Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 7

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 7: Woe In Ohio"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
One Nation Under Gods
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Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Chapter 7: Woe In Ohio"

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Response to claim: 127 epigraph, 527n1 (PB) - David Whitmer said that Joseph Smith claimed that "some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

David Whitmer said that Joseph Smith claimed that "[s]ome revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil"

Author's sources:
  • David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 31.
  • DC 46:7

FairMormon Response

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

Whitmer said this.



Question: How does David Whitmer's account of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright compare to those of the eyewitnesses?

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account. Whitmer gets the destination city in Canada wrong (he says Toronto, the other accounts, and the revelation itself, say Kingston) and he did not correctly identify all of the participants (he identified Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery, while Page noted Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell). Note that the text of the revelation itself finally clears up the issue of exactly who the revelation was directed to,

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing...

Page, an eyewitness, makes no mention at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there any mention of a "false prophecy"

Page also makes no mention or even a hint at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there an accusation that the trip was based upon a "false prophecy," so naturally no subsequent "revelation" is noted by Page explaining the mission’s failure.

In Whitmer’s 1887 account we learn for the first time of the supposed post-mission revelation where Joseph Smith is told that some revelations are from God, some from devils, some from men. This account is in all likelihood a fabrication. Unlike his consistent, life-long statements concerning the witness of the Gold Plates, this account, which is probably a second-hand retelling of events 57 years after their occurrence, suddenly appears and is wrong on several of the documentable facts, as well as being inconsistent with the first-hand testimony of Hiram Page, given 40 years earlier than Whitmer and by comparison much closer to the actual event.


Question: How did Latter-day Saint scholars respond to the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright prior to Page's letter coming to light?

B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly

The letter from 1848 by Hiram Page was not publically available until the 20th Century. As a result, various LDS responses to the accounts by Whitmer and McLellin of necessity must explain why the apparent anomalous revelation does not make Joseph Smith a fallen prophet. Such was the case when B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly, yet went on to address the claim anyway. Roberts concluded:

Does that circumstance vitiate his claim as a prophet? No; the fact remains that despite this circumstance there exists a long list of events to be dealt with which will establish the fact of divine inspiration operating upon the mind of this man Joseph Smith. The wisdom frequently displayed, the knowledge revealed, the predicted events and the fulfilment thereof, are explicable upon no other theory than of divine inspiration giving guidance to him. [1]

As it happens, the passage of time and the uncovering of additional information has vindicated that confidence.


Response to claim: 127-8, 528n5 (PB) - Joseph said that "Fifty-six years should wind up the scene" before the second coming of Jesus Christ

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph said that "Fifty-six years should wind up the scene" before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph also said that he did not know if that meant that he would see Christ in this life or the next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...it was the will of God that those who went Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.[2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the History of the Church:

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.[3]

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

Joseph denies that anyone knows an exact date

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

I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers.[4]

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

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

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


Response to claim: 128-9, 528n10 (PB) - Were the revelations published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants "amended, added to, excised, and in some cases assigned different historical settings"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Were the revelations published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants "amended, added to, excised, and in some cases assigned different historical settings"?

Author's sources: H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text & Commentary, xv.

FairMormon Response

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

Revelations were edited, and sometimes expanded. They were not assigned "different historical settings."

Question: Who made the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants?

The First Presidency of the Church made the changes to the Doctrine and Covenants

The Saints have never believed in inerrant prophets or inerrant scripture. The editing and modification of the revelations was never a secret; it was well known to the Church of Joseph's day, and it has been discussed repeatedly in modern Church publications, as well as extensive studies in Masters' and PhD theses at BYU.

If Joseph could receive the Doctrine and Covenants by revelation, then he could also receive revelation to improve, modify, revise, and expand his revelatory product. The question remains the same—was Joseph Smith a prophet? If he was, then his action is completely legitimate. If he was not, then it makes little difference whether his pretended revelations were altered or not.

Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote:

First Presidency members were assigned to compile "the items of the doctrine" of the Church from the standard works, including "the revelations which have been given to the Church up to this date or shall be, until such arrangement is made" (Kirtland High Council Minute Book, 24 September 1834; also cited in History of the Church, 2:165. Volume 2 link). This resolution might suggest the correction of former wording through revelation. [The revised D&C was] issued in August 1835 with a 17 February 1835 preface signed by the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, the revision committee. [5]

Thus, the First Presidency of the time supervised the revisions.


Question: What changes were made to the Doctrine and Covenants?

Changes made to the Doctrine and Covenants were 1) Grammar and spelling. 2) Added material or expansion. 3) Text removed or reworked. 4) Expressions altered

Grammar and spelling changes

Many changes involved matters of grammar, spelling, and the like. (These examples all taken from one article in the Ensign. Those interested in further examples can see the Further Reading section below. [6]

We have found the following errors in the commandments, as printed: fortieth chapter, tenth verse, third line, instead of ‘corruptible,’ put ‘corrupted.’ Fourteenth verse of the same chapter, fifth line, instead of ‘respector to persons,’ put ‘respector of persons.’ Twenty-first verse, second line of the same chapter, instead of ‘respector to,’ put ‘respector of.’ Fourty-four chapter, twelfth verse, last line, instead of ‘hands’ put ‘heads.’ [7]

Added material or expansions

Some other changes added material which had been gleaned from advancements in Church organization or later revelations, or expanded upon ideas within the original text:

Book of Commandments Doctrine and Covenants
3:2—Remember temperance, patience, humility, diligence, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you: Amen. D&C 4:6–7—Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen. (1835 edition, 31:2.)
4:2—...and he has a gift to translate the book, and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other gift. D&C 5:4 And you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished. (1835 edition, 32:1)
4:4— … and to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation. D&C 5:14—And to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. (1835 edition, 32:3.)
6:1—And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what desirest thou? D&C 7:1—And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you. (1835 edition, 33:1.)
24:14—And that he gave unto the children of men commandments, that they should love and serve him the only being whom they should worship. D&C 20:19—And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. (1835 edition, 2:4.)
24:32— … to administer the flesh and blood of Christ according to the scriptures. D&C 20:40–41—And to administer bread and wine—the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ—

And to confirm those who are baptized into the Church, by the laying on of the hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures. (1835 edition, 2:8.)

24:35—The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost. D&C 20:45—The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God. (1835 edition, 2:9.)
44:26— … and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church, and two of the elders, such as he shall appoint and set apart for that purpose. D&C 42:31— … and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose. (1835 edition, 13:8.)
44:29—And the residue shall be kept in my storehouse to administer to the poor and needy, as shall be appointed by the elders of the church and the bishop. D&C 42:34—Therefore, the residue shall be kept in my storehouse, to administer to the poor and the needy, as shall be appointed by the high council of the church, and the bishop and his council. (1835 edition, 13:10.)
51:6— … as is appointed to him by the bishop and elders of the church, according to the laws and commandments. D&C 48:6— … as is appointed to him by the presidency and the bishop of the church, according to the laws and commandments. (1835 edition, 64:2.)
53:41—Wherefore I am in your midst; and I am the good Shepherd. D&C 50:44—Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall. (1835 edition, 18:8.)
65:30—Behold now it is called today, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people. D&C 64:23—Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people. (1835 edition, 21:5.)

Text removed or reworked

A few revelations removed text, or altered the expression of an idea with a new phrasing or approach:

Book of Commandments Doctrine and Covenants
Chapter 4:5–6—And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priest-crafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old. And now if this generation do harden their hearts against my word, behold I will deliver them up unto satan, for he reigneth and hath much power at this time, for he hath got great hold upon the hearts of the people of this generation: and not far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah, do they come at this time: and behold the sword of justice hangeth over their heads, and if they persist in the hardness of their hearts, the time cometh that it must fall upon them. D&C 5:19—For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming. (1835 edition, 32:3.)
4:8— … but if he will go out and bow down before me …

D&C 5:24— … but if he will bow down before me … (1835 edition, 32:5.)

16:13—Wherefore, I command you by my name, and by my Almighty power, that you repent. D&C 19:15—Therefore I command you to repent. (1835 edition, 44:2.)
16:22—And I command you, that you preach nought but repentance; and show not these things, neither speak these things unto the world. D&C 19:21—And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me. (1835 edition, 44:2.)
24:11—Which book was given by inspiration and is called the book of Mormon, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels. D&C 20:10—which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels … (1835 edition, 2:2.)
44:55–57—Thou shalt contract no debts with the world, except thou art commanded. And again, the elders and bishop, shall counsel together, and they shall do by the direction of the Spirit as it must needs be necessary. There shall be as many appointed as must needs be necessary to assist the bishop in obtaining places for the brethren from New York, that they may be together as much as can be, and as they are directed by the Holy Spirit; and every family shall have a place, that they may live by themselves.—And every church shall be organized in as close bodies as they can be; and this for a wise purpose;—even so. Amen. These verses were omitted. (1835 edition, 13.)

Expression altered

Book of Commandments Doctrine and Covenants
Chapter 7:3—Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God. D&C 8:6–8—Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God. (1921 edition, 8:6–8.)


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

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

Wrote Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2009:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subsequent editing changes through the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants involved occasional word changes, but the major substantive changes occurred under the Prophet Joseph’s guidance for the 1835 edition. [8]


Response to claim: 129, 529n14-15, n17 (PB) - Did Joseph Smith break Ohio law by performing marriages?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:


  • Did Joseph break Ohio law by marrying Newel Knight to "undivorced Lydia G. Baily," despite having no license to perform marriages in Ohio?
  • Did Joseph perform marriages for people who had not obtained marriage licenses from the State of Ohio?
  • Does History of the Church claim that instead, they were only married "according to the rules and regulations of the Church of the Latter-day Saints?"

    Author's sources: *History of the Church, 2:377–378. Volume 2 link

  • D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 88..

FairMormon Response

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

The secular powers honored Joseph's marriages, and provided documentation to ratify his acts.



Joseph gave couples marriage certificates?

Question: Was it illegal for Joseph Smith to perform marriages in Ohio?

The secular powers honored Joseph's marriages, and provided documentation to ratify his acts

Joseph did not knowingly violate marriage laws in Ohio, and seems to have used his prophetic gifts to spare victims of the nineteenth-century's legal and bureaucratic immaturity unnecessary suffering. The secular powers honored Joseph's marriages, and provided documentation to ratify his acts. As happens so often, critics condemn Joseph Smith and the early Saints without providing the proper context for their legal choices or moral actions. As we consider the wider implementation of plural marriage in Nauvoo, such context will become increasingly important.

Even before the broad implementation of plural marriage, critics point to marriages performed by Joseph in Ohio as evidence that he would readily violate secular laws.

As John Brooke put it:

Specifically prohibited from performing the marriage ceremony by the local county court, Smith brushed aside a state-licensed church elder to perform the rites of marriage between Newel [Knight] and Lydia [Bailey] himself. She was not divorced from her non-Mormon husband, so this technically bigamous marriage also challenged a broader moral code…Over the next two months Joseph Smith performed five more illegal marriages.[9]

Brooke claims Joseph was forbidden to perform marriages, that he performed a bigamous marriage, and that he repeatedly disobeyed state marriage laws.

Despite such confident claims, the historical record regarding Ohio marriages disagrees with this portrait in almost every particular.[10] Newel Knight, a young widower, wished to marry Lydia Bailey. Lydia was married to an abusive drunkard, who had abandoned her years before. Sidney Rigdon had been refused a license to marry as a Mormon minister, and so many concluded that Mormon elders would not receive state sanction to perform marriages.

Because Seymour Brunson had been a preacher prior to being a Mormon, he held a license to solemnize marriages. Brunson was thus about to perform the Knight-Bailey wedding. In what Van Wagoner calls "a bold display of civil disobedience,"[11] Joseph Smith stepped forward and announced that he would perform the marriage.

The court's refusal to grant Sidney Rigdon a license to marry as a Mormon minister likely stemmed from religious prejudice rather than being contrary to the law

On the surface, it appears that the critics are justified in arguing that Joseph had no right to perform marriages, and chose to do so anyway. Scott Bradshaw's research, however, found that refusing Rigdon permission to marry was "not justifiable from a legal point of view." Such a legal decision in Ohio "was rare in the 1830s, perhaps even unheard of."[12] The court's refusal to grant Rigdon a license to marry as a Mormon minister likely stemmed from religious prejudice.

The Knight-Bailey wedding was not illegal, since Newel Knight obtained a marriage license from the secular authorities. The state of Ohio did not contest Joseph's performance of the marriage, since it then issued a marriage certificate for the Knights' marriage. Joseph later performed other marriages in Ohio, and these couples likewise received marriage certificates after Joseph submitted the necessary paperwork.

Ohio's 1824 marriage law stated that "a religious society...could perform marriages without a license"

A review of Ohio state law demonstrates that Joseph's decision to marry—and his prophesy that he had the right to marry, and that his enemies would never prosecute him for marrying—was correct. Ohio's 1824 marriage law stated that "a religious society…could perform marriages without a license so long as the ceremony was done ‘agreeable to the rules and regulations of their respective churches.’"[13]


Response to claim: 129, 529n16 (PB) - Was Kirtland, as Fawn Brodie claimed, "full of converts who had left behind them spouses who could not be persuaded to join the church"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Was Kirtland, as Fawn Brodie claimed, "full of converts who had left behind them spouses who could not be persuaded to join the church?"

Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 183. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

The author includes a direct, attributed quote from Brodie's book, however, this upon examining the source one finds that this is only Brodie's own opinion—She does not provide a source to back up this claim.



Response to claim: 529n16 (PB) - "LDS leaders/counselors commonly encourage divorce when the spouse of a faithful Mormon forsakes the faith"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:


  •  Author's quote: Disruptions of the family unit and marriage break-ups are often seen among religious groups termed "cults."
  •  Author's quote: [E]x-Mormons have reported that LDS leaders/counselors commonly encourage divorce when the spouse of a faithful Mormon forsakes the faith."

    Author's sources: No sources provided for this claim.

FairMormon Response

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

Church leaders do not advise divorce under these circumstances. Note that the author takes the opportunity to classify the Church as a "cult" based upon this supposition.



Response to claim: 130, 530n22 (PB) - Did Levi Lewis claim that Joseph tried to seduce Eliza Winters in 1830?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Levi Lewis claim that Joseph tried to seduce Eliza Winters in 1830?

Author's sources: Levi Lewis, Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834 reprinted in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 268.

FairMormon Response

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

We have no evidence of Levi and Hiel Lewis making the charge until the affidavits were gathered five years later. Levi Lewis made a number of other unlikely claims about Joseph.



Question: Did Levi Lewis claim that Joseph tried to seduce Eliza Winters in 1830?

We have no evidence of Levi and Hiel Lewis making the charge until the affidavits were gathered five years later

One affidavit was provided by Levi Lewis, Emma Hale Smith's cousin and son of the Reverend Nathaniel Lewis, a well-known Methodist minister in Harmony. Van Wagoner uses this affidavit to argue that:

[Joseph’s] abrupt 1830 departure with his wife, Emma, from Harmony, Pennsylvania, may have been precipitated in part by Levi and Hiel Lewis's accusations that Smith had acted improperly towards a local girl. Five years later Levi Lewis, Emma's cousin, repeated stories that Smith attempted to "seduce Eliza Winters &c.," and that both Smith and his friend Martin Harris had claimed "adultery was no crime."

Van Wagoner argues that this "may" have been why Joseph left. But, we have no evidence of Levi and Hiel Lewis making the charge until the affidavits were gathered five years later. (Hiel Lewis' inclusion adds nothing; he gave no affidavit in 1833, and in 1879 simply repeated third hand stories of how Joseph had attempted to "seduce" Eliza. At best, he is repeating Levi's early tale.)

Levi Lewis made a number of other unlikely claims about Joseph

A look at Lewis' complete affidavit is instructive. He claimed, among other things, that:

  • he heard Joseph admit "God had deceived him" about the plates, and so did not show them to anyone.
  • he saw Joseph drunk three times while writing the Book of Mormon
  • he heard Joseph say "he...was as good as Jesus Christ...it was as bad to injure him as it was to injure Jesus Christ."
  • he heard Martin Harris and Joseph Smith claim "adultery was no crime."
  • he heard Martin say that Joseph attempted to "seduce Eliza Winters," and that he didn't blame him.

There are serious problems with these claims. It seems extraordinarily implausible that Joseph "admitted" that God had deceived him, and thus was not able to show the plates to anyone. Joseph insisted that he had shown the plates to people, and the Three and Eight Witnesses all published testimony to that effect. Despite apostasy and alienation from Joseph Smith, none denied that witness.

The claim to have seen Joseph drunk during the translation is entertaining. If Joseph were drunk, this only makes the production of the Book of Mormon more impressive. But, this sounds like little more than idle gossip, designed to bias readers against Joseph as a "drunkard."

A study of Joseph's letters and life from this period make it difficult to believe that Joseph would insist he was "as good as Jesus Christ"

Joseph's private letters reveal him to be devout, sincere, and almost painfully aware of his dependence on God.

Three of the charges that are unmentioned by Van Wagoner are extraordinarily implausible and are clearly efforts to simply paint Joseph in a bad light

Thus, three of the charges that are unmentioned by Van Wagoner are extraordinarily implausible. They are clearly efforts to simply paint Joseph in a bad light: make him into a pretend prophet who thinks he's better than Jesus, who admits to being deceived, and who gets drunk. Such a portrayal would be welcome to skeptical ears. This Joseph is ridiculous, not to be taken seriously.

Martin Harris, who risked and defended a libel suit for reproving Eliza for fornication, would be highly unlikely to state that adultery is "no crime"

We can now consider the claim that Martin and Joseph claimed that adultery was no crime, and that Joseph attempted the seduction of Eliza Winters. Recent work has also uncovered Eliza Winters' identity. She was a young woman at a meeting on 1 November 1832 in Springville Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. While on a preaching mission with his brother Emer, Martin Harris announced that Eliza "has had a bastard child."

Eliza sued Martin for slander, asking for $1000 for the damage done to her "good name, fame, behavior and character" because his words "render her infamous and scandalous among her neighbors." Martin won the suit; Eliza could not prove libel, likely because she had no good character to sully.

This new information calls the Lewis affidavit into even greater question. We are to believe that Martin, who risked and defended a libel suit for reproving Eliza for fornication, thinks that adultery is "no crime"? Eliza clearly has no reason to like Joseph and the Mormons—why did she not provide Hurlbut with an affidavit regarding Joseph's scandalous behavior? Around 1879, Eliza gave information to Frederick Mather for a book about early Mormonism. Why did she not provide testimony of Joseph's attempt to seduce her?

It seems far more likely that Eliza was known for her low morals, and her name became associated with the Mormons in popular memory, since she had been publicly rebuked by a Mormon preacher and lost her court suit against him. When Levi Lewis was approached by Philastus Hurlbut for material critical of Joseph Smith, he likely drew on this association.


Response to claim: 131, 530n23-24 (PB) - Were Latter-day Saint men encouraged to take plural wives "of the Lamanites and Nephites" in order to make them "white, delightsome and just"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Were Latter-day Saint men encouraged to take plural wives "of the Lamanites and Nephites" in order to make them "white, delightsome and just?"

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

The revelation is based upon a late recollection from W.W. Phelps, and there is no evidence that it was suppressed, as the Tanners assert.

Question: Did the Church suppress a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1831 which encouraged the implementation of polygamy by intermarriage with the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people?

The only evidence for this revelation is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831

It is claimed that the church "suppressed" a 1831 revelation in which the Church was commanded to make the Indians a “white and delightsome” people through polygamous intermarriage. The basis for this claim is a letter written by W. W. Phelps in 1861 (30 years after the revelation was said to have been given) in which he recounts from memory some of Joseph's comments in Independence, Missouri, on 17 July 1831. At present, the only evidence that an 1831 revelation was given is the 1861 document written by Phelps.

According to critics, Joseph Fielding Smith, who was Church historian at the time, stated that the principle of plural marriage was revealed to Joseph Smith in a revelation given in July 1831.[14] Critic Fawn Brodie claims that Joseph Fielding Smith told her about the revelation but would not allow her to see it.[15] Critics conclude that the “real reason” that the revelation was not released was because it commanded Church members to marry the Indians in order to make them a “white and delightsome” people.

The text of W. W. Phelps' 1861 recollection of the revelation

In 1861, 30 years after it was said to have been given, W. W. Phelps wrote from memory his recollection of what he claimed was the revelation given in 1831 by the Prophet:

Part of a revelation by Joseph Smith Jr. given over the boundary, west of Jackson Co. Missouri, on Sunday morning, July 17, 1831, when Seven Elders, viz: Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Ziba Peterson, and Joshua Lewis united their hearts in prayer, in a private place, to inquire of the Lord who should preach the first sermon to the remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites, and the people of that Section, that should assemble that day in the Indian country, to hear the gospel, and the revelations according to the Book of Mormon.

Among the company, there being neither pen, ink or paper, Joseph remarked that the Lord could preserve his words as he had ever done, till the time appointed, and proceeded:

Verily, verily, saith the Lord your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, the light and the life of the world, ye can not discerne with your natural eyes, the design and the purpose of your Lord and your God, in bringing you thus far into the wilderness for a trial of your faith, and to be especial witnesses, to bear testimony of this land, upon which the Zion of God shall be built up in the last days, when it is redeemed. …

[I]t is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome, and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.

Gird up your loins and be prepared for the mighty work of the Lord to prepare the world for my second coming to meet the tribes of Israel according to the predictions of all the holy prophets since the beginning; …

Be patient, therefore, possessing your souls in peace and love, and keep the faith that is now delivered unto you for the gathering of scattered Israel, and lo, I am with you, though ye cannot see me, till I come: even so. Amen.

Phelp's wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years

A note written by W. W. Phelps in the 1861 document implies that marriage with the Indians coincided with Joseph Smith's planned intent to institute polygamy.

About three years after this was given, I asked brother Joseph, privately, how "we," that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives of the "natives" as we were all married men? He replied instantly "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah; by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation."

It is important to note that Phelps wrote his note 30 years after the revelation was said to have been given, after polygamy had been openly practiced for a number of years.


Response to claim: 132 (PB) - "Although Smith never took any Lamanites as wives, he did begin establishing what would gradually become a fairly large harem of young girls and women"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Although Smith never took any Lamanites as wives, he did begin establishing what would gradually become a fairly large harem of young girls and women taken from his flock of 'white and delightsome' disciples."

Author's sources: No source provided.

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith never had a "harem" of wives.



Response to claim: 132, 530-531n29-36 (PB) - Joseph's first polyamous marriage was with Fanny Alger

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's first polyamous marriage was with Fanny Alger.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

This is correct.



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

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

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

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

Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had "learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, 'that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.' This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although there lived then with his family (the Prophet’s) a neighbor’s daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her."[16]

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

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

Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Uncle Sam says, “Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says.” Father goes to his sister and said, “Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Said she, “Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me.” Father goes to Fanny and said, “Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?” “I will Levi,” said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, “Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission.” Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.[17]


Response to claim: 133, 531n37-40 (PB) - Did William McLellin report that Joseph and Fanny were found "in the barn together alone...?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did William McLellin report that Joseph and Fanny were found "in the barn together alone...?"

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

William McLellin claimed to have heard a story that Fanny and Joseph were in the barn and Emma had observed them, and Ann Eliza Webb, who was born 11 years after Joseph's marriage to Fanny, claimed that Emma threw Fanny out of the house.



Question: Did Emma Smith discover her husband Joseph with Fanny Alger in a barn?

William McLellin claimed to have heard a story that Fanny and Joseph were in the barn and Emma had observed them

In 1872, William McLellin wrote a letter to Emma and Joseph's son, Joseph Smith III:

Now Joseph I will relate to you some history, and refer you to your own dear Mother for the truth. You will probably remember that I visited your Mother and family in 1847, and held a lengthy conversation with her, retired in the Mansion House in Nauvoo. I did not ask her to tell, but I told her some stories I had heard. And she told me whether I was properly informed. Dr. F. G. Williams practiced with me in Clay Co. Mo. during the latter part of 1838. And he told me that at your birth your father committed an act with a Miss Hill [sic]—a hired girl. Emma saw him, and spoke to him. He desisted, but Mrs. Smith refused to be satisfied. He called in Dr. Williams, O. Cowdery, and S. Rigdon to reconcile Emma. But she told them just as the circumstances took place. He found he was caught. He confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him. She told me this story was true!! Again I told her I heard that one night she missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true. [18]

Ann Eliza Webb, who was born 11 years after Joseph's marriage to Fanny, claimed that Emma threw Fanny out of the house

Ann Eliza Webb, who was born in 1844, was not even alive at the time of these events, could only only comment based upon what her father told her about Joseph and Fanny. Ann apostatized from the Church and wrote an "expose" called Wife No. 19, or The story of a Life in Bondage. She described Fanny as follows:

Mrs. Smith had an adopted daughter, a very pretty, pleasing young girl, about seventeen years old. She was extremely fond of her; no mother could be more devoted, and their affection for each other was a constant object of remark, so absorbing and genuine did it seem. Consequently is was with a shocked surprise that people heard that sister Emma had turned Fanny out of the house in the night.[19]


Response to claim: 133, n42 (PB) - Was the inclusion of the statement on marriage in the 1835 D&C was "an attempt to cover-up the Smith-Alger affair" as the author claims?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Was the inclusion of the statement on marriage in the 1835 D&C was "an attempt to cover-up the Smith-Alger affair" as the author claims?

Author's sources: D&C 1835, 251.

FairMormon Response

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

The statement on marriage was not an attempt to "cover up" anything.



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

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

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

Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. [20]

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

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

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

The available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith supported its publication

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

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

This statement was not a revelation given to Joseph Smith—it was written by Oliver Cowdery and introduced to a conference of the priesthood at Kirtland on 17 August 1835. Cowdery also wrote a statement of belief on government that has been retained in our current edition of the D&C as section 134. Both were sustained at the conference and included in the 1835 D&C, which was already at the press and ready to be published. Joseph Smith was preaching in Michigan at the time Oliver and W.W. Phelps introduced these two articles to the conference; it is not known if he approved of their addition to the D&C at the time, although he did retain them in the 1844 Nauvoo edition, which argues that he was not opposed to them. (Phelps read the article on marriage, while Cowdery read the one on government.) [21]

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

The General Assembly, which may have been announced on only twenty-four hours' notice, was held Monday, August 17[, 1835]. Its spur-of-the-moment nature is demonstrated by observing that a puzzling majority of Church leaders were absent. Missing from the meeting were all of the Twelve Apostles, eight of the twelve Kirtland High Council members nine of the twelve Missouri High Council members, three of the seven Presidents of the Quorum of Seventy, Presiding Bishop Partridge, and...two of the three members of the First Presidency. [22]

However, there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, "if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac." [23]


Response to claim: 135, 531n45 (PB) - Did land specuation in Kirtland "consume" the "thoughts of nearly every Saint, including Smith"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did land specuation in Kirtland "consume" the "thoughts of nearly every Saint, including [Joseph] Smith?"

Author's sources: *Heber C. Kimball, "History of Heber Chase Kimball by his own Dictation," 47-48 quote in Jessee, 397-398.

FairMormon Response

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

The citation does not support the author's assertion that this involved "nearly every Saint, including Smith." The endnote quotes Kimball as saying, "we were much grieved to see the spirit of speculation prevailing in the church..." Kimball doesn't say anything about Joseph Smith's involvment. He does state that, "all seemed determined to become rich; in my feelings they were artificial or imaginary riches." A more complete quote is included in the endnote.



Response to claim: 135, 531n46-48 (PB) - Joseph is claimed to have owned one hundred and forty acres of land near the Kirtland temple lot in addition to four acres of business property

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Joseph is claimed to have owned one hundred and forty acres of land near the Kirtland temple lot in addition to four acres of business property.

Author's sources:
  • Robert Kent Fielding, "The Growth of the Mormon Church in Kirtland, Ohio," Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1957, typed copy, 202-204. 206-208, 211-212. Quoted in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Mormon Kingdom, vol. 1, 9.
  • Unfortunately, the primary sources used by Fielding and Tanner are not provided.

FairMormon Response

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

Nineteenth-century practice frowned upon churches owning large amounts of wealth, so Joseph held title as an agent for the Church.

Question: Did Joseph own 144 acres of land in Kirtland?

Nineteenth-century practice frowned upon churches owning large amounts of wealth, so Joseph held title as an agent for the Church

As the Saints began to gather to Ohio, the amount of property owned and managed by Church leaders in Kirtland significantly increased. In April 1832, Frederick G. Williams purchased 144 acres for $2,000. On May 3, 1834, this property was conveyed without monetary remuneration to Joseph Smith, as agent for the Church. (emphasis added)[24]

Joseph united with others in the United Order, and they managed their own and church properties together

In compliance with a revelation Joseph Smith had received in Missouri during his second trip to that state, a central council, referred to as the order, the United Order, and the United Firm, was created to manage the temporal affairs of the Church. This included the general supervision of the poor, a responsibility that was continued on a local level by the bishops.... In the spring of 1832...[in Kirtland, four leaders were to] direct the activities of the United Firm....(Joseph Smith, Newel K. Whitney, Sidney Rigdon, and Jesse Gause). After one of the leaders, Jesse Gause, apostatized, Frederick G. Williams became a member of the firm, as did John Johnson. After Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris returned to Ohio, they united with the other leaders in Kirtland in directing the economic affairs of the Church in that part of the country. These men functioned as a controlling body (like a board of directors that manages a corporation) and used the financial means at their disposal to finance various Church programs. While sharing the responsibilities of holding properties in trust, directors of the United Firm cared for the poor, supervised the bishop's storehouses, purchased land for those who gathered in Kirtland and Missouri, and assisted in the construction of the Kirtland Temple.[25]

Joseph did not hold this land for his own benefit—rather, he was acting as Church agent, and the use of the land was directed by a board of Church leaders. Poor members would settle on the Church lands:

Until 1832, most of the Saints gathering to Kirtland settled on the Isaac Morley farm. Later they settled on the Frederick G. Williams farm [i.e., the land deeded to Joseph as Church agent] and other land purchased by the Church.[26]

Backman explains:

A high percentage of the Saints were not asked to consecrate their property, and many converts who gathered in Kirtland did not purchase land....Instead of owning their own farms, they lived on Church property near the temple, where they built small frame homes and for several years devoted most of their energies and economic resources to the building of the [Kirtland] temple.[27]


Response to claim: 531n48 (PB) - Was Isaac McWithy brought before the church's High Council on charges of "insolence" after refusing to sell his land to Joseph Smith for $3000?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Was Isaac McWithy brought before the church's High Council on charges of "insolence" after refusing to sell his land to Joseph Smith for $3000?

Author's sources: *History of the Church, 2:446. Volume 2 link

FairMormon Response

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

This was not a personal transaction with Joseph, and McWithy's reneging on the deal would cost the Church four to five hundred dollars.

Question: Was Isaac McWithy brought before the High Council on charges of "insolence" because he refused to sell his land to Joseph Smith for $3000?

This was not a personal transaction with Joseph, and McWithy's reneging on the deal would cost the Church four to five hundred dollars

One critic of the Church states that Isaac McWithy was "brought to trial before the church's High Council for insolence" after he "refused to sell his land to Joseph for $3000."

The High Council court was to "investigate the charges of 'A want of benevolence to the poor, and charity to the Church,' which [Joseph] had previously preferred against Brother Preserved Harris and Elder Isaac McWithy.

History of the Church states:

In the pleas of the Councilors, in the case of Elder McWithy, they decided that the charges had been fully sustained; after which, I spoke in my turn as accuser, and stated that I called on the accused, in company with President Oliver Cowdery, for money to send up to Zion, but could get none; afterwards saw him, and asked him if he would sell his farm. He at first seemed willing, and wished to build up Zion. He pleaded excuse in consequence of his liberality to the poor. We offered him three thousand dollars for his farm, would give him four or five hundred dollars to take him to Zion, and settle him there, and an obligation for the remainder, with good security and interest. He went and told Father Lyon that we demanded all his property, and so we lost four or five hundred dollars; because the accused told him [Lyon] such a story, [that] he calculated to keep it [the aforesaid four or five hundred dollars] himself."

Note that Joseph said "We offered him..."—this was not a personal transaction with Joseph.


Response to claim: 135 (PB) - "Smith decided to solve his economic dilemma by establishing a bank for the purpose of land speculation"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Smith decided to solve his economic dilemma by establishing a bank for the purpose of land speculation."

FairMormon Response

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

There is no evidence to support this statement - this is the author's opinion.



Response to claim: 136, 532n51 (PB) - Did Joseph Smith claim that "God told him" to establish the bank in Kirtland?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph Smith claim that "God told him" to establish the bank in Kirtland?

Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 195. ( Index of claims ), citing Warren Parrish, letter dated March 6, 1838, Zion's Watchman, March 24, 1838

FairMormon Response

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

The author paraphrases Brodie's assertion that "The bank was said to have been established by a revelation from God..." Brodie can provide no evidence, save an angry apostate after the fact, who contradicted his own testimony. Why do contemporary sources say that Joseph did not tell them what the Lord said?



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

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

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

Erroneous banking policies caused financial services to expand much more slowly than the growth in real economic activities retarded the growth process and forced people to create illegal mediums of exchange to substitute for inefficient barter.[28]

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

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

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

Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults. I repented of my unbelief, and that too, very suddenly; I repented about as quickly as I committed the error. It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances or not...

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

That was my faith, and it is my faith still… it is taught to the people now continually, to have implicit confidence in our leaders to be sure that we live so that Christ is within us a living fountain, that we may have the Holy Ghost within us to actuate, dictate, and direct us every hour and moment of our lives. How are we going to obtain implicit confidence in all the words and doings of Joseph? By one principle alone, that is, to live so that the voice of the Spirit will testify to us all the time that he is the servant of the Most High....[29]

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

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

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

I have listened to [the Prophet] with feelings of no ordinary kind when he declared that the audible voice of God instructed him to establish a Banking-Anti-Banking Institution, which, like Aaron's rod, should swallow up all other Banks...and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins.[30]

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

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

I also herd President Joseph Smith jr. declare in the presence of F Williams, D. Whitmer, S. Smith, W. Parrish, & others in the Deposit Office that he had receieved [check spelling] that morning the Word of the Lord upon the Subject of the Kirtland Safety Society. He was alone in a room by himself & he had not ownly the voice of the Spirit upon the Subject but even an audable voice. He did not tell us at that time what the LORD said upon the subject but remarked that if we would give heed to the Commandments the Lord had given this morning all would be well (spelling and capitalization in original, italics and emphasis added).[31]

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

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

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

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

when [Warren Parrish was] asked by the lawyers, "Do you know of anything in the character or conduct of Mr. Smith which is unworthy of his profession as a man of God?" the answer was, "I do not."[32]

So, by this date Parrish knew that the bank was in serious trouble. He was also hostile to Joseph (on May 29 he would bring high council charges against him for "lying...extortion...and...speaking disrespectfully against his brethren behind their backs."[33] He was in court under oath, called by the prosecution because they thought he would help their case against Joseph Smith, and yet he said he knew nothing in Joseph's conduct or character which suggested his profession as a man of God was unfounded.

Why did Parrish not tell the court about the supposed "revelation" which he would cite about eight months later? Quite simply because (as the Woodruff diary shows) Joseph reported the contents of no such revelation. This points to a February 1838 fabrication by Parrish. Would Parrish lie? He later brought charges against Sidney Rigdon for, among other things, "expressing an unbelief in the revelations of God, both old and new."[34] To charge Sidney Rigdon—former Campbellite preacher, student of the Bible, and stirring biblical orator—with disbelieving the revelations of God is simple nonsense. It is one more bit of evidence that Parrish's word, by this point in time, cannot be trusted.


Response to claim: 136, 532n54 (PB) - Was the Kirtland anti-bank backed only by boxes "filled with 'sand,lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles" as claimed by Fawn Brodie?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Was the Kirtland anti-bank backed only by boxes "filled with 'sand,lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles" as claimed by Fawn Brodie?

Author's sources: Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 196-197. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

There is no evidence to support this statement - this is the author's opinion.

Question: Did Joseph Smith mislead investors in the Kirtland Safety Society by collecting boxes full of sand with money placed on top, in order to make it appear that the bank had more hard money than it did?

The safe measured only 25 by 24 by 29 inches, and was not large enough to accomodate "boxes full of sand"

The Kirtland bank safe was not large enough to accommodate the claims which apostates later made. It seems plausible that in an effort to discredit Joseph Smith, they fabricated a story about him distorting the bank's reserves. Since such tales grow in the telling, and because a larger scam is more memorable, their creativity betrayed them—had they been more modest in their claims, the implausibility would be less apparent.

Without other evidence, this claim should be regarded as spurious.

Brodie quotes apostate Mormons for this claim, but it does not seem to match other facts in the historical record

This quote is from Fawn Brodie, who in turn cites three hostile anti-Mormon sources: Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 36.; Oliver H. Olney, The Absurdities of Mormonism Portrayed (Hancock County, IL: N.p., 1843), 4.; E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed (Frankford, Philadelphia: Webber & Fenimore, 1841), 14. off-site Full title.

In October 1836, Joseph Smith purchased a safe for use in the bank he and other Church leaders were planning:

The safe measured only 25 by 24 by 29 inches. The dimensions of the safe cast a serious shadow on the validity of stories of various apostates cited by Brodie. They claimed that the shelves of the bank vault were lined with many boxes each marked $1,000. These many boxes were supposedly filled with sand, lead, old iron, and stone with only a thin layer of coins on top. As will be pointed out later [in the article], the founders of the bank probably had enough genuine specie when the bank was opened to fill the several small boxes that might have occupied this very modest safe.[35]

The apostates never made this allegation before the bank collapsed

It is also telling that such apostates never disclosed Joseph's dishonesty before the bank's collapse, and some may have even participated in the bank. Why would they keep this a secret, and why would they risk their own financial well-being if they knew Joseph was up to no good?


Response to claim: 136, 532n56 (PB) - Is it true that "everyone's pockets bulged with bills" in Kirtland after the bank was established as asserted by Fawn Brodie?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Is it true that "[e]veryone's pockets bulged with bills" in Kirtland after the bank was established as asserted by Fawn Brodie?

Author's sources: *Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 196. ( Index of claims )

FairMormon Response

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

The author quotes Brodie's opinion. Brodie provides no citation to back up the assertion that "everyone's pockets bulged with bills."



Notes

  1. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:165. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:182. Volume 2 link
  3. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:336–337. Volume 5 link
  4. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:254. Volume 6 link
  5. Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
    Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
    Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman
  6. All examples from Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  7. Joseph Smith, “Journal History 1830–1833,” Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
  8. Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
  9. John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire : The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 212.
  10. Unless otherwise indicated, the facts in this chapter are drawn from M. Scott Bradshaw, "Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio," Brigham Young University Studies 39 no. 4 (2000), 7–22. See also William G. Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," Brigham Young University Studies 39 no. 4 (2000), 22–69.
  11. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 7.
  12. Bradshaw, "Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio," 43, 45.
  13. Ohio's "Act Regulating Marriages," (1824); cited in Hartley, "Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding," 18.
  14. The source is said to be a letter from Joseph Fielding Smith to J. W. A. Baily dated September 5, 1935.
  15. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 184, footnote. ( Index of claims )
  16. Dean Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 38; punctuation and spelling standardized. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  17. Levi Ward Hancock, “Autobiography with Additions in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock,” 63, MS 570, LDS Church History Library, punctuation and spelling standardized; cited portion written by Mosiah. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  18. William McLellin, Letter to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, Community of Christ Archives
  19. Ann Eliza Webb Young, Wife No. 19, or The story of a Life in Bondage, 66.
  20. Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, Section 101.
  21. History of the Church, 2:246–247. Volume 2 link
  22. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Volume 1: History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 154.
  23. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, 173, see pp. 171–1731 for full details.
  24. Keith W. Perkins, "Land Ownership in Kirtland," in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, edited by Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan, Arnold K. Garr (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1994).
  25. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 71. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  26. Karl Ricks Anderson, "Joseph Smith's Kirtland: Eyewitness Accounts," (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1989), 14.
  27. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 77, 79. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  28. Adams, 481.
  29. Brigham Young, "He That Loveth Not His Brother...," (29 March 1857) Journal of Discourses 4:297-297.
  30. Letter published in the 15 Feb. 1838 Painesville Republican, re-printed in The Ohio Repository, 22 Mar. 1838; cited in Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 194.
  31. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 1:120. ISBN 0941214133.
  32. Elder's Journal 1 no. 4 (August 1838).
  33. Orson Pratt and Lyman Johnson, "Charges Against Joseph Smith, Jr., n.d.," Newel K. Whitney Collection, Special Collections, BYU; cited in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 196. (Reviews)
  34. Vault-Ms 76, box 2, fd 2, Special Collections, BYU; cited in Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 196.
  35. Dale W. Adams, "Chartering the Kirtland Bank," Brigham Young University Studies 23 no. 4 (Fall 1983), 479, n. 8.. PDF link