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Joseph Smith and treasure seeking


robuchan

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My first response to accusations of JS being a treasure seeker, and the money digging, glass looking, peepstone, all that magical stuff that he was accused of...was to assume it was an anti-Mormon's view of JS simply looking for the gold plates. It seems that might have been a bit too simple of an approach.

But I'm still not clear what came first. Joseph allegedly saw the angel Moroni first at the age of 17. Was Joseph accused of any of this stuff before then? Is it a possible explanation that ALL of the accusations of magical stuff was a result of that angel visit and likely never would have occurred without it? i.e. from a conservative standpoint, Joseph's accusers twisted what he was doing. The treasure seeking was actually him looking for the BOM. from a liberal standpoint, Joseph got the idea there were sacred gold plates buried nearby and Joseph was either told by Moroni or assumed he should use seer stone in association with it. so why couldn't there be other gold buried and find it with the same method? and that he probably made a mistake by seeking it through the same means Moroni taught him about the gold plates. And without Moroni sticking the idea in his head he never would have attempted any of the magical stuff.

Does this theory work from a historical standpoint?

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My first response to accusations of JS being a treasure seeker, and the money digging, glass looking, peepstone, all that magical stuff that he was accused of...was to assume it was an anti-Mormon's view of JS simply looking for the gold plates. It seems that might have been a bit too simple of an approach.

But I'm still not clear what came first. Joseph allegedly saw the angel Moroni first at the age of 17. Was Joseph accused of any of this stuff before then? Is it a possible explanation that ALL of the accusations of magical stuff was a result of that angel visit and likely never would have occurred without it? i.e. from a conservative standpoint, Joseph's accusers twisted what he was doing. The treasure seeking was actually him looking for the BOM. from a liberal standpoint, Joseph got the idea there were sacred gold plates buried nearby and Joseph was either told by Moroni or assumed he should use seer stone in association with it. so why couldn't there be other gold buried and find it with the same method? and that he probably made a mistake by seeking it through the same means Moroni taught him about the gold plates. And without Moroni sticking the idea in his head he never would have attempted any of the magical stuff.

Does this theory work from a historical standpoint?

Read Joseph Smith History in the POGP. Moroni showed Joseph were the plates were. http://scriptures.lds.org/js_h/1

I think Joseph Smith used a seer stone to look for buried treasure because 1)his family was poor and 2)he actually belived he could do it.

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Read Joseph Smith History in the POGP. Moroni showed Joseph were the plates were. http://scriptures.lds.org/js_h/1

I think Joseph Smith used a seer stone to look for buried treasure because 1)his family was poor and 2)he actually belived he could do it.

Yes I've read Joseph Smith history. I guess the question as a follow up to your comment would be did he believe he could based on his experience with Angel Moroni or was it a completely separate thing, i.e. existed prior to age 17 or otherwise completely separated.

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I guess the question as a follow up to your comment would be did he believe he could based on his experience with Angel Moroni or was it a completely separate thing, i.e. existed prior to age 17 or otherwise completely separated.

Based on the evidence I have seen, Joseph understood and used seer stones prior to his experience with Moroni. The treasure-hunting was part of a cultural heritage that also included seer stones that were used to find things that were lost or hidden (and, of course, the treasures were "hidden").

I believe that Moroni's visit altered his worldview and forced him to see things in a different way. So, I don't see Moroni as any part of the "magic," but all of that is part of Joseph's mundane world prior to Moroni's appearance.

This was the subject of my FAIR Conference presentation this year - and they should be posting it sometime soon.

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Could I recommend John L Brooke's ' The Refiner's Fire'. I have just finished reading it, and found it to be very interesting in terms of the hermetic (amongst others) influences that worked upon him, his kin, and his neighbours. With that in mind I would say that his childhood may have been steeped in such stuff as treasure seeking, seer stones, magic, hermeticism, masonry, healing, counterfitting, ghosts, fortune telling and religious groups that could trace thier origins back to England and Germany amongst others.

http://www.amazon.com/Refiners-Fire-Making-Cosmology-1644-1844/dp/0521565642

Mary

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If we accept JS's prophetic mandate - doesn't it make sense that his belief in the supernatural prior to the Moroni visit was helpful in providing him with a basis to accept the supernatural experiences that followed? Can we give him some allowance for a period of time in which to separate the folk traditions in which he was raised from the truly supernatural experiences of his prophetic role? In my view, his "magical" beliefs were in place pre-revelation, and it makes sense.

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I've always felt that the young Joseph was just one of those people who were super sensitive to the supernatural. I know others who seem to be closer to the supernatural, sensitive to presence, some able to divine things, (not all "mediums" are fakes) find water etc. This is how he was used to channel God's will and communicate with angels and such. He would have needed to be sensitive and experimentation with those "powers" would be a natural course for someone like this. It wasn't until Moroni contacted him that he understood the purpose of his gift. Maybe I should rephrase that. He may not have ever understood why he was sensitive to the supernatural but he realized he had the gift of prophecy from that time forward.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

Theo

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I've always felt that the young Joseph was just one of those people who were super sensitive to the supernatural. I know others who seem to be closer to the supernatural, sensitive to presence, some able to divine things, (not all "mediums" are fakes) find water etc. This is how he was used to channel God's will and communicate with angels and such. He would have needed to be sensitive and experimentation with those "powers" would be a natural course for someone like this. It wasn't until Moroni contacted him that he understood the purpose of his gift. Maybe I should rephrase that. He may not have ever understood why he was sensitive to the supernatural but he realized he had the gift of prophecy from that time forward.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

Theo

That's a good apologist answer but everything else equal Joseph's account would be more believable if the seer stone and curiosity about buried ancient treasure had been communicated to him by Moroni rather than it evolving from a preexisting preoccupation with magic and the supernatural.

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My first response to accusations of JS being a treasure seeker, and the money digging, glass looking, peepstone, all that magical stuff that he was accused of...was to assume it was an anti-Mormon's view of JS simply looking for the gold plates. It seems that might have been a bit too simple of an approach.

But I'm still not clear what came first. Joseph allegedly saw the angel Moroni first at the age of 17. Was Joseph accused of any of this stuff before then? Is it a possible explanation that ALL of the accusations of magical stuff was a result of that angel visit and likely never would have occurred without it? i.e. from a conservative standpoint, Joseph's accusers twisted what he was doing. The treasure seeking was actually him looking for the BOM. from a liberal standpoint, Joseph got the idea there were sacred gold plates buried nearby and Joseph was either told by Moroni or assumed he should use seer stone in association with it. so why couldn't there be other gold buried and find it with the same method? and that he probably made a mistake by seeking it through the same means Moroni taught him about the gold plates. And without Moroni sticking the idea in his head he never would have attempted any of the magical stuff.

Does this theory work from a historical standpoint?

Yes, I think it makes sense. It also makes sense that is why Moroni made him wait 4 years as he matured and prepared and became more skilled in his gifts.

The glass looking really doesn't bother me. Joseph in Egypt did the same thing. I love this quote by Orson Pratt:

The "silver cup" which Joseph in Egypt commanded the steward to put in Benjamin's sack, in order to try his brethren, was, most probably, sanctified as a Urim and Thummim to Joseph. Hence, Joseph commanded the stewart to pursue his brethren, and say to them, "Is not this in which my Lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?" And when Joseph's brethren were brought back, he said unto them, "What deed is this that ye have done? Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?" (Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, compiled by N. B. Lundwall, page 589)

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That's a good apologist answer but everything else equal Joseph's account would be more believable if the seer stone and curiosity about buried ancient treasure had been communicated to him by Moroni rather than it evolving from a preexisting preoccupation with magic and the supernatural.

Well you know what Mick Jagger always sez..."you can't always get what you want..."

Also, I would not expect Moroni, or any other angelic visitor, to entice him to use his gifts for anything other than the building up of the kingdom.

To tempt him to use his gift for gain falls outside of their authority.

P. S. I didn't ask if it was a good apologetic answer, just did it make sense...

Theo

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Also, I would not expect Moroni, or any other angelic visitor, to entice him to use his gifts for anything other than the building up of the kingdom.

To tempt him to use his gift for gain falls outside of their authority.

Theo

Agree. I just think knowing that Joseph used a peepstone to translate the Book of Mormon, it would be nice from a believer's standpoint to find out Moroni gave him the peepstone and taught him how to use it, rather than find out he used it for nefarious purposes prior to the Angel Moroni visit.

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Agree. I just think knowing that Joseph used a peepstone to translate the Book of Mormon, it would be nice from a believer's standpoint to find out Moroni gave him the peepstone and taught him how to use it, rather than find out he used it for nefarious purposes prior to the Angel Moroni visit.

I'm not sure what you mean by "nefarious purposes." I don't know of any. As for using a peep stone, he was doing what many others did before and after - and even at the same time in the same place (Palmyra).

Moroni did not give Joseph a peepstone. Moroni showed him where the interpreters were, and at least the evidence I see suggests that Joseph understood them to be qualitatively different that the stone he used for other purposes (which I really don't think qualify as "nefarious").

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I'm not sure what you mean by "nefarious purposes." I don't know of any. As for using a peep stone, he was doing what many others did before and after - and even at the same time in the same place (Palmyra).

Moroni did not give Joseph a peepstone. Moroni showed him where the interpreters were, and at least the evidence I see suggests that Joseph understood them to be qualitatively different that the stone he used for other purposes (which I really don't think qualify as "nefarious").

He was arrested for allegedly using the peepstone illegally, no?

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He was arrested for allegedly using the peepstone illegally, no?

Wasn't the 1826 "trial" never considered a trial and the charge was actually "disorderly person"? Maybe I'm getting it mixed up with the 1830/1 trial. Regardless, I can't see where it is that big a deal. People go out with metal detectors around here all the time. That would have been considered magic back then. Also, it seems to me that there were several witnesses that testified that Joseph seemed to have a gift for this sort of thing. I'd have to defer to someone that has studied this more than I have. Like I said, it lacks relevance in my opinion.

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He was arrested for allegedly using the peepstone illegally, no?

I am unaware of any laws about how a peep stone was to be used. Ergo, he couldn't have used it illegally.

Perhaps you mean the statute against disorderly persons, which were defined as those who might perpetuate fraud through the use of a seer stone. In the 1826 trial on that account, the evidence suggests that Joseph was released without a charge. The person he was supposed to have defrauded took the stand in his defense. I don't think that created an illegal usage, nor a fraudulent one, and certainly not a nefarious one.

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I am unaware of any laws about how a peep stone was to be used. Ergo, he couldn't have used it illegally.

Perhaps you mean the statute against disorderly persons, which were defined as those who might perpetuate fraud through the use of a seer stone. In the 1826 trial on that account, the evidence suggests that Joseph was released without a charge. The person he was supposed to have defrauded took the stand in his defense. I don't think that created an illegal usage, nor a fraudulent one, and certainly not a nefarious one.

Thank you for confirming what I initially thought about this.

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If what Peterson wrote about Brooke's book about the refiner's fire is even remotely accurate, the book is severely flawed.

http://mi.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=6&num=2&id=151

I tend to see Peterson as building a devastating case against the book in this review.

Thanks Blair, I'll check out his review. I havn't read any reviews on this book yet. Wanted to read it and make my own mind up. First thoughts were that it was actually balanced and in many ways 'too kind' to Joseph and the early saints.

I found the first chapters particularly interesting (being English and all) since they gave an outline of some of the religious influences that Joseph and his ancestors would have been subject to tracing right back to Europe.

For me, it developed my opinions so that I couldn't say positively that Joseph was using the 'stone' for some 'nefarious' purpose prior to the 'supposed' visit from the Angel Moroni and for me, the book made his behaviour and the magic world view more understandable, and also put it in context in terms of others that were also using 'stones', like Sally Chase, and the history of stone use itself.

I also have a little more understanding of the 'counterfitters' perspective, how it could link to treasure seeking and for the plight of the poor and less fortunate in terms of getting on within the American dream. The early days of the republic were quite heady...economically, politically and religiously.

I'll go and check out Daniel's review...

Thanks

Mary

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LoaP, read the review.

Also tried to find some kinder reviews (of which there are a good few..)

Found this article that also might be helpful to the opening poster

http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=28355&CISOSHOW=28149

It's by Clay L Chandler. Scrying for the Lord: Magic, mysticism and the Origins of the Book of Mormon.

I actually am finding Chandler's article more problematic, because he concentrates on the occult links without giving the wider religious context. At least from what I have read so far. Brooke seems to be much more sympathetic..

Let me correct that. Here is part of Chandler's closing comment.

'Joseph Smith lived in a time and a place where magic and religion often co-existed harmoniously and where religious leaders and magical practitioners could be one and the same'

Which came first 'chicken or egg'. I'm not sure, but I think that parts of the hermetic, the magic, the gnostic, the mysterious, the pagan if you like have survived into more recent history whether it be from the Celts or the Egyptians, Jews or the Greeks or from some other later medieval, German or Tudor (Edward Kelly for instance) source and have combined and lived alongside certain religious groups including Christian groups which in turn influenced Joseph's immediate kin and through them, him.

It's interesting stuff and understandable seen in the context of the times.

Mary

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I've always felt that the young Joseph was just one of those people who were super sensitive to the supernatural. I know others who seem to be closer to the supernatural, sensitive to presence, some able to divine things, (not all "mediums" are fakes) find water etc. This is how he was used to channel God's will and communicate with angels and such. He would have needed to be sensitive and experimentation with those "powers" would be a natural course for someone like this. It wasn't until Moroni contacted him that he understood the purpose of his gift. Maybe I should rephrase that. He may not have ever understood why he was sensitive to the supernatural but he realized he had the gift of prophecy from that time forward.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

Theo

Maybe... except that he was never able to find any treasure. If he really had supernatural powers, wouldn't it stand to reason that he could actually locate the treasure?

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Maybe... except that he was never able to find any treasure. If he really had supernatural powers, wouldn't it stand to reason that he could actually locate the treasure?

Now that is a fascinating question on many levels. The first, because it conflates what Joseph did and claimed as a prophet with what he did and claimed prior to that time. If the question becomes "he must not have been a prophet if he looked for treasure and didn't find it," then we have a most unique requirement for a prophet.

If the question is whether or not the people of the time thought that he had above-ordinary capabilities, then we have a slightly different question. Then it is a question of whether or not the people who believed in such things would have faulted him for not finding the treasure. That is trickier, because there is no evidence that they did (contemporaneously, it was quite popular to claim so later). However, there are also accounts that he did succeed in finding other things that were lost, so people of the time accepted him for his talents (in the same way that they did Sally Chase) and apparently consulted with him. Those successes were the reason they consulted him for the treasure. Did not finding treasure invalidate his talent in the community? That is where understanding how such things work is important. The answer is no, it did not. The people were very aware that sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. They offered lots of reasons for when it didn't, because they simply accepted it when it did (and that became the norm).

The last question is whether his above-ordinary abilitities at finding things (and possibly some distance viewing) were considered precursors to or even similar to what happened when a prophet communicated with God. I see no evidence that there was any conceptual connection at all. They were considered different worlds.

So, under any contemporary definition, his failure to find treasure only indicated that he failed to find treasure--nothing more.

There is no reason to expect that whatever his talent before he was called of God that it led to or taught him how to communicate with God. That was categorically different - and therefore the more secular treasure hunting failure has no relevance.

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Maybe... except that he was never able to find any treasure. If he really had supernatural powers, wouldn't it stand to reason that he could actually locate the treasure?

The only treasure that Joseph is recorded (except for some wild tales about a constantly sinking trunk) was for Josiah Stowell. Mr. Stowell sought out Joseph because of a reputation Joseph had garnered for being able to "see" things with a certain stone that he had and was able to prove to it to Josiah's satisfaction.

Josiah had heard that there was some lost silver treasure somewhere on his land and wanted Joseph to help him find it. That endeavor lasted only about a mont, according to Joseph and resulted in no treasure being found, to this day. I suspect that it is pretty hard to find treasure where none exists. Of course I cannot prove that there is not treasure there so Joseph must have been a fraud.

Do you believe that there was any treasure to be found there? If so, let me draw you a map to the Lost Dutchman.

Glenn

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