Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Prophetic Autobiography

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Did Joseph Smith derive the name "Lemuel" from a neighbor?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 72 (hardbound and paperback)

The book claims that the name "Lemuel" as a "wicked character" in the Book of Mormon may have been derived from Lemuel Durfee, whom is said to be "a neighbor who in 1825 bought the Smith's farm when they could no longer afford it, thus forcing them to live as tenants."

Author's Sources


Endnote 61, page 514 (hardback); page 512 (paperback)

Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents vol. 1, 321, footnote #128.


Question: Could Joseph Smith have modeled the "wicked character" named "Lemuel" in the Book of Mormon upon the Smith's landlord, Lemuel Durfee?

The Smiths saw Lemuel Durfee as a "gentleman" who helped them out of a difficult situation -- not as a villain

Here are some facts to consider in evaluating these interpretations of the past: About the time that the Smiths made arrangements with their new land agent to make the final payment on their farm (in December of 1825) one of their neighbors offered to buy it from them. When the Smiths refused this offer their neighbor took several men with him to the land agent and lied about the Smith's ability to make their final payment. These men also falsely stated that the Smiths were destroying the property on which they lived. It was by these treacherous acts of deception that the neighbor acquired the deed to the Smith family farm. He then went to his ill-gotten property, while most of the Smith men were away on business, and ordered all of them to leave immediately. When the land agent was told that he had been lied to he became very upset and summoned the deceiver -- who refused to make an appearance until legal action was threatened against him. The land thief said that the only way he would give up his deed was for the Smiths to pay him an exorbitant amount of money in a very short span of time. The Smiths were greatly relieved when they found that a Quaker named Lemuel Durfee would purchase their property from their antagonist. The historical record reports what happened next.

"Mr. Smith and the Messrs. Durf[ee] arrived at Cananda[i]gua at 1/2 past 9 o'clock in [the] night. The agent sent for Mr. Stoddard and his friends who, when they came, averred that the clock was too slow -- that it was really past ten. But being overcome in this the money was paid over to them and [they] gave up the deed to Mr. Durf[ee], the high sheriff, who now came into possession of the farm.

With this gentleman we [i.e, the Smith family] were now to s[t]ipulate as renters upon [the] premises. . . . Mr. Durf[ee] gave us the privilege of the place [for] one year with this provision -- that Samuel, our 4th son, was to labor for him 6 months. These things were all settled upon and the conclusion was that if after we had kept the place in this way [for] one year [and] we still chose to remain we could have the privilege" (Lavina F. Anderson, ed., Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001], 372-73).

Notes