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Joe Smidt [sic] the "Glass-Looker"


Mike Reed

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Very interesting. Thanks Mike. I'd like to know more about the The Rover. As far as I've been able to discover, it was a Maine newspaper published in 1843. It apparently made its way to Google from the Harvard library. Are you able to provide any more information than that Mike?

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I found a story about Joseph Smith (or rather, Joe Smidt) and a treasure digging quest. I am unaware of this story being cited anywhere, so I transcribed it and posted it on my blog. Enjoy!

This compilation of the weekly magazine as The Rover, vol. I (N.Y.: Labree, Dean & Co., 1843) appears authentic. The real question is whether the J. R. Orton story of "The Glass Lookers" in volume I, issue 18, pages 264-266, is a work of fiction based on the fame of Joseph Smith and the stories then available in an around Binghamton, New York (see the collection of similar stories gathered conveniently in the Marquardt Papers, accession 900, in the Manuscripts Division of the Univ. of Utah Library). One might ask Mike Quinn his opinion. Naturally, one would want to examine historical and genealogical records for the family and others involved in that time and place.

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It is fascinating to me that people walk around with little objects in the palms of their hands with which they can communicate with one another and with the movement of the finger can look up all manner of information. But for some reason seer stones also fitting in the palm of the hand but powered by a different source are somehow impossible.

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This compilation of the weekly magazine as The Rover, vol. I (N.Y.: Labree, Dean & Co., 1843) appears authentic. The real question is whether the J. R. Orton story of "The Glass Lookers" in volume I, issue 18, pages 264-266, is a work of fiction based on the fame of Joseph Smith and the stories then available in an around Binghamton, New York (see the collection of similar stories gathered conveniently in the Marquardt Papers, accession 900, in the Manuscripts Division of the Univ. of Utah Library.

One of these days I've gotta check out Marquardt's collection there. I told Marquardt about it, and he doesnt remember seeing it used before.

might ask Mike Quinn his opinion. Naturally, one would want to examine historical and genealogical records for the family and others involved in that time and place.

Good suggestion. I'll shoot him an email to let him know about it.

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It's author was Jason Rockwood Orton, a writer of poetry and fiction in the mid-19th century. It was republished in 1848, but in the later publication (The Ladies' Garland and Dollar Magazine) the name was changed from Joe Smidt to Joe Smith - which is where I read it the first time.

Nice emphasis on the "fiction." :P It would be more accurate to identify him as a "miscellaneous" writer. Here is some more biographical info about him:

Jason Rockwood Orton, M.D., was one of the most gifted members of the family. He was the second son of Esquire Thomas of Hamilton and was born in that town in 1806. He studied medicine and practiced for a number of years at Binghamton, New York, among other places. He had, however, a decided taste for literature, and withdrew from his profession early to be able to devote his time to the latter calling. He wrote verse, and published two or three volumes of poems. He was a contributor to current literature. One of his more ambitious tasks is a poetico-historic treatment of certain myths of the North American Indians. It is entitled, "Camp Fires of the Red Men". Dr. Orton was

page 68

interested in the advance of science and in the larger phases of politics and theology, and seems to have been in all respects a wakeful-minded and progressive thinker. I have read some very interesting private letters of his, addressed to his uncle, Judge Philo, of Pomfret, New York, which are now in possession of Orton Gifford, Esq., of Chicago, great-grandson of Judge Philo. They give a good deal of insight into the mind and character of their author.

Dr. Orton married Sophronia Hotchkiss. I do not know her original residence, but the Hotchkiss name is common in Broome County, New York, where, as I have said, Dr. Orton resided for a time. He left one son by his first wife, Charles G., who was born in 1840, and who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Charles married Sarah T. Jenks, and has three children, one daughter and two sons, viz., Beulah A., 1866; Walter R., 1868; Arthur Vanderbilt, 1872. Charles G. Orton was for a number of years in the employ of the United States government in the New York custom house.

Dr. J. R. Orton, in 1844, married a second wife, Sarah S. Russell, a daughter of Giles Russell, of Russellville (now Bell Valley), Erie County, Pennsylvania. She survived her husband, and is now living at Yonkers, New York. Three daughters and two sons were born of this marriage. The daughters are, Caroline, Sarah, and May Elizabeth, born in Binghamton, and Florence Isabel, born in Brooklyn, New York. The two sons were Jason Rockwood, second and Walter Rockwood; both died in infancy. Caroline S. was first married in 1868, to George Edgar Brown, of Hampton,, Maine, a graduate of Bowdoin College, and a soldier in the Union Army in 1862. He afterwards practiced law in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1873. She afterwards, in September, 1876, married Colonel Irving W. Fuller, of Wisconsin. He died in October, 1892, at Ashford Park,

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Ardsley, New York. By her first marriage she had one son, her only child, named Verdi Edgar. He was adopted by Colonel Fuller and took his name. Mrs. Fuller now lives at Yonkers. May Elizabeth married, in 1873, Alexander Fitzgerald, at Montreal, Canada. He died in New York, in 1885. She married her second husband, Rev. Harry Van Auken, at Denver, Colorado, in 1887. Florence Isabel married William H. Whitenect, at Boston, in 1873. He died at Auburn, New York. She married a second husband, George G. Kimball, of Wells, Maine, a graduate of Bowdoin College, now a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C. Their residence is Wheaton, Maryland.

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It is fascinating to me that people walk around with little objects in the palms of their hands with which they can communicate with one another and with the movement of the finger can look up all manner of information. But for some reason seer stones also fitting in the palm of the hand but powered by a different source are somehow impossible.

Is it really so hard to believe that people accept the one and are suspicious of the other? One operates and can be explained by known and demonstrable scientific principles, and the other is a magic rock.

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Is it really so hard to believe that people accept the one and are suspicious of the other? One operates and can be explained by known and demonstrable scientific principles, and the other is a magic rock.

Try to explain it to a person of the 14th century in a known and demonstrable way. Just because someone doesn't understand it doesn't mean it isn't real.

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Try to explain it to a person of the 14th century in a known and demonstrable way. Just because someone doesn't understand it doesn't mean it isn't real.

Well, sure, but I'm not claiming that it isn't real because people don't understand it. I'm just claiming that nowadays we have more and easily accessible reasons for believing in iPhones over seer stones. Also, of course, just because some people claim to have had seer stones doesn't make them real. So what.

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One very interesting thing to me is the mention of Captain Kidd. It seems to lend credence to the idea that the source of Cumorah and Moroni is the Comoros islands and that Joseph learned about them by studying Captain Kidd.

This is an interesting point. I remember some were trying to argue that there was no proof that Joseph Smith knew of the Captain Kidd legend. This is kinda damaging to the Book of Mormon since Captain Kidd was connected both to the slipping treasure legend as well as the names Camorah and Moroni, since Kidd frequented these places. The only way I think this could be explained away as far as apologetics are concerned is if there were other legends that predate this about slippery treasures in the Americas, but as far as the names can it be shown that the name Moroni was connected with Camorah/Comoros even before it was the capital city?

I think this is the main problem that Joseph being a moneydigger presents to Mormonism, since this legend somehow found its way into the Book of Mormon, with treasures that slip through the ground.

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As far as the Captain Kidd story and the Comoros Islands and Moroni (as names) go, there doesn't seem to be any real possible connection. While I haven't tracked down all the literature, I have made it through most of it. I used the bibliography from Barbara Dubins article in African Studies Bulletin (Vol. 12, No. 2, September 1969) titled "Nineteenth-Century Travel Literature on the Comoros Islands: A Bibliographical Essay".

You simply don't find "Moroni" mentioned in any of the accounts pre-dating the publication of the Book of Mormon. There is no historical indication that Captain Kidd ever stopped at Moroni, or visited the city. It is simply an empty slate.

The theory was first promoted in 1989 in Fred Buchanan's "Perilous Ponderings" in Sunstone issue 71. Without a mention of Moroni, the theory begins to suffer quite a bit. There are dozens of other places which would be a potential source for a 'Cumorah' like name, most of which were much more widely available than the Comoros islands near Madagascar.

To reiterate the point for bjw, there was no connection between Captain Kidd and Moroni. There is no mention of it in any of the literature. There is no recording of a tradition. There is absolute silence. The notion that there is a connection stems from Buchanan's article and later expansions on that notion, but all of it is speculation, and all of is from the last 21 years.

Ben M.

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I used the bibliography from Barbara Dubins article in African Studies Bulletin (Vol. 12, No. 2, September 1969) titled "Nineteenth-Century Travel Literature on the Comoros Islands: A Bibliographical Essay".

Does Dubins' bibliography claim to be exhaustive?

The theory was first promoted in 1989 in Fred Buchanan's "Perilous Ponderings" in Sunstone issue 71. Without a mention of Moroni, the theory begins to suffer quite a bit.

Are you of the opinion that nobody knew of Moroni in the Comoro Islands before 1830?

There are dozens of other places which would be a potential source for a 'Cumorah' like name, most of which were much more widely available than the Comoros islands near Madagascar.

Feel free to provide a more probable argument of where Joseph Smith could have gotten these names from.

To reiterate the point for bjw, there was no connection between Captain Kidd and Moroni.

There could be. Maybe not directly, but the connection could be the Comoro Islands.

There is absolute silence.

If a tree falls in the woods, and you aren't there to hear it... then there is no sound?

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Does Dubins' bibliography claim to be exhaustive?

Are you of the opinion that nobody knew of Moroni in the Comoro Islands before 1830?

Feel free to provide a more probable argument of where Joseph Smith could have gotten these names from.

There could be. Maybe not directly, but the connection could be the Comoro Islands.

If a tree falls in the woods, and you aren't there to hear it... then there is no sound?

The name Comoros derives from the medieval Arabic Qumr/Qumur (the Arabic root relates to the moon).

The name Moroni seems to be from the Shi-Ngazija language (of the Bantu family). It seems that

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So, while we know that Captain Kidd travelled to the Comoros Islands, the city of Moroni was too small to be mentioned in any literature or gazettes during the time period the Book of Mormon was produced. I'm wondering if the notion that Joseph Smith was obsessed with Captian Kidd (which I think I remember reading in Eber D. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled) did not come until much later when antimormons were trying to paint JS as a moneydigger that drew much of the BoM narrative from treasure legends (ex. Moroni, Camorah, "slippery" treasures, etc.) It would definitely suit their purpose to have JS be obsessed with Captian Kidd and his treasure. I just wonder if it is only antimormon sources that mention JS talking about Captian Kidd?

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So, while we know that Captain Kidd travelled to the Comoros Islands, the city of Moroni was too small to be mentioned in any literature or gazettes during the time period the Book of Mormon was produced. I'm wondering if the notion that Joseph Smith was obsessed with Captian Kidd (which I think I remember reading in Eber D. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled) did not come until much later when antimormons were trying to paint JS as a moneydigger that drew much of the BoM narrative from treasure legends (ex. Moroni, Camorah, "slippery" treasures, etc.) It would definitely suit their purpose to have JS be obsessed with Captian Kidd and his treasure. I just wonder if it is only antimormon sources that mention JS talking about Captian Kidd?

Yep. Much of the stuff is post hoc speculative explanations. It is really astonishing how uncritically anti-Mormons accept early anti-Mormon claims, even when second or third hand and recorded decades after the events.

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Mike Reed writes:

Does Dubins' bibliography claim to be exhaustive?
More or less, yes. But, this brings up a related issue. At some point, the texts become so obscure as to preclude real consideration as a source. In dealing with attribution questions (which this ultimately is with respect to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon), the other issue of relevance becomes an issue.

Language itself is a common element. That is to say that English has only so many words, and these words get reused in all texts written in English. They form a commonality. We can go beyond that and say that language groups tend to have some similarities (although not necessarily in every detail). When we start talking about 'Comoros' = 'Cumorah', you are trying to establish an even more general relationship. This is incredibly problematic, since in this way, nearly any word can be related to any other similar word. We could just as easily argue that Joseph got the name from a certain bird, or a city in Spain (which was in 19th century English generally spelled Camorah instead of the modern Zamorah). We could talk about the city in Hungary on the Danube which was used referred to quite regularly in early 19th century texts because of its strategic placement and the battles that occurred there (it sits straddling the river, a fortress on an island in early depictions of it). The point is that suggesting that this must be the source because of similarity is simply a nonsensical argument.

The second issue is that trying to derive such a word in this way is clearly an attempt to make the Book of Mormon a work of fiction. But this brings up the problem of why the need for a source at all? Why couldn't the word simply be a work of the imagination? Instead, we take a single word from either a map or a tradition, and make it into a place in the Book of Mormon. Its use in the Book of Mormon doesn't seem to reflect the source. The name of a small island off the coast of Madagascar seems to hardly fit any kind of description of the hill in the Book of Mormon. So, there isn't a connection there. At best you might be able to say that perhaps it caught its author's ear - but that doesn't qualify as a case of derivation in any circumstances at all (that is, Joseph hearing the name Comoros or even reading it doesn't mean that Joseph's Cumorah isn't original to Joseph).

Third, the question of access in this case is actually a reasonable concern. The more esoteric the sources, the less and less likely it becomes that Joseph encountered it. Yes, I have seen a lot of speculation about when and where Joseph might have come into contact with the name. Yes, Joseph probably had heard stories about Captain Kidd. However, there isn't any mention of this city Moroni in any of the Captain Kidd literature, and despite the speculation on the part of the critics (including you Mike), the fact that none of the substantial literature involving Captain Kidd mentions is, and the fact that it doesn't occur in any of the 17th-early 19th century pirate narratives (at least those that I have gone through - which is a fairly substantial collection at this point), suggests that it simply wasn't a part of any of these traditions - including oral traditions that may have been circulating. The bar becomes very, very high to place any kind of value on the speculation that despite the fact that there is no recorded mention of the city of Moroni in the Comoros islands, that Joseph Smith somehow became familiar with such a tradition (only oral in nature), that he decided to adopt this tradition for inclusion in his book that he was authoring, and so on. As a theory, it just doesn't make any sense.

It is true that there were a couple of early traditions connection Joseph to Captain Kidd. (Larry Morris discusses these at some length in his review article). But, these do not mention the Comoros islands, nor do they mention a city Moroni. There were stories about others (not Joseph) in contemporary literature connected to Captain Kidd. Huggins in his recent article uses one of these and erroneously connects it to Joseph. But these also don't mention the Comoros Islands or Moroni the city.

The uncritical use of parallels in authorship attribution has been discredited for over a century now. This goes way beyond that. To suggest a parallel in a single word, and not even an exact copy of the word is to more or less suggest that any use of any word in any text is a basis to suspect derivation from another source. It simply does not stand up to reasonable scrutiny.

Are you of the opinion that nobody knew of Moroni in the Comoro Islands before 1830?

I think the few hundred people who lived there knew of it (and whatever the name was that they referred to it). In terms of New York, and the United States, I think I would assert quite comfortably that it was completely unknown. That is, no one would recognize the name Moroni as a city in the Comoros Islands.

Feel free to provide a more probable argument of where Joseph Smith could have gotten these names from.

Sure. It is more probably that he made them up. It is more likely that he used the name of the city Zamora in Spain (called Camora in most early English texts - for example, the reference to it in Don Quixote.) It is more likely that he used the name of Comora from the city in Hungary on the Danube. I actually like this last one most of all - because of the context in which the city sits. It is surrounded by rivers, and has a fortress - so many early depictions show this castle surrounded by water. ( http://www.euratlas.net/cartogra/danube_alps/danube_alps_5_0.html ).

The problem of course is that there isn't any reasonable way to choose between the options (assuming of course that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction). Asserting derivation in a single word isn't an argument that you can make unless you have a good deal of external evidence to back you up. Which we clearly don't have here. We might as well assert that Joseph liked the name of that bird (the cormorant). Or that he simply invented it. But this kind of argument goes beyond silly. Perhaps if Joseph had taken a map of Southern Africa with its islands and had used a couple dozen different names, in relative geographical position, a case could be made ... but that obviously is not what happened here.

There could be. Maybe not directly, but the connection could be the Comoro Islands.

Not really Mike. This isn't a reasonable argument in the slightest.

If a tree falls in the woods, and you aren't there to hear it... then there is no sound?

My favorite answer to this is a drawing made by Shel Silverstein (there is a copy in his book Different Dances). Unfortunately I couldn't find an image to link to it. Maybe I can scan it in and send you a copy some time. Obviously, this is kind of an irrelevant question. The reason why is quite simple. We can assert all sorts of wild theories on the basis that we simply weren't there to witness it. The theory that Joseph derived the name Cumorah from the Comoros islands is simply unprovable at the very best. It opens the doors to all sorts of ridiculous arguments. I find it rather humorous that the original suggestion came from a 1989 article that was based on modern maps and modern texts. Having assumed that there must be a connection, we have subsequently seen a string of suggestions from the critics that have turned that original thought (which didn't have any real supporting evidence) into a literal history of what must have happened. Every possible hint is employed. But in the end, all we have is smoke hiding the fact that the underlying supposition - that Joseph needed a source to come up with the name Cumorah, that he had to have a source, that there absolutely must have been a source - a supposition that is in fact itself quite unreasonable.

Ben M.

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Language itself is a common element. That is to say that English has only so many words, and these words get reused in all texts written in English. They form a commonality. We can go beyond that and say that language groups tend to have some similarities (although not necessarily in every detail). When we start talking about 'Comoros' = 'Cumorah', you are trying to establish an even more general relationship. This is incredibly problematic, since in this way, nearly any word can be related to any other similar word.

I remember an antimormon publication that attempted to show the source of the names in the BOM.

neas == peas

Mosiah == Moses + Josiah

etc.

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Mike Reed writes:More or less, yes. But, this brings up a related issue. At some point, the texts become so obscure as to preclude real consideration as a source.

Having read through Dubin's rather short (and not at all exhaustive) bibliography, I've gotta say that I am disappointed by how quick you jump to conclusions. I understand that it is an easy thing to do as an apologist (I used to be one myself), but being someone who hopes to one day make a name for himself in academia, you should be more careful.

The point is that suggesting that this must be the source because of similarity is simply a nonsensical argument.

No it isn't. We aren't just talking about one similarity. We are talking about two words that appear together in location that would have been of interest to people like Joseph Smith and his associates.

The second issue is that trying to derive such a word in this way is clearly an attempt to make the Book of Mormon a work of fiction. But this brings up the problem of why the need for a source at all?

There is no need. But when striking parallels like these are found (striking because they appear together in an area associated with Captain Kidd), the possibilities of it being a source should be explored. Refusing to sincerely explore the possible connection would be irresponsible. Even worse is refusing to do so, while declaring the suggested connection a non-existent absurdity.

Why couldn't the word simply be a work of the imagination? Instead, we take a single word from either a map or a tradition, and make it into a place in the Book of Mormon.

TWO words.

Third, the question of access in this case is actually a reasonable concern. The more esoteric the sources, the less and less likely it becomes that Joseph encountered it. Yes, I have seen a lot of speculation about when and where Joseph might have come into contact with the name. Yes, Joseph probably had heard stories about Captain Kidd. However, there isn't any mention of this city Moroni in any of the Captain Kidd literature

The Comoro Islands are mentioned in Captain Kidd literature. Consequently, it is perfectly imaginable that Joseph Smith might've thought to look at a Map like this one I found today:

Meroni,+Comore.jpg

Bellin, Jacques Nicholas

Carte De L'Isle D' Anjouan (Comoros)

Paris: Chez Didot, 1784; from A.F. Prevost's Histoire Generale Des Voyages, Tome V, No. 13.

http://alabamamaps.ua.edu/historicalmaps/africa/central-south.html

On a side note, it might be a good idea for you to also research the Comoro Islands and french slave trade to the US.

The bar becomes very, very high to place any kind of value on the speculation that despite the fact that there is no recorded mention of the city of Moroni in the Comoros islands

Do you consider the map above to be a "recorded mention"?

that Joseph Smith somehow became familiar with such a tradition (only oral in nature), that he decided to adopt this tradition for inclusion in his book that he was authoring, and so on. As a theory, it just doesn't make any sense.

It doesn

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This would tend to indicate several things:

1- Knowledge of Comora/Comoro islands was limited, even among professional geographers. (Two of three standard gazetteers fail to mention it.)

Most world maps that I've seen don't mark the small town that I grew up in: Galt. So what does that mean? This indicates that geographers are ignorant of the city?

2- The contemporary spelling was Comoro/a, not Camorah or Cumorah.

Irrelevant. There were several ways the name was spelled prior to 1830, including a way that started with a "K". Hyrum's named was spelled different ways too: Hiram, Hyram, Hirum, Hyrum. Big deal. Should we automatically assume that the opening post's narrative didn't refer to the prophet since they spelled his last name "Smidt"?

I
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Bill Hamblin: You do mean that map of the island of Anjouan was the source for the Hill Anjouan in the Book of Momron, right? Got it.

Like I explained already, I've not yet taken a stand on the matter, other than to call you (and other apologists) out for your hasty rejection of the reasonable possibility that Joseph Smith, inspired by his interest in treasure seeking, decided to utilize the names Moroni/Cumorah of the Cumoro Islands. And no, I am not saying that this specific map was necessarily the source. I imagine there were other maps available in Joseph Smith's environment that could have (directly or indirectly) been a source.

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