Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power/Chapter 1

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 1: The Evolution of Authority"

A FairMormon Analysis of: The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, a work by author: D. Michael Quinn

Response to claims made in "Chapter 1: The Evolution of Authority" by D. Michael Quinn

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Response to claim: 1 - Joseph Smith, Sr. "participated with William Cowdery in a religious group using divining rods" for the purpose of receiving revelation

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith, Sr. "participated with William Cowdery in a religious group using divining rods" for the purpose of receiving revelation

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: 1 - Oliver Cowdery introduced himself to Joseph Smith's family as a "divining rodsman"

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

Oliver Cowdery introduced himself to Joseph Smith's family as a "divining rodsman."

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: 1 - Joseph Smith, Jr. received a revelation that commended Oliver Cowdery for his "gift of working with the rod"

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith, Jr. received a revelation that commended Oliver Cowdery for his "gift of working with the rod."

FairMormon Response

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





Question: How was the wording of the "rod of nature" revelation that became Doctrine and Covenants 8:6–8 altered over time?

The revelation was edited by several individuals, including Sidney Rigdon

The original wording of the revelation along with revisions performed by Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, John Whitmer, and another unidentified editor is recorded in the REVELATION BOOK 1 (April 1829-B [D&C 8]). The original revelation reads as follows:

...remember this is thy gift now this is not all for thou hast another gift which is the gift of working with the sprout Behold it hath told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this thing of Nature to work in your hands. [1]

Sidney Rigdon edited the passage to read like this:

...remember this is your gift 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 to work in your hands. (emphasis added)

In the Book of Commandments (the predecessor to the Doctrine and Covenants), the revelation underwent an additional revision by a publication committee of the First Presidency (Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Frederick G. Williams). The Book of Commandments stated:

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. (emphasis added)

In the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, this was revised to read:

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.) (emphasis added)

Thus, "working with the sprout" and the "thing of Nature" were changed to "the gift of working with the rod," which was again later revised to "the gift of Aaron." It has been assumed on the basis of this that Oliver Cowdery was a "rodsman," or someone who used a divining rod to search for treasure, water, or other things hidden.

Evidence used to support this assertion is the fact that in 1801, a religious sect led by the Wood family enjoyed a brief popularity, and they sought for treasure with divining rods. [2] The Wood group was reportedly taught this skill by a counterfeiter/forger named either Winchell or Wingate. Winchell/Wingate had been a guest at the home of Oliver's father, William. Attempts have been made to tie William Cowdery to the Wood group, but there is no evidence that he had any connection with them aside from knowing Winchell/Wingate. As Richard L. Anderson observed:

An 1828 newspaper history of the Wood episode refers to neither the mysterious counterfeiter nor Cowdery. The main group of Middletown survivors of the 1800 period--"more than thirty men and women"--were interviewed up to 1860, and they said nothing of a counterfeiter or of Cowdery. The 1867 recollections of a minister who visited the group in the final weeks of their movement include mention of the counterfeiter but not Cowdery--when a disciple was asked where the criminal stayed, he answered: "He keeps himself secreted in the woods." Frisbie's own claims about the Cowdery connection to the Wood group are both unclear and unsupported. This is the patchwork of folklore, not tightly woven history. [3]

It is therefore not clear whether Oliver used a rod for treasure seeking. The critical association of Oliver's possible use of a rod with the activities of local "rodsmen" seeking treasure is used to imply that Oliver was also a treasure seeker.


Response to claim: 2 - Joseph Smith, Jr's interest in religion began at the age of 12 during the 1816-1867 revival

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith, Jr's interest in religion began at the age of 12 during the 1816-1867 revival

FairMormon Response

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





Response to claim: 3 - Joseph wrote that during his initial vision that Lord forgave his sins, and in later accounts "Smith indicated that God the Father had introduced Jesus to him"

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

Joseph wrote that during his initial vision that Lord forgave his sins, and in later accounts "Smith indicated that God the Father had introduced Jesus to him."

FairMormon Response

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





Response to claim: 3 - "Neighbors testified that during the spring of 1820 Smith became a seer in quest of buried treasure"

The author(s) of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Neighbors testified that during the spring of 1820 Smith became a seer in quest of buried treasure"

FairMormon Response

Notes

  1. Revelation, April 1829–B [D&C 8], in Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, and Stephen C. Harper, eds., Manuscript Revelation Books, vol. 1 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009), 17. (emphasis added)
  2. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:599–621.
  3. 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