Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism Unvailed/The Hurlbut affidavits

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Response to the Hurlbut affidavits

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"Hurlburt was always an unreliable fellow."
— E.D. Howe, Hurlburt's partner in the first anti-Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed (1834).[1]

Question: What are the Hurlbut affidavits?

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

Many critics cite a collection of affidavits from Joseph Smith’s neighbors which claim that the Smith family possessed a number of character flaws. These affidavits were collected by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut ("Doctor" was his first name, not a title). [2] Hurlbut had been excommunicated from the Church on charges of "unvirtuous conduct with a young lady," [3] and for threatening the life of the Prophet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the record it appears that Judge Spear found Joseph Jr. competent, and he indeed did testify during the trial. This is evident in a review of the List of Services that was part of the court file. Joseph Jr.'s testimony would have been required to admit those services he personally performed....[4]

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

At any rate, Hurlbut's later collection of statements was made at the request of an anti-Mormon committee in Kirtland, Ohio. [5] According to B.H. Roberts:

It was simply a matter of "muck raking" on Hurlbut's part. Every idle story, every dark insinuation which at that time could be thought of and unearthed was pressed into service to gratify this man's personal desire for revenge, and to aid the enemies of the Prophet in their attempt to destroy his influence and overthrow the institution then in process of such remarkable development. [6]

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

Hurlbut was unable to publish the affidavits himself after his trial for making death threats against Joseph Smith, Jr. (And, it is possible that his family's animus dated back far longer.) He sold his material to Eber D. Howe, who published it in his anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed in 1834. In addition to the affidavits attacking the character of the Smith family, Hurlbut gathered statements from the family and neighbors of Solomon Spalding in order to "prove" that Spalding's unpublished manuscript was the source for the Book of Mormon. Mormonism Unvailed contained the first presentation of the Spalding theory of Book of Mormon origin. Some critics, such as Fawn Brodie, are selective in their acceptance of Hurlbut's affidavits—They readily accept affidavits that attack the character of the Smith family, yet admit that some "judicious prompting" by Hurlbut may have been involved in those affidavits that were gathered to support the Spalding theory. [7]

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

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

All who became intimate with them during this period, unite in representing the general character of old Joseph and wife, the parents of the pretended Prophet, as lazy, indolent, ignorant and superstitious—having a firm belief in ghosts and witches; the telling of fortunes; pretending to believe that the earth was filled with hidden treasures, buried there by Kid or the Spaniards. [8]


Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits claim about the Smith family's character and reliability?

The affidavits claimed that the Smith family was "lazy" and "worthless" and "destitute of moral character"

A number of individuals signed the following statement, which claims that Joseph Smith's family was "destitute of moral character." This, of course, all occurred several years after the publication of the Book of Mormon. the statement appears in E.D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed in 1834:

We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family, for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character, which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects, spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth; and to this day, large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits.

Martin Harris was a man who had acquired a handsome property, and in matters of business his word was considered good; but on moral and religious subjects, he was perfectly visionary -- sometimes advocating one sentiment, and sometimes another. And in reference to all with whom we were acquainted, that have embraced Mormonism from this neighborhood, we are compeled to say, were very visionary, and most of them destitute of moral character, and without influence in this community; and this may account why they were permitted to go on with their impositions undisturbed. It was not supposed that any of them were possessed of sufficient character or influence to make any one believe their book or their sentiments, and we know not of a single individual in this vicinity that puts the least confidence in their pretended revelations.[9]

Joseph Smith responded direct to the accusations against his character in December 1834

Joseph Smith published the following response in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834:

During this time, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark, that, though, as I have said above, "as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies," I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.

This being all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral character, I wish to add, that it is not without a deep feeling of regret that I am thus called upon in answer to my own conscience, to fulfill a duty I owe to myself, as well as to the cause of truth, in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk, and unchaste conversation: and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God. But as the "Articles and Covenants" of this church are plain upon this particular point, I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add, that (I do not, nor never have, pretended to be any other than a man "subject to passion," and liable, without the assisting grace of the Savior, to deviate from that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk!)[10]

If members of the Smith family had been liars, immoral, and "addicted to vicious habits," Lucy, Hyrum and Samuel would have been unable to retain their membership in the Western Presbyterian Church until 1830

Milton V. Backman wrote:

If the belittling statements by men who supposedly were acquainted with the Smith family were correct, and if members of the family had been liars, immoral, and "addicted to vicious habits," Lucy, Hyrum and Samuel would have been unable to retain their membership in the Western Presbyterian Church until 1830. In that era excommunications were frequent in most congregations, including the Presbyterian society of Palmyra. Individuals judged guilty of immorality, profanity, lying, drunkenness, gambling, and other such sins were excommunicated from this society. The reason members of the Smith family were dismissed from the Lord's Supper in the spring of 1830 was not because of any of the above charges but only because they desired to withdraw their membership and had neglected to attend church for a year and a half. [11]

Contrast the accusations against the achievements of the family during the few years of their residence in Palmyra

B.H. Roberts contrasts the achievements of the Smith family with the accusations made against them:

Against this large collection of evil report and false interpretation of the character of the Smiths while at Palmyra, prompted as it was by prejudice and collected by malice, the evidence of accomplished fact, and the subsequent lives of the family may be opposed. Take for example the achievements of the family during the few years of their residence in Palmyra. They arrived there penniless, as all admit, with nothing but their bare hands with which to help themselves. Yet in a few years they built two homes in the wilderness; they cleared sixty acres of heavy timber land, and converted it into a tillable farm. In addition to their farming and gardening, they had a sugar orchard of from twelve to fifteen hundred maple trees, from which they gathered the sap and converted it into syrup or sugar. To aid in making the annual payments upon their farm, as well as to help sustain the family until the farm could be made productive, they took an occasional day's work among the neighboring farmers or the Palmyra village folk, sometimes engaged to dig a well, or harvest a field of grain. It is conceded, in the main, that they did all this; and one marvels in the face of it that the charge of laziness and thriftlessness should be made. But the wonder grows when to all this is to be added the stories of the affidavits about the Smith's "money digging" enterprises. "They * * * spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth, and to this day large excavations may be seen in the earth not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time digging for hidden treasures." fn Truly if the half of what is told in the affidavits about these exploits, usually carried on at night, is to be believed, then it would be utterly impossible to believe the Smiths to be idle or habitually lazy. [12]


Question: What did Parley Chase claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Parley Chase claimed that the Smiths were lazy, intemperate that they "boasted of their skill" at lying

Parley Chase made the following claims about the Smith family on 2 December 1833, three years after the publication of the Book of Mormon:

I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen., both before and since they became Mormons, and feel free to state that not one of the male members of the Smith family were entitled to any credit, whatsoever. They were lazy, intemperate and worthless men, very much addicted to lying. In this they frequently boasted of their skill. Digging for money was their principal employment. In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God, through Joseph Smith Jr., his Prophet, and this same Joseph Smith Jr. to my knowledge, bore the reputation among his neighbors of being a liar. The foregoing statement can be corroborated by all his former neighbors.[13]

Hugh Nibley: "Skillful liars don't boast about it"

Hugh Nibley notes:

"Frequently"? A liar's "skill"...consists in not being recognized as a liar. Skillful liars don't boast about it. [14]

For a detailed response, see: Lazy Smiths?


Question: What did Joseph Capron claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Joseph Capron claimed that Joseph used his seer stone to locate "ghosts, infernal spirits, mountains of gold and silver, and many other invaluable treasures deposited in the earth"


Question: What did Lemon Copley claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Lemon Copley claimed that Joseph told him a story about seeing an old man named Moroni who claimed to have a monkey in a box

Copley also claimed that the Lord told Joseph that the man was Moroni with the plates, and that if he had "five coppers, he might have got his plates again."

Note that Copley's testimony contradicts that of Peter Ingersoll. Ingersoll claimed that Joseph Smith made up the story of the plates on the spot in order to fool his family. Copley, on the other hand, mentions the name Moroni.


Question: What did Alva Hale claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Alva Hale (Son of Isaac Hale) claimed that he knew Joseph Smith, Jr. and Martin Harris "to be an impostor, and a liar"

John Stafford, on the other hand, said that Martin Harris was an honorable farmer

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford, would later testify, "[Martin Harris] was an honorable farmer; he was not very religious before the Book of Mormon was published." [15]


Question: What did Isaac Hale claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Isaac Hale claimed that the Book of Mormon was a "silly fabrication" because he wasn't allowed to see the plates

(Father-in-law of Joseph Smith, Jr.)

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr's occupation was "seeing" by means of a "stone placed in his hat."
  • Claimed that Joseph "pretended to discover minerals and treasure."
  • Claimed that he was not allowed to look into the box containing the gold plates.
  • Claimed that Joseph said that a "young child" would be the first to view the plates.
  • Claimed that he told Joseph to remove the plates from his house if he couldn't be allowed to view them.
  • Claimed that Joseph told Martin Harris to go into the woods to find the plates on his own.
  • Claimed that Joseph translated the plates by looking in his hat while the plates were in the woods.
  • Claimed that the Book of Mormon was a "silly fabrication."


Question: What did Henry Harris claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Henry Harris claimed that Joseph was lazy, and that he was required to be married in order to see the plates

In the anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed, Henry Harris had this to say about Joseph Smith:

Joseph Smith, Jr. the pretended Prophet, used to pretend to tell fortunes; he had a stone which he used to put in his hat, by means of which he professed to tell people's fortunes.[16]

Harris made the following assertions:

  • Claimed that the Smith family "labored very little."
  • Claimed that the Smith family primarily "dug for money."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. "pretended to tell fortunes."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. "he had a stone which he used to put in his hat, by means of which he professed to tell people's fortunes."
  • Claimed that Joseph was required to be married in order to obtain the plates.
  • Claimed that Joseph and Martin Harris (and others) "were regarded by the community in which they lived, as a lying and indolent set of men and no confidence could be placed in them."
  • Claimed that "He said it was revealed to him, that no one must see the plates but himself and wife [Emma]."

Harris claimed to have conversed with Joseph Smith regarding the plates:

After he pretended to have found the gold plates, I had a conversation with him, and asked him where he found them and how he come to know where they were. He said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his stone and saw them in the place of deposit; that an angel appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was married, and that when he saw the woman that was to be his wife, he should know her, and she would know him. He then went to Pennsylvania, got his wife, and they both went together and got the gold plates -- he said it was revealed to him, that no one must see the plates but himself and wife.[17]

Responses to Harris' claims

  • The claim that the Smith's were lazy and rarely worked it clearly false—their farm and its improvements was worth more than most of their neighbors.
  • Many testified to how diligent a worker Joseph was.
  • Martin Harris was respected and admired greatly—until he became associated with the Book of Mormon. He was otherwise trusted and well-regarded, which is why critics found his participation so baffling.
  • Emma testified she never saw the plates; the claim about her and Joseph seeing them is thus false.


Question: What did Nathaniel Lewis claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Nathaniel Lewis claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. was an impostor, hypocrite and liar

(Brother-in-law to Isaac Hale and a Methodist deacon)

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. asked his advice on whether or not he should translate the plates.
  • Claimed that Joseph told him that God commanded him to translate the plates, but that he was "afraid of the people."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. "frequently said to me that I should see the plates at the time appointed."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. said that "he, himself was deceived."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. was "an impostor, hypocrite and liar."

Hugh Nibley: This contradicts the claims by other critics that the Book of Mormon was intended to be a "publicity stunt"

Nibley notes that the claim made by Lewis that Joseph was "afraid of the people" contradicts the claims by other critics that the Book of Mormon was intended to be a "publicity stunt." [18]


Question: What did Joshua M'Kune claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Joshua M'Kune claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. and Martin Harris were "artful seducers"

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. and Martin Harris were "artful seducers."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. said that "(Smith's) first-born child was to translate the characters, and hieroglyphics, upon the Plates."
  • John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford, would later testify, "[Martin Harris] was an honorable farmer; he was not very religious before the Book of Mormon was published." [19]


Question: What did Roswell Nichols claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Roswell Nichols claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was "weak minded," and of "low character."

  • Claimed that the Smith family was known for "breach of contracts," and "non-payment of debts."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was "weak minded," and of "low character."


Question: What did Barton Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Barton Stafford claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was a "drunkard"

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. was a "drunkard."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. was "addicted to intemperance."

John Stafford, on the other hand, said that it was common then for everybody to drink, and to have drink in the field

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford, was later asked "What was the character of [Joseph] Smith [Jr.], as to his drinking?" Replied Stafford, "It was common then for everybody to drink, and to have drink in the field; one time Joe, while working for some one after he was married, drank too much boiled cider. He came in with his shirt torn." When asked if this meant Joseph had been drunk and fighting, Stafford insisted, "No; he had been scuffling with some of the boys. Never saw him fight; have known him to scuffle...." [20] Thus, while Joseph likely drank (as did everyone, a point which the affidavits gloss over) to describe him as 'addicted to intemperance' is likely a gross exaggeration. John Stafford seems to have remembered this event because it was remarkable and fairly minor—hardly the sign of Joseph being perpetually drunk.

  • The lack of other claims in the affidavits that Joseph Jr. was a drunk is also telling—this would have been widely known and widely claimed in the affidavits if true.


Question: What did David Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

David Stafford claimed that Oliver Cowdery was a "worthless person" who was "not to be trusted"

  • That Joseph Smith, Sr. was a "drunkard," a "liar," and a "gambler."
  • That the "general employment" of the Smith family was "money digging" and "fortune telling."
  • That Oliver Cowdery was a "worthless person" who was "not to be trusted."

John Stafford, on the other hand, stated that Oliver Cowdery was a man of good character

John Stafford, William Stafford's eldest son, would later say that Oliver Cowdery "taught school on the Canandaigua road, where the stone school-house now stands...Cowdery was a man of good character." [21]


Question: What did Joshua Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Joshua Stafford claimed that the Smith family became "indolent" after "digging for hidden treasures"

  • Claimed that the Smith family became "indolent" after "digging for hidden treasures."
  • Claimed that the Smith family told stories of "ghosts, hob-goblins and caverns."


Question: What did G. W. Stoddard claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

G. W. Stoddard claimed that Martin Harris' "moral and religious character" did "not entitle him to respect"=

  • Claimed that Martin Harris was "industrious and enterprising" before he got involved with Mormonism.
  • Claimed that Martin Harris' "moral and religious character" did "not entitle him to respect."
  • Claimed that Martin Harris was known to "abuse his wife, by whipping her, kicking her out of bed and turning her out of doors."

John Stafford, on the other hand, claimed that Martin Harris "was an honorable farmer" but "not very religious before the Book of Mormon was published"

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford, would later testify, "[Martin Harris] was an honorable farmer; he was not very religious before the Book of Mormon was published." [22]


Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits claim about the Smith family and treasure digging?

Statements of individuals who claimed to have assisted Joseph Smith, Sr. in digging operations

Several individuals who had participated with Joseph Smith, Sr. on treasure digging activities made some unique claims regarding Joseph Smith, Jr.


Question: What did Willard Chase claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Willard Chase claimed that he discovered Joseph's seer stone, and that it belonged to him

Willard Chase and Joseph Smith were digging a well together when one of Joseph's seer stones was discovered. When it became known that Joseph was able to use the stone, Chase later claimed that Joseph had stolen it from him.

  • Claimed that he discovered Joseph Smith's seer stone.
  • Claimed that the seer stone rightfully belonged to Chase.

Willard Chase claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Moroni appeared in the form of a toad

Chase claimed that the Prophet's father told him that certain "magical" practices had to be performed in order for Joseph to obtain the plates.

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Joseph Jr. removed the plates from the stone box, set them on the ground, and that they went back into the stone box on their own.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Joseph Jr. was required to wear certain clothes and perform certain actions in order to obtain the plates.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that the angel Moroni appeared in the form of a toad.

Responses to these claims


Question: What did Peter Ingersoll claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Peter Ingersoll claimed that the Smiths' "general employment" was money digging

  • Claimed that the Smith family's general employment was "digging for money."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. taught him to use a divining rod.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. and Alvin Smith used a stone in a hat to see things.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr., was engaged in "divination."

The Smith farm was improved to the point that it was worth more than 9 out of 10 farms in the region.[23] Given that the Smiths' property was worth more than most of their neighbors, it is difficult to credit the after-the-fact claims by some neighbors in the Hurlbut affidavits that the Smiths were lazy ne'er-do-wells who spent all of their time "money digging."

Ingersoll claimed that Joseph admitted to his father-in-law that he was a fraud

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. admitted to his father-in-law that he only pretended to be able to see things in the stone.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. fooled his family into thinking that a frock full of sand was the "Gold Bible."
  • Claimed that Joseph told his family that nobody could see the "Gold Bible" and live.

On the threat that no one could see the "gold bible" and live, see: Viewing gold plates would result in death

Ingersoll claimed that the story of the gold plates was created as a joke

  • Claimed that Joseph made up the story of the gold plates on the spot, after which he is supposed to have said, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." However, Ingersoll is discredited on his claim that Joseph made the story of the "gold bible" up on the spot as a way to have "fun" with his family. Joseph was telling various people about his Moroni visits well before recovering the plates (see for example various Knight family recollections). Note also that the name "Moroni" appears in the claim made by Lemon Copley.
  • Claimed that Joseph told him that "he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. said that there had been a book found in a hollow tree in Canada that described the "first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus."

It is very difficult to believe that Joseph would have privately confided to Ingersoll that the plates didn't exist, when he told everyone else that they did.

See also:


Question: What did C.R. Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

C.R. Stafford claimed that Joseph Smith told his uncle that he wanted to sacrifice a sheep

(nephew of William Stafford)

  • Claimed that "Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving."

Response to these claims

  • This is hearsay; it provides no additional evidence than the original claim made by Stafford's uncle.


Question: What did William Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

William Stafford claimed that Joseph could see "spirits" guarding treasures

(uncle to C.R. Stafford)

  • Claimed that the family of Joseph Smith, Sr. devoted a "great part of their time" to "digging for money."
  • Claimed that he was told that Joseph Smith, Jr. could see "large caves" in "nearly all the hills in this part of New York."
  • Claimed that Joseph could see "spirits" guarding great treasures.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that treasure could "sink" into the ground.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. took one of his sheep on the pretense of using it to search for money by cutting its throat.
  • Claimed that Joseph promised to show him the gold plates.

The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors

The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors. The attacks on their industry date from after they had become notorious for the Book of Mormon and the Church, and probably spring from religious hostility more than truth.

For a detailed response, see: Lazy Smiths?

William Stafford's story contradicts Peter Ingersoll's story

William Stafford's claim that Joseph promised to show him the gold plates directly contradicts Peter Ingersoll's claim that Joseph confided to him that there were no plates.

Stafford claimed that "The two Josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the book of Mormon was translated. But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates."[24]

Ingersol,on the other hand, said that Joseph confided to him that "he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book."[25]

Stafford's oldest son John: "I have heard that story [about the black sheep] but don't think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep"

Stafford's oldest son John would later say "I have heard that story [about the black sheep] but don't think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep. I don't know anything about it....They never stole one [a sheep], I am sure; they may have got one sometime....I don't think it [the story of the sheep] is true. I would have heard more about it, that is true." [26]


Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits say about Charles Anthon and the characters copied from the gold plates?

Statement of Charles Anthon regarding the characters copied from the gold plates

Claimant Claims Comments

Charles Anthon

  • Claimed that he did not pronounce the characters shown to him by Martin Harris to be "reformed Egyptian."
  • Claimed that no translation of the characters had been shown to him.
  • Claimed that he told Martin Harris that he was the subject of a hoax.
  • Claimed that he declined to write his opinion down.
  • Claimed that the characters resembled something copied from the "Mexican calendar."
  • The problem with Anthon's remarks is that whatever he told Martin Harris encouraged Martin, who returned convinced that Joseph could translate and that the plates were authentic. Martin's willingness to risk his money and good name in Joseph's project argues against Anthon's later categorical denials.


Question: What did the Hurlbut affidavits say about Martin Harris?

Lucy and Abigail Harris claimed that Martin Harris said that Mormonism was false and that he could "make money out of it"

Claimant Claims Comments

Abigail Harris

  • Claimed that Martin Harris said regarding Mormonism: "What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it!"
  • Abigail embellishes her version of what she heard by implying that Martin Harris "admitted" that Mormonism was a lie.

Lucy Harris

(Wife of Martin Harris)

  • Claimed that Martin Harris said the Mormonism was false, and that "if you would let me alone, I could make money by it."
  • Claimed that Martin Harris "has whipped, kicked, and turned me out of the house."
  • Claimed that Martin Harris was having an affair with a neighbor's wife.
  • Despite the fact that Lucy Harris makes no mention of the lost 116 pages of manuscript from the Book of Mormon, Fawn Brodie in her book No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith actually concludes that Harris beat his wife in order to get her to divulge what she had done with the lost 116 pages of manuscript.

Lucy and Abigail Harris are the only two individuals who claimed that Martin Harris was hoping to make money from Mormonism

It is interesting to note the similarity between the testimony for both women. It is more interesting however, to note how Abigail Harris has added the phrase "What if it is a lie," while Martin's wife, Lucy, did not. If Martin actually believed that Mormonism was a lie, why would his wife Lucy not have mentioned this? [27]


Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits say about Joseph Smith claiming that he was "as good as Jesus Christ"?

Three individuals who made their depositions together said that Joseph Smith claimed that he was "as good as Jesus Christ"

Claimant Claims Comments

Levi Lewis

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. and Martin Harris said that "adultery was no crime."
  • Claimed that he "knows Smith to be a liar."
  • Claimed that he heard Joseph Smith say that he "was as good as Jesus Christ."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. told him "[w]ith regard to the plates, Smith said God had deceived him."
  • Martin Harris would later be charged with slander for accusing a woman (Eliza Winters) of having a "bastard child." He was acquitted of this charge, but it is inconsistent with Lewis' claim for Martin to suffer jail and risk slander charges over an issue which he regards as "no crime." The story is implausible.
  • Joseph repeatedly testified (as did others) that he had the plates, and that others and seen them. That Lewis claims otherwise is likewise implausible.
  • Joseph's early private letters reveal him to be humble and painfully aware of his dependence on God. The claim about him being "as good as Jesus Christ" is inconsistent with this private, contemporary evidence.
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

Sophia Lewis

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. said that he "was as good as Jesus Christ."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. said that "the Book of Plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his (Smith's) first-born, which was to be a male."

Hezekiah M'Kune

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith said "he was nearly equal to Jesus Christ."
  • Joseph's early private letters reveal him to be humble and painfully aware of his dependence on God. The claim about him being "as good as Jesus Christ" is inconsistent with this private, contemporary evidence.
  • Gregory L. Smith, A review of Nauvoo Polygamy:...but we called it celestial marriage by George D. Smith. FARMS Review, Vol. 20, Issue 2. (Detailed book review)

Hezekiah M'Kune, Levi Lewis and Sophia Lewis went together to make their depositions before the justice and their testimonies bear a remarkable similarity

  • Hezekiah M'Kune, Levi Lewis and Sophia Lewis went together to make their depositions before the justice. Their testimonies bear a remarkable similarity and contain the unique claim that Joseph claimed to be "as good as Jesus Christ." This claim is not related by any other individuals who knew the Prophet, suggesting that these three individuals planned and coordinated their story before giving their depositions. [28]


Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits say about the Spalding manuscript and the Book of Mormon?

Hurlbut's affidavits regarding the Spalding manuscript consist of interviews with family and associates of Solomon Spalding

Claimant Claims

Artemas Cunningham

  • Claimed to have "partially examined" the "Mormon Bible."
  • Claimed that Spalding's manuscript was called "Manuscript Found."
  • Claimed "to remember the name of Nephi" as the "principal hero."

Nahum Howard

  • Claimed to have "lately read the Book of Mormon."
  • Claimed that it was the same as Spalding wrote, "except the religious part."'

Henry Lake

  • Claimed to have recently "commenced reading [The Book of Mormon] aloud."
  • Claimed that Spalding's work frequently used the words "it came to pass."

John Miller

  • Claimed to have "recently examined the Book of Mormon."
  • Claimed that the Book of Mormon was "mixed up with scripture and other religious matter, which I did not meet with in the "Manuscript Found."
  • Claimed that "Nephi, Lehi, Moroni" were the "principal names" in Spalding's book.

Oliver Smith

  • Claimed that "Nephi and Lehi were by [Spalding] represented as leading characters."
  • Claimed that Spalding included "no religious matter" in his book.
  • Claimed that "I obtained the book [of Mormon], and on reading it, found much of it the same as Spalding had written."

John Spalding

(Brother of Solomon Spalding)

  • Claimed to have "recently read the Book of Mormon."
  • Claimed that Spalding's book was entitled The Manuscript Found.
  • Claimed that the book attempted to show that the American Indians are the descendents of the Jews.
  • Claimed that the leaders of the group were called "Nephi" and "Lehi."
  • Claimed that the book described two nations called the "Nephites" and the "Lamanites."
  • Claimed that the people described in Spalding's book buried their dead in large mounds.
  • Claimed that many sentences in Spalding's book began with "it came to pass."

Martha Spalding

(wife of Solomon Spalding)

  • Claimed that she had "read the Book of Mormon."
  • Claimed that the Book of Mormon was based upon Spalding's story.
  • Claimed that "the names of Nephi and Lehi are yet fresh in my memory, as being the principal heroes of his tale."
  • Claimed that Spalding's characters separated into two nations, "one of which was called Lamanites and the other Nephites."
  • Claimed that Spalding's tale told of the dead "being buried in large heaps was the cause of the numerous mounds in the country."
  • Claimed that Spalding's manuscript used the words "it came to pass."

Aaron Wright

  • Claimed that the Book of Mormon following the Spalding story, "excepting the religious matter."
  • Claimed that "the names more especially are the same without any alteration."

Commentary

Most of the Spalding-related affidavits make very similar claims, such as the repeated statements that "Nephi" and "Lehi" figured prominently in Spalding's story

Most of the Spalding-related affidavits make very similar claims, such as the repeated statements that "Nephi" and "Lehi" figured prominently in Spalding's story and that the person making the claim had "recently" read the Book of Mormon and recognized it as being similar to Spalding's work. The recovered Spalding manuscript, however, bears no resemblance to any of these claims. For this reason, critics who support the Spalding theory have assumed the existence of a second Spalding manuscript, despite absolutely no evidence to support this.

The Spalding theory requires that Sidney Rigdon secretly meet Joseph Smith before the organization of the Church

The Spalding theory requires that Sidney Rigdon secretly meet Joseph Smith before the organization of the Church, and provide him with the Book of Mormon manuscript. John Stafford, oldest son of William Stafford was asked about this:

Q — If young Joseph — Smith , Jr. — was as illiterate as you say, Doctor, how do you account for the Book of Mormon?
A — "Well, I can't; except that Sidney Rigdon was connected with them."
Q — Was Rigdon ever around there before the Book of Mormon was published?
A — "No; not as we could ever find out. Sidney Rigdon was never there, that Hurlbut, or Howe, or Tucker could find out."
Q — Well; you have been looking out for the facts a long time, have you not, Doctor?
A — "Yes; I have been thinking and hearing about it for the last fifty years, and lived right among all their old neighbors there more of the time."
Q — And no one has ever been able to trace the acquaintance of Rigdon and Smith, until after the Book of Mormon was published, and Rigdon proselyted by Parley P. — Pratt, in Ohio?
A — "Not that I know of.""
— John Stafford, cited in William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167.[29]

See also:

  • Matthew Roper, "The Mythical "Manuscript Found" (Review of: Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 7–140. off-site


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York, 1885), 7; reproduced in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 139. ISBN 0877478465.
  2. "Doctor" was not a title—It was Hurlbut's actual given name.
  3. Benjamin Winchester, The origin of the Spalding story, concerning the Manuscript Found; with a short biography of Dr. P. Hulbert, the originator of the same; and some testimony adduced, showing it to be a sheer fabrication, so far as in connection with the Book of Mormon is concerned. (Philadelphia: Brown, Bicking & Guilbert, Printers, 1834), p. 5.
  4. Jeffrey N. Walker, "Joseph Smith's Introduction to the Law: The 1819 Hurlbut Case," Mormon Historical Studies 11/1 (Spring 2010): 129-130.
  5. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  6. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  7. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 446–447.
  8. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: Telegraph Press, 1834), p. 11.
  9. Mormonism Unvailed, 261-262.
  10. Joseph Smith, (December 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:40.
  11. Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith's First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2d ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980): 120. Backman cites Session Records, Western Presbyterian Church, II, 11-13, 34, 36, 39, 42 and Appendix K.
  12. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:40–41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  13. E.D. Howe, "The Testimony of Parley Chase," Mormonism Unvailed (1834).
  14. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 105. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  15. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:123.
  16. E.D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (1834) 251-252.
  17. E.D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (1834) 251-252.
  18. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 65. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  19. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:123.
  20. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121.
  21. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:123.
  22. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:123.
  23. Enders, 220.
  24. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 240.
  25. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 236.
  26. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121–122. The material removed by ellipses consists of questions being asked by the interviewer.
  27. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 115. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  28. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 128. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  29. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:123–124.)