Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism Unmasked/Chapter 3

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 3: The Making of a Religion"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism Unmasked, a work by author: R. Philip Roberts

Response to claims made in Mormonism Unmasked, "Chapter 3: The Making of a Religion"

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Response to claim: 27 - Joseph Smith: "I have more to boast of than ever any man had"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

A quote from Joseph Smith is provided:

I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.

Author's sources:
  1. History of the Church

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph wasn't actually boasting - he was emulating Paul's boasting in order to make a point to his listeners.


Question: Was Joseph Smith prone to boasting?

Joseph made a statement that sounded boastful, and unbecoming a prophet

Joseph Smith is reported as saying:

I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, 6:408–409. Volume 6 link

This attitude strikes some as boastful, and unbecoming a prophet.

There are two issues here:

Joseph's quote, if accurate, is taken out of context

Assuming that the quote is accurate in History of the Church, it is evident that Joseph's quote is taken out of context. What was Joseph's intent, and why did he use this approach? As it turns out, he was drawing from the Bible and applying its lessons to his own situation. In the original context, Joseph was facing intense persecution by many people, including some he had previously considered to be his friends. The statement about "boasting" was supposedly made about a month before he was killed. He made it after reading 2 Corinthians 11: to the congregation. Note the following statement by Paul, in this scripture:

Paul: "let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little"

Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little. That which I am speaking, I am not speaking it as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, bear the foolish gladly. (2 Corinthians 11:16-19, NASB)

Paul then launches into a literary tirade where he claims many things to make himself look the fool, to contrast himself with those who the Corinthians were listening to for their words of salvation, instead of to him. His words were meant to compare and contrast what the Saints at Corinth were doing against what he was offering.

Joseph employed the exact same literary approach that Paul the Apostle did

Do the critics dismiss the words of Paul and deny his calling as an Apostle because he used such a literary approach that included boasting? No, they do not. Yet, they dismiss Joseph Smith when it is clear by his own statements, in context, that he engaged in the exact same literary approach. Consider the words of Joseph right after reading this chapter of Paul's to the congregation:

My object is to let you know that I am right here on the spot where I intend to stay. I, like Paul, have been in perils, and oftener than anyone in this generation. As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did, I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions. Perhaps my brethren think it requires all this to keep me humble. The Lord has constituted me curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last. My enemies are no philosophers: they think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down; but for the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.[1]

It would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted

Joseph then makes the statements that the critics attack, in the same way that Paul made outrageous "boasts" to contrast his position with the position of those who the Corinthians were starting to listen to. Paul starts the next chapter of 2 Corinthians with the statement "boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable." So, it would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted (though it may do little good, being unprofitable), yet the critics do not allow Joseph to follow Paul's advice and, of necessity, boast at times.

Perhaps the critics are unaware of Paul's advice? Or perhaps they apply a double standard where Paul is allowed such literary and rhetorical license, but Joseph is not?

Such double standards are, sadly, the stock-in-trade of sectarian anti-Mormonism.

In short, Joseph is using the scripture in Paul as a counter-argument (or a rhetorical device)--he is responding to his critics, and demonstrating that (as with Paul) true messengers from God are often persecuted by those who should listen, while the false and apostate are praised.


Response to claim: 28 - “During this time, Joseph and his father became increasingly engaged in folk magic, using magical seer stones and divining rods to look for buried treasure and lost items”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states, “During this time, Joseph and his father became increasingly engaged in folk magic, using magical seer stones and divining rods to look for buried treasure and lost items.”

Author's sources:
  1. Fawn M. Brodie, ‘’No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet’’ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 6-33. See also Jerald and Sandra Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow and Reality?’’ (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987) 32-49.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - 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


Question: What is the distinction between belief in "folk magic" and a religious belief in the supernatural?

The use of the terms "magic" and "occult" are prejudicial, loaded terminology

When critics use the term "magic" or "occult," they are using prejudicial, loaded terminology. Used in a neutral sense, magic might mean only that a person believes in the supernatural, and believes that supernatural can be influenced for the believer's benefit.

However, critics are generally not clear about what definition of magic they are using, and how to distinguish a "magical" belief in the supernatural from a "religious" belief in the supernatural.[2] Scholars of magic and religion have, in fact, come to realize that defining "magic" is probably a hopeless task. John Gee noted:

Defining "magic" as "religious beliefs other than their own"

In 1990, Cambridge University published Stanley Tambiah's Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality, which showed that the definitions of many of the most important writers on "magic" were heavily influenced both by their backgrounds and their personal ideological agendas: they defined "magic" as religious beliefs other than their own. In 1992, the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Magic in the Ancient World failed to come to any agreement on what "magic" was. The plenary speaker, Jonathan Z. Smith, in particular voiced strong opinions:

I see little merit in continuing the use of the substantive term "magic" in second-order, theoretical, academic discourse. We have better and more precise scholarly taxa for each of the phenomena commonly denoted by "magic" which, among other benefits, create more useful categories for comparison. For any culture I am familiar with, we can trade places between the corpus of materials conventionally labeled "magical" and corpora designated by other generic terms (e.g., healing, divining, execrative) with no cognitive loss. Indeed, there would be a gain.[3]

The use of the term "magic" is a negative label for modern Christians

The use of the term "magic" imposes, especially for modern Christians, a negative label at the outset, which explains its popularity for critics. As Professor of Egyptology Robert K. Ritner explained:

Modern Western terms for 'magic' function primarily as designations for that which we as a society do not accept, and which has overtones of the supernatural or the demonic (but not of the divine). It is important to stress that this pejorative connotation has not been grafted onto the notion of magic as the result of any recent theoretical fancy but is inherent in Western terminology virtually from its beginning. It constitutes the essential core of the Western concept of magic.[4]

The Book of Mormon condemns "magic"

Moroni's visit was a turning point for Joseph, for it is important to note that the Book of Mormon itself condemns "magic" whenever it is mentioned:

And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite. Mormon 1:19

Regardless of Joseph's or his family's previous opinions regarding folk magic prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, they clearly always believed in and had faith in God. Joseph believed that instruments such as the Urim and Thummim and his seer stone were consecrated by God for their intended use.


Response to claim: 28 - “Due to a tremendous revival in his neighborhood in 1820, Joseph Smith became concerned about which church he should join”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states, “Due to a tremendous revival in his neighborhood in 1820, Joseph Smith became concerned about which church he should join.”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph said that there was an excitement on the subject of religion. He never mentioned the word “revival.” Nevertheless, there is ample evidence of such religious excitement in the Palmyra area in 1820.


Question: When did the Methodists acquire property near Palmyra to hold their camp meetings?

The Methodists' acquisition of property on Vienna Road in July 1821

Some wish to discount the story of the First Vision by asserting that Joseph's claim that the "unusual excitement" about religion that "commenced with the Methodists" could not have occurred. Specifically, it is claimed that Methodist camp meetings would not have occurred until after July 1821, since the Methodists did not acquire property in the area until that time.

The Wikipedia article "First Vision" (as of May 18, 2009) contained the unsupported assertion in a footnote (the assertion that this was Joseph's "first dabble with Methodism" has since been removed):

Bushman, 69-70. The Methodists did not acquire property on the Vienna Road until July 1821, so it is likely that Smith's first dabble with Methodism occurred during the 1824-25 revival in Palmyra.

The Bushman reference (Rough Stone Rolling) states nothing about the Methodists' acquisition of property, nor does it claim that Joseph's "first dabble" with Methodism occurred during the 1824 revival. The statement was simply asserted by the editor of the wiki article. (Note: Sometime prior to September 2009, another Wikipedia editor has since replaced the unsupported assertion above with the citation by Dr. Matzko below).

Matzko makes the same assertion regarding the property on Vienna Road, however, he backs up it with a citation. According to Matzko:

Since the Methodists did not acquire property on the Vienna Road until July 1821, the camp meetings were almost certainly held after that date. [citing Wesley Walters, "A Reply to Dr. Bushman," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4, no. 1 (Spring 1969): 99.]

The Methodists were already holding "camp meetings" in 1820

In contrast to the Wikipedia article, however, Matzko does provide a balancing reference to the 1820 Methodist camp meeting:

D. Michael Quinn argues that, on the contrary, a Methodist camp meeting of 1820 can be fairly interpreted as the religious revival to which Joseph Smith refers and that Methodists typically only asked permission to use property for camp meetings rather than purchase the land.[5]palm

One need not refer to Quinn, however, to demonstrate that at least one Methodist camp meeting took play near Palymra in 1820. The Palymra Register notes the occurrence of a Methodist camp meeting in the area in June 1820. From the Palmyra Register June 28, 1820:

Effects of Drunkenness.—DIED at the house of Mr. Robert M'Collum, in this town, on the 26th inst. James Couser, aged about forty years. The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. M'Collum's house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication. He with his companion who was also in the same debasing condition, called for supper, which was granted. They both stayed all night—called for breakfast next morning—when notified that it was ready, the deceased was found wrestling with his companion, whom he flung with the greatest ease,—he suddenly sunk down upon a bench,—was taken with an epileptic fit, and immediately expires.—It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of the community too frequently resort for no better object, than to gratify their base propensities.[6]

We find in the subsequent issue that the Methodist's objected to the paper's implication of what happened at their camp meeting, and the Register published something of a retraction. From the Palmyra Register July 5, 1820:

"Plain Truth" is received. By this communication, as well as by the remarks of some of our neighbors who belong to the Society of Methodists, we perceive that our remarks accompanying the notice of the unhappy death of James Couser, contained in our last, have not been correctly understood. "Plain truth" says, we committed "an error in point of fact," in saying the Couser "obtained his liquor at the camp-ground." By this expression we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship, or that he procured it of them, but at the grog-shops that were established at, or near if you please, their camp-ground. It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for worship of their God. Neither did we intend to implicate them by saying that "the intemperate, the dissolute, &c. resort to their meetings."—And if so we have been understood by any one of that society, we assure them they have altogether mistaken our meaning.[7]

The Methodists were clearly holding camp meeting prior to their acquisition of property on Vienna road in 1821

  • The Palmya Register clearly records that the Methodist's were holding a camp meeting in June 1820. This contradicts the assertion that "Since the Methodists did not acquire property on the Vienna Road until July 1821, the camp meetings were almost certainly held after that date."
  • The newspaper did not report on this meeting directly—the camp meeting only became notable when a complaint was made by the Methodists regarding the association of the meeting with the death of a drunken man. This contradicts the critics' assertion that the absence of mention of a camp meeting or "revival" in the local newspaper means that one never occurred.
  • If the meetings were common then they were not news—they were only reported when something unusual happened, like a death. This suggests that not only were Methodists meeting locally in 1820 (something proven by the Palmyra Register account), but such meetings were probably a frequent occurrence.


Response to claim: 29 - The author claims that Joseph “did not publish his account of his first vision until 1842”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Joseph “did not publish his account of his first vision until 1842.”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph was sharing the story of his vision before it was published. Joseph wrote the first known account of his vision in his own hand in 1832. Joseph’s journal indicates that he was sharing details of his first vision with non-Mormon visitors by late 1835.


Question: Is there any mention of the First Vision in non-Mormon literature before 1843?

There are a number of reports in non-Latter-day Saint source which allude to the First Vision having occurred

The historical record supports the claim that the First Vision was mentioned in non-Mormon literature prior to 1843:

  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper of Mormon missionaries teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God personally and received a commission from Him to teach true religion (The Reflector, vol. 2, no. 13, 14 February 1831).
  • The “Articles and Covenants” of the Church - which contained a reference to something that happened during the First Vision - were published in a non-LDS newspaper (Telegraph, 19 April 1831).
  • Report in a non-LDS newspaper that Mormon missionaries were teaching at least six of the beginning elements of the First Vision story (Fredonia Censor, vol. 11, no. 50, 7 March 1832).
  • In April 1841 the British publication Athenæum (a literary weekly) reprinted material from Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account pamphlet.
  • A non-LDS newspaper printed the first elements of the First Vision story. They were first reported in the Congregational Observer [Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut] and then reprinted in the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, vol. 5, no. 23, 3 September 1841.
  • First Vision story elements from Orson Pratt's 1840 pamphlet were reprinted in The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, vol. 14 (new series), no. 42, July 1841, 370. Philadelphia: E. Littell and Co. (copied from the 1841 Athenæum article called “The Book of Mormon and the Mormonites”).
  • When the Rev. John A. Clark published his autobiography he 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 non-LDS college professor published the beginning story elements of the First Vision (Jonathan B. Turner, Mormonism in All Ages [New York: Platt and Peters, 1842], 14).

The majority of these reports are garbled, fragmentary, and out of proper context but this evidence still shows that the claim being made in the source cited above is not accurate.


Response to claim: 30- The author claims that “the revival that Smith described…did not happen until 1824-25, not in the year 1820”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that “the revival that Smith described…did not happen until 1824-25, not in the year 1820.”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph never claimed that the “excitement” on the subject of religion was a revival. There is evidence of substantial religious activity in the area during 1820.


Question: Did Lucy Mack Smith state when she joined the Presbyterians?

Lucy does not say when she joined the Presbyterians

Lucy Mack Smith does not say in her autobiography that she actually joined with the religious group that was composed of "all the churches". She only says that she desired to join with them. She may well have already been associated with the Presbyterians.

Lucy was baptized first and THEN in 1820 she formally joined a denomination

One Presbyterian author claims that "when Lucy reached Palmyra, she developed a connection with the Presbyterian church, even though she held aloof from membership." As support for this assertion, he cites Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 11-13 and notes that "Solomon Mack, Lucy's father, was a Universalist during her childhood but converted to orthodox Christianity in 1810." The author does not clarify the nature of Lucy's connection to the Presbyterian church after her arrival in Palmyra. Although he notes that Lucy "had sought spiritual comfort from a noted Presbyterian minister" while in Randolph, Vermont (citing Lucy's autobiography), he fails to note that this same autobiography provides the timeframe for when she was baptized. She says, “I concluded that my mind would be easier if I were baptized and I found a minister who was willing to baptize me and leave me free from membership in any church after which I pursued the same course until my oldest son [Alvin] attained his 22nd year” - which took place on 11 February 1820.

The "revival" mentioned by Lucy occurs one year prior to the 1824 revival

The "great revival in religion" that is mentioned in Mother Smith's autobiography appears to take place not long after Alvin's death in November 1823. In fact, it seems that it was Alvin's death that instigated this particular event. A disparity in timeframes (a one-year gap) calls any perceived connection between this event and Palmyra's 1824-25 revival into doubt. A ministerial eyewitness says that nothing much like a recognizable revival even took place in the village of Palmyra until December 1824 (The Methodist Magazine, vol. 8, no. 4, April 1825). Mother Smith does not mention any conversions during the December 1823 denomination-welding event which she describes while the December 1824 revival garnered more than 150 converts who joined themselves with various separate churches.

Lucy's family was suspended from fellowship in the Presbyterian church in March 1830

Church records confirm that Lucy's family was suspended from fellowship in the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra on March 10, 1830. The charge was 18 months of inactivity, which indicates that they had not attended since September 1828. This was one year after Joseph had received the plates. [8]

Joseph's actions support the First Vision account of his relatives joining the Presbyterians

Joseph Smith's comments to his mother about joining "any" church are significant. He said that taking such an action would be a mistake because of what was in the hearts of the adherents. During the First Vision the Lord told Joseph that the hearts of the members of the Christian denominations were far from Him (1832 account). Joseph also told his mother that if she did decide to join one of the churches she would not be long with them. This make perfect sense when it is remembered that just a few months prior to this time Joseph had informed his family that an angel had told him about golden plates and indicated that God was about to reveal "a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family" (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], chapter 18).

The facts contained within the primary source documents do not support the conclusions of the critics. Joseph Smith said that his mother and siblings were members of the Presbyterian church in 1820 when he had the First Vision and the writings of his mother and brother support that statement. Joseph Smith was not in a state of confusion or bent on deception when he recorded the occurrences of his past. Readers of the Prophet's history can have confidence in what is presented before them.


Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, "The Prophet Joseph Smith"

Elder D. Todd Christofferson,  Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, (24 September 2013)
Critics have also claimed that there were no religious revivals in the Palmyra, New York, area in 1820, as Joseph Smith reported in his history. With today’s greater access to original sources, including the Palmyra Register newspaper, there is ample evidence of religious revivals in the area during 1820 and some years prior. It appears that the Methodists had a regularly used camp meeting ground, and that revivals were common enough that often they garnered no coverage in the newspapers unless something out of the ordinary occurred such as a death. (Footnote 12)

Click here to view the complete article

Response to claim: 30 - The author states that “as of 1820, Joseph Smith was teaching that the Father and the Son both had physical bodies”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that “as of 1820, Joseph Smith was teaching that the Father and the Son both had physical bodies...”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Joseph Smith wasn’t teaching anything in 1820. He wasn’t teaching anything until the Book of Mormon was translated and published in 1830, ten years later.


Response to claim: 30 - The author states that the “early documents of Mormonism show that during the 1820s and early 1830s, Smith was teaching there was only one God”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that the “early documents of Mormonism show that during the 1820s and early 1830s, Smith was teaching there was only one God.”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources


Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[9]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[10]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - In the Book of Mormon one [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate

The Book of Mormon also 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.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[11] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [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.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[12]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[13] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [14] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [15]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[16]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[17]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[18]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[19]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[20]


Response to claim: 30 - Joseph Smith’s “plural god doctrine was not put forward until the 1840s in Nauvoo, Illinois”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Joseph Smith’s “plural god doctrine was not put forward until the 1840s in Nauvoo, Illinois.”

Author's sources:
  1. Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, Ohio: F.G. Williams & Co., 1835), 52-58. See also Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?’’ 143-62.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon, published in 1830, has many passages which distinguish between God the Father and his son Jesus Christ (just as the Bible does). However, the author here appears to be referring to "gods" other than the Father and the Son. This refers to the King Follett discourse, in which Joseph talked about the nature of God and the existence of other gods.

Ensign (This reprint was taken from the Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, pages 302–17), "The King Follett Sermon"

Joseph Smith, Jr.,  Ensign (This reprint was taken from the Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, pages 302–17), (May 1971)
In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted [prepared] a plan to create the world and people it. When we begin to learn this way, we begin to learn the only true God, and what kind of a being we have got to worship. Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer.

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Response to claim: 30 - In Joseph’s 1832 First Vision account, he said he was fifteen when “the Lord” appeared to him

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

In Joseph’s 1832 First Vision account, he said he was fifteen when “the Lord” appeared to him. Not only is his age different, but he described only one being, as opposed to the ‘two personages’ he had previously accounted for, in the vision.”

Author's sources:
  1. Joseph Smith’s 1832 history

FairMormon Response

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


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."


Gospel Topics, located on lds.org., "First Vision Accounts"

Gospel Topics, located 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.

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Response to claim: 30 - In his 1835 First Vision account, Joseph stated the he saw “many angels”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

In his 1835 First Vision account, Joseph stated the he saw “many angels.”

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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


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.[21]

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.[22]


Question: Why does Joseph Smith's 9 November 1835 account of the First Vision mention "many angels?"

Criticisms related to Joseph Smith's 9 November 1835 account of the First Vision

The capitalized word "Angels" in Joseph Smith's diary entry for 14 November 1835 has given rise to two distinct criticisms by detractors of the faith, and one misguided conclusion by some Latter-day Saints.

Criticism #1 - Critics note that this word is plainly used in reference to the First Vision and thus assume that Joseph Smith did not consistently claim to see Deity during this manifestation and that he therefore contradicted himself.
Criticism #2 - Critics conclude that the official History of the Church was "falsified" when this reference was changed without any notation.
Misguided Conclusion - Some conclude that since the word "Angels" is capitalized in the text Joseph Smith must have been applying this title to Deity.

Both the two personages and "many angels" are mentioned

The mention of "many angels" in the November 9, 1835 diary entry is a clarifying detail. The appearance of the Father and Son are clearly referenced separately from the mention of the "many angels." Since the visit of the Father and Son are acknowledged in the diary entry for the 9th the change from "first visitation of Angels" to "the First Vision" in the History of the Church entry is not a "falsification" of information.


Response to claim: 30 - in the 1832 account, Joseph “mentioned that he had already concluded that all churches were in apostasy before he went into the woods to pray

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that in the 1832 account, Joseph “mentioned that he had already concluded that all churches were in apostasy before he went into the woods to pray, while the official account of 1842 states that he had not concluded this until God so informed him in the vision.”

Author's sources:
  1. Joseph Smith’s 1832 history and Joseph Smith-History in the Pearl of Great Price.

FairMormon Response

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


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.


Question: How could Joseph Smith come to the conclusion that all churches were wrong on his own?

Joseph was in doubt as to what his duty was regarding joining a church

The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in a detailed examination of relevant texts. It is important to first compare Joseph Smith’s November 1832 text (which is in his own handwriting) with a newspaper article printed earlier that same year which refers to the Prophet’s inaugural religious experiences.

1832 (February): “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” (Fredonia Censor).
1832 (November): “my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations . . . . by searching the scriptures I found 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” (handwritten account by Joseph Smith).[23]

Joseph Smith concluded that none of the denominations with which he had acquaintance was built upon the New Testament gospel

When both of these texts are taken into consideration the following storyline suggests itself: Joseph Smith had come to the conclusion, through personal scripture study, that none of the denominations WITH WHICH HE HAD AN INTIMATE ACQUAINTANCE was built upon the New Testament gospel. He prayed for guidance because he was “in doubt what his duty was.” This doubt is obliquely referred to again in Oliver Cowdery’s February 1835 Messenger and Advocate partial First Vision recital where he said that because of the religious excitement the Prophet had “determination to know for himself of the certainty and reality of pure and holy religion.”[24]

Doubt is present again in the Prophet’s November 1835 diary entry: “I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequences.”[25] So the conclusion this fourteen-year-old boy had reached through personal scripture study did not altogether solve his dilemma. In fact, in the May 1838 account he clarifies that because of his youth and inexperience in life he could not make an absolute decision with regard to this matter: “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”; “I often said to myself, what is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? Or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right which is it, and how shall I know it?”; “if any person needed wisdom from God I did, for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had [I] would never know.”

Joseph wanted to know which of the many hundreds of denominations on earth was the correct one

Orson Pratt’s 1840 First Vision account helps to explain why the ‘Joseph-decided-every-existing-church-was-wrong’ theory cannot possibly be valid. Elder Pratt reports, “He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines now in the world which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was—if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it?” This expansive view is reflected in the Prophet’s 1838 account. There he states, “My object in going to enquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) and which I should join.”


Response to claim: 30 - the “earliest publication to print a ‘full history’ of the rise of Mormonism, the ‘’Messenger and Advocate’’, failed to mention Smith’s vision in 1820

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that the “earliest publication to print a ‘full history’ of the rise of Mormonism, the ‘’Messenger and Advocate’’, failed to mention Smith’s vision in 1820, starting instead with the angel appearing in Smith’s bedroom in 1823.”

Author's sources:
  1. Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?’’ 151-52.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This refers to Oliver Cowdery’s history published in the ‘’Messenger and Advocate” in 1834 and 1835. Oliver begins describing the religious excitement leading up to the First Vision when Joseph was 14 years old. Eight weeks later in the next installment, Oliver states that he made a mistake, changes Joseph’s age to 17, then describes Moroni’s visit without mentioning the First Vision.

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835"

Roger Nicholson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (December 6, 2013)
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.

Click here to view the complete article

Response to claim: 31 - Joseph Smith “engaged in folk magic and was occasionally hired to use his magical stone"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that Joseph Smith “engaged in folk magic and was occasionally hired to use his magical stone-found in a neighbor’s (Mr. Chase) well-to find buried treasures and lost objects. Since the Lord had so specifically instructed the nation of Israel not to engage in any magical practice, it is hard to believe that God would choose a magician to restore his church.

Author's sources:
  1. Leviticus 19:26; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10; Isaiah 19:3.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - 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 not a “magician.”


Question: Was a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters Joseph Smith's "mentor"?

The idea that Walter's "mantle" fell upon Joseph is the creation of an enemy of Joseph Smith, Abner Cole

It is claimed by some that a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the Palmyra area, and that when Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith. However, the idea that "Walters the Magician" was a mentor to Joseph Smith and that his "mantle" fell upon Joseph once Walters left the area originated with Abner Cole. Cole published a mockery of the Book of Mormon called the "Book of Pukei."

Matthew Brown discusses the "Book of Pukei":,

Cole claims in the "Book of Pukei" that the Book of Mormon really came into existence in the following manner:

  • Walters the Magician was involved in witchcraft and money-digging.
  • Walters was summoned to Manchester, New York by a group of wicked, idle, and slothful individuals—one of which was Joseph Smith.
  • Walters took the slothful individuals of Manchester out into the woods on numerous nighttime money-digging excursions. They drew a magic circle, sacrificed a rooster, and dug into the ground but never actually found anything.
  • The slothful group of Manchesterites then decided that Walters was a fraud. Walters himself admitted that he was an imposter and decided to skip town before the strong arm of the law caught up with him.
  • At this point, the mantle of Walters the Magician fell upon Joseph Smith and the rest of the Manchester rabble rallied around him.
  • The "spirit of the money-diggers" (who is identified implicitly with Satan in the text) appeared to Joseph Smith and revealed the Golden Bible to him.[26]


Matthew B. Brown, "Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith’s Foundational Stories"

Matthew B. Brown,  Proceedings of the 2006 FAIR Conference, (August 2006)
Abner Cole wanted to mock the Book of Mormon in his newspaper (The Reflector). He was most probably motivated to do this because he had violated copyright law by printing portions of the Book of Mormon in his paper and the Prophet Joseph Smith forced him to stop his illegal activity. Cole’s mockery text was called the “Book of Pukei.” In this peculiar literary production the editor took many authentic elements of the story of the Book of Mormon’s origin and mixed them together with elements of speculation that had been floating around the community. Cole utilized the dialogue of one of the characters in his mockery text to call Joseph Smith an ignoramus, a criminal, and a servant of Satan. It is in this text that Joseph Smith is first connected with a man from Great Sodus Bay, New York, called “Walters the Magician” (probably Luman Walter).

Click here to view the complete article

Response to claim: 31 - The author notes that in 1826 Joseph was charged with being a “disorderly person” and “glass looker”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that in 1826 Joseph was charged with being a “disorderly person” and “glass looker.” The author states that “glass looker” means “crystal ball user.”

Author's sources:
  1. Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?’’ 32-49.

FairMormon Response

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


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." [27]

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.


Response to claim: 31 - “Did he use the Urim and Thummim, prepared by God and stored with the plates, to translate the record, or did he use the chocolate-colored stone found in Mr. Chase’s well?”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

Regarding the Book of Mormon translation, the author asks, “Did he use the Urim and Thummim, prepared by God and stored with the plates, to translate the record, or did he use the chocolate-colored stone found in Mr. Chase’s well?”

Author's sources:
  1. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, ‘’Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet’s Wife, “Elect Lady,” Polygamy’s Foe 1804-1879’’(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984); David Whitmer, ‘’An Address to All Belivers in Christ’’ (Richmond, Mo.: David Whitmer, 1887), 12.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph used both instruments (the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone) during the translation.


Gospel Topics (lds.org), "Book of Mormon Translation"

Gospel Topics (lds.org), (2013)
These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters. In ancient times, Israelite priests used the Urim and Thummim to assist in receiving divine communications. Although commentators differ on the nature of the instrument, several ancient sources state that the instrument involved stones that lit up or were divinely illumin[at]ed. Latter-day Saints later understood the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer exclusively to the interpreters. Joseph Smith and others, however, seem to have understood the term more as a descriptive category of instruments for obtaining divine revelations and less as the name of a specific instrument.

Click here to view the complete article

Response to claim: 32 - The author claims that Joseph attempted to “join the Methodist Church in 1828, eight years after the Father and Son allegedly told him that all the churches were apostate

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Joseph attempted to “join the Methodist Church in 1828, eight years after the Father and Son allegedly told him that all the churches were apostate….Why did he ignore God’s command to ‘join none of them’?”

Author's sources:
  1. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, ‘’Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record’’ (Salt Lake City: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 55, 61, n. 49

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous 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.


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 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.[28]

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."[29] 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."[30]

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.”[31]

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.”[32]

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.[33]

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.”[34]

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.[35]

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.”[36] Pratt clarified in a much later statement that between 1820 and 1823 Joseph Smith "was not a member of any church."[37]

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


Response to claim: 33 - “the LDS concept of a total apostasy contradicts Christ’s promise that ‘I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that “the LDS concept of a total apostasy contradicts Christ’s promise that ‘I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is a misunderstanding the original Greek text. In this case, "hell" is not a reference to the powers or evil, or Satan.

The word translated as "hell" in the KJV is actually Hades, the dwelling place of all departed spirits. For the gates of Hades to not prevail against the church could mean that the gates would not be able to stop the church from entering therein. (By comparison, in The Gospel of Nicodemus the "gates" mentioned in Psalm 24 refer to the gates of Hades and the attempt made there to keep out Jesus in the period between his death and resurrection. [See The Gospel of Nicodemus, Part II, 6 in ANF 8:436-437.]) In other words, Christ’s Church, his disciples, would preach the gospel not only among the living, but also among the dead—not even the gates of Hades could keep them out.

Another interpretation is that "prevail" has reference to keeping inhabitants inside. In this thought, gates could only prevail against something that is already inside of them and not external to them. This interpretation would be that Christ was saying that His Church would soon be inside the gates of the spirit world alone because of apostasy on earth, but that the Church would later come out from the world of the dead and back to earth—that His Church would shortly be confined to the spirit world, held back by its gates, but that later, members of Christ's Ancient Church (such as Peter, James, and John) would come, by revelation, out from behind the gates of Hades to restore the gospel to the earth.

Both of the above readings are distinct possibilities. Both reconcile all the Biblical data.


Question: Does the fact that Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" mean that universal apostasy was impossible?

Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail

Some Christians argue that a universal apostasy is impossible, because Jesus told Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) It is claimed that this means the Church organized by Jesus would never suffer apostasy and loss.

Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail. Christ is the only sure foundation upon which a church can be built, and the knowledge of Christ must come as it always has, as it came to Peter—by direct revelation from the Father. Christ's Church will then be built upon those who have such revelation of Christ, including prophets and apostles.

The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits

The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits. Gates do not force people to enter or leave, but they do keep people from going in or out. Therefore, the Catholic and Protestant interpretations are not very intelligible whereas the Latter-day Saints can interpret the passage in at least two logical, Biblically sound ways.

It is not surprising that this issue revolves around how one interprets Jesus' remark. There are several options. Key to understanding the passage, however, is figuring out what the final "it" refers to: the church or the rock. Does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church," or does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against this rock?" If it refers to the "rock," then one must determine what "the rock" refers to. Similarly, the word "prevail" can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Catholic perspective: "this rock" is literally Peter

The Catholic church, of course, thinks that "this rock" is literally Peter, and have based their claims to apostolic succession on the unbroken succession of bishops of Rome back to Peter. Other churches must necessarily define a different meaning, because they cannot claim apostolic succession in this way.

Churches (such as the Protestants) who believe that the Church of Rome is somehow flawed or in apostasy from the pure truth must adopt a different reading.

Protestant perspective: "the rock" refers to the Christian Church

Protestant readers have generally interpreted "the rock" to refer to the Christian Church. Under this reading, Jesus is promising that the church will never be entirely overcome by death and/or the forces of Satan.

Latter-day Saint perspective: the only true, unmovable rock that exists is revelation from God

Latter-day Saints have generally read this verse as referring to the only true, unmovable rock that exists--revelation from God. That is the rock upon which any Church must be built, and it is evidenced by the verses just before this one. In Matthew 16:13-17, the subject is literally revelation given to Peter as to who Jesus Christ really is. This knowledge came by revelation from God (Matthew 16:17), and Christ taught Peter that this revelation is the rock upon which He would build His Church. This is confirmed by Joseph Smith's teachings.

Jesus in His teaching says, “upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What rock? Revelation.[38]

Both the Protestant and Catholic versions must contend with the fact that other Biblical authors taught an inevitable apostasy. It would seem strange for such Biblical authors, including Peter, to teach something which Jesus here denies.

One must also notice that gates only prevail against something by keeping it out or by holding it in. It makes little sense for gates, which by nature keep inhabitants in or out of a place, to "prevail" by forcing something to enter is completely illogical. The Catholic and Protestant interpretations force an interpretation that isn't logical, namely, that gates prevail by forcing someone to enter or someone to leave. Gates, of course, serve no such function. Gates keep things in or out, but they do not force things to go in or to go out.

"Prevail" meaning "to keep out"

The word translated as "hell" in the KJV is actually Hades, the dwelling place of all departed spirits. For the gates of Hades to not prevail against them could mean that the gates would not be able to stop the church from entering therein. (By comparison, in The Gospel of Nicodemus the "gates" mentioned in Psalm 24 refer to the gates of Hades and the attempt made there to keep out Jesus in the period between his death and resurrection.[39] In other words, Christ’s Church, his disciples, would preach the gospel not only among the living, but also among the dead—not even the gates of Hades could keep them out.

In this context, Jesus gives Peter the sealing power to bind on earth and have it bound in heaven. For Latter-day Saints the word "bind" in Matthew 16:19 is synonymous with "seal." This passage has reference to priesthood authority to perform ordinances or sacraments, such as baptism, echoing the Shepherd of Hermas’ usage of the word "seal."[40] When a baptism (seal) is performed vicariously for the dead by proper priesthood authority, the seal (baptism) is recognized in heaven. Thus, Joseph Smith explained, "there is a way to release the spirit of the dead; that is, by the power and authority of the Priesthood—by binding and loosing on earth."[41]

As extreme as this interpretation may seem, this was not a foreign concept to early Christians. Clement of Alexandria (AD 160-215), among others, believed that the apostles of Christ preached the gospel to the departed spirits in Hades. "And it has been shown also…that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the master..."[42]

"Prevail" meaning "to keep in"

Another interpretation is that "prevail" has reference to keeping inhabitants inside. In this thought, gates could only prevail against something that is already inside of them and not external to them. This interpretation would be that Christ was saying that His Church would soon be inside the gates of the spirit world alone because of apostasy on earth, but that the Church would later come out from the world of the dead and back to earth—that His Church would shortly be confined to the spirit world, held back by its gates, but that later, members of Christ's Ancient Church (such as Peter, James, and John) would come, by revelation, out from behind the gates of Hades to restore the gospel to the earth.

Both of the above readings are distinct possibilities. Both reconcile all the Biblical data.

"Prevail" meaning "shut up against"

A literal translation of the passage reads as follows:

"You are Peter or a small stone broken from a larger rock and upon the original larger rock I will establish my church and the gates of the world of spirts, or sheol, will not be shut up against my church or overpower the dead saints."[43]

In this context the passage could be Christ teaching that the spirits of the departed will have the chance to hear the gospel. This is supported by Peter's teaching about Christ's ministry to the world of spirits just prior to his resurrection in 2 Peter 3:18-22 through 2 Peter 4:1-6).

Latter-day Saints believe that this sealing power given to Peter is the same power and keys that can seal families on both sides of the veil.

Jesus is also the Rock

It is not just revelation, however, that is key, but the revelation of Christ by God the Father.

The image of a rock is found throughout scripture, and bears directly on Jesus' remark to Peter:

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-22)

Paul argues that the Church is built on a foundation of, among others, apostles and prophets, who were grounded in Christ as the cornerstone. Thus, Christ is the rock, as are those who receive revelation of Christ (such as the apostles and prophets) and His mission as part of their calling. Significantly, the apostasy resulted in the loss of apostolic authority (unless one accepts the apostolic succession of Rome).

Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against presuming they could build on anyone or thing besides Christ:

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:9-23) (emphasis added)

Paul tells the saints that they are building the Church; but the Church cannot be built on man or men, even great men like Paul, Apollos, or Peter. (Of course, one cannot reject the testimony of the prophets and apostles either. But, relying on a mortal, fallible man alone will not suffice.)

Only Christ is a sufficiently firm basis for faith, practice, and belief. And, Christ cannot be found through the "wisdom of this world," but only through on-going revelation.

Paul noted the use of the same symbol later in the epistle, tying the Christians to covenant Israel:

MOREOVER, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) (emphasis added)

One must ask again, How was Israel guided? By a prophet, who provided knowledge by revelation of the Rock of Israel. This symbol was a common one, of course, for the Israelites:

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)


Response to claim: 33 - the Book of Hebrews “explains that the Aaronic priesthood was brought to an end with the death of Christ and that Christ is our only eternal High Priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek’”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that the Book of Hebrews “explains that the Aaronic priesthood was brought to an end with the death of Christ and that Christ is our only eternal High Priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek.’”

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

}}

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:

Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...]

The Church uses the Aaronic priesthood as a "preparatory" priesthood, but has no disagreement with the idea that the Melchizedek priesthood contains greater power and authority, and is vital to the government of the Church of Christ. It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).


Question: Why do Mormons use the Aaronic Priesthood, since Hebrews 7 states that the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood was "changed" to the unique priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek" held by Jesus Christ?

The idea that the Melchizedek Priesthood superseded the Aaronic Priesthood is a correct one, but this does not necessarily imply that there is no Aaronic Priesthood

As other Christians see it, the Aaronic Priesthood is like a small glass of water that is replaced by a fruit juice (the Melchizedek Priesthood). They are distinguished from each other, in most Christians' eyes, as quite separate things.

The LDS would use a different metaphor to explain things: they might compare the Aaronic Priesthood to a glass of water that is filled only part way. Instead of being replaced by an entirely different drink, more water is poured into it until it is a full glass (the Melchizedek Priesthood).

From a Mormon perspective, the two priesthoods are really the same substance: the power of God delegated to man

From whence do the two priesthoods originate? The same source—God. What is the purpose of the two priesthoods? They bring mortals to the Lord (note that only the Melchizedek Priesthood can do so entirely—see Hebrews 7:11—but the Aaronic Priesthood was instrumental in keeping ancient Israel holy and pure). The Aaronic Priesthood is merely a limited form of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or (as LDS scriptures call it) an "appendage" to it (D&C 107:13–14).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:

Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...][44]

Why does the Aaronic Priesthood persist in the Church?

So, if the Church possesses the Melchizedek priesthood, then why would the Aaronic Priesthood persist today? The Aaronic priesthood serves as a 'preparatory priesthood' (see D&C 84:26.) Just as the Levitical authority in ancient Israel acted as a "schoolmaster" to prepare Israel to receive Christ (see Galatians 3:24–25), in the modern Church the Aaronic priesthood serves to school young men for service in God's kingdom on earth.

The modern Aaronic priesthood's organizational structure follows the pattern established by the New Testament Church, and consists of Deacons (see Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12–13), Teachers (Acts 13:1,1 Corinthians 12:28–29), and Priests (see Acts 6:7), and countless references in the Old Testament to Levitical/Aaronic 'priests').

Each Aaronic priesthood office is trusted with more responsibility, providing LDS young men with the opportunity to progress and mature until they are ready to receive the priesthood in full—the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Aaronic priesthood duties and function similar to ancient Israel

Despite some modern differences from ancient Israel, the Aaronic Priesthood is not much different compared to ancient times.

The Aaronic priesthood performs two ordinances (some Christian groups would call these 'sacraments').

  1. Baptism: John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood, which holds the keys of baptism, and baptism is of course a fundamental part of salvation through Christ (see Acts 2:38).
  2. Sacrifice: The modern Church does not, of course, sacrifice animals because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, giving us the last great sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:2). Yet, the Church rejoices in and recalls His sacrifice for us by partaking of the sacrament ("communion" or "the Lord's supper" in other denominations) Matthew 26:26-29). Thus, the modern priest repeats a ceremony of atonement and sacrifice through the sacrament of the Lord's supper; this plays a similar theological role to the animal sacrifices offered by Aaronic priests anticipation of Christ's atonement and resurrection.

Separation of priesthood duties in the New Testament Church

It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).


Response to claim: 33 - the Church was originally named “The Church of Christ,” followed by “The Church of the Latter Day Saints"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that the Church was originally named “The Church of Christ,” followed by “The Church of the Latter Day Saints,” and then ultimately changed by revelation to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Author's sources:
  1. Doctrine and Covenants 115:4.

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 original name of the Church, and the subsequent name “Church of the Latter Day Saints” were not received by revelation. The name of the Church was ultimately given by revelation to be “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”


Question: How many times was the name of the Church changed through revelation?

Criticisms regarding the name of the Church

Critics of the Church ask: Why did the Church change its name twice during its history? Shouldn't the name have been given by revelation? [45] In 1834 the name of the Church was changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”. Why would Joseph remove the name of “Jesus Christ” from the name of his Church? In 1838, the name of the Church was changed to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (there was originally no hyphen in the name). Why was the name of the Church changed again?

The name of the Church was changed through revelation only once

Christ only instructed Joseph through revelation to change the name of the Church once, as described in DC 115:3. Prior to that time, the Church was referred to by several different names, including "The Church of Christ," "Church of Jesus Christ," "Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints," "The Church of God" and "The Church of Latter Day Saints." The only name for the Church established by revelation was the one mentioned in DC 115:3.

...for thus it shall be called, and unto all the elders and people of my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scattered abroad in all the world.

None of the other names by which the Church was known were established by revelation.

David Whitmer disagreed with the change in the name of the Church and it was one of the reasons for his disaffection

It is interesting to note that the change in the name of the Church bothered David Whitmer. Whitmer insisted that the original name of the Church, the "Church of Christ," was the only proper one, and claimed that it had been given by revelation. There is no known revelation to support this claim however, unless you count the Book of Mormon itself. Whitmer appears to be using the Book of Mormon to support this claim (the Book of Mormon uses "Church of Christ".)

It should also be noted that, according to Whitmer, Joseph didn't promote the name change from the "Church of Christ" to the "Church of the Latter Day Saints." Whitmer claimed that it was Sidney Rigdon who pushed to change the name to "Church of the Latter Day Saints":

In June, 1829, the Lord gave us the name by which we must call the church, being the same as He gave the Nephites. We obeyed His commandment, and called it THE CHURCH OF CHRIST until 1834, when, through the influence of Sydney Rigdon, the name of the church was changed to "The Church of the Latter Day Saints," dropping out the name of Christ entirely, that name which we were strictly commanded to call the church by, and which Christ by His own lips makes so plain. (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).)


Response to claim: 34 - Joseph received the promise that a temple in Independence, Missouri would be “reared in this generation"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that Joseph received the promise that a temple in Independence, Missouri would be “reared in this generation,” yet “the LDS Church has not built the temple in Independence.”

Author's sources:
  1. Doctrine and Covenants 84:3-5

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This was not a prophecy, but a command from God to build the temple


Question: Was Joseph Smith's prophecy that the Independence, Missouri temple "shall be reared in this generation" a failed prophecy?

Jesus Christ used the very same terminology in Matthew 24:34: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled"

There is a double standard of interpretation that critics use against Joseph Smith, since Jesus Christ used the very same terminology. Matthew 24:34 quotes Christ as saying, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Luke 21:32 repeats this prophecy. The term "these things" refers to wars, famines, the sun being darkened, and even the "stars falling from heaven." Some of "these things" occurred during Christ's time period. Some have continued since then. Some have escalated into our time. Some have not occurred yet.

So we must ask, since Joseph Smith is charged with false prophecy concerning "this generation," did Jesus Christ utter a false prophecy? Absolutely not! So, if Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about "this generation," then so did Christ. It has been many centuries longer from the time of Christ until now, than it has been from the 1830's till today.

The word "generation" has different meanings. According to scripture, the word "generation" can have reference to a time frame, a people, or even a dispensation. Without specific wording which would indicate exactly what the word "generation" means, it is dishonest to accuse one (Joseph Smith) of false prophecy, while accepting another (Jesus Christ) when both use it in a general form.

Joseph Smith's revelation in D&C 84 may appear on the surface to be a failed prophecy, but a more informed reading reveals that it may not have been a prophecy, and if it is, its fulfillment is still in the future.

When the scriptures use words such as "this generation," "a little season," "nigh," "soon to come," "quickly," and "in due time," it can mean several years, or even centuries

The main problem critics have in interpreting D&C 84 is timing. They cannot understand that when the scriptures use words such as "this generation," "a little season," "nigh," "soon to come," "quickly," and "in due time," it can mean several years, or even centuries. They have no problem with accepting a long time when the Bible makes these statements, but they refuse to interpret Joseph Smith with the same standard. To criticize such terminology is to claim the Bible false. The four hundred years of Israel's Egyptian captivity was a "little season" to the Lord. All the scriptural terms of time (nigh, shortly come to pass, at the doors, about to be, soon to be, in due time, not many days, a little season, near, close at hand, time will come, not many years, and generation) are not specific in numbers of years. Most of them are conditional. To say that "next generation" as used in the Bible can mean thousands of years, and turn around and say these very same words mean only a hundred years when used in the Doctrine and Covenants is hypocritical. Scripture comes from one source, God. His prophets write as they are inspired by the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Bible use the same terms, with the same meaning, because they come from the same source. You cannot interpret one in one way, and another in a different way. When the Lord wants something accomplished, it will be done, in the Lords time.

Historical background

On 20 July 1831 Joseph Smith recorded a revelation identifying Independence, Missouri, as "the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse" (DC 57:3). Joseph and Sidney Rigdon dedicated a site for the temple on 3 August 1831. The following year, Joseph received another revelation concerning the gathering to Zion:

2 [T]he 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 to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

5 For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house (DC 84:2-5, (emphasis added)).The Saints were expelled from Jackson County in late 1833, before they could make any progress on the temple. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to return to reclaim their lands. After they settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph recorded another revelation rescinding the earlier commandment to build the Independence temple:

49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings....

51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God (DC 124:49,51).

It is unclear from the wording of the 1832 revelation whether Joseph Smith meant it to be a prophecy or a commandment

When he declared the "temple shall be reared in this generation," it's possible that he meant this as a directive (Compare to the ten commandments: "thou shalt.." and D&C 59:5-13). If this is the case, D&C 84 is not actually a prophecy. Webster's 1828 dictionary noted of "shall":

In the second and third persons [i.e., when applied to another person], shall implies a promise, command or determination. "You shall receive your wages," "he shall receive his wages," imply that you or he ought to receive them; but usage gives these phrases the force of a promise in the person uttering them. [46]

Thus, "shall" indicates a promise or command—and, LDS theology (with its strong emphasis on moral agency) always holds that man is free to accept or reject the commandments or promises of God, and that God will often not overrule the free-agent acts of others which might prevent his people from obeying. In such cases, God rewards the faithful for their willingness and efforts to obey, and punishes the guilty accordingly.

If the revelation is meant as a prophecy, the timeline for its fulfillment depends on what Joseph meant by "generation"

Typically we consider this to mean the lifespan of those living at the time of the revelation. However, in scriptural language "generation" can indicate a longer period of time.

During his ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus revealed the signs of his second coming, and prophesied that "this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34). All those who heard his prophecy died nearly 2,000 years ago, so evidently Jesus meant "generation" to mean "age" or some other long period of time. It's possible that Joseph meant the same thing in his revelation about the Independence temple, and therefore the time period for its fulfillment is still open.

In Easton’s Bible Dictionary of 1897, the English word “generation” is variably defined with reference to the KJV text:

Gen. 2:4, "These are the generations," means the "history." 5:1, "The book of the generations," means a family register, or history of Adam. 37:2, "The generations of Jacob" = the history of Jacob and his descendants. 7:1, "In this generation" = in this age. Ps. 49:19, "The generation of his fathers" = the dwelling of his fathers, i.e., the grave. Ps. 73:15, "The generation of thy children" = the contemporary race. Isa. 53:8, "Who shall declare his generation?" = His manner of life who shall declare? or rather = His race, posterity, shall be so numerous that no one shall be able to declare it. In Matt. 1:17, the word means a succession or series of persons from the same stock. Matt. 3:7, "Generation of vipers" = brood of vipers. 24:34, "This generation" = the persons then living contemporary with Christ. 1 Pet. 2:9, "A chosen generation" = a chosen people. The Hebrews seem to have reckoned time by the generation. In the time of Abraham a generation was an hundred years, thus: Gen. 15:16, "In the fourth generation" = in four hundred years (comp. verse 13 and Ex. 12:40). In Deut. 1:35 and 2:14 a generation is a period of thirty-eight years.

So, the nineteenth-century understanding of KJV Biblical/religious usage of "generation" includes such variations as:

  • all the descendants of
  • history
  • contemporaries
  • succession or series of people from same stock
  • race, posterity
  • one hundred years
  • thirty-eight years
  • people

Contemporary with Joseph Smith, Webster's 1828 dictionary defined "generation" as:

...2. A single succession in natural descent, as the children of the same parents; hence, an age. Thus we say, the third, the fourth, or the tenth generation. Gen.15.16. 3. The people of the same period, or living at the same time. O faithless and perverse generation. Luke 9. 4. Genealogy; a series of children or descendants from the same stock. This is the book of the generations of Adam. Gen.5. 5. A family; a race. 6. Progeny; offspring. [47]

Webster relied heavily on examples drawn from the KJV of the Bible in his definitions. Thus, when those of Joseph's era used Biblical language speaking of "generations," they understood multiple potential meanings. Whether these shades of meaning were intended by the original biblical authors is immaterial; they reflect the usage of religious English in Joseph's day.

Note the double standard of interpretation critics use against Joseph Smith, for Jesus Christ used the very same terminology

Let's look at what Jesus himself said to the people of his day concerning prophecies of His second coming. Matthew 24:34 quotes Christ as saying, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Luke 21:32 repeats this prophecy.

What are "all these things," and have they come to pass?

  1. Many shall come in Christ's name, deceiving many (Matthew 24:5, Luke 21:8)
  2. Wars and rumours of wars (Matthew 24:6, Luke 21:9-10)
  3. Famines (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  4. Pestilences (Mathew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  5. Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  6. Apostles killed (Matthew 24:9, Luke 21:16)
  7. Many shall be offended (Matthew 24:10)
  8. Many shall be betrayed (Matthew 24:10)
  9. Men will hate one another (Matthew 24:10)
  10. False prophets will deceive many (Matthew 24:11)
  11. Iniquity shall abound (Matthew 24:12)
  12. Love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12)
  13. Gospel shall be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14)
  14. Distress of nations (Luke 21:25)
  15. Men's hearts will fail them because of fear (Luke 21:11)
  16. Sun shall be darkened (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  17. Moon shall not give her light (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  18. Stars shall fall from heaven (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  19. Sign of the Son of man shall appear (Matthew 24:30, Luke 21:27)

Some of "these things" occurred during Christ's time period. Some have continued since then. Some have escalated into our time. Some have not occurred yet. So we must ask, since Joseph Smith is charged with false prophecy concerning "this generation," did Jesus Christ utter a false prophecy? Absolutely not! But, according to the critics' rules of interpretation, he did, because "this generation" passed away without "all these things" being fulfilled. So, if Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about "this generation" so did Christ. I have never read anything from anyone who is a critic of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that attacks Jesus Christ, or the Bible, for making a prophecy of "this generation" which has not yet occurred. Yet it has been many centuries longer from the time of Christ until now, than it has been from the 1830's till today. It should be noted that D&C 84 does not say the "people now living," it says "this generation." The word "generation" has different meanings. According to scripture, the word "generation" can have reference to a time frame, a people, or even a dispensation. Without specific wording which would indicate exactly what the word "generation" means, it is dishonest to accuse one (Joseph Smith) of false prophecy, while accepting another (Jesus Christ) when both use it in a general form.


Response to claim: 35 - The author states that Joseph Smith predicted that the Lord would come within “fifty-six years”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that Joseph Smith predicted that the Lord would come within “fifty-six years” and that this “prophecy never came true either.”

Author's sources:
  1. Joseph Smith, ‘’History of the Church’’, vol. 2 (Salt Lake Cithy: Deseret Book Co., 1978), 182.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The authors do not note that Joseph wasn't really sure what this meant.


Question: Did Joseph Smith prophesy that Jesus Christ would return in 1890?

Jesus Christ stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return

It is important to realize that while Jesus Christ resided on the earth he stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).

Because we do not know, we need to constantly be ready for his return, for "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).

In February 1835, Joseph Smith is reported to have said that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene"

Joseph Smith did make several interesting statements about seeing the Savior. B.H. Roberts in History of the Church notes the Prophet's remark in 1835 when he is reported to have said that,

...it was the will of God that those who went Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.[48]

In Feb 1835, fifty six years in the future was February 1891. This would be shortly after Joseph's 85th birthday (he was born 23 December 1805).

Joseph made continuous reference to this date in light of a revelation which he reported. It is recorded in D&C 130:14-17, and it is clear that the revelation leaves the exact date of Christ's second coming much more uncertain. Whatever Joseph meant or understood by "wind up the scene," it must be interpreted in light of the revelation as he reported it, and the conclusions which he drew from it.

This particular revelation is a favorite of anti-Mormon critics. They have misquoted it, misreported it, misinterpreted it and misexplained it. Most often they simply do not complete the quote, making it appear that the Prophet said something he didn't.

Joseph acknowledged as he recorded this revelation that he didn't understand its meaning or intent

The revelation is reported in abbreviated form, and Joseph acknowledged as he recorded it that he didn't understand its meaning or intent:

I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. (D&C 130:14-15).

Many critics end the quote at this point, and then they hope the reader will assume that the statement is a prophecy that the Savior would come in the year 1890 or 1891, since the Prophet Joseph was born in 1805. (Other critics do not even bother to cite D&C 130, and simply rely on the quote from the Kirtland Council Minute Book of 1835, reproduced in History of the Church.)

Joseph expresses his uncertainty: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time"

However, if the reader will continue further in that passage, they will see how Joseph Smith himself understood the revelation, unfiltered through note-takers or critics who wish to explain his meaning:

I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face (D&C :130).

The actual content of Joseph's prophecy--if personal opinion can be said to be prophecy--does not occur until the next verse:

I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.(D&C 130:17.)

Without a doubt, Joseph's belief proved correct. The Lord did not return to the earth for His Second Coming before that time.

At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man

But there are other aspects of fulfillment that should also be considered. We do not know when it was that the Prophet earnestly prayed to know the time of the Lord's coming. The context, (verse 13), shows that it may have taken place in 1832 or earlier. At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man. D&C 76:20-24 and D&C 110:2-10 both record appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, either of which may constitute fulfillment of the Lord's prophetic promise. He may also have seen the Lord's face at the time of his death in 1844, as he pondered in D&C 130:16.

Joseph made reference to the incident on at least two other occasions, and indicated that his belief was not that the Lord would come by the time of his 85th birthday, but rather that the Lord would not come before that time, which of course was a correct prophecy.

In the History of the Church:

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.[49]

Again, Joseph Smith doesn't say the Lord will come then, but that He will not come before that time. The return to his age 85 shows that all these remarks derive from the same interpretation of his somewhat opaque revelation from the Lord, who seems determined to tell his curious prophet nothing further.

Joseph denies that anyone knows an exact date

Later, Joseph Smith again prophesied on the subject of Christ's coming:

I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers.[50]

This remark was made on 10 March 1844. It echoes a teaching given through Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants in March 1831:

And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49:6-7, emphasis added)

Thus, from the beginning to the end of his ministry, Joseph Smith denied that a man could or would know the date of the second coming of Christ. (Joseph's remarks may have been instigated by the intense interest among religious believers in William Miller's prophecy that Christ would return by 1843.)


Response to claim: 35 - The 1835 edition of the Doctrines and Covenants contained “major revisions to already published revelations"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The 1835 edition of the Doctrines and Covenants contained “major revisions to already published revelations, [and] added revelations given since the last printing.”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith did indeed edit previous revelations.


Question: What are the reasons for the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?

The Doctrine and Covenants was changed in order to correct errors or mistakes due to the human process of writing down revelations, as well as integrate new revelatory material

Wrote Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2009:

One of Joseph Smith’s tasks in reviewing the manuscripts prior to their publication was to “correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit.” Joseph knew from experience that the human process of writing down revelations, copying them into manuscript books, and then passing them through various hands in preparation for publication inevitably introduced unintentional errors. Sometimes changes were required to clarify wording. Occasionally, later revelations would supersede or update previously received revelations, necessitating the editing of documents to alter previous versions. Various other changes were also made from time to time. Most of these, such as dividing the text into verses or clarifying meaning, did not involve substantive corrections.

Joseph seemed to regard the manuscript revelations as his best efforts to capture the voice of the Lord condescending to communicate in what Joseph called the “crooked, broken, scattered, and imperfect language” of men." The revealed preface to the published revelations also seems to express this principle: “I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (DC 1:24).

Joseph and his associates were appointed by the actions of Church conferences to prepare the revelations for publication by correcting the texts. Recent analysis of both manuscript revelation books reveals how and when many of the changes were made. For example, some changes were made before selected items were published in Missouri, while others were made in Ohio before the 1835 publication of the Doctrine and Covenants.

One common example involves changes made by Sidney Rigdon. He often changed the language in the revelations from the biblical “thee,” “thy,” and “thine” to the modern “you,” “your,” and “yours.” Many of these changes were later reversed. He also corrected grammar and changed some of the language to clarify and modify words and meaning.

In a few cases, more substantive changes were made as revelations were updated for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. For example, section 20 was originally received in 1830, before much of the leadership structure of the Church as we know it today was revealed to Joseph Smith. By 1835 Joseph had organized many offices and quorums by revelation. To include this newly revealed ecclesiastical order, several text changes and additions were incorporated into section 20. Our current verses 65–67 on ordaining men to priesthood offices, for instance, had been revealed after the 1833 publication and were subsequently added to the 1835 publication.

Joseph Smith reviewed many of his associates’ editorial changes and made slight alterations in his own hand before A Book of Commandments was published in 1833. He made additional changes, including adding surnames to individuals mentioned in the revelations, just before the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835.

Sometime around 1834–35 in Kirtland, Ohio, Revelation Book 2 was used for the preparation of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, and all but eight items in the manuscript book were published in that 1835 volume. In contrast, just three of the revelations copied into the book were published in A Book of Commandments in 1833. Two of the manuscript book’s revelations were first published in the 1844 Doctrine and Covenants.

Subsequent editing changes through the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants involved occasional word changes, but the major substantive changes occurred under the Prophet Joseph’s guidance for the 1835 edition. [51]


Question: How do Mormons understand prophetic revelation?

Mormons do not believe in a doctrine of prophetic infallibility

It is important to realize that the LDS Church does not believe in a doctrine of prophetic inerrancy. Prophets are not fax machines; they do not simply "download" messages from God. Rather, God inspires prophets through a variety of means: the prophet may be given precise words to speak or simply receive information which he is to communicate in any way which suits his listeners. Many critics come from conservative Protestant backgrounds and religious traditions which endorse doctrines of Biblical inerrancy. (Some members of the Church may also have absorbed some 'fundamentalist' ideas about scripture and prophets.) Both groups of people will be troubled by this doctrine because it does not match their preconceptions, but Joseph Smith cannot be faulted for not following a prophetic model which he never endorsed and which the Church does not teach.

Furthermore, revelation is not always an instantaneous event—it may often be a process of studying a matter out, and applying reason and effort to achieve greater clarity and understanding. [52]

Revelation is delivered to a prophet "after the manner of their language"

The Doctrine and Covenants itself announces that:

Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.DC 1:24

Thus, the Doctrine and Covenants acknowledges the weakness of the prophets through which they came, and insists that the wording is in the manner of their language, not direct, word-for-word divine sound bites.

Brigham Young (who authored one of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants—DC 136: described the process in similar terms:

I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities...

The laws that the Lord has given are not fully perfect, because the people could not receive them in their perfect fulness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little to-morrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive... [53]

And, there were even times when others besides Joseph were assigned to collaborate in writing the revelations—clear evidence that there was not "only one true" version of the revelation. (See DC 124:12-16.)


Question: Were the changes to the revelations hidden from the Church members?

Oliver clearly understood that some changes were corrections, and some were additions given by revelation which were made prior to publication

One aspect of the prophet's mission includes the editing and modification of revelation prior to publication. There is plenty of evidence that the Church has done nothing to hide the fact that changes were made.

This information has been available since the first publication of the revelations which later became the Doctrine and Covenants. The Saints of Joseph Smith's day had read the revelations in their initial form, many having been published in Church newspapers. Oliver Cowdery wrote, upon the publication of the revised revelations:

On the revelations we merely say, that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We had given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were entrusted with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church, and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct. If not in every word, at least in principle. For the special good of the church we have also added a few items from other revelations. [54]

Oliver clearly understood that some changes were corrections, and some were additions given by revelation which were made prior to publication.

Orson Pratt noted that "line was added upon line to several of the sections and paragraphs about to be published"

In 1854, Orson Pratt discussed changes:

We often had access to the manuscripts when boarding with the Prophet; and it was our delight to read them over and over again, before they were printed. And so highly were they esteemed by us, that we committed some to memory; and a few we copied for the purpose of reference in our absence on missions; and also to read them to the saints for their edification. These copies are still in our possession. When at length the time arrived to print the manuscripts, it was thought best not to publish them all, on account of our enemies, who were seeking every means to destroy the Prophet and the Church…. It was concluded, through the suggestions of the Spirit, that by altering the real names given in the manuscripts, and substituting fictitious ones in their stead, they might thus safely appear in print without endangering the welfare of the individuals whose real names were contained therein….

It may be asked, had the Prophet a right to alter names given by revelation and substitute fictitious ones in their stead? We reply, that it is only the printed edition that contains the substituted names, while the original manuscripts, that are safely preserved in the hands of the church, contain the names as they were originally given. Moreover, the substitution of fictitious names for persons and places does not alter or destroy the sense or ideas contained in the revelations. But what the Prophet did in relation to this thing, was not of himself; he was dictated by the Holy Ghost to make these substitutions…. And by revelation line was added upon line to several of the sections and paragraphs about to be published.

But some may inquire, are not the Almighty’s revelations perfect when they are first given? And if so, where was the propriety of the Lord’s adding any thing to them, when they were already perfect? We reply that every word of God is perfect; but He does not reveal all things at once, but adds ‘line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little,’ revealing as the people are able to bear, or as circumstances require…. The Lord, therefore, adds to His own revelations whenever he thinks proper.[55]

"The Prophet was inspired in several instances to write additional sentences and paragraphs to the earlier revelations"

In 1857, the Millennial Star noted:

Joseph, the Prophet, in selecting the revelations from the Manuscripts, and arranging them for publication, did not arrange them according to the order of the date in which they were given, neither did he think it necessary to publish them all in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, but left them to be published more fully in his History. Hence, paragraphs taken from revelations of a later date, are, in a few instances, incorporated with those of an earlier date. Indeed, at the time of compilation, the Prophet was inspired in several instances to write additional sentences and paragraphs to the earlier revelations. In this manner the Lord did truly give ‘line upon line, here a little and there a little,’ the same as He did to a revelation that Jeremiah received, which, after being burned by the wicked king of Israel, the Lord revealed over again with great numbers of additional words (See Jeremiah 36:32) [56]


Question: Have edits to the revelations been discussed in the present day?

The official Church magazine, the Ensign has published several discussions of the editing process

  • Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ensign (December 1984), 32. off-site
  • Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign (January 1985), 27. off-site
  • Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  • Gerrit Dirkmaat, "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Ensign (January 2013). off-site

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference

Elder Boyd K. Packer also discussed the changes to the revelations in general conference:

Some have alleged that these books of revelation are false, and they place in evidence changes that have occurred in the texts of these scriptures since their original publication. They cite these changes, of which there are many examples, as though they themselves were announcing revelation. As though they were the only ones that knew of them.

Of course there have been changes and corrections. Anyone who has done even limited research knows that. When properly reviewed, such corrections become a testimony for, not against, the truth of the books.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was an unschooled farm boy. To read some of his early letters in the original shows him to be somewhat unpolished in spelling and grammar and in expression.

That the revelations came through him in any form of literary refinement is nothing short of a miracle. That some perfecting should continue strengthens my respect for them.

Now, I add with emphasis that such changes have been basically minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation, clarification. Nothing fundamental has been altered.

Why are they not spoken of over the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so insignificant, and unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about. After all, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books are true.

After compiling some of the revelations, the ancient prophet Moroni said, “… if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mormon 8:17) “And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. …” (Mormon 8:12) [57]

It is difficult to understand how detailing changes and discussing them in general conference constitutes "hiding the truth." Church members pay comparatively little attention to such matters, however, because the mechanism by which revelations are produced are of far less importance than the content of the revelations, and whether the revelations are true.

B.H. Roberts discussed the changes in the revelations

And, B.H. Roberts also wrote of the publication of the revelations in 1833 that they

were revised by the Prophet himself in the way of correcting errors made by the scribes and publishers; and some additional clauses were inserted to throw increased light upon the subjects treated in the revelations, and paragraphs added, to make the principles for instructions apply to officers not in the Church at the time some of the earlier revelations were given. The addition of verses 65, 66, and 67 in sec. XX of the Doctrine and Covenants is an example. [58]

Marlin K. Jensen discussed the changes to the revelations

With the advent of the Joseph Smith papers project, Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen wrote an extensive article about changes and their rationale:

  • Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site

The claim that the changes have been hidden simply cannot be sustained.


Ensign, "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God"

Gerrit Dirkmaat,  Ensign, (January 2013)
Many Revelations Were Later Revised by Joseph Smith through Inspiration. Over the course of the first five years of the Church, Joseph and others under his direction made changes and corrections to some of the early revelation texts in an attempt to more closely portray the intent of the revelation. Other times, especially as the revelations were being prepared for publication, Joseph was inspired to update the contents of the revelations to reflect a growing Church structure and new circumstances. At times this process resulted in substantial additions to the original text. As early as November 1831, a Church conference resolved that “Joseph Smith Jr. correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the Holy Spirit while reviewing the revelations and commandments and also the fullness of the scriptures.”

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Response to claim: 36 - The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants included a declaration that “one man should have one wife”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants included a declaration that “one man should have one wife” in response to accusations of “the crime of fornication, and polygamy.” This was after Joseph began practicing plural marriage in secret.

Author's sources:
  1. Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, Ohio: F.G. Williams & Co., 1835), 251.

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 section on marriage was replaced with Section 132 after the practice of plural marriage was made public.


Question: Why did the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants include a statement of marriage that denied the practice of polygamy at a time when some were actually practicing it?

Polygamy was not being taught to the general Church membership at that time

The Article on Marriage was printed in the 1835 D&C as section 101 and in the 1844 D&C as section 109. The portion of the Article on Marriage relevant to polygamy states:

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. [59]

This was true—the Church membership generally was not being taught plural marriage, and were not living it at that time.

The statement itself was not changed between the 1835 and 1844 editions of the D&C

In fact, the statement remained in the D&C until the 1876 edition, even though plural marriage had been taught to specific individuals since at least 1831, practiced in secret since 1836, and practiced openly since 1852. The matter of not removing it in 1852 was simply due to the fact that a new edition of the D&C was not published until 1876.

The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication

While some have suggested that the article was published against Joseph's wishes or without his knowledge, the available evidence suggests that he supported its publication. It was likely included to counter the perception that the Mormon's practice of communal property (the "law of consecration") included a community of wives.

The statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith - it was written by Oliver Cowdery

This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) [60]

Some have suggested that the manner in which the conference was called suggests that Joseph was not the instigator of it, since it seems to have been done quite quickly, with relatively few high church leaders in attendance:

The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. [61]

However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." [62]


Response to claim: 36 - Oliver Cowdery referred to this relationship as a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

Fanny Alger was one of Joseph’s “earliest plural wives,” but Oliver Cowdery referred to this relationship as a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s.”

Author's sources:
  1. Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?’’ 203; see also Brodie, ‘’No Man Knows’’, 181-85; Newell and Avery, ‘’Mormon Enigma’’, 66.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: Did Joseph Smith marry Fanny Alger as his first plural wife in 1833?

Joseph Smith met Fanny Alger in 1833 when she was a house-assistant to Emma

Joseph Smith came to know Fanny Alger in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant to Emma. Neither Joseph nor Fanny ever left any first-hand accounts of their relationship. There are no second-hand accounts from Emma or Fanny's family. All that we do have is third hand accounts from people who did not directly observe the events associated with this first plural marriage, and most of them recorded many years after the events.

Joseph said that the "ancient order of plural marriage" was to again be practiced at the time that Fanny was living with his family

Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had "learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, 'that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.' This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her."[63]

Joseph asked the brother-in-law of Fanny's father to make the request of Fanny's father, after which a marriage ceremony was performed

Mosiah Hancock discusses the manner in which the proposal was extended to Fanny, and states that a marriage ceremony was performed. Joseph asked Levi Hancock, the brother-in-law of Samuel Alger, Fanny’s father, to request Fanny as his plural wife:

Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Uncle Sam says, “Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says.” Father goes to his sister and said, “Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Said she, “Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me.” Father goes to Fanny and said, “Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?” “I will Levi,” said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, “Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission.” Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.[64]


Question: Did some of Joseph Smith's associates believe that he had an affair with Fanny Alger?

Oliver Cowdery perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair"

Some of Joseph's associates, most notably Oliver Cowdery, perceived Joseph's association with Fanny as an affair rather than a plural marriage. Oliver, in a letter to his brother Warren, asserted that "in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself."[65]

Gary J. Bergera, an advocate of the "affair" theory, wrote:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison…Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40. [66]

There are several problems with this analysis. While it is true that sources on Fanny are all retrospective, the same is true of many early plural marriages. Fanny's marriage has more evidence than some. Bergera says that all the sources about Fanny's marriage come "from a point of view favoring plural marriage," but this claim is clearly false.

Even hostile accounts of the relationship between Joseph and Fanny report a marriage or sealing

For example, Fanny's marriage was mentioned by Ann Eliza Webb Young, a later wife of Brigham Young's who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures. Fanny stayed with Ann Eliza's family after leaving Joseph and Emma's house, and both Ann Eliza and her father Chauncey Webb [67] refer to Joseph's relationship to Fanny as a "sealing." [68] Eliza also noted that the Alger family "considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the prophet's family, and her mother has always claimed that she [Fanny] was sealed to Joseph at that time." [69] This would be a strange attitude to take if their relationship was a mere affair. And, the hostile Webbs had no reason to invent a "sealing" idea if they could have made Fanny into a mere case of adultery.


Response to claim: 36-37 - Joseph secretly practiced polygamy “through the rest of his life, always with denials”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

Joseph secretly practiced polygamy “through the rest of his life, always with denials.”

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

However, Joseph did try to publicly introduce the doctrine unsuccessfully.


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." [70]

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.”[71]


Response to claim: 37 - "Obviously, these papyri do not relate to the Abraham of the Old Testament, as Joseph Smith claimed"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

Regarding the Book of Abraham, the author states that “Egyptologists have shown that the papyri Smith supposedly translated date to about the time of Christ and are standard Egyptian funeral documents, depicting various Egyptian gods and goddesses. Obviously, these papyri do not relate to the Abraham of the Old Testament, as Joseph Smith claimed.”

Author's sources:
  1. ’’Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Though,’’ summer 1968, 68, 98; and autumn 1968, 119-20, 133; Charles M. Larson, ‘’By His Own Hand Upon Papyrs: A New Look At The Joseph Smith Papyri (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Institute for Religious Studies, 1992), 61-111.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The fragments that were discovered do not have anything related to Abraham on them, and the Church published this information immediately after they were discovered.


Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide: "These papyri contain authentic Egyptian writings, but they do not date to the time of Abraham, nor do they contain the actual personally handwritten account of Abraham"

"Unit 31: Day 2, The Coming Forth of the Pearl of Great Price," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2013):

In 1966, 11 fragments of papyri the Prophet Joseph Smith once had were discovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. These papyri contain authentic Egyptian writings, but they do not date to the time of Abraham, nor do they contain the actual personally handwritten account of Abraham. It is important to remember that only a few fragments and not all of the papyri that Joseph Smith possessed have been found. The book of Abraham may have been translated from papyri that have not been recovered. These lost papyri may have contained copies of Abraham’s writings.

At the present time we simply do not know the exact nature of the relationship between the book of Abraham and the papyri Joseph Smith possessed. There are various theories proposed as to how the prophet translated these writings, but we simply do not know the details. We do know that the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the book of Abraham by the gift and power of God. [72]


Question: How was the text of the Book of Abraham produced by Joseph Smith?

The Book of Abraham was claimed to have been received by revelation

Richard Turley notes that the Book of Abraham was received by revelation:

"Very quickly, let me just say a few things about it very simple. Number 1, again, it was received by revelation."
Richard Turley, Questions Asked at 2010 Swedish Fireside

The questions surrounding the Book of Abraham are complex, and involve a number of disciplines and sub-disciplines, including: Egyptology (including Egyptian archaeology, Egyptian iconography, Egyptian religion, Egyptian history, papyrology, etc.), Syro-Palestinian archaeology, biblical studies, textual criticism, Mormon history, Mormon theology, English paleography and manuscript transmission, etc. As such, any approach to the Book of Abraham or the Joseph Smith Papyri must be conscious of how these various disciplines (with their respective methods) can be used, or misused, in studying the Book of Abraham.

19th century sources confirm that the text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation

Consider these two quotes, the first from John Whitmer, who was Church Historian from 1831 until his excommunication in 1838, and the second from Warren Parrish, who was one of the scribes during the translation.

John Whitmer said,

"Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records . . . which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints." [73]

Warren Parrish said,

"I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphicks [sic] as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration from Heaven." [74]


Question: Did Joseph use his seer stone to receive the text of the Book of Abraham in the same manner as he did for the Book of Mormon?

There is second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone in the translation of the Book of Abraham

There is also second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone (or what came to be called the "Urim and Thummim") in the translation of the Book of Abraham; though these accounts must be accepted carefully because of their secondary nature.

Wilford Woodruff said,

"The Lord is blessing Joseph with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim ancient records and hieroglyphics old as Abraham or Adam which caused our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us." [75]

"The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation-the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, the gift of bringing to light old and ancient records." [76]

The official position of the Church is that the Book of Abraham is "an inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri." [77] Anything beyond this is speculation, and does not constitute official Church doctrine relative to the Book of Abraham's origins. Nevertheless, it's clear from the historical evidence that Joseph Smith was not attempting a scholarly translation of the Book of Abraham à la Jean-François Champollion or other Egyptologists, but rather produced a revelatory translation (see Richard Turley's comments below). The exact nature of this revelatory translation is uncertain, with various theories having been offered over the years.


Question: Do we have all of the papyri that Joseph Smith had?

There is no question that we are currently missing some papyri

Even critics of the Book of Abraham must acknowledge this. For example, we are missing the originals to Facsimiles 2 and 3. The question therefore is: how much papyrus are we missing? Professor John Gee has estimated, based on historical eyewitness testimony, papyrilogical considerations, and mathematical calculations, that we're missing a sizable portion of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Professor Gee further argues the likelihood that the text of the Book of Abraham translated (again, via revelation, and not by scholarly means) by Joseph Smith was contained in this missing portion of papyri. [78] Professor Gee is not without his critics, however, who argue instead that we're missing only a small portion of the original papyri. [79]

As such, this is still an open question. Further research is being conducted that will hopefully shed further light on this question. In the mean time, however, Professor Gee's so-called "Missing Papyrus Theory" cannot merely be dismissed. Those who struggle with the Book of Abraham controversy must deal with the evidence presented by Professor Gee.


Question: Were the characters on the papyri written by Abraham himself?

[Brother Turley]: There are lots of theories on that. The church does believe that the book of Abraham is the word of God and if you read the book of Abraham, there are doctrines and principles you will understand that are important to you. That is the church’s position. Exactly how Joseph Smith did it? There are lots of scholarly debates going on about that. But there’s excellent work going on at BYU that should be out in the next year."


Question: Does the Joseph Smith papyri consist of Egyptian funerary documents?

[Brother Turley]: The papyrus that we have we know what books those are from Egyptian.


Question: Do the Joseph Smith papyri date back to the time of Abraham?

Richard Turley: "There’s a difference between the date of the copy and the date of the text"

[Brother Turley]: There’s a difference between the date of the copy and the date of the text. So the text, yes, we believe is older. The actual copy could be later."

This is a very important point to keep in mind. There is a difference between the date of a text and the date of a particular manuscript of a text. For example, biblical scholars recognize that even though our earliest manuscripts for the books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are currently found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to circa 200-100 BCE, the date of the composition of the text of the books themselves go back many centuries.

The same point applies to the Book of Abraham. As Professor Kerry Muhlestein explains:

Critics say that if this papyrus was written in the second century BC it could not possibly have been written by Abraham himself. In regard to this assumption, I ask, who said this particular papyrus was written by Abraham himself? The heading does not indicate that Abraham had written that particular copy but rather that he was the author of the original. What these critics have done is confuse the difference between a text and a manuscript. For example, many people have a copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; each has a manuscript copy of the text that Tolkien originally wrote. A text, regardless of how many copies of it exist in the world, is written by one author. However, each copy of that text is a manuscript.

The earliest known copies of the book of Isaiah date to hundreds of years after the prophet’s death. Yet this has not led to the conclusion that Isaiah was not the author of the book of Isaiah. Clearly the manuscripts we have are copies of the original text that he wrote during his lifetime. We all know that when an author of the ancient world wrote something, if those writings were to survive or be disseminated, the text had to be copied again and again and again, for generation upon generation. When the heading states that the text was written by Abraham’s own hand, it notes who the author is, not who copied down the particular manuscript that came into Joseph’s possession. If critics had carefully thought through this issue, they would never have raised it.

These issues also highlight the question of how the Book of Abraham came to be in Egypt in the first place. There are a dizzying number of possibilities. Abraham himself was in Egypt, as was his great-grandson Joseph and all of his Israelite descendants for hundreds of years thereafter. After the Exodus, Israelites continued to travel to and live in Egypt. After the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, large groups of Jews settled in Egypt and created longstanding and thriving communities, even to the point that they built a temple. It was during this time period that Joseph Smith Papyri 1, 10, and 11 were created. Copies of these papyri could have moved back and forth between Egypt and Israel during any of these eras. [80]


Response to claim: 37 - “Smith turned once again to treasure hunting to solve the church’s financial problems” by going to Salem, Massachusetts to look for treasure in the basement of a house there

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that in 1836, “Smith turned once again to treasure hunting to solve the church’s financial problems” by going to Salem, Massachusetts to look for treasure in the basement of a house there.

Author's sources:
  1. Doctrine and Covenants 132:19, 20, 52, 61, 62.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - 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


Question: Was Joseph Smith commanded by the Lord to go to Salem, Massachusetts to hunt for treasure in the cellar of a house?

Joseph and several other leaders traveled to Salem hoping to find money that could be used to satisfy some of the Church's outstanding debt

The trip was apparently made on their own initiative, and was not commanded by the Lord. Joseph did not "prophesy" that they would find money in Salem, but instead made the trip because he became convinced that the story that the treasure existed might true. Upon failing to locate the money, they spent their time preaching to the people in Salem.

The trip to the East was an effort to find a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church

On July 25, 1836, Joseph, Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery began a journey from Kirtland to the East Coast for the purpose of seeking a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church had incurred. The men visited New York City in order to consult with their creditors regarding their debt.[81] Four days later, upon completing their business in New York, they then continued on to Salem, Massachusetts.

After visiting New York City, the men traveled to Salem upon hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them there

The trip to Salem is the subject of the revelation contained in D&C 111. The introduction states:

At this time the leaders of the Church were heavily in debt due to their labors in the ministry. Hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them in Salem, the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery traveled there from Kirtland, Ohio, to investigate this claim, along with preaching the gospel. The brethren transacted several items of church business and did some preaching. When it became apparent that no money was to be forthcoming, they returned to Kirtland.

This was a period in which great financial difficulties were being experienced by the Church in Kirtland—hence the motivation to search after the alleged treasure.

The revelation itself indicates that the Lord did not command the prophet to go to Salem to obtain money

I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies. (DC 111:1) (emphasis added)

B.H. Roberts provides additional information regarding the reason for the trip.

While the Prophet gives a somewhat circumstantial account of this journey to Salem and his return to Kirtland in September, he nowhere assigns an adequate cause for himself and company making it—the object of it is not stated. Ebenezer Robinson, for many years a faithful and prominent elder in the church, and at Nauvoo associated with Don Carlos Smith—brother of the Prophet—in editing and publishing the Times and Seasons, states that the journey to Salem arose from these circumstances. There came to Kirtland a brother by the name of Burgess who stated that he had knowledge of a large amount of money secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow (then deceased), and thought he was the only person who had knowledge of it, or of the location of the house. The brethren accepting the representations of Burgess as true made the journey to Salem to secure, if possible, the treasure. Burgess, according to Robinson, met the brethren in Salem, but claimed that time had wrought such changes in the town that he could not for a certainty point out the house "and soon left."[82]

The trip to Salem was apparently a "venture of their own design"

The trip to Salem was apparently "a venture of their own design, not one of divine direction."[83] Two weeks after receiving the revelation recorded in D&C 111, Joseph wrote the following letter to his wife Emma from Salem.

Salem, Mass., August 19th, 1836.
My beloved Wife:—Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we could wish to have it. I thought a line from me by him would be acceptable to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind. With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it; if not now within the course of a few months. We think we shall be at home about the middle of September. I can think of many things concerning our business, but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that involve on you, and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband. In haste. Yours &c., Joseph Smith, Jr.[84]

The letter indicates that Joseph had not yet given up hope of locating the actual physical treasure for which they had originally come. The four men spent their time in Salem preaching and sightseeing.

Salem's "treasure"

The Lord indicates, however, that there is some benefit to be derived from their presence there. The "treasure" referred to has to do with planting seeds for the future preaching of the Gospel:

I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. Therefore, it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you...For there are more treasures than one for you in this city. (DC 111:2-3,DC 111:10)

Richard Lloyd Anderson notes that in D&C 111, "the definition of riches came in doublets, a scriptural pattern of restating one idea in two aspects."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 The following parallels are noted:

Phrase #1 Phrase #2
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part a) and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part b)
Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. (verse 5) Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal mercifully with her. (verse 6)
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. (verse 2) And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. (verse 4)

Anderson suggests that "such similar phrasing suggests that paying debts and the welfare of Zion were but different forms of the same hope." The "gold and silver" mentioned in Verse 4 is equated with the "treasure" of "many people" in Verse 2, which suggests that "the gathering of the converts is at the same time a gathering of their resources."

Fulfillment of the revelation

It became evident to the leaders of the Church that the "treasure" referred to by the Lord was the conversion of people in Salem to the Gospel. In 1841, five years after the revelation was given, Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester were called to serve a mission in Salem. Cannon notes that the elders were sent explicitly for the purpose of fulfilling the revelation:

[Hyrum Smith and William Law] gave Erastus Snow a copy of the Salem Revelation and requested to fulfill it. Snow and Winchester arrived in Salem in September of 1841. They preached at public meetings, published a pamphlet addfressed to the citizens of Salem, and challenged the notorious Mormon apostate, John C. Bennett to debate. Their efforts bore fruit. By March of 1842 they had organized the Salem Branch with 53 members. By the end of that summer, the branch had 90 members.[85]

These conversions were sufficiently noticed to have been commented on by two of Salem's newspapers, the Salem Gazette on Dec. 7, 1841, and The Salem Register on June 2, 1842.


Response to claim: 38 - Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon created the impression that the Kirtland Safety Society was “created by God, that it had a sacred mission, and thus was invincible”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon created the impression that the Kirtland Safety Society was “created by God, that it had a sacred mission, and thus was invincible.”

Author's sources:
  1. Van Wagoner, ‘’Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994)’’, 184.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

There is no record of a revelation establishing the Kirtland Safety Society.


Question: Did Joseph Smith claim that the Kirtland Safety Society was established by a revelation from God?

Joseph did not record or claim a revelation on the formation of the Kirtland Safety Society

It seems, rather, to have been his attempt to solve a complex and serious problem that probably had no good solution given the financial tools available to him. His anxiety to solve the Church’s financial problems led to difficulty, but Joseph was not alone: hundreds of thousands of frontier settlers had to resort to similar tactics:

Erroneous banking policies caused financial services to expand much more slowly than the growth in real economic activities retarded the growth process and forced people to create illegal mediums of exchange to substitute for inefficient barter.[86]

Joseph insisted that a prophet was only a prophet when he was acting as such. The Kirtland Bank episode is a good example of fallible men doing their best to solve an intractable problem. (Joseph also emphasized that there was no expectation of success if members did not follow his counsel--which they did not.)

Brigham Young described an incident from his own life that speaks to the Kirtland Safety Society period:

I can tell the people that once in my life I felt a want of confidence in brother Joseph Smith, soon after I became acquainted with him. It was not concerning religious matters-it was not about his revelations-but it was in relation to his financiering-to his managing the temporal affairs which he undertook. A feeling came over me that Joseph was not right in his financial management, though I presume the feeling did not last sixty seconds, and perhaps not thirty...

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. I repented of my unbelief, and that too, very suddenly; I repented about as quickly as I committed the error. It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances or not...

Had I not thoroughly understood this and believed it, I much doubt whether I should ever have embraced what is called "Mormonism." He was called of God; God dictated him, and if He had a mind to leave him to himself and let him commit an error, that was no business of mine. And it was not for me to question it, if the Lord was disposed to let Joseph lead the people astray, for He had called him and instructed him to gather Israel and restore the Priesthood and kingdom to them.

That was my faith, and it is my faith still… it is taught to the people now continually, to have implicit confidence in our leaders to be sure that we live so that Christ is within us a living fountain, that we may have the Holy Ghost within us to actuate, dictate, and direct us every hour and moment of our lives. How are we going to obtain implicit confidence in all the words and doings of Joseph? By one principle alone, that is, to live so that the voice of the Spirit will testify to us all the time that he is the servant of the Most High....[87]

Thus, Brigham did not deny the error, or insist that it could not happen. But, he did not allow himself to be distracted by it.

Warren Parrish, one year after hearing Joseph, claimed that he said that it "should swallow up all other Banks...and survive when all others should be laid in ruins"

Warren Parrish would apostatize, and later claim on 15 February 1838 (a little more than one year after the fact):

I have listened to [the Prophet] with feelings of no ordinary kind when he declared that the audible voice of God instructed him to establish a Banking-Anti-Banking Institution, which, like Aaron's rod, should swallow up all other Banks...and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.[88]

Wilford Woodruff's diary on the day that Joseph spoke: "He did not tell us at that time what the LORD said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the Commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well"

Fortunately, there is a contemporaneous account from Wilford Woodruff, who wrote in his diary on the very day that Joseph spoke -- 6 January 1837:

I also herd President Joseph Smith jr. declare in the presence of F Williams, D. Whitmer, S. Smith, W. Parrish, & others in the Deposit Office that he had receieved [check spelling] that morning the Word of the Lord upon the Subject of the Kirtland Safety Society. He was alone in a room by himself & he had not ownly the voice of the Spirit upon the Subject but even an audable voice. He did not tell us at that time what the LORD said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the Commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well (spelling and capitalization in original, italics and emphasis added).[89]

The similarities and differences in these accounts are striking. In both reports, Joseph said that the Lord has spoken to him in "an audible voice." Parrish was present at the event described by Woodruff. Yet, Woodruff indicated that Joseph did not tell them what the Lord had said, other than to make a conditional promise if they were all obedient.

Why should we believe the later, hostile report of Parrish (who had something to gain by lying) when it doesn't match the contemporary report written before there was any problem with the bank?

Parrish knew that the bank was in serious trouble by August 1838 - Why did Parrish not tell the court about the supposed "revelation" which he would cite about eight months later?

The Kirtland Safety Society was in serious trouble by the spring of 1837. Joseph Smith had resigned from it by 8 June 1837. Yet, in the same month of June, Parrish was called to testify in the case of Grandison Newell vs. Joseph Smith. Newell put Parrish on the stand but

when [Warren Parrish was] asked by the lawyers, "Do you know of anything in the character or conduct of Mr. Smith which is unworthy of his profession as a man of God?" the answer was, "I do not."[90]

So, by this date Parrish knew that the bank was in serious trouble. He was also hostile to Joseph (on May 29 he would bring high council charges against him for "lying...extortion...and...speaking disrespectfully against his brethren behind their backs."[91] He was in court under oath, called by the prosecution because they thought he would help their case against Joseph Smith, and yet he said he knew nothing in Joseph's conduct or character which suggested his profession as a man of God was unfounded.

Why did Parrish not tell the court about the supposed "revelation" which he would cite about eight months later? Quite simply because (as the Woodruff diary shows) Joseph reported the contents of no such revelation. This points to a February 1838 fabrication by Parrish. Would Parrish lie? He later brought charges against Sidney Rigdon for, among other things, "expressing an unbelief in the revelations of God, both old and new."[92] To charge Sidney Rigdon—former Campbellite preacher, student of the Bible, and stirring biblical orator—with disbelieving the revelations of God is simple nonsense. It is one more bit of evidence that Parrish's word, by this point in time, cannot be trusted.


Response to claim: 38 - “Mormon leaders organized a sort of secret church police called the ‘Danites’”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that “Mormon leaders organized a sort of secret church police called the ‘Danites.’”

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - 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 Danites were not a "secret church police."


Gospel Topics: "At the Latter-day Saint settlement of Far West, some leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites"

"Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

At the Latter-day Saint settlement of Far West, some leaders and members organized a paramilitary group known as the Danites, whose objective was to defend the community against dissident and excommunicated Latter-day Saints as well as other Missourians. Historians generally concur that Joseph Smith approved of the Danites but that he probably was not briefed on all their plans and likely did not sanction the full range of their activities. Danites intimidated Church dissenters and other Missourians; for instance, they warned some dissenters to leave Caldwell County. During the fall of 1838, as tensions escalated during what is now known as the Mormon Missouri War, the Danites were apparently absorbed into militias largely composed of Latter-day Saints. These militias clashed with their Missouri opponents, leading to a few fatalities on both sides. In addition, Mormon vigilantes, including many Danites, raided two towns believed to be centers of anti-Mormon activity, burning homes and stealing goods.22 Though the existence of the Danites was short-lived, it resulted in a longstanding and much-embellished myth about a secret society of Mormon vigilantes.[93]


Question: Did Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon support the formation of a vigilante band called the Danites?

The Danites are sometimes confused with the “Armies of Israel,” which was the official defensive organization that was tasked with defending the Saints

The Danites were a brotherhood of church members that formed in Far West, Missouri in mid-1838. By this point in time, the Saints had experienced serious persecution, having been driven out of Kirtland by apostates, and driven out of Jackson County by mobs. Sidney Rigdon was publicly preaching that the Saints would not tolerate any more persecution, and that both apostates and mobs would be put on notice. The Danite organization took root within this highly charged and defensive environment.

The Danites are sometimes confused with the “Armies of Israel,” which was the official defensive organization that was tasked with defending the Saints, and which was supported by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. This is complicated by the fact that members of the Danite organization also served in the “Armies of Israel.”

Although Joseph Smith was aware of the intent of the Danites to cleanse the Church of "evil," he rejected the illegal activities of the Danite band

Regardless of their original motives, the Danites ultimately were led astray by their leader, Sampson Avard. Avard attempted to blame Joseph Smith in order to save himself. Joseph, however, clearly repudiated both the organization and Avard.


Question: When was the Danite band formed and why?

Sidney Rigdon gave a speech against dissenters on 17 June 1838 in Far West known as the "Salt Sermon"

Rigdon's speech was directly targeted at dissenters within the Church, and strongly implied that they should leave.

Leland H. Gentry,

The first official encouragement given to removing these "dissenters" from Caldwell County came in the form of a speech given by Sidney Rigdon on Sunday, 17 June 1838. Familiarly known in church history annals as the "Salt Sermon," Rigdon's address remains one of the controversial events of the period.[94]

Gentry notes John Corrill's description of the sermon,

President Rigdon delivered from the pulpit what I call the "Salt Sermon;" 'If the salt hath lost its savour, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men,' was his text; and although he did not call names in his sermon, yet it was plainly understood that he meant the dissenters or those who had denied the faith. He indirectly accused some of them with crime.[95]

The Danites appear to have been formally created about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West

The Danites were led by Dr. Sampson Avard, and the group appears to have been formally formed about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his “Salt Sermon” in Far West, in which he gave apostates an ultimatum to get out or suffer consequences.[94] According to Avard, the original purpose of the band was to “drive from the county of Caldwell all that dissented from the Mormon church.”[96]:25 Once the dissenters had left the country, the Danites turned their attention to defending the Saints from mobs.


Question: Is it true that the Danites were pledged to “plunder, lie, and even kill if deemed necessary?"

Sampson Avard began retaliation against those who persecuted the Saints, including stealing and plundering

After the dissenters left Far West, Avard, took the idea of defending the Saints one step further by including retaliation against those who persecuted the Saints. Thus, the Danites began operating as a vigilante group outside the law. This, unfortunately, included stealing and plundering from those who stole and plundered from the Saints.[94]:4 The Danites believed that if they consecrated plundered goods to the Church, that they would be protected in battle.[94]:9 The group held secret meetings, with special signs used to identify themselves to one another.


Question: How were the activities of the Danite band exposed?

Sampson Avard was eventually brought to trial, and he blamed Joseph Smith for the Danite's activities

Much of the information that we have about the Danite organization comes from the document describing the criminal court of inquiry held against church leaders in Richmond, Missouri on November 12, 1838. When the group’s activities were exposed and church leaders brought to trial, Avard became a primary witness for the prosecution, and laid the blame for the Danites at the feet of Joseph Smith. Avard claimed that he had been acting under the direction of the First Presidency.[94]:7

Several witnesses indicated that Avard indicated that he would lie in order to incriminate the Church, and it is apparent that he testified in order to save himself.[96][97] Avard even produced a “Danite Constitution” for the court, despite the fact that nobody else in the organization had ever heard of it or seen it until that time.[94]:11-12

Joseph Smith rejected the Danite band and referred to them as a "secret combination"

Joseph Smith referred to the Danites as a “secret combination.”[98] Referring to Avard’s testimony before the judge, B.H. Roberts states,

This lecture of the doctor's revealed for the first time the true intent of his designs, and the brethren he had duped suddenly had their eyes opened, and they at once revolted and manfully rejected his teachings. Avard saw that he had played and lost, so he said they had better let the matter drop where it was. As soon as Avard's villainy was brought to the knowledge of the president of The Church he was promptly excommunicated, and was afterwards found making an effort to become friends with the mob, and conspiring against The Church. This is the history of the Danite band, "which", says the Prophet Joseph, "died almost before it had an existence."[99]

Sampson Avard had a reputation for not being trustworthy

There is clear consensus among both Mormon and non-Mormon early sources that Sampson Avard was not trustworthy.[94] Additionally, there is a well-documented case of Avard attempting to do what he was eventually accused of doing with the Danites: taking advantage of inefficient and ambiguous lines of communication and authority to establish his own command.

In his biography of John Taylor, B.H. Roberts recorded an incident wherein Avard tried take over the Church in Canada by feigning authority from Joseph Smith, when he in fact did not have any.[100] For many years this account was not supported by any first-hand accounts, but recently this incident has been confirmed by an account in the journal of Joseph Horne, a member of the Church who rode with Avard up to Canada and witnessed the attempt to take over the Church there.[101]


Question: Did the Danite band persist even after they were exposed?

Legends of “Danites” persisted for many years as the Saints moved to Nauvoo and later to Utah

Legends of “Danites” persisted for many years as the Saints moved to Nauvoo and later to Utah. The mysterious “Danites” have served as villains in fictional stories such as the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. Danites are sometimes associated with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, since one of the principal protagonists of that unfortunate event, John D. Lee, was himself once a member of the Danites in Missouri. With the help of imaginative writers, the mysterious “Danites” took on the status of an “urban legend” as a shadowy, mysterious vigilante group which enforced the will of church leaders by practicing blood atonement on those who opposed them. Brigham Young gave his opinion of such rumors during a conference talk on April 7, 1867 when he said:

Is there war in our religion? No; neither war nor bloodshed. Yet our enemies cry out "bloodshed," and "oh, what dreadful men these Mormons are, and those Danites! how they slay and kill!" Such is all nonsense and folly in the extreme. The wicked slay the wicked, and they will lay it on the Saints.[102]


Response to claim: 40 - Joseph incorporated many elements of Masonry into the temple endowment ceremony

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that Joseph incorporated many elements of Masonry into the temple endowment ceremony.

Author's sources:
  1. Not provided.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: What criticisms are associated with the temple ritual and its relationship to Freemasonry?

Critics of the LDS Church often point to similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and the LDS temple endowment

Critics of the LDS Church often point to similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and the LDS temple endowment and claim that since Joseph Smith was initiated as a Freemason in Nauvoo, Illinois shortly before he introduced the full endowment to the Saints (as opposed to the partial endowment given in the Kirtland Temple), he must have incorporated elements of the Masonic rites into his own ceremony. Implicit in this charge is the idea that Joseph Smith's ritual was not revealed to him by God and thus not a legitimate restoration of ancient Israelite and early Christian ordinances.

It is worthwhile to note that these critics are also often critical of Freemasonry, and thus attempt guilt by association.

Some of the endowment was developed and introduced in the weeks following Joseph Smith's initiation as a Master Mason, but other elements were developed prior to his association with Freemasonry

While it is true that some of the endowment was developed and introduced in the weeks following Joseph Smith's initiation as a Master Mason. This oversimplifies the issue considerably. The endowment and other parts of LDS temple worship developed slowly over a period of years. It did not happen all at once. Joseph Smith's critics want to label him as an intellectual thief by claiming that he stole some of the ritual elements of Freemasonry in order to create the Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony. The greatest obstacles to this theory are the facts that

  1. Joseph Smith claimed direct revelation from God regarding the Nauvoo-era endowment,
  2. Joseph Smith knew a great deal about the Nauvoo-era endowment ceremony long before the Nauvoo period—and thus long before his entry into the Masonic fraternity, and
  3. the Nauvoo-era temple endowment ceremony has numerous exacting parallels to the initiation ceremonies of ancient Israelite and early Christian kings and priests—parallels which cannot be found among Freemasons.

Furthermore, Joseph's contemporaries saw the parallels to Masonry clearly, and yet no one charged him with pilfering.

In order to understand this issue, a few facts need to be understood:

  1. Joseph Smith, Jr. was initiated as a Freemason in Nauvoo, Illinois on the 15th and 16th of March 1842; his brother Hyrum and (possibly) his father Joseph Sr. were Masons before the Church's organization in April 1830.
  2. A few of the early leaders of the Church were Masons before the Church's organization while many others were initiated into the Masonic institution after the Prophet was in 1842.
  3. Masonry was a well-known social institution in mid-19th century America.
  4. There are similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and those of the LDS Temple endowment. These similarities center around
  • the use of a ritual drama—the story of Hiram Abiff is used by the Masons, while the LDS endowment uses the story of Adam and Eve and the creation (the LDS versions have parallels to ancient Israelite temple worship).
  • some similar hand actions in the course of the rituals (the LDS versions having distinct parallels to ancient Israelite temple worship and early Christian usage).

Symbolist F. L. Brink suggested that Joseph Smith successfully provided an "innovative and intricate symbology" that suited well the psychic needs of his followers. [103]


Question: When did Joseph Smith demonstrate knowledge of the elements of the endowment ritual?

Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment ritual, phraseology, vestments, and theology at least a year before he ever became a Freemason

Critics have noted that Joseph's initiation into Freemasonry (15–16 March 1842) predates his introduction of the full temple endowment among the Saints (4 May 1842). They thus claim that Masonry was a necessary element for Joseph's self-generated "revelation" of the Nauvoo-era temple ceremonies.

But one LDS author draws attention to the fact that there is much more to the history of the endowment restoration than critics of the Church are willing to admit.

Plenty of evidence...is available that Joseph Smith had a detailed knowledge of the Nauvoo temple ceremonies long before he introduced them in May 1842 and long before he set foot inside a Masonic hall...While Joseph Smith was translating the book of Abraham from Egyptian papyri, he wrote a series of short explanations for three of the illustrations that accompanied his translation. The Prophet noted that in Facsimile 2, figures 3 and 7 were related in some manner to "the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood" and "the sign of the Holy Ghost." When he came to figure 8, he explained that this area on the Egyptian drawing contained "writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God."...

Other writers have used the Facsimile 2 material to sharpen the chronological argument against Joseph Smith. Facsimile 2 and its temple-related explanations were first printed in the 15 March 1842 edition of the Times and Seasons, the same day that the Prophet received the first of three Masonic initiation rites. Latter-day Saints have traditionally argued that this issue of the newspaper was published during the day while the Prophet's Masonic initiation did not occur until that evening. Thus Joseph Smith must have had temple knowledge before he had Masonic knowledge. But critics point out that the 15 March issue of the paper was not actually published until 19 March, several days after the Prophet witnessed the Masonic ceremonies.

This is where terminology becomes crucial. Some claim that the phrases employed by Joseph Smith in the Facsimile 2 explanations are Masonic and that it was not until several days after his Masonic induction that Joseph Smith "first spoke of 'certain key words and signs belonging to the priesthood.'" These critics assume the terms are necessarily "Masonic," yet it must be remembered that Freemasonry's rites are little more than borrowed baggage. Then what about the supposedly incriminating timing of these incidents? This is precisely the point at which the entire argument falls apart. On 5 May 1841 William Appleby paid a visit to Joseph Smith, who read to him the revelation on temple ordinances, now identified as Doctrine and Covenants 124, that was received 19 January 1841. After the two men discussed baptism for the dead, the Prophet got out his collection of Egyptian papyrus scrolls and, while exhibiting Facsimile 2, explained to Appleby that part of the drawing was related to "the Lord revealing the Grand key words of the Holy Priesthood, to Adam in the garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and to all whom the Priesthood was revealed."

It is also clear from Doctrine and Covenants 124 that Joseph Smith was well aware of the main ritual elements of the Nauvoo endowment ceremony at least as early as 19 January 1841. (See D&C :124.) [104]

The note from Appleby is found in his journal under the date of 5 May 1841, a little less than a year before Joseph's initiation into the Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo. [105] There is a great deal more historical evidence that the Prophet Joseph Smith knew of Nauvoo-era endowment ritual, phraseology, vestments, and theology long before he ever became a Freemason.

In evidence of this fact, we find that upon his initiation into Masonry Joseph Smith was already explaining things which the Masons themselves did not comprehend. According to one witness:

"the Prophet explained many things about the rites that even Masons do not pretend to understand but which he made most clear and beautiful." [106]


Question: Why would Joseph Smith incorporate Masonic elements into the temple ritual?

There are two aspects of temple worship: The teaching of the endowment, and the presentation of the endowment

In order to understand the relationship between the temple endowment and Freemasonry it is useful to consider the temple experience. In the temple, participants are confronted with ritual in a form which is unknown in LDS worship outside of that venue. In the view of some individuals the temple endowment is made up of two parts:

  1. The teachings of the endowment, i.e., the doctrines taught and the covenants made with God.
  2. The method of presenting the endowment, or the "ritual" mechanics themselves.

It is in the ritual presentation of the endowment teachings and covenants that the similarities between the LDS temple worship and Freemasonry are the most apparent. The question is, why would this be the case?

Joseph's challenge was to find a method of presenting the endowment that would be effective

It is the opinion of some people that in developing the endowment Joseph Smith faced a problem. He wished to communicate, in a clear and effective manner, some different (and, in some cases, complex) religious ideas. These included such abstract concepts as

  • the nature of creation (matter being organized and not created out of nothing)
  • humanity's relationship to God and to each other
  • eternal marriage and exaltation in the afterlife

The theory is that Joseph needed to communicate these ideas to a diverse population; some with limited educational attainments, many of whom were immigrants; several with only modest understanding of the English language; all of whom possessed different levels of intellectual and spiritual maturity—but who needed to be instructed through the same ceremony.

Ritual and repetition are important teaching tools

Joseph Smith's very brief experience with Freemasonry before the introduction of the full LDS endowment may have reminded him of the power of instruction through ritual and repetition. Some people believe that Joseph may have seized upon Masonic tools as teaching devices for the endowment's doctrines and covenants during the Nauvoo era. Other people are of the opinion that since these elements were previously present in the worship of the Kirtland Temple they were not 'borrowed' by the Prophet at all.

Regardless, the use of symbols was characteristic of Joseph Smith's era; it was not unique to him or Masonry:

Symbols on buildings, in literature, stamped on manufactured goods, etc. were not endemic to Mormons and Masons but were common throughout all of mid-nineteenth century American society (as even a cursory inspection of books, posters, buildings and photos of the periods will bear out.) So, assuming [Joseph] Smith felt a need to communicate specific principles to his Saints, he might naturally develop a set of easily understood symbols as were already in familiar use about him. [107]


Response to claim: 41-42 - The author discusses the Council of Fifty

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author discusses the Council of Fifty.

Author's sources:
  1. Fawn Brodie, ‘’Now Man Knows My History’’, 356.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: What was the Council of Fifty?

Joseph Smith received a revelation which called for the organization of a special council

On 7 April 1842, Joseph Smith received a revelation titled "The Kingdom of God and His Laws, With the Keys and Power Thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ," which called the for the organization of a special council separate from, but parallel to, the Church. Since its inception, this organization has been generally been referred to as "the Council of Fifty" because of its approximate number of members.

The Council of Fifty was designed to serve as something of a preparatory legislature in the Kingdom of God

Latter-day Saints believe that one reason the gospel was restored was to prepare the earth for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Church was to bring about religious changes in the world, the Council of Fifty was intended to bring a political transformation. It was therefore designed to serve as something of a preparatory legislature in the Kingdom of God. Joseph Smith ordained the council to be the governing body of the world, with himself as chairman, Prophet, Priest, and King over the Council and the world (subject to Jesus Christ, who is "King of kings"[108]).

The Council was organized on 11 March 1844, at which time it adopted rules of procedure, including those governing legislation. One rule included instructions for passing motions:

To pass, a motion must be unanimous in the affirmative. Voting is done after the ancient order: each person voting in turn from the oldest to the youngest member of the Council, commencing with the standing chairman. If any member has any objections he is under covenant to fully and freely make them known to the Council. But if he cannot be convinced of the rightness of the course pursued by the Council he must either yield or withdraw membership in the Council. Thus a man will lose his place in the Council if he refuses to act in accordance with righteous principles in the deliberations of the Council. After action is taken and a motion accepted, no fault will be found or change sought for in regard to the motion.[109]

What is interesting about this rule is that it required each council member, by covenant, to voice his objections to proposed legislation. Those council members who dissented and could not be convinced to change their minds were to withdraw from the council, however, they would suffer no repercussions by doing so. Thus, full freedom of conscience was maintained by the council — not exactly the sort of actions a despot or tyrant would allow.

The Council never rose to the stature Joseph intended

Members (which included individuals that were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) were sent on expeditions west to explore emigration routes for the Saints, lobbied the American government, and were involved in Joseph Smith's presidential campaign. But only three months after it was established, Joseph was killed, and his death was the beginning of the Council's end. Brigham Young used it as the Saints moved west and settled in the Great Basin, and it met annually during John Taylor's administration, but since that time the Council has not played an active role among the Latter-day Saints.


Question: Was Joseph Smith anointed to be "King over the earth" by the Council of Fifty?

Joseph was never anointed King over the earth in any political sense

Some people claim that Joseph Smith had himself anointed king over the whole world, and that this shows he was some sort of megalomaniac.

The Council of Fifty, while established in preparation for a future Millennial government under Jesus Christ (who is the King of Kings) was to be governed on earth during this preparatory period by the highest presiding ecclesiastical authority, which at the time was the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph had previously been anointed a King and Priest in the Kingdom of God by religious rites associated with the fullness of the temple endowment, and was placed as a presiding authority over this body in his most exalted position within the kingdom of God (as a King and a Priest).

Joseph was anointed as the presiding authority over an organization that was to prepare for the future reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium

The fact that Joseph's prior anointing was referenced in his position as presiding authority over this body creates the confusion that he had been anointed King of the Earth. He was in fact only anointed as the presiding authority over an organization that was to prepare for the future reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium. The fact that Joseph had submitted his name for consideration as President of the United States during this same period adds fodder for critics seeking to malign the character of the Prophet.


Response to claim: 43 - The author notes that “two guns were smuggled” into Carthage Jail and that Joseph and Hyrum “using the guns that had been smuggled in to them...tried to defend themselves"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author notes that “two guns were smuggled” into Carthage Jail and that Joseph and Hyrum “using the guns that had been smuggled in to them...tried to defend themselves against the assailants.’’

Author's sources:
  1. Smith, ‘’History of the Church’’, vol. 6: 607-621; vol. 7: 102-105.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: Is it possible that Joseph Smith is not a martyr because, while in jail, he had a gun and he had the temerity to defend himself?

Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs

It seems clear that:

  1. Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs. (Note that martyrs can die for worthy or ignoble causes, but this makes them no less martyrs.)
  2. The Church has not hidden this fact, but published it from the beginning and includes it in the History of the Church twice.
  3. Joseph was not guilty of murder, because no one died from his shots, and his actions would have been justifiable as self-defense and defense of others even if deaths had resulted.

Critics of Joseph Smith redefine the term "martyr"

In order to make their argument tenable, the critics must do three things. First, they must take some creative liberties with the English language. In this case, the word being redefined is the term martyr. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a "martyr" as

“a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles.”[110]

The online resource, Dictionary.com, defines a martyr as

“one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”[111]

Both are nearly identical and fairly standard definitions, and neither includes a requirement or qualifiers of any sort. However, some anti-Mormon writers have taken the term martyr and subtly changed its definition to suit their own needs. The new definition would probably read something like this: Martyr: a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles without any resistance or effort at self-defense on his part whatsoever.

Critics are free to use such a definition, but it belongs to them alone; it is not the standard use of the word, and not what Church members mean when they refer to the "martyrdom" of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage.

Throughout Christian history, "martyrs" have been understood to be those who suffered quietly, and those who resisted, even with violence, and even to the death of those who persecuted them for their beliefs.

The first anti-Mormon argument thus focuses on the fact that Joseph had a firearm and that he used that firearm to defend himself. Is it possible that Joseph's announcement that he was going “as a lamb to the slaughter” is false, since he fought back?

Anyone who has ever worked on a farm or in a slaughterhouse knows that sheep do not go willingly to the slaughter. They kick and buck, bleat, scream, and make every attempt to escape their fate. In fact, they make such a haunting sound, that the title of an extremely popular Hollywood film was based on it: The Silence of the Lambs. The term “lamb to the slaughter” simply refers to the inevitability of the final outcome. No matter how valiantly they struggle, the fate of the sheep is sealed. If we apply this understanding to Joseph Smith and his brother, it is clear that they truly were slaughtered like lambs. Fight as they might, they were doomed.

Ensign (June 2013): 40, shows Joseph with the pepperbox pistol he would fire to defend himself and others prior to his murder.


Question: Is it true that Joseph killed two men by firing at the mob?

The attackers who were hit by Joseph were not killed (as was first reported in some Church publications) but only wounded

Joseph fired his gun six times (only three shots discharged) and he hit two of the mobbers, which John Taylor later mistakenly stated had died. Was Joseph a murderer?

Joseph's actions were clearly self-defense and defense of others under the common law. However, this point is moot since the attackers who were hit were not killed (as was first reported in some Church publications) but only wounded. They were alive and well at the trial held for mob leaders, and were identified by witnesses. Their good health allowed them to receive gifts because of their role in the assault on Joseph, Hyrum, and the other prisoners.

According to Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill:

Wills, Voras, and Gallaher were probably named in the indictment because their wounds, which testimony showed were received at the jail, were irrefutable evidence that they had participated in the mob. They undoubtedly recognized their vulnerability and fled the county. A contemporary witness reported these three as saying that they were the first men at the jail, that one of them shot through the door killing Hyrum, that Joseph wounded all three with his pistol, and that Gallaher shot Joseph as he ran to the window.[Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 675] According to Hay, Wills, whom the Mormon prophet had shot in the arm, was an Irishman who had joined the mob from “his congenital love of a brawl.”[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844, Brigham Young correspondence, Church Archives.] Gallaher was a young man from Mississippi who was shot in the face.[Hay, "The Mormon Prophet's Tragedy," 669, 675. Another source says Wills was a former Mormon elder who had left the Church. Davis, An Authentic Account, 24.] Hay described Voras (Voorhees) as a “half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek” whom Joseph shot in the shoulder. The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844][112]


Question: Has the Church hidden the fact that Joseph fired a gun while in Carthage Jail?

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not aware of all the excruciatingly minute details of the history of the Church

Mob fires at Joseph Smith in the upper window at Carthage Jail.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and this is especially true of new members or less-active members) are not aware of all the excruciatingly minute details of the history of the Church. It has become a common tactic among some anti-Mormon aficionados of Mormon history to use this historical ignorance as a weapon. These writers often claim to “expose” these minor events of Church history in a sensationalistic attempt to shock members of the Church with “hidden” revelations or “secret” accounts about various episodes in Church history. They will often claim that the Church has kept this knowledge under wraps for fear that if it was generally known it would cause many members of the Church to immediately renounce their faith and result in the ruination of the Church.

Joseph's attempt to defend himself using the gun is clearly described in History of the Church

Unfortunately for the critics, Joseph's attempt to defend himself, his brother, and his friends, and his possession of a pepperbox gun, is clearly spelled out in the History of the Church:

In the meantime Joseph, Hyrum, and Elder Taylor had their coats off. Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel, Taylor for Markham's large hickory cane, and Dr. Richards for Taylor's cane. All sprang against the door, the balls whistled up the stairway, and in an instant one came through the door.

Joseph Smith, John Taylor and Dr. Richards sprang to the left of the door, and tried to knock aside the guns of the ruffians...

Joseph reached round the door casing, and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire. Continual discharges of musketry came into the room. Elder Taylor continued parrying the guns until they had got them about half their length into the room, when he found that resistance was vain, and he attempted to jump out of the window, where a ball fired from within struck him on his left thigh, hitting the bone, and passing through to within half an inch of the other side. He fell on the window sill, when a ball fired from the outside struck his watch in his vest pocket, and threw him back into the room.[113]

The next volume of the History of the Church tells the story from John Taylor's point of view:

I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum, and, leaning over him, exclaimed, 'Oh! my poor, dear brother Hyrum!' He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged.[114]

If the Church wished to hide these facts, why did they publish them in the History of the Church not once, but twice?


The FairMormon Blog responds to these questions

Roger Nicholson,"The Prophet and the Pistol: A Perspective on the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith", FairMormon Blog, (November 7, 2013)


In the Church History Museum near Temple Square, located inside a glass case, resides a pair of 19th century pistols and a walking stick. The placard reads, in part, as follows,

Joseph’s Pepperbox Pistol and Hyrum’s Single Shot Pistol. These guns were used by both men for their defense during the attack at Carthage

These were the guns that were smuggled into the Carthage Jail while Joseph Smith, Hyrum and their friends awaited their fate. On the morning of June 27, 1844, Cyrus Wheelock visited the jail.

The morning being a little rainy, favoured his wearing an overcoat, in the side pocket of which he was enabled to carry a six-shooter, and he passed the guard unmolested. During his visit in the prison he slipped the revolver into Joseph’s pocket. Joseph examined it, and asked Wheelock if he had not better retain it for his own protection.
This was a providential circumstance, as most other persons had been very rigidly searched. Joseph then handed the single barrel pistol, which had been given him by John S. Fullmer, to his brother Hyrum, and said, “You may have use for this.” Brother Hyrum observed, “I hate to use such things, or to see them used.” “So do I,” said Joseph, “but we may have to, to defend ourselves;” upon this Hyrum took the pistol. [i]

Although it was referred to as a “six shooter,” the pepper-box pistol was not a revolver in the normal sense. It incorporated six individual barrels, it was difficult to aim and tended to be unreliable. The June 2013 Ensign features a painting Greater Love Hath No Man, by Casey Childs. [ii] The artwork features all three items in the display case. Joseph, Hyrum and Willard Richards are attempting to hold the door shut as the mob attempts to enter the room. John Taylor is holding his walking stick. In Hyrum’s left pocket is the single shot pistol brought into the jail by Fullmer, and in Joseph’s left pocket, clearly visible, is the pepper-box pistol given to him by Wheelock.

Click here to view the complete article

Response to claim: 44 - “nine of the LDS apostles were charged with counterfeiting, and to avoid arrest, the fled in the night”

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that “nine of the LDS apostles were charged with counterfeiting, and to avoid arrest, the fled in the night.”

Author's sources:
  1. Tanner, ‘’Mormonism-Shadow or Reality?’’ 537-41.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources


Question: Are there government records that prove that the apostles were involved in counterfeiting in Nauvoo?

There are no "government records" which prove that the apostles "were involved in making counterfeit coins"

The book One Nation Under Gods claims that government records indicate that Brigham Young, Willard Richards, Parley Pratt, and Orson Hyde were involved in making counterfeit coins, and that this may have "started under Joseph's leadership." [115] The author cites the following sources to support his claim:

  • Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Mormon Kingdom, vol. 2, 51-64.
  • D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 127, 650-651.
  • Warsaw Signal, June 5, 1844.
  • St Louis American, December 2, 1845.

There are no "government records" which prove that the apostles "were involved in making counterfeit coins" At best, there is an indictment from a local grand jury, but an indictment is not proof—and, it is unlikely that indictment was anything but a ploy to make sure the Mormons left.

Of three men accused, two are non-Mormons, and the third was criticized by Hyrum Smith for this practice after his eventual apostasy

On page 127, Quinn mentions three men who either passed counterfeit money or who were accused of counterfeiting—yet, two are non-Mormons, and the third was criticized by Hyrum Smith for this practice after his eventual apostasy.

On pages 650-651, Quinn mentions two items that relate to counterfeiting:

  • 24 Mar. [1845] A disaffected Mormon writes that Theodore Turley, of the Council of Fifty, has prepared a press in Nauvoo for counterfeiting, and that Turley gave the man a counterfeit $5.00 bill. [650]
  • 4 June. [1845] Young and Kimball learn that Warren Snow and Dominicus Carter have been jailed in Quincy, Illinois, for passing counterfeit money. Bishop Joseph L. Heywood confirms that they are guilty. In Utah Snow would become a bishop and Carter a member of a stake presidency. [651]

None of this associates Joseph Smith (or any of the named apostles) with approving or conducting counterfeiting in any way

That Snow and Carter later held church leadership positions says nothing about official sanction for their actions in Nauvoo—repentance is a firm tenet of the Church.

The "government documents" to which the author refers (via the Tanners) date from 1846 and appear to be a ploy to provide incentive for the Saints to leave Nauvoo

The grand jury of the United States district court of Springfield, Illinois, in January 1846, issued twelve indictments against prominent Church leaders for counterfeiting United States coin. [Niles' National Register, January 3, 1846.] This action was generally thought to be a ploy on the part of the government to make certain that the Saints would keep their promise to leave Nauvoo in the spring. Church leaders issued a circular in which they denied the charge of counterfeiting. They reiterated that they expected the migration to begin early in March. [Missouri Reporter, February 5, 1846.] They then went into hiding and refused to give themselves up for trial.[116]


Notes

  1. 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), 6:408. Volume 6 link
  2. See discussions of this issue in: John Gee, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 185–224. [{{{url}}} off-site]; 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]; 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]
  3. John Gee, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 185–224. [{{{url}}} off-site]; citing Stanley J. Tambiah, Magic, Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Jonathan Z. Smith, "Trading Places," in Ancient Magic and Ritual Power, ed. Marvin Meyer and Paul Mirecki (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 16.
  4. Robert K. Ritner, "Egyptian Magic: Questions of Legitimacy, Religious Orthodoxy and Social Deviance," in Studies in Pharaonic Religion and Society in Honour of J. Gwyn Griffiths , ed. Alan B. Lloyd (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1992), 190; cited in John Gee, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 185–224. [{{{url}}} off-site] (emphasis in original).
  5. D. Michael Quinn, "Joseph Smith's Experience of a Methodist "Camp Meeting" in 1820," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought - Dialogue Paperless: E-Paper #3 (December 20, 2006), PDF link expanded version ("definitive") (accessed March 6, 2007).
  6. Palmyra Register (June 28, 1820): 2.
  7. Palmyra Register (July 5, 1820): 2.
  8. Milton V. Backman and James B. Allen, "Membership of Certain of Joseph Smith's Family in the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 4 (1970), 482-484.
  9. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  10. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  11. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  12. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161. AISN B000FH6N04.
  13. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  14. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  15. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  16. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  17. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  18. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  19. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  20. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  21. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 74–77.
  22. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 84.
  23. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 2.
  24. Oliver Cowdery, "LETTER IV," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 5 (Feb. 1835), 78.
  25. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 22.
  26. Matthew Brown, "Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Stories.", 2006 FAIR Conference.
  27. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  28. 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.
  29. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 17–18.
  30. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Stevens and Wallis, 1945), 90.
  31. Letter, Josiah Stowell Jr. to John S. Fullmer, 17 February 1843.
  32. Morning Star, 7 March 1833 [Limerick, Maine].
  33. Peter Bauder, The Kingdom and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Canajoharie, New York: A. H. Calhoun, 1834), 36.
  34. Observer and Telegraph, 18 November 1830 [Hudson, Ohio].
  35. “Gold Bible, No. 3,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 12 (1 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  36. The Catholic Telegraph, 14 April 1832 [Cincinnati, Ohio].
  37. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 14:140-141.
  38. 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), 156–158.; 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), 5:258. Volume 5 link; Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 274. off-site
  39. See The Gospel of Nicodemus, Part II, 6 in ANF 8:436-437.
  40. The Pastor of Hermas, ANF 2:49. See also, Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 615-616. GL direct link and D&C 128:.
  41. Joseph Smith in The Essential Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1995), 151-152.
  42. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies VI. in ANF, 2:490.
  43. Personal translation taken from Blueletter Bible and BYU Professor Wilf Griggs.
  44. M. Russell Ballard, cited in Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 72.
  45. Criticisms put forth by Watchman Fellowship, The Watchman Expositor (Page 3)
  46. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "shall."
  47. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "generation."
  48. 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), 2:182. Volume 2 link
  49. 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), 5:336–337. Volume 5 link
  50. 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), 6:254. Volume 6 link
  51. Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
  52. See DC 8:1-3 and DC 9:7-10.
  53. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
  54. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints, 1805-1890, Volume 1, p. 580-81.
  55. Orson Pratt, “Explanation of Substituted Names in the Covenants,” The Seer 2.3 (March 1854): 227-9.
  56. ?, "Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchisedek Priesthoods," Millennial Star 19 no. 17 (25 April 1857), 260. (Scripture references modernized for wiki linkage.)
  57. Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," Ensign (May 1974), 93. off-site; also in Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," in Conference Report (April 1974), 137.
  58. 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), 1:173, note. note Volume 1 link
  59. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
  60. History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
  61. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
  62. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
  63. Dean Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 38; punctuation and spelling standardized. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  64. Levi Ward Hancock, “Autobiography with Additions in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock,” 63, MS 570, LDS Church History Library, punctuation and spelling standardized; cited portion written by Mosiah. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  65. Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 323–25, 347–49.
  66. Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 no. 3 (Fall 2005), 30n75.
  67. Wilhelm Wyl, [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City, Utah: Tribune Printing and Publishing Company, 1886), 57; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67; discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 140 and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  68. Ann Eliza would have observed none of the Fanny marriage at first hand, since she was not born until 1840. The Webbs’ accounts are perhaps best seen as two versions of the same perspective.
  69. Young, Wife No. 19, 66–67; discussed by Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 83n102; see also Ann Eliza Webb Young to Mary Bond, 24 April 1876 and 4 May 1876, Myron H. Bond collection, P21, f11, RLDS Archives cited by Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34 and commentary in Todd Compton, "A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-Three Plural Wives," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29/2 (Summer 1996): 30.
  70. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  71. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986),48; citing Robinson, Journal, 23–24.
  72. "Unit 31: Day 2, The Coming Forth of the Pearl of Great Price," Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, LDS.org (2013)
  73. John Whitmer, quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847 (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 86.
  74. Warren Parrish, letter to the editor, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, cited in John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 115, n. 4.
  75. Wilford Woodruff journal, February 19, 1842.
  76. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 20:65.
  77. The Pearl of Great Price–––Introduction (2013 ed.). Elsewhere official Church publications say concerning the Book of Abraham: "The book of Abraham is a translation that the Prophet Joseph Smith made from some Egyptian papyri." Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996), 1.
  78. John Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri," in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 175–218; "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," 115–123; "Formulas and Faith," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 21, no. 1 (2012): 60–65; "Book of Abraham, I Presume," online at http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-book-of-abraham-i-presume; See also http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/Size_of_missing_papyrus
  79. Andrew W. Cook and Christopher C. Smith, “The Original Length of the Scroll of Hôr,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43, no. 4 (Winter 2010), 1–42; Andrew W. Cook, "Formulas and Facts: A Response to John Gee," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 1–10.
  80. Kerry Muhlestein, “Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, 230–31. See also http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/By_his_own_hand
  81. Donald Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith in Salem, (D&C 111)" Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (editors), Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 433.
  82. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:410–411. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  83. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), p. 896.
  84. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 350.
  85. Cannon, 436.
  86. Adams, 481.
  87. Brigham Young, "He That Loveth Not His Brother...," (29 March 1857) Journal of Discourses 4:297-297.
  88. Letter published in the 15 Feb. 1838 Painesville Republican, re-printed in The Ohio Repository, 22 Mar. 1838; cited in Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 194.
  89. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 1:120. ISBN 0941214133.
  90. Elder's Journal 1 no. 4 (August 1838).
  91. Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson, "Charges Against Joseph Smith, Jr., n.d.," Newel K. Whitney Collection, Special Collections, BYU; cited in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 196. (Reviews)
  92. Vault-Ms 76, box 2, fd 2, Special Collections, BYU; cited in Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 196.
  93. "Peace and Violence among 19th-Century Latter-day Saints," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (May 2014)
  94. 94.0 94.1 94.2 94.3 94.4 94.5 94.6 Leland H. Gentry, ""The Danite Band of 1838"," Brigham Young University Studies 14 no. 4 (1974). 423. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gentry" defined multiple times with different content
  95. John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons) (1839), 31. Cited in Gentry, "The Danite Band", 423.
  96. 96.0 96.1 Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders &c. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State., (1841) U.S. Government Printing Office.
  97. 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), 3:209–210. Volume 3 link
  98. 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), 3:179. Volume 3 link
  99. B.H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions, 1900, p. 220
  100. B.H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1963), 43-44.
  101. The Journal of Joseph Horne, Jr., 1858-1861: Including His Life Summary. LDS archives, 7. Horne’s account is also cited in Corwin L. Nimer, "Treachery and False Swearing in Missouri: The Rise and Fall of Sampson Avard," Mormon Historical Studies 5, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 37-60.
  102. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 12:30.
  103. T. L. Brink, "The Rise of Mormonism: A Case Study in the Symbology of Frontier America," International Journal of Symbology 6/3 (1975): 4; cited in Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #15) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site
  104. Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site (citations omitted)
  105. William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, MS 1401 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  106. Horace H. Cummings, "True Stories from My Journal," The Instructor 64 no. 8 (August 1929), 441.; cited in Matthew B. Brown, "Of Your Own Selves Shall Men Arise, Review of The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Buerger," FARMS Review of Books 10/1 (1998): 97–131. off-site
  107. Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #5) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site(emphasis added)
  108. See 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16
  109. Andrew F. Ehat, "'It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth': Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God," Brigham Young University Studies 20 no. 3 (1980), 260-61.
  110. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition (New York: World Publishing Company, 1970), 870.
  111. Dictionary.com website, s.v. "martyr."(accessed May 7, 2003).
  112. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 52. ISBN 025200762X.
  113. 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), 6:617–618. Volume 6 link
  114. 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), 7:102–103. Volume 7 link
  115. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods, Endnote 62-65, page 552 (hardback); page 550 (paperback).
  116. Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839–1846” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1967), [citation needed].