Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 2

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 2: Treasure in the Earth"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch2.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 2: Treasure in the Earth"

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Response to claim: 16 - Joseph was notorious for telling tall tales

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was notorious for telling tall tales

Author's sources:
  1. "Mormonism", New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York, 1883, Vol. II, p. 1576.
  • Obadiah Dogberry (pseudonym for Abner Cole), Palmyra Reflector, Jan. 6 - March 19, 1831.
  • Abner Cole, "The Book of Pukei," Palmyra Reflector June - July 1830.

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 "tall tales" were related to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

Question: Was the young Joseph Smith a teller of "tall tales"?

The Prophet's mother's account of her son telling "amusing recitals" about the ancient inhabitants of the American continent occurred during the years that Joseph was being prepared to receive the plates

Lucy's 1853 autobiography, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations was considered inaccurate by Brigham Young and was ordered to be rewritten. The reasons for this had nothing to do with Lucy's account of her son Joseph's "amusing recitals." The 1853 autobiography and the 1845 manuscript upon which it was based still exist, and both confirm that the "amusing recitals" mentioned by Lucy were done during the period during which Joseph was being instructed by the angel as he waited to retrieve the gold plates. Lucy Mack Smith said the following in her 1853 autobiography:

During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.[1]

The quote from Lucy Mack Smith is used by critics of the Church to show how Joseph Smith told "yarns" about Native Americans "long before any golden plates had been found." The chronology found in Lucy Mack Smith's history, however, tells just the opposite story, and puts this quotation in its proper context. Lucy says that the angel Moroni told her son (during his first appearance) about the existence of the plates and informed him where they were buried (see Lavina F. Anderson, ed., Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001], 335-36). Lucy then states that Joseph (the evening after he had seen the Nephite record in their place of deposit) told his family all about "the plates" (ibid., 343).

Lucy Mack Smith: "From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children"

Lucy Mack Smith's account of her son telling "amusing recitals" about the ancient inhabitants of the American continent occurred during the years that Joseph was being prepared to receive the plates. The stories that he was telling related to information that he was receiving from the angel Moroni: These were not "tall tales" that he fabricated for his family's amusement.

From Lucy's 1845 manuscript, we read:

Now said he[,] Father and Mother the angel of the Lord says that we must be careful not to proclaim these things or to mention them abroad For we do not any of us know the wickedness of the world which is so sinful that when we get the plates they will want to kill us for the sake of the gold if they know we had <have> them...by sunset [we] were ready to be seated and give our atten undivided attention to Josephs recitals...From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time and every evening we gathered our children togather [together]...In the course of our evening conversations Joseph would give us some of the most ammusing [amusing] recitals which could be immagined [imagined]. he would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent their dress their man[n]er of traveling the animals which they rode The cities that were built by them the structure of their buildings with every particular of their mode of warfare their religious worship as particularly as though he had spent his life with them...The angel informed him at one time that he might make an effort to obtain the plates <on> the <22nd of the> ensueing september....[2]

Clearly, Joseph Smith told his stories after he learned about, and saw, the golden plates. Indeed, it is known that Moroni showed Joseph visions and gave him information regarding the people whose stories were found on the Nephite record (see Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 9, 1 March 1842, 707-708), so the young man undoubtedly had quite a few stories to tell. Lucy Mack Smith simply said in her autobiography that her son told the family about information connected with the angel and the Book of Mormon plates.[3] Lucy told the same information to Wandle Mace about seven years prior to producing her 1845 autobiography and clarified that this information was connected with the Book of Mormon "Nephites" and was shown to her son by vision.

In Joseph Smith's own official history he confirmed that he learned this information through the power of visions[4] and Oliver Cowdery made note of the same thing.[5] Thus, the origin of the stories mentioned by Joseph's mother in her autobiography was a heavenly one—she was not even remotely implying that her son was a teller of tall tales.


Response to claim: 16 - Joseph was charged with being "a disorderly person and an impostor" at his 1826 trial

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph was charged with being "a disorderly person and an impostor" at his 1826 trial.

Author's sources:
  1. "Mormonism", New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York, 1883, Vol. II, p. 1576.

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 brought before a judge by relatives of Josiah Stowell, because they thought that Joseph was defrauding him. Joseph was acquitted and released.


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." [6]

A review of all the relevant documents demonstrates that:

  1. The court hearing of 1826 was not a trial, it was an examination
  2. The hearing was likely initiated from religious concerns; i.e. people objected to Joseph's religious claims.
  3. There were seven witnesses.
  4. The witnesses' testimonies have not all been transmitted faithfully.
  5. Most witnesses testified that Joseph did possess a gift of sight

The court hearing was likely initiated by Stowel's relatives as a concern that he was having too much influence on Stowel

It was likely that the court hearing was initiated not so much from a concern about Joseph being a money digger, as concern that Joseph was having an influence on Josiah Stowel. Josiah Stowel was one of the first believers in Joseph Smith. His nephew was probably very concerned about that and was anxious to disrupt their relationship if possible. He did not succeed. The court hearing failed in its purpose, and was only resurrected decades later to accuse Joseph Smith of different crimes to a different people and culture.

Understanding the context of the case removes any threat it may have posed to Joseph's prophetic integrity.


Question: What events resulted in Joseph Smith's 1826 court appearance in South Bainbridge?

Josiah Stowell requested Joseph Smith's help in locating an ancient silver mine

In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [7] Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages. According to trial documents, Stowell says Joseph, using a seer stone, "Looked through stone and described Josiah Stowell's house and out houses, while at Palmyra at Sampson Stowell's correctly, that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it by means of said stone." [8]

Joseph ultimately persuaded Stowell to give up looking for the mine

Joseph and his father traveled to southern New York in November of 1825. This was after the crops were harvested and Joseph had finished his visit to the Hill Cumorah that year. They participated with Stowell and the company of workers in digging for the mine for less than a month. Finally Joseph persuaded him to stop. "After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations." [9]

Joseph continued to work in the area for Stowell and others. He boarded at the home of Isaac Hale and met Emma Hale, who was one "treasure" he got out of the enterprise.

The following year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely

In March of the next year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely. The supposed trial record came from Miss Pearsall. "The record of the examination was torn from Neely's docket book by his niece, Emily Persall, and taken to Utah when she went to serve as a missionary under Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle." [10] This will be identified as the Pearsall account although Neely possessed it after her death. It is interesting that the first published version of this record didn't appear until after Miss Pearsall had died.

Stowell's relatives felt that Joseph was exercising "unlimited control" over their father or uncle

William D. Purple took notes at the trial and tells us, "In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, ...were greatly incensed against Smith, ...saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [11]

Whereas the Pearsall account says: "Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, [Josiah Stowell's nephew] who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter...brought before court March 20, 1826" [12]

So, we have what has been called "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith", even though the records show that this wasn't actually a trial. For many years LDS scholars Francis Kirkham, Hugh Nibley and others expressed serious doubts that such a trial had even taken place.


Question: Why was Joseph fined if he wasn't found guilty of anything?

Joseph was never fined - the bills from Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng were for court costs

The court did not assess a fine against Joseph. There were bills made out by Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng, but these were for costs. Those bills were directed to the County for payment of witnesses, etc., not to Joseph.


Ensign (June 1994): "Highlights in the Prophet’s Life 20 Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person,” South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York

Ensign (June 1994):

Highlights in the Prophet’s Life 20 Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person,” South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. New York law defined a disorderly person as, among other things, a vagrant or a seeker of “lost goods.” The Prophet had been accused of both: the first charge was false and was made simply to cause trouble; Joseph’s use of a seer stone to see things that others could not see with the naked eye brought the second charge. Those who brought the charges were apparently concerned that Joseph might bilk his employer, Josiah Stowell, out of some money. Mr. Stowell’s testimony clearly said this was not so and that he trusted Joseph Smith. [13]


Response to claim: 18 - Fifty-one of Joseph's neighbors signed affidavits accusing him of being "destitute of moral character" and "addicted to vicious habits"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Fifty-one of Joseph's neighbors signed affidavits accusing him of being "destitute of moral character" and "addicted to vicious habits."

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

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's neighbors produced these affidavits at the request of an enemy of Joseph Smith: Doctor Philastus Hurlbut. They were published in the anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed.


Question: What are the Hurlbut affidavits?

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

Many critics cite a collection of affidavits from Joseph Smith’s neighbors which claim that the Smith family possessed a number of character flaws. These affidavits were collected by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut ("Doctor" was his first name, not a title). [14] Hurlbut had been excommunicated from the Church on charges of "unvirtuous conduct with a young lady," [15] 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....[16]

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. [17] 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. [18]

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. [19]

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. [20]


Response to claim: 18 - Joseph dreamed of an "illustrious and affluent" future, "detested the plow" and despaired about the family's debts

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph dreamed of an "illustrious and affluent" future, "detested the plow" and despaired about the family's debts.

Author's sources:
  1. Author's speculation.

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 author is reading Joseph's mind.


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

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

Secular critics face a tough challenge when attempting to explain the foundational stories of Church—the primary sources from Joseph Smith and his associates do not provide them with any useful information. The only explanation left to them is that Joseph must have been lying about everything that he said. Authors then resort to fabricating Joseph's thoughts and dreams, and deducing his motivations based upon his surroundings. As one reviewer of Vogel's work puts it, "if no evidence can be gathered to demonstrate that a historical actor thought what you attribute to him or her, no conjecture can be beyond the realm of hypothetical possibility—just make things up, if you need to."[21]:326 This technique allows secular critics to quite literally create any explanation that they wish to account for Joseph's ability to restore the Church.

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

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

But the need for deference was strong within [Joseph]. Talented far beyond his brothers or friends, he was impatient with their modest hopes and humdrum fancies. Nimble-witted, ambitious, and gifted with a boundless imagination, he dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future. For Joseph was not meant to be a plodding farmer, tied to the earth by habit or by love for the recurrent miracle of harvest. He detested the plow as only a farmer's son can, and looked with despair on the fearful mortage [check spelling] that clouded their future.[22]:18

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

This habit of insinuating herself into historical actors' minds constitutes the second part of Brodie's method. "For weeks" after learning that Martin Harris had lost the 116-page translation of the golden plates, she stated, "Joseph writhed in self-reproach for his folly." Lucy Smith described her son's distraught reaction when Harris told him the bad news, but, though one can well imagine Joseph agonizing over what to do, there is insufficient evidence to say in an unqualified declarative sentence what he actually did.[23]

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

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

The awesome vision he described in later years was probably the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West (emphasis added).[22]:25

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

Such a theory boldly challenges LDS apostle James Faust's contention that critics of the First Vision "find it difficult to explain away." His assertion is further weakened by yet another theory of Brodie's, which posits that Smith's story might have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" (emphasis added).[24]

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

Deducing Joseph's thoughts from his environment

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

Frankly admitting his "inclination . . . to interpret any claim of the paranormal . . . as delusion or fraud" (p. xii), Vogel refuses to accept Joseph's and his supporters' autobiographical statements—most of which grant, either explicitly or implicitly, such "paranormal" phenomena as angels, revelation, visions, and prophecy—at face value. Vogel's Joseph opens his mouth only to lie and deceive; and whatever he might be experiencing, or trying to do, or thinking about, one can rest assured that it's not what any record generated by him or his sympathizers would have us believe.[25]:206

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

What more could a student of early Mormon history possibly want? Here, in a crisp three pages, is a detailed account of what Joseph Smith was thinking about, praying about, and hesitating about over 180 years ago during one of the most significant 24-hour periods in church history. And not just what he was thinking about, in general terms, but how and when, within this 24-hour period, his thoughts evolve! And Vogel gives us all this without a single source to guide his pen—indeed, in direct contravention of what the sources say! One might chalk up this ability to navigate so confidently and so deftly through Joseph's mind to some type of clairvoyance on Vogel's part—"clairvogelance," we could call it—were it not that he himself protests so loudly against anything smacking of the "paranormal."[25]:211

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


Response to claim: 19 - A "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the area. When Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

A "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the area. When Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith.

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

This is the author's speculation. There is absolutely no evidence to support this.

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]


Response to claim: 20 - William Stafford told a story about Joseph which claimed that he could find money using a bleeding black sheep

The author(s) make(s) the following claim:

William Stafford told a story about Joseph which claimed that he could find money using a bleeding black sheep.

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

FairMormon Response

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

This is one of the stories produced in affidavits that were gathered by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut - an enemy of the Church. The facts of this story are contradicted by other affidavits, and by Stafford's own son.


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."[27]

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."[28]

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." [29]


Response to claim: 20 - Joseph could see "ghosts, infernal spirits" and "mountains of gold" in his seer stone

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph could see "ghosts, infernal spirits" and "mountains of gold" in his seer stone.

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

FairMormon Response

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

This story was among the affidavits gathered by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut - an enemy of the Church.


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: How did Joseph Smith use his seer stones as a youth?

Joseph as the village seer: the use of the seer stone prior to the Restoration

Brant Gardner clarifies the role that Joseph and his stone played within the community of Palmyra,

Young Joseph Smith was a member of a specialized sub-community with ties to these very old and very respected practices, though by the early 1800s they were respected only by a marginalized segment of society. He exhibited a talent parallel to others in similar communities. Even in Palmyra he was not unique. In D. Michael Quinn's words: "Until the Book of Mormon thrust young Smith into prominence, Palmyra's most notable seer was Sally Chase, who used a greenish-colored stone. William Stafford also had a seer stone, and Joshua Stafford had a 'peepstone which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center.'" [9] Richard Bushman adds Chauncy Hart, and an unnamed man in Susquehanna County, both of whom had stones with which they found lost objects. [10] [30]

During his tenure as a "village seer," Joseph acquired several seer stones. Joseph first used a neighbor's seer stone (probably that belonging to Palmyra seer Sally Chase, on the balance of historical evidence, though there are other possibilities) to discover the location of a brown, baby's foot-shaped stone. The vision of this stone likely occurred in about 1819–1820, and he obtained his first seer stone in about 1821–1822.[31]

The second seer stone was reportedly found while digging a well on the property of William Chase in 1822

Joseph then used this first stone to find a second stone (a white one). The second seer stone was reportedly found on the property of William Chase in 1822 as Chase described it:

In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me.... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but I would lend it.[32]

Joseph Smith locates a seer stone while digging a well. Image copyright (c) 2016 by Anthony Sweat.


Response to claim: 23 - Palmyra newspapers took no notice of Joseph's vision at the time it was supposed to have occurred

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Palmyra newspapers took no notice of Joseph's vision at the time it was supposed to have occurred.

Author's sources:
  1. Obediah Dogberry (Abner Cole), Palmyra Reflector, Feb. 1, 1831.

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

Why would the newspapers be interested in a story of a fourteen year old boy who had claimed to see God? Joseph didn't even tell his own family about it initially - he appears to have only told at least one of the local ministers, who severely chastised him for it.


Question: Why didn't the newspapers in Palmyra take notice of Joseph Smith's First Vision?

Newspapers would not have considered a visionary claim from a 14-year-old boy to have been newsworthy

This claim by critics is indeed strange. We are apparently to believe that the newspapers of the area would consider a claim from a 14-year-old boy as newsworthy. We know that Joseph didn't even tell his family about the vision at the time that it occurred—when his mother asked him, all he said to her was that he had found that Presbyterianism was not true.

When Joseph told the story of his vision to a local minister, he was strongly refuted for doing so

Joseph did, however, make mention of his vision to a Methodist preacher. According to Richard Bushman, Joseph's perceived persecution for telling his story may not have actually been because it was a unique claim, but rather because it was a common one. According to Bushman,

The clergy of the mainline churches automatically suspected any visionary report, whatever its content...The only acceptable message from heaven was assurance of forgiveness and a promise of grace. Joseph's report of God's rejection of all creeds and churches would have sounded all too familiar to the Methodist evangelical, who repeated the conventional point that "all such things had ceased with the apostles and that there never would be any more of them."[33]


Response to claim: 24 - The story of Joseph first vision evolved greatly between his 1832 and 1838 accounts

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The story of Joseph first vision evolved greatly between his 1832 and 1838 accounts.

Author's sources:
  • Times and Seasons, March 15, 1842
  • Dean D. Jessee's (Dean C. Jessee) "Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision," Brigham Young University Studies, Vol. IX, 1969, pp. 275-294.

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

Critics use the word "evolved," but the basic details of the accounts are the same, with some accounts having additional details that others do not.


Question: What are the criticisms related to Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision?

Joseph Smith gave several accounts of the First Vision that include different details

  • Some charge that differences in the accounts show that he changed and embellished his story over time, and that he therefore had no such vision.[34]
  • It is claimed by some that the Church has not discussed these accounts in official Church publications.
  • One critic of the Church states, "I learned that Joseph Smith provided multiple and varying accounts of his first vision story, and that some of these accounts (e.g., his descriptions of the Godhead) seemed to evolve over time to correspond with his own changing beliefs." [35]

Joseph tailored the story and details included of his vision based upon his audience

Joseph adjusted and emphasized certain portions of his narrative of the First Vision to account for his audience, as well as to incorporate his evolving understanding of Church doctrine. This is not unusual:

We often edit or entirely rewrite our previous experiences—unknowingly and unconsciously—in light of what we now know or believe. The result can be a skewed rendering of a specific incident, or even of an extended period in our lives, that says more about how we feel now than what happened then. Thus, without knowing it, we can modify our own history.” [36]

The Church has published information about the various First Vision accounts since at least 1970

The Church has published information about the various First Vision accounts since at least 1970. Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often seek to point out differences between the various accounts which Joseph Smith gave of his First Vision. In defense of their position that the Prophet changed his story over a six year period (1832 to 1838) they claim that the earliest followers of Joseph Smith either didn’t know about the First Vision, or seem to have been confused about it. The Church, however, has discussed the various accounts in a number of publications. Joseph Smith's various accounts of the First Vision were targeted at different audiences, and had different purposes. They, however, show a remarkable degree of harmony between them. There is no evidence that the early leaders of the LDS Church did not understand that the Prophet saw two Divine Personages during his inaugural theophany.

A graphical comparison of the details of Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision. Image courtesy of LDS.net. Original may be viewed at LDS.net page "Why Are There Differences Between Joseph Smith’s 4 First Vision Accounts?" off-site


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

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The various accounts of the First Vision tell a consistent story, though naturally they differ in emphasis and detail. Historians expect that when an individual retells an experience in multiple settings to different audiences over many years, each account will emphasize various aspects of the experience and contain unique details. Indeed, differences similar to those in the First Vision accounts exist in the multiple scriptural accounts of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and the Apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration.3 Yet despite the differences, a basic consistency remains across all the accounts of the First Vision. Some have mistakenly argued that any variation in the retelling of the story is evidence of fabrication. To the contrary, the rich historical record enables us to learn more about this remarkable event than we could if it were less well documented. [37]—(Click here to continue)


Response to claim: 24- Oliver Cowdery described Joseph's first vision as having occurred in 1823

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Oliver Cowdery described Joseph's first vision as having occurred in 1823

Author's sources:
  1. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, Letter IV, Feb. 1835, p. 78.

FairMormon Response

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

This is related to Oliver Cowdery's attempt to write a history of the Church, which did not actually describe the First Vision at all.


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

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

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

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

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.[38]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In the first history of Mormonism from 1835 written under Joseph Smith's direction, it says that the night of September 1823 Joseph Smith began praying in his bed to learn 'the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.' (LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 1835). It makes no sense for him to ask if God existed, if Smith had already seen God face-to-face some three years earlier, and knew he existed.[39]

and

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

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

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

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

In October 1834 Cowdery announced in his newspaper that Joseph Smith would help with the history project but the Prophet himself noted that "no month ever found [him] more busily engaged than November." [40] In December 1834 President Smith was busy lecturing at the School of the Elders and acting as a trustee for the Kirtland High School and so during this month he sent Oliver a short letter to be included as part of the project, but also noted within it that he learned of his prominent role in the project, and its imminent appearance in the press, by reading Cowdery's periodical! [41]


Response to claim: 24 - Some of Joseph's close relatives confused the first vision with Moroni's visit

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Some of Joseph's close relatives confused the first vision with Moroni's visit.

Author's sources:
  1. Lucy Smith to Solomon Mack, January 6, 1831 in Ben E. Rich: Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, Vol. I, p. 543.

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 story of Moroni's visit was well known, while the first vision was not until the mid-1830s.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compare this with Mother Smith's letter:

  • LUCY'S LETTER (January 1831)

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

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

  • FIRST VISION ACCOUNT (September-November 1832)

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

Critics also fail to point out that almost exactly two months before Lucy Mack Smith wrote her letter, four LDS missionaries (Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr. and Ziba Peterson) were publicly teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and had received a commission from Him to preach true religion.[42] It is specifically stated in the newspaper article that records this information that the missionaries made their comments about 1 November 1830 - shortly after the Church was formally organized. Some critics who do acknowledge this newspaper article attempt to dismiss it by calling it a "vague" reference, despite the clear wording that the missionaries taught that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[43]

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

Although one critic of the Church indicates that the letter was “unpublished until 1906”,[44] he does not indicate where, or by whom. First published by Ben E. Rich, President of the Southern States Mission, the letter has been long available to interested students of LDS history.[45]

It should be noted that the Lucy Mack Smith letter was not even available for publication until just shortly before it appeared in print because it was in a descendant's possession. The introduction to the letter published in the Elders' Journal states: "The following very interesting and earnest gospel letter written by Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph, to her brother, Solomon Mack and his wife, was presented to President Joseph F. Smith a few weeks ago by Mrs. Candace Mack Barker, of Keene, N[ew] H[ampshire], a grand-daughter of Solomon Mack, to whom the letter is addressed. Mrs. Barker stated that it was her desire to place the letter in the hands of those who would appreciate its contents and preserve it as she felt it properly deserved."[46]


Response to claim: 25 - Joseph's own family did not know of his first vision at the time that it happened

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's own family did not know of his first vision at the time that it happened.

Author's sources:
  1. Source 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 does not appear to have immediately told his family of the vision. He notes in his history that he simply told his mother that he knew that Presbyterianism was not true.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compare this with Mother Smith's letter:

  • LUCY'S LETTER (January 1831)

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

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

  • FIRST VISION ACCOUNT (September-November 1832)

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

Critics also fail to point out that almost exactly two months before Lucy Mack Smith wrote her letter, four LDS missionaries (Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr. and Ziba Peterson) were publicly teaching that Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and had received a commission from Him to preach true religion.[47] It is specifically stated in the newspaper article that records this information that the missionaries made their comments about 1 November 1830 - shortly after the Church was formally organized. Some critics who do acknowledge this newspaper article attempt to dismiss it by calling it a "vague" reference, despite the clear wording that the missionaries taught that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[48]

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

Although one critic of the Church indicates that the letter was “unpublished until 1906”,[49] he does not indicate where, or by whom. First published by Ben E. Rich, President of the Southern States Mission, the letter has been long available to interested students of LDS history.[50]

It should be noted that the Lucy Mack Smith letter was not even available for publication until just shortly before it appeared in print because it was in a descendant's possession. The introduction to the letter published in the Elders' Journal states: "The following very interesting and earnest gospel letter written by Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph, to her brother, Solomon Mack and his wife, was presented to President Joseph F. Smith a few weeks ago by Mrs. Candace Mack Barker, of Keene, N[ew] H[ampshire], a grand-daughter of Solomon Mack, to whom the letter is addressed. Mrs. Barker stated that it was her desire to place the letter in the hands of those who would appreciate its contents and preserve it as she felt it properly deserved."[51]


Response to claim: 25 - Joseph's vision may have been an invention to cancel out stories of his fortune telling and money digging

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's vision may have been an invention to cancel out stories of his fortune telling and money digging.

Author's sources:
  1. Author's speculation.

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 author is simply speculating about Joseph's motives.


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

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

Secular critics face a tough challenge when attempting to explain the foundational stories of Church—the primary sources from Joseph Smith and his associates do not provide them with any useful information. The only explanation left to them is that Joseph must have been lying about everything that he said. Authors then resort to fabricating Joseph's thoughts and dreams, and deducing his motivations based upon his surroundings. As one reviewer of Vogel's work puts it, "if no evidence can be gathered to demonstrate that a historical actor thought what you attribute to him or her, no conjecture can be beyond the realm of hypothetical possibility—just make things up, if you need to."[52]:326 This technique allows secular critics to quite literally create any explanation that they wish to account for Joseph's ability to restore the Church.

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

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

But the need for deference was strong within [Joseph]. Talented far beyond his brothers or friends, he was impatient with their modest hopes and humdrum fancies. Nimble-witted, ambitious, and gifted with a boundless imagination, he dreamed of escape into an illustrious and affluent future. For Joseph was not meant to be a plodding farmer, tied to the earth by habit or by love for the recurrent miracle of harvest. He detested the plow as only a farmer's son can, and looked with despair on the fearful mortage [check spelling] that clouded their future.[22]:18

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

This habit of insinuating herself into historical actors' minds constitutes the second part of Brodie's method. "For weeks" after learning that Martin Harris had lost the 116-page translation of the golden plates, she stated, "Joseph writhed in self-reproach for his folly." Lucy Smith described her son's distraught reaction when Harris told him the bad news, but, though one can well imagine Joseph agonizing over what to do, there is insufficient evidence to say in an unqualified declarative sentence what he actually did.[53]

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

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

The awesome vision he described in later years was probably the elaboration of some half-remembered dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. Dream images came easily to this youth, whose imagination was as untrammeled as the whole West (emphasis added).[22]:25

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

Such a theory boldly challenges LDS apostle James Faust's contention that critics of the First Vision "find it difficult to explain away." His assertion is further weakened by yet another theory of Brodie's, which posits that Smith's story might have been "created some time after 1830 when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging" (emphasis added).[54]

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

Deducing Joseph's thoughts from his environment

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

Frankly admitting his "inclination . . . to interpret any claim of the paranormal . . . as delusion or fraud" (p. xii), Vogel refuses to accept Joseph's and his supporters' autobiographical statements—most of which grant, either explicitly or implicitly, such "paranormal" phenomena as angels, revelation, visions, and prophecy—at face value. Vogel's Joseph opens his mouth only to lie and deceive; and whatever he might be experiencing, or trying to do, or thinking about, one can rest assured that it's not what any record generated by him or his sympathizers would have us believe.[25]:206

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

What more could a student of early Mormon history possibly want? Here, in a crisp three pages, is a detailed account of what Joseph Smith was thinking about, praying about, and hesitating about over 180 years ago during one of the most significant 24-hour periods in church history. And not just what he was thinking about, in general terms, but how and when, within this 24-hour period, his thoughts evolve! And Vogel gives us all this without a single source to guide his pen—indeed, in direct contravention of what the sources say! One might chalk up this ability to navigate so confidently and so deftly through Joseph's mind to some type of clairvoyance on Vogel's part—"clairvogelance," we could call it—were it not that he himself protests so loudly against anything smacking of the "paranormal."[25]:211

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


Response to claim: 26 - Joseph liked preaching because it gave him an audience, and this was as "essential to Joseph as food"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph liked preaching because it gave him an audience, and this was as "essential to Joseph as food."

Author's sources:
  1. Author's conjecture.

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

This is pure propaganda on the part of the author.


Response to claim: 30 - In March 1826 Joseph got into serious trouble because of his "magic arts"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

In March 1826 Joseph got into serious trouble because of his "magic arts"

Author's sources:
  1. "Mormonism", New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York, 1883, Vol. II, p. 1576.

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 was brought before a judge by relatives of Josiah Stowell, who had asked Joseph to help him locate a lost silver mine. It was Joseph himself who eventually convinced Stowell to stop looking. The charges against Joseph were dismissed. The author hypes this event up by talking about "magic arts."


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." [55]

A review of all the relevant documents demonstrates that:

  1. The court hearing of 1826 was not a trial, it was an examination
  2. The hearing was likely initiated from religious concerns; i.e. people objected to Joseph's religious claims.
  3. There were seven witnesses.
  4. The witnesses' testimonies have not all been transmitted faithfully.
  5. Most witnesses testified that Joseph did possess a gift of sight

The court hearing was likely initiated by Stowel's relatives as a concern that he was having too much influence on Stowel

It was likely that the court hearing was initiated not so much from a concern about Joseph being a money digger, as concern that Joseph was having an influence on Josiah Stowel. Josiah Stowel was one of the first believers in Joseph Smith. His nephew was probably very concerned about that and was anxious to disrupt their relationship if possible. He did not succeed. The court hearing failed in its purpose, and was only resurrected decades later to accuse Joseph Smith of different crimes to a different people and culture.

Understanding the context of the case removes any threat it may have posed to Joseph's prophetic integrity.


Question: What events resulted in Joseph Smith's 1826 court appearance in South Bainbridge?

Josiah Stowell requested Joseph Smith's help in locating an ancient silver mine

In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [56] Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages. According to trial documents, Stowell says Joseph, using a seer stone, "Looked through stone and described Josiah Stowell's house and out houses, while at Palmyra at Sampson Stowell's correctly, that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it by means of said stone." [57]

Joseph ultimately persuaded Stowell to give up looking for the mine

Joseph and his father traveled to southern New York in November of 1825. This was after the crops were harvested and Joseph had finished his visit to the Hill Cumorah that year. They participated with Stowell and the company of workers in digging for the mine for less than a month. Finally Joseph persuaded him to stop. "After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations." [58]

Joseph continued to work in the area for Stowell and others. He boarded at the home of Isaac Hale and met Emma Hale, who was one "treasure" he got out of the enterprise.

The following year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely

In March of the next year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely. The supposed trial record came from Miss Pearsall. "The record of the examination was torn from Neely's docket book by his niece, Emily Persall, and taken to Utah when she went to serve as a missionary under Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle." [59] This will be identified as the Pearsall account although Neely possessed it after her death. It is interesting that the first published version of this record didn't appear until after Miss Pearsall had died.

Stowell's relatives felt that Joseph was exercising "unlimited control" over their father or uncle

William D. Purple took notes at the trial and tells us, "In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, ...were greatly incensed against Smith, ...saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [60]

Whereas the Pearsall account says: "Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, [Josiah Stowell's nephew] who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter...brought before court March 20, 1826" [61]

So, we have what has been called "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith", even though the records show that this wasn't actually a trial. For many years LDS scholars Francis Kirkham, Hugh Nibley and others expressed serious doubts that such a trial had even taken place.


Response to claim: 30 - The court pronounced Joseph "guilty" at the 1826 trial

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The court pronounced Joseph "guilty" at the 1826 trial

Author's sources:
  1. "Mormonism", New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, New York, 1883, Vol. II, p. 1576.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The 1826 preliminary hearing was not a trial, and "guilty" was not even a possible verdict.


Question: Why was Joseph fined if he wasn't found guilty of anything?

Joseph was never fined - the bills from Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng were for court costs

The court did not assess a fine against Joseph. There were bills made out by Judge Neely and Constable DeZeng, but these were for costs. Those bills were directed to the County for payment of witnesses, etc., not to Joseph.


Ensign (June 1994): "Highlights in the Prophet’s Life 20 Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person,” South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York

Ensign (June 1994):

Highlights in the Prophet’s Life 20 Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person,” South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. New York law defined a disorderly person as, among other things, a vagrant or a seeker of “lost goods.” The Prophet had been accused of both: the first charge was false and was made simply to cause trouble; Joseph’s use of a seer stone to see things that others could not see with the naked eye brought the second charge. Those who brought the charges were apparently concerned that Joseph might bilk his employer, Josiah Stowell, out of some money. Mr. Stowell’s testimony clearly said this was not so and that he trusted Joseph Smith. [62]


Response to claim: 31 - Joseph's mentor was "the conjurer Walters"

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's mentor was "the conjurer Walters."

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

There is no evidence of this. It was an invention of Abner Cole.

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.[63]


Notes

  1. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:296. citing Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 36-173.
  2. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:294–296. citing the 1845 manuscript of Lucy Mack Smith's autobiography.
  3. Lucy Smith, Lucy's Book: Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir, edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Irene M. Bates, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2001), 346. ISBN 1560851376.
  4. Times and Seasons 3 no. 9 (1 March 1842), 707. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  5. Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 no. 7 (April 1835), 112.
  6. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  7. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  8. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:252–253.
  9. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  10. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates [distributed by Signature Books], 1994), 227.
  11. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959[1942]), 1:479. ASIN B000HMY138.
  12. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:248–249..
  13. Anonymous, "Highlights in the Prophet’s Life," Ensign (Jun 1994), 24. off-site
  14. "Doctor" was not a title—It was Hurlbut's actual given name.
  15. 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.
  16. Jeffrey N. Walker, "Joseph Smith's Introduction to the Law: The 1819 Hurlbut Case," Mormon Historical Studies 11/1 (Spring 2010): 129-130.
  17. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  18. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:41. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  19. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 446–447.
  20. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: Telegraph Press, 1834), p. 11.
  21. Alan Goff, "Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 321–400. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945). ( Index of claims )
  23. Charles L. Cohen, "No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis," Brigham Young University Studies 44 no. 1, 68.
  24. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 44, note 135. ( Index of claims )
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Andrew H. Hedges and Dawson W. Hedges, "No, Dan, That's Still Not History (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, by Dan Vogel)," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 205–222. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  26. Matthew Brown, "Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Stories.", 2006 FAIR Conference.
  27. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 240.
  28. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 236.
  29. 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.
  30. Brant A. Gardner, Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation. Gardner references [9] D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 38. and [10] Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 70.
  31. Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 200–215.
  32. Eber Dudley Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 241-242; cited in Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 no. 2 (Summer 1982), 48–68.
  33. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 41.
  34. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 29–36. ( Index of claims ); Isaiah Bennett, Inside Mormonism: What Mormons Really Believe (Catholic Answers: 1999); Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 24–25. ( Index of claims ); John Dehlin, "Why People Leave the LDS Church," (2008).; Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) Chapter 8. ( Index of claims ); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Case Against Mormonism, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City, 1967), 1:120–128.; Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), Chapter 6.( Index of claims ); Search for the Truth DVD (2007) Resources; Tower to Truth Ministries, "50 Questions to Ask Mormons," towertotruth.net (accessed 15 November 2007). 50 Answers
  35. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  36. Seema L. Clifasfi, Maryanne Garry, and Elizabeth Loftus, “Setting the Record (or Video Camera) Straight on Memory and Other Memory Myths,” in Tall Tales about the Mind and Brain: Separating Fact from Fiction, edited by Sergio Della Sala (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 61; cited in Gardner, Gift and Power, 119n1.
  37. "First Vision Accounts," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
  38. Roger Nicholson, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8:27-44 (December 6, 2013).
  39. "The First Vision," mormonthink.com.
  40. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:170. Volume 2 link
  41. J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 68–69.
  42. “Gold Bible, No. 4,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 13 (14 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  43. For example, Richard Abanes, in his anti-Mormon work Becoming Gods, boldly declares in the main body of his text on page 34 that "[n]ot a single piece of published literature" mentions the First Vision, yet in an endnote at the back of the book on page 338 acknowledges this newspaper account. He attempts to dismiss this by claiming that the reference is "vague," yet acknowledges that "as early as 1831 Smith might have been starting to privately tell select persons that he had at some point seen God."
  44. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 32. ( Index of claims )
  45. Elders Journal 4 (1 November 1906): 60-62 [Southern States Mission, Chattanooga, Tenn.]. It was later published in Rich, Scrap Book of Mormon Literature, 2 volumes (Chicago: Henry C. Etten and Co., no date [Vogel suggests 1913]): 543-5; also by Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America. The Book of Mormon, 2 Volumes, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Brigham Young University 1942; 1960), 1:66.
  46. Elders' Journal 4/3 (1 November 1906): 59
  47. “Gold Bible, No. 4,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 13 (14 February 1831): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  48. For example, Richard Abanes, in his anti-Mormon work Becoming Gods, boldly declares in the main body of his text on page 34 that "[n]ot a single piece of published literature" mentions the First Vision, yet in an endnote at the back of the book on page 338 acknowledges this newspaper account. He attempts to dismiss this by claiming that the reference is "vague," yet acknowledges that "as early as 1831 Smith might have been starting to privately tell select persons that he had at some point seen God."
  49. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 32. ( Index of claims )
  50. Elders Journal 4 (1 November 1906): 60-62 [Southern States Mission, Chattanooga, Tenn.]. It was later published in Rich, Scrap Book of Mormon Literature, 2 volumes (Chicago: Henry C. Etten and Co., no date [Vogel suggests 1913]): 543-5; also by Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America. The Book of Mormon, 2 Volumes, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Brigham Young University 1942; 1960), 1:66.
  51. Elders' Journal 4/3 (1 November 1906): 59
  52. Alan Goff, "Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory (Review of: Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet)," FARMS Review 17/2 (2005): 321–400. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  53. Charles L. Cohen, "No Man Knows My Psychology: Fawn Brodie, Joseph Smith, and Psychoanalysis," Brigham Young University Studies 44 no. 1, 68.
  54. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 44, note 135. ( Index of claims )
  55. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  56. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  57. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:252–253.
  58. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  59. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates [distributed by Signature Books], 1994), 227.
  60. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959[1942]), 1:479. ASIN B000HMY138.
  61. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:248–249..
  62. Anonymous, "Highlights in the Prophet’s Life," Ensign (Jun 1994), 24. off-site
  63. Matthew Brown, "Revised or Unaltered? Joseph Smith's Foundational Stories.", 2006 FAIR Conference.