case is -- what, exactly? That maybe people thought they had seen Brigham appear as Joseph on August 8, 1844, but it might really have been some other date?

Regards,

Pahoran

While I wouldn't be surprised to find theories of multiple miraculous transformations at different times (especially to account for recollections from people who weren't there), the general point of my post was that people can think they remember something that they didn't actually see, so recollections from later decades could possibly have been influenced by the retelling of earlier stories, and the sheer number of such recollections doesn't necessarily mean the story has good support.

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Even those who wouldn't have seen a transformation themselves would have undoubtedly noticed the supposedly hundreds who sprang to their feet and exclaimed: "Look, it's Joseph!" But not only is there no trace of a transformation in any of the accounts that mentioned the speech at the time, but there is also no mention of hundreds having jumped up and claimed one. That is just as substantial an omission in my opinion.

I just scanned some of the eyewitness accounts published in the appendix of Lynne Watkins Jorgensen's BYU Studies article. I don't perceive the precise scenario you envision above — no reports of people jumping to their feet and exclaiming "Look, it's Joseph!" There is an account here and there of someone commenting to a family member or other individual seated nearby. Even in the accounts that mention people rising to their feet, it is because of the overall impression that Brigham makes on the congregation, not necessarily his appearance being transformed into Joseph's. Some of the crowd may have been impacted by the power of his words, the fervency of his oratory, or the Spirit bearing witness to them of his prophethood. One would not necessarily have to witness a transformation for that to happen. I quite regularly feel the influence of the Holy Ghost when listening to a speaker in church, this without the speaker seeming to undergo a change in physical appearance.

No, but the supposed witnesses did disclose it—both in written accounts and, as many of them claimed, publicly when the speech took place. That there would be an interim period of sacred silence between their public exclamations at the time of the speech and when they documented their accounts years later strikes me as odd.

Jorgensen addresses this in her article. She writes:

Because of the very personal nature of a spiritual experience some saints may have been reluctant to record their impressions. In a letter to Elder George S. Gibbs, Benjamin E. Johnson explains:

"So deeply was I impressed with what I saw and heard in the transfiguration that for years I dared not tell what was given me of the Lord to see but when in later years I did publicly bear this testimony I found that others had testified to having seen and heard the same. But to what proportion of the congregation that were present I

could never know but I do know that this my testimony is true."

By the time they recorded their experiences the church's progression under President Young's leadership and the accounts of others who had attended the meeting had helped to validate their experience and testifying to its reality had become an honorable activity.

In a footnote, Jorgensen wrote the following:

While teaching family history classes for the BYU Salt Lake Center I asked my students how many of them had personally experienced a spiritual manifestation or knew of a spiritual experience of someone close to them. Nearly every hand went up. I then asked how many had written these experiences down. Nearly every hand went down. Only one or two of the students had actually kept a journal account. When I asked why they had not recorded the experience they answered that they were uncomfortable writing about sacred events.

Also, a sacred silence does not explain the absence of uninterested observer testimony to the supposed behavior and exclamations of the crowd that day.

Disinterested observers may not have been privy to the miraculous manifestation. See above.

It would also be odd that such a sacred silence be carried out by 100% of known witnesses.

Reluctance to discuss a spiritual experience is just one possible explanation for the lack of contemporaneous records. Jorgensen has given others. Nauvoo was in a state of controlled chaos from the martyrdom on, with residents struggling to survive in the face of mob oppression, finish constructing the temple and prepare for the westward exodus. Journal keeping may very well have been a low-priority activity for most people if they were inclined at all to keep a journal.

And the fact is, written reminiscences of the transformation in Brigham's appearance began to appear (if I recall correctly) by 1850, not very long at all after the Church had survived the forced exodus from Nauvoo and relocated to the Mountain West.

Some of the supposed witnesses claim, years after the fact, that hundreds at the speech behaved in a manner that would have undoubtedly impressed all in attendance. That we then have no mention of it in any of the accounts made when the speech actually took place diminishes, not reinforces, their version of events in my opinion.

Already addressed above. Observers might have witnessed the behavior of the crowd without being privy to the specifics of the miraculous transformation in President Young's appearance perceived by some of the attendees.

That is interesting about the connection to 2 Kings. However, I still maintain that as a life long Latter-day Saint it strikes me as odd that so many of the witnesses used that phrase in their accounts. But that's just me.

If you are a lifelong Latter-day Saint, you undoubtedly know that there is a great deal of what I would call "Mormonspeak" in our discourse — stock expressions that pervade our prayers, talks, lessons, articles, books, etc. — of which "the mantle of the prophet" is only one example.

In any case, whether or not Brigham Young actually appeared as Joseph Smith to some attendees at a speech should have no bearing on the faith of any Latter-day Saint. But that's beside the point.

If you are saying that the truth of Mormonism does not rise or fall on the veracity of the reported transformation in the image of Brigham Young in the grove at Nauvoo on Aug. 8, 1844, I agree.

You are entitled to your opinion about it and have given your reasoning, but I don't see that your reasoning compels one, having read a selection from those 121 eyewitness accounts and having been exposed to the fervency of their expression, to easily dismiss them as just that much self-delusion or falsehood.

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While I wouldn't be surprised to find theories of multiple miraculous transformations at different times (especially to account for recollections from people who weren't there), the general point of my post was that people can think they remember something that they didn't actually see, so recollections from later decades could possibly have been influenced by the retelling of earlier stories, and the sheer number of such recollections doesn't necessarily mean the story has good support.

But the example you gave in support of your attempt to wave the recollections aside in fact undermines your basic premise. The SW fans didn't simply imagine that they had seen those deleted scenes after hearing about them from others; they had, according to your story, actually seen them themselves. Their memories were faulty only upon the point of the context in which they had seen them.

They didn't all imagine themselves remembering something they weren't really remembering; they merely thought the memory belonged in a different time and place than it really did. The actual memory, however, was real.

Just like the experience many people independently reported of seeing and/or hearing Joseph when Brigham rose to speak.

Regards,

Pahoran

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But the example you gave in support of your attempt to wave the recollections aside in fact undermines your basic premise. The SW fans didn't simply imagine that they had seen those deleted scenes after hearing about them from others; they had, according to your story, actually seen them themselves. Their memories were faulty only upon the point of the context in which they had seen them.

They didn't all imagine themselves remembering something they weren't really remembering; they merely thought the memory belonged in a different time and place than it really did. The actual memory, however, was real.

Just like the experience many people independently reported of seeing and/or hearing Joseph when Brigham rose to speak.

Regards,

Pahoran

My example would suggest that people may have heard the story of Brigham Young's transformation after the fact and incorporated the story into their experience based not on having experienced it first-hand but instead based on hearing someone else say they saw it.

I'm not arguing that everyone made it up; I'm just trying to suggest a plausible reason to be skeptical of sheer numbers of reported witnesses to such things.

And of course, the culture of the time probably wouldn't work to popularize and preserve recollections of people who were there and insisted they didn't see anything unusual. So there might be some confirmation bias at work as well.

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And of course, the culture of the time probably wouldn't work to popularize and preserve recollections of people who were there and insisted they didn't see anything unusual. So there might be some confirmation bias at work as well.

The perception of those who were there and did not see anything unusual (and I have no doubt there were many) does not argue against the veracity of the experience of those who reported seeing a transformation in the image of Brigham Young. A spiritual experience is not, by nature, universal.

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Is it true that Brigham Young denied being a prophet?

I read a quote to the effect that he never claimed to be one.

Is that true?

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Is it true that Brigham Young denied being a prophet?

I read a quote to the effect that he never claimed to be one.

Is that true?

In the Hollywood Movie from the late '30s he expressed his doubts in private, but never publicly.

I'm aware of no other place where he did.

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Is it true that Brigham Young denied being a prophet?

I read a quote to the effect that he never claimed to be one.

Is that true?

There is this, D&C 136:

http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/136?lang=eng

And this experience, which I think is also behind all of his subsequent teachings on the Spirit World (see the chapter on the topic in the Brigham Young priesthood manual).

https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/097-86.pdf

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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In the Hollywood Movie from the late '30s he expressed his doubts in private, but never publicly.

I'm aware of no other place where he did.

Vincent Price as Joseph Smith... Very interesting movie. Have it on DVD.

JMS

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I am honestly fustrated with topics like this. It seems so arrogant for people today to wave their hands and declare all the witnesses to the event either liars or confused. And I think this is selective arrogance too. If experiences came up in journals that spoke against the Church, the same criticism would not be leveled to the same degree.

In the end, these witness accounts are more authorative than you are. As many of them WERE there, while you were not.

JMS

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