Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Becoming Gods/Chapter 1

Response to claims made in "Chapter 1: God's Latter-Day Prophet"


A work by author: Richard Abanes
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Response to claim: 24 - Joseph's family survived by "money digging"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's family survived by "money digging."

Author's sources: David Persuitte, Joseph Smith and the Origins of The Book of Mormon (2nd edition), (McFarland & Company, October 2000), 35 ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author wishes to make it sound as if "money digging" was the Smith family's profession. Joseph's family survived by a variety of means, such as making and selling maple syrup. "Money digging" was an activity, but it was not the family's source of income.

Question: Was "money digging" Joseph Smith, Jr's primary source of income during his early years?

Tax records indicated that the Smith family was intensely engaged in activities related to improving their farm

The primary evidence–especially tax records, which provide a relatively unbiased look at the Smiths' work ethic—cannot support the argument that Joseph and his family were not intensely engaged in the duties related to farming.

See also: Lazy Smiths?

LDS scholar Daniel C. Peterson notes,

[I]n order to pay for their farm, the Smiths were obliged to hire themselves out as day laborers. Throughout the surrounding area, they dug and rocked up wells and cisterns, mowed, harvested, made cider and barrels and chairs and brooms and baskets, taught school, dug for salt, worked as carpenters and domestics, built stone walls and fireplaces, flailed grain, cut and sold cordwood, carted, washed clothes, sold garden produce, painted chairs and oil-cloth coverings, butchered, dug coal, and hauled stone. And, along the way, they produced between one thousand and seven thousand pounds of maple sugar annually. "Laziness" and "indolence" are difficult to detect in the Smith family.[1]

The data shows that the Smith farm increased in value, and was worth more than 90% of the farms owned by their neighbors

The data shows that the Smith farm increased in value, and was worth more than 90% of the farms owned by the four families—the Staffords, Stoddards, Chases, and Caprons—who would later speak disparagingly of the Smiths' work ethic.[2] How did they manage this without doing farm work? These are physical improvements. They were too poor to pay someone else to do it. So, are we to believe that Joseph's family let Joseph just sit around doing his "magic business" while the rest of them worked their fingers to the bone?

The Smith farm had a perimeter of a one and 2/3 miles. To fence that distance with a standard stone and stinger fence required moving tons of stone from fields to farm perimeter, then cutting and placing about 4,000 ten-foot rails. This does not include the labor and materials involved in fencing the barnyard, garden, pastures, and orchard, which, at a conservative estimate, required an additional 2,000 to 3,000 cut wooden rails (McNall 59, 84, 87, 91, 110-11, and 144). Clearly, this work alone—all of it separate from the actual labor of farming—represents a prodigious amount of concerted planning and labor....

In comparison to others in the township and neighborhood, the Smiths' efforts and accomplishments were superior to most. In the township, only 40 percent of the farms were worth more per acre and just 25 percent were larger. In the "neighborhood," only 29 percent of the farms were worth more and only 26 percent were larger (Assessment Rolls 1-34).[3]

Orlando Saunders: "They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died"

What did Joseph's associates have to say about Joseph's work? Former neighbor Orlando Saunders recalled,

They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died....[The Smiths] were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then), has worked for me, and he was a good worker; they all were. . . . He was always a gentleman when about my place."[4]

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford said that the Smiths were "poor managers," but allowed as how Joseph "would do a fair day's work if hired out to a man...."[5]

Mrs. Palmer's father "loved young Joseph Smith and often hired him to work with his boys"

According to Truman G. Madsen,

Mrs. Palmer, a non-Mormon who lived near the Smith farm in Palmyra, said of Joseph that "her father loved young Joseph Smith and often hired him to work with his boys. She was about six years old, she said, when he first came to their home. . . .She remembered, she said, the excitement stirred up among some of the people over the boy's first vision, and of hearing her father contend that it was only the sweet dream of a pure-minded boy.”[6]

Martha Cox's father said "that the boy [Joseph Smith] was the best help he had ever found

According to a contemporary, Martha Cox,

She stated that one of their church leaders came to her father to remonstrate against his allowing such close friendship between his family and the "Smith boy," as he called him. Her father, she said, defended his own position by saying that the boy was the best help he had ever found.[7]

Joseph's brother William noted that derogatory comments about Joseph's character came only after he reported his visions,

We never heard of such a thing until after Joseph told his vision, and not then, by our friends. Whenever the neighbors wanted a good day's work done they knew where they could get a good hand and they were not particular to take any of the other boys before Joseph either… Joseph did his share of the work with the rest of the boys. We never knew we were bad folks until Joseph told his vision.[8]

Joseph Knight said that Joseph Smith, Jr. was “the best hand [my father] ever hired”[9]

Martin Harris described what a good hand Joseph was: "He lived close by my farm, and often worked for me hoeing corn for fifty cents a day, which was the biggest wages given in those times." [10] "He also said that he had hoed corn with Joseph often, and that the latter was a good hand to work."[11]

The Smith family produced maple sugar and constructed barrels

Furthermore, the Smiths produced maple sugar, a difficult and labor-intensive occupation:

Sources document over two dozen kinds of labor the Smiths performed for hire, including digging and rocking up wells, mowing, coopering, constructing cisterns, hunting and trapping, teaching school, providing domestic service, and making split-wood chairs, brooms and baskets. The Smiths also harvested, did modest carpentry work, dug for salt, constructed stone walls and fireplaces, flailed grain, cut and sold cordwood, carted, made cider, and "witched" for water. They sold garden produce, made bee-gums, washed clothes, painted oil-cloth coverings, butchered, dug coal, painted chairs, hauled stone, and made maple syrup and sugar (Research File).

Joseph Jr.'s account suggests honest industry in the face of difficult conditions: "Being in indigent circumstances," he says, "[we] were obliged to labour hard for the support of [our] Large family and . . . it required the exertions of all [family members] that were able to render any assistances" (Jessee 4). The Smith men had a reputation as skilled and diligent workers. William Smith asserted that "whenever the neighbors wanted a good day's work done they knew where they could get a good hand" (Peterson 11). Eight wells in three townships are attributed to the Smiths (Research File). They likely dug and rocked others, including some of the 11 wells dug on the farm of Lemuel Durfee, who lived a little east of Martin Harris. The Smiths did considerable work for this kindly old Quaker; some of their labor served as rent for their farm after it passed into his ownership in December 1825 (Ralph Cator; Lemuel Durfee Farm books).

Father Joseph, Hyrum, and Joseph Jr. were coopers. Coopering was an exacting trade, particularly if the barrel was designed to hold liquid. Dye tubs, barrels, and water and sap buckets were products of the Smiths' cooper shop. They also repaired leaky barrels for neighbors at cidering time (Research File).

Sugaring was another labor-intensive work. William recalls, "To gather the sap and make sugar and molasses from [1,200-1,500 sugar] trees was no lazy job" (Peterson 11). Lucy said they produced an average of "one thousand pounds" (50) of sugar a year. One neighbor reportedly said that the Smiths made 7,000 pounds of sugar one season and won a premium for their effort at the county fair (Brodie 10-11). Many people could make maple syrup, but it required considerable skill to make sugar and particularly good skill, dexterity, and commitment to make high quality sugar.[12]


Response to claim: 24 - Joseph was adept at "occult ritual"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was adept at "occult ritual."

Author's sources: No actual reference given by the author: The note simply says "Smith was well-known as a money-digger throughout western New York and northern Pennsylvania."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is simply making this up.

Question: Were Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences originally products of magic and the occult?

Joseph's family believed in folk magic, and that Joseph himself used several different seer stones in order to locate lost objects

It is a known fact that Joseph's family believed in folk magic, and that Joseph himself used several different seer stones in order to locate lost objects.[13] Brant Gardner notes,

Young Joseph Smith was a member of a specialized sub-community with ties to these very old and very respected practices, though by the early 1800s they were respected only by a marginalized segment of society.

Joseph's family shared folk magic beliefs that were common to the day. Joseph's mother, Lucy, felt it important to note in her history that the family did not let these magical endeavors prevent the family from doing the necessary work to survive:

But let not my reader suppose that, because I shall pursue another topic for a season, that we stopped our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation. But, whilst we worked with our hands, we endeavored to remember the service of, and the welfare of our souls.[14]

Joseph's involvement with Josiah Stowell's attempt to locate a lost Spanish treasure is well documented in Church history

Stowell requested Joseph's assistance in a mining operation looking for old coins and precious metals. This effort, in fact, resulted in charges being brought against Joseph by Stowell's relatives for being a "glasslooker" in 1826. Joseph was ultimately charged with being a "disorderly person" and released. (For more detailed information, see: Joseph Smith's 1826 glasslooking trial)

Some, however, believe that all of Joseph's early spiritual experiences, particularly the First Vision and the visit of Moroni, were originally magical or occult experiences that were only later couched in spiritual terms. For example, the Hurlbut affidavits relate stories of Moroni's visit that cast the angel in the role of spiritual treasure guardian, with one (Willard Chase) even claiming that the angel appeared in the form of a toad.

D. Michael Quinn has been the most prolific author on the subject of "magic" influences on the origins of Mormonism. According to William Hamblin:

Quinn's overall thesis is that Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saint leaders were fundamentally influenced by occult and magical thought, books, and practices in the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is unmitigated nonsense. Yet the fact that Quinn could not discover a single primary source written by Latter-day Saints that makes any positive statement about magic is hardly dissuasive to a historian of Quinn's inventive capacity.[15]

Joseph Smith and his followers undoubtedly believed in supernatural power

Joseph Smith and his followers undoubtedly believed in supernatural power. And, they may have had some ideas about how to access that power that now strike us as inaccurate and even strange. This is not surprising, given the two centuries and massive scientific advances which separate our culture from theirs. However, there is no evidence that Joseph and others considered these things to be "magic," or the "occult," nor did they consider "magic" or the "occult" to be positive things.


Response to claim: 24 - Joseph's neighbors thought that he was "an imposter, hypocrite and liar"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's neighbors thought that he was "an imposter, hypocrite and liar."

Author's sources: Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834). (Affidavits examined)

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The affidavits against Joseph's character were gathered by an enemy of Joseph: Doctor Philastus Hurbut, three years after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church. They were then published in the anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed.

Question: What are the Hurlbut affidavits?

The Hurlbut affidavits are a collection of affidavits from Joseph Smith’s neighbors which claim that the Smith family possessed a number of character flaws

Many critics cite a collection of affidavits from Joseph Smith’s neighbors which claim that the Smith family possessed a number of character flaws. These affidavits were collected by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut ("Doctor" was his first name, not a title). [16] Hurlbut had been excommunicated from the Church on charges of "unvirtuous conduct with a young lady," [17] and for threatening the life of the Prophet.

  1. There are many statements from Joseph's contemporaries attesting to his good character—These people did not sign sworn affidavits, but their accounts are recorded in their journals and histories.
  2. It is also important to note that none of these statements regarding Joseph Smith, Jr. was a firsthand account from the Prophet himself, but instead represent second or third-hand accounts. It is interesting that Fawn Brodie and other modern anti-Mormons readily dismiss the affidavits supporting the Spalding theory (which has since been discredited), suggesting the Hurlbut "prompted" those making statements, yet accepts without question the affidavits attesting to the bad character of Joseph Smith and his family.
  3. Finally, Hurlbut's motive in collecting the affidavits is a factor. The Hurlbut affidavits were collected by a man who not only had a grudge to settle with the Church, but who had actually been brought before a judge for issuing a death threat against Joseph Smith, Jr. His family had likewise lost a court case brought by the Smiths, and young Joseph's testimony played a significant role in their victory. (This occurred despite the Hurlbuts being more wealthy and prominent in the community than the poverty-stricken Smiths.)

Hurlbut had been hostile to the Smith family long before he collected his affidavits

Hurlbut's hostility to the Smiths may have been of long date. In 1819, the Smiths sued a local family of Hurlbuts over the sale of a pair of horses and some work they had done for him. (Aside from the name, it is not known if there was a family connection.) One author explains:

Joseph Smith's introduction to the legal system came at an early age. His father and oldest brother, Alvin, initiated a lawsuit in January 1819 against Jeremiah Hurlbut arising from his sale of a pair of horses to the Smiths for $65. The Smith boys had been working for Hurlbut to both pay down the $65 obligation and for other goods the previous summer. Twelve witnesses were called during the trial, including Hyrum and Joseph Smith Jr. Under New York law, being just thirteen, Joseph's testimony about the work he had performed was admissible only after the court found him competent. His testimony proved credible and the court record indicates that ever item that he testified about was included in the damages awarded to the Smiths. Although Hurlbut appealed the case, no records have survived noting the final disposition of that case; perhaps it was settled out of court. The significance of this case is not limited to the fact that a New York judge found the young Joseph, just a year prior to his First Vision, to be competent and credible as a witness. Also, the suit being brought against a prominent Palmyra family and involving two other prominent community leaders as sureties on appeal may have contributed to Joseph Smith Jr.'s memory of his family's estrangement from much of the Palmyra community....

Under applicable New York law, "qualified citizens" [for jury duty] were limited to male inhabitants of the county where the trial was being held between the ages of twenty-one and sixty; and who at the time had personal property in the amount of not less that $250 or real property in the county with a value of not less than $250. In the rural community of Palmyra this effectively meant that those qualified to be on the jury would be the more affluent and prominent men of the area. Ironically, none of the Smiths would have qualified to be a juror.

The trial was held on February 6, 1819. Twelve jurors were impaneled, all men and property owners. The Smiths called five witnesses, Hurlbut [the farmer they were suing] seven. Both Joseph Jr. and Hyrum were called to testify. This appears to be young Joseph's first direct interaction with the judicial [130] process. He had turned thirteen years old a month and a half previously. New York law and local practice permitted the use of child testimony, subject to the court's discretion to determine the witness' competency. The test for competency required a determination that the witness was of 'sound mind and memory.' A New York 1803 summary of the law for justices of the peace notes that 'all persons of sound mind and memory, and who have arrived at years of discretion, except such as are legally interested, or have been rendered infamous, may be improved as witnesses.' This determination of competency rested within the discretion of the judge....

From the record it appears that Judge Spear found Joseph Jr. competent, and he indeed did testify during the trial. This is evident in a review of the List of Services that was part of the court file. Joseph Jr.'s testimony would have been required to admit those services he personally performed....[18]

Hurlbut's collection of the statements was made at the request of an anti-Mormon committee in Kirtland, Ohio

At any rate, Hurlbut's later collection of statements was made at the request of an anti-Mormon committee in Kirtland, Ohio. [19] According to B.H. Roberts:

It was simply a matter of "muck raking" on Hurlbut's part. Every idle story, every dark insinuation which at that time could be thought of and unearthed was pressed into service to gratify this man's personal desire for revenge, and to aid the enemies of the Prophet in their attempt to destroy his influence and overthrow the institution then in process of such remarkable development. [20]

Hurlbut was unable to publish the affidavits himself after his trial for making death threats against Joseph Smith, so he sold them to E.D. Howe for publication in his book Mormonism Unvailed

Hurlbut was unable to publish the affidavits himself after his trial for making death threats against Joseph Smith, Jr. (And, it is possible that his family's animus dated back far longer.) He sold his material to Eber D. Howe, who published it in his anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed in 1834. In addition to the affidavits attacking the character of the Smith family, Hurlbut gathered statements from the family and neighbors of Solomon Spalding in order to "prove" that Spalding's unpublished manuscript was the source for the Book of Mormon. Mormonism Unvailed contained the first presentation of the Spalding theory of Book of Mormon origin. Some critics, such as Fawn Brodie, are selective in their acceptance of Hurlbut's affidavits—They readily accept affidavits that attack the character of the Smith family, yet admit that some "judicious prompting" by Hurlbut may have been involved in those affidavits that were gathered to support the Spalding theory. [21]

E.D. Howe thought that Joseph was "lazy," "indolent" and "superstitious"

Howe's bias is evident throughout the book. He introduces the Smith family with the following:

All who became intimate with them during this period, unite in representing the general character of old Joseph and wife, the parents of the pretended Prophet, as lazy, indolent, ignorant and superstitious—having a firm belief in ghosts and witches; the telling of fortunes; pretending to believe that the earth was filled with hidden treasures, buried there by Kid or the Spaniards. [22]


Response to claim: 26 - During the First Vision, Joseph was told that "all Christian creeds" were an abomination and that "all Christian teachers" were corrupt

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

During the First Vision, Joseph was told that "all Christian creeds" were an abomination and that "all Christian teachers" were corrupt.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author deliberately inserts the word "Christian" in these phrases in order to negatively influence the reader. Given that it was Jesus Christ who uttered these phrases during the First Vision, this is simply an attempt by the author to make Joseph appear "anti-Christian."

This claim is also made in One Nation Under Gods: p. 377, n8(PB)

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that no genuine Christians exist outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Some claim that Joseph Smith's First Vision commits the Latter-day Saints to the view that no genuine Christians existed or exist outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Critics of the Church point out that Joseph Smith's First Vision told him:

  1. He must join no existing church
  2. They were "all" wrong
  3. "All" their creeds were an abomination
  4. The churches' professors were corrupt.[23]

They argue that this commits the Latter-day Saints to the view that no genuine Christians existed or exist outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [24]

Latter-day Saints believe that as a result of that institutional apostasy, present-day Christians are the victims, not perpetrators of it

Latter-day Saints believe in a universal institutional apostasy. As a result of that institutional apostasy, present-day Christians are the victims, not perpetrators of it. They or their churches are not responsible for the loss or corruption of doctrines and authority to which they never had access.

Non-LDS Christians are perfectly capable of being "humble followers of Christ," whose remaining errors persist only because they have not yet had the benefit of on-going revelation by authorized servants. They have much that is true and valuable, and if they heed the Holy Ghost, will be guided to an even fuller acceptance of the truth of Christ which can only be known by revelation.

In the Latter-day Saint view, the loss of the apostles and the apostolic authority virtually assured the onset of the apostasy

The Latter-day Saint understanding of "apostasy" is heavily weighted toward the concept of divine authority. In the LDS view, the loss of the apostles and the apostolic authority virtually assured the onset of the apostasy. There is clear biblical evidence that challenges to the apostles' teachings and authority occurred even while they were alive. With the death of the apostles, such efforts would have gone unchecked.

With the loss of authority, error will inevitably creep into religious belief and practice, since only revelation can reveal God's will. Even well-intentioned human reason and study of the scripture has not produced a consensus, but thousands of competing beliefs and denominations.

The Latter-day Saints do not, however, believe that being "wrong" or "corrupt" in some aspects of belief and practice mean that people are not devout or sincere Christians. Likewise, those who may suffer from some false beliefs still have many true and valuable beliefs. Apostasy results in a partial corruption of belief and teaching, not a wholesale loss of all truth.

The Church therefore sees the matter of apostasy as complete organizational apostasy (no denomination retained the authority to act in God's name and definitively establish doctrine) and partial individual apostasy (some individuals fell away from truths they had previously had; others merely inherited a set of beliefs, some of which were true and some false).

The Book of Mormon's description of the last days makes this matter clear:

they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. (2 Nephi 28:14)

Thus, while corruption is widespread in the pre-Restoration era, there remain a number of "humble followers of Christ"

Yet, even these humble followers still have some error mixed with their truth, because they do not have the benefit of on-going revelation to authorized prophets and apostles.


Response to claim: 26 - Many Mormons believe that "their salvation, to a limited degree, rests upon Smith"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Many Mormons believe that "their salvation, to a limited degree, rests upon Smith."

Author's sources:
  • In a note on page 332, the author says "I do not mean to say the Mormons hold Joseph Smith on an equal par with Jesus Christ. Smith holds a place just below Christ."
  • Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Case Against Mormonism, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City, 1967), vol. 1, p. 75.
  • Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, p. 302

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The gift of salvation is given only by Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith would participate in the final judgement of those of this dispensation, just as other prophets will participate in the judgement of their respective dispensations. I all cases, however, Jesus Christ is the ultimate judge and arbiter.

Question: Do Mormons believe that Joseph Smith must approve whether or not they get into heaven?

The Book of Mormon confirms that no mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus Christ

Critics charge that Joseph claimed, or it was claimed in his behalf, the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," and that this gives to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

No mortal's role in the judgment supersedes the role given to Jesus, as the Book of Mormon bears witness:

...the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.(2 Nephi 9:41.)

Joseph's participation in the judgment is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper

Joseph's participation in the judgment (at the command and sufferance of Jesus) is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper. Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.

Members of the Church reserve their worship for God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. They do not worship Joseph Smith or any other mortal, save Jesus only. Joseph Smith's position in LDS thought is analogous to the role which Peter or Paul plays in traditional creedal Christianity.


Question: What is the origin of the criticism of the idea that Joseph Smith will participate in the final judgement?

The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses

The criticism originates with statements made by Brigham Young and Orson Hyde that are recorded in the Journal of Discourses. Statements made by these early church leaders are removed from their context in order to make it appear that a belief in Joseph Smith rather than Jesus Christ is the key to salvation.

When read in context, Brigham Young's statement and intent become clear:

Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days...no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.... I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy...he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.... It is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption.[25]

Clearly, Joseph's role is to function under the "direction...of the Son of God," and the primary goal is the salvation of all who will accept any degree of Christ and Joseph's witness of Him.

Similarly, critics extract the second sentence of the following quote from Brigham Young, while ignoring the sentence preceding it (emphasis added):

I have taught for thirty years, and still teach, that he that believeth in his heart and confesseth with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation, is of God; and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is antichrist.[26]

It is not a novel idea to have mortal prophets involved in the post-mortal judgment

At the Last Supper, Jesus himself taught that:

Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28.)

A similar promise to participate in the judgment of those among whom they were called to serve was given to the twelve Nephite Disciples (see 1 Nephi 12:9-10). This principle is also reiterated in modern revelation (see D&C 29:12).

Since the Latter-day Saints accept the witness that Joseph was called as an apostle and prophet (see D&C 21:1) with the same authority as that given to Peter, James, John, and others, they do not think it strange that he will likewise play a role in judgment. The witness of a prophet will always be brought against those who did not accept his witness of Christ (see Matthew 10:40; John 5:45-47).


Response to claim: 26 - Bruce R. McConkie said that "we must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Bruce R. McConkie said that "we must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation."

Author's sources: Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 334. ISBN 0877478961. GL direct link

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author has seriously distorted Elder McConkie's statement. Elder McConkie's intent is clear—salvation is only through Christ, and Christ can only be known through prophets, including Joseph Smith

Question: Did Bruce R. McConkie state that we must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation?

Elder McConkie's intent is clear—salvation is only through Christ, and Christ can only be known through prophets, including Joseph Smith

This claim is made by Richard Abanes in Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 26. ( Index of claims ). This is a classic example of quote-mining. The italicized text is quoted by the author; the other text from this source makes the meaning clear (bold added for emphasis). Here is what Elder McConkie actually said:

Salvation is in Christ. There is no other by whom it comes. He is the Redeemer of men and the Savior of the world. He alone worked out the infinite and eternal atonement whereby all men are raised in immortality while those who believe and obey are raised also unto eternal life. "Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." None other has ever lived on earth, none other now lives among us, and none other will ever breathe the breath of life who can compare with him. None other, among all the billions of our Father's children, will ever deserve such eternal praise as all the hosts of heaven heap upon him. Yea, "There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent." (Mosiah 3:17-18.)

But Christ and his laws can be known only by revelation. His gospel must come from heaven or remain forever unknown. And his word must go forth by the mouths of his servants the prophets, or the message will never be heard. Christ calls prophets. They represent him. Their voice is his voice; their words are his words; and they say what he would say if he were personally present. "I am the vine, ye are the branches," he says to his legal representatives on earth. "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5.)

And thus, for this dispensation of grace, we come to Joseph Smith. He was called of God to reveal anew the doctrines of salvation. He was called of God to stand as the Lord's legal administrator, dispensing salvation to all men—repeat: all men—in the last days. Christ is the True Vine; Joseph Smith is the chief branch for our day. Moroni told him that his "name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." (JS-H 1:33.) And as the Prophet, years later, suffered in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, for the testimony of Jesus and the love of the Lord that was his, the voice of the Lord comforted him with these words: "The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand." (D&C 122:1-2.)

And thus, all men—every living soul who has lived or shall live on earth between the spring of 1820 and that glorious future day when the Son of God shall return to reign personally on earth—all men in the latter days must turn to Joseph Smith to gain salvation. Why? The answer is clear and plain; let it be spoken with seven thunders. He alone can bring them the gospel; he alone can perform for them the ordinances of salvation and exaltation; he stands, as have all the prophets of all the ages in their times and seasons, in the place and stead of the Heavenly One in administering salvation to men on earth....

[335] We do not pretend to have authority and gospel knowledge because we read in holy writ that those anciently were so endowed. Ours is a modern commission; ours is a present-day power; the message we declare has been revealed anew to us. That it conforms to the ancient word is apparent, for it is the same gospel given again....

[338] The Lord sends men to match the message, and Joseph Smith, as a revealer of Christ and a restorer of eternal truth, has been the instrument in the hands of the Lord of preparing the way before him.[27]

Elder McConkie's intent is clear—salvation is only through Christ, and Christ can only be known through prophets, and only legal administrators can perform the necessary ordinances. Thus, to come to Christ, one must use what Joseph Smith offers. But, this is not to say that Joseph is the source of salvation, or that we must turn to Joseph in preference to Jesus. Joseph simply provides what we need so that we can completely turn to Jesus and receive all that He wishes to give us.

The critic has flagrantly misrepresented this text.


Response to claim: 26 - Dallin Oaks said that "I have built my life on the testimony and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Dallin Oaks said that "I have built my life on the testimony and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

Author's sources: Dallin Oaks, "Joseph, the Man and the Prophet," Ensign (May 1996), 71. off-site

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author omits Elder Oaks' very next words:

In all of my reading and original research, I have never been dissuaded from my testimony of his prophetic calling and of the gospel and priesthood restoration the Lord initiated through him. I solemnly affirm the testimony Joseph Smith expressed in the famous Wentworth letter of 1842:

“… The standard of truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842, 709; quoted in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 4:1754).

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Response to claim: 27 - Joseph Smith was "harsh and violent"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith was "harsh and violent."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph Smith was human, and subject to human passions. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that he was "harsh and violent."

Question: Do Joseph Smith's personality and temperament indicate that he was not a true prophet of God?

Although we cannot fully detach the man from the message, we should remember that Joseph Smith was a man as well as a prophet

As a man, Joseph was subject to the same passions and opinions as other men, but as a prophet, he restored the truths, ordinances, and authority necessary to exalt mankind.

At its base, this attack is simply ad hominem abusive—an attack on the messenger, rather than his claims.

This criticism is not driven so much by facts as it is by expectations—people have their own preconceived notions of how a prophet should look, speak, and act. When a person who claims to be a prophet, often people dismiss him because he doesn't fit their idea of what a prophet should be, regardless of what he has accomplished.

Joseph Smith encountered and recognized this sort of prejudice, and he spoke about it:

I never told you I was perfect, but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. Must I then be thrown away as a thing of nought? [28]

Brigham Young explained it this way:

I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against "Joe Smith," saying, "that he was a mean man, a liar, moneydigger, gambler, and a whore-master;" and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter. I said, hold on, Brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can. As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor's wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith. But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it. [29]

At a 1894 gathering of Latter-day Saints who personally knew Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith (his nephew) arose and made the following remarks:

Now, some of us remember one thing, and some remember another thing, with relation to the Prophet [Joseph Smith]. I remember several instances, general incidents, myself, which might be considered inappropriate to mention here tonight. For it is sometimes the ludicrous things and drastic things which occur that impress themselves with greater vigor upon the mind; and we remember them more distinctly than we do other things of far greater importance and which are far more worthy to be recollected. No matter what we may recollect of the Prophet or what may be said to us here tonight with regard to our memeory [sic] of him, the one thing that I wish to call your attention to first and foremost of all other things is this, that whatever else the Prophet Joseph Smith may have done or may have been, we must not forget the fact that he was the man out of the millions of human beings that inhabited this earth at the time—the only man, that was called of God, by the voice of God Himself, to open up the dispensation of the Gospel to the world for the last time; and this is the great thing to bear in mind, that he was called of God to introduce the Gospel to the world, to restore the holy priesthood to the children of men, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the world, and to restore all the ordinances of the Gospel, for the salvation not only of the living, but also of the dead, and he was called to this mission by God Himself. Now, if somebody tells us about Joseph being fond of wrestling, fond of running a foot race, fond of having a good scuffle with some lusty neighbor or friend; or if you hear somebody tell about the good, that is, the overflowing of the human nature that was in him, it need not detract one iota from the great and glorious principles which were revealed through him to the world. [30]

Dr. John M. Bernhisel, related his impressions of Joseph Smith to Illinois Governor Ford in 1844. He wrote:

Having been a boarder in General Smith's family for more than nine months, and having therefore had abundant opportunities of contemplating his character and observing his conduct, I have concluded to give you a few of my "impressions" of him.

General Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reactive character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation as any man to be found.

But it is in the gentle charities of domestic life, as the tender and affectionate husband and parent, the warm and sympathizing friend, that the prominent traits of his character are revealed, and his heart is felt to be keenly alive to the kindest and softest emotions of which human nature is susceptible; and I feel assured that his family and friends formed one of the greatest consolations to him while the vials of wrath were poured upon his head, while his footsteps were pursued by malice and envy, and reproach and slander were strewn in his path, as well as during numerous and cruel persecutions, and severe and protracted sufferings in chains and loathsome prisons, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

He is a true lover of his country, and a bright and shining example of integrity and moral excellence in all the relations of life. As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people. It is almost superfluous to add that the numerous ridiculous and scandalous reports in circulation respecting him have not the least foundation in truth. [31]

Attorney John S. Reed, a life-long non-Mormon, said in May 1844:

The first acquaintance I had with Gen. Smith was about the year 1823. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years; during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable; that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a young man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments. I early discovered that his mind was constantly in search of truth, expressing an anxious desire to know the will of God concerning His children here below, often speaking of those things which professed Christians believe in. I have often observed to my best informed friends (those that were free from superstition and bigotry) that I thought Joseph was predestinated by his God from all eternity to be an instrument in the hands of the great Dispenser of all good, to do a great work; what it was I knew not. [32]

Peter H. Burnett, a former Governor of California and attorney for Joseph wrote:

You could see at a glance that his education was very limited. He was an awkward and vehement speaker. In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas, and would not generally go directly to a point. But, with all these drawbacks, he was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command, and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest, and apparently so candid, that you could not but be interested. There was a kind, familiar look about him, that pleased you. He was very courteous in discussion, readily admitting what he did not intend to controvert, and would not oppose you abruptly, but had due deference to your feelings. He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects, and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own. He had great influence over others. As an evidence of this I will state that on Thursday, just before I left to return to Liberty [Missouri], I saw him out among the crowd, conversing freely with every one, and seeming to be perfectly at ease. In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger. [33]

A New York Herald writer said he was "one of the most accomplished and powerful chiefs of the age." He then described him as follows:

Joseph Smith, the president of the church, prophet, seer, and revelator, is thirty-six years of age, six feet high in pumps, weighing two hundred and twelve pounds. He is a man of the highest order of talent and great independence of character--firm in his integrity--and devoted to his religion; . . as a public speaker he is bold, powerful, and convincing; . . as a leader, wise and prudent, yet fearless as a military commander; brave and determined as a citizen, worthy, affable, and kind; bland in his manners, and of noble bearing. [34]

Opposite the positive views presented here and the conflicting views of Joseph which critics seek to take advantage of, there is reason to pause and consider the absoluteness of one opinion of Joseph over another. Speaking of Joseph's human side, the world's expectations of him, and reconciling the two realities, Marvin S. Hill concluded:

If a look at the human side of Joseph Smith seems at times somewhat unflattering, it comes from no desire to diminish him. It comes rather from the belief that at times in the Church we tend to expect too much of him, to ask him to be more than human in everything he did. This may lead to some disillusionment, if occasionally we find that he did not measure up to all our expectations. The early Saints usually avoided that kind of mistake. Brigham Young said of Joseph: 'Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults.' Brigham chose to stress the positive side.

Parley P. Pratt said that Joseph was "like other men, as the prophets and apostles of old, liable to errors and mistakes which were not inspired from heaven, but managed by...[his] own judgment."

These brethren knew Joseph as a man with human weaknesses, yet they believed in his divine calling and in his greatness. It seemed to them that what he had achieved as a prophet far outweighed his imperfections. In the long run their love of him and their faith in his calling were decisive in shaping their lives. Seeing Joseph in his various moods, they still called him a prophet of God... Those who would understand the Prophet must give consideration to his spiritual side as well as his human side. It was his strong commitment to things spiritual which made him so aware of his human failings, so desirous to overcome his weaknesses and to give his all to the work of the Lord. [35]


Stephen H. Webb: "Evidence That Demands Our Amazement... Joseph Smith was a remarkable person"

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[36]

By any measurement, Joseph Smith was a remarkable person. His combination of organizational acumen with spiritual originality and personal decorum and modesty is rare in the history of religion. He was so steadfast in his ability to inspire men and women through times of great hardship that none of those who knew him could claim to fully understand him. He knew more about theology and philosophy than it was reasonable for anyone in his position to know, as if he were dipping into the deep, collective unconsciousness of Christianity with a very long pen. He read the Bible in ways so novel that he can be considered a theological innocent—he expanded and revised the biblical narrative without questioning its authority—yet he brusquely overturned ancient and impregnable metaphysical assumptions with the aplomb of an assistant professor. For someone so charismatic, he was exceptionally humble, even ordinary, and he delegated authority with the wisdom of a man looking far into the future for the well-being of his followers. It would be tempting to compare him to Mohammed—who also combined pragmatic political skill and a genius for religious innovation—if he were not so deeply Christian. [Title is Webb's.][37]:95

Response to claim: 27 - James E. Faust said that Joseph Smith "was the greatest prophet who ever lived upon the earth"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

James E. Faust said that Joseph Smith "was the greatest prophet who ever lived upon the earth."

Author's sources: James E. Faust, "The Importance of Bearing Testimony," Liahona, Mar. 1997, p.3.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Note that the author carefully removes all the surrounding text which discusses Jesus Christ (italic text is quoted by author; bold for emphasis):

As one of the special witnesses of the Lord, I desire to declare my testimony to you. I am grateful that I have always had a testimony of the gospel. I cannot remember when I did not believe. I have not always understood everything and do not claim to do so now, but through thousands and thousands of spiritual confirmations throughout my life, including my calling to the holy apostleship, I can declare my testimony to you that Jesus is the Christ. With every fiber and cell of my being, I know that He is our Savior and Redeemer. I testify that Joseph Smith was the greatest prophet who ever lived upon the earth and of great importance to the Savior in the work of God on the earth. I know this to be true.[38]

Response to claim: 28 - Joseph Smith may have been a "pious fraud," who believed that he had been called of God while perpetrating fraud

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith may have been a "pious fraud," who believed that he had been called of God while perpetrating fraud.

Author's sources: Dan Vogel in Waterman, p. 50

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is the fallacy of probability. The claim is nonsense.

Question: Is it possible to deduce Joseph Smith's thoughts and dreams years after his death?

Some critics of the Church attempt to discern Joseph Smith's motivations, thoughts and dreams, in order to explain the rise of the Church

Secular critics face a tough challenge when attempting to explain the foundational stories of Church—the primary sources from Joseph Smith and his associates do not provide them with any useful information. The only explanation left to them is that Joseph must have been lying about everything that he said. Authors then resort to fabricating Joseph's thoughts and dreams, and deducing his motivations based upon his surroundings. As one reviewer of Vogel's work puts it, "if no evidence can be gathered to demonstrate that a historical actor thought what you attribute to him or her, no conjecture can be beyond the realm of hypothetical possibility—just make things up, if you need to."[39]:326 This technique allows secular critics to quite literally create any explanation that they wish to account for Joseph's ability to restore the Church.

Creating a "psychobiography" by putting thoughts into Joseph's head

Secular critics, as a result of their inability to accept what they call "paranormal experiences," must come up with explanations for why Joseph Smith was able to create and grow the Church. Since many of the primary documents from Joseph and his associates accept evidence of spiritual experiences and angelic visitations as normal, secular critics look at Joseph's surrounding environment in order to deduce his thoughts and dreams, thus creating a "psychobiography" of the Prophet. A well-known critical work in which this technique is heavily employed is Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History. Consider the following:

But the need for deference was strong within [Joseph]. Talented far beyond his brothers or friends, he was impatient with their modest hopes and humdrum fancies. Nimble-witted, ambitious, and gifted with a boundless imagination, he dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future. For Joseph was not meant to be a plodding farmer, tied to the earth by habit or by love for the recurrent miracle of harvest. He detested the plow as only a farmer's son can, and looked with despair on the fearful mortage [check spelling] that clouded their future.[40]:18

Brodie's prose is very readable, and would be well suited to a fictional novel. Unfortunately, nothing in the paragraph quoted above is referenced to any sort of a source. According to Dr. Charles L. Cohen, professor of history and religious studies, and director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

This habit of insinuating herself into historical actors' minds constitutes the second part of Brodie's method. "For weeks" after learning that Martin Harris had lost the 116-page translation of the golden plates, she stated, "Joseph writhed in self-reproach for his folly." Lucy Smith described her son's distraught reaction when Harris told him the bad news, but, though one can well imagine Joseph agonizing over what to do, there is insufficient evidence to say in an unqualified declarative sentence what he actually did.[41]

The speculation of one author becomes a later author's "fact"

Since Brodie's work is heavily referenced by critics, Brodie's opinions eventually become considered to be "fact" by those who wish to tear down the Church. Brodie's pronouncements regarding Joseph's motives are then passed along to the next anti-Mormon writer. Consider how the following claim evolves from speculation to "documented endnote," when Brodie states:

The awesome vision he described in later years was probably the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West (emphasis added).[40]:25

Now observe how author Richard Abanes treats this quote in his book Becoming Gods (retitled Inside Today's Mormonism):

Such a theory boldly challenges LDS apostle James Faust's contention that critics of the First Vision "find it difficult to explain away." His assertion is further weakened by yet another theory of Brodie's, which posits that Smith's story might have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" (emphasis added).[42]

Here we have an unsupported theory by Brodie being confirmed by another author to "further weaken" LDS claims about the First Vision. Brodie's speculation of "was probably" and "it may have been" now becomes a cited endnote in Abanes' work. The speculation of one author has become the documented fact for the next author down the line.

Deducing Joseph's thoughts from his environment

Another author who takes great liberties in deducing Joseph's thoughts and dreams is Dan Vogel. Vogel's book Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet liberally assigns motives to the Prophet which cannot be backed up with any primary source. Instead, the author must interpret the meaning behind second- and third-hand sources that agree with his point-of-view.

Frankly admitting his "inclination . . . to interpret any claim of the paranormal . . . as delusion or fraud" (p. xii), Vogel refuses to accept Joseph's and his supporters' autobiographical statements—most of which grant, either explicitly or implicitly, such "paranormal" phenomena as angels, revelation, visions, and prophecy—at face value. Vogel's Joseph opens his mouth only to lie and deceive; and whatever he might be experiencing, or trying to do, or thinking about, one can rest assured that it's not what any record generated by him or his sympathizers would have us believe.[43]:206

When an author disregards the primary sources—the statements made by Joseph Smith himself—it becomes possible to create any story, motivation, thought or dream which suits the author's purpose. Responding to Vogel's description of Joseph's prayers and thoughts on September 21, 1823 leading up to the visit of Moroni, BYU professors Andrew and Dawson Hedges note:

What more could a student of early Mormon history possibly want? Here, in a crisp three pages, is a detailed account of what Joseph Smith was thinking about, praying about, and hesitating about over 180 years ago during one of the most significant 24-hour periods in church history. And not just what he was thinking about, in general terms, but how and when, within this 24-hour period, his thoughts evolve! And Vogel gives us all this without a single source to guide his pen—indeed, in direct contravention of what the sources say! One might chalk up this ability to navigate so confidently and so deftly through Joseph's mind to some type of clairvoyance on Vogel's part—"clairvogelance," we could call it—were it not that he himself protests so loudly against anything smacking of the "paranormal."[43]:211

Again, as with Brodie, and freed from the constraint of having to use actual sources, the author can attribute any thought or motivation to the Prophet that they wish in order to explain the unexplainable.


Response to claim: 28 - Polygamy was practiced in secret and denied publicly

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Polygamy was practiced in secret and denied publicly.

Author's sources: Times and Seasons, Mar 15, 1843, vol. 4, no. 9, p. 143

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. Plural marriage was practiced in secret in Nauvoo.

Question: Did Joseph Smith ever publicly attempt to teach the doctrine of plural marriage?

Joseph initiated the practice of polygamy and hid it from the general Church membership during his lifetime

It is true that Joseph did not always tell others about plural marriage. One critic of the Church claims, "Joseph Smith publicly lied about his practice of polygamy, and lied to his own wife (Emma) about the practice." [44]

Joseph made at least one attempt to teach the doctrine, but it was rejected

Joseph did, however, make an attempt to teach the doctrine to the Saints. When Joseph tried to teach the doctrine, it was rejected by many Saints, including Emma, his wife. Joseph then began to teach the doctrine privately to those who would obey. A contemporary journal describes the reaction to Joseph's attempt to teach this doctrine:

When the prophet “went to his dinner,” [Joseph Lee] Robinson wrote, “as it might be expected several of the first women of the church collected at the Prophet’s house with his wife [and] said thus to the prophet Joseph O mister Smith you have done it now it will never do it is all but Blassphemy you must take back what you have said to day is it is outrageous it would ruin us as a people.” So in the afternoon session Smith again took the stand, according to Robinson, and said “Brethren and Sisters I take back what we said this morning and leave it as though there had been nothing said.”[45]


Question: Why did Joseph keep the doctrine of plural marriage private?

The Saints would have suffered negative consequences

Keeping the doctrine private was also necessary because the enemies of the Church would have used it as another justification for their assault on the Saints. Orson Hyde looked back on the Nauvoo days and indicated what the consequences of disclosure would have been:

In olden times they might have passed through the same circumstances as some of the Latter-day Saints had to in Illinois. What would it have done for us, if they had known that many of us had more than one wife when we lived in Illinois? They would have broken us up, doubtless, worse than they did.[46]

It is thus important to realize that the public preaching of polygamy—or announcing it to the general Church membership, thereby informing the public by proxy—was simply not a feasible plan.


Question: Why did Joseph Smith say "I had not been married scarcely five minutes...before it was reported that I had seven wives"?

The Laws sought to have Joseph indicted for adultery and perjury

This statement refers to Joseph's well-known declaration on 26 May 1844 in his "Address of the Prophet—His Testimony Against the Dissenters at Nauvoo". Significantly, this address was given the day after the Laws sought to have Joseph indicted for adultery in the case of Maria Lawrence. (They also sought to indict him on a charge of perjury.)

Many have criticized or been concerned by the secrecy with which Joseph instituted plural marriage without appreciating the realities of the dangers involved. Illinois law only criminalized adultery or fornication if it was "open". Since Joseph was sealed to his plural wives for either eternity, or for time and eternity, he did not view these relationships as constituting adultery or fornication. Therefore, under Illinois law, as long as Joseph and his plural wives did not live in an "open," or "public," manner, they were not guilty of breaking any civil law then in force in Illinois. Furthermore, this reality explains some of Joseph's public denials, since he could be truthfully said to not be guilty of the charges leveled against him: he was not committing adultery or fornication.

Joseph was refuting the charge of adultery, not the fact that he had "seven wives"

History of The Church 6:410-411:

I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can.

This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man dares not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this.[47]....

A man asked me whether the commandment was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet has charged me with adultery. I never had any fuss with these men until that Female Relief Society brought out the paper against adulterers and adulteresses.

Dr. Goforth was invited into the Laws' clique, and Dr. Foster and the clique were dissatisfied with that document,[48] and they rush away and leave the Church, and conspire to take away my life; and because I will not countenance such wickedness,[49] they proclaim that I have been a true prophet, but that I am now a fallen prophet.

[Joseph H.] Jackson[50] has committed murder, robbery, and perjury; and I can prove it by half-a-dozen witnesses. Jackson got up and said—"By God, he is innocent," and now swears that I am guilty. He threatened my life.

There is another Law, not the prophet, who was cashiered for dishonesty and robbing the government. Wilson Law also swears that I told him I was guilty of adultery. Brother Jonathan Dunham can swear to the contrary. I have been chained. I have rattled chains before in a dungeon for the truth's sake. I am innocent of all these charges, and you can bear witness of my innocence, for you know me yourselves.

When I love the poor, I ask no favors of the rich. I can go to the cross—I can lay down my life; but don't forsake me. I want the friendship of my brethren.—Let us teach the things of Jesus Christ. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a downfall.

Be meek and lowly, upright and pure; render good for evil. If you bring on yourselves your own destruction, I will complain. It is not right for a man to bare down his neck to the oppressor always. Be humble and patient in all circumstances of life; we shall then triumph more gloriously. What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.

I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers. I labored with these apostates myself until I was out of all manner of patience; and then I sent my brother Hyrum, whom they virtually kicked out of doors.[51]

Note the rejection of the term "spiritual wifeism". Note that "spiritual wifeism" likely refers to John C. Bennett's pattern of seduction and sexual license, which the Saints were always at pains to deny.

Joseph was not merely bluffing, nor was he lying—he literally could prove that the Laws were perjuring themselves on this point

In light of the circumstances under which they were spoken, Joseph's words were carefully chosen. Joseph was not merely bluffing, nor was he lying—he literally could prove that the Laws were perjuring themselves on this point in the charges brought only the day before.

Bradshaw cites a portion of Joseph's above statement, and then concludes:

A review of Joseph's remarks in light of the circumstances under which they were spoken shows that Joseph's words were carefully chosen. In this speech, Joseph was specifically reacting to the indictments for perjury and adultery that were presented by the grand jury the day earlier. Thus, when Joseph affirmed during the same speech: "I am innocent of all these charges," he was in particular refuting a claim that he and Maria [Lawrence] had openly and notoriously cohabitated, thus committing the statutory offense of adultery. He was also refuting the perjury charge. While the overall tone of Joseph's remarks may seem misleading, it is understandable that Joseph would have taken pains to dodge the plural marriage issue. By keeping his plural marriages in Nauvoo secret, Joseph effectively kept them legal, at least under the Illinois adultery statute.[52]:413


Response to claim: 28 - Heber C. Kimball predicted that the world would someday see Joseph Smith as "a god"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Heber C. Kimball predicted that the world would someday see Joseph Smith as "a god."

Author's sources: Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, 5:88.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Kimball is not here assigning Joseph divine status, nor he is teaching the doctrine of theosis. Rather, he is using a biblical allusion to insist that Joseph and his heirs to the priesthood have a right to leadership of the Saints in both spiritual and temporal things.

Question: Did Heber C. Kimball say that future generations would view Joseph Smith as "a god"?

Kimball is using a biblical allusion to insist that Joseph and his heirs to the priesthood have a right to leadership of the Saints in both spiritual and temporal things

It is claimed that Joseph's place in LDS theology is blasphemous and even idolatrous. As evidence for this, critics of Mormonism cite Heber C. Kimball's remark that future generations would see Joseph as "a god." However, Kimball is not here assigning Joseph divine status, nor he is teaching the doctrine of theosis. Rather, he is using a biblical allusion to insist that Joseph and his heirs to the priesthood have a right to leadership of the Saints in both spiritual and temporal things.

Critics, especially Bible-believing ones, ought to be aware of the allusion, but they omit it from their citation and their interpretation, distorting both.

In the wake of difficulty with the US government over the leadership of the Territory of Deseret, Heber C. Kimball said:

You call us fools: but the day will be, gentlemen and ladies, whether you belong to this Church or not, when you will prize brother Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Living God, and look upon him as a God, and also upon Brigham Young, our Governor in the Territory of Deseret. [53]

Well, I will say there is no other man, except it is his successor in the Priesthood, that will ever rule over me as a Governor.

Kimball's remarks are centered around who would lead the Saints in the territory

Kimball makes clear that Joseph is to be recognized as a prophet of God, and then alludes to the Bible. When Moses, the great prophet and political leader of Israel, was called as a prophet, he was told by God that:

And [Aaron] shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God (emphasis added) (Exodus 4:16).


Response to claim: 28 - Brigham Young applied 1 John 4:3 to Joseph Smith

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young applied 1 John 4:3 to Joseph Smith.

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:176.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The scripture in 1 John applies to Joseph because Joseph is a prophet—and prophets testify of Christ. To reject Christ's prophets is to reject him.

Question: Did Brigham Young commit blasphemy by applying 1 John 4:3 to Joseph Smith?

The scripture in 1 John applies to Joseph because Joseph is a prophet—and prophets testify of Christ

It is claimed that Joseph's place in LDS theology is blasphemous and even idolatrous. As evidence for this, they cite Brigham Young's application of 1 John 4:3 to Joseph.

The scripture in 1 John applies to Joseph because Joseph is a prophet—and prophets testify of Christ. To reject Christ's prophets is to reject him. One can no more, in Brigham's mind, reject Joseph Smith and claim to obey Christ than one could reject Peter, James, John, Paul, or Matthew and consider oneself a faithful Christian. The application of 1 John to Joseph Smith applies only insofar as Joseph is an apostle and witness of Christ.

Brigham Young said:

For unbelievers we will quote from the Scriptures—"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Again—"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God." I will now give my scripture—"Whosoever confesseth that Joseph Smith was sent of God to reveal the holy Gospel to the children of men, and lay the foundation for gathering Israel, and building up the kingdom of God on the earth, that spirit is of God; and every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph Smith, and revealed the everlasting Gospel to and through him, is of Antichrist....

Brigham does apply 1 John to Joseph—but interestingly insists that to deny Joseph is to "Antichrist." That is, to reject Joseph is to reject Christ. Critics rarely provide this perspective, which Brigham makes more clear as he continues:

They may say that they acknowledge Him [Jesus and His Father] until doomsday, and he will never own them, nor bestow the Holy Spirit upon them, and they will never have visions of eternity opened to them, unless they acknowledge that Joseph Smith is sent of God. Such people I call unbelievers. They tell about believing in Jesus Christ, but they might as well talk about birds understanding the Hebrew language. This statement is no more positive than true. All whom I call unbelievers, if they will repent of their sins, obey the requirements in the New Testament, be baptized for the remission of sins by a man who holds the key and authority to lead them into the waters of baptism, and receive the laying on of hands for the Holy Ghost, shall receive a witness that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and that he was sent of God to build up his kingdom in this last dispensation. You will receive a Spirit that will bring all things to your remembrance, past present, and to come, teaching you all things necessary for you to understand. There are but a few in this generation who will do this.[54]

Brigham makes it clear that a belief in Joseph's prophetic mission springs from a willingness to accept God in faith, repent, "obey...the New Testament," be baptized for the remission of sins, and receive the Holy Ghost.


Response to claim: 29 - LDS claim that Joseph Smith "told but one" First Vision

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

LDS claim that Joseph Smith "told but one" First Vision.

Author's sources: Preston Nibley, Joseph Smith the Prophet (SLC: Deseret News, 1944), p. 30.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Church publications have long described the multiple accounts of the First Vision.

Gospel Topics: "The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail"

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail. Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details. Indeed, differences similar to those in the First Vision accounts exist in the multiple scriptural accounts of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and the Apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration.3 Yet despite the differences, a basic consistency remains across all the accounts of the First Vision. Some have mistakenly argued that any variation in the retelling of the story is evidence of fabrication. To the contrary, the rich historical record enables us to learn more about this remarkable event than we could if it were less well documented. [55]—(Click here to continue)


Seminary Manual (2013): "Joseph Smith emphasized different aspects of his vision in his multiple accounts"

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013), LESSON 6: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20:

Just as Joseph Smith emphasized different aspects of his vision in his multiple accounts, the Apostle Paul emphasized different aspects of his vision of the Savior to different audiences (see Acts 9:1–9; Acts 22:5–11; Acts 26:12–20). Why do you think Joseph Smith and Paul emphasized different things each time they related the accounts of their visions? [56]


Backman (1985): "On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience of 1820"

Milton V. Backman, Ensign (January 1985):

On at least four different occasions, Joseph Smith either wrote or dictated to scribes accounts of his sacred experience of 1820. Possibly he penned or dictated other histories of the First Vision; if so, they have not been located. The four surviving recitals of this theophany were prepared or rendered through different scribes, at different times, from a different perspective, for different purposes and to different audiences.1 It is not surprising, therefore, that each of them emphasizes different aspects of his experience.[57]


Allen (1970): "the Prophet described his experience to friends and acquaintances at least as early as 1831-32...he continued to do so in varying detail until the year of his death"

James B. Allen, Improvement Era (April 1970):

Nevertheless, it can now be demonstrated that the Prophet described his experience to friends and acquaintances at least as early as 1831-32, and that he continued to do so in varying detail until the year of his death, 1844. We presently know of at least eight contemporary documents that were written during his lifetime.[58]


Neuenschwander (2009): "Joseph's vision was at first an intensely personal experience...it became the founding revelation of the Restoration"

Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Ensign (January 2009):

Joseph's vision was at first an intensely personal experience—an answer to a specific question. Over time, however, illuminated by additional experience and instruction, it became the founding revelation of the Restoration. [59]


Gordon B. Hinckley (1984): "I am not worried that the Prophet Joseph Smith gave a number of versions of the first vision"

Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign (October 1984):

I am not worried that the Prophet Joseph Smith gave a number of versions of the first vision anymore than I am worried that there are four different writers of the gospels in the New Testament, each with his own perceptions, each telling the events to meet his own purpose for writing at the time. I am more concerned with the fact that God has revealed in this dispensation a great and marvelous and beautiful plan that motivates men and women to love their Creator and their Redeemer, to appreciate and serve one another, to walk in faith on the road that leads to immortality and eternal life.[60]


Response to claim: 30 - The 1832 account of the First Vision states that Joseph was in his "sixteenth year," and that he "probably meant when he was 16 years old"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The 1832 account of the First Vision states that Joseph was in his "sixteenth year," and that he "probably meant when he was 16 years old.

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:28

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.

Question: Why does Joseph Smith state in his 1832 First Vision account that he was in his "16th year" of age?

The only account showing a different age is the 1832 account, which states age 15 rather than 14

In the 1832 account, Frederick G. Williams inserted the "in the 16th year of my age" above Joseph's text after Joseph had already written it. (See: "History, circa Summer 1832," The Joseph Smith Papers)

1832.account.16th.year.png

Joseph's 1832 account states the "16th year" of his age in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams

In Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision recital he said that he was "in the 16th year of [his] age" when the manifestation took place but in all other accounts in which he mentions his age, he was in his "fifteenth year."

  • Is this evidence that the Prophet's story evolved over time, and was thus a fabrication to begin with?

The only First Vision account that provided a different age was the 1832 account written in Joseph Smith's own handwriting. In 1832, 12 years after the First Vision, Joseph wrote, "we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading and writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements."

There is nothing nefarious in Joseph Smith correcting his own slight mathematical miscalculations

Although the portion of Joseph's 1832 history is in his own handwriting, the text insertion of "in the 16th year of my age" was in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, Joseph's scribe. It is likely that Joseph's dating schemes were slightly off when he dictated his age to Williams, many years after-the-fact. There is nothing nefarious in Joseph Smith correcting his own slight mathematical miscalculations.

Two years later, Oliver Cowdery had Joseph's 1832 history in his possession when he began publishing history of the Church in late 1834 in the Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate. Oliver clearly established Joseph's age as 14 ("the 15th year of his life") during the period of religious excitement (although Oliver ultimately never described the actual First Vision at this time). Once the date of the First Vision was correctly established it remained steady throughout all subsequent recitals as the "15th year" or "age 14."


Response to claim: 30 - The 1832 account does not mention two personages

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The 1832 account does not mention two personages.

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:28

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The 1832 account mentions "the Lord," but does not mention the other personage.

Question: Why does Joseph Smith's 1832 account of the First Vision not mention two personages?

Although the 1832 account does not specifically indicate that the Father appeared, He is mentioned

The theophany portion of the 1832 account does not specifically indicate that the Father appeared to Joseph Smith together with Jesus Christ. The relevant text (in its original form) reads as follows:

"a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day c[a]me down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life <behold> the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father."[61] (emphasis added)

Even though the Savior makes a direct reference to the Father there is no indication in this portion of the 1832 document that God appeared to Joseph Smith alongside His Son.

The same pattern exists in the Book of Mormon with Lehi's vision of God on His throne

This type of pattern is seen in the Book of Mormon, translated in 1829: The Book of Mormon begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on His throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi—thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.


Response to claim: 30 - The 1832 account does not mention that "all the churches in Joseph's day were false"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The 1832 account does not mention that "all the churches in Joseph's day were false."

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:28

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Jesus Christ informed Joseph in the 1832 account that "they draw near to me with their lips while their hears are far from me."

Question: Does the 1832 account of the First Vision not prohibit Joseph from joining any church?

The 1832 First Vision account does not portray the Lord giving Joseph Smith an injunction against joining any church

The 1832 account of the First Vision does not portray the Lord as announcing that all the creeds were corrupt. These details do not show up until the 1838 account. Is this evidence that the Prophet's story evolved over time?

The claim that Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision story does not contain a divine injunction against joining any churches does not take evidence within the document itself into proper consideration. The information is implicit instead of explicit, but it is there nevertheless. This point cannot be legitimately used as evidence of an evolving storyline.

Joseph went to pray in the grove because he had concluded that the behavior of the churches was not in accordance with the Bible

A quick look at the 1832 First Vision text reveals how untenable this claim is. Joseph Smith states that before he went into the woods to pray he had concluded in his own mind that "those of different denominations [which he was personally acquainted with]. . . did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and godly conversation agreeable to what [he] found contained in [the Bible] . . . . [There were] contentions and divisions [among them] . . . . [T]hey had apostatised from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.”

Jesus Christ informed Joseph in the 1832 account that "they draw near to me with their lips while their hears are far from me"

Then, when Jesus Christ Himself made a personal appearance to Joseph in the grove, He informed the young boy that -

“the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned aside from the gospel and keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father”

To summarize:

  • Joseph Smith could not find a church that he thought was adhering to biblical teachings.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed Joseph Smith's observation by saying that the entire world was in a sinful, ungodly condition; they did not keep divine commandments; they had turned aside from the gospel—“not one” person was doing good in His estimation.
  • Jesus Christ said that those who professed Christianity were in a state of hypocrisy.
  • Jesus Christ said that He was angry with the inhabitants of the earth and was contemplating their punishment.

This is an unambiguous indication on the Lord's part that joining any of the denominations would be unacceptable

How can critics possibly see this as anything other than a forceful and unambiguous indication on the Lord's part that joining any of the Christian denominations would be an unacceptable path for Joseph to take? Notice in the remainder of the 1832 text that Joseph says he felt great joy and love because of his experience and pondered the things which he had seen and heard during the vision . . . but during an interval of several years he did NOT join any church. Why?

As the 1832 text so plainly says—Joseph Smith believed that Christians had turned aside from the gospel; Jesus Christ confirmed that Christians had turned aside from the gospel; Joseph was therefore provided with a set of golden plates that contained writings which were "engrave[d] by . . . the servants of the living God." The 1832 account speaks three times of the "work" that God wanted Joseph Smith to do, while the 1838 account explicitly connects this "work" with the bringing forth of "the everlasting gospel." The 1842 First Vision account ties all of these themes together. There the Prophet relates: "I was expressly commanded to 'go not after them,' at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me."

Jesus Christ said that He would bring to pass "that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles"

Another indication from the 1832 document that Joseph Smith knew from the First Vision event that he should not join any of the churches can be found in something the Savior said to him. Jesus Christ explained that He was going to take action against the situation the world was currently in by “bring[ing] to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles." What did this statement mean? In a canonized text written at approximately the same time as the 1832 First Vision account (September 1832) the following phraseology is found:

  1. A revelation of Jesus Christ unto his servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and six elders, as they united their hearts and lifted their voices on high.
  2. Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints . . . . (DC 84:1-2).

The Lord was telling Joseph Smith during the First Vision about the coming Restoration and so there would not be any need for him to join an existing church

In other words, the Lord was telling Joseph Smith during the First Vision about the coming Restoration and so there would not be any need for him to join an existing church. This viewpoint is bolstered by several instances where the Prophet utilized the same phraseology used by the Lord during the First Vision to speak about the Restoration.

  • “The work of the Lord in these last days, is one of vast magnitude and almost “beyond the comprehension of mortals. Its glories are past description, and its grandeur unsurpassable. It is the theme which has animated the bosom of prophets and righteous men from the creation of the world down through every succeeding generation to the present time; and it is truly the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all things which are in Christ Jesus, whether in heaven or on the earth, shall be gathered together in Him, and when all things shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began”.[62]
  • “I . . . hold the keys of the last kingdom, in which is the dispensation of the fullness of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy Prophets since the world began”.[63]
  • “in the last days, . . . that which shall precede the coming of the Son of Man, and the restitution of all things spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began”.[64]
  • “the great purposes of God are hastening to their accomplishment and the things spoken of in the prophets are fulfilling, as the kingdom of God is established on the earth, and the ancient order of things restored[65]
  • “when the purposes of God shall be accomplished: when ‘the Lord shall be King over the whole earth,’ and ‘Jerusalem His throne.’ ‘The law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ This is the only thing that can bring about the ‘restitution of all things spoken of by all the holy Prophets since the world was’—‘the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God shall gather together all things in one’”.[66]
  • the last dispensation, . . . bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets . . . . the restitution of all things spoken of by the holy Prophets be brought to pass”.[67]


Response to claim: 31 - Joseph claimed that he learned about the errors in Christendom through personal Bible study several years before the First Vision

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph claimed that he learned about the errors in Christendom through personal Bible study several years before the First Vision.

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:27

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

If you had come to the conclusion that mankind has apostatized from the true faith, and you suddenly found Jesus standing in front of you, wouldn't you ask Him if any of those churches was the correct one?

Question: Did Joseph Smith decide that all churches were wrong before he received the First Vision?

Criticisms of Joseph's 1832 account compared to his 1835 account of the First Vision

In his 1832 history, Joseph Smith said:

I found [by searching the scriptures] that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament.

But in 1835 he said, “I knew not who [of the denominations] was right or who was wrong.”

  • It this a contradiction and is this evidence that the First Vision story evolved over time?
  • One critic of the Church states, "In the 1832 account, Joseph said that before praying he knew that there was no true or living faith or denomination upon the earth as built by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. His primary purpose in going to prayer was to seek forgiveness of his sins. . . .In the official 1838 account, Joseph said his “object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join”…”(for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)”"

If you had come to the conclusion that mankind has apostatized from the true faith, and you suddenly found Jesus standing in front of you, wouldn't you ask Him if any of those churches was the correct one?

If you had come to the conclusion that mankind has apostatized from the true faith, and you suddenly found Jesus standing in front of you, wouldn't you ask Him if any of those churches was the correct one? Or would you simply tell Him, "never mind, I already figured it out for myself?"

Besides, where is the inconsistency? How many churches did Joseph have immediate knowledge of? Three or four? Joseph determined that the churches with which he had direct experience did not adhere to the scriptures and that therefore mankind "had apostatized from the true and living faith." During his vision, he then asked the Lord which church was right, because it had not occurred to him that the Lord's church didn't exist anywhere on the face of the earth. It had never entered into his heart that all churches were wrong.

Joseph's motivation in his 1832 account, in addition to seeking forgiveness of his sins, was also to determine whether God's church was upon the earth

Josephs.1832.account.which.church.is right.jpg

There is no contradiction in the two texts presented in the above argument, only a short-sighted understanding of some isolated sources. The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in a detailed examination of relevant texts.


Response to claim: 31 - Orson Pratt said that the two personages "declared themselves to be angels"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Orson Pratt said that the two personages "declared themselves to be angels."

Author's sources: Pratt in "Biography and Journal of William I. Appleby, Elder in the Church of Latter Day Saints," 1848 reprinted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, pp. 146-147.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

In no account of the First Vision did the personages declare themselves to be angels. Some of the accounts talk of additional angels appearing, and Joseph himself referred to the First Vision as the "first visitation of angels."

Question: Did Orson Pratt state that it was an angel that appeared during the First Vision?

Elder Orson Pratt was never confused about the identity of the Beings who appeared to Joseph Smith during his inaugural theophany

The two quotations used by critics to try and establish the 'Orson-Pratt-said-it-was-an-angel' argument read as follows:

What critics of the Church note that Orson Pratt said on 19 December 1869: "proclaimed the startling news that God had sent an angel to him"

"By and by an obscure individual...proclaimed the startling news that God had sent an angel to him...This young man, some four years afterwards, was visited again by a holy angel."[68]

What critics fail to note that Orson Pratt actually said on 19 December 1869: "and saw two glorious personages clothed upon with this pillar of fire"

The use of the 19 December 1869 quote is a prime example of how some Church critics are not very careful in their evaluation and presentation of historical texts. This document actually makes an explicit reference to the identity of the Prophet's First Vision visitants but the critics have edited that part out! The original quote is presented below. Notice the semi-colon after "God had sent an angel to him" which marks the beginning of a new thought.

'The canon of scripture is full, it is complete, and it is the very height of blasphemy to suppose that God would give any more!'

This was the condition of mankind before this Church arose, forty years ago. By and by an obscure individual, a young man, rose up, and, in the midst of all Christendom, proclaimed the startling news that God had sent an angel to him; that through his faith, prayers, and sincere repentance he had beheld a supernatural vision, that he had seen a pillar of fire descend from Heaven, and saw two glorious personages clothed upon with this pillar of fire, whose countenance shone like the sun at noonday; that he heard one of these personages say, pointing to the other, 'This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him.' This occurred before this young man was fifteen years of age; and it was a startling announcement to make in the midst of a generation so completely given up to the traditions of their fathers; and when this was proclaimed by this young, unlettered boy to the priests and the religious societies in the state of New York, they laughed him to scorn. 'What!' said they, 'visions and revelations in our day! God speaking to men in our day!' They looked upon him as deluded; they pointed the finger of scorn at him and warned their congregations against him. 'The canon of scripture is closed up; no more communications are to be expected from heaven. The ancients saw heavenly visions and personages; they heard the voice of the Lord; they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to receive revelations, but behold no such thing is to be given to man in our day, neither has there been for many generations past.' This was the style of the remarks made by religionists forty years ago.

This young man, some four years afterwards, was visited again by a holy angel. It was not merely something speaking in the dark; it was not something wrapped up in mystery, with no glory attending it, but a glorious angel whose countenance shone like a vivid flash of lightning."

It is clear to any person who is familiar with the primary literature which describes Joseph Smith's early spiritual manifestations that when Elder Pratt said that Joseph was "visited again by a holy angel" several years later he was NOT talking about an additional visit by an angel. What he was saying was that Joseph Smith was "visited again" after an interval of several years and this time it was not by the Father and the Son—but by an angel.

What critics of the Church note that Orson Pratt said on 10 December 1871: "that God had sent his angel from heaven"

"Here was Joseph Smith, a boy...he was only between fourteen and fifteen years of age...Would he stand forth and bear testimony that he had seen with his own eyes a messenger of light and glory, and that he heard the words of his mouth as they dropped from his lips and had received a message from the Most High, at that early age? And then...to have the finger of scorn pointed at him... 'No visions in our day, no angels come in our day...' and still continue to testify...that God had sent his angel from heaven."[69]

What critics fail to note that Orson Pratt actually said on 10 December 1871: "when the Lord first revealed Himself to that little boy, he was only between fourteen and fifteen years of age"

The 10 December 1871 quote has been taken out of its proper context, as the more complete text below demonstrates.

Now then, let us come back again. Here was Joseph Smith, a boy, his very youth ought to testify in his favor, for when the Lord first revealed Himself to that little boy, he was only between fourteen and fifteen years of age. Now, can we imagine or suppose that a great impostor could be made out of a youth of that age, and one that could reveal the doctrine of Christ as he has revealed it to this generation? Would he stand forth and bear testimony that he had seen with his own eyes a messenger of light and glory, and that he heard the words of his mouth as they dropped from his lips and had received a message from the Most High, at that early age? And then, after having declared it, to have the finger of scorn pointed at him, with exclamations, 'There goes the visionary boy! No visions in our day, no angels come in our day, no more revelation to be given in our day! Why he is deluded, he is a fanatic'; and to have this scorn and derision and still continue to testify, in the face and eyes of all this, while hated and derided by his neighbors, that God had sent his angel from heaven. Can you imagine that a youth would do this?

After Elder Pratt provided the correct background for the First Vision story he switched over to speaking about a hypothetical situation - not an historical one. Notice that the hypothetical situation can naturally be interpreted along the very same lines as the orthodox story of Joseph Smith's experience: "bear testimony that he had seen with his own eyes a messenger of light and glory, and that he heard the words of his mouth as they dropped from his lips [i.e., the angel Moroni visitations] and had received a message from the Most High [i.e., the First Vision], at that early age."

There is ample documentary evidence that both before and after Elder Orson Pratt made the disputed comments above he was teaching that the Prophet's First Vision visitants were the Father and the Son.


Question: What did Orson Pratt state about Joseph Smith's First Vision?

Orson Pratt was well aware of the details of the story of the First Vision

The details of his recitals did not vary and therefore show no signs of uncertainty.

15 October 1849

Orson Pratt quotes from the History of the Church First Vision account in part 2 of “Are the Father and the Son Two Distinct Persons?”[70]

15 December 1850

Publication - The First Vision material is a quotation of the "History of Joseph Smith" taken from the Millennial Star, vol. 3, no. 2, June 1842, 21, which in turn was copied from the 1842 Times and Seasons Church history.[71]

1851

Publication - Early in the year Orson Pratt gathered together his pamphlets and issued them as a book.[72] Among this collection is “Remarkable Visions” and “Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” #4. This combination is significant because the "Divine Authenticity" material clarifies who the two Personages are in the "Remarkable Visions" pamphlet.

1853

Publication - Orson Pratt had the autobiography of Lucy Mack Smith (the Prophet's mother) published. The editors of this volume inserted the Times and Seasons First Vision account into it. This First Vision text identifies the Prophet's visitors as the Father and the Son.[73]

14 August 1859

Orson Pratt said that he had "often" heard Joseph Smith relate that in a "cloud of light he saw two glorious personages; and one, pointing to the other, said, 'Behold my beloved Son! hear ye Him.'"[74]

6 October 1868

Orson Pratt said, "The Lord revealed Himself to this youth [i.e., Joseph Smith] when he was between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and as soon as he related this vision, although at that young and tender age, the wrath and indignation of the people were stirred up against him."[75]

24 February 1869

Orson Pratt said that Joseph Smith "saw, in the midst of this glorious pillar of fire, two glorious personages, whose countenances shone with an exceeding great lustre. One of them spoke to him, saying, while pointing to the other, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.'"[76]

19 December 1869

Orson Pratt said that Joseph Smith saw "two glorious personages . . . he heard one of these personages say, pointing to the other, 'This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him.'"[77]

19 March 1871

Orson Pratt said that Joseph Smith "saw in this light two glorious personages, one of whom spoke to him, pointing to the other, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him.'"[78]

22 September 1872

Orson Pratt said that Joseph Smith "saw these two glorious personages, their countenances shining with exceeding great brilliancy. One of them, while pointing to the other, addressed him in this language, 'Behold my beloved son, hear ye Him.'"[79]

20 September 1874

Orson Pratt said that Joseph Smith "saw nothing excepting the light and two glorious personages standing before him in the midst of this light. One of these personages, pointing to the other, said - "Behold my beloved Son, hear ye Him.'"[80]

20 May 1877

Orson Pratt said that several years previous to 1823 Joseph Smith "received a heavenly vision . . . in which he had seen the face of God, the Father."[81]

19 September 1880

Orson Pratt said that "a wonderful revelation was given to[Joseph Smith], the first one he ever received. In a great and glorious open vision, in answer to his prayers, there was the manifestation of two of the great personages in the heavens — not angels, not messengers, but two persons that hold the keys of authority over all the creations of the universe. Who were they? God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ."[82]

10 October 1880

[This was the day the Pearl of Great Price account of the First Vision was canonized] Orson Pratt said, "You find a little boy, Joseph Smith, calling upon the name of the Lord, in the spring of the year 1820 before he was not yet fifteen years of age; and the result of his calling upon the name of the Lord was that a pillar of fire appeared in the heavens above him, and it continued to descend and grow brighter and brighter, until it reached the top of the trees that were growing around about where he was praying; and so great was the glory of this light that this lad, this youth, this boy, seemed to feel almost fearful lest the trees themselves would be consumed by it. But it continued to descend until it rested upon this lad and immediately his mind was caught away from the surrounding objects, was swallowed up in a heavenly vision, in which he saw two glorious personages, one was the Father, the other was the Son."[83]


Response to claim: 31 - Church historian Andrew Jenson said that "The angel again forbade Joseph to join any of these churches"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Church historian Andrew Jenson said that "The angel again forbade Joseph to join any of these churches."

Author's sources: Andrew Jenson, "Joseph Smith, The Prophet," Jan. 1888, vol. 3, nos. 1-3, p. 355.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Andrew Jenson is quoting - at length - from the official 1838 Church history account of the First Vision. He was aware that one personage had declared the other as his "beloved Son." Jenson deliberately referred to Jesus Christ as "the angel."

Question: Who was the "angel" in the First Vision that Andrew Jenson was referring to?

Jenson identified the second personage, Jesus Christ, as the "angel"

Critics also neglect to tell their audience about the context of the remarks in question. Andrew Jenson is quoting - at length - from the official 1838 Church history account of the First Vision (first published in 1842). Jenson made an important modification to the quoted material that needs to be noted. When Jenson reached the part where the Prophet's two heavenly visitors identified themselves he capitalized the entire phrase, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, HEAR HIM". It is the "Son" who is, just a few paragraphs later, twice identified as "the angel". Thus, Jenson does not in any way confuse facts and state that an angel (in the sense of a heavenly being who is subordinate to Deity) appeared during the First Vision. Rather, Andrew Jenson was applying the title of "angel" to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The chronological timeline below demonstrates, with ample documentation, that both before and shortly after Brother Jenson produced his disputed text he understood that Joseph Smith's First Vision consisted of seeing the Father and the Son.

4 July 1877

On 4 April 1877 Andrew Jenson publicly announced that with the approbation of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, and under the direct supervision of Apostle Erastus Snow, he and another LDS convert would publish Joseph Smith's history in the Danish-Norwegian language.[84] The first pamphlet in this series was printed on 4 July 1877. [85] In the First Vision section of this pamphlet one of two personages - who are both suspended in the air - points to the other one and says, "Denne er min elskelige Son, hor ham" (Danish trans. - "That is my loveable Son, listen to him").

1879

All of the pamphlets in Jenson's series on the history of the Prophet were combined in book form and entitled Joseph Smiths Levnetslob. The First Vision account is found near the front of the book. [86]

17 April 1883

Elder Erastus Snow wrote to Andrew Jenson and informed him that he would be allowed to publish his translation of the Pearl of Great Price in his Danish periodical called Morgenstjernen ("Morning Star").[87] Jenson read proofs for this project on 18 November 1883 [88] and the text was published in Morgenstjernen, vol. 2, 1883, pp. 81-107 and 161-78. This text identified the Prophet's visitors in the Sacred Grove as the Father and the Son.

January 1886

In The Historical Record, vol. 5, no. 1, January 1886, page 1 Andrew Jenson quoted a Church history text that was written by Elder George A. Smith in 1855[89] Jenson's quote includes the portion of Elder Smith's history that speaks of the "two glorious Beings" who appeared to the Prophet. Elder Smith's capitalization of the word "Beings" makes it clear that these individuals were Deity.

5 April 1888

In a General Conference address - only about three months after issuing his January 1888 "angel" text - Andrew Jenson said,
"We claim in regard to the Latter-day Saints that it is necessary for them today . . . to know whether Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God or not, and whether or not he did receive the manifestations and power of God; to know if he did see the Father and the Son when he went to the woods to pray . . . . When [Joseph Smith] made the declaration that all were going astray that none of the sects of the day were right and that the Lord acknowledged none of them, he only repeated what was told him. It was very presumptuous for a boy of his standing in society to make such sweeping declarations as these, especially when that boy lived in the wilderness of New York . . . withal unlearned in the things of this world, a mere youth, and yet he made the declaration that all the Christian world had gone astray, that none of the sects were right, and that he had heard the voice of Jehovah."[90]

1890 Revision

Another thing that critics have not acknowledged in their published comments about Andrew Jenson's text is that near the top of the page of Jenson's revised article he provided an important note about his source material. There he clearly stated that his record was “Compiled in part from the history of Joseph Smith, published in the Millennial Star, and from Geo[rge] Q. Cannon’s writings about Joseph, the Prophet, as published in the Juvenile Instructor.” This is very significant information since a consultation of Brother Cannon’s writings reveals that precisely twenty-two years earlier he was teaching in the Juvenile Instructor that Joseph Smith “had the glorious privilege of beholding the Father and the Son.”[91] And, of course, the story of the First Vision that Jenson was drawing details from in the Millennial Star was the 1838 official Church history account, where the Father and Son are clearly identified.

16 January 1891

In a public discourse Andrew Jenson spoke of the Prophet attending revivals, entering the woods to pray for wisdom in accordance with James 1:5, being attacked by the power of darkness, a light descending from the sky, and "then a vision of two glorious personages standing above him in the air, one of whom speaking to him, while pointing to the other, said: 'This is my beloved [S]on, hear him.' Here, then, was Jesus Christ being introduced by His Father to Joseph Smith, the praying boy, who next was informed by the Great Redeemer Himself, that all the sects of the day were wrong" [92]


Response to claim: 31 - Joseph dictated the 1838 account of the First Vision to counter the leadership crisis in Kirtland

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph dictated the 1838 account of the First Vision to counter the leadership crisis in Kirtland.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is pure speculation on the part of the author.

Question: Did Joseph Smith revise his account of the First Vision in 1838 to respond to a leadership crisis?

Joseph Smith was telling the same First Vision story in 1835, three years before the leadership crisis

It is claimed that in 1838 Joseph Smith revised his personal history to say that his original call came from God the Father and Jesus Christ rather than an angel. It is also claimed that his motive for doing this was to give himself a stronger leadership role because an authority crisis had recently taken place and large-scale apostasy was the result.

The idea that Joseph Smith modified the First Vision story in 1838 in order to quell a leadership crisis is a convenient mythology crafted by critics who seem to be woefully unfamiliar with the records of the past and were unaware that Joseph told the same story in 1835.

Warren Parrish was the "ringleader" of the Kirtland leadership crisis in 1839, and yet he was also the scribe for the 1835 First Vision account

This argument is a reference to the Kirtland crisis of 1837–38. Warren Parrish was considered by some of the Saints to be the ringleader of the Kirtland crisis. It is, therefore, all the more interesting that it was this same Warren Parrish who acted as scribe in recording a First Vision recital given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 9 November 1835. When Parrish's 1835 account of the theophany is compared to the 1838 account it becomes glaringly obvious that the story did NOT change over time, as the critics would like everyone to believe.

There is no shift in historical content between the 1835 and 1838 First Vision accounts, since both are followed immediately thereafter by the Book of Mormon angel story

It should also be noted that both the 1835 and 1838 First Vision accounts are followed immediately thereafter by the Book of Mormon angel story. Thus, it is impossible for critics to claim a shift in historical content by the Prophet. Before the Kirtland crisis took place Joseph Smith spoke in the 1835 retelling of events about an 1820 vision of two personages followed by an 1823 visitation by an angel. After the Kirtland crisis took place Joseph Smith said the exact same thing in the 1838 retelling of events.

9 November 1835 – “was about 14 years old”
2 May 1838 – “a little over fourteen years of age”
9 November 1835 – “looking at the different systems [of religion] taught [to] the children of men”
2 May 1838 – “Some crying, ‘Lo here’ and some ‘Lo there’”
9 November 1835 – “being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion”; “being thus perplexed in mind”
2 May 1838 – “my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness”
9 November 1835 – “I knew not who was right or who was wrong”
2 May 1838 – “it was impossible for a person young as I was and so unacquainted with men and things to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong”
9 November 1835 – “the Lord . . . had said . . . if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not”
2 May 1838 – “I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse which reads, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him’”
9 November 1835 – “I retired to the silent grove”
2 May 1838 – “I retired to the woods”
9 November 1835 – “[I] bowed down before the Lord”; “I called upon the Lord for the first time”
2 May 1838 – “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God . . . It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt”
9 November 1835 – “I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth, so that I could not utter . . . looked around, but saw no person”
2 May 1838 – “I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue . . . the power of some actual being from the unseen world”
9 November 1835 – “a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my head”
2 May 1838 – “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me”
9 November 1835 – “a personage appeared . . . another personage soon appeared”
2 May 1838 – “I saw two personages”
9 November 1835 – “he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”
2 May 1838 – “This is my beloved Son”


Response to claim: 34 - "Not a single piece" of literature published in the 1830's mentions a visit by the Father and the Son

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

"Not a single piece" of literature published in the 1830's mentions a visit by the Father and the Son.

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There are several significant references to the First Vision in published documents from the 1830s.

Question: What references to the First Vision exist in published documents from the 1830s?

There are several significant references to the First Vision in published documents from the 1830s

1827

  • A skeptical account from Rev. John A. Clark mixed nine First Vision story elements together with the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and said that he learned them all in the Fall of 1827 from Martin Harris (John A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way [Philadelphia: W. J. and J. K. Simmon, 1842],---).
  • A hostile account from someone who knew Joseph in 1827 reported:
I, Joseph Capron, became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1827. They have, since then, been really a peculiar people -- fond of the foolish and the marvelous -- at one time addicted to vice and the grossest immoralities -- at another time making the highest pretensions to piety and holy intercourse with Almighty God. The family of Smiths held Joseph Jr. in high estimation on account of some supernatural power, which he was supposed to possess.[93]
Capron obviously disliked and distrusted the Smiths, but he makes it clear that there were claims of holy intercourse (i.e., "communication" with)[94] "Almighty God."

1831

  • LDS missionaries were teaching that Joseph Smith "had seen God frequently and personally" and received a commission from Him to teach true religion (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).[95]

1832

  • LDS missionaries were teaching with regard to Joseph Smith: "Having repented of his sins, but not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them, and being in doubt what his duty was, he had recourse [to] prayer" (The Fredonia Censor, vol. 11, no. 50, 7 March 1832).
  • In October 1832, another Protestant minister wrote to a friend about the Latter-day Saints in his area: "They profess to hold frequent converse with angels; some go, if we may believe what they say, as far as the third heaven, and converse with the Lord Jesus face to face."[96]

1833

  • A few months later, in March of 1833, the Reverend Richmond Taggart wrote a letter to a ministerial friend, regarding the activities of Joseph Smith himself in Ohio: "The following Curious occurrance occurred last week in Newburg [Ohio] about 6 miles from this Place [Cleveland]. Joe Smith the great Mormonosity was there and held forth, and among other things he told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform Miracles."[97] Here is a clear reference to Joseph Smith stating he had seen Jesus Christ. Joseph’s ‘conversations’ with the Apostles could be a reference to having seen, spoken to, and been ordained to the Priesthood by the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having received that Priesthood Joseph Smith was now qualified to perform healings, and other ‘miracles’.
  • A Missouri newspaper contains an article on a mass meeting of Latter-day Saints in July 1833, and refers to the Saints’ “pretended revelations from heaven… their personal intercourse with God and his angels… converse with God and his angels….”[98]
  • Philastus Hurlbut, following his excommunication from the Church in 1833, went east to Palmyra. He there interviewed many who claimed to have known Joseph Smith before the organization of the Church. Among those interviewed were some who left statements which give us more information on what the Prophet had been claiming at that early period. On November 3, 1833, Barton Stafford testified that Joseph had “professed to be inspired of the Lord to translate the Book of Mormon.” Stafford claimed to have known them “until 1831 when they left this neighborhood.” Five days later, on November 8, Joseph Capron testified that Joseph had made “the highest pretensions to piety and holy intercourse with Almighty God.”[99] In 1884 and 1885 Arthur B. Deming collected affidavits in the Painesville, Ohio area, regarding the early Saints, and their recollection of Joseph Smith. Cornelius R. Stafford had been born in Manchester, NY, in 1813. He testified that Joseph Smith “claimed to receive revelations from the Lord.”[100]

1834

1835

1836

  • The First Vision reference by William W. Phelps was republished as part of hymn #26 in the Saints' first hymnal—March 1836 (see Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1176).

When the published 1830s fragments of the First Vision story are compared to the as-yet-unpublished 1838 recital, it becomes apparent that the Prophet's account of things stayed steady during this time frame and was probably known among a wider cross-section of the contemporary LDS population than has been previously acknowledged.

1834 - "the 15th year of his life" [Cowdery]
1838 - "I was at this time in my fifteenth year"
1834 - "There was a great awakening, or excitement raised on the subject of religion" [Cowdery]
1838 - "there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion"
1834 - "our brother's mind became awakened" [Cowdery]
1838 - "my mind was called up to serious reflection"
1834 - "his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians" [Cowdery]
1838 - "My Fathers family were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith"
1834 - "his spirit was not at rest day nor night" [Cowdery]
1838 - "great uneasiness . . . extreme difficulties . . . my anxieties"
1832 - "not attached himself to any party of Christians, owing to the numerous divisions among them" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I kept myself aloof from all these parties"; "no small stir and division"
1834 - "he was told they were right, and all others were wrong" [Cowdery]
1838 - "who was right and who was wrong"
1834 - "a general struggle was made by the leading characters of the different sects" [Cowdery]
1838 - "priest contending against priest"
1834 - "Large additions were made to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches" [Cowdery]
1838 - "multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties"
1835 - "the world in darkness lay" [Phelps]
1838 - "I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness"
1835 - "he sought the better way" [Phelps]
1838 - "I was one day reading the Epistle of James"
1832 - "being in doubt what his duty was" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I often said to myself, what is to be done?"
1832 - "he had recourse [to] prayer" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God"
1831 - "he had seen God . . . personally" [Missionaries]
1838 - "I saw two personages . . . One of them spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) 'This is my beloved Son, Hear him'"

Here then are several early testimonies from friendly and non-LDS sources, confirming that Joseph Smith and/or the missionaries were talking about Joseph conversing with Jesus Christ, angels, Apostles (Peter, James and John?), and “Almighty God.” Evidently the early Saints were doing a lot more talking about these things than the critics want their readers to know about.


Response to claim: 34 - Joseph's mother said that the First Vision was of an angel

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's mother said that the First Vision was of an angel.

Author's sources: Lucy Mack Smith, letter to Solomon Mack Jr., Jan. 6, 1831, reprinted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, p. 216.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Lucy Mack Smith's 1831 letter does NOT say that her son's first heavenly visitation was from an angel: Her letter contains an easily recognizable First Vision storyline fragment.

Question: Did Joseph Smith's mother say that the First Vision was of an "angel"?

Lucy Mack Smith's 1831 letter does NOT say that her son's first heavenly visitation was from an angel: Her letter contains an easily recognizable First Vision storyline fragment

The Prophet's mother—Lucy Mack Smith—wrote a letter in 1831 which seems to indicate that her son's First Vision consisted of seeing an "angel" instead of Deity. Critics suggest that this demonstrates that the Prophet's story evolved over time and that his claim to have seen God was a relatively late addition to his story.

Lucy Mack Smith's 1831 letter does NOT say that her son's first heavenly visitation was from an angel. Her letter not only contains an easily recognizable First Vision storyline fragment, but also cites a text that refers directly to the First Vision experience. Lucy's intent was NOT to focus attention on the First Vision, but rather on the heavenly manifestation associated with the Book of Mormon. There is no evidence that the letter was hidden or "suppressed"—the first publications of it were all by LDS authors in works supportive of the Church.

The purpose of Lucy's letter is to introduce the Book of Mormon to her siblings

The full text of the letter in question (written on 6 January 1831 in Waterloo, New York to Lucy's siblings) can be found in Benjamin E. Rich, ed., Scrapbook of Mormon Literature (Chicago: Henry C. Etten and Co., 1913), 1:543–46.

Anyone who reads the full text of this letter will soon discover that its stated purpose is to introduce the Book of Mormon to Lucy's siblings, to prepare them to receive a copy of it when it was presented to them, to explain that the book represented the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and to summarize how it came forth in their day. The letter says absolutely nothing about Joseph Smith's encounter with the Book of Mormon "angel" being his FIRST spiritual manifestation.

Lucy's letter closely paraphrases a section of the Articles and Covenants of the Church that is recognized by LDS scholars as the earliest published reference to the First Vision experience

Critics fail to mention that Lucy's 1831 letter not only contains a very distinct First Vision storyline theme ("the churches have all become corrupted...the Lord hath spoken it") but it also closely paraphrases a section of the Articles and Covenants of the Church that is recognized by LDS scholars as the earliest published reference to the First Vision experience. This material was recorded by April 1830 and is reproduced below:

  • D&C 20:5-8 (April 1830)
(verse 5) "After it was truly manifested unto this first elder [i.e., Joseph Smith] that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world; (verse 6) But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness; (verse 7) And gave unto him commandments which inspired him; (verse 8) And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon."(DC 20:5-8

Compare this with Mother Smith's letter:

  • LUCY'S LETTER (January 1831)

"Joseph, after repenting of his sins and humbling himself before God, was visited by an holy angel whose countenance was as lightning and whose garments were white above all whiteness, who gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high; and who gave unto him, by the means of which was before prepared, that he should translate this book."

Compare both of the above sources with the Prophet's 1832 First Vision narrative:

  • FIRST VISION ACCOUNT (September-November 1832)

"I felt to mourn for my own sins....[The Lord said during the First Vision,] 'thy sins are forgiven thee'....after many days I fell into transgression and sinned in many things....I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me....the Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the Book therefore I commenced translating the characters."

Critics also fail to point out that almost exactly two months before Lucy Mack Smith wrote her letter, four LDS missionaries (Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr. and Ziba Peterson) were publicly teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and had received a commission from Him to preach true religion.[101] It is specifically stated in the newspaper article that records this information that the missionaries made their comments about 1 November 1830 - shortly after the Church was formally organized. Some critics who do acknowledge this newspaper article attempt to dismiss it by calling it a "vague" reference, despite the clear wording that the missionaries taught that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[102]

The Lucy Mack Smith letter was not even available for publication until just shortly before it appeared in print because it was in a descendant's possession

Although one critic of the Church indicates that the letter was “unpublished until 1906”,[103] he does not indicate where, or by whom. First published by Ben E. Rich, President of the Southern States Mission, the letter has been long available to interested students of LDS history.[104]

It should be noted that the Lucy Mack Smith letter was not even available for publication until just shortly before it appeared in print because it was in a descendant's possession. The introduction to the letter published in the Elders' Journal states: "The following very interesting and earnest gospel letter written by Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph, to her brother, Solomon Mack and his wife, was presented to President Joseph F. Smith a few weeks ago by Mrs. Candace Mack Barker, of Keene, N[ew] H[ampshire], a grand-daughter of Solomon Mack, to whom the letter is addressed. Mrs. Barker stated that it was her desire to place the letter in the hands of those who would appreciate its contents and preserve it as she felt it properly deserved."[105]


Response to claim: 34 - Joseph privately began reworking the story of seeing an angel into a vision of Christ

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph privately began reworking the story of seeing an angel into a vision of Christ.

Author's sources: Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 77-80.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is nonsense. Oliver Cowdery's history of the Church began talking of the religious excitement leading up to the First Vision, but in the next installment, published two months later, Oliver advances Joseph's age from 14 to 17 and skips the First Vision. He instead describes the visit of the angel Moroni. Critics of the Church conflate the two installments to infer that the First Vision was of an angel.

Question: Did Oliver Cowdery state that Joseph did not know if a "supreme being" existed in 1823?

In the first installment of his history published in December 1834, Oliver established Joseph's age as 14 and very accurately described the religious excitement leading up to the First Vision

Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834 which is commonly misunderstood:

In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.[106]

Two months later in the second installment published in February 1835, Oliver abruptly "corrects" Joseph's age from 14 to 17 years old, skips the First Vision and then proceeds instead to describe Moroni's visit

After spending the previous installment leading up to the First Vision, Oliver abruptly skips three years ahead and does not mention the vision directly. However, before describing Moroni's visit, Oliver even takes the time to minimize the importance of the religious excitement that he described in the previous installment, stating,

And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

The religious "excitement" that Oliver is describing is now portrayed as an event in the past, during which Joseph desired to know "if a Supreme being did exist"

Note carefully what Oliver is saying. The religious "excitement," and the event that Oliver described in the first installment when he said that Joseph was 14 years of age, was when Joseph was seeking a "full manifestation of divine approbation" with the desire to know "if a Supreme being did exist." Oliver then alludes to the First Vision in the past tense by saying,

This, most assuredly, was correct—it was right. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast, that for him who knocks it shall be opened, & whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

Oliver is stating that something of significance happened in Joseph’s life prior to the events that Oliver would be describing next, and he assures the reader that “this, most assuredly, was correct.” Oliver then proceeds to describe Moroni's visit to Joseph at age 17.


Question: What criticisms are related to Oliver Cowdery's 1834-1835 history of the Church?

Critics of the Church conflate Oliver's first and second installments of his Church history in order to "prove" that Joseph was not aware that a "Supreme being" existed three years after he claimed to have had his first vision

When Oliver Cowdery published his version of the history of the Church in December 1834 and February 1835 he did not include a recital of the First Vision story - thus implying that it was not known among the Saints by that point in time. One critical website makes the following claim:

In the first history of Mormonism from 1835 written under Joseph Smith's direction, it says that the night of September 1823 Joseph Smith began praying in his bed to learn 'the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.' (LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 1835). It makes no sense for him to ask if God existed, if Smith had already seen God face-to-face some three years earlier, and knew he existed.[107]

and

In Joseph Smith's 1835 published history of the church, he claimed that his first spiritual experience was in 1823 after a religious revival in Palmyra that same year. Smith testified that he prayed while in bed one night, to discover if God existed.

These claims, however, are false. Oliver's February 1835 installment did not describe Joseph's First Vision - it described Moroni's visit. It should also be noted that this was not "Joseph Smith's 1835 published history."

Only two years prior to Oliver's history, Joseph's 1832 account of the First Vision clearly establishes the date of both the first vision, and the vision of Moroni

Oliver Cowdery did, in fact, know about the First Vision when he recorded his version of the history of the Restoration—he had physical possession of the Prophet's 1832 history, which contains an account of the First Vision.

In October 1834 Cowdery announced in his newspaper that Joseph Smith would help with the history project but the Prophet himself noted that "no month ever found [him] more busily engaged than November." [108] In December 1834 President Smith was busy lecturing at the School of the Elders and acting as a trustee for the Kirtland High School and so during this month he sent Oliver a short letter to be included as part of the project, but also noted within it that he learned of his prominent role in the project, and its imminent appearance in the press, by reading Cowdery's periodical! [109]


Response to claim: 34 - Without "Mormonism's so-called" Melchizedek Priesthood, no man can see God and live

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Without "Mormonism's so-called" Melchizedek Priesthood, no man can see God and live.

Author's sources: DC 84:21-22

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author misinterprets D&C 84:21-22.

Question: Does Doctrine and Covenants 84 say that one cannot see God without holding the priesthood?

This argument is fatally flawed by an improper interpretation of D&C 84:21-22 and also by not taking into account additional texts that were produced by Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith claimed that he saw God in 1820 and also claimed that he received the priesthood in 1829. However, in a text which he produced in 1832 (DC 84:21-22) it is said that a person cannot see God without holding the priesthood. Some have misinterpreted section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants in an effort to destroy the testimony of Joseph Smith with regard to the reality of the First Vision. Their effort fails when the text is seen in its proper context and then compared with other writings that were prepared by the Prophet.

When D&C 84:21-22 is analyzed in context then an interpretation emerges that does not support the one proposed by the Prophet's critics. The relevant words read:

19 "And this greater [i.e., Melchizedek] priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live."

The word "this" in verse 22 does not refer to the Melchizedek Priesthood, but rather to "the power of godliness"

The word "this" in verse 22 does not refer to the Melchizedek Priesthood, but rather to "the power of godliness." [110] One of the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood is the bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (see DC 49:14). As the Lord explained in an 1831 revelation, "no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God" (DC 67:11).

Moses was transfigured in order that he could see God and endure his presence

An example of this happening is seen in the Pearl of Great Price where it is recorded that Moses "saw God face to face, and he talked with Him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure His presence" (Moses 1:2). Moses confirmed that it was because he was transfigured by the glory of God that he did not die when he saw the Lord's face while in mortality (see Moses 1:11). The Lord verified to Moses in yet another text that sinful mortals cannot see His face and live (see JST Exodus 33:20).

Joseph Smith recorded that he was "filled with the Spirit of God" during the First Vision

This brings us to the case of Joseph Smith in 1820. In the earliest known account of this heavenly manifestation (written in 1832 - the same year as D&C 84) the Prophet made note of the fact that when the experience began a pillar of fire rested down upon him and he was "filled with the Spirit of God." Once the heavens were opened the Savior appeared and said, "Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee." The Redeemer tied these elements together in a Book of Mormon passage where He informed a multitude of His disciples that certain persons would be "visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins (3 Nephi 12:2). Since the Prophet's experience followed the same pattern, it is reasonable to believe that this is what happened to him in the Sacred Grove.

There are two further pieces of evidence pointing to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was transfigured during the First Vision event. First, there is Orson Pratt's 1840 recounting of the incident wherein he relates that the pillar of fire or light "continued descending slowly, until it rested upon the earth, and [Joseph Smith] was enveloped in the midst of it. When it first came upon him, it produced a peculiar sensation throughout his whole system." [111] Joseph noticed that there was some sort of change wrought upon his body and it was of an extraordinary nature—something he was apparently not accustomed to. Second, we find a parallel between what happened to Moses after his transfiguration and that which happened to young Joseph after his theophany ended. In Moses chapter 1 we read:

9 "And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that His glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. [10] And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man."(Moses 1:9-10)

In the Charles Walker account of the First Vision, it is indicated that Jesus touched Joseph's eyes in order for him to be able to see him

Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, as told by John Alger:

2nd Feb Thurs [1893] Cold and chilly. Attended Fast Meeting.... Br John Alger said while speaking of the Prophet Joseph, that when he, John, was a small boy he heard the Prophet Joseph relate his vision of seeing The Father and the Son, That God touched his eyes with his finger and said “Jospeh this is my beloved Son hear him.” As soon as the Lord had touched his eyes with his finger he immediately saw the Savior. After meeting, a few of us questioned him about the matter and he told us at the bottom of the meeting house steps that he was in the House of Father Smith in Kirtland when Joseph made this declaration, and that Joseph while speaking of it put his finger to his right eye, suiting the action with the words so as to illustrate and at the same time impress the occurence on the minds of those unto whom He was speaking. We enjoyed the conversation very much, as it was something that we had never seen in church history or heard of before.[112]

In three of the Prophet's retellings of the First Vision story he mentions that he too lost his strength and fell to the earth

1838 Main Text and Note B
"When I came to myself again I found myself lying on my back looking up into heaven; When the light had departed I had no strength, but soon recover[ed] in some degree."
1843 David N. White Interview
"when I came to myself, I was sprawling on my back and it was some time before my strength returned."
1844 Alexander Neibaur Diary
"I endeavored to arise but felt uncom[monly] feeble."

Some early Christian authors saw things in the same way as Joseph

For example, in an early Christian document called the Clementine Homilies the apostle Peter is portrayed as agreeing:

For I maintain that the eyes of mortals cannot see the incorporeal form of the Father or Son, because it is illumined by exceeding great light. . . . For he who sees God cannot live. For the excess of light dissolves the flesh of him who sees; unless by the secret power of God the flesh be changed into the nature of light, so that it can see light. [113]


Response to claim: 34 - Nobody knows "when or how" the Joseph received the Melchizedek Priesthood

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Nobody knows "when or how" the Joseph received the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Author's sources: Online reference to anti-Mormon site "lds-mormon.com"

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Oliver Cowdery knew how the priesthood was restored, and he talked about it.

Question: In what manner was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?

The ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established

Similar to this origination complication of baptism and membership, the ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established. After the church was officially established we have the following evidences that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had already received the higher priesthood:

  1. Aug 1830, the Lord spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith of “Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them.” D&C 27:12
  2. Apr 1830, “And to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand.” D&C 20:2-3
  3. “Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sought after this higher authority, and the Lord gave it to them, before the rise of this Church, sending to them Peter, James and John. What for? To bestow upon them the Apostleship.” -Elder Parley P. Pratt [114]
  4. Hiram Page, a son-in-law of Peter Whitmer Sr., and one who was present on the day of the Church’s 6 April 1830 organization, later confirmed that “Peter, James and John” had come and bestowed the Holy Priesthood “before the 6th of April 1830.” [115]
  5. “I know that Joseph received his Apostleship from Peter, James, and John, before a revelation on the subject was printed, and he never had a right to organize a Church before he was an Apostle.” -Brigham Young [116]


Question: What is the date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood?

There is a narrow May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window

Knowing that the prophet already had the Melchizedek priesthood prior to the organization of the church we can look at the following clues of the May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window in order of progressively narrowed parameters:

  1. Year 1829: There is a manuscript in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting recording part of D&C 18: saying, “Written in the year of our Lord & Saviour 1829.” [117]
  2. June 1829: In D&C 18:9 we read “And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.”
  3. Before June 14, 1829: Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter has some wording that quotes and refers to section 18 in the D&C. [118]
  4. Before June 1, 1829:
    • Joseph Smith said that he, Emma, Oliver and David Whitmer traveled to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. “In the beginning of the month of June.” [119]
    • David Whitmer is quoted as saying “The translation at my father’s farm, Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York occupied about one month, that is from June 1, to July 1, 1829.” [120] If those dates are exact then the Prophet was in New York during the entire month of June.
    • Orson Pratt asked David Whitmer, “Can you tell the date of the bestowal of the Apostleship upon Joseph, by Peter, James and John?” To which he replied: “I do not know, Joseph never told me.” From this we can tell that the visitation either:
      1. Happened during the traveling when Joseph and Oliver were away from David and did not tell him about the occurrence (their trusted friend with whom they shared many other events).
      2. Happened at another time than their travel from Harmony to Fayette.


Question: Where was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?

The bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood occurred in Harmony, but the ordination to offices was deferred until later

The bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood occurred in Harmony, Pennsylvania. [121] The time of travel between Harmony, PA and the Whitmer farm would have been three days. The likelihood of the men traveling back to Harmony at the same time as they did the following is near impossible:

  • Finished the translation
  • Secured the copyright on June 11
  • Oliver's letter to Hyrum on June 14
  • Joseph's details of how busy they were during this time period at the farm [122]

As shown above, after receiving the priesthood they were not yet allowed to ordain each other to the offices within that priesthood. They were told to “defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our proceeding to ordain each other.” [123]

There are many times[124] when Oliver confirmed without error that the sequence of events occurred as shown above.[125]


Response to claim: 34 - Joseph "had to backdate" the First Vision to 1820 in response to a leadership crisis

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph "had to backdate" the First Vision to 1820 in response to a leadership crisis.

Author's sources: Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 251. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There is no evidence to support this, and Joseph's journal indicates that he was sharing the details of his First Vision with visitors to his home in 1835, three years before the "leadership crisis."

Question: Did Joseph Smith revise his account of the First Vision in 1838 to respond to a leadership crisis?

Joseph Smith was telling the same First Vision story in 1835, three years before the leadership crisis

It is claimed that in 1838 Joseph Smith revised his personal history to say that his original call came from God the Father and Jesus Christ rather than an angel. It is also claimed that his motive for doing this was to give himself a stronger leadership role because an authority crisis had recently taken place and large-scale apostasy was the result.

The idea that Joseph Smith modified the First Vision story in 1838 in order to quell a leadership crisis is a convenient mythology crafted by critics who seem to be woefully unfamiliar with the records of the past and were unaware that Joseph told the same story in 1835.

Warren Parrish was the "ringleader" of the Kirtland leadership crisis in 1839, and yet he was also the scribe for the 1835 First Vision account

This argument is a reference to the Kirtland crisis of 1837–38. Warren Parrish was considered by some of the Saints to be the ringleader of the Kirtland crisis. It is, therefore, all the more interesting that it was this same Warren Parrish who acted as scribe in recording a First Vision recital given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 9 November 1835. When Parrish's 1835 account of the theophany is compared to the 1838 account it becomes glaringly obvious that the story did NOT change over time, as the critics would like everyone to believe.

There is no shift in historical content between the 1835 and 1838 First Vision accounts, since both are followed immediately thereafter by the Book of Mormon angel story

It should also be noted that both the 1835 and 1838 First Vision accounts are followed immediately thereafter by the Book of Mormon angel story. Thus, it is impossible for critics to claim a shift in historical content by the Prophet. Before the Kirtland crisis took place Joseph Smith spoke in the 1835 retelling of events about an 1820 vision of two personages followed by an 1823 visitation by an angel. After the Kirtland crisis took place Joseph Smith said the exact same thing in the 1838 retelling of events.

9 November 1835 – “was about 14 years old”
2 May 1838 – “a little over fourteen years of age”
9 November 1835 – “looking at the different systems [of religion] taught [to] the children of men”
2 May 1838 – “Some crying, ‘Lo here’ and some ‘Lo there’”
9 November 1835 – “being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion”; “being thus perplexed in mind”
2 May 1838 – “my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness”
9 November 1835 – “I knew not who was right or who was wrong”
2 May 1838 – “it was impossible for a person young as I was and so unacquainted with men and things to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong”
9 November 1835 – “the Lord . . . had said . . . if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not”
2 May 1838 – “I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse which reads, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him’”
9 November 1835 – “I retired to the silent grove”
2 May 1838 – “I retired to the woods”
9 November 1835 – “[I] bowed down before the Lord”; “I called upon the Lord for the first time”
2 May 1838 – “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God . . . It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt”
9 November 1835 – “I made a fruitless attempt to pray, my tongue seemed to be swollen in my mouth, so that I could not utter . . . looked around, but saw no person”
2 May 1838 – “I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue . . . the power of some actual being from the unseen world”
9 November 1835 – “a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my head”
2 May 1838 – “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me”
9 November 1835 – “a personage appeared . . . another personage soon appeared”
2 May 1838 – “I saw two personages”
9 November 1835 – “he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”
2 May 1838 – “This is my beloved Son”


Response to claim: 35 - The First Vision originally stated that the personages were angels

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The First Vision originally stated that the personages were angels.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This is false. The 1832 account spoke of "the Lord."

Question: What are the two 1835 First Vision accounts that refer to angels?

Joseph Smith's two 1835 accounts of the First Vision

Two of Joseph Smith's November 1835 diary entries make reference to the First Vision:

November 9, 1835

a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me head, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeard like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision> I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed.[126]

Note that the additional detail that there were "many angels" was inserted into the text as a clarification. This is the only account which mentions other personages in the vision other than the Father and Son.

November 14, 1835

I commenced and gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6 years old up to the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14.[127]


Response to claim: 35 - There was no 1820 revival in Palmyra that converted "great multitudes" of people

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

There was no 1820 revival in Palmyra that converted "great multitudes" of people.

Author's sources: Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 42.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Methodist camp meetings were being held in Palmyra in 1820.

Question: What religious excitement was occurring in Palmyra in 1820?

Methodist camp meetings were being held in Palmyra in 1820

Some claim that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York area in 1820, contrary to Joseph Smith's claims that during that year there was "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion...indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it" Joseph Smith—History 1:5

Joseph Smith talked of observing, as a 14-year-old, "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" in the Palmyra area during the Spring of 1820. Joseph notes that "It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country." There is documented evidence of at least one Methodist camp meeting in the Palmyra area during that period, which only by chance happened to be mentioned in the local newspaper because of a specific death that seemed to be associated with it. It is reasonable to assume that the Methodists had more than one camp meeting during this period. In addition, there are newspaper articles talking of large-scale revival activity in the larger region surrounding Palmyra during the same general period when Joseph Smith said that it was taking place.

It is interesting to note that one crtical website attempts to dismiss evidence of Methodist camp meetings in the Palmyra area in 1820 because they are not "revivals", offering this weak excuse:

The church’s November 2013 essay and FAIR (an unofficial apologist LDS site) claim that there was a revival in 1820. They use the term revival loosely to help convince investigators that Smith’s claims are correct. An ad in the newspaper for a church camp meeting is not a revival that causes the “religious excitement” that Smith described. [128]

The critic's description is incorrect: This was not "an ad in a newspaper for a church camp meeting." It was a newspaper article about a death that occurred near the camp meeting - the camp meeting itself was never advertised in the newspaper, and likely never would have been. However, its mention in the newspaper is evidence that Methodist camp meetings were being held in the area at that time. The only reason that one was mentioned is because of the death associated with it.

One should keep in mind that Joseph Smith never used the term "revival" in his description - he simply described it as "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion." To a 14 year old who had been concerned about religion starting at age 12 after the 1817 revival, the ongoing camp meetings in the town in which he lived would certainly qualify.


Response to claim: 35, 342n78, 348n130 - Joseph Smith is claimed to have joined other churches after having been told that churches were wrong

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:


  • Joseph Smith is claimed to have joined other churches after having been told that churches were wrong.
  • Joseph is claimed to have become a member of the Baptist Church after his First Vision.
  • Joseph is claimed to have become an "exhorter" for the Methodists after his First Vision.

    Author's sources:
  • Fayette Lapham, "Interview," pp. 305-306, reprinted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:458.
  • Mitchell Bronk, "The Baptist Church at Manchester," The Chronicle: A Baptist Historical Quarterly [January 1948], vol. 11, pp. 23-24.
  • Orasmus Turner, Lockport Daily Courier, May 5, 1854.
  • Sophia Lewis, Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834 reprinted in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 269. (Affidavits examined)

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Nobody who has charged Joseph Smith with joining a church between 1820 and 1830 has ever produced any authentic denominational membership record that would substantiate such a claim.

This claim is also made in One Nation Under Gods: p. 18, 487n62-63 (PB)

Question: Did Joseph Smith join the Methodist, Presbyterian, or Baptist churches between 1820 and 1830 despite the claim made in his 1838 history that he was forbidden by Deity from joining any denomination?

Nobody who has charged Joseph Smith with joining a church between 1820 and 1830 has ever produced any authentic denominational membership record that would substantiate such a claim

Three of the primary sources that charge Joseph Smith with joining sectarian churches between 1820 and 1830 were produced in the latter part of the nineteenth century, over a half-century after the First Vision. None of the three are contemporary records; the earliest one was written 50 years after the First Vision took place.

  • Fayette Lapham claimed that Joseph had joined the Baptist Church.
  • Joseph and Hiel Lewis claimed that Joseph Smith joined the Methodist Church.
  • S.F. Anderick claimed that Joseph Smith joined the Presbyterian Church.

We must note too that none of these sources confirms the others—they all discuss different denominations and different time frames. Thus, the stories are not mutually reinforcing.

Eyewitness reminiscences and contemporary records provide strong evidence that these claims are not valid and, therefore, do not reflect historical reality. The three sources are all late, and all from hostile voices.


Question: Did Joseph Smith become a baptized member of the Baptist Church in 1822?

Fayette Lapham claimed to have learned this from Joseph Smith, Sr. 50 years after the First Vision had occurred

Fayette Lapham claimed to have interviewed Joseph Smith Sr. in 1829-30, and published a report forty years later. In it, he reported:

About this time [1822, perhaps as late as 1824] he [Joseph, Jr.] became concerned as to his future state of existence, and was baptized, becoming thus a member of the Baptist Church.[129]

There are no records to support the claim that Joseph joined the Baptist Church

The Lapham source is secondhand at best—putting forward information that reportedly came from the Prophet's father. There are no records beyond this late, second-hand recollection to support this claim.


Question: Did Joseph Smith become a member of the Methodist Church while he was translating the Book of Mormon?

In 1879, 59 years after the First Vision, Joseph and Hiel Lewis claimed that Joseph Smith joined the Methodist Church while translating the Book of Mormon

Joseph and Hiel Lewis were cousins of Emma Hale Smith; they would have been aged 21 and 11 respectively in 1828:

...while he, Smith, was in Harmony, Pa., translating his book....that he joined the M[ethodist] [Episocpal] church. He presented himself in a very serious and humble manner, and the minister, not suspecting evil, put his name on the class book, the absence of some of the official members, among whom was the undersigned, Joseph Lewis, who, when he learned what was done, took with him Joshua McKune, and had a talk with Smith. They told him plainly that such a character as he was a disgrace to the church, that he could not be a member of the church unless he broke off his sins by repentance, made public confession, renounced his fraudulent and hypocritical practices, and gave some evidence that he intended to reform and conduct himself somewhat nearer like a christian than he had done. They gave him his choice, to go before the class, and publicly ask to have his name stricken from the class book, or stand a disciplinary investigation. He chose the former, and immediately withdrew his name. So his name as a member of the class was on the book only three days.--It was the general opinion that his only object in joining the church was to bolster up his reputation and gain the sympathy and help of christians; that is, putting on the cloak of religion to serve the devil in.[130]

There is a difference between attending Methodist services and formally joining the Methodist Church

Note that Joseph did not inscribe himself, but the Methodist minister added Joseph's name to the class book. It is not surprising that Joseph might have attended Methodist services: Emma's family was involved in Methodism, she was related to Methodist ministers, and Joseph at this period was living on the Hale family's farm. The Hales had serious reservations about their new son-in-law, who claimed by this point to have the Book of Mormon plates in his possession. It would be natural for him to attend worship services with them if only to reassure them that he was not hostile to religion.

Joseph Lewis described himself as one of the "official members", indicating the Joseph was not a member of the church

It is telling, though, that as soon as Joseph Lewis learned that Joseph had attended, he quickly took steps to disassociate the church from a person he saw as an imposter: note too that Lewis describes himself (rather than Joseph) as one "of the official members." A study of Methodist procedure makes it extremely unlikely that Joseph could have been a member of the Church, especially for only three days.

The Lewis source presents a scenario that was directly contradicted in print by an adult eyewitness who was a Methodist church officer. It is certainly possible that Joseph attended a Methodist meeting with his wife and in-laws: even in the Lewis' telling, however, he was quickly made to understand that he was not wanted, and he persisted in his own beliefs rather than continue with them.


Questions: Are there contemporary witnesses that confirm that Joseph Smith didn't join any church after the First Vision?

Eyewitness sources indicated that Joseph Smith was not formally attached to any church, and had rejected all of them

The eyewitness sources that follow below indicate that up until the time that Joseph Smith announced the existence of the golden plates of the Book of Mormon to his family (23 September 1823) he was not formally attached to any church, but had instead publicly rejected all of them and manifested his desire NOT to join their ranks. Some are contemporaneous, others are later remembrances, but the hostile and friendly voices are clear that he had no denominational affiliation.

Reminiscence Around 1820

Pomeroy Tucker (a non-Mormon critic who knew Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York) said that Joseph joined the Methodist probationary class in Palmyra but soon "withdrew from the class" without being converted; announcing that "all the churches [were] on a false foundation."[131] This information corresponds with historical details dated by Joseph Smith at around 1820.

Reminiscence of Fall 1823

Lucy Mack Smith:

Joseph Smith's mother recalled in her autobiography that shortly after her son Alvin died on 19 November 1823 Joseph "utterly refused" to attend church services with the intent to convert, and he made the specific request: "do not ask me to join them. I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time."[132]

As can be seen by the continuing chronological sources which follow, Joseph Smith and his associates were teaching from 1825 to 1832 that the Prophet did not belong to any church between the years 1825 and 1827.

Reminiscence Concerning 1825

Josiah Stowell, Jr. (a non-Mormon):

I will give you a short history of what I know about Joseph Smith, Jr. I have been intimately acquainted with him about 2 years. He then was about 20 years old or thereabout. I also went to school with him one winter. He was a fine, likely young man and at that time did not profess religion.”[133]

Reminiscence Concerning 1827

Peter Bauder:

In 1827 David Marks (a non-Mormon minister) went to Palmyra and Manchester, New York where he “made considerable inquiry respecting . . . [Joseph] Smith” and learned from “several persons in different places” that Joseph was “about 21 years [old]; that previous to his declaration of having found the plates he made no pretensions to religion.”[134]

Reminiscence Concerning 1830

In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.[135]

Contemporary Document - 1830

Observer and Telegraph (newspaper):

Four LDS men from New York state taught that at the time the angel appeared to Joseph Smith (22 September 1823) he “made no pretensions to religion of any kind.”[136]

Contemporary Document - 1831

Palmyra Reflector (newspaper):

The editor of a Palmyra, New York newspaper claimed that he has been “credibly informed,” and was “quite certain,” that “the prophet . . . never made any serious pretensions to religion until his late pretended revelation” -- meaning the Book of Mormon, which was made known among Palmyra's residents in the Fall of 1827.[137]

Contemporary Document - 1832

Orson Pratt:

Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson taught on 8 April 1832 that “in 1827 a young man called Joseph Smith of the state of New York, of no denomination [i.e., not belonging to a church], but under conviction, inquired of the Lord . . . [and] an angel [appeared to him] . . . who gave information where the plates were deposited.”[138] Pratt clarified in a much later statement that between 1820 and 1823 Joseph Smith "was not a member of any church."[139]

Thus, a great deal of contemporary evidence disproves the late, second hand claims.


Response to claim: 35, 342n79-80 - Newspapers reported in 1829 that Joseph Smith had a dream in 1827 about a spirit visiting him three times in one night

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Newspapers reported in 1829 that Joseph Smith had a dream in 1827 about a spirit visiting him three times in one night.

Author's sources:
  • From the 'Palmyra Freeman: Golden Bible, Niagara Courier, Aug. 27, 1829, vol. 2, no. 18.
  • "The Gold Bible," Rochester Advertiser and Telegraph, Aug. 31, 1829.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author of the newspaper article obviously does not believe Joseph's story, and so characterizes his experience as "a dream," rather than a vision.

Question: Did the story of Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith evolve from that of a magical spiritual treasure guardian to an "angel"?

The earliest letter and newspaper accounts describe Joseph's claims in religious terms

Some are anxious to paint Joseph's early experiences as linked to "magick" or treasure seeking. They thus argue that Joseph Smith described his first angelic visitor as "a dream" in which "a spirit" visited him three times in one night.

However, the earliest letters and newspapers accounts describe Joseph's claims in religious terms. Gradually, over time, hostile versions of Joseph's claims appear, which introduce "magic" or treasure-seeking elements to the tale.[140] Modern critics have simply followed where Joseph's early critics led them—while ignoring the earliest documents and witness of both friendly and hostile sources.

Newspapers were hostile sources, and tended to focus on polemics and sensationalism

Critics generally gloss over the fact that these newspapers were unremittingly hostile to Joseph and his claims. They were not disinterested, neutral reporters of "both sides of the story." They tended to polemics and sensationalism. Thus, the Palmyra Freeman would write a few weeks earlier that the Book of Mormon was "the greatest piece of superstition that has ever come within our knowledge," and "It is certainly a "new thing" in the history of superstition, bigotry, inconsistency, and foolishness. -- It should, and it doubtless will, be treated with the neglect it merits."[141] It was, continued the Freeman (reprinted in the Rochester Advertiser and Telegraph) "almost invariably treated as it should have been—with contempt".[142]

Other papers followed in this vein, describing the Book of Mormon as "an evidence of fraud, blasphemy and credulity," cooked up by Joseph Smith, "who, by some hocus pocus, acquired such an influence over a wealthy farmer of Wayne county, that the latter mortgaged his farm for $3000, which he paid for printing and binding 5000 copies of the blasphemous work."[143]

Critics wish to invoke the term "spirit" to associate the Book of Mormon predominantly with treasure magic

Critics wish to invoke the term "spirit" to associate the Book of Mormon predominantly with treasure magic. However, a consideration of the complete statements makes it clear that the evidence does not support this interpretation—the religious elements predominate.

For example, a second-hand account from Martin Harris reads, in part:

In the autumn of 1827...Joseph Smith...said that he had been visited by the spirit of the Almighty in a dream...[regarding a hill] containing an ancient record of divine origin....He states that after a third visit from the same spirit in a dream, he proceeded to the spot, removed earth, and there found the bible, together with a large pair of spectacles....[144]

The author obviously does not believe Joseph's story, and so characterizes his experience as "a dream," rather than a vision. But, we note that even at this very early date (1827, reported in 1829), the visit is divine: "the spirit of the Almighty," and Joseph is directed to a "bible" that is "of divine origin."

Other early accounts[145]

The Palmyra (NY) Wayne Sentinel (26 June 1829):

...much speculation has existed, concerning a pretended discovery, through superhuman means, of an ancient record, of a religious and a divine nature and origin, written in ancient characters, impossible to be interpreted by any to whom the special gift has not been imparted by inspiration. It is generally known and spoken of as the "Golden Bible."(emphasis added)

Here again, the religious character of the Book of Mormon is emphasized (even labeled a Bible), with the need for divine inspiration.

A letter from a skeptical member of Joseph's extended family shows a similar pattern—Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829:

Once as I thot my promising Nephew, You wrote to my Father long ago, that after struggling thro various scenes of adversity, you and your family, you had at last taught the very solutary lesson that the God that made the heavens and the earth w[o]uld at onc[e] give success to your endeavours, this if true, is very well, exactly as it should be—but alas what is man when left to his own way, he makes his own gods, if a golden calf, he falls down and worships before it, and says this is my god which brought me out of the land of Vermont—if it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity, & dug from the mines of atheism, he writes that the angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom & knowledge, even divine revelation, which has lain in the bowels of the earth for thousands of years [and] is at last made known to him, he says he has eyes to see things that art not, and then has the audacity to say they are; and the angel of the Lord (Devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold & silver and precious stones so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra.(emphasis added)

Here, Jesse Smith is obviously scornful of the claims being made by Joseph. But, he clearly sees the Book of Mormon in making religious claims: even in hostility, it sees it springing from atheism and infidelity. Treasures are mentioned, but they are "hidden treasures of wisdom & knowledge." Moroni is clearly seen as an "angel of the Lord," and that the finding of the plates was "revealed" by "divine revelation."


Response to claim: 35-36, 343n83 - Joseph Smiths First Vision may have been a dream of a "bloody ghost dressed as a Spaniard

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smiths First Vision may have been a dream of a "bloody ghost dressed as a Spaniard.

Author's sources:
  • Hiel Lewis, letter to James T. Cobb, Amboy Journal, Apr. 30, 1879, reprinted in Wyl, pp. 79-80
  • Fayette Lapham [May 1870], in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:459.
  •  Citation error: the reference to the dream and bloody clothes is on p. 458.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

These supposed "early" accounts comes from hostile statements made forty to fifty years later! The 1870 account from Lapham says only that "a man" with "bloody clothes" appeared in a dream. (He also says this is what Joseph Jr. told his father, so this is hearsay.)

Response to claim: 36, 343n85 - Joseph Smith was an "occultist"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith was an "occultist."

Author's sources: Lance S. Owens, "Joseph Smith: America's Hermetic Prophet," Gnosis, Spring 1995, no. 35, p. 60

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is using loaded language. Joseph was never an "occultist."

Question: Were Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences originally products of magic and the occult?

Joseph's family believed in folk magic, and that Joseph himself used several different seer stones in order to locate lost objects

It is a known fact that Joseph's family believed in folk magic, and that Joseph himself used several different seer stones in order to locate lost objects.[146] Brant Gardner notes,

Young Joseph Smith was a member of a specialized sub-community with ties to these very old and very respected practices, though by the early 1800s they were respected only by a marginalized segment of society.

Joseph's family shared folk magic beliefs that were common to the day. Joseph's mother, Lucy, felt it important to note in her history that the family did not let these magical endeavors prevent the family from doing the necessary work to survive:

But let not my reader suppose that, because I shall pursue another topic for a season, that we stopped our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation. But, whilst we worked with our hands, we endeavored to remember the service of, and the welfare of our souls.[147]

Joseph's involvement with Josiah Stowell's attempt to locate a lost Spanish treasure is well documented in Church history

Stowell requested Joseph's assistance in a mining operation looking for old coins and precious metals. This effort, in fact, resulted in charges being brought against Joseph by Stowell's relatives for being a "glasslooker" in 1826. Joseph was ultimately charged with being a "disorderly person" and released. (For more detailed information, see: Joseph Smith's 1826 glasslooking trial)

Some, however, believe that all of Joseph's early spiritual experiences, particularly the First Vision and the visit of Moroni, were originally magical or occult experiences that were only later couched in spiritual terms. For example, the Hurlbut affidavits relate stories of Moroni's visit that cast the angel in the role of spiritual treasure guardian, with one (Willard Chase) even claiming that the angel appeared in the form of a toad.

D. Michael Quinn has been the most prolific author on the subject of "magic" influences on the origins of Mormonism. According to William Hamblin:

Quinn's overall thesis is that Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saint leaders were fundamentally influenced by occult and magical thought, books, and practices in the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is unmitigated nonsense. Yet the fact that Quinn could not discover a single primary source written by Latter-day Saints that makes any positive statement about magic is hardly dissuasive to a historian of Quinn's inventive capacity.[148]

Joseph Smith and his followers undoubtedly believed in supernatural power

Joseph Smith and his followers undoubtedly believed in supernatural power. And, they may have had some ideas about how to access that power that now strike us as inaccurate and even strange. This is not surprising, given the two centuries and massive scientific advances which separate our culture from theirs. However, there is no evidence that Joseph and others considered these things to be "magic," or the "occult," nor did they consider "magic" or the "occult" to be positive things.


Response to claim: 36 - Early Mormons believed in "witchcraft"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Early Mormons believed in "witchcraft."

Author's sources: John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844, pp. 71-72.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

While some members may have believed in witchcraft, all the scriptural and primary evidence portrays their opinion of such things as negative, not positive

Question: Did early members of the "Mormon" Church believe in witchcraft?

While some members may have believed in witchcraft, all the scriptural and primary evidence portrays their opinion of such things as negative, not positive

[149] There are a number of texts and incidents which indicate a basically negative attitude towards the occult by most early Mormons. Brooke himself notices several incidents manifesting such an anti-occult strain in early LDS thought: George A. Smith, for instance, destroyed magic books brought to America by English converts (p. 239). Likewise, "organizations advocating the occult were suppressed" by Brigham Young in 1855 (p. 287), while, "in 1900 and 1901, church publications launched the first explicit attacks on folk magic" (p. 291). But the evidence of negative attitudes among Mormons to matters occult is much more widespread than Brooke indicates.

The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants contain several explicit condemnations of sorcery, witchcraft, and magic. While admitting that there are only "rare references to magic or witchcraft in the Book of Mormon" (p. 176, 177), Brooke nonetheless insists that the "categories of treasure, magic, and sorcery . . . fascinated Joseph Smith" (p. 168). The Book of Mormon maintains that Christ will "cut off witchcrafts out of thy land" (3 Nephi 21:16), and sorcery, witchcraft, and "the magic art" are mentioned in lists of sins (Alma 1:32, Mormon 2:10). "Sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics" are also attributed to "the power of the evil one" (Mormon 1:19). In the Doctrine and Covenants, sorcerers are among those who are "cast down to hell" (DC 76:103,106), who "shall have their part in . . . the second death" (DC 63:17). These are the only references to magical or occult powers in LDS scripture, and they are uniformly and emphatically negative. Brooke's key terms, such as "alchemy," "astrology," "hermeticism," "androgyny," and "cabala," are never mentioned in LDS scripture.

Several early LDS writers were unequivocal in their condemnation of magic and the occult. One brother was "disfellowshipped by the council of officers, for using magic, and telling fortunes &c." The ancient Egyptian use of "omens, charms, unlucky days and magic" is described as "grossly superstitious." Orson Pratt described alchemy as "the pursuit of that vain phantom." His brother Parley was even more forthright:

It is, then, a matter of certainty, according to the things revealed to the ancient Prophets, and renewed unto us, that all the animal magnetic phenomena, all the trances and visions of clairvoyant states, all the phenomena of spiritual knockings, writing mediums, &c., are from impure, unlawful, and unholy sources; and that those holy and chosen vessels which hold the keys of Priesthood in this world, in the spirit world, or in the world of resurrected beings, stand as far aloof from all these improper channels, or unholy mediums, of spiritual communication, as the heavens are higher than the earth, or as the mysteries of the third heaven, which are unlawful to utter, differ from the jargon of sectarian ignorance and folly, or the divinations of foul spirits, abandoned wizards, magic-mongers, jugglers, and fortune-tellers.

Based on this extensive (but admittedly incomplete) survey of early Mormon writings, we can arrive at three logical conclusions:

  1. the unique ideas that critics advocating the "magic" hypothesis claim were central to the origins of Mormonism do not occur in early LDS primary texts;
  2. early Mormons seldom concerned themselves with things occult; but
  3. on the infrequent occasions when they mention the occult, it is without exception viewed negatively.


Response to claim: 36 - Joseph's mother talked about "magic circles" and the "faculty of Abrac"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's mother talked about "magic circles" and the "faculty of Abrac."

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, p. 285.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Lucy is actually denying that her family was involved in these things.

Question: Does Lucy Mack Smith's mention of the "faculty of Abrac" and "magic circles" evidence that "magick" played a strong role in the Smith family's early life?

Lucy Mack Smith denied that her family was involved in wasting time by drawing "magic circles"

Critics generally neglect to provide the entire quote from Lucy. Dr. William J. Hamblin notes that there is "an ambiguously phrased statement of Lucy Mack Smith in which she denied that her family was involved in drawing "Magic circles."

There is no evidence from any Latter-day Saint sources about how to make "magic circles"

William Hamblin notes,

Quinn provides only very limited evidence, from anti-Mormon sources, that the Smiths were involved in making magic circles. He provides no evidence from LDS sources discussing how to make magic circles, describing their use by early Mormons, or establishing Mormon belief in the efficacy of such things.

Quinn does claim to have found one LDS reference supporting the use of magic circles. This is an ambiguously phrased statement of Lucy Mack Smith in which she denied that her family was involved in drawing "Magic circles" (p. 68; cf. 47, 66). Quinn maintains, because of an ambiguity of phraseology, that Lucy Mack Smith is saying that her family drew magic circles. The issue revolves around how the grammar of the original text should be understood. Here is how I read the text (with my understanding of the punctuation and capitalization added).

Now I shall change my theme for the present. But let not my reader suppose that, because I shall pursue another topic for a season, that we stopped our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation. But, whilst we worked with our hands, we endeavored to remember the service of, and the welfare of our souls.125

When Lucy's statement is examined in context, it can be seen that she explicitly denies that the Smith's were involved in such things as "magic circles"

Hamblin continues,

Here is how I interpret the referents in the text.

Now I shall change my theme for the present [from a discussion of farming and building to an account of Joseph's vision of Moroni and the golden plates which immediately follows this paragraph]. But let not my reader suppose that, because I shall pursue another topic [Joseph's visions] for a season, that we stopped our labor [of farming and building] and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business [farming and building, as the anti-Mormons asserted, claiming the Smiths were lazy]. We never in our lives suffered one important interest [farming and building] to swallow up every other obligation [religion]. But, whilst we worked with our hands [at farming and building] we endeavored to remember the service of, and the welfare of our souls [through religion].

Thus, as I understand the text, Lucy Smith declares she is changing her theme to the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In the public mind, that story is associated with claims that the Smiths were lazy and involved in magical activities. By the time Lucy Smith wrote this text in 1845, anti-Mormons were alleging that Joseph had been seeking treasure by drawing magic circles. She explicitly denies that they were involved in such things. She also denies that the Smiths were lazy. She wants to emphasize that, although she is not going to mention farming and building activities for a while, these activities were still going on. Quinn wants to understand the antecedent of "one important interest" as "trying to win the faculty of Abrac, drawing Magic circles or sooth saying" (p. 68). I believe that the antecedent of "one important interest" is "all kinds of business," meaning farming and building. Quinn maintains the phrase to the neglect of means that they pursued magic to some degree, but not to the extent that they completely neglected their farming. I believe that the phrase to the neglect of means that they did not pursue magic at all, and therefore did not neglect their farming and building at all: they were not pursuing magic and thereby neglecting their business.

Lucy's narrative focuses on religious and business concerns, and does not discuss magic

Hamblin concludes,

Although the phrasing is a bit ambiguous, the matter can easily be resolved by reference to the rest of Lucy's narrative. Contra Quinn, Lucy Smith's text provides no other mention of the supposedly "important interest" of magical activities but does deal prominently with their religious and business concerns. If magic activities were such an important part of Joseph Smith's life and Lucy was speaking of them in a positive sense as "important interests," why did she not talk about them further in any unambiguous passage? My interpretation fits much better into the context of Lucy Smith's narrative as a whole, in which she amply discusses farming and family life, as well as religion and Joseph's revelations—the two important interests of the family—but makes no other mention of magic. As Richard Bushman notes, "Lucy Smith's main point was that the Smiths were not lazy as the [anti-Mormon] affidavits claimed—they had not stopped their labor to practice magic."126 Thus, ironically, Quinn is claiming that Lucy Smith's denial of the false claims that the Smith family was engaged in magical activities has magically become a confirmation of those very magical activities she is denying![150]


Response to claim: 37, 344n93 - Joseph's family had a "magick dagger" that was owned by Hyrum Smith

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's family had a "magick dagger" that was owned by Hyrum Smith.

Author's sources:
  • No source given.
  • The endnote describes the dagger and its alleged importance to Joseph without acknowledging the source of the information.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Everyone in the nineteenth-century frontier had at least one dagger, and this one was not designed for ceremonial magic or treasure hunting.

  • This claim is also made in One Nation Under Gods: p. 89

Question: Was a "magic dagger" once owned by Hyrum Smith?

Everyone in the nineteenth-century frontier had at least one dagger, and this one was not designed for ceremonial magic or treasure hunting

It is claimed that the Smith family owned a magic dagger that was among Hyrum Smith's heirlooms. They cite this as proof of the Smith family's deep involvement in ritual magick.

William Hamblin discusses a dagger that was discovered to be among the the Hyrum Smith family heirlooms. The dagger is claimed by historian D. Michael Quinn to be associated with the practice of magic:

The big problem for Quinn is that a dagger is usually just a dagger. Everyone in the nineteenth-century frontier had at least one, and most people had many. Some daggers were inscribed; others were not. Daggers were bought and sold just like any other tool and could easily pass from one owner to another. Given the data presented above, we do not know when, where, or how Hyrum obtained his dagger, or even if he really did. Since there is no documentation on the dagger until 1963, it could have been obtained by one of his descendants after his death and later accidentally confused with Hy rum's heirlooms. We do not know what it meant to Hyrum (assuming he owned it). Was it simply a dagger with some strange marks? Was it a gift to him from a Masonic friend? All of this is speculation—but it is no more speculative than Quinn's theories. Whatever the origin and purpose of the dagger, though, it is quite clear that, based on the evidence Quinn himself has presented, it does not match the magic daggers designed for making magic circles nor does it match the astrology of any of the Smiths.[151]

Hamblin concludes that,

[D. Michael] Quinn, and those who have followed him, have completely misunderstood or misrepresented the purpose of the dagger. The inclusion of the astrological sigil for Scorpio means the dagger was designed for someone born under the sign of Scorpio. None of the Smiths was. Therefore, it was not made for the Smiths. Quinn demonstrates no understanding of talismanic magic. The inclusion of the talismanic sigils for Mars means it was designed to grant victory in battle or litigation. It was not designed for ceremonial magic or treasure hunting, as Quinn claims. Quinn cites sources from after 1870 as evidence for what the Smiths supposedly believed, while completely misrepresenting those sources. The only possible conclusion to draw from all this is that the dagger was made for an unknown person, and, if it somehow came into the possession of Hyrum Smith, it was obtained secondhand with the engravings already made. This conforms with the late Smith family tradition that remembers the signs on the blade as "Masonic" rather than magical.[151]


Response to claim: 37, 344n94 - Joseph's family had "three magick parchments." One of these was owned by Hyrum Smith

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's family had "three magick parchments." One of these was owned by Hyrum Smith.

Author's sources:
  • No source given.
  • The endnote mentions the ""Holiness to the Lord,"" the ""Saint Peter Bind Them,"" and the ""Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah"" parchments without showing how they are related to the Smith family.
  • An indirect reference is made to the book Occult Sciences."

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There is no evidence that Joseph knew of, possessed, or used magical parchments.

Question: Did Joseph Smith's family own "magic parchments" which suggest their involvement in the "occult"?

There is no evidence that Joseph knew of, possessed, or used magical parchments

It is claimed that the Smith family owned "magic parchments," suggesting their involvement in the "occult." However, there is no evidence that Joseph knew of, possessed, or used magical parchments. All we know is that some parchments were eventually "heirlooms" of the Hyrum Smith family, but their provenance is not clear.


Question: What is the probability that Joseph Smith possessed items related to "magic"?

Probability problems

This claim rests upon a lengthy chain of supposition:[152]

  1. Joseph himself owned the item (e.g., parchment, Mars dagger, or Jupiter talisman).
  2. His possession dates to his early days of "treasure seeking."
  3. He used them for magical purposes.
  4. He made them himself or commissioned them.
  5. He therefore must have used magic books to make them.
  6. He therefore must have had an occult mentor to help him with the difficult process of understanding the magical books and making these items.
  7. This occult mentor transmitted extensive arcane hermetic lore to Joseph beyond the knowledge necessary to make the artifacts.

Theses seven propositions are simply a tissue of assumptions, assertions, and speculations. There is no contemporary primary evidence that Joseph himself owned or used these items. We do not know when, how, or why these items became heirlooms of the Hyrum Smith family. Again, there is no contemporary primary evidence that mentions Joseph or anyone in his family using these artifacts—as Quinn himself noted, "possession alone may not be proof of use." There is no evidence that Joseph ever had any magic books. There is no evidence that Joseph ever had an occult mentor who helped him make or use these items.

Improbability

The methodology used by the critics is a classic example of what one could call the miracle of the addition of the probabilities. The case relies on a rickety tower of unproven propositions that do not provide certainty, rather a geometrically increasing improbability. Probabilities are multiplied, not added. Combining two propositions, each of which has a 50% probability, does not create a 100% probability, it creates a 25% probability that both are true together:

  • chance of proposition #1 being true = 50% = 0.5
  • chance of proposition #2 being true = 50% = 0.5
  • chance of BOTH being true = .5 x .5 = .25 = 25%

Allowing each of these seven propositions a 50% probability—a very generous allowance—creates a .0078% probability that the combination of all seven propositions is true. And this is only one element of a very complex and convoluted argument, with literally dozens of similar unverified assertions. The result is a monumentally high improbability that the overall thesis is correct.

A non-response to this argument

D. Michael Quinn, a major proponent of the "magick" argument, responded to the above by claiming that "Only when cumulative evidence runs contrary to the FARMS agenda, do polemicists like Hamblin want readers to view each piece of evidence as though it existed in isolation."[153]

Replied Hamblin:

Quinn misunderstands and misrepresents my position on what I have called the "miracle of the addition of the probabilities"....

[Quinn's rebuttal discusses] the process of the verification of historical evidence. The issue was unproven propositions, not parallel evidence.

Quinn...proposed that a series of "magic" artifacts provide evidence that Joseph Smith practiced magic. My position is that, in order for us to accept any particular artifact as a single piece of evidence, we must first accept several unproven propositions, each of which may be true or false, but none of which is proven. The more unproven propositions one must accept to validate a piece of evidence, the greater the probability that the evidence is not, in fact, authentic. Thus, two historiographical processes are under discussion. One is the authentication of a particular piece of evidence: did Joseph own a magical talisman and use it to perform magical rites? The second is the cumulative significance of previously authenticated evidence in proving a particular thesis: does the authentication of the use of the talisman demonstrate that Joseph was a magician who adhered to a magical worldview? Quinn apparently cannot distinguish between these two phases of the historical endeavor, which goes far to account for some of the numerous failings in his book....

Of course the probative value of evidence is cumulative. The more evidence you have, the greater the probability that your overall thesis is true. Thus, if Quinn can demonstrate that the talisman and the parchment and the dagger all belonged to the Smith family and were used for magical purposes, it would be more probable that his overall thesis is true than if he could establish only that the Smiths owned and used just one of those three items. But my argument is that the authenticity of each of these pieces of evidence rests on half a dozen unproven propositions and assumptions.[154]


Response to claim: 37, 344n95 - Joseph had a "Jupiter talisman" with him the day he died

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph had a "Jupiter talisman" with him the day he died.

Author's sources:
  • No source given.
  • The endnote simply states the date of Joseph's death.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There is no contemporary evidence that the talisman was on Joseph when he died.
  • This claim is also made in One Nation Under Gods: p. 89

Question: Did Joseph Smith have a Jupiter talisman on his person at the time of his death?

The only source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person is Charles Bidamon, made long after the death of Joseph and Emma

Did Joseph have this Talisman on him when he was murdered? What would it mean if he did?

This well circulated claim finds its origins in a 1974 talk by Dr. Reed Durham. Durham said that Joseph "evidently [had a Talisman] on his person when he was martyred. The talisman, originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter talisman."[155]

There is only one source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person, and that source is Charles Bidamon. Bidamon's statement was made long after the death of Joseph and Emma, relied on memories from his youth, and was undergirded by financial motives.

The idea that Joseph Smith might have had a Jupiter Talisman in his possession is used by critics of the Church as proof of his fascination with the occult. As one work put it: "The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad. At the time of his death, Smith had on his person this talisman....[156]

By contrast, contemporary evidence demonstrates that Joseph did not have such a Talisman in his possession at his death.


Question: What is the source of the story about Joseph Smith possessing a Jupiter talisman?

The source of the Talisman story, upon which Dr. Durham based his remarks, was Wilford C. Wood, who was told it by Charles Bidamon, the son of Lewis Bidamon

Lewis was Emma Smith's non-Mormon second husband. Charles was born following an affair between Lewis Bidamon and Nancy Abercrombie, which occurred while Lewis was married to Emma. Charles was taken in by Emma when four years old, and raised by her until her death 11 years later.[157] (This action says much for Emma's charity.)

The talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon

Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote that the Talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon. One item listed was "a silver pocket piece which was in the Prophet's pocket at the time of his assassination."[158]:541 Wilford Wood, who collected Mormon memorabilia, purchased it in 1938 along with a document from Bidamon certifying that the Prophet possessed it when murdered. The affidavit sworn to by Charles Bidamon at the time of Wilford C. Wood's purchase was very specific:

This piece came to me through the relationship of my father, Major L. C. Bidamon, who married the Prophet Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith. I certify that I have many times heard her say, when being interviewed, and showing the piece, that it was in the Prophet's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage, Ill.[158]:558

Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.

Anderson noted that Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.

Durham based his comments on Wood's description for the item which was: "This piece [the Talisman] was in Joseph Smith's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage Jail."[158]:558[159] However, a list of the items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death was provided to Emma following the martyrdom. On this list there was no mention made of any Talisman-like item. If there had been such an article, it ought to have been listed.

The list of items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death did not list the talisman among them

In 1984, Anderson located and published the itemized list of the contents of Joseph Smith's pockets at his death. The list was originally published in 1885 in Iowa by James W. Woods, Smith's lawyer, who collected the prophet's personal effects after the Martyrdom. The contents from the published 1885 printing are as follows:

Received, Nauvoo, Illinois, July 2, 1844, of James W. Woods, one hundred and thirty- five dollars and fifty cents in gold and silver and receipt for shroud, one gold finger ring, one gold pen and pencil case, one penknife, one pair of tweezers, one silk and one leather purse, one small pocket wallet containing a note of John P. Green for $50, and a receipt of Heber C. Kimball for a note of hand on Ellen M. Saunders for one thousand dollars, as the property of Joseph Smith. - Emma Smith.[158]:558[160]

No Talisman or item like it is listed. It could not be mistaken for a coin or even a "Masonic Jewel" as Durham first thought. Anderson described the Talisman as being “an inch-and-a-half in diameter and covered with symbols and a prayer on one side and square of sixteen Hebrew characters on the other.”[158]:541 Significant is the fact that no associate of Joseph Smith has ever mentioned anything like this medallion. There are no interviews that ever record Emma mentioning any such item as attested to by Charles Bidamon, though he claimed she often spoke of it.


Question: Could the list of items on Joseph's person at the time of his death have been incomplete?

Bidamon's certification clearly states that the Talisman was "in the Prophet’s pocket when he was martyred"

More recent arguments contend that Wood’s list was exaggerated or was an all together different type of list. For example, some suggest that since neither Joseph's gun or hat were on the report, the list must not be complete. It should be obvious, however, that these items were not found on Joseph's person. The record clearly states that he dropped his gun and left it behind before being murdered. As for the hat, even if he had been wearing it indoors, it seems unlikely to have remained on his head after a gun-fight and fall from a second-story window.

Critics also argue that the Talisman was not accounted for was because it ought to have been worn around the neck, hidden from view and secret to all (including Emma no less). Thus, the argument runs, it was overlooked in the inventory. While it may be true that Talismans are worn around the neck, Bidamon's certification clearly states that the Talisman was "in the Prophet’s pocket when he was martyred." So which is it? In his pocket like a lucky charm or secretly worn around his neck as such an item should properly be used? In either case, the record is clear that he did not have a Talisman on his person at the time of his death. The rest is speculation.

The critics also resort to arguing that a prisoner could not possibly have had a penknife, so how accurate can the list of Joseph's possessions be? Obviously, the fact that he had a gun makes the possession of a knife a matter of no consequence.[161] Critics will dismiss contemporary evidence simply because it is inconvenient.

As a final note to the saga, when Durham was later asked how he felt about his speech regarding the Talisman, he replied:

I now wish I had presented some of my material differently.” “For instance, at the present time, after checking my data, I find no primary evidence that Joseph Smith ever possessed a Jupiter Talisman. The source for my comment was a second-hand, late source. It came from Wilford Wood, who was told it by Charlie Bidamon, who was told it by his father, Lewis Bidamon, who was Emma’s second husband and non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable.[162]


Stephen Robinson: "In the case of the Jupiter coin, this same extrapolation error is compounded with a very uncritical acceptance of the artifact in the first place"

Of the matter of the Jupiter talisman that is alleged to have been among Joseph Smith's possessions at the time of his death, Stephen Robinson wrote:

In the case of the Jupiter coin, this same extrapolation error is compounded with a very uncritical acceptance of the artifact in the first place. If the coin were Joseph's, that fact alone would tell us nothing about what it meant to him. But in fact there is insufficient evidence to prove that the artifact ever belonged to the Prophet. The coin was completely unknown until 1930 when an aging Charles Bidamon sold it to Wilford Wood. The only evidence that it was Joseph's is an affidavit of Bidamon, who stood to gain financially by so representing it. Quinn [and any other critic who embraces this theory] uncritically accepts Bidamon's affidavit as solid proof that the coin was Joseph's. Yet the coin was not mentioned in the 1844 list of Joseph's possessions returned to Emma. Quinn negotiates this difficulty by suggesting the coin must have been worn around Joseph's neck under his shirt. But in so doing Quinn impeaches his only witness for the coin's authenticity, for Bidamon's affidavit, the only evidence linking the coin to Joseph, specifically and solemnly swears that the coin was in Joseph's pocket at Carthage. The real empirical evidence here is just too weak to prove that the coin was really Joseph's, let alone to extrapolate a conclusion from mere possession of the artifact that Joseph must have believed in and practiced magic. The recent Hofmann affair should have taught us that an affidavit from the seller, especially a 1930 affidavit to third hand information contradicted by the 1844 evidence, just isn't enough 'proof' to hang your hat on.[163]


Response to claim: 38 - "Researchers of Mormonism" now believe that Joseph was influenced by "Jewish kabbalism"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

"Researchers of Mormonism" now believe that Joseph was influenced by "Jewish kabbalism."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is speculation without evidence.

Question: Did Joseph Smith derive his religious ideas in part from a mysticism called Kabbalah?

There is little actual evidence to support this

It is claimed that Joseph Smith's religious ideas derived in part from Kabbalah, a type of (usually Jewish) mysticism. Critics and the unwary presume that because a few lengthy works have been written about Joseph Smith and kabbalistic ideas, this is sufficient grounds for presuming a connection. The evidence behind this connection, is, however, on shaky evidential ground.

Before swallowing the critics' explanation, one should study the extensive reviews which illustrate numerous problems with this approach thus far.

It is not the job of the Saints to prove that kaballah did not influence Joseph Smith. It is the job of his critics to prove that it did. And, thus far, that proof has not been forthcoming. Extensive reviews of the works which purport to find this strain in Joseph Smith's thought are available (see below).

It is difficult to prove a negative—how might we prove that Joseph's ideas were not from Kabbalah? Rather, we can consider a number of the problems with this intellectual construct, and then ask if there are not perhaps better ways to understand Joseph's thought.

Some authors merely describe LDS doctrine or practice in kabbalistic or "hermetical" terms

Some authors merely describe LDS doctrine or practice in kabbalistic or "hermetical" terms, and then presume that by doing so they have proved that these ideas were, in fact, drawn from kabbalah. This is circular reasoning.

For example, one review wrote that:

Throughout his book, Brooke's approach might be characterized as scholarship by adjective (see, e.g., pp. 240, 294). Time and again, he places the adjective "hermetic" or "alchemical" before a noun relating to Mormonism and then proceeds as if the mere act of juxtaposing the two terms—essentially without argument—had established that the ill-defined adjective really applies. He holds that "certainly Joseph Smith was predisposed to a hermetic interpretation of sacred history and processes from his boyhood" (p. 208). But what does this mean? What is a "hermetic interpretation" here? Although Brooke himself seems to have a predisposition to a "hermetic interpretation" of almost everything in sight, Joseph Smith and his followers undoubtedly did not have the remotest idea of what hermeticism was.

Simply labeling Mormon celestial marriage "hermetic" and "alchemical" (as on pp. 214, 257-58, 281) does not make it such. Frequently, in a kind of fallacy of misplaced concretion, Brooke is misled by his own metaphors to misread nineteenth-century realities (as in his use of the terms "alchemy" and "transmutation" in discussing the Kirtland Bank [pp. 222-23; cf. 227-28]), and even twentieth-century Utah (as when he describes modern financial scams in Utah as "alchemical" [p. 299]). On at least one occasion, Fawn Brodie's (twentieth-century) portrayal of Sidney Rigdon as engaged in a metaphorical "witchhunt" inspires Brooke—evidently by sheer word association—to claim that Joseph Smith (!) saw himself as literally surrounded by witches (p. 230). [164]

This is a common approach, with another author falling victim to the same tendency:

Owens's entire thesis also suffers repeatedly from semantic equivocation—using a term "in two or more senses within a single argument, so that a conclusion appears to follow when in fact it does not."61 Owens does not adequately recognize the fact that the semantic domain of words can vary radically from individual to individual, through translation, by shifts in meaning through time, or because of idiosyncratic use by different contemporary communities.62 For Owens it is often sufficient to assert that he feels that kabbalistic or hermetic ideas "resonate" with his understanding of Latter-day Saint thought (p. 132). Thus, in an attempt to demonstrate affiliations between the Latter-day Saint world view and that of esotericists, Owens presents a number of ideas that he claims represent parallels between his understanding of the kabbalistic and hermetic traditions and his view of Latter-day Saint theology, but that, upon closer inspection, turn out to be only vaguely similar, if at all....

Owens frequently implicitly redefines kabbalistic and hermetic terms in a way that would have been foreign to both the original esoteric believers and to early Latter-day Saints. In an effort to make ideas seem similar, he is forced to severely distort both what esotericists and Latter-day Saints believe. [165]

Some critics stretch LDS scripture to the breaking point in an effort to "prove" their argument

...when a Book of Mormon passage denounces "works of darkness" (Alma 37:23), Brooke asserts that "although he never mentions them by name, Smith had declared an occult war on the witchlike art of the counterfeiters" (p. 178). Really? Nothing in the passage calls for such an interpretation, any more than does the analogous phrase in Ephesians 5:11. There can be little doubt, of course, that the early Latter-day Saints, like most of their contemporaries on the American frontier, suffered from counterfeiters' schemes and regarded them as enemies.....But that scarcely justifies Professor Brooke's arbitrary allegorical speculations. Besides, as readers will notice, Brooke cannot really decide whether the Mormons opposed counterfeiting or favored it. Either option will suffice for him, since either will allow him to claim that they were fascinated by it and since, taken together, they constitute a historical hypothesis that is virtually impervious to historical proof or disproof. [166]

Some critics ignore the common biblical sources for ideas in LDS thought, and instead argue that these ideas came from much more obscure hermetic thought

It is universally acknowledged that biblical quotations, paraphrases, and imagery fill all early LDS scripture, writings, and sermons. Time and again early Latter-day Saints explicitly point to biblical precedents for their doctrines and practices. Joseph Smith and all the early Mormon elders taught and defended their doctrines from the Bible. Even in the great King Follett discourse—which Brooke sees as a cornucopia of "hermetic" doctrine—Joseph declared "I am going to prove it [the doctrine of multiple gods] to you by the Bible." The text is filled with biblical quotations and allusions. Never do the early Saints claim they are following hermetic or alchemical precedents. Brooke, however, generously sets out to correct this lapse for them....[167]

Although far less problematically or extensively than Brooke, Owens also ignores obvious biblical antecedents to Latter-day Saint thought in favor of alleged hermetic or alchemical antecedents. Owens informs us that "Paracelsus also prophesied of the coming of the prophet "Elias' as part of a universal restoration, another idea possibly affecting the work of Joseph Smith" (p. 163 n. 90). Quite true. But why does Owens fail to mention the strong biblical tradition of the return of Elijah/Elias, the clear source for this idea for both Paracelsus and Joseph Smith? [168]

Critics cannot produce primary sources from the early Saints expressing their interest in kabbalah or hermeticism

Furthermore, critics tend to ignore or downplay evidence of an opposition to "magic" or "the occult" among early Saints:

...there are a number of texts and incidents which indicate a basically negative attitude towards the occult by most early Mormons. Brooke himself notices several incidents manifesting such an anti-occult strain in early LDS thought: George A. Smith, for instance, destroyed magic books brought to America by English converts (p. 239). Likewise, "organizations advocating the occult were suppressed" by Brigham Young in 1855 (p. 287), while, "in 1900 and 1901, church publications launched the first explicit attacks on folk magic" (p. 291).36 But the evidence of negative attitudes among Mormons to matters occult is much more widespread than Brooke indicates.

The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants contain several explicit condemnations of sorcery, witchcraft, and magic....The Book of Mormon maintains that Christ will "cut off witchcrafts out of thy land" (3 Nephi 21:16), and sorcery, witchcraft, and "the magic art" are mentioned in lists of sins (Alma 1:32, Mormon 2:10). "Sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics" are also attributed to "the power of the evil one" (Mormon 1:19). In the Doctrine and Covenants, sorcerers are among those who are "cast down to hell" (D&C 76:103, 106), who "shall have their part in . . . the second death" (D&C 63:17).37 These are the only references to magical or occult powers in LDS scripture, and they are uniformly and emphatically negative. Brooke's key terms, such as "alchemy," "astrology," "hermeticism," "androgyny," and "cabala," are never mentioned in LDS scripture. [169]

In another case, critics present

background material [that is] is often dated or misrepresented. Owens's use of sources, both primary and secondary, is problematic at a number of levels. First, he ignores nearly all earlier writings by Latter-day Saint scholars on the significance of the possible parallels between Latter-day Saint ideas and the Western esoteric tradition. There is, in fact, a growing body of Latter-day Saint literature that has examined some of these alleged parallels, and presented possible interpretations of the relationship between the esoteric tradition and the gospel. Why is Nibley not even mentioned by Owens, despite the fact that he has been writing on this subject for four decades?9 Robert F. Smith's discussion of many of these issues is ignored....

Furthermore, for the most part, Owens's account of the Western esoteric tradition does not rely on primary sources, or even translations of primary sources, but on secondary summaries, which he often misunderstands or misrepresents. This unfamiliarity with both the primary and secondary sources may in part explain the numerous errors that occur throughout his article....[170]

Critics often fail to provide any specifics to link these ideas to the members of the Church—generally because there aren't any such sources.

This does not deter critics, however, from a chain of speculation, supposition, and probability that hides the fact that no evidence whatever has been presented:

Owens insists that "any backwoods rodsman divining for buried treasures in New York in 1820 may have known about the [esoteric] tradition" and that "there undoubtedly existed individuals [in the early nineteenth-century United States] who were deeply cognizant of Hermeticism, its lore, rituals, and aspirations. And this group probably included an occasional associate of treasure diggers" (p. 159). Elsewhere Owens asserts that "there must have been more than a few" people in frontier New York who had been influenced by the hermetic, kabbalistic, and alchemical traditions (p. 165, emphasis added to all these citations). Evidence, please! Who exactly were these individuals? What exactly did they know? How exactly did they gain their unusual knowledge? Exactly when and where did they live? With whom exactly did they associate? What exactly did they teach their associates? What evidence—any evidence at all—does Owens provide for any of his speculations? [171]

Reliance on late, anti-Mormon accounts

Given the lack of material to support this hypothesis in the words of Joseph Smith or his followers, critics turn to their enemies:

...in large part Brooke relies on late secondhand anti-Mormon accounts—taken at face value—while rejecting or ignoring eye-witness contemporary Mormon accounts of the same events or ideas....

In a book purportedly analyzing the thought of Joseph Smith, it is remarkable how infrequently Joseph himself is actually quoted. Instead we find what Joseph's enemies wanted others to believe he was saying and doing. Thus, while it may be true that some early non-Mormons or anti-Mormons occasionally described some activities of Joseph Smith and the Saints as somehow related to "magic," it is purely a derogatory outsider view. The Saints never describe their own beliefs and activities in those terms. Brooke has a disturbing tendency to cite standard LDS sources and histories on noncontroversial matters—thereby establishing an impression of impartiality—while, on disputed points, using anti-Mormon sources without explaining the Mormon perspective or interpretation. [172]

Sometimes, critics even give "magical" meaning to common words used by Joseph Smith in a completely different context

in a breathtaking case of academic legerdemain, he takes common terms that occur with specialized technical meanings in hermetic and alchemical thought—terms such as "furnace," "refine," "stone," "metal," etc.—and proposes the existence of such common terms in Mormon writings as a subtle but irrefutable indication that Mormons had hermetic and alchemical ideas in the backs of their minds all along. In fact, so subtle is the impact of hermetic and alchemical thought on Joseph that "the hermetic implications of his theology may not even have been clear to Smith himself" (p. 208)! This is truly an alchemical transmutation of baseless assertions into pure academic fool's gold. [173]

Or:

Owens ignores two other obvious explanations: that both esoteric and Latter-day Saint ideas derive from a similar source, e.g., the Bible, or that Joseph Smith received true revelation, as opposed to some ill-defined type of Jungian "personal cognition." [174]

Some critics' relative unfamiliarity with LDS history is made clear by repeated self-contradiction and historical blunders

Brooke's presentation of early Mormon history is likewise plagued by repeated blunders. His depiction of a Joseph Smith who is "bitter," "suspicious," and "anxious" (p. 135)—a description helpful to Brooke's environmentalist reading of the Book of Mormon—flies in the face of Brooke's own claim that "by all accounts he was a gregarious, playful character" (p. 180; cf. JS-H 1:28). It may also seem remarkable to some that Joseph believed that "the simultaneous emergence of counterfeiting and the spurious Masonry of the corrupt country Grand Lodge in the early 1820s was an affliction on the people, the consequence of their rejection of Joseph Smith as a preacher of the gospel" (p. 177), since Joseph had not yet restored the gospel or begun to preach in the early 1820s. Brooke has Joseph and Oliver being "baptized into the Priesthood of Aaron" (p. 156), even though their baptism and their ordination to the priesthood were clearly two separate events.66 Furthermore, he uses the alleged counterfeiting activities of Theodore Turley, Peter Hawes, Joseph H. Jackson, Marenus Eaton, and Edward Bonney to propose a continued Mormon fascination with counterfeiting, and thereby, with alchemy (pp. 269-70), despite the fact that Jackson, Eaton, and Bonney were not LDS! And Brooke seems unsure as to whether John Taylor's Mediation and Atonement "was of great significance doctrinally, because it marked the rejection of the Adam-God concept," (p. 289) or whether the "rejection of the Adam-God doctrine [was] something that John Taylor had not really attempted" (p. 291). [175]

Errors also extend beyond LDS matters into the history of "magick" thought itself:

Owens makes an unsupported claim that the alchemists' ""philosopher's stone' [was] the antecedent of Joseph Smith's "seer's stone'" (p. 136). In fact, the philosopher's stone (lapis philosophorum) was thought to have been composed of primordial matter, the quintessentia—the fifth element after air, water, fire, and earth. Unlike Joseph's seer stone, it was not really a literal "stone" at all, but primordial matter (materia prima)—"this stone therefore is no stone," as notes a famous alchemical text.26 Sometimes described as a powder the color of sulfur, the philosopher's stone was used for the transmutation of matter and had little or nothing to do with divination. Indeed, the use of stones and mirrors for divination antedates the origin of the idea of the philosopher's stone. There is no relationship beyond the fact that both happen to be called a stone....

Owens claims that the concept that "God was once as man now is . . . could, by various exegetical approaches, be found in the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition" (pp. 178-79). It is understandable that he provides neither primary nor secondary evidence for this assertion, since no hermetic or kabbalistic texts make such a claim. Unlike Latter-day Saint concepts of God and divinization, the metaphysical presuppositions of both hermeticism and kabbalism are fundamentally Neoplatonic. [176]

Even the complete absence of evidence is no bar to the critic:

Owens speculates at great length about possible Rosicrucian influences on Joseph Smith (pp. 138-54), asserting (with absolutely no evidence) that Luman Walter was influenced by Rosicrucian ideas (p. 162). Once again, however, Owens ignores the annoying fact that the Rosicrucian movement was effectively dead at the time of Joseph Smith. In England "the Gold and Rosy Cross appears to have had no English members and was virtually extinct by 1793."...

Thus Joseph Smith was alive precisely during the period of the least influence of Kabbalah, hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism, all of which had seriously declined by the late eighteenth century—before Joseph's birth—and would revive only in the late nineteenth century, after Joseph's death. Owens never recognizes these developments, but instead consistently quotes sources earlier and later than Joseph Smith as indicative of the ideas supposedly found in Joseph's day. [177]

Some critics do not seem to even understand modern LDS thought and history well

For example:

Professor Brooke's ignorance of contemporary Mormonism hurts him in amusing ways. Even the cold fusion claims made at the University of Utah a few years ago are pressed into service as illustrations of Mormon hermeticism: They are interesting, Brooke declares, "given Mormon doctrines on the nature of matter" (p. 299). He never troubles himself, though, to explain how the experiments of the two non-Mormon chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman are even remotely helpful as indicators of Latter-day Saint attitudes and beliefs.

It is probably significant that Brooke's mistakes are not random; rather, his presentation consistently misrepresents LDS scripture, doctrine, and history in ways that tend to support his thesis by making LDS ideas seem closer to his hermetic prototypes. These are not minor errors involving marginal characters or events in LDS scripture and history; nor are they mere matters of interpretation. Rather, for the most part, they are fundamental errors, clearly demonstrating Brooke's feeble grasp of the primary texts. [178]


Response to claim: 38 - Joseph considered the date April 6th to have "astrological significance"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph considered the date April 6th to have "astrological significance."

Author's sources: D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 76-79, 278-280 ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The author provides no evidence for what Joseph believed about April 6. He fails to mention the one bit of evidence that we do have for what Joseph may have thought: D&C 20:1 suggests that April 6 was seen as the date of Christ's birth.[179] The author fails to cite D&C 20.

Response to claim: 38-39, 346 n. 104-109 - Joseph was arrested in 1826 for being a "disorderly person and an imposter"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was arrested in 1826 for being a "disorderly person and an imposter."

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, "Rethinking the 1826 Judicial Decision," Mormon Scripture Studies: An E-Journal of Critical Thought.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph was indeed brought before a judge in a court hearing on charges of being a disorderly person, however, the issue never went to trial, and Joseph was dismissed without being fined. The only charges were for the Judge's time spent hearing the evidence.

Question: What is Joseph Smith's 1826 South Bainbridge "trial" for "glasslooking"?

Joseph Smith appeared at a pre-trial court hearing in 1826 for "glasslooking"

In 1825 Josiah Stowel sought out the young Joseph Smith, who had a reputation for being able to use his seer stone to locate lost objects, to help him to locate an ancient silver mine. After a few weeks of work, Joseph persuaded Stowel to give up the effort. In 1826, some of Stowel's relatives brought Joseph to court and accused him of "glasslooking" and being a "disorderly person." Several witnesses testified at the hearing.

Joseph was released without being fined or otherwise punished - there was no verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty" because this was only a hearing rather than a trial

Joseph was ultimately released without being fined and had no punishment imposed upon him. Years later, a bill from the judge was discovered which billed for court services.

Gordon Madsen summarized:

"The evidence thus far available about the 1826 trial before Justice Neely leads to the inescapable conclusion that Joseph Smith was acquitted." [180]

A review of all the relevant documents demonstrates that:

  1. The court hearing of 1826 was not a trial, it was an examination
  2. The hearing was likely initiated from religious concerns; i.e. people objected to Joseph's religious claims.
  3. There were seven witnesses.
  4. The witnesses' testimonies have not all been transmitted faithfully.
  5. Most witnesses testified that Joseph did possess a gift of sight

The court hearing was likely initiated by Stowel's relatives as a concern that he was having too much influence on Stowel

It was likely that the court hearing was initiated not so much from a concern about Joseph being a money digger, as concern that Joseph was having an influence on Josiah Stowel. Josiah Stowel was one of the first believers in Joseph Smith. His nephew was probably very concerned about that and was anxious to disrupt their relationship if possible. He did not succeed. The court hearing failed in its purpose, and was only resurrected decades later to accuse Joseph Smith of different crimes to a different people and culture.

Understanding the context of the case removes any threat it may have posed to Joseph's prophetic integrity.


Question: What events resulted in Joseph Smith's 1826 court appearance in South Bainbridge?

Josiah Stowell requested Joseph Smith's help in locating an ancient silver mine

In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [181] Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages. According to trial documents, Stowell says Joseph, using a seer stone, "Looked through stone and described Josiah Stowell's house and out houses, while at Palmyra at Sampson Stowell's correctly, that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it by means of said stone." [182]

Joseph ultimately persuaded Stowell to give up looking for the mine

Joseph and his father traveled to southern New York in November of 1825. This was after the crops were harvested and Joseph had finished his visit to the Hill Cumorah that year. They participated with Stowell and the company of workers in digging for the mine for less than a month. Finally Joseph persuaded him to stop. "After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations." [183]

Joseph continued to work in the area for Stowell and others. He boarded at the home of Isaac Hale and met Emma Hale, who was one "treasure" he got out of the enterprise.

The following year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely

In March of the next year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely. The supposed trial record came from Miss Pearsall. "The record of the examination was torn from Neely's docket book by his niece, Emily Persall, and taken to Utah when she went to serve as a missionary under Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle." [184] This will be identified as the Pearsall account although Neely possessed it after her death. It is interesting that the first published version of this record didn't appear until after Miss Pearsall had died.

Stowell's relatives felt that Joseph was exercising "unlimited control" over their father or uncle

William D. Purple took notes at the trial and tells us, "In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, ...were greatly incensed against Smith, ...saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [185]

Whereas the Pearsall account says: "Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, [Josiah Stowell's nephew] who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter...brought before court March 20, 1826" [186]

So, we have what has been called "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith", even though the records show that this wasn't actually a trial. For many years LDS scholars Francis Kirkham, Hugh Nibley and others expressed serious doubts that such a trial had even taken place.


Question: Why was Joseph fined if he wasn't found guilty of anything?

Joseph was never fined - the bills from Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng were for court costs

The court did not assess a fine against Joseph. There were bills made out by Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng, but these were for costs. Those bills were directed to the County for payment of witnesses, etc., not to Joseph.


Response to claim: 39 - No "statements of repentance by Smith" for money digging have ever been found

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

No "statements of repentance by Smith" for money digging have ever been found.

Author's sources: Sam Katich, "Joseph Smith," FairMormon link

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

In the quoted article, Martin Harris reported that Joseph had told him that the angel Moroni instructed him "...he must quit the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them."[187] In Joseph's time and place, there was nothing shameful or disgraceful about money digging per se—it was the fact that some were wicked that was the problem.

Response to claim: 40, 348n123 - Gordon B. Hinckley cited false documentation to support the story of an 1820 revival

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Gordon B. Hinckley cited false documentation to support the story of an 1820 revival.

Author's sources: Gordon B. Hinckley, Truth Restored, pp. 1-2.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

There was a miscitation, but it wasn't done by Gordon B. Hinckley. Hinckley (1947) quoted a line from Nibley (1946), who was quoting from Bean (1938) that was in error. The material from 1947 was later reprinted as Truth Restored. There was no malice on the part of Hinckley when he used that quote.

Question: Did Gordon B. Hinckley cite false information regarding an 1820 Palmyra revival in a book called Truth Restored?

The evidence does not suggest that this was an attempt to deceive, but simply an error that was perpetuated between multiple authors

It is claimed that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York area in 1820, and that Gordon B. Hinckley cited false information regarding an 1820 revival in a book called Truth Restored. The material found in Truth Restored was written in 1947 under the title What of the Mormons? It was written as an introduction to the Church for non-members when Gordon B. Hinckley was a 37-year-old employee of the Church.

Several chapters were later reprinted as Truth Restored. The relevant material reads as follows:

This condition among the people of the frontier areas of America became a matter of serious concern to religious leaders. A crusade was begun to "convert the unconverted." It was carried over a vast area from the New England states to Kentucky. In 1820 it reached western New York. The ministers of the various denominations united in their efforts, and many conversions were made among the scattered settlers. One week a Rochester paper noted: "More than two hundred souls have become hopeful subjects of divine grace in Palmyra, Macedon, Manchester, Lyons, and Ontario since the late revival commenced." The week following it was able to report "that in Palmyra and Macedon . . . more than four hundred souls have already confessed that the Lord is good."[188]

The source for this claim is Preston Nibley, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1946), pp. 21-22. Nibley, in turn is quoting from Willard Bean, A. B. C. History of Palmyra and the Beginning of "Mormonism (1938).[189] Bean writes:

In the year 1819 a sort of religious awakening... spread... After reaching New York it spread to the rural districts upstate, reaching Palmyra and vicinity in the Spring of 1820.... The revival started the latter part of April [1820]... which gave the farmers a chance to attend the meetings... By the first of May, the revival was well under way with scores of people confessing religion... The revival had been even more successful than the ministers had anticipated. I quote from the Religious Advocate of Rochester: 'More than 200 souls have become hopeful subjects of divine grace in Palmyra, Macedon, Manchester, Lyons and Ontario since the late revival commenced. This is a powerful work. It is among young as well as old people.... A week later [also from the 'Religious Advocate' of Rochester]... 'It may be added that in Palmyra and Macedon, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches, more than 400 have already confessed that the Lord is good. The work is still progressing. In neighboring towns, the number is great and still increasing. Glory be to God on high; and on earth peace and good will to all men.'"[190]

This is almost certainly a miscitation

Yet, as the Reverend Wesley Walters pointed out in his article which attempted to dispute the existence of a revival, this is almost certainly a miscitation, since the quoted newspaper did not begin publication until 1825.[191]

Thus, Gordon Hinckley (1947) quoted a line from Nibley (1946), who was quoting from Bean (1938) that was in error. It is important to remember, however, that then-Bro. Hinckley's book was not intended to be a scholarly treatise, but was an introduction to the basics of Church history. The material from 1947 was later reprinted as Truth Restored.

Despite the miscitation, there actually is, however, evidence of religious excitement in Palmyra in 1820

Despite the claims of Walters and other critics, modern research has demonstrated that there were religious meeting in the Palmyra area in 1820. The cited newspaper article did not apply to the 1820 events, but other reports are known today which would make the same point.

The evidence does not suggest that this was an attempt to deceive, but simply an error that was perpetuated between multiple authors.

Anti-Mormon authors should be well aware of this phenomenon—anti-Mormon arguments are constantly recycled and requoted by their successors, with little heed given to LDS responses or the primary sources. In this respect, the Church has done better than the critics—the current brief introduction to Church history, Our Heritage, quotes no newspapers about the 1820 revival.[192]


Response to claim: 42, 349n126 - There is no evidence that Joseph Smith was "persecuted" for telling the story of his vision between 1820 and 1824

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

There is no evidence that Joseph Smith was "persecuted" for telling the story of his vision between 1820 and 1824.

Author's sources: Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, p. 29, 46-47.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

What kind of evidence does the author think exists that a 14-year-old boy was persecuted for relating that he had seen a vision of God?

Question: Does Joseph Smith's 1832 account of the First Vision not mention that he was persecuted for telling others about the vision?

The Prophet's 1832 history of the Restoration talks about persecution in very close proximity to the First Vision recital

Joseph Smith's 1832 First Vision account does not explicitly say that he was persecuted for relating his spiritual manifestation to others. Some have claimed that this stands as evidence that the Prophet's story evolved over time—probably to add a sense of drama. However, the Prophet's 1832 history of the Restoration talks about persecution in very close proximity to the First Vision recital. The persecution is situated squarely between the First Vision experience and the angel Moroni visitations. The documentary evidence presented above demonstrates conclusively that Joseph Smith did not see anything wrong with telling the basic elements of his First Vision story and either giving a passing reference to other elements or leaving them out altogether. Regardless, it was still a record of the very same experience that took place at the Smith homestead near Palmyra, New York.

"My father's family have suffered many persecutions and afflictions"

Joseph Smith made some remarks in his 1832 First Vision account that have a marked degree of relevance to the argument being put forward by his critics. In relation to the period of time between the First Vision and the appearance of the Book of Mormon angel he said,

  • "I could find none that would believe the heavenly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart"
  • "there were many things which transpired that cannot be written"
  • "my father's family have suffered many persecutions and afflictions"

Since it is explicitly stated by Joseph Smith that nobody believed his story, it would be unreasonable to assume that all of the responses to it were friendly in nature. In fact, the Prophet says right in this text that before the Book of Mormon angel visited him his family was persecuted and afflicted for some unspecified reason(s). He did not elaborate upon the nature of the "many persecutions" that took place against his family because—as far as this particular document was concerned—he had elected not to write down "many things which transpired."

Documentary evidence from the 1838 First Vision account

The following documentary evidence from the 1838 First Vision account strengthens the argument that the 1832 text is referring to some type of persecution that took place because of Joseph's initial spiritual experience.

  • Back "then" (i.e., between 1820 and 1823) Joseph's mind was engaged in "serious reflection" over the notion that he had been the recipient of "the bitterst persecution and reviling" by adherents of religion, simply because he had spoken about his First Vision.
  • Persecution over the vision was also heaped upon Joseph Smith by "irreligious" persons.
  • His words were treated not only lightly but also with great contempt.
  • It was implied that he was a liar.
  • He was told that his experience originated with the Devil.
  • People became prejudiced against him. They spoke "all manner of evil against [him] falsely". He was "hated".
  • The persecution increased over time and even became "severe".
  • Some people tried to get Joseph Smith to "deny" his vision.
  • The Prophet relates: "I was led to say in my heart, 'Why persecute me for telling the truth?'"

This 1838 description corresponds very well with the "many persecutions and afflictions" that are mentioned in the 1832 account. It also matches closely with the 1832 statements that nobody would believe Joseph's story and he reflected upon this adverse situation in his heart.

The persecution aspect of the 1838 account is rarely mentioned in subsequent accounts

It should be pointed out that even though the 'persecution' theme is very pronounced in the 1838 account it is a piece of the story that was not always mentioned or emphasized in subsequent retelling (both published and verbal).

  • It is missing in Orson Pratt's 1840 missionary tract called An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions.
  • It is missing in the Prophet's 1842 Wentworth Letter recital.
  • It shows up again in David White's 1843 newspaper interview with the Prophet where an interesting insight is provided about the reason for the pronounced negative reaction by some of those who heard the story. The Prophet said, "When I went home and told the people that I had a revelation, and that all the churches were corrupt, they persecuted me, and they have persecuted me ever since."
  • Rejection, but no outright persecution, is mentioned in Alexander Neibaur's 1844 diary notes. There Joseph is said to have “told the Methodist priest [about the experience], [but he] said this was not a[n] age for God to reveal Himself in vision[. The priest said that] revelation ha[d] ceased with the New Testament.”

This last example is especially significant because it is an obvious reference to the Methodist minister who is spoken of in the 1838 History of the Church account. The 1844 rehearsal of events is less detailed but it is, nevertheless, the same exact story. The 1844 document clearly demonstrates that Joseph Smith did not always include an equal amount of story elements in his recitals of the First Vision. Critics of this manifestation should, therefore, not expect any such thing when they scrutinize the pertinent documents. If an element of the story was not known by one particular audience it cannot be automatically assumed that it was not known by another.


Response to claim: 42, 43 (sidebar) - Contradictions in the stories of Paul's vision were "long ago resolved by scholars analyzing the Greek texts"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Contradictions in the stories of Paul's vision were "long ago resolved by scholars analyzing the Greek texts. The discrepancies in Paul's account involve modern ignorance of the Greek wording used."

Author's sources: W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 544.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Modern scholars disagree with the author's resolution, and the rule which he appeals to is broken by the NT text more than it is observed. Even Acts violates the author's claimed 'solution' three times!

Question: Do Greek scholars solve the discrepancies in Paul's vision accounts?

Latter-day Saints often point out that the Bible's accounts of Paul's vision on the road to Damascus appear to be contradictory

Joseph Smith left several accounts of his First Vision. None of these accounts is identical with any other. As the main page discusses, some critics wish to argue that Joseph's vision accounts are mutually contradictory, and thus that there was no vision.

Latter-day Saints often point out that the Bible's accounts of Paul's vision on the road to Damascus appear to be contradictory. Yet, the Church's sectarian critics accept Paul's account as true despite the Bible containing apparently frank contradictions in its accounts. While accepting or explaining away these discrepancies, the critics nevertheless refuse to give Joseph Smith the same latitude. Members of the Church have long pointed out that this is a clear double standard, designed to bias the audience against Joseph from the beginning.

Perhaps because of the force of this argument, some critics have begun to argue that no contradiction exists between the versions of Paul's vision.

Some critics have begun to argue that Greek scholarship has resolved the contradiction that exists between the versions of Paul's vision

Author Richard Abanes wrote that contradictions in the stories of Paul's vision were

"long ago resolved by scholars analyzing the Greek texts. The discrepancies in Paul's account involve modern ignorance of the Greek wording used."[193]

In support of this claim, Abanes cites W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 544.

Despite Abanes' claim, Greek scholarship has not resolved this issue. In fact, his use of the scholarship is dated, he ignores contrary views, and does not seem to realize that the Bible text itself (including the Acts of the Apostles) violates his supposed 'rule' more often than it keeps it.

The two verses usually at issue are Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. For example, one Wikipedia editor claims that

"There is no conflict in the three accounts of Paul's vision if you read Acts 22:9 in any version other than the KJV. For instance, in the New American Standard Bible and the New International version, it says that Paul's companions did not "understand the voice"--that is hear what was uttered with understanding."[194]

The debate centers on the word translated "hearing" or "heard" in these verses

Bible version Acts 9:7 Acts 22:9 Comments
Summary

Heard voice, saw no one?

Saw light, heard no voice?

  • Clear contradiction?
KJV

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

  • Clear contradiction?

Abanes' source

The work cited by Abanes is not a recent work of Greek scholarship—it was first published in 1940.[195] In the reference for ακούω, we read:

...the usual word denoting "to hear," is used (a) intransitively, e.g., Matt. 11:15; Mark 4;23; (b) transitively when the object is expressed, sometimes in the accusative case, sometimes in the genitive. Thus in Acts 9:7, "hearing the voice," the noun "voice" is in the partitive genitive case [i.e., hearing (something) of], whereas in Acts 22:9, "they heard not the voice," the construction is with the accusative. This removes the idea of any contradiction. The former indicates a "hearing" of the sound, the latter indicates the meaning or message of the voice (this they did not hear). "The former denotes the sensational perception, the latter (the accusative case) the thing perceived" (Cremer).

Abanes' claim

Thus, by this source, Abanes hopes to argue that there can be "no idea of any contradiction":

Factor Acts 9:7 Acts 22:9 Comments
Case

partitive genitive

accusative

  • "Case" is a part of speech, it indicates the role a noun (here, "the voice") plays in the sentence. English does not use cases.
Meaning

One hears the sound

One hears the message

--

Have modern Greek scholars anything to add to our discussion?

We have seen Abanes appeal to a source that was more than sixty years old at the time of his writing. Have modern Greek scholars anything to add to our discussion?

Daniel Wallace (a non-LDS, conservative Christian scholar) wrote of this same issue:

...There seems to be a contradiction between this account [Acts 9:7] of Paul's conversion and his account of it in Acts 22, for there he says, "those who were with me..did not hear the voice..." However, in Acts 22:9 the verb ακούω takes an accusative direct object. On these two passages, Robertson states: '...it is perfectly proper to appeal to the distinction in the cases in the apparent contradiction....The accusative case (case of extent) accents the intellectual apprehension of the sound, while the genitive (specifying case) calls attention to the sound of the voice without accenting the sense.'...

The NIV [a conservative Bible translation, the New International Version] seems to follow this line of reasoning....[thus the differences in case] can be appealed to to harmonize these two accounts...."(italics in original)[196]

Thus, Wallace is here dealing with the exact verses under discussion, and notes the exact argument which Abanes makes. Does he agree? Let us see:

On the other hand, it is doubtful that this is where the difference lay between the two cases used with ακούω in Hellenistic Greek: the N[ew] T[estament] (including the more literary writers) is filled with examples of ακούω + genitive indicating understanding[197]....as well as instances of ακούω + accusative where little or no comprehension takes place[198]}....The exceptions, in fact, are seemingly more numerous than the rule!

Thus, regardless of how one works through the accounts of Paul's conversion, an appeal to different cases probably ought not form any part of the solution (italics and bold italics in original).[199]

Thus, the New Testament itself does not agree with Abanes' reading. Far from supporting him, Greek scholarship argues against his solution—the Bible has more examples where his supposed "rule" is broken than when it is followed. (Even Acts itself contains three counterexamples!)

It would seem that this approach has been developed by those who wish to maintain the idea of biblical inerrancy in the face of the Greek evidence.


Response to claim: 42 - Brodie's idea that the First Vision may have been "the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement" is a satisfactory way to "explain things"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brodie's idea that the First Vision may have been "the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement" is a satisfactory way to "explain things."

Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 25. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is quoting another author's opinion as if it were fact.

Question: Is it possible to deduce Joseph Smith's thoughts and dreams years after his death?

Some critics of the Church attempt to discern Joseph Smith's motivations, thoughts and dreams, in order to explain the rise of the Church

Secular critics face a tough challenge when attempting to explain the foundational stories of Church—the primary sources from Joseph Smith and his associates do not provide them with any useful information. The only explanation left to them is that Joseph must have been lying about everything that he said. Authors then resort to fabricating Joseph's thoughts and dreams, and deducing his motivations based upon his surroundings. As one reviewer of Vogel's work puts it, "if no evidence can be gathered to demonstrate that a historical actor thought what you attribute to him or her, no conjecture can be beyond the realm of hypothetical possibility—just make things up, if you need to."[200]:326 This technique allows secular critics to quite literally create any explanation that they wish to account for Joseph's ability to restore the Church.

Creating a "psychobiography" by putting thoughts into Joseph's head

Secular critics, as a result of their inability to accept what they call "paranormal experiences," must come up with explanations for why Joseph Smith was able to create and grow the Church. Since many of the primary documents from Joseph and his associates accept evidence of spiritual experiences and angelic visitations as normal, secular critics look at Joseph's surrounding environment in order to deduce his thoughts and dreams, thus creating a "psychobiography" of the Prophet. A well-known critical work in which this technique is heavily employed is Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History. Consider the following:

But the need for deference was strong within [Joseph]. Talented far beyond his brothers or friends, he was impatient with their modest hopes and humdrum fancies. Nimble-witted, ambitious, and gifted with a boundless imagination, he dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future. For Joseph was not meant to be a plodding farmer, tied to the earth by habit or by love for the recurrent miracle of harvest. He detested the plow as only a farmer's son can, and looked with despair on the fearful mortage [check spelling] that clouded their future.[40]:18

Brodie's prose is very readable, and would be well suited to a fictional novel. Unfortunately, nothing in the paragraph quoted above is referenced to any sort of a source. According to Dr. Charles L. Cohen, professor of history and religious studies, and director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

This habit of insinuating herself into historical actors' minds constitutes the second part of Brodie's method. "For weeks" after learning that Martin Harris had lost the 116-page translation of the golden plates, she stated, "Joseph writhed in self-reproach for his folly." Lucy Smith described her son's distraught reaction when Harris told him the bad news, but, though one can well imagine Joseph agonizing over what to do, there is insufficient evidence to say in an unqualified declarative sentence what he actually did.[201]

The speculation of one author becomes a later author's "fact"

Since Brodie's work is heavily referenced by critics, Brodie's opinions eventually become considered to be "fact" by those who wish to tear down the Church. Brodie's pronouncements regarding Joseph's motives are then passed along to the next anti-Mormon writer. Consider how the following claim evolves from speculation to "documented endnote," when Brodie states:

The awesome vision he described in later years was probably the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West (emphasis added).[40]:25

Now observe how author Richard Abanes treats this quote in his book Becoming Gods (retitled Inside Today's Mormonism):

Such a theory boldly challenges LDS apostle James Faust's contention that critics of the First Vision "find it difficult to explain away." His assertion is further weakened by yet another theory of Brodie's, which posits that Smith's story might have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" (emphasis added).[202]

Here we have an unsupported theory by Brodie being confirmed by another author to "further weaken" LDS claims about the First Vision. Brodie's speculation of "was probably" and "it may have been" now becomes a cited endnote in Abanes' work. The speculation of one author has become the documented fact for the next author down the line.

Deducing Joseph's thoughts from his environment

Another author who takes great liberties in deducing Joseph's thoughts and dreams is Dan Vogel. Vogel's book Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet liberally assigns motives to the Prophet which cannot be backed up with any primary source. Instead, the author must interpret the meaning behind second- and third-hand sources that agree with his point-of-view.

Frankly admitting his "inclination . . . to interpret any claim of the paranormal . . . as delusion or fraud" (p. xii), Vogel refuses to accept Joseph's and his supporters' autobiographical statements—most of which grant, either explicitly or implicitly, such "paranormal" phenomena as angels, revelation, visions, and prophecy—at face value. Vogel's Joseph opens his mouth only to lie and deceive; and whatever he might be experiencing, or trying to do, or thinking about, one can rest assured that it's not what any record generated by him or his sympathizers would have us believe.[43]:206

When an author disregards the primary sources—the statements made by Joseph Smith himself—it becomes possible to create any story, motivation, thought or dream which suits the author's purpose. Responding to Vogel's description of Joseph's prayers and thoughts on September 21, 1823 leading up to the visit of Moroni, BYU professors Andrew and Dawson Hedges note:

What more could a student of early Mormon history possibly want? Here, in a crisp three pages, is a detailed account of what Joseph Smith was thinking about, praying about, and hesitating about over 180 years ago during one of the most significant 24-hour periods in church history. And not just what he was thinking about, in general terms, but how and when, within this 24-hour period, his thoughts evolve! And Vogel gives us all this without a single source to guide his pen—indeed, in direct contravention of what the sources say! One might chalk up this ability to navigate so confidently and so deftly through Joseph's mind to some type of clairvoyance on Vogel's part—"clairvogelance," we could call it—were it not that he himself protests so loudly against anything smacking of the "paranormal."[43]:211

Again, as with Brodie, and freed from the constraint of having to use actual sources, the author can attribute any thought or motivation to the Prophet that they wish in order to explain the unexplainable.


Response to claim: 44 - Brodie's idea that the First Vision may have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" "further weakens" Mormon claims

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brodie's idea that the First Vision may have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" "further weakens" Mormon claims.

Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 25. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is simply making Fawn Brodie's speculation hiw own. Elements of the First Vision were being taught by LDS missionaries in 1830 (see First Vision/No reference to First Vision in 1830s publications).

Response to claim: 45, 351 n. 144 - Joseph "continued practicing magick, divination, astrology, and soothsaying long after the LDS Church was founded in 1830"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph "continued practicing magick, divination, astrology, and soothsaying long after the LDS Church was founded in 1830."

Author's sources: No specific reference is provided.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The note simply mentions that seer stones continued to be used after the Church was organized in 1830—a fact that could be easily deduced from reading the Doctrine and Covenants.

Response to claim: 46 - Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were given divining rods by Joseph Smith

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were given divining rods by Joseph Smith.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Heber C. Kimball is describing a dream, not an actual event.

Question: Did Joseph Smith give Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball divining rods "as a symbol of gratitude for their loyalty"?

The passage describes Heber's dream in which Joseph gave him a rod, saying "the hand of God shall be with you"

Several authors cite Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, to support a claim that Joseph Smith gave Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball divinig rods "as a symbol of gratitude for their loyalty." However, the authors distort the passage cited. It first describes Heber's dream in which Joseph gave him a rod, saying "the hand of God shall be with you." Thus, the critics hide the fact that Heber saw this in a religious, not a magical, context. The source then reads:

Later Joseph did give him and Brigham Young real rods, because "they were the only ones of the original twelve who had not lifted up their hearts against the Prophet." When Heber wanted to find out anything that was his right to know, "all he had to do was to kneel down with the rod in his hand, and . . . sometimes the Lord would answer his questions before he had time to ask them." At least twice in Nauvoo, for example, he had used this special rod. In September, 1844, he "went home and used the rod" to find out if Willard Richards would recover from an illness and if the church would overcome its enemies. In January, 1845, he inquired of the Lord "by the rod" whether the Nauvoo temple would be finished and if his sins were forgiven. All the answers were affirmative. Unlike the [p.249] cane, there are no family traditions regarding this unusual rod; it has completely disappeared. Perhaps it was an aid to guidance and revelation. There is no evidence that it was a divining stick or "water witch," popular at that time. (pp. 248-249, emphasis added)

The source cited by the critics explicitly rejects the idea that the rods described were "divining sticks"

Critical works provide this source for the claim that Brigham and Heber are provided with "diving rods"—yet, the source explicitly rejects the idea that they were 'divining sticks.' The rod's claimed ability was also clearly religious, not "magical"—the rod had no power except as an aide to revelation from God. There is ample biblical precedent for prophetic use of a rod (e.g., Numbers 17:6-10).


Response to claim: 46 - Joseph received a revelation praising Oliver's gift of using his divining talents

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph received a revelation praising Oliver's gift of using his divining talents.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. As noted on the official Church history website Revelations in Context: "Many Christians in Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's day similarly believed in divining rods as an instrument for revelation."

Revelations in Context on history.lds.org: "Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod"

Revelations in Context on history.lds.org:

Oliver Cowdery lived in a culture steeped in biblical ideas, language and practices. The revelation’s reference to Moses likely resonated with him. The Old Testament account of Moses and his brother Aaron recounted several instances of using rods to manifest God’s will (see Ex. 7:9-12; Num. 17:8). Many Christians in Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery's day similarly believed in divining rods as an instrument for revelation. Cowdery was among those who believed in and used a divining rod.[203]


Question: Did Joseph Smith attempt to "cover up" Oliver Cowdery's work with a divining rod by changing this revelation?

The edits to this portion of the revelation were actually performed by Sidney Rigdon, likely with Joseph's approval

A revelation received by Joseph praised Oliver Cowdery's gift of using divining talents. The revelation was published in the Book of Commandments in its original form, then subsequently modified in the Doctrine and Covenants. We do not know why Sidney Rigdon chose to alter the wording of the revelation, but he is the one that actually changed the wording to "rod of nature."

We know based upon the text of the revelation that Oliver possessed a gift of working with something alternately referred to as a "sprout," "thing of nature," or "rod of nature." We also know that the Lord approved of Oliver's use of this gift. The reference was later changed to the "gift of Aaron," but we can only speculate as to the exact reason why. According to the Church History website, the "rod" referred to by Sidney Rigdon when he edited the revelation was likely a divining rod. It is possible that "gift of Aaron" was substituted as the revelatory device because if carried fewer negative connotations than "divining rod." However, a "cover up" is not usually done by committee, and it is clear that multiple individuals assisted in editing the revelations before they were to be published in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is also difficult to claim a "cover up" since "rod of nature" was to be published in the Book of Commandments in 1833, only two years before change to "gift of Aaron" was published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.

We do know that Oliver's gift had to do with receiving revelation, and that Oliver attempted to employ it during the period in which the Book of Mormon was being translated. We also know that Oliver's experience in attempting to translate produced one of the lasting lessons which continues to be taught in Church even today—the knowledge that one must study things out in their mind in order to know the truth of something.


Question: How was the wording of the "rod of nature" revelation that became Doctrine and Covenants 8:6–8 altered over time?

The revelation was edited by several individuals, including Sidney Rigdon

The original wording of the revelation along with revisions performed by Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, John Whitmer, and another unidentified editor is recorded in the REVELATION BOOK 1 (April 1829-B [D&C 8]). The original revelation reads as follows:

...remember this is thy gift now this is not all for thou hast another gift which is the gift of working with the sprout Behold it hath told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this thing of Nature to work in your hands. [204]

Sidney Rigdon edited the passage to read like this:

...remember this is your gift now this is not all for you have another gift which is the gift of working with the rod Behold it has told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this rod to work in your hands. (emphasis added)

In the Book of Commandments (the predecessor to the Doctrine and Covenants), the revelation underwent an additional revision by a publication committee of the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Frederick G. Williams). The Book of Commandments stated:

Chapter 7:3—Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God. (emphasis added)

In the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, this was revised to read:

D&C 8:6–8—Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God. (1921 edition, 8:6–8.) (emphasis added)

Thus, "working with the sprout" and the "thing of Nature" were changed to "the gift of working with the rod," which was again later revised to "the gift of Aaron." It has been assumed on the basis of this that Oliver Cowdery was a "rodsman," or someone who used a divining rod to search for treasure, water, or other things hidden.

Evidence used to support this assertion is the fact that in 1801, a religious sect led by the Wood family enjoyed a brief popularity, and they sought for treasure with divining rods. [205] The Wood group was reportedly taught this skill by a counterfeiter/forger named either Winchell or Wingate. Winchell/Wingate had been a guest at the home of Oliver's father, William. Attempts have been made to tie William Cowdery to the Wood group, but there is no evidence that he had any connection with them aside from knowing Winchell/Wingate. As Richard L. Anderson observed:

An 1828 newspaper history of the Wood episode refers to neither the mysterious counterfeiter nor Cowdery. The main group of Middletown survivors of the 1800 period--"more than thirty men and women"--were interviewed up to 1860, and they said nothing of a counterfeiter or of Cowdery. The 1867 recollections of a minister who visited the group in the final weeks of their movement include mention of the counterfeiter but not Cowdery--when a disciple was asked where the criminal stayed, he answered: "He keeps himself secreted in the woods." Frisbie's own claims about the Cowdery connection to the Wood group are both unclear and unsupported. This is the patchwork of folklore, not tightly woven history. [206]

It is therefore not clear whether Oliver used a rod for treasure seeking. The critical association of Oliver's possible use of a rod with the activities of local "rodsmen" seeking treasure is used to imply that Oliver was also a treasure seeker.


Response to claim: 48 - Joseph "never stopped being" an occultist

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph "never stopped being" an occultist.

Author's sources: Author's conclusion.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply nonsense.

Response to claim: 49 - The activities of Joseph's family may have been "satanic"

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The activities of Joseph's family may have been "satanic."

Author's sources: Author's conclusion.

FairMormon Response


Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is utter nonsense.

Notes

  1. Daniel C. Peterson and Donald L. Enders, "Can the 1834 Affidavits Attacking the Smith Family Be Trusted?," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 286—87. off-site
  2. Donald L. Enders, "The Joseph Smith, Sr., Family: Farmers of the Genesee," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr., (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 220–221.
  3. Enders, "Joseph Smith, Sr., Family," 219, 221.
  4. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 165.
  5. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121.
  6. Cited from a typescript by Truman G. Madsen, "Guest Editor's Prologue," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 235.
  7. Stories from the Notebook of Martha Cox, Grandmother of Fern Cox Anderson, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah)
  8. Deseret News, 20 January 1894
  9. Autobiography of Joseph Knight Jr., 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah
  10. Martin Harris, quoted in Edward Stevenson to the Editor, 14 October 1893 Deseret Evening News (20 October 1893); reprinted in Millennial Star 55 (4 December 1893): 793-94; in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:326.
  11. Martin Harris, quoted in Edward Stevenson Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Edward Stevenson, 1893), 30-33.
  12. Enders, "Joseph Smith, Sr., Family," 222–223.
  13. Criticisms of Joseph's use of "folk magic" appear in the following publications: “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites,” Athenaeum, Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art 42 (July 1841): 370–74. off-site; Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints : To Which Is Appended an Analysis of the Book of Mormon (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1843), 28. off-site; John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way. No. VII,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 18, no. 25 (12 September 1840), ??. off-site; James H. Hunt, Mormonism: Embracing the Origin, Rise and Progress of the Sect (St. Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844), n.p.. off-site; MormonThink.com website (as of 28 April 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/transbomweb.htm; La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 9 (3 March 1838): 34, citing Howe. off-site
  14. Luck Mack Smith, 1845 manuscript history transcribed without punctuation, in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:285.
  15. William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  16. "Doctor" was not a title—It was Hurlbut's actual given name.
  17. Benjamin Winchester, The origin of the Spalding story, concerning the Manuscript Found; with a short biography of Dr. P. Hulbert, the originator of the same; and some testimony adduced, showing it to be a sheer fabrication, so far as in connection with the Book of Mormon is concerned. (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, Printers, 1834), p. 5.
  18. Jeffrey N. Walker, "Joseph Smith's Introduction to the Law: The 1819 Hurlbut Case," Mormon Historical Studies 11/1 (Spring 2010): 129-130.
  19. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  20. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  21. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 446–447.
  22. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: Telegraph Press, 1834), p. 11.
  23. See JS-H 1:19.
  24. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 26. ( Index of claims );Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 6. ( Index of claims ); Watchman Fellowship, The Watchman Expositor (Page 1); La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 2 (13 January 1838): 6.
  25. Brigham Young, "Intelligence, etc.," (9 October 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:289-289.
  26. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom of God," (13 July 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:312.
  27. Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 333–335, 338. ISBN 0877478961. GL direct link
  28. Joseph Smith, Jr., Thomas Bullock Report, 12 May 1844, Temple Stand; cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 369, punctuation modernized.
  29. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:77-78.
  30. "Joseph, the Prophet. His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances", Salt Lake Herald, Church and Farm Supplement (12 January 1895): 210. Reprinted in Joseph F. Smith, "Joseph, the Prophet. His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 5:26ff. [Discourse given on 1894?.]
  31. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:467–468; citing Bernhisel to Thomas Ford (14 June 1844). Volume 6 link
  32. "Some of the Remarks of John S. Reed, Esq., as Delivered Before the State Convention," Times and Seasons 5 no. 11 (1 June 1844), 549–550. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  33. Peter H. Burnett, Recollections of an Old Pioneer (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880), 66–67.
  34. James Gordon Bennet, "The Mormon Prophets," New York Herald (19 February 1842).
  35. Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith the Man: Some Reflections on a Subject of Controversy," Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. 1 (1981), 9. PDF link
  36. "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  37. Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011). (emphasis added)
  38. James E. Faust, "The Importance of Bearing Testimony," Liahona, Mar. 1997
  39. Alan Goff, "Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 321–400. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945). ( Index of claims )
  41. Charles L. Cohen, "No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis," Brigham Young University Studies 44 no. 1, 68.
  42. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 44, note 135. ( Index of claims )
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 Andrew H. Hedges and Dawson W. Hedges, "No, Dan, That's Still Not History (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, by Dan Vogel)," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 205–222. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  44. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  45. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986),48; citing Robinson, Journal, 23–24.
  46. Orson Hyde, "The Marriage Relations," (6 October 1854) Journal of Discourses 2:75-75.
  47. Note that "spiritual wifeism" likely refers to John C. Bennett's pattern of seduction and sexual license, which the Saints were always at pains to deny.
  48. That is, the Relief Society document condemning adultery, which Foster had engaged in under the tutelage of John C. Bennett.
  49. Again, Joseph is denying the spiritual wifeism of Bennett, which he calls "wickedness" and was quick to oppose via Church discipline.
  50. Jackson was another witness against Joseph Smith, and would go on to write an anti-Mormon tract: Joseph H. Jackson, The Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, (Printed for the Publisher: Warsaw, Illinois, 1846).
  51. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:410-412. Volume 6 link
  52. M. Scott Bradshaw, "Defining Adultery under Illinois and Nauvoo Law," in Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith's Legal Encounters, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. Walker, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 2014), 401–426.
  53. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:88-89.
  54. Brigham Young, "LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT—COURSE OF MISSIONARIES," (9 September 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:176-177.
  55. "First Vision Accounts," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
  56. "LESSON 6: Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual (2013) 20.
  57. Milton V. Backman, "Joseph Smith's Recitals of the First Vision," Ensign (January 1985).
  58. James B. Allen, "Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision - What Do We Learn from Them?," Improvement Era (April 1970) 4-13.
  59. Dennis B. Neuenschwander, "Joseph Smith: An Apostle of Jesus Christ," Ensign (January 2009) 16-22.
  60. Gordon B. Hinckley, “God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” Ensign, Oct 1984, 2.
  61. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 9–20. off-site [PRECISE page numbering is needed; the words "emphasis added" need to be inserted after a ";" and space after the numbering designation.]
  62. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:185. Volume 4 link
  63. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:77–78. Volume 6 link
  64. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:271. Volume 2 link
  65. Times and Seasons 3, 761. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  66. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:64. Volume 5 link
  67. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:210–212. Volume 4 link
  68. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 13:65-66.
  69. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:262.
  70. Orson Pratt, "Are the Father and the Son Two Distinct Persons?," Millennial Star 11 no. 20 (15 October 1849), 310.
  71. Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 4: Evidences of the Book of Mormon and Bible Compared (Liverpool, England: R. James, 1850), points #10–11. This is a pamphlet (#4 out of 6) written on 15 December 1850.
  72. Orson Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets (Liverpool, England: R. James, 1851).
  73. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), chapter 17.
  74. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 7:221.
  75. JD 12:302. (6 October 1868). wiki
  76. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 12:354.
  77. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 13:66.
  78. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:140-142.
  79. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 15:182-183.
  80. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 17:279-280.
  81. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 19:16.
  82. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 21:310-311, (emphasis added).
  83. JD 22:29. (10 OCtober 1880). wiki
  84. Deseret News, vol. 26, no. 12, 25 April 1877, 178.
  85. See Autobiography, 102-103.
  86. Andrew Jenson and Johan A. Bruun, Joseph Smiths Levnetslob (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Office, 1879), 2-4.
  87. See Autobiography, 132.
  88. See Autobiography, 134.
  89. See Deseret News, vol. 5, no. 26, 5 September 1855, 2.
  90. Millennial Star, vol. 50, no. 18, 30 April 1888, 276-77.
  91. George Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet," The Juvenile Instructor 1 no. 1 (January 1866), 1.
  92. Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), {{{vol}}}:2. [Discourse given on 16 January 1891.]
  93. Joseph Capron affidavit, 8 November 1833; in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 258-259. (Affidavits examined)
  94. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "intercourse." defines the term as simply "[1] Communication....[2] Silent communication or exchange."
  95. Regarding the reference in the Palmyra Reflector, Richard Abanes, in his anti-Mormon work Becoming Gods, boldly declares in the main body of his text on page 34 that "[n]ot a single piece of published literature" mentions the First Vision, yet in an endnote at the back of the book on page 338 acknowledges this newspaper account. He attempts to dismiss this by claiming that the reference is "vague," yet acknowledges that "as early as 1831 Smith might have been starting to privately tell select persons that he had at some point seen God."
  96. Rev. B. Pixley, Christian Watchman, Independence Mo., October 12, 1832; in Among the Mormons. Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers, Edited by William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958): 74. This article by Pixley was reprinted in Independent Messenger (Boston, Mass.) of November 29, 1832; also in Missouri Intelligencer (Columbia, Mo.), and the American Eagle (Westfield, New York). Cited also in Hyrum Andrus, Joseph Smith, The Man and The Seer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1960), 68, note 46. It is not clear what Rev. Pixley was referring to by the comment about the third heaven, though it may refer to the Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory [DC 76:], which had been received February 1832, and published in July in the Evening and Morning Star, in Kirtland, Ohio. Verse 20 indicates that “we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father….”
  97. Richmond Taggart to the Reverend Jonathan Goings, 2 March 1833, 2, Jonathon Goings Papers, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York, quoted in Hurlbut. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:205. See also Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 8.
  98. Missouri Intelligencer (August 10, 1833); quoted in John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 337. GL direct link
  99. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:22, 24. Original in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 251&ndash 252, and 258–260, respectively. (Affidavits examined)
  100. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:107. Original in Arthur B. Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism newspaper (January 1888), 3.
  101. “Gold Bible, No. 4,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 13 (14 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  102. For example, Richard Abanes, in his anti-Mormon work Becoming Gods, boldly declares in the main body of his text on page 34 that "[n]ot a single piece of published literature" mentions the First Vision, yet in an endnote at the back of the book on page 338 acknowledges this newspaper account. He attempts to dismiss this by claiming that the reference is "vague," yet acknowledges that "as early as 1831 Smith might have been starting to privately tell select persons that he had at some point seen God."
  103. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 32. ( Index of claims )
  104. Elders Journal 4 (1 November 1906): 60-62 [Southern States Mission, Chattanooga, Tenn.]. It was later published in Rich, Scrap Book of Mormon Literature, 2 volumes (Chicago: Henry C. Etten and Co., no date [Vogel suggests 1913]): 543-5; also by Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America. The Book of Mormon, 2 Volumes, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Brigham Young University 1942; 1960), 1:66.
  105. Elders' Journal 4/3 (1 November 1906): 59
  106. Roger Nicholson, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8:27-44 (December 6, 2013).
  107. "The First Vision," mormonthink.com.
  108. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:170. Volume 2 link
  109. J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 68–69.
  110. Stephen E. Robinson and H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants: Volume Three (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2004), 32-33.
  111. Orson Pratt, An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, Scotland: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840), 5. off-site off-site Full title GL direct link
  112. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson, eds., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1980), 2:755–56 [recorded 2 February 1893]
  113. Apostle Peter (claimed), "Clementine Homilies," in 17:16 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)8:322–323. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  114. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 16:294-295.
  115. Letter of Hiram Page to “Brother Wm. [William E. McLellin],” 4 March 1848, Fishing River, Missouri, Second Part, RLDS Archives, Independence, Missouri.
  116. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:137.; emphasis added.
  117. Oliver Cowdery, “Written in the year of our Lord & Savior 1829—A true copy of the articles of the Church of Christ,” MS 1829, LDS Church Archives.
  118. Letter of Oliver Cowdery to Hyrum Smith, 14 June 1829, Fayette, New York, LDS Church Archives.
  119. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:48–49. Volume 1 link; Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:293.
  120. Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881.
  121. D&C 128:20; Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:40–41. Volume 1 link
  122. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:51–51. Volume 1 link
  123. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:60–61. Volume 1 link; emphasis added.
  124. Reuben Miller Journal, 21 Oct. 1848, MS 1392, LDS Church Archives.
  125. Statement of Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, 13 Jan. 1849, quoted in Deseret Evening News, 22 March 1884, 2.
  126. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 74–77.
  127. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 84.
  128. MormonThink.com page "The First Vision"
  129. Fayette Lapham, "Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, Forty Years Ago. His Account of the Finding of the Sacred Plates," Historical Magazine [second series] 7 (May 1870): 305-309; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:456-466.
  130. Joseph and Hiel Lewis, "Mormon History. A New Chapter, About to Be Published," Amboy Journal [Illinois] 24 (30 April 1879): 1; reproduced in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 4:300–306.
  131. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 17–18.
  132. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Stevens and Wallis, 1945), 90.
  133. Letter, Josiah Stowell Jr. to John S. Fullmer, 17 February 1843.
  134. Morning Star, 7 March 1833 [Limerick, Maine].
  135. Peter Bauder, The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834), 36.
  136. Observer and Telegraph, 18 November 1830 [Hudson, Ohio].
  137. “Gold Bible, No. 3,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 12 (1 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  138. The Catholic Telegraph, 14 April 1832 [Cincinnati, Ohio].
  139. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:140-141.
  140. For an analysis of all these early accounts in tabular form, see Larry E. Morris, "'I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates (Review of: "From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism")," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 11–82. off-site . See also Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 34–100. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki
  141. [J. A. Hadley], Palmyra Freeman (11August 1829); cited in part on p. 6 of John S. Welch, "Straight (Not Strait) and Narrow," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16/1 (2007): 18–25. off-site wiki
  142. “Golden Bible,” Rochester Advertiser and Daily Telegraph (New York) (31 August 1829). Reprinted from Palmyra Freeman, 11 August 1829. off-site
  143. “Blasphemy–‘Book of Mormon,’ alias The Golden Bible,” Rochester Daily Advertiser (New York) (2 April 1830). off-site
  144. "Golden Bible," Rochester (NY) Gem 1 (5 September 1829): 70; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:272.
  145. From Appendix A and B of Larry E. Morris, "'I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates (Review of: "From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism")," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 11–82. off-site
  146. Criticisms of Joseph's use of "folk magic" appear in the following publications: “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites,” Athenaeum, Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art 42 (July 1841): 370–74. off-site; Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints : To Which Is Appended an Analysis of the Book of Mormon (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1843), 28. off-site; John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way. No. VII,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 18, no. 25 (12 September 1840), ??. off-site; James H. Hunt, Mormonism: Embracing the Origin, Rise and Progress of the Sect (St. Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844), n.p.. off-site; MormonThink.com website (as of 28 April 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/transbomweb.htm; La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 9 (3 March 1838): 34, citing Howe. off-site
  147. Luck Mack Smith, 1845 manuscript history transcribed without punctuation, in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:285.
  148. William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  149. This section of the response was based on William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]. Please consult the original for references and further information. By the nature of a wiki project, the base text may have since been modified and added to.
  150. William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site] (emphasis in original) Hamblin cites Luck Mack Smith, 1845 manuscript history transcribed without punctuation, in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:285. and Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition, 1987), 73. ISBN 0252060121.
  151. 151.0 151.1 William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  152. This section of the response was based on William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]. By the nature of a wiki project, it has since been modified and added to.
  153. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 355—56 n. 121 ( Index of claims )
  154. William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  155. Dr. Reed Durham’s Presidential Address before the Mormon History Association on 20 April 1974.
  156. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 225. ( Index of claims )
  157. Jerald R. Johansen, After the Martyrdom: What Happened to the Family of Joseph Smith (Springville, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 2004[1997]), 79. ISBN 0882905961. off-site
  158. 158.0 158.1 158.2 158.3 158.4 Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
    Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
    Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman
  159. Original coming from LaMar C. Berett, The Wilford Wood Collection, Vol. 1 (Provo, UT: Wilford C. Wood Foundation, 1972), 173.
  160. Anderson points to its original source in J. W. Woods "The Mormon Prophet," Daily Democrat (Ottumwa, Iowa), 10 May 1885; and in Edward H. Stiles, Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa (Des Moines: Homestead Publishing Co., 1916), 271.
  161. These are examples of later arguments by Quinn in an attempt to refute Anderson.
  162. Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 180. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.
  163. Stephen E. Robinson, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn," Brigham Young University Studies 27 no. 4 (1987), 94–95.
  164. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  165. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  166. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  167. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  168. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  169. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  170. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  171. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  172. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site](italics in original)
  173. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  174. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  175. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  176. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  177. William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  178. William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  179. John Franklin Hall, "April 6," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:61–62.
  180. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  181. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  182. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:252–253.
  183. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  184. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates [distributed by Signature Books], 1994), 227.
  185. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959[1942]), 1:479. ASIN B000HMY138.
  186. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:248–249..
  187. Katich cites Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition, 1987), 74. ISBN 0252060121.
  188. Truth Restored (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979), 1–2.
  189. Rev. Wesley P. Walters, "New Light on Mormon Origins From the Palmyra Revival," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 1 (Spring 1969), 67, 67 n. 48.
  190. Cited in Dale Broadhurst, "Uncle Dale's Readings in Early Mormon History: Misc. New York Newspapers," note 2. off-site
  191. Rev. Wesley P. Walters, "New Light on Mormon Origins From the Palmyra Revival," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 1 (Spring 1969), 67, 67 n. 48.
  192. See Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996), 1–4. LDS link
  193. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 42, 43 (sidebar). ( Index of claims )
  194. Comment made by Wikipedia editor John Foxe on "First Vision" talk page (17 Aug. 2006) off-site
  195. W.E. Vine's M.A., Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1940). off-site
  196. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1997), 133. off-site
  197. Wallace gives as examples which contradict Abanes' model: Matthew 2:9, John 5:25, John 18:37, Acts 3:23, Acts 11:7, Revelation 3:20, Revelation 6:3,5, Revelation 11:12, Revelation 14:13, Revelation 16:1,5,7, Revelation 21:3. Note that two of these examples are even from the book of Acts!
  198. Wallace gives as examples which contradict Abanes' model: Matthew 13:19, Mark 13:7, Matthew 24:6, Luke 21:9, Acts 5:24, 1 Corinthians 11:18, Ephesians 3:2, Colossians 1:4, Philemon 1:5, Jas 5:11, Revelation 14:2.
  199. Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 133–134. off-site
  200. Alan Goff, "Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 321–400. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  201. Charles L. Cohen, "No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis," Brigham Young University Studies 44 no. 1, 68.
  202. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 44, note 135. ( Index of claims )
  203. Jeffrey G. Cannon, "Oliver Cowdery's Gift," Revelations in Context on history.lds.org
  204. Revelation, April 1829–B [D&C 8], in Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, and Stephen C. Harper, eds., Manuscript Revelation Books, vol. 1 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009), 17. (emphasis added)
  205. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:599–621.
  206. Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
    Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
    Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman