Mormonism and Wikipedia/Joseph Smith, Jr./Early years

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    An analysis of Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith"

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia: "Joseph Smith"
A work by a collaboration of authors (Link to Wikipedia article here)
The name Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. Wikipedia content is copied and made available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
The article has remarkable balance right now. Any attempts to deliberately add Mormon POV will both spark an edit war and in the end degrade the literary quality of the current article because of the difficulty of clearing the corpses from the battlefield when it concludes. Improvements in this article are more likely to come from deletions than additions.
—Editor "John Foxe," 13 January 2009 off-site
∗       ∗       ∗
I think Smith is handled with kid gloves in this article. There needs to be more emphasis on the fraudulent means that he used to start his religion and also the emphasis on sex at the end of his life.
—Editor "John Foxe," posting using his banned sockpuppet "Hi540," 13 January 2009 off-site
∗       ∗       ∗

Reviews of previous revisions of this section

Section review

Early years (1805–1827)  Updated 9/3/2011

From the Wikipedia article:
Joseph Smith, Jr. was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont to Lucy Mack Smith and her husband Joseph, a merchant and farmer.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 9, 30; Smith (1832) , p. 1.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
After a crippling bone infection at age eight, the younger Smith hobbled on crutches as a child.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , p. 21.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1816–17, the family moved to the western New York village of Palmyra

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , p. 30.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
and eventually took a mortgage on a 100 acre farm in nearby Manchester town.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 32–33. From about 1818 until after the July 1820 purchase, the Smiths squatted in a log home adjacent to the property. Id.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
During the Second Great Awakening, the region was a hotbed of religious enthusiasm.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Shipps (1985) , p. 7.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Although the Smith family was caught up in this excitement,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Brooke (1994) , p. 129 ("Long before the 1820s, the Smiths were caught up in the dialectic of spiritual mystery and secular fraud framed in the hostile symbiosis of divining and counterfeiting and in the diffusion of Masonic culture in an era of sectarian fervor and profound millenarian expectation.").

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.
    Violated by COgden —Diff: off-site

    The citation used to support this assertion doesn't support the claim that the Smith family was caught up in "this excitement" of "religious enthusiasm," instead implying that the Smith family was associated with "divining and counterfeiting." The citation is mismatched to the assertion in the main body text.


From the Wikipedia article:
they disagreed about religion.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Vogel (2004) , p. xx (Smith family was "marked by religious conflict".); Hill (1989) , pp. 10–11 (noting "tension between [Smith's] mother and his father regarding religion").

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Joseph Smith may not have joined a church in his youth,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith said that he decided in 1820, based on his First Vision, not to join any churches Smith (Mulholland) , p. 4. However, Lapham (1870) said that Smith's father told him his son had once become a Baptist).

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From Lapham's 1870 account (47 years after the events described) we seem some interesting oddities. Lapham is paraphrasing an interview with Joseph Smith, Sr. Note that this account is being given almost 30 years after Joseph Smith, Jr. published the story of the First Vision and visit by Moroni.

After this, Joseph spent about two years looking into this stone, telling fortunes, where to find lost things, and where to dig for money and other hidden treasure. About this time he became concerned as to his future state of existence, and was baptized, becoming thus a member of the Baptist Church. Soon after joining the Church, he had a very singular dream; but he did not tell his father of his dream, until about a year afterwards. He then told his father that, in his dream, a very large and tall man appeared to him, dressed in an ancient suit of clothes, and the clothes were bloody.


From the Wikipedia article:
but he participated in church classes

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith is known to have attended Sunday school at the Western Presbyterian Church in Palmyra Matzko (2007) . Smith also attended and spoke at a Methodist probationary class in the early 1820s, but never officially joined (Turner (1852) , p. 214; Tucker (1876) , p. 18).

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and read the Bible. With his family, he took part in religious folk magic,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , p. 30("Joseph Smith's family was typical of many early Americans who practiced various forms of Christian folk magic."); Bushman (2005) , p. 51 ("Magic and religion melded in the Smith family culture."); Shipps (1985) , pp. 7–8; Remini (2002) , pp. 16, 33.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
a common practice at the time.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , p. 31; Hill (1977) , p. 53 ("Even the more vivid manifestations of religious experience, such as dreams, visions and revelations, were not uncommon in Joseph's day, neither were they generally viewed with scorn.").

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From the cited source,

At this time the revivals of western New York's so-called "Burned-over District" were bringing thousands out of private folk religion and into organized churches, whose clergy opposed folk magic.


From the Wikipedia article:
Like many people of that era,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1988) , pp. 14–16, 137.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • Quinn quotes Bushman on page 137:

Standing on the margins of instituted churches, they [the Smiths] were as susceptible to the neighbors' belief in magic as they were to the teachings of orthodox ministers.


From the Wikipedia article:
both his parents and his maternal grandfather had visions or dreams that they believed communicated messages from God.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 26, 36; Brooke , p. 1994; Mack (1811) , p. 25; Smith (1853) , pp. 54–59, 70–74.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith later said that he had his own first vision in 1820, in which God told him his sins were forgiven

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (1832) ; Bushman (2005) , p. 39 (When Smith first described the vision twelve years after the event, "[h]e explained the vision as he must have first understood it, as a personal conversion".)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and that all the current churches were false.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • No source provided

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
The Smith family supplemented its meager farm income by treasure-digging,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , p. 136.

FAIR's analysis:

  • From the cited source,

Some neighbors also said that in "1819 or '20, they [the Smith family] commenced digging for money for a subsistence." Other neighbors specified that during "the spring of 1820" Joseph Jr. was extremely active in the treasure-quest.


From the Wikipedia article:
likewise relatively common in contemporary New England

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Newell (Avery) , pp. 16("Money digging, or treasure hunting, was widespread among the rural areas of New York and New England as well as the area of Pennsylvania near the Hales'.")

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
though the practice was frequently condemned by clergymen and rationalists and was often illegal.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , pp. 25–26, 30. "Despite the fact that folk magic had widespread manifestations in early America, the biases of the Protestant Reformation and Age of Reason dominated the society's responses to folk magic. The most obvious effect was that every American colony (and later U.S. state) had laws against various forms of divination." (30)

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Joseph claimed an ability to use seer stones for locating lost items and buried treasure.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1987) , p. 173; Bushman (2005) , pp. 49–51; Persuitte (2000) , pp. 33–53.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
To do so, Smith would put a stone in a white stovepipe hat and would then see the required information in reflections given off by the stone.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Brooke (1994) , pp. 152–53; Quinn (1998) , pp. 43–44; Bushman (2005) , pp. 45–52. See also the following primary sources: Harris (1833) , pp. 253–54; Hale (1834) , p. 265; Clark (1842) , p. 225; Turner (1851) , p. 216; Harris (1859) , p. 164; Tucker (1867) , pp. 20–21; Lapham (1870) , p. 305; Lewis (Lewis) , p. 1; Mather (1880) , p. 199.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1823, while praying for forgiveness from his "gratification of many appetites,"

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (Mulholland) , p. 5 (writing that he "displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption foibles of human nature, which I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God," deletions and interlineations in original); Quinn (1998) , pp. 136–38 (arguing that Smith was praying for forgiveness for a sexual sin to maintain his power as a seer); Smith (1994) , pp. 17–18 (arguing that his prayer related to a sexual sin). But see Bushman (2005) , p. 43 (noting that Smith did not specify which "appetites" he had gratified, and suggesting that one of them was that he "drank too much").

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • Note that D. Michael Quinn postulates that Joseph "once made an extraordinarily candid reference to his sexual struggle from 1820 to 1823" based upon the "gratification of many appetites" quote in Joseph's 1838 account, but the account itself says nothing about a "sexual struggle."
  • For an analysis of D. Michael Quinn's critical work, see A FAIR Analysis of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View.


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said he was visited at night by an angel named Moroni, who revealed the location of a buried book of golden plates as well as other artifacts, including a breastplate and a set of silver spectacles with lenses composed of seer stones, which had been hidden in a hill near his home.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (Mulholland) , p. 4.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • It should be noted that the hill near Joseph Smith's home was not named "Cumorah" at this point in time. The name was only applied later after the publication of the Book of Mormon.


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith said he attempted to remove the plates the next morning but was unsuccessful because the angel prevented him.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Mormon historian Richard Bushman argues that "the visit of the angel and the discovery of the gold plates would have confirmed the belief in supernatural powers. For people in a magical frame of mind, Moroni sounded like one of the spirits who stood guard over treasure in the tales of treasure-seeking." Bushman (2005) , p. 50.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
During the next four years, Smith made annual visits to the hill, only to return without the plates because he claimed that he had not brought with him the right person required by the angel.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , pp. 163–64; Bushman (2005) , p. 54 (noting accounts stating that the "right person" was originally Smith's brother Alvin, then when he died, someone else, and finally his wife Emma).

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • From the cited source Bushman:

Stories circulated of a requirement to bring Alvin to the hill to get the plates; and when he died, someone else. Emma, it was said, was designated as a key. The stories have a magical flavor, but other stories have the angel warning Joseph about greed and the evildoings of the money-diggers, as if the messenger was moving him away from his treasure-hunting ways.


From the Wikipedia article:
Meanwhile, Smith continued traveling western New York and Pennsylvania as a treasure seeker and also as a farmhand.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 47–53; Newell (Avery) , pp. 17; Quinn (1998) , pp. 54–57

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
In 1826, he was tried in Chenango County, New York, for "glass-looking," the crime of pretending to find lost treasure.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Hill (1977) , pp. 1–2; Bushman (2005) , pp. 51–52; (1829), Revised Statutes of the State of New York Packard and Van Benthuysen off-site ("[A]ll persons pretending to tell fortunes, or where lost or stolen goods may be found,...shall be deemed disorderly persons.")

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    Joseph never claimed to have found lost treasure. He was tried for attempting to find lost treasure using a stone.
  • For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Legal trials/1826 glasslooking trial


From the Wikipedia article:
While boarding at the Hale house in Harmony, he met Emma Hale and, on January 18, 1827, eloped with her because her parents disapproved of his treasure hunting.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , p. 53.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • Joseph and Emma eloped because her father would not allow them to be married due to his disapproval of Joseph's treasure seeking activities.


From the Wikipedia article:
Claiming his stone told him that Emma was the key to obtaining the plates,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Quinn (1998) , pp. 163–64; Bushman (2005) , p. 54 (noting accounts stating that Emma was the key).

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    Joseph never claimed that his stone "told" him anything. He used to stone to obtain information.
  • Bushman, p. 54:

Emma, it was said, was designated as a key.


From the Wikipedia article:
Smith went with her to the hill on September 22, 1827. This time, he said, he retrieved the plates and placed them in a locked chest.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 60.

FAIR's analysis:

  •  Correct, per cited sources


From the Wikipedia article:
He said the angel commanded him not to show the plates to anyone else but to publish their translation, reputed to be the religious record of indigenous Americans.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Smith (Mulholland) , pp. 5–6

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
Joseph later promised Emma's parents that his treasure-seeking days were behind him.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 54

FAIR's analysis:
 FAIR WIKI EDITORS: Check sources


From the Wikipedia article:
Although Smith had left his treasure hunting company, his former associates believed he had double-crossed them by taking for himself what they considered joint property.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Harris (1859) , p. 167; Bushman (2005) , p. 61.

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
They ransacked places where a competing treasure-seer said the plates were hidden,

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 54 (treasure seer Sally Chase attempted to find the plates using her seer stone).

FAIR's analysis:


From the Wikipedia article:
and Smith soon realized that he could not accomplish the translation in Palmyra.

Wikipedia footnotes:

  • Bushman (2005) , pp. 60–61; Remini (2002) , p. 55.

FAIR's analysis:


References

Wikipedia references for "Joseph Smith, Jr."
  • Abanes, Richard, (2003), One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church Thunder's Mouth Press
  • Allen, James B., The Significance of Joseph Smith's "First Vision" in Mormon Thought off-site .
  • (1992), The Mormon Experience University of Illinois Press .
  • (1980), The Lion and the Lady: Brigham Young and Emma Smith off-site .
  • Bergera, Gary James (editor) (1989), Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine Signature Books .
  • Bloom, Harold, (1992), The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation Simon & Schuster .
  • Booth, Ezra, Mormonism—Nos. VIII–IX (Letters to the editor) off-site .
  • Brodie, Fawn M., (1971), No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith Knopf .
  • Brooke, , (1994), The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 Cambridge University Press .
  • Bushman, Richard Lyman, (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling , New York: Knopf .
  • Clark, John A., (1842), Gleanings by the Way , Philadelphia: W.J. & J.K Simmon off-site .
  • Compton, Todd, (1997), In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith Signature Books .
  • Foster, Lawrence, (1981), Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community , New York: Oxford University Press .
  • Harris, Martin, (1859), Mormonism—No. II off-site .
  • Hill, Donna, (1977), Joseph Smith: The first Mormon , Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. .
  • Hill, Marvin S., (1976), Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties off-site .
  • Hill, Marvin S., (1989), Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism Signature Books off-site .
  • Howe, Eber Dudley, (1834), Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and Delusion, from its Rise to the Present Time , Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press off-site .
  • Hullinger, Robert N., (1992), Joseph Smith's Response to Skepticism Signature Books off-site .
  • Jessee, Dean, (1976), Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History off-site .
  • Lapham, [La]Fayette, (1870), Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, Forty Years Ago. His Account of the Finding of the Sacred Plates off-site .
  • Larson, Stan, (1978), The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text off-site .
  • Mormon History off-site .
  • Mack, Solomon, (1811), A Narraitve [sic] of the Life of Solomon Mack Windsor: Solomon Mack off-site .
  • (1994), Inventing Mormonism Signature Books .
  • Marquardt, H. Michael, (1999), The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary Signature Books .
  • Marquardt, H. Michael, (2005), The Rise of Mormonism: 1816–1844 Xulon Press .
  • Matzko, John, (2007), The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism off-site .
  • Morgan, Dale, Walker, John Phillip (editor) (1986), Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History Signature Books off-site .
  • (2008), Joseph Smith Jr.: reappraisals after two centuries Oxford University Press .
  • Newell, Linda King, (1994), Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith University of Illinois Press .
  • (1999), Mormon America: The Power and the Promise HarperSanFrancisco .
  • Persuitte, David, (2000), Joseph Smith and the origins of the Book of Mormon McFarland & Co. .
  • Phelps, W.W. (editor) (1833), A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ , Zion: William Wines Phelps & Co. off-site .
  • Prince, Gregory A, (1995), Power From On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood Signature Books .
  • Quinn, D. Michael, (1994), The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power Signature Books .
  • Quinn, D. Michael, (1998), Early Mormonism and the Magic World View Signature Books .
  • Remini, , (2002), Joseph Smith: A Penguin Life Penguin Group .
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1902), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Salt Lake City: Deseret News off-site .
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1904), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Salt Lake City: Deseret News off-site .
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1905), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Salt Lake City: Deseret News off-site .
  • Roberts, B. H. (editor) (1909), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , Salt Lake City: Deseret News off-site .
  • Shipps, Jan, (1985), Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition University of Illinois Press .
  • Smith, George D., (1994), Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, 1841–46: A Preliminary Demographic Report off-site .
  • Smith, George D, (2008), Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" Signature Books .
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., (1830), The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi , Palmyra, New York: E. B. Grandin off-site . See Book of Mormon.
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1832), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith , Salt Lake City: Deseret Book .
  • Jessee, Dean C (editor) (1839–1843), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith Deseret Book .
  • (1835), Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God , Kirtland, Ohio: F. G. Williams & Co off-site . See Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Smith, Joseph, Jr., Church History [Wentworth Letter] off-site . See Wentworth letter.
  • Smith, Lucy Mack, (1853), Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations , Liverpool: S.W. Richards off-site . See The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother
  • Tucker, Pomeroy, (1867), Origin, Rise and Progress of Mormonism , New York: D. Appleton off-site .
  • Turner, Orsamus, (1852), History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, and Morris' Reserve , Rochester, New York: William Alling off-site .
  • Joseph Smith: The Gift of Seeing off-site .
  • Van Wagoner, Richard S., (1992), Mormon Polygamy: A History Signature Books .
  • Vogel, Dan, (1994), The Locations of Joseph Smith's Early Treasure Quests off-site .
  • Vogel, Dan, (2004), Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet Signature Books .
  • Widmer, Kurt, (2000), Mormonism and the Nature of God: A Theological Evolution, 1830–1915 McFarland .


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