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Joseph Smith Treasure Digging - MS Truth Claims Essay

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34 minutes ago, Exiled said:

So where are the huck finn "stretchers?"

Also, isn't the difference with Newton that his work can be proven regardless of where one is on the belief spectrum? I may say delusion or pious fraud and you may say preparation for prophetic work. But, with Newton, it doesn't matter what my religious belief is. Newton's laws are proven whether I am LDS or Agnostic.

Also, what is the difference between faith and fraud? Don't both require belief in the invisible? Most couldn't see the plates because of faith and financial statements are denied to the ponzi investor due to faith reasons too.

Some LDS have been bothered by JS's early treasure digging. I never have.

The point I was making with Isaac Newton and alchemy is that Newton's alchemical pursuits did not preclude or disqualify his scientific pursuits. In the same way, JS's early treasure digging does not seem to me to preclude or disqualify his later prophetic career.

As for the "stretchers", others have pointed some of these out. I confess to not reading the entire essay. I found it hard going.

Edited by bdouglas
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On 1/26/2019 at 2:14 PM, Garden Girl said:

When my husband was a young man he was an Agricultural Rep/Pump Tester for a utility company, and he routinely went out to farms and ranches in the district to test new wells (southern Calif high desert)... the ranchers/farmers were often wanting to drill additional wells... they swore by another company employee (one of the managers) as a dowser and most wouldn't consider starting to drill until this man came out and walked their property and made recommendations on where to drill.  He used wires... and would write up a report, making recommendations on location,  expected drilling depth to water, output in acre feet etc., etc.  They would drill where indicated and eventually my husband would end up testing the well.  The results were uncanny and estimations spot on... they made a believer out of my husband.  I knew the dowser and he was a perfectly normal person... a company manager...   I know that dowsing is scoffed at, but I became a believer also because I could see the results...

GG

more things in heaven and earth quote hamlet

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22 hours ago, Dan Vogel said:

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to respond to since you gave no counter to the interpretation, only ad hominem. I think Quinn or I would have been irresponsible scholars for not making the connection of Alvin’s exhumation with the messenger’s (treasure guardian’s) demand to bring Alvin to get the plates. The fact that you label that “grasping at the most absurd, lunatic, and salacious conspiracy” shows you are biased. Anyone who really knows my work knows that I dismiss many favorite “anti-Mormon” interpretations if I think they are unsupported by the evidence.

I gave no counter interpretation? I did. Twice. That Joseph Smith Sr. did what he did for the reason he said. Last time I checked, the said guardian didn’t say “bring Alvin’s corpse.” And further, that your theory also contradicts the evidence (see below).

[If your analaysis of history is as good as your analysis of my post, the world has good reason to beware.]

Please site the ad hominem. The only thing I’ve said about you personally was on the other thread (which you ignored) being that I have on good authority that you’re a nice guy. That has no bearing on you being a good or bad historian.  And I think your historical methodologies and analyses are very, very suspect.

Be sure that “making the connection” is not the issue. To suggest so is disingenuous.  The problem is you summarily concluding that your perverse theory (and it is perverse) as “probable” when the dates don’t even match up.  Joseph Smith Sr. was 3 days LATE to do what you suggest he did. He dated his published statement on September 25 and speaks specifically of the exhumation as of that “morning.”  So your theory can only hold if you suggest he lied about it.  But where’s that evidence?  Indeed, given the “unsupported evidence” upholding this theory, why don’t you also dismiss this crack-pot “anti-Mormon” theory?

Now, if you were correct (and you’re not), the story would really only demonstrate how JS, even as a boy, was completely convincing to his parents and family. That begs the question: was he such a great pious fraud at such a young age or was he believable because he was actually telling the truth?

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On 1/26/2019 at 12:56 PM, Exiled said:

I think you got this wrong, Mr. Packman, with all due respect. The letter to the newspaper occurred in 1824 and J.S. supposedly didn't get the plates until years later. Supposedly, the guardian spirit told J.S. that he was to bring Alvin with him and that is why he supposedly didn't get the plates in 1823. Unfortuneately, Alvin died shortly after the 1823 attempt and so wasn't available for the 1824 attempt, unless exhumed perhaps.

I don't see why it is problematic to say that all J.S. Sr. had to do was superficially look at the grave to see if some other person or persons had disturbed the grave.  Broken ground remains so for some time. So, it would be easy to see if digging at Alvin's grave had been done.

So, why did J.S. Sr. go to the lengths of digging the body up? One would think he would not want to disturb his son's grave. Maybe other money diggers had heard of the requirement for Alvin to be there and dug it up? But merely seeing the disturbed gravesite would show him that something happened. So, why completely dig up the body? To see if it had been dissected? Perhaps. However, given J.S. Sr.'s belief in treasure lore, and J.S. Jr.'s relating the excuse of not getting the plates to not having Alvin there with him in 1823, it seems Mr. Vogel's interpretation is more likely.

It is Mr. "PacMan," with no K.  Unless you speak Japanese.  Then there is no ""C," and it is pronounced "Pakkuman."  Many ghosts, various bits of fruit, and Vitamin Cs have been consumed for this great privilege...do not let it be in vain.

On topic, you have two problems.  First, Joseph Smith had asked the "guardian spirit" when he could get the plates, and Moroni (let's call him by his name) told him when he brought the "right person."  Joseph asked who that would be, and then Moroni replied Alvin.  Frankly, I find this narrative very credible.  Moroni couldn't very well say Emma (his wife and the person that ultimately went with him to retrieve the plates in 1827), whom Joseph hadn't met yet.  She was the right person.  So he said Alvin--another right person.  But Moroni knew he wouldn't make it.  He gave him a truthful answer without revealing what he couldn't reveal--who Joseph Smith would later marry.

Second, the JS Sr. statement was made September 25, 1824.  He states that he exhumed the body that morning.  This is THREE DAYS AFTER whatever was supposed to happen with Moroni would have happened--on September 22.  So Vogel's theory falls flat because it is TOO LATE.  Again, unless Vogel wants to accuse JS Sr. of lying about the date of the exhumation...but then he'd actually have to have evidence of this, which he doesn't.  Theory debunked.

Now, to answer your questions: "So, why did J.S. Sr. go the lengths of digging the body up?"  I think this is pretty simple.  First, Alvin died less than a year before in November 1823.  Vogel's idea that he should have been simply able to look at the dirt mound to see if it was disturbed is pure speculation.  There is nothing by which to conclude the the status of the grave was such that it would be indistinguishable from a recently disturbed and firmly packed site.  Further, I am very curious if Alvin was reburied in the Spring because his grave would have likely been shallow given the ground could have been frozen.  That, however, is speculation on my part.  Second, frankly, I'd have probably done the same.  As a father, you're not going to give the benefit of the doubt to common sensibilities--such as relying on what "looks" undisturbed.  Given the speculation that Alvin was "removed" and "dissected," JS Sr. would have a great motivation to know the truth--because JS Sr. was his father.

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8 hours ago, Exiled said:

Using a seer stone to find treasure was a crime back in 1820's New York. Hence, the 1826 trial of Joseph Smith, the "Glass Looker." I guess the people of New York didn't see treasure digging as honorable back then? However, that was obviously mere opinion. What is a crime in some eras could be viewed as "honorable" in other times? 

How do you view J.S. Jr. never actually finding anything, yet still being paid for his failures? In fact, to this day there aren't any treasures that have been found in the New York area that I am aware. Also, the church still hasn't excavated the hill cumorah in order to find the stone box that allegedly contained the plates. The fact is that there were never any treasures around Palmyra or Harmony or along the banks of the susquehanna river and belief in such was simply delusion. I don't see how you can claim treasure digging was really much ado about nothing ....

I think that Joseph was not arrested for being a treasure seeker. Rather for being an 'imposter' and 'a disorderly person'. Interestingly, at the time he was working with his father but the father was not charged. He was also found innocent, although this is contention about this. However, it is a non-issue.  I believe he was 18 at the time.

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On 1/25/2019 at 9:08 PM, mapman said:

In my opinion, the essay depends too much on Quinn's work. Quinn's book was of course very influential and important, but it is in many ways outdated. The most blatant omission is that John Brooke's Refining Fire is never referenced. There has also been good work done more recently by people like Mark Ashurst-McGee and Jonathan Stapley.

There are many issues with Quinn's work, such as making a lot out of people being distant relatives of each other, and artifacts of unclear provenance that were allegedly owned by Joseph. His biggest issue, I think, is a limited perspective. He talks about folk magic and the occult. These are not the preferred terms for most scholars today because they tend to create an artificial division between "magic" and religion that wasn't really there, and because for a lot of people they imply Satanic or anti-Christian practices. The broader perspective of Western esotericism, a religious tradition that was thought of as being complementary with Christianity, is needed to put Joseph Smith in the proper context.

Joseph Smith drew upon esoteric ideas that can't be put in the "folk magic" category from the very beginning of his prophetic career up until his death. This is something that Brooke tried to get across in his book (though he confusingly referred to esotericism as Hermeticism). The historian Catherine Albanese refers to this tradition as "metaphysical religion" and says the main esoteric traditions in antebellum America included Mormonism, Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and Transcendentalism. Unfortunately, this essay seems stuck in the scholarship in the 80s and doesn't bring in any of this useful context that later historians have discovered. I think there are plenty of fair criticisms of the church's essays, but they at least draw on a wider array of scholars and books.

I appreciate this general point being raised.  I think it's great.  But I would really like to see this nailed down to the specific.  What in the essay draws from Quinn and what in the essay that is drawn from Quinn is problematic?  

Look, to me, everyone seems to want to have it both ways, for their side.  This is the question I"m going with.  If we find a very brief essay, like this one, you'd expect some really solid evidence for the points raised.  But it seems sketchy, summary laden, and empty to me.  We throw around names like, Quinn, Vogel, Ashurst-McGee, Stapley, and Brookes.  But throwing out those names says something.  What does it say?  

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14 hours ago, PacMan said:

First, Joseph Smith had asked the "guardian spirit" when he could get the plates, and Moroni (let's call him by his name) told him when he brought the "right person."  Joseph asked who that would be, and then Moroni replied Alvin.  Frankly, I find this narrative very credible.  Moroni couldn't very well say Emma (his wife and the person that ultimately went with him to retrieve the plates in 1827), whom Joseph hadn't met yet.  She was the right person.

Why not?  Why couldn't Moroni have told him the truth and said "your future wife"?  That's more honest and real than saying he chose to deceive Joseph and give him the wrong person's name.  You make Moroni into some type trickster or deceiver when he definitely could have told Joseph the truth.  Do you believe no messenger from God ever told someone something that hadn't happened yet?

Quote

But Moroni knew he wouldn't make it.  He gave him a truthful answer without revealing what he couldn't reveal--who Joseph Smith would later marry.

If Moroni knew that, he didn't give Joseph a truthful answer though.  You are really having to twist and contort the information we have, to fit your version of what YOU believe happened.  It's frankly just a theory though without a lot to support it, IMO.

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50 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I appreciate this general point being raised.  I think it's great.  But I would really like to see this nailed down to the specific.  What in the essay draws from Quinn and what in the essay that is drawn from Quinn is problematic?  

Look, to me, everyone seems to want to have it both ways, for their side.  This is the question I"m going with.  If we find a very brief essay, like this one, you'd expect some really solid evidence for the points raised.  But it seems sketchy, summary laden, and empty to me.  We throw around names like, Quinn, Vogel, Ashurst-McGee, Stapley, and Brookes.  But throwing out those names says something.  What does it say?  

The essay is basically a book report on Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. The introduction recommends readers to read that book and doesn't reference any other books. Almost all of the citations of secondary sources are either from Dan Vogel or Mike Quinn. I already said that my main issue with Mike Quinn's work (I haven't read anything by Dan Vogel) is that he labels the esoteric practices and beliefs as "magic" and "occult." These labels do not accurately convey what was going on and what people believed. First of all, there is a false dichotomy between religion and magic. "Magic" here is just religious practices that people think are irrational or weird. Occult has even worse connotations of Satanic and anti-Christian practices, and unfortunately brings to mind horror movies for most people. This is why scholars usually talk about esotericism. Western esotericism has a history and depth that is not conveyed by labels like "folk magic." Quinn and this essay as well puts Joseph Smith's use of seer stones within the narrative of "superstition" that Enlightenment elite assumed of lower classes. It is more reflective of the rhetoric and biases of that worldview than the "magical worldview."

This is why John L. Brooke's Refiner's Fire was so important and why it was so warmly received by historians outside of the little bubble of Mormon scholars that existed at the time (it also helped that it was published by Cambridge). Brooke attempted to put Mormonism into the context of Western esotericism. He used the somewhat misleading label of Hermeticism to emphasize the antiquity and philosophical depth this tradition has. He was able to show that Joseph drew from these traditions throughout his life, and wasn't just something he was into as a kid. For example, the interest in Egyptian hieroglyphics or the cosmology that would emerge in Nauvoo have strong connections to this tradition. I am extremely doubtful that Joseph would have ever viewed anything he ever did as magic. The earliest writings we have produced from him are consistent in denouncing magic and witchcraft. While some people have used the label magic positively, in his mind at least magic was anti-Christian. He was interested in the wisdom of the ancients, which included both primitive Christianity and seer stones. I don't think that he viewed treasure seeking as contrary to that when he was involved in it.

This is what is frustrating to me about the essay. There have been scholars who have delved into Joseph's worldview and provided a much better understanding of it. Instead it uses misleading labels that Joseph would never have used himself.

Other details I think are questionable. Quinn made a big deal of astrological artifacts and bits of grimoires allegedly owned by the Smiths. I am pretty skeptical at least that Joseph ever practiced astrology, and the provenance of the grimoire materials is not well-documented.

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12 minutes ago, mapman said:

The essay is basically a book report on Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. The introduction recommends readers to read that book and doesn't reference any other books. Almost all of the citations of secondary sources are either from Dan Vogel or Mike Quinn. I already said that my main issue with Mike Quinn's work (I haven't read anything by Dan Vogel) is that he labels the esoteric practices and beliefs as "magic" and "occult." These labels do not accurately convey what was going on and what people believed. First of all, there is a false dichotomy between religion and magic. "Magic" here is just religious practices that people think are irrational or weird. Occult has even worse connotations of Satanic and anti-Christian practices, and unfortunately brings to mind horror movies for most people. This is why scholars usually talk about esotericism. Western esotericism has a history and depth that is not conveyed by labels like "folk magic." Quinn and this essay as well puts Joseph Smith's use of seer stones within the narrative of "superstition" that Enlightenment elite assumed of lower classes. It is more reflective of the rhetoric and biases of that worldview than the "magical worldview."

This is why John L. Brooke's Refiner's Fire was so important and why it was so warmly received by historians outside of the little bubble of Mormon scholars that existed at the time (it also helped that it was published by Cambridge). Brooke attempted to put Mormonism into the context of Western esotericism. He used the somewhat misleading label of Hermeticism to emphasize the antiquity and philosophical depth this tradition has. He was able to show that Joseph drew from these traditions throughout his life, and wasn't just something he was into as a kid. For example, the interest in Egyptian hieroglyphics or the cosmology that would emerge in Nauvoo have strong connections to this tradition. I am extremely doubtful that Joseph would have ever viewed anything he ever did as magic. The earliest writings we have produced from him are consistent in denouncing magic and witchcraft. While some people have used the label magic positively, in his mind at least magic was anti-Christian. He was interested in the wisdom of the ancients, which included both primitive Christianity and seer stones. I don't think that he viewed treasure seeking as contrary to that when he was involved in it.

This is what is frustrating to me about the essay. There have been scholars who have delved into Joseph's worldview and provided a much better understanding of it. Instead it uses misleading labels that Joseph would never have used himself.

Other details I think are questionable. Quinn made a big deal of astrological artifacts and bits of grimoires allegedly owned by the Smiths. I am pretty skeptical at least that Joseph ever practiced astrology, and the provenance of the grimoire materials is not well-documented.

I"m appreciative of your comments because it seems to me you have a good grasp of this stuff.  Its been years since I popped open Refiner's Fire and my memory is I didn't ever finish the book.  I don't recall this feeling of it being so important as you describe.  So I looked it up on Amazon this morning and might just get a copy.  Thanks.

Sometimes when I read history as presented by historians I get the feeling someone's seeing a bundle of puzzle pieces that need to be put together so neatly that they end up telling a story, sometimes unexpectedly, that is elaborate and worth telling.  Something has to keep a historian in business after all.  I'm not really concerned with Joseph's life in a sense.  I mean I find the Church problematic on many levels and the history is just one avenue of questioning, albeit it is very interesting stuff.  I don't think it's simple enough to say Joseph didn't get into treasure digging, didn't think there was an otherworldly element to such activities and didn't see himself as one who tapped into that otherworldly to benefit himself and others.  What I'm interested in knowing is if my first impression is true.  The essay itself is weak.  It's broken.  It feels like it's telling a story that only works if you take a number of assumptions and add to those more assumptions.  I don't like that.  So from the very start it uses late sources to build a foundation.  Ok.  I mean they're late.  Whatever.  But why?  Why can't we have a more solid foundation for this story that is put together?  Why are we stuck with assumption in this?  Is this essay or series of essays even helpful?  If not, why not? 

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1 hour ago, ALarson said:

Why not?  Why couldn't Moroni have told him the truth and said "your future wife"?  That's more honest and real than saying he chose to deceive Joseph and give him the wrong person's name.  You make Moroni into some type trickster or deceiver when he definitely could have told Joseph the truth.  Do you believe no messenger from God ever told someone something that hadn't happened yet?

If Moroni knew that, he didn't give Joseph a truthful answer though.  You are really having to twist and contort the information we have, to fit your version of what YOU believe happened.  It's frankly just a theory though without a lot to support it, IMO.

Richard Lloyd Anderson had this on Alvin's body exhuming story:

Quote

Another falsehood generated by the Salamander Letter is the idea that the Smiths considered exhuming Alvin’s body so Joseph could take it to Cumorah and fulfill the angel’s instructions. In discussing the roots of this strange idea, we need to remember that all historical sources are not created equal. It is not enough to quote a Palmyra “source” without asking whether some form of bias is distorting the recollection—and if so, how much and why. One obvious way to rank sources is to list them chronologically. Early information would be preferred, if it is direct and without severe prejudice.

The oldest source dealing with community rumors about Alvin comes from Joseph Smith, Sr. Almost a year after Alvin died, Father Smith ran a public notice five times in the Palmyra weekly, answering falsehoods about Alvin’s body. The vigorous correction of slander by the family head shows why community statements on the Smiths should not be trusted without substantiation:

“TO THE PUBLIC: Whereas reports have been industriously put in circulation that my son Alvin had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected; … therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports, I, with some of my neighbors this morning, repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body, which had not been disturbed. This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who may have heard the report, and of informing those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested they would desist therefrom.” After questioning the motives of rumor mongers, the printed signature of “Joseph Smith” closed the advertisement-notice.23

Why did this gossip target the Smiths? General religious prejudice against the Smiths has been noted by many historians, but the problem has a tighter focus when we see the timing of this public notice. Father Smith penned his protest on 25 September 1824, three days after Joseph’s second visit to the hill, saying that the grave was opened and Alvin’s body located “this morning.”24 So gossip about exhuming Alvin’s body was highest a year after Joseph’s 1823 visit to the hill, the time when, according to the angel’s instructions, Joseph was to bring Alvin. Apparently, word had circulated of Joseph’s instructions, and the false rumor was being spread that the Smiths had dug up—or would dig up—the corpse to fulfill the instructions. Father Smith was evidently pained that the family would be accused of such procedures, and so he took the action necessary to correct the rumor.

Scholars should not underestimate how rumor, speculation, and sarcasm erode true history. A clear example concerning the Smith family is furnished by the newspaperman and regional historian Orsamus Turner, who was slightly older than Joseph Smith, Jr., and knew him as a boy.

With heavy satire, Turner portrays Alvin as carrying the religious hopes of the family. Alvin, he says, was “originally intended, or designated, by fireside consultations, and solemn and mysterious outdoor hints, as the forthcoming Prophet.” What Turner really means in his satirical narrative is unclear, but no serious source names Alvin as anything but an assistant to Joseph. Turner mixes nine parts parody to one part history: “Alvah … eat too many green turnips, sickened and died.” As will be seen, this rough-shod view of an agonizing family tragedy merely shows how unfit many were to write anything about the Restoration. Indeed, Turner closes his guide to LDS origins justifying his levity “because it will admit of no other treatment.”25

This spirit of sarcasm and love of exaggeration were rampant in Palmyra, as is evidenced by the community’s support of the Reflector, a weekly newspaper that ran a year and a half with little else than caricature, including regular mockery of Mormonism.26 Out of this environment of ridicule has come about forty statements from those who claimed to know the Smiths. The problem is that most of these statements came from memory, years after the events took place. Without early documentation, it is impossible to verify them. In fact, a close look at what passes for memory suggests that tradition mingled freely with recollection in these statements.

Alvin is notably absent in most of these reports, except when listed as a member of the family or mentioned as in demand as a hard worker. He made no lasting impact on community memory as a religious leader, though he was included in one detailed money-digging tale evidently intended to suggest that magical activities were involved somehow in finding the Book of Mormon.

This tale comes from Lorenzo Saunders, one of three sons of Enoch Saunders, who died in 1825. The eldest, Orlando, was born in 1803 and took over his father’s farm, not far from the Smith’s. Two younger brothers grew up in Palmyra and later moved to Michigan. One was Lorenzo, born in 1811, and the other was Benjamin, born in 1814.27 Both Lorenzo and Benjamin mention Alvin, though one should be cautious about specifics: at Alvin’s death, Lorenzo was twelve and Benjamin nine. In fact, Benjamin’s only memory of Alvin is understandably general: “Oldest boy was Alvin—died. I remember when he died.”28

Lorenzo’s story about Alvin shows a suspicious coincidence of memory and family stories. In 1884, Lorenzo said: “Willard Chase told me about a place; he said he and Alvin Smith went there to dig, and there was a chest. … And he said they dug down, and it only lay a little under the ground. I says, how did this shovel become broken up like that, and Willard Chase then told me. He says, Alvin and I went down and found that chest.”29 Something told second-hand sixty years after the fact is less verified history than it is vague memory. Furthermore, those who try to tie this account to the Book of Mormon are grasping at straws, because the story is not given in a Book of Mormon context.

There are several examples of major weaknesses in Lorenzo’s memory: “Now I can tell you what he told to our house respecting this revelation that he had in the very commencement before Alvin died, his brother. Sometime before this he claimed he saw the angel, and that he was notified of these plates and all that—and the time would be made known to him, but it was not at that time made known to him, but he must take his older brother and go to the spot, and he could obtain them. Before that time his oldest brother died. Jo Smith got that revelation a year or two before that. I don’t know as I can tell you what year Alvin died in; it was in the summer before Alvin died he told it at our house.”30

This rambling recollection six decades after the fact misses on chronology, for the early Knight and Chase reports say the instruction to bring Alvin was given at the first Cumorah visit on 22 September 1823, whereas in this quote Lorenzo projects back the instruction to bring Alvin “a year or two” before his death. But the first time Joseph was visited by the angel was on 21 September 1823, only two months before Alvin died. This lack of precision is a serious problem in Saunders’ statements claiming to give Joseph’s inside story years after a single hearing of the Prophet’s account.

But perhaps the major weakness in Lorenzo’s information is that it is not entirely a first-hand account. Many details obviously come from the debunker, Willard Chase, who had married Lorenzo’s older sister.31 This Chase connection is significant in several “memories” in the Saunders’ statements, for they are found in only one other original document—their brother-in-law’s affidavit.32 Over the years, Chase undoubtedly told his brothers-in-law of his interview with Joseph, Sr., and his affidavit, printed in 1834, was certainly available to the family. Lorenzo Saunders’ account of the command to bring Alvin to the hill could very easily be based on either or both of these sources, leading us to suspect that his “first-hand” account is really a mix of personal memory and family tradition.

The same suspicion follows younger brother Benjamin’s report of Joseph at the Saunders’ home in 1827: “I heard him tell my brother and sister how he procured the plates. He said he was directed by an angel where it was. He went in the night to get the plates. When he took the plates, there was something down near the box that looked some like a toad that rose up into a man, which forbid him to take the plates. He found a big pair of spectacles also with the plates. As he went home some one tried to get the plates away from him. He said he knock the man down and got away. Had two or three skirmishes on the way. I saw his hand all knocked up, and he said it was done in hitting the enemy. He told his story just as earnestly as any one could.”33

No doubt Benjamin remembered the general conversation and Joseph’s bruised hand. That physical detail requires a date of 1827, when Benjamin was thirteen. But he introduces a major inconsistency into the story by mixing events that occurred in 1823 with events that happened in 1827. Even Chase agrees that Joseph was blocked from possessing the plates in 1823, not four years later when he received them. Since Benjamin is foggy on this basic chronology, how precise can he be on his toad story? No early source close to the Prophet ever gave such a story. But since Lorenzo and Benjamin echo other things from their relative, the toad detail likely also came from Willard Chase, particularly because Benjamin’s phrases so closely reflect Chase’s words.

Now that the Hofmann-related references to salamanders have been discredited, some writers may still try to save the concept by using Benjamin Saunders’ reference to a toad, arguing that he remembered Joseph’s exact words. If so, they will ignore the fact that Benjamin told his story in 1884, nearly sixty years after the conversation took place. They will also ignore Benjamin’s close relationship to Chase, as well as the close similarities between Benjamin’s account and Willard Chase’s.

It makes a difference, too, that Benjamin’s account is the report of a nonbeliever. Although believers documented Joseph’s visions in their early diaries, unbelievers generally did not care what Joseph said and produced no literature about the Prophet unless contacted by an interviewer. Benjamin was definitely among this latter group. After recounting the 1827 conversation about the bruised hand, Benjamin was asked whether he believed the Prophet. His answer was “no,” because his story “did not look consistent to my idea.”34 Should the memory of an apathetic observer—a memory six decades old and contaminated by Willard Chase’s version of the story—carry more weight than the early first-hand accounts of Joseph and his family? There is no justification for a campaign to save either the salamander or the toad.

Only two general impressions of Alvin remain to be added to the above survey. Both point out his reliability. The first comes from Christopher Stafford, who was Joseph’s age and lived a mile south of the Smiths on Stafford Street. In spite of his prejudices about the Smiths, he added an occasional compliment: “Alvin was the oldest son and worked the farm and was the stay of the family.”35 And Orlando Saunders, the oldest brother of Lorenzo and Benjamin, was a little younger than Alvin but included him in recalling the Smiths’ work record: “I knew all of the Smith family well; there were six boys … Young Joe (as we called him then) has worked for me, and he was a good worker. They all were.”36

https://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/08/the-alvin-smith-story-fact-and-fiction?lang=eng&_r=1

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On 1/25/2019 at 11:56 PM, mfbukowski said:

I was raised about 90 miles from Palmyra and I remember dowsing to find wells in the 1950's.  And it worked.  I knew a dowser who made his living that way!

Folk magic is VERY deep in NY State- you have to live there to believe it!!  I heard it all the time from the "old timers" all the time- at least I did as a kid in the 1950's

Google "dowsing ny" and see what you get!!  Here is a dowser's website!!   https://getzgoodwater.com/

I had a fever as a kid and the wife of the elderly farmer who lived next door came over to talk to my mom as if on a mercy mission to tell my stupid mom about how to cut a fever.  My mom had several doctors in her family but what did they know?

She whispered, as if telling a secret, "Put a silver knife under his bed and it will cut the fever"

That was in 1960.

Fortunately for us dowsing has been well known for centuries and scientifically tested many many times.  In fact The James Randi Foundation has tested many dowsers attempting to win his million dollar challenge.  Belief in such devices is still so common and a British defense contractor was selling them for $60,000 to governments as bomb detectors.  Luckily the company's devices were discredited and owners sent to jail.  Sonar can be used to magically see deep into the earth and your phone can invisibly communicate with local cell phone towers and communicate back to you. Sticks, rocks, and strings are just inanimate objects without any any ability to discover items and communicate about the world around them.  This is the reason why we don't have finely calibrated dowsing rods on the science rovers on Mars.  Some people believe in the "gift of the rod/Aaron" but it's really just pseudoscience.  

Phaedrus 

Edited by phaedrus ut
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20 minutes ago, phaedrus ut said:

Fortunately for us dowsing has been well known for centuries and scientifically tested many many times.  In fact The James Randi Foundation has tested many dowsers attempting to win his million dollar challenge.  Belief in such devices is still so common and a British defense contractor was selling them for $60,000 to governments as bomb detectors.  Luckily the company's devices were discredited and owners sent to jail.  Sonar can be used to magically see deep into the earth and your phone can invisibly communicate with local cell phone towers and communicate back to you. Sticks, rocks, and strings are just inanimate objects without any any ability to discover items and communicate about the world around them.  This is the reason why we don't have finely calibrated dowsing rods on the science rovers on Mars.  Some people believe in the "gift of the rod/Aaron" but it's really just pseudoscience.  

Phaedrus 

I don't disagree, BUT you are leaving out the fact that dowsers are biological beings, not machines. Who knows what some humans are capable of.

If a butterfly can migrate thousands of miles to the same place, I am not about to say that a human thru millions of years of evolution cannot find water which is essential to survival, with primitive tools. 

But I am not about to hire a dowser, either. ;)

And birds have an internal compass

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/how-do-birds-navigate/

Who knows??

 

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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11 minutes ago, phaedrus ut said:

Fortunately for us dowsing has been well known for centuries and scientifically tested many many times.  In fact The James Randi Foundation has tested many dowsers attempting to win his million dollar challenge.  Belief in such devices is still so common and a British defense contractor was selling them for $60,000 to governments as bomb detectors.  Luckily the company's devices were discredited and owners sent to jail.  Sonar can be used to magically see deep into the earth and your phone can invisibly communicate with local cell phone towers and communicate back to you. Sticks, rocks, and strings are just inanimate objects without any any ability to discover items and communicate about the world around them.  This is the reason why we don't have finely calibrated dowsing rods on the science rovers on Mars.  Some people believe in the "gift of the rod/Aaron" but it's really just pseudoscience.  

Phaedrus 

I suspect that much like a Ouija board, if you really wanted to test whether or not the inanimate object in someone's hand is actually communicating something, all one has to do is blindfold the operator.

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3 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

I don't disagree, BUT you are leaving out the fact that dowsers are biological beings, not machines. Who knows what some humans are capable of.

If a butterfly can migrate thousands of miles to the same place, I am not about to say that a human thru millions of years of evolution cannot find water which is essential to survival, with primitive tools. 

But I am not about to hire a dowser, either. ;)

 

 

That is how it works.  It's called the ideomotor effect.  A fun way to test this effect is to suspend a key or something similar at the end of a length of string.  Hold the string in your hand and try to move the key with your mind while keeping your hand & arm perfectly still.  You'll find you can magically move the key and you'll swear your hand never moved.  

Water doesn't give off any magic energy and as CA Steve pointed out that Ouija boards stop working when the participants can't see the letters on the board. When dowsers are tested by James Randi in his challenged I think they are genuinely surprised when they fail the test.  

Phaedrus 

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27 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I"m appreciative of your comments because it seems to me you have a good grasp of this stuff.  Its been years since I popped open Refiner's Fire and my memory is I didn't ever finish the book.  I don't recall this feeling of it being so important as you describe.  So I looked it up on Amazon this morning and might just get a copy.  Thanks.

Sometimes when I read history as presented by historians I get the feeling someone's seeing a bundle of puzzle pieces that need to be put together so neatly that they end up telling a story, sometimes unexpectedly, that is elaborate and worth telling.  Something has to keep a historian in business after all.  I'm not really concerned with Joseph's life in a sense.  I mean I find the Church problematic on many levels and the history is just one avenue of questioning, albeit it is very interesting stuff.  I don't think it's simple enough to say Joseph didn't get into treasure digging, didn't think there was an otherworldly element to such activities and didn't see himself as one who tapped into that otherworldly to benefit himself and others.  What I'm interested in knowing is if my first impression is true.  The essay itself is weak.  It's broken.  It feels like it's telling a story that only works if you take a number of assumptions and add to those more assumptions.  I don't like that.  So from the very start it uses late sources to build a foundation.  Ok.  I mean they're late.  Whatever.  But why?  Why can't we have a more solid foundation for this story that is put together?  Why are we stuck with assumption in this?  Is this essay or series of essays even helpful?  If not, why not? 

I will say that this might just be the least straight-forward aspect of church history, so it is understandable that people don't get a good understanding of it. I've read a lot  of books about esotericism in the past couple of years, and I think I have a pretty good handle on it now, but it was pretty bewildering at first. Partly because these people tend to be cryptic and secretive and very foreign to how most of us think about the world. Also because pop culture has had a strong influence on how we think about things. Speculative fiction is about the only exposure a lot of people get to the occult, which tends to make it a lot more dramatic and demonic than it really is. Also, there was the whole Satanic panic that happened in the 80s and 90s. Understanding Joseph Smith's early life is also complicated by the lack of contemporary sources. In my opinion I think that historians should probably read the Book of Mormon more closely to understand Joseph's early history, as it is the most extensive early source and closer to Joseph.

As far as Brooke's book, it was well-received in general, though Latter-day Saint scholars at the time mostly dismissed it. I think it was largely seen as more of the same as Quinn. His book isn't perfect, but it took a broader and more contextual view of Mormon history. Mormon history has gotten better as it is put into broader contexts, and that has been the trend in recent years. In a lot of cases, what used to be perplexing makes a lot more sense when you see the bigger picture.

If nothing else, this essay shows that ex-Mormons can make subpar history just like Latter-day Saints sometimes do.

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2 minutes ago, mapman said:

I will say that this might just be the least straight-forward aspect of church history, so it is understandable that people don't get a good understanding of it. I've read a lot  of books about esotericism in the past couple of years, and I think I have a pretty good handle on it now, but it was pretty bewildering at first. Partly because these people tend to be cryptic and secretive and very foreign to how most of us think about the world. Also because pop culture has had a strong influence on how we think about things. Speculative fiction is about the only exposure a lot of people get to the occult, which tends to make it a lot more dramatic and demonic than it really is. Also, there was the whole Satanic panic that happened in the 80s and 90s. Understanding Joseph Smith's early life is also complicated by the lack of contemporary sources. In my opinion I think that historians should probably read the Book of Mormon more closely to understand Joseph's early history, as it is the most extensive early source and closer to Joseph.

As far as Brooke's book, it was well-received in general, though Latter-day Saint scholars at the time mostly dismissed it. I think it was largely seen as more of the same as Quinn. His book isn't perfect, but it took a broader and more contextual view of Mormon history. Mormon history has gotten better as it is put into broader contexts, and that has been the trend in recent years. In a lot of cases, what used to be perplexing makes a lot more sense when you see the bigger picture.

Awesome.  thanks.

2 minutes ago, mapman said:

If nothing else, this essay shows that ex-Mormons can make subpar history just like Latter-day Saints sometimes do.

😆

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2 hours ago, ALarson said:

Why not?  Why couldn't Moroni have told him the truth and said "your future wife"?  That's more honest and real than saying he chose to deceive Joseph and give him the wrong person's name.  You make Moroni into some type trickster or deceiver when he definitely could have told Joseph the truth.  Do you believe no messenger from God ever told someone something that hadn't happened yet?

If Moroni knew that, he didn't give Joseph a truthful answer though.  You are really having to twist and contort the information we have, to fit your version of what YOU believe happened.  It's frankly just a theory though without a lot to support it, IMO.

I believe, except in very rare situations, divinity is not going to interfere in the marital relationship like that because of the eternal consequences associated with that decision.  In any event, I think Alvin was the right person.  That obviously changed when he died.  I don't see that deceitful in the least.  To suggests, implies that Moroni was somehow compelled to know and consider every agency and eventuality of poor decisions that led to Alvin's death.  I don't think that is necessary, and I don't think it makes sense.  Michael Quinn talked about his patriarchal blessing, which inferred that he'd someday be an apostle had he stayed in the church.  I think there's a good chance he is correct.  He was the "right" person, but that changed with the facts.

If you disagree, so be it.  It doesn't really matter.

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9 minutes ago, PacMan said:

I believe, except in very rare situations, divinity is not going to interfere in the marital relationship like that because of the eternal consequences associated with that decision.  In any event, I think Alvin was the right person.  That obviously changed when he died.  I don't see that deceitful in the least.  To suggests, implies that Moroni was somehow compelled to know and consider every agency and eventuality of poor decisions that led to Alvin's death.  I don't think that is necessary, and I don't think it makes sense.  Michael Quinn talked about his patriarchal blessing, which inferred that he'd someday be an apostle had he stayed in the church.  I think there's a good chance he is correct.  He was the "right" person, but that changed with the facts.

If you disagree, so be it.  It doesn't really matter.

My point is that your theory is mostly speculation just as you're accusing other's opinions of being.  You cannot possibly know some of the points you're stating as if they are facts (such as what Moroni could or couldn't do for example).  Vogel's information, opinion and theory is just as valid as yours, IMO.  

All anyone can do is read the information and records we have and form an opinion that seems to make the most sense for them (and then be respectful when others have differing opinions).

Edited by ALarson

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Steinbeck wrote something interesting on dowsing back in 1952.  Into the dowser/prophet Samuel's mouth he put these words:

Quote

 

"Tell me about your stick," Adam said.  "How does it work?"

Samuel stroked the fork now tied to his saddle strings.  "I don't really believe in it, save that it works."  He smiled at Adam.  "Maybe it's this way.  Maybe I know where the water is, feel it in my skin.  Some people have a gift in this direction or that.  Suppose  --  well, call it humility, or a deep disbelief in myself, forced me to do a magic to bring up to the surface the thing I know anyway.  Does that make any sense to you?"

"I'll have to think about it," said Adam.

 

Didn't JSJr say something similar about the Seer Stone?  And the Interpreters?

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2 hours ago, stemelbow said:

I"m appreciative of your comments because it seems to me you have a good grasp of this stuff.  Its been years since I popped open Refiner's Fire and my memory is I didn't ever finish the book.  I don't recall this feeling of it being so important as you describe.  So I looked it up on Amazon this morning and might just get a copy.  Thanks.

Sometimes when I read history as presented by historians I get the feeling someone's seeing a bundle of puzzle pieces that need to be put together so neatly that they end up telling a story, sometimes unexpectedly, that is elaborate and worth telling.  Something has to keep a historian in business after all.  I'm not really concerned with Joseph's life in a sense.  I mean I find the Church problematic on many levels and the history is just one avenue of questioning, albeit it is very interesting stuff.  I don't think it's simple enough to say Joseph didn't get into treasure digging, didn't think there was an otherworldly element to such activities and didn't see himself as one who tapped into that otherworldly to benefit himself and others.  What I'm interested in knowing is if my first impression is true.  The essay itself is weak.  It's broken.  It feels like it's telling a story that only works if you take a number of assumptions and add to those more assumptions.  I don't like that.  So from the very start it uses late sources to build a foundation.  Ok.  I mean they're late.  Whatever.  But why?  Why can't we have a more solid foundation for this story that is put together?  Why are we stuck with assumption in this?  Is this essay or series of essays even helpful?  If not, why not? 

What is  your opinion of Nibley's The Myth Makers? It's dated, but are his arguments sound?

 

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1 hour ago, phaedrus ut said:

That is how it works.  It's called the ideomotor effect.  A fun way to test this effect is to suspend a key or something similar at the end of a length of string.  Hold the string in your hand and try to move the key with your mind while keeping your hand & arm perfectly still.  You'll find you can magically move the key and you'll swear your hand never moved.  

Water doesn't give off any magic energy and as CA Steve pointed out that Ouija boards stop working when the participants can't see the letters on the board. When dowsers are tested by James Randi in his challenged I think they are genuinely surprised when they fail the test.  

Phaedrus 

Yes, very aware of that effect.  I have used a form of meditation which allows you to raise your arm as if it "floats" without being aware it is you who are raising the arm. It builds your connection with your unconscious mind, I am convinced.

One can also control heart speed and other physical functions through meditation including pain control.  I know all about that one! 

I mean look at the placbo effect.  It is amazing what the mind can do. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/the-power-of-the-placebo-effect

I would be interested in those tests- 

Edited by mfbukowski

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1 hour ago, PacMan said:

I believe, except in very rare situations, divinity is not going to interfere in the marital relationship like that because of the eternal consequences associated with that decision.  In any event, I think Alvin was the right person.  That obviously changed when he died.  I don't see that deceitful in the least.  To suggests, implies that Moroni was somehow compelled to know and consider every agency and eventuality of poor decisions that led to Alvin's death.  I don't think that is necessary, and I don't think it makes sense.  Michael Quinn talked about his patriarchal blessing, which inferred that he'd someday be an apostle had he stayed in the church.  I think there's a good chance he is correct.  He was the "right" person, but that changed with the facts.

If you disagree, so be it.  It doesn't really matter.

It just seems like unnecessary magic and deceit to require Alvin to be there, unless one sees the history through the treasure lore lens.  There was always an out for why the treasure was never found.  The guardian spirit invites Joseph to the hill to get the plates then adds unnecessary, previously unknown requirements as to why the treasure slipped out of his hands one more time.  Your thoughts weren't right.  Alvin wasn't there.  You didn't dress in black, etc., etc.

It seems to me that God would be more straight-forward in bringing to light such an important work and wouldn't act like a leprechaun, continually sneaking about, giving plates that no one could see and using seer stones to awkwardly make the translation.  Just give the finished document already, like was done, supposedly, with the book of moses.  However, seer stones and hidden plates create interest with some.  People like a great show.  But with God, it would seem that he would want the book to speak for itself and not be swallowed up by the showmanship Joseph created when he combined his work with treasure lore.

I wonder what would have happened had Joseph Smith Jr. not been tried as the "glass looker?"  Perhaps, he wouldn't have had to try to justify his conduct by transferring it to religion?

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