Jump to content
rockpond

Joseph Smith Treasure Digging - MS Truth Claims Essay

Recommended Posts

3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

I certainly agree, although there does seem evidence he learned mesmerism in France which would have put him in contact with some of the figures of esoteric Masonry. Which is why I think Walter gets brought up. But I certainly agree there's no evidence he was inducted into such rites, knew much if anything about them, let alone initiated a young Joseph Smith. While there's evidence a critic can make that the author of the Book of Mormon was familiar with at least the broad outlines of Masonry, there's nothing indicating detailed knowledge that I'm aware of. (Again Joe Swick's forthcoming book may make one rethink that, but we'll have to await his arguments and claims)

I wrote my previous comment off the top of my head, so it turns out that I didn't remember exactly what the sources said about Walter's journey to Europe. A while ago I collected what I believe is a more or less complete collection of sources that mention Luman Walter. Since the question of what Joseph Smith might have come into contact with from Walter seems relevant, I thought I'd copy all the sources that talk about Walter's travels and education (there are more than I remembered):

 

Brigham Young sermon, 19 July 1857:

Quote

Joseph was what we call an ignorant boy, but this fortune teller whose name I do not remember was a man of profound learning. He had put himself in possession of all the learning in the States,—had been to France, Germany, Italy, and through the world,—had been educated for a priest and turned out to be a devil. I do not know but that he would have been a devil if he had followed the profession of a priest among what are termed the christian denominations. He could preach as well as the best of them, and I never heard a man swear as he did. He could tell that those plates were there, and that they were a treasure whose value to the people could not be told; for that I myself heard him say.

 

Elizabeth Kane journal, 15 January 1873:

Quote

[Elizabeth Kane was visiting with Artemisia Snow, daughter of the Beaman family in Palmyra, New York, who had helped Joseph Smith hide the golden plates in their hearth. She told Kane about how the neighbors were trying to get the plates because they wanted the treasure.]
A man named Walters son of a rich man living on the Hudson South of Albany, received a scientific education, was even sent to Paris. After he came home he lived like a misanthrope, he had come back an infidel, believing neither in man nor God. He used to dress in fine broadcloth overcoat, but no other coat nor vest, his trousers all slitted up and patched, and sunburnt boots—filthy! He was a sort of fortune teller, though he never stirred off the old place.

 

Clark Braden speech, 1884:

Quote

While acting in his primitive, supernatural capacity as water-witch and money-digger, Smith made the acquaintance of a drunken vagabond by the name of Walters, who had been a physician in Europe. This person had learned in Europe the secret of Mesmerism or animal magnetism. This was entirely unknown in America except to a few in large cities, who had read European papers. Smith learned this art, and like all men with great passions, vitality and physical force he was almost a prodigy in his mesmeric power. All casting out devils and raising the dead were merely a display of his great mesmeric power.

 

"Doctor of Olden Days Used Herb Remedies," Geneva Daily Times, 26 July 1929:

Quote

Dr. Walters was the grandfather of Alonzo Walters of this village. He was a native of Vermont and ran away from home when he was six years old, his people never seeing or hearing of him again until he was a full fledged doctor. He would never divulge of who brought him up, he having worked his way through medical college. Shortly after leaving medical college, he located at Sodus Point and later came to Gorham where he began the practice of medicine.

 

It seems like the sources agree that he went to Europe, though what he studied differs. Brigham Young said he was studying to be a priest, Artemisia Snow said he received a "scientific education", Clark Braden says he studied mesmerism/animal magnetism, and his grandson apparently believed he studied at a medical college.

The earliest sources on what types of things he practiced or believed in:

 

"Escape from Justice," Concord [New Hampshire] Gazette, 1 September 1818:

Quote

A transient person, calling himself Laman Walter, has for several days past been imposing upon the credulity of people in this vicinity, by a pretended knowledge of magic, palmistry, conjuration, &c. and a corresponding conduct, was yesterday apprehended by civil authority; brought to trial before Benjamin Little, Esq convicted of the charges in the complaint, and sentenced, as the law provides, to the house of correction; but breaking from his keepers has made his escape.

 

"Book of Pukei" Chapter 1 [parody of the Book of Mormon], Palmyra Reflector, 12 June 1830:

Quote

   1. And it came to pass in the latter days, that wickedness did much abound, 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 Nephites, hid their treasure, so be it, that we and our vagabond van, do not perish for lack of sustenance.
   2. Now Walters, the Magician, was a man unseemly to look upon, and to profound ignorance added the most consummate imprudence, -- the summons of the idle and slothful, and produced an old book in an unknown tongue, (Cicero's Orations in latin,) from whence he read in the presence of the Idle and Slothful strange stories of hidden treasures and of the spirit who had custody thereof...
   4. And the Magician led the rabble unto a dark grove, in a place called Manchester, where after drawing a Magic circle, with a rusty sword, and collecting his motley crew of latter-demallions, within the centre, he sacrificed a **** (a bird sacred to Minerva) for the purpose of propiciating the prince of spirits...
   9. And he took his book, and his rusty sword, and his magic stone, and his stuffed Toad, and all his implements of witchcraft and retired to the mountains near Great Sodus Bay, where he holds communion with the Devil, even to this day.

 

The way he's portrayed in the earliest sources seems to be a mixture of folk beliefs (treasure seeking, conjuration, etc.) and ceremonial magic (magic circles, using an old book, etc.). It's possible that he learned animal magnetism, but it isn't evident in the earliest sources, and the only source that claims that is a late hearsay account (1880s) that uses it to explain the alleged mesmeric power Joseph Smith held over his followers.

He's also portrayed as being deceptive and trying to appear more mysterious or knowledgeable than he really was in the Palmyra newspapers in the 1830s. If that's true, then it's possible that he didn't go to Europe at all, but made up the story to boost his reputation.

Edited by mapman
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

I was under the impression that this no longer a controversial topic.  It’s a well known part of church history now.  

Edited by Rivers

Share this post


Link to post
3 hours ago, mapman said:

A while ago I collected what I believe is a more or less complete collection of sources that mention Luman Walter. Since the question of what Joseph Smith might have come into contact with from Walter seems relevant, I thought I'd copy all the sources that talk about Walter's travels and education (there are more than I remembered):

Yup. While the Mesmerism issue only is in one source, the late Clark Braden account, it's what is usually latched onto. There are definitely reasons to distrust it. Not the least of which being that by the 1880's there was a large influx of British saints who were themselves sometimes bringing over traditions of spiritualism and mesmerism leading to some conflict at the time. (This in turn tied into the whole Godbeite schism, the rise of the Salt Lake Tribune, and a lot more -- see Ron Walker's excellent Wayward Saints for more on the topic) Mesmerism by then was thus a pretty big deal and potentially a way to dismiss figures in more esoteric or occult practices. So it's not at all clear if this is a way of Braden dismissing Luman Walter or an actual tradition of Walter's knowledge.

Still, the only real purported way Walter could have come into knowledge of fairly esoteric French Masonry was through mesmerism. So those pushing Walter as a source almost always push the Braden account. None of the other accounts suggest Masonic knowledge nor experience with French occultism including scrying or the like. 

I'm just trying to engage what I see as the strongest possible argument along these lines. I'm not saying it's particularly likely. It just seems unfair to dismiss it completely out of hand even though I personally don't buy it at all. As I said the bigger problem is that even if all of this about Walter were true, there's the problem that Joseph doesn't really demonstrate any knowledge that could parallel elements of the French esoteric tradition until Nauvoo. Even then it's quite limited and primarily in terms of the Relief Society and certain clothing elements in the endowment. Perhaps elements of the Kirtland Papers relative to the Egyptian Papyri although think that's a bit broader and weaker of a parallel.

Edited by clarkgoble
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
On 2/1/2019 at 10:40 AM, PacMan said:

And apparently the rumors were that someone (perhaps a family member) dissected Alvin for this purpose.  And given that J.S., Sr. published a statement, whatever the rumor, it's logical that he wasn't part of the particulars of the rumor (otherwise the declaration would have been self-serving and pointless to publish).  So I don't have a problem with connecting the rumors (as alluded to in J.S., Sr.'s statement) to the angel.  That's not the problem.  The problem is the twisted conspiracy that J.S., Sr. dug Alvin up to get the plates.  Apart from all the other reasons I mention, there is nothing in his history to suggest that J.S., Sr. would have done this.  Being superstitious does not lead one to digging up their dead son's corpse.

I only have time to address your attempt to dismiss my interpretation of the disinterment of Alvin by Joseph Smith Sr. is suspicious and may have had something to do with JS’s September 1824 visit to the Manchester hill in connection with an attempt to get the plates.

Quote

Within days of Joseph=s unsuccessful visit to the hill, Joseph Sr. exhumed Alvin=s body under the pretext of settling for himself a vicious rumor that AAlvin had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected.@ In a notice ATo the Public@ that was printed in the Wayne Sentinel and dated 25 September 1824, Joseph Sr. announced that Afor 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.@17

The timing of this event suggests that the controversy over Alvin=s body was in some way connected with the messenger=s requirement. Were the rumors the result of neighborhood speculation about the extent to which the Smiths would go to get the gold plates, forcing Joseph Sr. to prove such was not the case? According to Lucy, Joseph Jr. had told the family to keep the circumstances of his discovery of the plates to themselves. However, Joseph Sr.=s explanation for disinterring Alvin=s body is questionable because one should have been able to determine if the grave had been recently disturbed without exhuming the body. It seems probable, therefore, that Joseph Sr. himself may have been the source of the rumor, that the story was a ruse to exhume Alvin=s body for its use in attempting to get the gold plates. Perhaps Joseph Sr.=s exuberance resurfaced as it had the previous year when he told his son, AI would have taken them if I had been in your place.@ Was he refusing to give up? If so, the incident would demonstrate how thoroughly the father believed his son=s claims. (Making of a Prophet, 57.)

Joseph Sr.’s notice “To the Public” is as follows:

Quote

Whereas reports have been industriously put in circulation, that my son Alvin  had been removed from the place of his interment and dissected, which reports, every person possessed of human sensibility must know, are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations--therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports, I, with some of my neighbors, this morning repaired to the grave, and removing the earth, found the body which had not been disturbed.

 

This method is taken for the purpose of satisfying the minds of those who may have heard the report, and of informing those who have put it in circulation, that it is earnestly requested they would desist therefrom; and that it is believed by some, that they have been stimulated more by a desire to injure thh [the] reputation of certain persons than a philanthropy for the peace and welfare of myself and friends.

            JOSEPH SMITH.

Palmyra, Sept. 25th, 1824.

(Wayne Sentinel, 29 Sept. 1824)

Joseph Smith’s Sr.’s reasoning is suspicious. Who would “industriously put in circulation” such a rumor almost a year after Alvin had been dead? For what purpose? Makes no sense.

 

The timing is suspicious. Joseph Jr. had only days before told his father about the requirement to take Alvin. Not much time for someone to “industriously put in circulation” such a rumor. Richard Anderson was quite right to connect the rumor to JS’s 1824 visit to the hill, although Anderson’s explanation makes no sense.

Quote

“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.” (Richard L. Anderson, “The Alvin Smith Story: Fact and Fiction,” Ensign, Aug. 1987.)

Anderson explanation doesn’t work. He says the rumor was that the “Smiths had dug up—or would dig up—the corpse to fulfill the instructions.” And then they do it? But that’s not the rumor Joseph Sr. described. Anderson doesn’t explain why Alvin’s body was said to have been dissected.

 

If someone put into circulation a false and vicious rumor to “injure the reputation of certain persons,” why would they have picked Alvin’s body? Why not someone who had died more recently? No medical school would want a body after three days, especially one which had undergone an autopsy after lying around a few days in the Smiths’ home. So no matter when Alvin was supposed to have been disinterred, Joseph Sr.’s reasoning isn’t credible. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not true.

 

Joseph Sr. was just told Joseph Jr. couldn’t get the plates because he didn’t bring Alvin. According to Lucy, her husband had said: AI would have taken them if I had been in your place.@ Then you hear of his digging Alvin’s corpse up and giving a suspicious excuse.

 

The requirement to bring Alvin also makes no sense, except as an excuse for not getting the plates. This is strange activity for an angel, but not a treasure guardian spirit. Anderson concedes this aspect of the story without exploring how Joseph Sr.’s belief in folk-magic and treasure guardian spirits would have predisposed him to accept such a wild and unsuspicious explanation. It doesn’t make sense because it’s probably not true.

 

According to Anderson, Joseph Sr. dug up Alvin’s corpse to prove that he had not been dug up in the last three days. This is nonsense since it would have been readily apparent that the grave had been disturbed. The grave after nearly a year of changing weather conditions would have settled with grass probably starting to grow over it, though patchy. You simply can’t dig a sizable excavation without leaving obvious signs. An old dirt mound is different in color and consistency from a new dirt mound and is distinguishable from the surrounding ground. I can’t believe I have to explain this.

 

If the rumors were about Joseph Sr. or his family digging up Alvin’s body, as Anderson speculated, it hardly makes sense for him to post a notice saying he dug the body up himself along with some unnamed neighbors. Why were these neighbors not named? If it makes no sense, it’s probably not true. It makes more sense if Joseph Sr. started the rumor himself as a pretext to dig up Alvin’s body. It’s unlikely that someone outside the Smith family would have known about the requirement to bring Alvin or knew the time Joseph Jr. was to visit the hill. Joseph Sr. visited Alvin’s grave on the morning of 25 September, which leaves only two full days for word to get out, for someone to “industriously” spread rumors, and for Joseph Sr. to organize an investigation with his neighbors. That seems to be a quick and extreme response for something he would take seriously enough to dig up Alvin’s body.

 

Quinn only hints at the possibility of necromancy being involved and is more concerned to establish the requirement of Alvin’s presence at the hill. I certainly don’t present this as an absolute certainty, but it is far from being the wild salacious speculation you have called it.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
On 1/29/2019 at 11:29 AM, clarkgoble said:

To me it's interesting how Joseph moves beyond his folk magic beliefs. I tend to see them as trappings enabling him to see the work of God. So as time goes on he stops using his seer stone, even though the symbolism of the seer stone remains prominent such as in D&C  130 (1843) and of course in the endowment in a stylized fashion. 

I'd add that people who make a big deal about Joseph's use of magic trappings typically apply a double standard to the pretty blatant use of magic traditions in the Bible including by Jesus. While Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician overstate things a bit, the fact is that many of the things he did can be seen in terms of the popular magic traditions of the era as much as anything Joseph did. Move beyond the New Testament into the Old and most of Joseph's practices are very much at home. So you have numerous versus involving scrying including by Joseph's Old Testament namesake (Gen 44:5) Of course some of Morton Smith's more interesting claims, and claims most paralleling Joseph's later works, are tied to the controversial "secret gospel of Mark" which most consider a forgery or at best a 2cd century gnostic work.

While I completely understand why secular skeptics would dismiss all of this. As a religious believer I'm far less inclined to see the spirit world as fictitious. I rather suspect many of the accounts, even if not the majority, of encounters with spirits actually happened. I've certainly heard enough stories and my own experiences to make me believe. Where such stories are most interesting isn't the nature of the encounter, which as you note might be a dream-like state, but rather the information transmitted. So for example on my mission black converts doing their genealogy work often found it extremely difficult. Older relatives didn't want to talk about it due to the horrors of slavery and even the sharecropper and Jim Crow eras. Yet I had many tell me of pretty amazing encounters where genealogical information was given to them through what some would call supernatural means. Again, I get why people would dismiss such tales. Yet they did find the difficult to find records when listening to such encounters. Including old grave markers long overgrown in forests or original slave records among tens of thousands of decaying papers in old storage facilities. I have a hard time dismissing that.

I have followed all the posts on this thread. I find the intense interest you all have in this very interesting and intense! With no malice aforethought, I just need to say that none of this sounds like something initiated by the omnipotent, loving, transformative God, the Lord of the Universe that I know, love, and worship, as I know also do many of you. Any angel and any message would have to have been sent by God, our Heavenly Father. I mean no disrespect or trouble, but this whole Alvin discussion just doesn't sound like what I know of Him.

Oh, and I was raised in the lodge as a master Mason, maybe one of a very few on this forum. French and Anglo-American Masonry have been at odds for many years. I don't claim to know for how many, but I am sure the enmity goes back to the mid 19th century. To this day most American and English  grand lodges do not accept French Masons as members, or recognize their lodges unless they are part of a French Grand Lodge founded in 1913 and known as the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise. There are a number of reasons, but I guess I am a bit skeptical that a US citizen would, in the 19th century be welcomed into the mysteries of French Masonry without years of trust building. Then when he returned he would probably have been "excommunicated" from his US lodge for having attended a French lodge. To this day I am not allowed to attend many Mexican Masonic Lodges without losing my membership as a result. The Mexican lodges would welcome me, but I would be disfellowshipped from my home lodge. I was clearly warned about that when I moved here. 

Edited by Navidad
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
17 hours ago, Navidad said:

I have followed all the posts on this thread. I find the intense interest you all have in this very interesting and intense! With no malice aforethought, I just need to say that none of this sounds like something initiated by the omnipotent, loving, transformative God, the Lord of the Universe that I know, love, and worship, as I know also do many of you. Any angel and any message would have to have been sent by God, our Heavenly Father. I mean no disrespect or trouble, but this whole Alvin discussion just doesn't sound like what I know of Him.

A lot of the Alvin discussion is pretty speculative. That's why there's the back and forth with Dan Vogel. I am rather skeptical things happened the way Dan speculates. 

17 hours ago, Navidad said:

Oh, and I was raised in the lodge as a master Mason, maybe one of a very few on this forum. French and Anglo-American Masonry have been at odds for many years. I don't claim to know for how many, but I am sure the enmity goes back to the mid 19th century. To this day most American and English  grand lodges do not accept French Masons as members, or recognize their lodges unless they are part of a French Grand Lodge founded in 1913 and known as the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise. There are a number of reasons, but I guess I am a bit skeptical that a US citizen would, in the 19th century be welcomed into the mysteries of French Masonry without years of trust building. Then when he returned he would probably have been "excommunicated" from his US lodge for having attended a French lodge. To this day I am not allowed to attend many Mexican Masonic Lodges without losing my membership as a result. The Mexican lodges would welcome me, but I would be disfellowshipped from my home lodge. I was clearly warned about that when I moved here. 

Yup, most of the French rites are seen as heretical, although that's not quite the right word. Some were embraced. So Adoptive Masonry and related forms out of France become the various female Masonic organizations which are somewhat accepted. Arguably the Templar bits in York rite come from French speculations as well. I think though by the period stabilizing things around the War of 1812 a lot of French stuff is viewed with deep suspicion. They do enter into the US, although not really until the 1850's as I recall. (I'd have to double check to be sure)

Your point about being welcomed into the French rites in France is a good one. It's not clear Luman was associated with the American Masonic orders, I should note. It's not even certain he even went to France let alone was inducted into French rites. However if he learned mesmerism (questionable itself) then that would give him an "in" into the French Masonry since much of the French Masonry at the time was tied to leading mesmerists.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
23 hours ago, Dan Vogel said:

The timing is suspicious. Joseph Jr. had only days before told his father about the requirement to take Alvin. Not much time for someone to “industriously put in circulation” such a rumor. Richard Anderson was quite right to connect the rumor to JS’s 1824 visit to the hill, although Anderson’s explanation makes no sense.

I'm curious how you know that Joseph Jr only told his father a few days before the newspaper statement?  I'm not extremely well versed in this part of the history but I thought the documentation showed that the angel told Joseph to bring Alvin the previous year.  Why would Joseph wait a whole year to tell his father?  And why couldn't other people in the town have heard about the requirement and begin to spread the rumor about Alvin's body?

Share this post


Link to post
On 2/2/2019 at 2:34 PM, Dan Vogel said:

The timing is suspicious. Joseph Jr. had only days before told his father about the requirement to take Alvin. Not much time for someone to “industriously put in circulation” such a rumor. Richard Anderson was quite right to connect the rumor to JS’s 1824 visit to the hill, although Anderson’s explanation makes no sense.

Quinn only hints at the possibility of necromancy being involved and is more concerned to establish the requirement of Alvin’s presence at the hill. I certainly don’t present this as an absolute certainty, but it is far from being the wild salacious speculation you have called it.

Dan, two questions:

First, in order for your theory to work, you assume (as you do many things) that Joseph Smith, Sr. is genuinely dishonest (by lying about the purpose, timing, and participation of the disinterment).  As I've previously said, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith, Sr. was anything but honest.   You've already conceded that whatever occurred with JS, Jr., his family was not part of any fraud.  Thus, your perverse theory is perverse (in part) because it unfairly impugns the integrity of this man.  That's not fair.  And it's not right.  You need to have something to conclude that Joseph Smith, Sr. was an abject liar.  And nothing in the history supports this necessary assumption.

Second, you say:
 

Quote

Joseph Sr. visited Alvin’s grave on the morning of 25 September, which leaves only two full days for word to get out . . . .

You keep saying this, but why?  Why could the rumor not have circulated before September 23, 1824?  That Joseph Smith was to bring Alvin was known long, long before then.  I don't understand why you necessarily peg the rumor to a handful of days.

Your other questions are easily answered.
  

Quote

If someone put into circulation a false and vicious rumor to “injure the reputation of certain persons,” why would they have picked Alvin’s body? Why not someone who had died more recently? No medical school would want a body after three days, especially one which had undergone an autopsy after lying around a few days in the Smiths’ home. So no matter when Alvin was supposed to have been disinterred, Joseph Sr.’s reasoning isn’t credible. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not true.

Why a rumor about Alvin and not someone else?  Because, the angel had mentioned Alvin.  It wouldn't have made any sense to start a rumor about some other dead person!  And what that has to do with medical school, I have no idea.
 

Quote

Joseph Sr. was just told Joseph Jr. couldn’t get the plates because he didn’t bring Alvin. According to Lucy, her husband had said: AI would have taken them if I had been in your place.@ Then you hear of his digging Alvin’s corpse up and giving a suspicious excuse.

CFR.  Your analysis doesn't make sense.  Whose "place?"  I'd like to see the original to make more sense of it.
 

Quote

According to Anderson, Joseph Sr. dug up Alvin’s corpse to prove that he had not been dug up in the last three days. This is nonsense since it would have been readily apparent that the grave had been disturbed. The grave after nearly a year of changing weather conditions would have settled with grass probably starting to grow over it, though patchy. You simply can’t dig a sizable excavation without leaving obvious signs. An old dirt mound is different in color and consistency from a new dirt mound and is distinguishable from the surrounding ground. I can’t believe I have to explain this.

Where is the account that states that JS, Sr. saw that there was patchy grass?  None?  See, yet another unfounded assumption.  If there wasn't grass, along with the feelings of a distraught parent, that would have been enough motivation to dig him up.  Thank you for confirming my point.

Quote

If the rumors were about Joseph Sr. or his family digging up Alvin’s body, as Anderson speculated, it hardly makes sense for him to post a notice saying he dug the body up himself along with some unnamed neighbors. Why were these neighbors not named? If it makes no sense, it’s probably not true. It makes more sense if Joseph Sr. started the rumor himself as a pretext to dig up Alvin’s body. It’s unlikely that someone outside the Smith family would have known about the requirement to bring Alvin or knew the time Joseph Jr. was to visit the hill. Joseph Sr. visited Alvin’s grave on the morning of 25 September, which leaves only two full days for word to get out, for someone to “industriously” spread rumors, and for Joseph Sr. to organize an investigation with his neighbors. That seems to be a quick and extreme response for something he would take seriously enough to dig up Alvin’s body.

Why does that not make sense?  The rumor was certainly targeted at Joseph's need for Alvin.  And it makes ALL the sense in the world if the community knew JS, Sr. as an honest, upright person that wouldn't have permitted Alvin's disinterment.  See, again, you completely toss JS, Sr.'s credibility out the window and unfairly impugn his integrity at the same time to prove your theory.  For a historian, that is reckless.

The timing is "suspicious" only because you want it to be suspicious.

Edited by PacMan
Technical issues aren't permitting the post.
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
On 2/7/2019 at 11:34 AM, PacMan said:

First, in order for your theory to work, you assume (as you do many things) that Joseph Smith, Sr. is genuinely dishonest (by lying about the purpose, timing, and participation of the disinterment).  As I've previously said, there is no evidence that Joseph Smith, Sr. was anything but honest.   You've already conceded that whatever occurred with JS, Jr., his family was not part of any fraud.  Thus, your perverse theory is perverse (in part) because it unfairly impugns the integrity of this man.  That's not fair.  And it's not right.  You need to have something to conclude that Joseph Smith, Sr. was an abject liar.  And nothing in the history supports this necessary assumption.

Note that I do not claim this is a certain interpretation, only a reasonable one and not "perverse" as you claim. 

I don’t need to assume anything about JS Sr. one way or the other. If he was motivated to fulfill the guardian spirit’s requirement for Alvin and he dug Alvin up and published a cover story, it says nothing about his general character for honesty. This was a highly unusual circumstance. Good decent people succumb to con men all the time.

Quote

You keep saying this, but why?  Why could the rumor not have circulated before September 23, 1824?  That Joseph Smith was to bring Alvin was known long, long before then.  I don't understand why you necessarily peg the rumor to a handful of days.

Your other questions are easily answered.

I’m responding to Richard Anderson’s comment that Joseph Sr.’s notice in the paper was to quell rumor that Alvin had been exhumed in order to get the plates. There were only two full days for the word to get out about the cause of JS’s failure to get the plates, for the false rumor to be formed, and for it to spread to the point where Joseph Sr. felt a need to respond in a drastic way. That’s difficult to believe.

Quote

 

Quote

Why a rumor about Alvin and not someone else?  Because, the angel had mentioned Alvin.  It wouldn't have made any sense to start a rumor about some other dead person!  And what that has to do with medical school, I have no idea.

If it was a rumor unconnected to the requirement to bring Alvin to the hill, then the part about dissection would seem to allude to the practice of grave robbers who sold corpses to medical schools. In such case, it makes no sense for the rumor to pertain to Alvin’s body, unless Joseph Sr. was claiming it occurred almost a year earlier. The false and vicious rumor therefore wasn’t designed to ruin18-year-old JS’s reputation or other members of the Smith family, but “persons” unrelated to the Smiths. This is probably how the newspaper announcement would have been read by those who hadn’t heard the rumor about JS need for Alvin at the hill, that is, if there was such a rumor. However, if Joseph Sr. needed a cover story, this is likely what he was implying, although it doesn’t pan out.

 

While the timing of the “rumor” implies a connection to JS’s failed attempt to get the plates, it makes no sense that someone other the Smiths started the rumor. Who would think to attack the Smiths by accusing them of exhuming Alvin, when it could easily be disproven by examining the grave site? If the rumor was about the Smiths digging up Alvin’s body, Joseph Sr. would have known he didn’t do it and therefore would have had no need to exhume Alvin’s body other than to prove his innocence. Instead, he states “every person possessed of human sensibility must know, are peculiarly calculated to harrow up the mind of a parent and deeply wound the feelings of relations--therefore, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of such reports ...” If he knows he didn’t do it, why would his feelings be “harrow[ed] up”? Why react so quickly to false rumors?

 

If Joseph Sr. actually dug up Alvin’s body on 25 September 1824 to use in an attempt to get the plates (either in whole or in part) and Palmyrans heard rumor about it, when they read his notice in the paper they wouldn’t have assumed they were hearing the rumor that caused the exhumation. It seems likely that the announcement in the newspaper was to explain the reason for the exhumation and that the cover story was about an earlier exhumation that supposedly occurred shortly after Alvin’s death, which is still not credible.

Quote

CFR.  Your analysis doesn't make sense.  Whose "place?"  I'd like to see the original to make more sense of it.

You don't have access to Lucy Smith's history? After the first visit, Joseph Sr. said he would have got the plates if he was in JS’s place. This shows his determination. You should already know this. 

Quote

Where is the account that states that JS, Sr. saw that there was patchy grass?  None?  See, yet another unfounded assumption.  If there wasn't grass, along with the feelings of a distraught parent, that would have been enough motivation to dig him up.  Thank you for confirming my point.

I didn’t say there was patchy grass, but that could have been one of the possible signs of digging. There’s no way to make such a large excavation without leaving evidence. That’s why Joseph Sr. needed a cover story. The “distraught parent” doesn’t fit since Joseph Sr. supposedly knows he didn’t exhume Alvin’s body three days before.

Quote

Why does that not make sense?  The rumor was certainly targeted at Joseph's need for Alvin.  And it makes ALL the sense in the world if the community knew JS, Sr. as an honest, upright person that wouldn't have permitted Alvin's disinterment.  See, again, you completely toss JS, Sr.'s credibility out the window and unfairly impugn his integrity at the same time to prove your theory.  For a historian, that is reckless.

The timing is "suspicious" only because you want it to be suspicious.

Joseph Sr. had supposedly been charged with digging Alvin’s body up for certain reason so three days later he digs Alvin’s body up? Supposedly, it’s widely known that Alvin is needed at the hill and so proceeds to dig up the body? Where are these witnesses? Why have witnesses if you don’t name them? This isn’t reassuring.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

There are other possibilities along these lines:

JS jr. could have dug up the body without JS sr.’s knowledge. Rumors get started, and then the article and Sr.’s dig happen.

or

Stories of JS needing Alvin to get the plates could have circulated in the community. Someone in the community could have dug up the body to check and didn’t tell anyone when everything was normal (unexciting news doesn’t spread?). Rumors strengthen when broken ground is seen. Then Sr. responds to the rumors, and the broken ground compels him to dig and check.

Share this post


Link to post
On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

I don’t need to assume anything about JS Sr. one way or the other. If he was motivated to fulfill the guardian spirit’s requirement for Alvin and he dug Alvin up and published a cover story, it says nothing about his general character for honesty. This was a highly unusual circumstance. Good decent people succumb to con men all the time.

Dan, you're misidentifying the issue here.  The honesty doesn't go to what he did relative to Moroni.  But it DOES go to whether he lied about it (as your logic requires) in publishing the statement.  That absolutely says something about his general character for honesty.  In fact, it says quite a bit.
 

On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

I’m responding to Richard Anderson’s comment that Joseph Sr.’s notice in the paper was to quell rumor that Alvin had been exhumed in order to get the plates. There were only two full days for the word to get out about the cause of JS’s failure to get the plates, for the false rumor to be formed, and for it to spread to the point where Joseph Sr. felt a need to respond in a drastic way. That’s difficult to believe.

Please, stop responding to Anderson.  He's not here, and I don't care what he says.  Again, you are building in the assumption that the rumor only started after Joseph failed to get the plates, as opposed to the YEAR that people had to leak the info about Alvin.  There is absolutely no basis to believe that (1) knowledge of Alvin's purportedly planned role in getting the plates began 2 days before J.S., Sr. published his declaration; and (2)that said rumor had anything to do with Joseph not getting the plates.  Indeed, your logic is completely speculative and circular, and upon this shaky foundation you conclude that J.S., Sr. was a part of the conspiracy.

On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

If it was a rumor unconnected to the requirement to bring Alvin to the hill, then the part about dissection would seem to allude to the practice of grave robbers who sold corpses to medical schools. In such case, it makes no sense for the rumor to pertain to Alvin’s body, unless Joseph Sr. was claiming it occurred almost a year earlier. The false and vicious rumor therefore wasn’t designed to ruin18-year-old JS’s reputation or other members of the Smith family, but “persons” unrelated to the Smiths. This is probably how the newspaper announcement would have been read by those who hadn’t heard the rumor about JS need for Alvin at the hill, that is, if there was such a rumor. However, if Joseph Sr. needed a cover story, this is likely what he was implying, although it doesn’t pan out.

I simply don't follow your reasoning.  Note, I'm not (only) disagreeing with it.  I don't understand it.  I have a hard time putting credence in yet another assumption..."seem to allude."

On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

If Joseph Sr. actually dug up Alvin’s body on 25 September 1824 to use in an attempt to get the plates (either in whole or in part) and Palmyrans heard rumor about it, when they read his notice in the paper they wouldn’t have assumed they were hearing the rumor that caused the exhumation. It seems likely that the announcement in the newspaper was to explain the reason for the exhumation and that the cover story was about an earlier exhumation that supposedly occurred shortly after Alvin’s death, which is still not credible.

Oh, good gracious.  Why not just throw in a couple more speculative and unfounded exhumations to cover up each successive cover-up?  Really, if anyone needs a good example of my criticisms of your work, this it it.  "Seems likely?"  Wow.

 

On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

I didn’t say there was patchy grass, but that could have been one of the possible signs of digging. There’s no way to make such a large excavation without leaving evidence. That’s why Joseph Sr. needed a cover story. The “distraught parent” doesn’t fit since Joseph Sr. supposedly knows he didn’t exhume Alvin’s body three days before.

"Could have been?"  Why not at this point blame little green aliens?  Again, your explanation of one unfounded assumption is yet another..."without leaving evidence."  Says who?  What do we know of status of the grave from ANYONE that visited the site  at ANYTIME over that past 10 months?  We don't.  Yours is complete, utter, and unadulterated speculation.  You brought up patchy grass, now you're walking away...because we simply have no idea one way or the other.  You can't conclude anything from it.

 

On 2/9/2019 at 7:27 PM, Dan Vogel said:

Joseph Sr. had supposedly been charged with digging Alvin’s body up for certain reason so three days later he digs Alvin’s body up? Supposedly, it’s widely known that Alvin is needed at the hill and so proceeds to dig up the body? Where are these witnesses? Why have witnesses if you don’t name them? This isn’t reassuring.

He had "been charged?"  CFR!!!

Why have witnesses if you don't name them?  Guess what--happens all the time!  Most evidently when someone's integrity is beyond reproach, you make yourself available for follow-up, or when you're paying by the word.  That's a really, really bad argument.  I think J.S., Sr. was an honest man.  But I don't think he was the Einstein.  The easiest explanation was, he didn't think about it or it simply wasn't necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
On 1/27/2019 at 3:56 PM, Dan Vogel said:

I'm not affiliated with MS and have nothing to do with the essays. Read: "John Dehlin et al."

What is your opinion of the treasure seeking essay (or any other) if you wouldn't mind sharing?  Does it use your work appropriately?

Edited by Calm

Share this post


Link to post
On 1/28/2019 at 10:57 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

Excellent question, but on what basis can we even hazard a guess?  Should we take a close look at religious history?  Secular history?  How about logic?  Should we be presentist?  What sort of tools should we use to begin to answer such a question?  What is "reasonable"?  Is there a God?

Scholars never ask such a prejudicial question, because the answer will necessarily be a matter of opinion, not fact.  Scholars prefer to look at the end-product.  Does the purported translation of an ancient document have the signs of antiquity?  Or does it have the signs of a forgery?  That is what historians and questioned-document examiners focus on.

in reference to

On 1/29/2019 at 10:25 AM, stemelbow said:

Obviously God can do what ever He wants, so the million dollar question is more like:

"Is it reasonable to expect that this is how God would preserve and produce a translation of an ancient record?"

  On 1/30/2019 at 11:49 PM, Gervin said:

Here’s a question. If the plates were found or revealed today, do you think scholars would be able to study, decipher or otherwise figure out a somewhat faithful rendition of the Book of Mormon as it is known today?

Quote

 

Hi Gervin:

Yes.  If the BofM plates were presented today to a competent Egyptologist (not simply a Transcript of Caractors on a piece of paper), he/she would be able to readily provide a good translation of the Small Plates of Nephi right away -- since they would be in the standard hieratic or early demotic Egyptian which Nephi had been trained in.  With that in hand, even though the remainder of the Plates were in Reformed Egyptian, the same professional would be able to make sense of the changes in language and script which had taken place over the subsequent thousand years of linguistic development.  There are even computer programs designed to make that task easier, as long as the related languages are already well understood.

In such case, one would prefer that the Egyptologist be a non-Mormon, and that his work be confirmed by non-Mormon colleagues.  Otherwise, things might get ugly.  Of course, if a full transcript of the Plates, a transliteration, and a translation were provided in the Joseph Smith Papers Project online, then anyone could check the issue for himself.

 

It doesn't seem reasonable to me that a written text would be hidden away for centuries upon centuries, only to be discovered, determined to be indecipherable, translated by spiritual means, and then spirited away, a mere decades (or less) from the text being competently translated and presented to the world in situ.  Perhaps by non-believer, as you prefer.  

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, Gervin said:

in reference to

  On 1/30/2019 at 11:49 PM, Gervin said:

Here’s a question. If the plates were found or revealed today, do you think scholars would be able to study, decipher or otherwise figure out a somewhat faithful rendition of the Book of Mormon as it is known today?

It doesn't seem reasonable to me that a written text would be hidden away for centuries upon centuries, only to be discovered, determined to be indecipherable, translated by spiritual means, and then spirited away, a mere decades (or less) from the text being competently translated and presented to the world in situ.  Perhaps by non-believer, as you prefer.  

I merely answered your hypothetical question (which seems to be very unlikely anyhow) in a serious way, based on standard scholarly procedures.  Not sure what your response here means, Gervin.

Share this post


Link to post

Joseph Smith admitted himself to being a money digger. This is recorded in the History of the Church, volume 3 (1838-1839). Also recorded in the LDS publication, the Elder's Journal, vol. 1, num. 2, pp. 28-29, it reads as follows,

Question 10. Was not Jo Smith a money digger[?]
Answer. Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it. [1]

Also from the History of the Church, Vol.1. Chapter 2:

"Joseph secured the services of a neighbor, Peter Ingersoll, to assist and accompany him in acquiring Emma's property. In August 1827, eight months after their marriage, Joseph and Emma returned with Ingersol to face Isaac. Ingersol reported that Isaac exclaimed in a flood of tears, You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time digging for money--pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people."
"Yet on that visit there was an attempt to reconcile Joseph and his father-in-law, for an invitation was extended to Joseph and Emma to make their home in Harmony. Isaac, with evident paternal concern and with some compassion, indicated to Joseph that if he would move to Pennsylvania and work, giving up "his old practice of looking in the stone," Isaac would assist him in getting into business. Isaac claims, "Smith stated to me he had given up what he called `glass-looking,' and that he expected and was willing to work hard for a living." [2]

"[Of significance] are the affadavits and statements made by a number of Smith's neighbors in Palmyra, about Smith's lifestyle in the 1820's. Several neighbors have stated that Joseph Smiths Senior and Junior were both money-diggers, and that Jr. (i.e. the Mormon founder) was particularly good at it and was the head of a group of money-diggers.

"In late 1825 a wealthy Pennsylvania farmer named Josiah Stowell (sometimes spelled Stoal) came 150 miles to hire Smith because of Smith's reputation. Smith was hired to help Stowell locate a supposed old Spanish silver mine on Stowell's farm. During this time two significant things happened. First, Smith met his future wife, Emma Hale, and in later interviews her father explained how he didn't like Joseph Smith when he first met him because Smith was a money-digger, and Mr. Hale didn't want any criminals marrying his daughter! Perhaps even more damaging, however, was the fact that Smith was tried and convicted in court in March 1826 for 'glass-looking'. The charge had been brought up by Stowell's nephew, who saw through the con that his uncle didn't. Mormon historians now acknowledge that this trial happened and that Smith was convicted on this charge." [3]

Joseph Smith responds to "money digging" accusations:

"In the year 1823 my father’s family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger." -Joseph Smith-History 1:56 [4]

Peter Ingersoll (family neighbor and friend of Joseph Smith) Affidavit, Palmyra, Wayne County. N. Y. Dec. 2, 1833:

"In the month of August, 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife's household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale's, in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: "You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money -- pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people." Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones."
"Joseph told me on his return, that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; "but," said he, "it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money." And in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone." [5]

Affidavit of Isaac Hale (Joseph Smith's father-in-law), given at Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania on 20 March 1834:

"Emma wrote to me inquiring whether she could have her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol[l], and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and resided upon a place near my residence. Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called "glass-looking," and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so." [6]

William Stafford, a neighbor and fellow treasure seeker:

"Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, — that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates — that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress." [7]
  • " If this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith' and would be 'the most devastating blow to Smith ever delivered." -Hugh Nibley, The Mythmakers
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×