Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/A Letter to an Apostle/The Letter

Table of Contents

Response to "A Letter to an Apostle: The Letter"

A FairMormon Analysis of: A Letter to an Apostle, a work by author: Paul A. Douglas

Response to claims made in "A Letter to an Apostle: The Letter"

Summary: This section responds to claims made in the actual letter which was sent to President Uchtdorf's office.

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Response to claim: "The dearth of any archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence of the Book of Mormon chronicles"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

The dearth of any archaeological, anthropological or linguistic evidence of the Book of Mormon chronicles

FairMormon Response

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

Simply repeating assertions by ex-Mormons and critics of the Church that there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon does not make their assertions true. Those that look for such evidence can find it.


Question: What criticisms are raised with regard to Book of Mormon archaeology compared to that of the Bible?

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible claim that the Bible has been "proven" by archaeology

Sectarian critics who accept the Bible, but not the Book of Mormon, sometimes claim that the Bible has been "proven" or "confirmed" by archaeology, and insist that the same cannot be said for the Book of Mormon.

The claim that there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is incorrect

The claim that, unlike the Bible, there is no archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is based on naive and erroneous assumptions. Without epigraphic New World evidence (which is currently extremely limited from Book of Mormon times), we are unable to know the contemporary names of ancient Mesoamerican cities and kingdoms. To dismiss the Book of Mormon on archaeological grounds is short-sighted. Newer archaeological finds are generally consistent with the Book of Mormon record even if we are unable (as yet) to know the exact location of Book of Mormon cities.

  • What would a "Nephite pot" look like? What would "Nephite" or "Lamanite" weapons look like?
  • Think about the Old World--how do you tell the difference between Canaanite pots and houses and garbage dumps, and Israelite pots and houses and garbage dumps? You can't. If we didn't have the Bible and other written texts, we'd have no idea from archaelogy that Israelites were monotheists or that their religion differed from the Canaanites who lived along side them.
  • We also know very little about the names of cities in the New World from before the Spanish Conquest. So, even if we found a Nephite city, how would we know? We don't know what the pre-Columbian name for a city was (or how to pronounce them)--so, even if we had found, say, "Zarahemla," how would we know?

Note: Many of the topics sometimes addressed in archaeological critiques of the Book of Mormon are treated in detail on the Book of Mormon "anachronism" page.


Archaeology and the Book of Mormon

Summary: It is a common claim by critics that there is "absolutely no archaeological evidence" to support the Book of Mormon. When they say "directly" support, they typically mean that they are looking for a direct corroboration, such as the presence of the name "Nephi" or "Zarahemla" in association with ancient American archaeological data. There is plenty of supporting evidence that anthropologically ties the Book of Mormon to ancient America.

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Anthropology and the Book of Mormon

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Response to claim: "Would we not find some evidence of the battles in which supposedly more than 2 million soldiers died at the Hill Cumorah – bones, swords, armor, even hair"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Would we not find some evidence of the battles in which supposedly more than 2 million soldiers died at the Hill Cumorah – bones, swords, armor, even hair

FairMormon Response

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

The Book of Mormon text does not support the 110-foot tall hill in New York as being the "Cumorah" described in the Book of Mormon.


Archaeology and the Hill Cumorah

Summary: If Mormon chapter 6 is a literal description of the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites — approximately 100 thousand were killed by swords and axes — why hasn't any evidence of the battle been found at the site that was traditionally identified as the hill Cumorah in western New York state?

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Response to claim: "Is it not disconcerting that virtually every non-Mormon archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist and even some funded by the Mormon Church declare that there is no evidence to support the Book of Mormon narrative?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Is it not disconcerting that virtually every non-Mormon archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist and even some funded by the Mormon Church declare that there is no evidence to support the Book of Mormon narrative?

FairMormon Response

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

Why would a non-Mormon archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist have any interesting in searching for any evidence proving the Book of Mormon? It should be obvious that any archaeologist, anthropologist or linguist interested in the subject would themselves be Mormon.


Response to claim: "Thomas Stuart Ferguson...had to admit that, 'you can't set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere - because it is fictional'"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Thomas Stuart Ferguson...had to admit that, 'you can't set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere - because it is fictional'

FairMormon Response

Question: Was Thomas Stuart Ferguson an archaeologist?

Ferguson never studied archaeology at a professional level - he was self-educated in that area

As John Sorensen, who worked with Ferguson, recalled:

[Stan] Larson implies that Ferguson was one of the "scholars and intellectuals in the Church" and that "his study" was conducted along the lines of reliable scholarship in the "field of archaeology." Those of us with personal experience with Ferguson and his thinking knew differently. He held an undergraduate law degree but never studied archaeology or related disciplines at a professional level, although he was self-educated in some of the literature of American archaeology. He held a naive view of "proof," perhaps related to his law practice where one either "proved" his case or lost the decision; compare the approach he used in his simplistic lawyerly book One Fold and One Shepherd. His associates with scientific training and thus more sophistication in the pitfalls involving intellectual matters could never draw him away from his narrow view of "research." (For example, in April 1953, when he and I did the first archaeological reconnaissance of central Chiapas, which defined the Foundation's work for the next twenty years, his concern was to ask if local people had found any figurines of "horses," rather than to document the scores of sites we discovered and put on record for the first time.) His role in "Mormon scholarship" was largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst.

Ferguson was never an expert on archaeology and the Book of Mormon (let alone on the book of Abraham, about which his knowledge was superficial). He was not one whose careful "study" led him to see greater light, light that would free him from Latter-day Saint dogma, as Larson represents. Instead he was just a layman, initially enthusiastic and hopeful but eventually trapped by his unjustified expectations, flawed logic, limited information, perhaps offended pride, and lack of faith in the tedious research that real scholarship requires. The negative arguments he used against the Latter-day Saint scriptures in his last years display all these weaknesses.

Larson, like others who now wave Ferguson's example before us as a case of emancipation from benighted Mormon thinking, never faces the question of which Tom Ferguson was the real one. Ought we to respect the hard-driving younger man whose faith-filled efforts led to a valuable major research program, or should we admire the double-acting cynic of later years, embittered because he never hit the jackpot on, as he seems to have considered it, the slot-machine of archaeological research? I personally prefer to recall my bright-eyed, believing friend, not the aging figure Larson recommends as somehow wiser. [1]


Peterson and Roper: "We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists"

Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper: [2]

"Thomas Stuart Ferguson," says Stan Larson in the opening chapter of Quest for the Gold Plates, "is best known among Mormons as a popular fireside lecturer on Book of Mormon archaeology, as well as the author of One Fold and One Shepherd, and coauthor of Ancient America and the Book of Mormon" (p. 1). Actually, though, Ferguson is very little known among Latter-day Saints. He died in 1983, after all, and "he published no new articles or books after 1967" (p. 135). The books that he did publish are long out of print. "His role in 'Mormon scholarship' was," as Professor John L. Sorenson puts it, "largely that of enthusiast and publicist, for which we can be grateful, but he was neither scholar nor analyst." We know of no one who cites Ferguson as an authority, except countercultists, and we suspect that a poll of even those Latter-day Saints most interested in Book of Mormon studies would yield only a small percentage who recognize his name. Indeed, the radical discontinuity between Book of Mormon studies as done by Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson in the fifties and those practiced today by, say, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) could hardly be more striking. Ferguson's memory has been kept alive by Stan Larson and certain critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as much as by anyone, and it is tempting to ask why. Why, in fact, is such disproportionate attention being directed to Tom Ferguson, an amateur and a writer of popularizing books, rather than, say, to M. Wells Jakeman, a trained scholar of Mesoamerican studies who served as a member of the advisory committee for the New World Archaeological Foundation?5 Dr. Jakeman retained his faith in the Book of Mormon until his death in 1998, though the fruit of his decades-long work on Book of Mormon geography and archaeology remains unpublished.


Peterson: "Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer...makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for 'LDS archaeology'"

Daniel C. Peterson: [3]

In the beginning NWAF was financed by private donations, and it was Thomas Ferguson's responsibility to secure these funds. Devoted to his task, he traveled throughout California, Utah, and Idaho; wrote hundreds of letters; and spoke at firesides, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, and wherever else he could. After a tremendous amount of dedicated work, he was able to raise about twenty-two thousand dollars, which was enough for the first season of fieldwork in Mexico.

Stan Larson, Thomas Stuart Ferguson's biographer, who himself makes every effort to portray Ferguson's apparent eventual loss of faith as a failure for "LDS archaeology,"22 agrees, saying that, despite Ferguson's own personal Book of Mormon enthusiasms, the policy set out by the professional archaeologists who actually ran the Foundation was quite different: "From its inception NWAF had a firm policy of objectivity. . . . that was the official position of NWAF. . . . all field directors and working archaeologists were explicitly instructed to do their work in a professional manner and make no reference to the Book of Mormon."


Response to claim: "how can we account for the numerous anachronisms in the Book of Mormon – chariots, horses, goats, wheels, elephants, steel, wheat, etc.?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

how can we account for the numerous anachronisms in the Book of Mormon – chariots, horses, goats, wheels, elephants, steel, wheat, etc.?

FairMormon Response

Anachronisms claimed to exist in the Book of Mormon

Summary: "Anachronism" = out of time; something which is not in its proper historical context. It is claimed that a number of items or concepts in the Book of Mormon are not consistent with what is known about ancient American geography, history, or anthropology. These "errors" used as evidence that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work rather than an ancient record.

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Response to claim: "Why do all recent DNA studies conclusively and without exception indicate that Native Americans are of Siberian/Asiatic and not of Hebrew origin?"

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

DNA evidence cannot be used to either prove or disprove the Book of Mormon.


Identifying ancient DNA related to Book of Mormon people

Summary: Genetic attacks on the Book of Mormon focus on the fact that Amerindian DNA seems closest to Asian DNA, and not DNA from "the Middle East" or "Jewish" DNA. However, this attack ignores several key points, among which is the fact that the Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family are clearly not Jews.

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Response to claim: "the Church quietly made yet another change to the Book of Mormon, in 2006 shortly after the irrefutable DNA results were first published by the scientific community"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

the Church quietly made yet another change to the Book of Mormon, in 2006 shortly after the irrefutable DNA results were first published by the scientific community

FairMormon Response

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

How can one claim that the Church "quietly" changed the introduction to the Book of Mormon when they published news of the change in the Church-owned newspaper, the Deseret News in 2007? From the Deseret News, 8 Nov. 2007:

Debate renewed with change in Book of Mormon introduction

A one-word change in the introduction to a 2006 edition of the Book of Mormon has re-ignited discussion among some Latter-day Saints about the book's historicity, geography and the descendants of those chronicled within its pages...

Carrie A Moore, "Debate renewed with change in Book of Mormon introduction," Deseret News (8 Nov. 2007)


Question: Why did the Church modify the introduction to the Book of Mormon from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors?"

The Church changed the wording to remove the assumption (inserted into the Book of Mormon in the 1920's) that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi

The Church made the change in wording to the introduction to the Book of Mormon to remove the assumption, which inserted into the Book of Mormon introduction in the 1920's and not part of the original text, that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were exclusive descendants of Lehi. This had been the generally held belief from the time that the Church was restored.

This change makes the Book of Mormon introduction compatible with current DNA evidence and acknowledges the fact that Lehi's group likely intermingled with the native inhabitants of the American continents based upon current knowledge of the DNA composition of the inhabitants of the New World. There is substantial scientific evidence of habitation in the Americas for thousands of years prior to Lehi's arrival.

If Lehi had any descendants among Amerindians, then after 2600 years all Amerindians would share Lehi as an ancestor. Even if (as is probable) the Lehite group was a small drop in a larger population 'ocean' of pre-Columbian inhabitants, Lehi would have been an ancestor of virtually all the modern-day Amerindians if any of his descendants married into the existing New World population.


Response to claim: "2 Nephi 2:22 asserts as does Alma 12:23 24 that there was no death of any kind upon the earth before the “Fall of Adam,” which the D&C indicates was about 6,000 years ago"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

2 Nephi 2:22 asserts as does Alma 12:23 24 that there was no death of any kind upon the earth before the “Fall of Adam,” which the D&C indicates was about 6,000 years ago

FairMormon Response

Question: Was there no death on the entire earth before the Fall?

There is overwhelming archaeological evidence of death having occurred on the earth for many millions of years

There is overwhelming archaeological evidence of death having occurred on the earth for many millions of years. For example, oil deposits are formed from the decomposed remains of ancient plants and animals. This is where Church teachings appear to contradict science, since many Latter-day Saint leaders and Church manuals have taught that there was no physical death on the entire earth prior to the fall of Adam. For example, this view is taught in the LDS Bible Dictionary:

Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Nephi 2:22; Moses 6:48). [4]

This interpretation has been shared by many Church authors, including President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie.[5] Consequently, the concept of no death before the Fall on the entire earth has made its way into many Church instructional manuals. For example, the LDS Bible Dictionary, which was included as an addition to the LDS edition of the King James Bible in 1979, includes the following statement that "death entered the world" as a result of the Fall:

The LDS Bible Dictionary states that, "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."


Response to claim: "How do you explain the large volume of material in the Book of Mormon lifted directly from the Bible, and the presence of numerous errors found in the Book of Mormon unique to the 1769 King James edition of the Bible"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

How do you explain the large volume of material in the Book of Mormon lifted directly from the Bible, and the presence of numerous errors found in the Book of Mormon unique to the 1769 King James edition of the Bible

FairMormon Response

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

Some of the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages generally match the version of Isaiah found in the Bible of the time, however, not all of them do.


Question: If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible?

The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God"

The Book of Mormon incorporates text which seems to be taken from the Bible, including passages which are now considered to be mistranslations in the King James Version. If the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation, why would it contain translational errors that exist in the King James Bible? [6]

We do not know the specific mechanism by which the biblical passages were included in the translation, therefore we cannot answer this question based upon current historical information. The only description of the translation process that Joseph Smith ever gave was that it was performed by the "gift and power of God," and that the translation was performed using the "Urim and Thummim." Joseph Smith stated the following in July 1838:

Question 4th. How, and where did you obtain the book of Mormon? Answer. Moroni, the person who deposited the plates, from whence the book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom, appeared unto me, and told me where they were; and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them; by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the book of Mormon. (Joseph Smith, (July 1838) Elders Journal 1:42-43.)

Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation

Joseph performed most of the translation in the open using the stone and the hat. The stone, in addition to the Nephite interpreters, was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" several years after the translation was complete (See Church essay "Book of Mormon Translation' on LDS.org [7]). Witnesses to the translation process never reported that a Bible or any other book was present during the translation. Given this evidence, we could assume that the Biblical passages were revealed to Joseph during the translation process in a format almost identical with similar passages in the King James Bible.

Some Latter-day Saint scholars believe that Joseph may have simply consulted a Bible when these passages were translated

Although there is not a single witness that saw Joseph consult any books during the translation process, some scholars believe that it is still a possibility that he did consult a Bible. If so, then he could have copied the relevant passages whenever he reached a point in the translation which he knew matched material in the Bible.


Ensign (Sept. 1977): "If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible"

Richard Lloyd Anderson (Ensign, September 1977):

In fact, the language in the sections of the Book of Mormon that correspond to parts of the Bible is quite regularly selected by Joseph Smith, rather than obtained through independent translation. For instance, there are over 400 verses in which the Nephite prophets quote from Isaiah, and half of these appear precisely as the King James version renders them. Summarizing the view taken by Latter-day Saint scholars on this point, Daniel H. Ludlow emphasizes the inherent variety of independent translation and concludes: “There appears to be only one answer to explain the word-for-word similarities between the verses of Isaiah in the Bible and the same verses in the Book of Mormon.” That is simply that Joseph Smith must have opened Isaiah and tested each mentioned verse by the Spirit: “If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible.” [8] Thus the Old Testament passages from Isaiah display a particular choice of phraseology that suggests Joseph Smith’s general freedom throughout the Book of Mormon for optional wording. [9]

NOTE: Witnesses to the translation process, including Joseph's wife Emma, state that Joseph Smith never consulted a Bible or any other book as he was dictating. If Joseph did indeed quote passages from the Bible word-for-word, as Richard Lloyd Anderson suggests, he did it without the aid of having a physical Bible present during the translation. For details, see Question: Could Joseph have used a Bible during and simply dictated from it during Book of Mormon translation?.


Question: Were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the King James Bible?

Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah

If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copies word for word in Micah 4:1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2-4 without once giving him credit.[10] We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5:10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36:2 through Isaiah 38:5 is the same as 2 Kings 18:17 through 2 Kings 20:6.

Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. Of course, Nephi and Jacob do not specify chapter and verse, because these are modern additions to the text (as Joseph Smith somehow knew). It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.

Finally, it is obvious that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World which gave us the Holy Bible.

A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity

Some question the presence of verses from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, and assert that many Book of Mormon verses were copied from the King James Bible, which in their view, makes the Book of Mormon a fraud. While this might appear to be true to the casual Book of Mormon reader, a closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[11]

The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith.[12] The Book of Mormon apparently follows the King James (Masoretic) text when it conveys the original meaning.

We often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern texts disagree.[13] One verse (2 Nephi 12:16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. [14] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[15]

The chapters of Isaiah actually quoted in the Book of Mormon (chapters 2-14 and 48-54) are those which would have been the most likely to have existed in Lehi's day

It is also significant that the chapters of Isaiah actually quoted in the Book of Mormon (chapters 2-14 and 48-54) are those which modern scholars widely agree correspond closely to the original Isaiah collection and therefore would have been the most likely to have existed in Lehi's day.[16] Could Joseph Smith have known this? If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce.


Question: Why does Isaiah in the Book of Mormon not match the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original Isaiah text

Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text?

The question makes some inaccurate assumptions:

  • It is not the case that the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa[a]) is the original text of Isaiah. It is an earlier witness to the text than we previously had before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), but it itself is centuries removed from the original(s).
  • The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original text either; that is an assumption that many LDS have brought to the text, but is not necessarily true.

These are basic issues of what is called "textual criticism," which is the science/art of trying to recover to the extent possible the text in its original form. Critical text scholars do not believe that the Great Isaiah Scroll matches exactly the original text of Isaiah. It is true that the masoretic scribal tradition has tried valiantly to copy texts as perfectly as possible. Various approaches have been used, such as counting the letters in a chapter and testing a copy against that, in order to ensure a high degree of accuracy in their work. However, the masoretic scribes did their work in the second half of the first millennium A.D. Prior to that time, many errors had already crept in the text.

The term "redaction" refers to a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined together in order to make it appear that they comprise a single text. The standard scholarly theory of the development of Isaiah is that it was redacted from two or three different texts. Yet none of this is reflected in the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is close to the canonical form of the text we have today. So if the scholars are correct there was substantial redaction of the text long before the scribes ever had a chance to practice their efforts at copying on the text.

The Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah: The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact

Even the Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah. The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact (with many copies intervening), and that was copied and recopied into Book of Mormon records, which was translated not in a scholarly fashion but instead by the gift and power of God through Joseph Smith. Therefore, it is a fallacy to assume that the Book of Mormon text ought to be the exact equivalent to the original text.


Question: Why are many of the quotes from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon identical to those in the King James Bible?

Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating

There are several problems with the idea that Joseph simply copied passages from the Holy Bible.

1) Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating. Recalled Emma, in a later interview:

I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for [Joseph] I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat , with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.[17]

Martin Harris also noted that Joseph would translate with his face buried in his hat in order to use the seer stone/urim and thummim. This would make referring to a Bible or notes virtually impossible:

Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine...[18]

2) It is not clear that Joseph even owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation. He and Oliver Cowdery later purchased a Bible, which suggests (given Joseph's straitened financial situation) that he did not already own one.[19]

3) It is not clear that Joseph's Biblical knowledge was at all broad during the Book of Mormon translation. It seems unlikely that he would have recognized, say, Isaiah, had he encountered it on the plates. Recalled Emma Smith:

When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. .?. . When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, "Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?" When I answered, "Yes," he replied, "Oh! I was afraid I had been deceived." He had such a limited knowledge of history at the time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[20]

Emma also noted that

Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else.[21]

And, if Joseph was merely inventing the Book of Mormon story, he picked some of the more obscure and difficult Bible passages to include.

4) If Joseph was forging the Book of Mormon, why include Biblical passages at all? Clearly, Joseph was able to rapidly produce a vast and complex text that made no reference to Biblical citations at all. If Joseph was trying to perpetrate a fraud, why did he include near-verbatim quotations from the one book (the Holy Bible KJV) with which his target audience was sure to be familiar?

The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[22]

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Since there is no such thing as a "perfect" translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.

Bible text itself quotes extensively from past scripture

When considering the presence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, it is also interesting to note that one Bible scholar has found that the four gospels attest to the fact that Jesus Christ and the apostles consistently quoted scripture. He calculated that over "ten percent of the daily conversation of Jesus consisted of Old Testament words quoted literally" and nearly 50% of the Lord's words as quoted by John were quotations from the Old Testament.[23]

When we consider the fact that Isaiah is the most quoted of all prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other Old Testament prophet, it should not surprise us that both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants also quote Isaiah more than any other prophet.[24] The Lord told the Nephites that "great are the words of Isaiah," and the prophet Nephi confessed, "my soul delighteth in his words... for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him" (2 Nephi 11:2).

New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah

It is clear that the writings of Isaiah held special significance for Jesus Christ and Nephi (see 2 Nephi 11:8, 2 Nephi 25:5; 3 Nephi 20:11; 3 Nephi 23:1-3). Isaiah's prophecies might also have been quoted frequently because they were largely concerned with latter-day events. The Saints understand Isaiah to have foretold the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith (see Isaiah 49:), the gathering of Israel in the last days (Isaiah 18:), the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (Isaiah 29:), wickedness in the last days (Isa. 33), and the Savior's second coming, and the millennium (Isaiah 13:, Isaiah 26:, Isaiah 27:). While he also wrote about the Savior's first coming (Isaiah 32:1-4) and events in his own time (Isaiah 20,23:), most of what he wrote about is yet to be fulfilled.[25]

When one considers that New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah[26] it should not surprise us that Book of Mormon writers did likewise. After all, these writings were part of the old world scriptures brought with them to the new world 1 Nephi 19:22-23). If the prophets of the Book of Mormon had not quoted Isaiah we might have questioned the authenticity of their words. That they did quote him extensively shows that they understood his writings as did Jesus and other apostles and prophets.

Paul has been cited as the most original of all New Testament writers but investigations of his epistles show that Paul often quoted from classical writers, orators, dramas, law courts, sports commentaries, and ancient religious rites. Even the well-known Pauline formula of "faith, hope, and charity," which appears also in the Book of Mormon, has been traced to Babylonian writings.[27]

Analysis of Specific Passages

2 Nephi 14:5

Walter Martin claims that Isaiah 4:5 is followed (mistakenly) by (2 Nephi 14:5). The phrase "For upon all the glory shall be a defense" should actually be "For over all the glory there will be a canopy."

Martin ignores that as translation literature, the Book of Mormon may well follow the KJV when the documents upon which the KJV is based match those of the Nephite text. Book of Mormon variants likely reflect only theologically significant changes not available in the Old World textual tradition.


2 Nephi 22:2

Some have questioned the use of the name JEHOVAH in 2 Nephi 22:2 and the use of some italicized King James Version words in the Book of Mormon. It seems clear that Joseph Smith was led to translate many passages as they appear in the King James Bible and made changes specifically by exception. Use of the proper name "Jehovah" which is an anglicized form of the Hebrew Yahweh, was common in the Bible[28] and was also in common use in Joseph Smith's day.[29] Although the name Jehovah is of more recent origin than the original Book of Mormon plates, it does not mean this name could not properly be used in translating a more ancient Hebrew title denoting the eternal I AM. Why should Joseph Smith be criticized for using the same name that King James scholars used?


Question: Do academic translators copy translations of other documents to use as a "base text"?

In some translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, approximately 90% is simply copied from the King James Bible

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[30]

The purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this. Here, for example, is how the first verses of Genesis are treated:

Dead Sea Scrolls Translation: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2 And] the earth [was] formless and void; and darkness was upon the fac[e of the dee]p: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," [and there was light. 4 And] God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light [from the darkness.] 5 And God called the light daytime, and the darkness he cal[led ni]ght. And there was evening [and there was morning,] one day.

KJV: 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

We can see that it generally follows that same King James language. In places, it has variant readings, and it footnotes what ancient texts caused these different readings. You can also see from the various punctuation marks that there is a system in place to help us understand what part of the text comes from which source. Why would a translation made in 1999 (170 years after the Book of Mormon gets published) generally follow the King James Version? It isn't because the King James Version is the best, or the easiest to understand. In 1830, it was the only mass produced translation (the next major translation wouldn't be published for another half century). And it remains today one of the most common translations of the Bible. You don't have to be a specialist to compare the two texts and see what the differences are. In this way, we can (as non-specialists) get a better feel for the various ancient versions of the biblical texts. The same is true for the Book of Mormon except perhaps in reverse. By using the KJV language, we are probably being clued in to the fact that the potential differences aren't the important parts of the Book of Mormon. Rather than focusing on how this or that word was changed, we can focus on what the passages are trying to teach us.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the KJV translation represented a true difference in the DSS, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve the KJV.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Furthermore, using a KJV "base text" also helps us to identify the source of some scriptural citations that might be otherwise unclear. Consider this bit from Jacob 1:7:

Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.

This sounds nice, but its real impact on our reading Jacob occurs when we recognize that Jacob is alluding to Psalm 95:8-11:

8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Jacob wants us to understand what follows in the context of Israel being led in the wilderness by Moses. Drawing that connection is hard enough for people who don't have a lot of familiarity with the Old Testament. But had it followed language not found in the Bible they had (the KJV)—even if conceptually it was the same—it would have been far more difficult for readers to connect the two to understand the point Jacob was trying to make.

In this way, it makes a lot of sense for a translation—even a divinely inspired translation which is being read through revelation (from a seer stone) - to follow a conventional text where it duplicates the same original source material. It isn't just about trying to duplicate the source material, it is also about getting the reader who then reads the text to understand it.


Response to claim: "how is it that some verbatim sections of the New Testament appear in the Book of Mormon at a date reported to be some eighty years before the birth of the Savior?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

how is it that some verbatim sections of the New Testament appear in the Book of Mormon at a date reported to be some eighty years before the birth of the Savior?

FairMormon Response

Question: How can text from the New Testament appear in the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon claims to be a "translation," and the language used is that of Joseph Smith

It is claimed that the Book of Mormon cannot be an ancient work because it contains material that is also found in the New Testament. In fact, in the Book of Mormon, Jesus quotes a paraphrase of Moses' words found in Acts 3:22-26. However, all these parallels demonstrate is that:

  1. the Book of Mormon translation language is closely based in KJV English; and
  2. King James phrases were exceedingly common in the speech and writing of Joseph's day.

Neither of these is news, and neither can tell us much but that the Book of Mormon was translated in the nineteenth century.

The Book of Mormon claims to be a "translation." Therefore, the language used is that of Joseph Smith. Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent.

Only if we presume that the Book of Mormon is a fraud at the outset is this proof of anything. If we assume that it is a translation, then the use of Bible language tells us merely that Joseph used biblical language.

If Joseph was a fraud, why would he plagiarize the one text—the King James Bible—which his readers would be sure to know, and sure to react negatively if they noticed it? The Book of Mormon contains much original material—Joseph didn't "need" to use the KJV; he is obviously capable of producing original material.

Furthermore, many of the critics examples consist of a phrase or a concept that Joseph has supposedly lifted from the New Testament. This complaint, however ignores several factors.

Chief among the difficulty is that the critics seem ignorant or unconcerned about the extent to which the language of the King James Bible dominated preaching, common speech, and discussion of religious and non-religious topics in Joseph Smith's day.

In a Bible-based culture like Joseph Smith's, Biblical phrases are simply "in the air," and are often used without an awareness of where they come from (this is especially true for those whose literary exposure did not extend much beyond the Bible—like Joseph). By analogy, many modern authors or speakers will use phrases like the following, completely unaware that they are quoting Shakespeare!

Common phrases originally from Shakespeare

List Phrase Shakespeare Reference

*

"All's well that ends well"

  • All's Well That Ends Well
  • Title of play

*

"As good luck would have it"

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor

*

"Bated breath"

  • The Merchant of Venice

*

"Be-all and the end-all"

  • Macbeth

*

"Beggar all description"

  • Antony and Cleopatra

*

"Brave new world"

  • The Tempest

*

"Break the ice"

  • The Taming of the Shrew

*

"not budge an inch"

  • The Taming of the Shrew

*

"Dead as a doornail"

  • Henry IV, Part II

*

"Devil incarnate"
  • Titus Andronicus

*

"Fool's paradise"

  • Romeo and Juliet

*

"For goodness' sake"

  • Henry VIII

*

"Full circle"

  • King Lear

*

"Good riddance"

  • Troilus and Cressida

*

"Household words"

  • Henry V

*

"Heart of gold"

  • Henry V

*

"In...a pickle"

  • The Tempest

*

"Lie low"

  • Much Ado About Nothing

*

"Love is blind"

  • Henry V
  • The Merchant of Venice

*

"Melted into thin air"

  • The Tempest

*

"Naked truth"

  • Love's Labours Lost

*

"I have not slept one wink"

  • Cymbeline

*

"One fell swoop"

  • Macbeth

*

"Play fast and loose with"

  • King John

*

"We have seen better days"

  • As You Like It
  • Timon of Athens

*

"The short and the long of it"

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor

*

"Too much of a good thing"

  • As You Like It

*

"Wear my heart upon my sleeve"

  • Othello

*

"What the dickens"

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor

*

"The world's my [mine] oyster"

  • Henry IV, Part 2

Would we accuse someone who used these phrases of "plagiarizing" Shakespeare? Hardly, for they are common expressions in our language—most people are probably unaware that they even come from Shakespeare, and most have probably not read the plays at all. In a similar way, some biblical phrases and vocabulary were likely part of Joseph Smith's subconscious verbal world. It would be strange if it were otherwise.

There are related issues to which the critics pay little attention

  • often the relation between the texts is not that close; only a few words are used that are the same. It is sometimes hard to see how there would be a different way of discussing the same sort of issue. Even if one believes Joseph forged the Book of Mormon, it seems more plausible that these cases are just a coincidence, or a case where one is almost "forced" to use the same type of language (e.g., 1 Nephi 1:18, Alma 19:10, Mosiah 16:7).
  • some phrases which approximate the New Testament are quite famous, classic renderings in the King James. Such phrases might be used almost instinctively or subconsciously when translating (e.g., 1 Nephi 12:11, 2 Nephi 4:17). Even academic translators sometimes struggle to avoid using the type of scriptural language with which they are very familiar—it can take a real effort to give a different rendering than one that is well known.
  • the Book of Mormon never hides its intent to use King James style English. It is not surprising, then, that there are parallels in language and vocabulary. The translation may even intend to call to mind these biblical verses or phrases, since the Book of Mormon is intended to complement the Bible
  • Joseph is clearly able to produce huge amounts of text that do not rely on the KJV at all. Why, if he wants to produce a believable forgery, does he adapt the occasional well-known phrase that could be noticed by even a relatively casual Bible reader? The critics require Joseph to be clever enough to produce independent text, and yet foolish enough to betray his dependence on the Bible.
  • Often, although the wording may be similar, the concept being explored is expanded, or the context is substantially altered in the Book of Mormon. The critics seem to think that Joseph flips through the Bible to find something, but the Book of Mormon certainly extends and adapts this material dramatically. The "copying" model seems more complex than needed, as it has Joseph taking small snippets of text from the Bible and other sources and somehow weaving it into the Book of Mormon text. Yet, eyewitnesses do not describe anything like this process; it is not even clear that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation.


Response to claim: "Joseph’s money digging and his arrest, trial and almost certain conviction for being a “glass looker,” imposter and disorderly person by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s money digging and his arrest, trial and almost certain conviction for being a “glass looker,” imposter and disorderly person by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826

FairMormon Response

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

The author implies Joseph's "almost certain conviction" despite the lack of evidence supporting this conclusion.


Question: What is Joseph Smith's 1826 South Bainbridge "trial" for "glasslooking"?

Joseph Smith appeared at a pre-trial court hearing in 1826 for "glasslooking"

In 1825 Josiah Stowel sought out the young Joseph Smith, who had a reputation for being able to use his seer stone to locate lost objects, to help him to locate an ancient silver mine. After a few weeks of work, Joseph persuaded Stowel to give up the effort. In 1826, some of Stowel's relatives brought Joseph to court and accused him of "glasslooking" and being a "disorderly person." Several witnesses testified at the hearing.

Joseph was released without being fined or otherwise punished - there was no verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty" because this was only a hearing rather than a trial

Joseph was ultimately released without being fined and had no punishment imposed upon him. Years later, a bill from the judge was discovered which billed for court services.

Gordon Madsen summarized:

"The evidence thus far available about the 1826 trial before Justice Neely leads to the inescapable conclusion that Joseph Smith was acquitted." [31]

A review of all the relevant documents demonstrates that:

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

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

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

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


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

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

In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [32] Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages. According to trial documents, Stowell says Joseph, using a seer stone, "Looked through stone and described Josiah Stowell's house and out houses, while at Palmyra at Sampson Stowell's correctly, that he had told about a painted tree with a man's hand painted upon it by means of said stone." [33]

Joseph ultimately persuaded Stowell to give up looking for the mine

Joseph and his father traveled to southern New York in November of 1825. This was after the crops were harvested and Joseph had finished his visit to the Hill Cumorah that year. They participated with Stowell and the company of workers in digging for the mine for less than a month. Finally Joseph persuaded him to stop. "After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations." [34]

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

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

In March of the next year, Stowell's sons or nephew (depending on which account you follow) brought charges against Joseph and he was taken before Justice Neely. The supposed trial record came from Miss Pearsall. "The record of the examination was torn from Neely's docket book by his niece, Emily Persall, and taken to Utah when she went to serve as a missionary under Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle." [35] This will be identified as the Pearsall account although Neely possessed it after her death. It is interesting that the first published version of this record didn't appear until after Miss Pearsall had died.

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

William D. Purple took notes at the trial and tells us, "In February, 1826, the sons of Mr. Stowell, ...were greatly incensed against Smith, ...saw that the youthful seer had unlimited control over the illusions of their sire... They caused the arrest of Smith as a vagrant, without visible means of livelihood." [36]

Whereas the Pearsall account says: "Warrant issued upon oath of Peter G. Bridgman, [Josiah Stowell's nephew] who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an imposter...brought before court March 20, 1826" [37]

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


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

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

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


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

Ensign (June 1994):

Highlights in the Prophet’s Life 20 Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a “disorderly person,” South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. New York law defined a disorderly person as, among other things, a vagrant or a seeker of “lost goods.” The Prophet had been accused of both: the first charge was false and was made simply to cause trouble; Joseph’s use of a seer stone to see things that others could not see with the naked eye brought the second charge. Those who brought the charges were apparently concerned that Joseph might bilk his employer, Josiah Stowell, out of some money. Mr. Stowell’s testimony clearly said this was not so and that he trusted Joseph Smith. [38]


Question: Was Joseph Smith found guilty of being a "con man" in 1826?

Claims about Joseph being found guilty of being a "con man" in court usually revolve around either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Joseph's 1826 court hearing

Claims that Joseph was a "juggler," or "conjurer" were a common 19th century method of dismissing his prophetic claims via ad hominem. Modern-day claims about him being found to be a "con man" are simply the same attack with updated language, usually bolstered by a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Joseph's 1826 court hearing.

Joseph's tendency to assume the best of others, even to his own repeated detriment, also argues for his sincerity. One might legitimately claim that Joseph was mistaken about his prophetic claims, but it will not do to claim that he was cynically, knowingly deceiving others for his own gain.

Claims about Joseph being found guilty of being a "con man" in court usually revolve around either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Joseph's 1826 court hearing:

Even if one rejects Joseph's claims to divine revelation or special abilities, his conduct still does not match that of a "con man"

  • Con men seek out their marks; Joseph was approached for his help by those who had heard about him
  • Con men travel from place to place, staying one step ahead of the law while defrauding their marks; Joseph was known locally and remained in his local area

Brant Gardner noted:

One very subtle but very important aspect of all of the dealings of the village seers is their relationship with their clients. The true cunning men and wise women were fixtures in the community. They received clients; they did not seek them out. In the cases reported about Sally Chase, her clients came to her. We have four descriptions of Joseph as this kind of village seer; and in each case, the client came to him with his problem....[T]hose who were searching for treasure invited the adept, but the cunning man or wise woman did not actively seek their employ.[39]

Broader character traits that argue against the "con-man hypothesis"

When Joseph's career is examined more broadly, there are other factors which argue for his sincerity. Arguably one character trait which gave Joseph repeated trouble was his willingness to trust others and give them the benefit of the doubt. His striking ability to accept people at face value, never doubting that their motives were as pure as his own, has many exemplars. The case of W.W. Phelps is one.

Phelps had betrayed Joseph and the Church during the Missouri persecutions, and contributed to Joseph's confinement in Liberty Jail. His signature was on the petition that resulted in the extermination order which led to the Saints' murder and dispossession. After receiving a penitent letter from Phelps, Joseph quickly responded

I must say that it is with no ordinary feelings I endeavor to write a few lines to you… I am rejoiced at the privilege granted me… when we read your letter—truly our hearts were melted into tenderness and compassion when we ascertained your resolves… It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior… we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God's dear children, and again take your stand among the Saints of the Most High, and by diligence, humility, and love unfeigned, commend yourself to our God, and your God, and to the Church of Jesus Christ…

Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal…

"Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends again at last."[40]

So it was that Joseph, while willing to do almost anything―from taking up arms, to petitioning presidents, to launching a campaign of disinformation―to protect the revealed Restoration and the Latter-day Saints, repeatedly opened himself to abuse and worse because of his apparent inability or unwillingness to think the worst of someone in advance of the evidence. Joseph assumed that all men were as purely motivated as he was. “It takes a con to know a con,” and Joseph wasn’t a con.[41] If he had been cynically exploiting others, he would have tended to ascribe his own base motives of deception and taking advantage to others, and probably would have been more cautious. But, he did not. Elder B.H. Roberts, a seventy and historian, noted years later that:

[Joseph Smith had] a too implicit trust in [men's] protestations of repentance when overtaken in their sins; a too great tenacity in friendship for men he had once taken into his confidence after they had been proven unworthy of the friendship.…[42]

A prime example of this phenomenon is the case of John C. Bennett. Soon after Bennett's baptism in Nauvoo, Joseph received a letter reporting Bennett's abandonment of wife and children. Joseph knew from personal experience that "it is no uncommon thing for good men to be evil spoken against,"[43] and did nothing precipitous. The accusations against Bennett gained credence when Joseph learned of his attempts to persuade a young woman "that he intended to marry her." Joseph dispatched Hyrum Smith and William Law to make inquiries, and in early July 1841 he learned that Bennett had a wife and children living in the east. Non-LDS sources confirmed Bennett's infidelity: one noted that he "heard it from almost every person in town that [his wife] left him in consequence of his ill treatment of her home and his intimacy with other women." Another source reported that Bennett's wife "declared that she could no longer live with him…it would be the seventh family that he had parted during their union."[44]

When confronted with the evidence privately, Bennett confessed and promised to reform. He did not, though Joseph did not make his sins public until nearly a year later.[45]

To learn more: John C. Bennett

Other examples of misplaced trust include George M. Hinckle, who sold Joseph out to the Missouri militia (resulting in his near-execution and his imprisonment in Liberty Jail) and William Law, who would help publish the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper which called for Joseph's death and contributed to the martyrdom.


Response to claim: "How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s numerous false prophecies, with the test of a true prophet as found in Deuteronomy 18?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

How can we reconcile Joseph Smith’s numerous false prophecies, with the test of a true prophet as found in Deuteronomy 18?

FairMormon Response

Question: Does Joseph Smith fail the "prophetic test" found in Deuteronomy 18?

Deuteronomy 18 states that if a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord that something will happen, and then it does not happen, that the prophet has spoken "presumptuously"

Evangelicals point to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 as a 'test' for a true prophet:

20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.

21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?

22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

It is claimed that Joseph Smith made failed prophecies, and as such must be a "false prophet." When critics charge Joseph Smith with uttering a "false prophecy" they are generally making one or more errors:

  1. they rely on an inaccurate account of what Joseph actually wrote or said, or they misrepresent Joseph's words;
  2. they ignore or remain unaware of circumstances which fulfilled the prophecy;
  3. they ignore or deny the clear scriptural principle [Jeremiah 18:7-10] that prophecy is contingent upon the choices of mortals;

Many LDS critics attempt to condemn Joseph Smith using a standard that would, if applied to Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Nathan, an angel of God, and Jonah, also condemn the Old Testament as a fraud

No reasonable or biblical application of Deuteronomy 18 condemns Joseph Smith. Like the prophets of the Bible, Joseph's prophetic claims cannot be tested by looking for a failure in "fore-telling"—we must, as with the biblical prophets, decide if Joseph "knew God in the immediacy of experience," by weighing "the moral and religious content" of his message as he "challeng[es] his hearers to respond to the divine standards of spirituality through acts of cleansing and renewal of life,"[46] which may only be ultimately judged by the source of prophecy—God himself. Every prophet is an invitation to enter into a "prophetic" relationship with God for ourselves, to communicate with him, and obtain the testimony of Jesus for ourselves.

Confusion on this point arises from one or more errors:

  1. prophecy may be fulfilled in ways or at times that the hearers do not expect;
  2. most prophecies are contingent, even if this is not made explicit when the prophecy is given—that is, the free agent choices of mortals can impact whether a given prophecy comes to pass
  3. sectarian critics may apply a standard to modern LDS prophets whom they reject that they do not apply to biblical prophets. This double standard condemns Joseph unfairly.

Prophecy may be fulfilled in ways or at times that the hearers do not expect

Deuteronomy doesn't exactly say that one mistake makes a false prophet.[47] James L. Mays, editor of Harper's Bible Commentary writes:

Prophecy in the names of other gods is easily rejected, but false prophecy in God's name is a more serious matter. This dilemma requires the application of a pragmatic criterion that, although clearly useless for judgments on individual oracles, is certainly a way to evaluate a prophet's overall performance.[48]

The problem with applying Deut. 18:22 to a single, individual prophecy is that some prophecies can be fulfilled in complex ways or at times much later than anticipated by the hearers. As one conservative Bible commentator noted:

As far as external considerations were involved, therefore, there would appear to have been [in Old Testament times] virtually no means of differentiating the true from the false prophet....While the popular view current in the seventh century B.C. distinguished a true prophet from a false one on the basis of whether their predictions were fulfilled or not, this attitude merely constituted an inversion of the situation as it ultimately emerged, and not an absolute criterion of truth or falsity as such. As Albright has pointed out, the fulfilment of prophecies was only one important element in the validation of a genuine prophet, and in some instances was not even considered to be an essential ingredient, as illustrated by the apparent failure of the utterances of Haggai [Haggai 2:21] against the Persian empire.R.K. Harrsion, Introduction to the Old Testament (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969); reprint edition by (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2004), 755–756.

Most prophecies are contingent, even if this is not made explicit when the prophecy is given

The Bible contains many examples of God choosing to reverse or revoke certain prophecies, as He says He is free to do in Jeremiah:

7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.Jeremiah 18:7-10

This principle is also illustrated in 1Sam 2:30 where, because of the wickedness of the priests, the Lord revokes his promise that the house of Aaron will forever serve him:

30 Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Sectarian critics may apply a standard to modern LDS prophets whom they reject that they do not apply to biblical prophets

Many Bible prophets would not survive the critics' hostile application of Deuteronomy 18 as Jewish and Christian commentators have long realized. The reading which the critics wish to apply to modern day prophets does not match how scholars of Judaism have understood Deuteronomy in its Old Testament context.

Wrote one author:

"The true prophet, as intercessor, was ready to risk a confrontation with God, in contrast to his counterpart, the false prophet. The problem of distinguishing between them was indeed perplexing, as shown by two separate passages in Deuteronomy...The answer given is that if the 'oracle does not come true, that oracle was not spoken by the Lord; the prophet uttered it presumptuously.' This, however, cannot serve as an infallible criterion, because there are several occasions when an oracle delivered by a true prophet did not materialize even in his own lifetime. Such unfulfilled prophecies include Jeremiah's prediction of the ignominious fate of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:19), which was belied by 2 Kings 24:6, and Ezekiel's foretelling the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 26:7-21), which was later admitted to have failed but was to be compensated by the Babylonian king's attack on Egypt (Ezekiel 29:17-20)"[49]

We will see examples in the next section of biblical prophets who would be labeled as "false prophets" if the critics were consistent in their application of Deuteronomy.

The Jewish Study Bible observed:

Having established an Israelite model of prophecy, the law provides two criteria to distinguish true from false prophets. The first is that the prophet should speak exclusively on behalf of God, and report only God's words. Breach of that rule is a capital offense (Jeremiah 28:12-17.) The second criterion makes the fulfillment of a prophet's oracle the measure of its truth. That approach attempts to solve a critical problem: If two prophets each claim to speak on behalf of God yet make mutually exclusive claims- (1 Kings 22:6 versus 1 King 22:17; Jeremiah 27:8 versus Jeremiah 28:2)- how may one decide which prophet speaks the truth?
The solution offered is not free of difficulty. If a false prophet is distinguished by the failure of his oracle to come true, then making a decision in the present about which prophet to obey is impossible. Nor can this criterion easily be reconciled with Deuteronomy 13:3, which concedes that the oracles of false prophets might come true. Finally, the prophets frequently threatened judgment, hoping to bring about repentance (Jeremiah 7:, Jeremiah 26:1-6). If the prophet succeeds and the people repent and thereby avert doom (Jonah 3-4:), one would assume the prophet to be authentic, since he has accomplished God's goal of repentance. Yet according to thee criteria here (but contrast Jeremiah 28:9), the prophet who accomplished repentance is nonetheless a false prophet, since the judgment oracle that was proclaimed remains unfulfilled. These texts, with their questions and differences of opinion on such issues, reflect the vigorous debate that took place in Israel about prophecy."[50]


Response to claim: Joseph Smith's prophecy that "the US government would be, 'utterly overthrown and wasted'"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's prophecy that "the US government would be, 'utterly overthrown and wasted'"

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith prophesy that the government would be overthrown and wasted?

The prophecy has already been amply fulfilled by events in Missouri and the United States soon after Joseph's death

On 6 May 1843, Joseph Smith said:

'I prophecy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left for their wickedness in permitting the murder of men, women and children, and the wholesale plunder and extermination of thousands of her citizens to go unpunished, thereby perpetrating a foul and corroding blot upon the fair fame of this great republic, the very thought of which would have caused the high-minded and patriotic framers of the Constitution of the United States to hide their faces with shame. Judge [Stephen A. Douglas], you will aspire to the Presidency of the United States; and if you ever turn your hand against me or the Latter-day Saints, you will feel the weight of the hand of the Almighty upon you; and you will live to see and know that I have testified the truth to you; for the conversation of this day will stick to you through life.[51]

Since it is more than 150 years since this prophecy was uttered, and because the US government still exists, it is claimed that this is a false prophecy. However, the prophecy has already been amply fulfilled by events in Missouri and the United States soon after Joseph's death.

Missouri suffered greatly during the Civil War

Missouri suffered greatly during the Civil War. Over 1,200 distinct battles or skirmishes were fought on Missouri soil; only Tennessee and Virginia saw more action on their soil.

Between 1862 and 1864, the western parts of Missouri endured guerrilla warfare. Although guerrilla warfare occurred throughout much of the state, most of the incidents occurred in northern Missouri and were characterized by ambushes of individuals or families in rural areas. These incidents were particularly nefarious because their vigilante nature was outside the command and control of either side and often pitted neighbor against neighbor.

Among the more notorious incidents of guerrilla warfare were the Sacking of Osceola, burning of Platte City and the Centralia Massacre.

In 1863 following the Lawrence Massacre in Kansas, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. accused farmers in rural Missouri of either instigating the attack or supporting it. He issued General Order No. 11 which forced the evacuation of all residents of rural areas of the four counties (Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon) south of the Missouri River on the Kansas border to leave their property, which was then burned. The order applied to farmers regardless of loyalty, although those who could prove their loyalty to the Union could stay in designated towns and those who could not were exiled entirely.[52]

LDS readers will recognize that Jackson county was notorious for its treatment of the Saints, and it was among those counties from which inhabitants were evacuated and a "scorched earth" policy implemented. The commanding general ordered his men not to engage in looting or other depredations, but he proved unable to effectively control his soldiers, who were mostly Kansans eager to exact any revenge possible upon their Missouri neighbors. Animals and other property were stolen or destroyed, and houses, barns and outbuildings burnt to the ground. The area affected quickly became a devastated "no-man's-land", with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble remaining where once-fertile farms had stood.[53]

If one read's Joseph's prophecy as referring at least partly to the government of Missouri, then it was fulfilled dramatically. Nothing remained in many areas, and government in some areas broke down almost completely as various factions struggled for control.

In the US government of Joseph's day, the Whigs had won the presidency and controlled the Senate: The Whigs were destroyed as a political power, never to recover

In 1840, William Henry Harrison was elected as president on the Whig ticket. He was to die within a month of taking office, succeeded by Vice-President John Tyler who was in office when Joseph made his prophecy in May 1843. The Whig party was to fracture along pro- and anti-slavery lines, and by 1854 the northern Whigs left the party to join the new Republican party. Others were later to join the Constitutional Union party, dedicated to the avoidance of civil war. Following the Civil War, the Whigs in the south tried to regroup, but were soon absorbed into the Democratic party.[54]

Thus, in the US government of Joseph's day, the Whigs had won the presidency and controlled the Senate. The Whigs were to be destroyed as a political power, never to recover. The United States government was to be destroyed, since the secession of the South arguably remade the American political order. Eleven states formed their own government as the Confederate States of America, and two states (Missouri and Kentucky) were split between pro-Union and pro-Confederate factions. Even following the war, the Reconstruction era undertook the abolishment of the Confederacy, the reestablishment of Southern representation in the Congress, and a revamping of the United States constitution to change the relationship of the states to the federal government.

Chief among the constitutional changes was the Fourteenth Amendment, which made all citizens of the states citizens of the United States. Thus:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This was a fundamental alteration of the government of the United States, and would have helped resolve many of the Saints' difficulties, had it been in place before the Civil War. Joseph Smith would complain:

I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights. The only fault I find with the Constitution is, it is not broad enough to cover the whole ground.

Although it provides that all men shall enjoy religious freedom, yet it does not provide the manner by which that freedom can be preserved, nor for the punishment of Government officers who refuse to protect the people in their religious rights, or punish those mobs, states, or communities who interfere with the rights of the people on account of their religion. Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them. It has but this one fault. Under its provision, a man or a people who are able to protect themselves can get along well enough; but those who have the misfortune to be weak or unpopular are left to the merciless rage of popular fury.[55]

The fourteenth amendment gave the federal government the power to enforce defense if the states failed to do so. As George A. Smith noted:

That is the situation we were in in Missouri when Governor Dunklin declared that the constitution and laws of Missouri could not be enforced so as to protect this people. It was virtually declaring us independent of that State, and acknowledging our right to protect ourselves in that capacity.[56]

G.A. Smith notes that Missouri could refuse to protect the Saints, and the federal government could not intervene. The 14th amendment altered this state of affairs. Elias Higbee's words to Congress would likewise insist that "I told them first, that I represented a suffering people, who had been deprived, together with myself, of their rights in Missouri; who numbered something like fifteen thousand souls; and not only they, but many others were deprived of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States."[57]

On this view, the United States government was remade following the Civil War. The old order was gone.

During the Civil War, members of the Church clearly saw the conflict as a fulfillment of Joseph's prophecy

During the Civil War, members of the Church clearly saw the conflict as a fulfillment of Joseph's prophecy. As one federal governor wrote in 1862, "Brigham Young and other preachers are constantly inculcating in the minds of the crowded audiences who sit beneath their teachings every Sabbath that the United States is of no consequence, that it lies in ruins, and that the prophecy of Joseph Smith is being fulfilled to the letter."[58] Thus, the secession of the South and the start of the Civil War was regarded as fulfillment of prophecy. As one author noted:

Mormon leaders consistently expressed their feelings that the war had been brought on by the wickedness of the United States, which had rejected Mormonism and permitted the death of the prophet of God and his servants. Because no effort had been made to punish the guilty or to prevent recurrences, the Mormons saw no reason to wonder at secession and dismemberment of such a union. Although the waste of lives was lamentable, a war between the states would avenge the death of Joseph Smith.

The Saints seemed especially gratified that Jackson County was a war zone and that Missouri would suffer the penalty of its cruelties to the Mormons.[59]

After the war, B.H. Roberts linked Joseph's prophecy to the Civil War, since it also forms part of the prophecy given to Stephen Douglas

After the war, B.H. Roberts linked Joseph's prophecy to the Civil War, since it also forms part of the prophecy given to Stephen Douglas. Noted Roberts:

It would be mere conjecture, of course, to say what the result would have been had Stephen A. Douglas been true to the Saints--the people of his friend Joseph Smith. But certainly had he been elected in 1860 the Southern States would have had no such excuse for their great movement of secession as they at least persuaded themselves they had in the election of Abraham Lincoln. And had Mr. Douglas in the event of his election followed the counsel given to the government and people of the United States by Joseph Smith in respect to the question of slavery, that evil might have been abolished without the effusion of blood, and no place found in the history of the United States for that horrible conflict known as the American civil war.[60]

Thus, Roberts too saw the Civil War and its surrounding events as fulfillment of Joseph's prophecy.


Response to claim: Joseph Smith's prophecy that "a temple would be built in Missouri within Smith’s generation"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's prophecy that "a temple would be built in Missouri within Smith’s generation

FairMormon Response

Question: Was Joseph Smith's prophecy that the Independence, Missouri temple "shall be reared in this generation" a failed prophecy?

Jesus Christ used the very same terminology in Matthew 24:34: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled"

There is a double standard of interpretation that critics use against Joseph Smith, since Jesus Christ used the very same terminology. Matthew 24:34 quotes Christ as saying, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Luke 21:32 repeats this prophecy. The term "these things" refers to wars, famines, the sun being darkened, and even the "stars falling from heaven." Some of "these things" occurred during Christ's time period. Some have continued since then. Some have escalated into our time. Some have not occurred yet.

So we must ask, since Joseph Smith is charged with false prophecy concerning "this generation," did Jesus Christ utter a false prophecy? Absolutely not! So, if Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about "this generation," then so did Christ. It has been many centuries longer from the time of Christ until now, than it has been from the 1830's till today.

The word "generation" has different meanings. According to scripture, the word "generation" can have reference to a time frame, a people, or even a dispensation. Without specific wording which would indicate exactly what the word "generation" means, it is dishonest to accuse one (Joseph Smith) of false prophecy, while accepting another (Jesus Christ) when both use it in a general form.

Joseph Smith's revelation in D&C 84 may appear on the surface to be a failed prophecy, but a more informed reading reveals that it may not have been a prophecy, and if it is, its fulfillment is still in the future.

When the scriptures use words such as "this generation," "a little season," "nigh," "soon to come," "quickly," and "in due time," it can mean several years, or even centuries

The main problem critics have in interpreting D&C 84 is timing. They cannot understand that when the scriptures use words such as "this generation," "a little season," "nigh," "soon to come," "quickly," and "in due time," it can mean several years, or even centuries. They have no problem with accepting a long time when the Bible makes these statements, but they refuse to interpret Joseph Smith with the same standard. To criticize such terminology is to claim the Bible false. The four hundred years of Israel's Egyptian captivity was a "little season" to the Lord. All the scriptural terms of time (nigh, shortly come to pass, at the doors, about to be, soon to be, in due time, not many days, a little season, near, close at hand, time will come, not many years, and generation) are not specific in numbers of years. Most of them are conditional. To say that "next generation" as used in the Bible can mean thousands of years, and turn around and say these very same words mean only a hundred years when used in the Doctrine and Covenants is hypocritical. Scripture comes from one source, God. His prophets write as they are inspired by the Holy Ghost. The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Bible use the same terms, with the same meaning, because they come from the same source. You cannot interpret one in one way, and another in a different way. When the Lord wants something accomplished, it will be done, in the Lords time.

Historical background

On 20 July 1831 Joseph Smith recorded a revelation identifying Independence, Missouri, as "the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse" (DC 57:3). Joseph and Sidney Rigdon dedicated a site for the temple on 3 August 1831. The following year, Joseph received another revelation concerning the gathering to Zion:

2 [T]he word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem.

3 Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased.

4 Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation.

5 For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house (DC 84:2-5, (emphasis added)).The Saints were expelled from Jackson County in late 1833, before they could make any progress on the temple. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to return to reclaim their lands. After they settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph recorded another revelation rescinding the earlier commandment to build the Independence temple:

49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings....

51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God (DC 124:49,51).

It is unclear from the wording of the 1832 revelation whether Joseph Smith meant it to be a prophecy or a commandment

When he declared the "temple shall be reared in this generation," it's possible that he meant this as a directive (Compare to the ten commandments: "thou shalt.." and D&C 59:5-13). If this is the case, D&C 84 is not actually a prophecy. Webster's 1828 dictionary noted of "shall":

In the second and third persons [i.e., when applied to another person], shall implies a promise, command or determination. "You shall receive your wages," "he shall receive his wages," imply that you or he ought to receive them; but usage gives these phrases the force of a promise in the person uttering them. [61]

Thus, "shall" indicates a promise or command—and, LDS theology (with its strong emphasis on moral agency) always holds that man is free to accept or reject the commandments or promises of God, and that God will often not overrule the free-agent acts of others which might prevent his people from obeying. In such cases, God rewards the faithful for their willingness and efforts to obey, and punishes the guilty accordingly.

If the revelation is meant as a prophecy, the timeline for its fulfillment depends on what Joseph meant by "generation"

Typically we consider this to mean the lifespan of those living at the time of the revelation. However, in scriptural language "generation" can indicate a longer period of time.

During his ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus revealed the signs of his second coming, and prophesied that "this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34). All those who heard his prophecy died nearly 2,000 years ago, so evidently Jesus meant "generation" to mean "age" or some other long period of time. It's possible that Joseph meant the same thing in his revelation about the Independence temple, and therefore the time period for its fulfillment is still open.

In Easton’s Bible Dictionary of 1897, the English word “generation” is variably defined with reference to the KJV text:

Gen. 2:4, "These are the generations," means the "history." 5:1, "The book of the generations," means a family register, or history of Adam. 37:2, "The generations of Jacob" = the history of Jacob and his descendants. 7:1, "In this generation" = in this age. Ps. 49:19, "The generation of his fathers" = the dwelling of his fathers, i.e., the grave. Ps. 73:15, "The generation of thy children" = the contemporary race. Isa. 53:8, "Who shall declare his generation?" = His manner of life who shall declare? or rather = His race, posterity, shall be so numerous that no one shall be able to declare it. In Matt. 1:17, the word means a succession or series of persons from the same stock. Matt. 3:7, "Generation of vipers" = brood of vipers. 24:34, "This generation" = the persons then living contemporary with Christ. 1 Pet. 2:9, "A chosen generation" = a chosen people. The Hebrews seem to have reckoned time by the generation. In the time of Abraham a generation was an hundred years, thus: Gen. 15:16, "In the fourth generation" = in four hundred years (comp. verse 13 and Ex. 12:40). In Deut. 1:35 and 2:14 a generation is a period of thirty-eight years.

So, the nineteenth-century understanding of KJV Biblical/religious usage of "generation" includes such variations as:

  • all the descendants of
  • history
  • contemporaries
  • succession or series of people from same stock
  • race, posterity
  • one hundred years
  • thirty-eight years
  • people

Contemporary with Joseph Smith, Webster's 1828 dictionary defined "generation" as:

...2. A single succession in natural descent, as the children of the same parents; hence, an age. Thus we say, the third, the fourth, or the tenth generation. Gen.15.16. 3. The people of the same period, or living at the same time. O faithless and perverse generation. Luke 9. 4. Genealogy; a series of children or descendants from the same stock. This is the book of the generations of Adam. Gen.5. 5. A family; a race. 6. Progeny; offspring. [62]

Webster relied heavily on examples drawn from the KJV of the Bible in his definitions. Thus, when those of Joseph's era used Biblical language speaking of "generations," they understood multiple potential meanings. Whether these shades of meaning were intended by the original biblical authors is immaterial; they reflect the usage of religious English in Joseph's day.

Note the double standard of interpretation critics use against Joseph Smith, for Jesus Christ used the very same terminology

Let's look at what Jesus himself said to the people of his day concerning prophecies of His second coming. Matthew 24:34 quotes Christ as saying, "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Luke 21:32 repeats this prophecy.

What are "all these things," and have they come to pass?

  1. Many shall come in Christ's name, deceiving many (Matthew 24:5, Luke 21:8)
  2. Wars and rumours of wars (Matthew 24:6, Luke 21:9-10)
  3. Famines (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  4. Pestilences (Mathew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  5. Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11)
  6. Apostles killed (Matthew 24:9, Luke 21:16)
  7. Many shall be offended (Matthew 24:10)
  8. Many shall be betrayed (Matthew 24:10)
  9. Men will hate one another (Matthew 24:10)
  10. False prophets will deceive many (Matthew 24:11)
  11. Iniquity shall abound (Matthew 24:12)
  12. Love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12)
  13. Gospel shall be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14)
  14. Distress of nations (Luke 21:25)
  15. Men's hearts will fail them because of fear (Luke 21:11)
  16. Sun shall be darkened (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  17. Moon shall not give her light (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  18. Stars shall fall from heaven (Matthew 24:29, Luke 21:25)
  19. Sign of the Son of man shall appear (Matthew 24:30, Luke 21:27)

Some of "these things" occurred during Christ's time period. Some have continued since then. Some have escalated into our time. Some have not occurred yet. So we must ask, since Joseph Smith is charged with false prophecy concerning "this generation," did Jesus Christ utter a false prophecy? Absolutely not! But, according to the critics' rules of interpretation, he did, because "this generation" passed away without "all these things" being fulfilled. So, if Joseph Smith uttered a false prophecy about "this generation" so did Christ. I have never read anything from anyone who is a critic of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that attacks Jesus Christ, or the Bible, for making a prophecy of "this generation" which has not yet occurred. Yet it has been many centuries longer from the time of Christ until now, than it has been from the 1830's till today. It should be noted that D&C 84 does not say the "people now living," it says "this generation." The word "generation" has different meanings. According to scripture, the word "generation" can have reference to a time frame, a people, or even a dispensation. Without specific wording which would indicate exactly what the word "generation" means, it is dishonest to accuse one (Joseph Smith) of false prophecy, while accepting another (Jesus Christ) when both use it in a general form.


Response to claim: Joseph Smith's prophecy that "all nations would be involved in the American Civil War"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's prophecy that "all nations would be involved in the American Civil War"

FairMormon Response

Question: Was Joseph Smith's 1832 prophecy of the Civil War invalid because "war was not brought to all nations" by the Civil War and/or claiming there is "no link" between the Civil War and later conflicts?

The Civil War was, indeed, a bloody war, resulting in about 204,000 battle casualties plus another 225,000 military personnel who died of disease

Significantly, the prophesy warns of "the death and misery of many souls." The Civil War was, indeed, a bloody war, resulting in about 204,000 battle casualties plus another 225,000 military personnel who died of disease. This number actually well exceeds the American battle deaths (128,000) in World War I. In World War II, there were 396,637 battle deaths.[63]

Here are some figures concerning another war (World War I).

Authoritative tables give the grand total of all armies mobilized at 59,176,864. Direct military deaths out of this number are set down as 7,781,806; the wounded at 18,681,257; prisoners and missing 7,080,580; making a total of direct military casualties of 33,434,443. This is only a statement of military casualties however. The same authority sets down the number of civilians as being greater from famine, disease, and massacres than those who fell in the military operations. Of these two classes are named: civilians who were killed by direct military causes, and those who died from indirect causes. Of the first class the number was 100,082; and the second--those who died from indirect causes, among the Armenians, Syrians, Jews, and Greeks--massacred or starved by the Turks--are numbered at 4,000,000. The deaths numbered beyond the normal mortality of influenza and pneumonia induced by the war is placed at 4,000,000. The Serbians who died through diseases, or massacre, numbered 1,085,441. Making the total of deaths in these two classes 9,085,441, so that with military deaths and civilian deaths, resulting from the war, make a grand total of 16,967,329 deaths. And of the more than 18,000,000 who were wounded in battle 30% or about 6,000,000, were made permanent human wrecks.[64]:1:302

Following the Civil War, many nations entered into alliances and secret agreements in order to protect themselves from other nations

Following the Civil War the nations, in their great alarm because of the new methods of warfare which were being developed and their fear of other nations, entered into alliances and secret agreements in order to protect themselves from other nations. At the outbreak of the World War, these alliances had reached proportions never before known, and during the war other alliances were made until nearly every nation on the earth had taken sides with the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente. It was during the period of the World War, 1914-1918, Great Britain made her appeal to the nations to come to the defense of the standard of Democracy. Her pleadings were heard round the world. And what is still more remarkable, the entire procedure conforms exactly to the prediction made by Joseph Smith, viz: "they shall also call upon other nations in order to defend themselves against other nations." A plurality of nations aligned and allied on both sides of the deadly conflict.[65]:2:125

This revelation was not just about the American Civil War

The revelation makes that very clear by first stating in verse one, "thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass." Notice that the word used is wars (plural), not war (singular), thereby "suggesting not one war but a continuum of conflict. Thus, like chapter 24 of Matthew, this scripture covered things both imminent and distant."[63]Of course, in our own time, we could add the war in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, civil wars in Central America, Lebanon, the British-Argentine conflict, Desert Storm, etc.

In our several Indian uprisings since the close of the Civil War, many see the fulfillment of that part of the prophecy which declares that the "remnants who are left of the land [the American Indians] will marshal themselves, and shall become exceeding angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation."[64]:1:303

World history since 1861 demonstrates that armed conflict widened and persisted since the American Civil War. There is nothing in the prophecy that claims that the Civil War must be the direct cause of on-going war, merely that on-going war will occur. And, it will happen after "Great Britain" "shall...call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves":

2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.

3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations. (D&C 87:2-3)

This is an excellent description of WW I and II, during which war was "poured out" into global battles. And, since WW II war and strife has not ceased.

An on-line database of armed conflict demonstrates that there has not been a single year since the end of the Civil War in which a war or armed conflict did not begin, and many of these wars lasted for multiple years (or even, in some cases) decades. (Click here to download a PDF from this on-line database listing the wars from 1865-1950.)


Response to claim: Joseph Smith's prophecy that "he would find treasure in Salem, Massachusetts"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's prophecy that "he would find treasure in Salem, Massachusetts"

FairMormon Response

Question: Was Joseph Smith commanded by the Lord to go to Salem, Massachusetts to hunt for treasure in the cellar of a house?

Joseph and several other leaders traveled to Salem hoping to find money that could be used to satisfy some of the Church's outstanding debt

The trip was apparently made on their own initiative, and was not commanded by the Lord. Joseph did not "prophesy" that they would find money in Salem, but instead made the trip because he became convinced that the story that the treasure existed might true. Upon failing to locate the money, they spent their time preaching to the people in Salem.

The trip to the East was an effort to find a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church

On July 25, 1836, Joseph, Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery began a journey from Kirtland to the East Coast for the purpose of seeking a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church had incurred. The men visited New York City in order to consult with their creditors regarding their debt.[66] Four days later, upon completing their business in New York, they then continued on to Salem, Massachusetts.

After visiting New York City, the men traveled to Salem upon hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them there

The trip to Salem is the subject of the revelation contained in D&C 111. The introduction states:

At this time the leaders of the Church were heavily in debt due to their labors in the ministry. Hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them in Salem, the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery traveled there from Kirtland, Ohio, to investigate this claim, along with preaching the gospel. The brethren transacted several items of church business and did some preaching. When it became apparent that no money was to be forthcoming, they returned to Kirtland.

This was a period in which great financial difficulties were being experienced by the Church in Kirtland—hence the motivation to search after the alleged treasure.

The revelation itself indicates that the Lord did not command the prophet to go to Salem to obtain money

I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies. (DC 111:1) (emphasis added)

B.H. Roberts provides additional information regarding the reason for the trip.

While the Prophet gives a somewhat circumstantial account of this journey to Salem and his return to Kirtland in September, he nowhere assigns an adequate cause for himself and company making it—the object of it is not stated. Ebenezer Robinson, for many years a faithful and prominent elder in the church, and at Nauvoo associated with Don Carlos Smith—brother of the Prophet—in editing and publishing the Times and Seasons, states that the journey to Salem arose from these circumstances. There came to Kirtland a brother by the name of Burgess who stated that he had knowledge of a large amount of money secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow (then deceased), and thought he was the only person who had knowledge of it, or of the location of the house. The brethren accepting the representations of Burgess as true made the journey to Salem to secure, if possible, the treasure. Burgess, according to Robinson, met the brethren in Salem, but claimed that time had wrought such changes in the town that he could not for a certainty point out the house "and soon left."[67]

The trip to Salem was apparently a "venture of their own design"

The trip to Salem was apparently "a venture of their own design, not one of divine direction."[68] Two weeks after receiving the revelation recorded in D&C 111, Joseph wrote the following letter to his wife Emma from Salem.

Salem, Mass., August 19th, 1836.
My beloved Wife:—Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we could wish to have it. I thought a line from me by him would be acceptable to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind. With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it; if not now within the course of a few months. We think we shall be at home about the middle of September. I can think of many things concerning our business, but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that involve on you, and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband. In haste. Yours &c., Joseph Smith, Jr.[69]

The letter indicates that Joseph had not yet given up hope of locating the actual physical treasure for which they had originally come. The four men spent their time in Salem preaching and sightseeing.

Salem's "treasure"

The Lord indicates, however, that there is some benefit to be derived from their presence there. The "treasure" referred to has to do with planting seeds for the future preaching of the Gospel:

I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. Therefore, it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you...For there are more treasures than one for you in this city. (DC 111:2-3,DC 111:10)

Richard Lloyd Anderson notes that in D&C 111, "the definition of riches came in doublets, a scriptural pattern of restating one idea in two aspects."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 The following parallels are noted:

Phrase #1 Phrase #2
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part a) and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part b)
Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. (verse 5) Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal mercifully with her. (verse 6)
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. (verse 2) And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. (verse 4)

Anderson suggests that "such similar phrasing suggests that paying debts and the welfare of Zion were but different forms of the same hope." The "gold and silver" mentioned in Verse 4 is equated with the "treasure" of "many people" in Verse 2, which suggests that "the gathering of the converts is at the same time a gathering of their resources."

Fulfillment of the revelation

It became evident to the leaders of the Church that the "treasure" referred to by the Lord was the conversion of people in Salem to the Gospel. In 1841, five years after the revelation was given, Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester were called to serve a mission in Salem. Cannon notes that the elders were sent explicitly for the purpose of fulfilling the revelation:

[Hyrum Smith and William Law] gave Erastus Snow a copy of the Salem Revelation and requested to fulfill it. Snow and Winchester arrived in Salem in September of 1841. They preached at public meetings, published a pamphlet addfressed to the citizens of Salem, and challenged the notorious Mormon apostate, John C. Bennett to debate. Their efforts bore fruit. By March of 1842 they had organized the Salem Branch with 53 members. By the end of that summer, the branch had 90 members.[70]

These conversions were sufficiently noticed to have been commented on by two of Salem's newspapers, the Salem Gazette on Dec. 7, 1841, and The Salem Register on June 2, 1842.


Response to claim: "when the Book of Commandments was rewritten as the D&C after apostles apostatized, etc., many revelations were modified and failed prophecies removed"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

when the Book of Commandments was rewritten as the D&C after apostles apostatized, etc., many revelations were modified and failed prophecies removed

FairMormon Response

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

There is no evidence that "failed prophecies" in the Book of Commandments were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants.


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. [71]

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. [72]

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.’ [73]

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. [74]


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith’s various and differing first vision accounts"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith’s various and differing first vision accounts

FairMormon Response

Joseph Smith's various accounts of the First Vision

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: "no one – including Joseph Smith’s family members or the Saints – had ever heard about the First Vision for twelve to twenty-two years after he had said it occurred"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

no one – including Joseph Smith’s family members or the Saints – had ever heard about the First Vision for twelve to twenty-two years after he had said it occurred

FairMormon Response

Is there evidence that Joseph or his family were persecuted because of the First Vision?

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: "in the first 'History of the Church,' written by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1834, why was there no mention of" the First Vision

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

in the first 'History of the Church,' written by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1834, why was there no mention of" the First Vision

FairMormon Response

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

This is related to Oliver Cowdery's attempt to write a history of the Church. In the first installment, Oliver set Joseph's age at 14 years and proceeded to describe the events leading up to the First Vision. However, in the second installment a couple of months later, Oliver abruptly changed Joseph's age to 17 and proceeded to describe Moroni's visit. Oliver alluded to events related to the First Vision in the past tense. It would appear that Joseph wasn't ready for Oliver to relate his First Vision experience at that time, despite the fact that Joseph had recorded it in his own hand two years earlier in 1832 and Oliver appeared to have access to that document. (For more information, see Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835"


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

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

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

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

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.[75]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In the first history of Mormonism from 1835 written under Joseph Smith's direction, it says that the night of September 1823 Joseph Smith began praying in his bed to learn 'the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.' (LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 1835). It makes no sense for him to ask if God existed, if Smith had already seen God face-to-face some three years earlier, and knew he existed.[76]

and

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

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

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

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

In October 1834 Cowdery announced in his newspaper that Joseph Smith would help with the history project but the Prophet himself noted that "no month ever found [him] more busily engaged than November." [77] In December 1834 President Smith was busy lecturing at the School of the Elders and acting as a trustee for the Kirtland High School and so during this month he sent Oliver a short letter to be included as part of the project, but also noted within it that he learned of his prominent role in the project, and its imminent appearance in the press, by reading Cowdery's periodical! [78]


Question: Was Oliver Cowdery aware of the details of the First Vision that were written in Joseph Smith's 1832 history?

Oliver stated that he had "authentic documents" which he was using as a basis for his 1834-1835 history

Oliver Cowdery announced in an article published at the outset of his 1834-35 history writing project that he would not only be assisted by the Prophet in this endeavor, but he also had "authentic documents" from which to extract correct information. His statement reads,

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J[oseph] Smith jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative. [79]

With these two valuable resources at Oliver Cowdery's disposal, it would be only natural for modern readers to expect that his recital of the founding events of the Church would be both accurate and complete.

Oliver had access to Joseph's 1832 history, and was therefore aware of the First Vision

The identification of the "authentic documents" mentioned by Cowdery is crucial to understanding the historical puzzle under discussion. It is claimed that Cowdery was not aware of the First Vision story at this time and therefore did not include it in his narrative. But they are wrong. A careful comparison of Joseph Smith's unpublished 1832 history with Cowdery's 1834–35 history reveals that the "authentic documents" in question were the six pages of the 1832 history. Because of this, it cannot be successfully argued that Oliver Cowdery did not know of the First Vision story when he wrote his history. Critics typically ignore the fact that Cowdery's published 1834 document begins telling the First Vision story—providing the correct year for its occurrence and giving details about the Palmyra-area 'revival' activity that preceded the theophany.

Another important piece of information to keep in mind is that in the same document in which Cowdery began talking about First Vision story themes, he published a letter from Joseph Smith that surveyed some of the events of his boyhood. In this letter the Prophet acknowledged that while he was living in the Palmyra and Manchester areas of New York as a youth he "fell into many vices and follies." He also pointed out that this fact was already mentioned in the "Articles and Covenants" of the Church. This is a reference to what is now known as section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Verse 5 of section 20 reads: "After it was truly manifested unto this first elder [i.e., Joseph Smith] that he had received a remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world." The first part of this verse is considered by some LDS scholars to be the first published reference to the First Vision experience; it was recorded in April 1830.(See DC 20:5.)

It must also be remembered that Oliver Cowdery was publicly teaching around 1 November 1830 (along with several other LDS missionaries) that the Prophet Joseph Smith had seen God "personally" and received a commission from Him to preach true religion [80]—and yet Cowdery did not provide a record of this momentous event in his published 1834-35 historical narrative. Furthermore, it cannot be forgotten that Joseph Smith was telling the First Vision story publicly long before Oliver Cowdery published his narrative.

November 1831
Lorenzo Snow and a large crowd heard the story in Hiram, Ohio.
October 1834
Edward Stevenson, Joseph Curtis and others heard the story in Pontiac, Michigan.
December 1834
Joseph Smith Sr. reminded his son—the Prophet—in a blessing given on the 9th:
The Lord thy God has called thee by name out of the heavens; thou hast heard his voice from on high from time to time, even in thy youth. . . . Thou hast been called, even in thy youth[,] to the great work of the Lord” [81]

This closely corresponds with the official First Vision account where the Prophet indicates:

One of <them> spake unto me calling me by name and said (pointing to the other) 'This is my beloved Son, Hear him.'....[I] displayed the weakness of youth [during this time]. [82]

Why did Oliver skip ahead three years and not mention the vision?

When several key documents are consulted it is possible to see how Oliver Cowdery could have known full well about the First Vision experience (by reading the 1832 account) yet fail to report it in his rendition of Church history.

Cowdery's historical narrative consists of the text of a series of letters that he was writing to William W. Phelps. By going a little backward in time we find that on 7 September 1834, Cowdery wrote to Phelps and discussed a "few incidents connected with the rise of this church." His focus was on things that he had personally experienced. He spoke of hearing the voice of the Redeemer, his reception of the Aaronic priesthood, his angel-directed baptism, and his work as scribe for the Book of Mormon manuscript. [83] The next letter from Cowdery to Phelps (written in December) began telling the details of the First Vision story leading up to the theophany. [84] Then at the end of December, Phelps wrote back. He mentioned Cowdery's history project, the priesthood being committed to Cowdery, the Book of Mormon coming forth, Cowdery’s scribal work for the Book of Mormon, and Phelps himself hearing news of the Book of Mormon sometime in the year 1823. Phelps requested Cowdery to explain what the angel had said to Joseph Smith about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and also to “let church history tell” the particulars of what the angel said when the priesthood was restored. [85] When Cowdery responded to Phelps in February of 1835 he acknowledged receipt of his letter, made his now-baffling dating adjustment to the year 1823, announced that he did not want to talk about the 'revival' activity from his previous letter anymore, and proceeded to give an account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon on "the evening of the 21st of September, 1823." [86] William had suggested the focus of the narrative in the letters and Oliver had obliged.

Joseph re-instituted the correct dating parameters for the First Vision when he later talked with Oliver

When the Prophet spoke several months after Cowdery made his dating adjustment, however, (and also when he recorded the official Church history in 1838) he re-instituted the correct dating parameters for the First Vision, indicating thereby that Oliver had gotten it right the first time.

Consider the following sequence:

Oliver Cowdery (December 1834)
"the 15th year of his life"
Oliver Cowdery (February 1835)
"an error in the type—it should have been in the 17th"
Joseph Smith (November 1835)
"I was about 14 years old"
Joseph Smith (May 1838)
"I was at this time in my fifteenth year....between fourteen and fifteen years of age"


Response to claim: "why would Joseph Smith have written a Trinitarian view of the Godhead in the first edition of the Book of Mormon?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

why would Joseph Smith have written a Trinitarian view of the Godhead in the first edition of the Book of Mormon?...There is abundant evidence that Joseph’s position on the Godhead changed from the 1829 – 1834 Trinitarian rendition, to the two God version after 1835

FairMormon Response

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

The mistake: The author starts with the assumption that Joseph held a Trinitarian view.The facts: Even before any edits were made, there are plenty of verses in the first edition of the Book of Mormon that support the concept that the Father and the Son are separate entities, just like the Bible does.

Logical Fallacy: Begging the Question—The author presents a circular argument in which the starting assumption requires the conclusion to be true.

The author starts with the assumption that Joseph held a Trinitarian view, then claims that a reading of the Book of Mormon leads to this conclusion.

Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[87]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[88]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - In the Book of Mormon one [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[89] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[90]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[91] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [92] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [93]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[94]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[95]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[96]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[97]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[98]


Question: What changes were made to the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon?

Among the changes Joseph Smith made are these four in 1 Nephi 11 and 13

The earliest edition of the Book of Mormon referred to Jesus as "God." Joseph Smith later changed some, but not all, of these to "the Son of God." It is claimed by some that this is evidence that Joseph Smith changed the Book of Mormon to conform to his changing beliefs about the Trinity, claiming that Joseph was originally a solid Trinitarian (perhaps even a Modalist), and as he later began to teach that the Father and Son were two separate beings, he had to change the Book of Mormon to support his new doctrine. However, this change was a deliberate editorial insertion by Joseph Smith to clarify four verses in 1 Nephi.

The second edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1837 at Kirtland, Ohio. The typesetting and printing were done during the winter of 1836–37, with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taking an active part in the editing process.

In this edition numerous corrections were made to the text of the 1830 (first) edition to bring it back to the reading in the original and printer's manuscripts. Joseph Smith also made a number of editorial changes to the text, as was his right as the translator of the text.

Among the changes he made are these four in 1 Nephi 11 and 13:

  Original manuscript Printer's manuscript 1830 edition 1837 edition
1 Nephi 11:18 behold the virgin which thou seest is the Mother of god after the manner of the flesh behold the virgin which <whom> thou seest is the Mother of <the son of> God after the manner of the flesh Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh. Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
1 Nephi 11:21 & the angel said unto me behold the lam of god yea even the eternal father knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw & the Angel said unto me behold the Lamb of God yea even the <God> Father knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
1 Nephi 11:32 & it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again saying look and i lookt & beheld the lam of god that he was taken By the People yea the ever lasting god was judgd of the world and i saw & bare record & it came to pass that the Angel spake unto me again saying look & I looked & behold the Lamb of God that he was taken by the People yea the everlasting God was Judged of the world & I saw &amp bear record And it came to pass the angel spake unto me again, saying, look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. And it came to pass the angel spake unto me again, saying, look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
1 Nephi 13:40 (Not extant.) & the Angel spake unto me saying these last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles shall establish the truth of the first which is <which are> of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb & shall make known the plain & precious things which have been taken away from them & shall make known unto all Kindreds Tongues & People that the Lamb of God is the <the son of> eternal Father & the saviour of the world & that all men must Come unto him or they cannot be saved And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which is of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain the precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him, or they cannot be saved; And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain the precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him, or they cannot be saved;

(The strikeouts and <insertions> in the printer's manuscript are in Joseph's hand, and were added by him during the preparation of the 1837 edition.)


Question: Why did Joseph Smith make changes to the Book of Mormon such as modifying "God" to read "the Son of God"?

These changes were made for the purpose of clarification, not doctrinal modification

These changes are clarifications that the passages are speaking of Jesus, not God the Father.

The terms "God," "Everlasting God," and "Eternal Father" are ambiguous since they could properly refer to either the Father or the Son. For example, "Eternal Father" refers to God the Father in Moroni 4:3, Moroni 5:2, and Moroni 10:4, but to God the Son in Mosiah 16:15 and Alma 11:38-39.

The addition of "the Son of" to four passages in 1 Nephi does not change the Book of Mormon's teaching that Jesus Christ is the God of Old Testament Israel. This concept is taught in more than a dozen other passages whose readings remain unchanged from the original manuscripts. For example:

  • "And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself...as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up...and to be crucified...and to be buried in a sepulchre...." (1 Nephi 19:10)
  • "...he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth." (Mosiah 7:27)
  • "Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father." (Mosiah 16:15)
  • "Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Alma 11:38-39)

(See also 2 Nephi 25:12; Mosiah 3:8; Mosiah 13:28,33-34; Mosiah 15:1; Helaman 8:22-23; Helaman 14:12; Helaman 16:18; 3 Nephi 11:10,14; Mormon 9:12; Ether 3:14; Ether 4:7; Ether 4:12.)


It is simply illogical to conclude that Joseph Smith changed the four passages in 1 Nephi to conform to his supposed changing theological beliefs, but somehow forgot to change all the others.[99]

Also see Question:_Why_did_Joseph_Smith_change_Mormon_7:7_from_"is"_to_"are"


Response to claim: "the Book of Mormon claims to be the story of religious Jews, yet there is scant or no mention of Jewish customs or laws"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

the Book of Mormon claims to be the story of religious Jews, yet there is scant or no mention of Jewish customs or laws

FairMormon Response

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

The author needs to decide whether there is "scant" information or "no" information regarding Jewish customs or laws. The question appears to be posed simply to create doubt, without providing evidence to support it.


Question: Should the Book of Mormon describe Jewish customs or laws?

The portions of the Book of Mormon that describe Lehi's family in the Old World do reflect Jewish customs or laws

Other evidence of Jewish customs in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by people living post-Christ

The people that edited the Book of Mormon lived many years after Christ, and are approaching the history of the people from a point after the law as such is a lived reality and they know that they are writing to a people for whom the law is also no longer a lived reality. Thus, there isn't the emphasis on its particulars that would logically be included if they were writing as and to people who were living the law and could be well-served by the normative reinforcement of the customs under the law.

The Book of Mormon lists sins which are consistent with the Ten Commandments

Notwithstanding this fact, they do make a point of their obedience to the law while it lasted, making repeated reference to "the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God (For example Mosiah 6:6, 3 Nephi 25:4, 2 Nephi 1:16, Helaman 6:34, Alma 8:17, Helaman 15:5, Alma 58:40, Helaman 3:20, Alma 31:9 and 2 Nephi 5:10). These are in fact reflective of actual Hebrew categories under the law of Moses, and in particular, the Ten Commandments. For example, the commandment not to commit adultery is clearly considered a sin in 3 Nephi 12:27:

Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery;

The Ten Commandments are in fact a component of the Mosaic law.

Other indications of Hebrew customs

The term Jews is a misnomer as the primary Book of Mormon migration was Ephraimite and Manassehite whereas only the migration that promptly forgot their culture, language and religion were in fact Judahite and there is a certain amount of divergent northern kingdom perspective present in the Book of Mormon, for example the rather dimmer view of David that Jacob expresses. The slaying of Zemnarihah, particularly cutting down the tree afterward, is consistent with ancient customs. The differentiation under the law between thieves and robbers. King Benjamin's speech has been fruitfully examined in terms of ancient Hebrew festival traditions.


Response to claim: Joseph Smith "used a rock; he found while digging a well" to translate the Book of Mormon

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith "used a rock; he found while digging a well" to translate the Book of Mormon

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith use his own seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?

Many eyewitness accounts confirm that Joseph employed his seer stone during part of the translation process

Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while Martin Harris acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat. This image appears in the Church publication From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Deseret Book Company (May 11, 2015)

Martin Harris states that Joseph used the Nephite interpreters and then later switched to using the seer stone "for convenience." [100] In fact, Elder Nelson refers to the use of the seer stone in his 1993 talk:

The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.) [101]


Question: Did Joseph Smith use the Nephite interpreters to translate? Or did he use his own seer stone?

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone, and both were called "Urim and Thummim"

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite Interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation process, yet we only hear of the "Urim and Thummim" being used for this purpose.

  1. He described the instrument as ‘spectacles’ and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim.
  2. He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called ‘seer stones’ because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones.
  3. Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument.

Emma Smith confirmed that Joseph switched between the Nephite interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation

Emma Smith Bidamon described Joseph's use of several stones during translation to Emma Pilgrim on 27 March 1870 (original spelling retained):

Now the first that my <husband> translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”[102]

Joseph Smith's small, egg-shaped seer stone. Emma said that "he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color." Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr. Copyright © The Church Historian's Press.


Response to claim: Joseph Smith used "the same stone" to translate the Book of Mormon that "he employed in his treasure hunting career"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith used "the same stone" to translate the Book of Mormon that "he employed in his treasure hunting career"

FairMormon Response

Question: Why would Joseph Smith use the same stone for translating the Book of Mormon that he used for "money digging"?

Would God approve the use of a "magic peep stone" in translating a sacred record?

Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for "money digging."

Regardless of the perspective (believing or non-believing) from which we tell the story of the translation, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged

The conclusion that Joseph used a "magical" or "occult" stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon is entirely dependent upon one's own preconception that the use of such an instrument would not be acceptable by God. Believers, on the other hand, ought not to take issue with a distinction between one set of seer stones versus another. As Brant Gardner notes: "Regardless of the perspective from which we tell the story, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged. How was the Book of Mormon translated? As Joseph continually insisted, the only real answer, from any perspective, is that it was translated by the gift and power of God." [103]

  • The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities.
  • If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph's point of view:
    • He's being called upon to reveal things that are hidden, and to translate an ancient record.
    • Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.
    • How could Joseph know that he wasn't going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.
    • The Lord seems to have used Joseph's preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.
    • The Nephite interpreters had been blessed and dedicated for the purpose of translating the Book of Mormon—this would have increased Joseph's faith, and they did help him receive revelation more effectively, initially. This is what excited Joseph more than even the plates themselves—he was able to do more with the Nephite stones.
    • With time, Joseph was able to translate with his "original" stone—thus, his own ability had increased, because he no longer needed the "stronger" Nephite stones.
    • Eventually, he did not require the "prop" or "crutch" of the stone at all—his faith and experience had grown.
  • Critics of the Church often act as if the stone or Urim and Thummim were a type of "magic translator" that anyone could have looked through. They weren't. Joseph always insisted he was only able to do what he did "by the gift and power of God." It is probable that anyone else examining the stones would have found nothing unusual or different about them.
  • The power to translate or reveal hidden things came from God—as Joseph's experience and spiritual maturity increased, his reliance upon a physical instrument became less and less.


Response to claim: "What then was the point of the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim being preserved for 1,500 years, if never to be used in translation?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

What then was the point of the golden plates and the Urim and Thummim being preserved for 1,500 years, if never to be used in translation?

FairMormon Response

Question: Why were the gold plates needed at all if they weren't used directly during the translation process?

Joseph did not need the plates physically present to translate, since the translation was done by revelation

Much is made of the fact that Joseph used a seer stone, which he placed in a hat, to dictate the text of the Book of Mormon without viewing the plates directly. [104]

Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while the plates are wrapped in a cloth on the table while his wife Emma acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat. This image appears in the Church publication From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Deseret Book Company (May 11, 2015)

Some witness accounts suggest that Joseph was able to translate while the plates were covered, or when they were not even in the same room with him. [105] Therefore, if the plates themselves were not being used during the translation process, why was it necessary to have plates at all?

Joseph did not need the plates physically present to translate, since the translation was done by revelation. The existence of the plates was vital, however, to demonstrate that the story he was translating was literally true.

The existence of the physical plates attested to the reality of the Nephite record

If there had been no plates, and Joseph had simply received the entire Book of Mormon through revelation, there would have been no Anthon visit, nor would there have been any witnesses. The very fact that plates existed served a greater purpose, even if they were not directly viewed during all of the translation process.

The plates served a variety of purposes.

  1. They were viewed by witnesses as solid evidence that Joseph did indeed have an ancient record.
  2. Joseph's efforts to obtain them over a four year period taught him and matured him in preparation for performing the translation,
  3. Joseph's efforts to protect and preserve them helped build his character. If Joseph were perpetrating a fraud, it would have been much simpler to claim direct revelation from God and forgo the physical plates.
  4. Joseph copied characters off the plates to give to Martin Harris, which he subsequently showed to Charles Anthon. This was enough to convince Martin to assist with the production of the Book of Mormon.

The plates' existence as material artifacts eliminated the possibility that Joseph was simply honestly mistaken. Either Joseph was knowingly perpetuating a fraud, or he was a genuine prophet.

The existence of actual plates eliminates the idea that the Book of Mormon was "spiritually true," but fictional

Furthermore, the existence of actual plates eliminates the idea that the Book of Mormon was "spiritually true," but fictional. There is a great difference between an allegorical or moral fiction about Nephites, and real, literal Nephites who saw a literal Christ who was literally resurrected.


Question: Did Joseph ever place the Nephite interpreters ("Urim and Thummim") into his hat?

There is evidence that indicates that Joseph did place the "Urim and Thummim" into his hat

The Church states that, "These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters." and "According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument." [106]

Contemporary accounts indicate that Joseph began the translation using the Nephite interpreters, and finished it using his own seer stone after the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript. Note this account from Martin Harris:

The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches. The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks. I never dared to look into them by placing them in the hat, because Moses said that “no man could see God and live,” and we could see anything we wished by looking into them; and I could not keep the desire to see God out of my mind. And beside, we had a command to let no man look into them, except by the command of God, lest he should “look aught and perish.” [107]

Martin Harris said that Joseph placed the interpreters in a hat

Harris states that Joseph used the "two stones set in a bow of silver" by "placing them in the hat." He is referring to the Nephite interpreters, what we today refer to as the "Urim and Thummim". Joseph may have therefore placed the Nephite interpreters into his hat - a method of receiving revelation that he was already quite familiar with.

Based upon these accounts, it appears that Joseph began the translation process using the Nephite interpreters, and that at some point he may have used them with a hat. After the loss of the 116 pages, he may have either switched to his own seer stone or continued to use the Nephite “spectacles,” again with the hat. In fact, given the consistent reports of the use of the hat during translation, it is not possible to know with certainty whether Joseph was using the Nephite interpreters or the seer stone in the hat during this period of time. One thing seems certain based upon witness accounts—during the period of the translation process after the loss of the 116 pages, Joseph sat in the open, without a curtain, dictating to his scribe while looking into his hat.[108]


Question: Did Joseph Smith use the Nephite interpreters to translate? Or did he use his own seer stone?

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone, and both were called "Urim and Thummim"

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite Interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation process, yet we only hear of the "Urim and Thummim" being used for this purpose.

  1. He described the instrument as ‘spectacles’ and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim.
  2. He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called ‘seer stones’ because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones.
  3. Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument.

Emma Smith confirmed that Joseph switched between the Nephite interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation

Emma Smith Bidamon described Joseph's use of several stones during translation to Emma Pilgrim on 27 March 1870 (original spelling retained):

Now the first that my <husband> translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”[109]

Joseph Smith's small, egg-shaped seer stone. Emma said that "he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color." Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr. Copyright © The Church Historian's Press.


Response to claim: "why does the Church continue to print bogus pictures and hang misleading paintings in Church buildings showing Joseph running his fingers over “Reformed Egyptian” characters on gold plates?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

why does the Church continue to print bogus pictures and hang misleading paintings in Church buildings showing Joseph running his fingers over “Reformed Egyptian” characters on gold plates?

FairMormon Response

Question: Does Church art always reflect reality?

All art, including Church art, simply reflects the views of the artist: It may not reflect reality

Samuel the Lamanite Prophecies from the City Wall by Arnold Friberg

It is claimed by some that the Church knowingly "lies" or distorts the historical record in its artwork in order to whitewash the past, or for propaganda purposes. [110] For example, some Church sanctioned artwork shows Joseph and Oliver sitting at a table while translating with the plate in the open between them. Daniel C. Peterson provides some examples of how Church art often does not reflect reality, and how this is not evidence of deliberate lying or distortion on the part of the Church:

Look at this famous picture....Now that’s Samuel the Lamanite on a Nephite wall. Are any walls like that described in the Book of Mormon? No. You have these simple things, and they’re considered quite a technical innovation at the time of Moroni, where he digs a trench, piles the mud up, puts a palisade of logs along the top. That’s it. They’re pretty low tech. There’s nothing like this. This is Cuzco or something. But this is hundreds of years after the Book of Mormon and probably nowhere near the Book of Mormon area, and, you know, and you’ve heard me say it before, after Samuel jumps off this Nephite wall you never hear about him again. The obvious reason is....he’s dead. He couldn’t survive that jump. But again, do you draw your understanding of the Book of Mormon from that image? Or, do you draw it from what the book actually says?[111]


Question: Why are people concerned about Church artwork?

As the critics point out, there are potential historical errors in some of these images

One of the strangest attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an assault on the Church's art. Now and again, one hears criticism about the representational images which the Church uses in lesson manuals and magazines to illustrate some of the foundational events of Church history.[112]

A common complaint is that Church materials usually show Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by looking at the golden plates, such as in the photo shown here.

Artist's rendition of Joseph and Oliver translating the Book of Mormon.[113]

Here critics charge a clear case of duplicity—Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith are shown translating the Book of Mormon.

But as the critics point out, there are potential historical errors in this image:

  1. Oliver Cowdery did not see the plates as Joseph worked with them.
  2. For much of the translation of the extant Book of Mormon text, Joseph did not have the plates in front of him—they were often hidden outside the home during the translation.
  3. Joseph used a seer stone to translate the plates; he usually did this by placing the stone in his hat to exclude light, and dictating to his scribe.

The reality is that the translation process, for the most part, is represented by this image:

Joseph Smith prepares to translate using the seer stone placed within his hat while Oliver Cowdery acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat. This image appears in the Church publication From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat. (11 May 2015)


Question: Is the Church trying to hide something through its use of artwork?

The manner of the translation is described repeatedly in Church publications, despite the inaccurate artwork

The implication is that the Church's artistic department and/or artists are merely tools in a propaganda campaign meant to subtly and quietly obscure Church history. The suggestion is that the Church trying to "hide" how Joseph really translated the plates.

On the contrary, the manner of the translation is described repeatedly, for example, in the Church's official magazine for English-speaking adults, the Ensign. Richard Lloyd Anderson discussed the "stone in the hat" matter in 1977,[114] and Elder Russell M. Nelson quoted David Whitmer's account to new mission presidents in 1992.[115]

The details of the translation are not certain, and the witnesses do not all agree in every particular. However, Joseph's seer stone in the hat was also discussed by, among others: B.H. Roberts in his New Witnesses for God (1895)[116] and returns somewhat to the matter in Comprehensive History of the Church (1912).[117] Other Church sources to discuss this include The Improvement Era (1939),[118] BYU Studies (1984, 1990)[119] the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (1993),[120] and the FARMS Review (1994).[121] LDS authors Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler also mentioned the matter in 2000.[122]

Neal A. Maxwell: "To neglect substance while focusing on process is another form of unsubmissively looking beyond the mark"

Elder Neal A. Maxwell went so far as to use Joseph's hat as a parable; this is hardly the act of someone trying to "hide the truth":

Jacob censured the "stiffnecked" Jews for "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14). We are looking beyond the mark today, for example, if we are more interested in the physical dimensions of the cross than in what Jesus achieved thereon; or when we neglect Alma's words on faith because we are too fascinated by the light-shielding hat reportedly used by Joseph Smith during some of the translating of the Book of Mormon. To neglect substance while focusing on process is another form of unsubmissively looking beyond the mark.[123]

Those who criticize the Church based on its artwork should perhaps take Elder Maxwell's caution to heart.


Question: Why doesn't the art match details which have been repeatedly spelled out in Church publications?

The simplest answer is that artists simply don't always get such matters right

Why, then, does the art not match details which have been repeatedly spelled out in LDS publications?

The simplest answer may be that artists simply don't always get such matters right. The critics' caricature to the contrary, not every aspect of such things is "correlated." Robert J. Matthews of BYU was interviewed by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and described the difficulties in getting art "right":

JBMS: Do you think there are things that artists could do in portraying the Book of Mormon?

RJM: Possibly. To me it would be particularly helpful if they could illustrate what scholars have done. When I was on the Correlation Committee [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], there were groups producing scripture films. They would send to us for approval the text of the words that were to be spoken. We would read the text and decide whether we liked it or not. They would never send us the artwork for clearance. But when you see the artwork, that makes all the difference in the world. It was always too late then. I decided at that point that it is so difficult to create a motion picture, or any illustration, and not convey more than should be conveyed. If you paint a man or woman, they have to have clothes on. And the minute you paint that clothing, you have said something either right or wrong. It would be a marvelous help if there were artists who could illustrate things that researchers and archaeologists had discovered…

I think people get the main thrust. But sometimes there are things that shouldn't be in pictures because we don't know how to accurately depict them…I think that unwittingly we might make mistakes if we illustrate children's materials based only on the text of the Book of Mormon.[124]

Modern audiences—especially those looking to find fault—have, in a sense, been spoiled by photography. We are accustomed to having images describe how things "really" were. We would be outraged if someone doctored a photo to change its content. This largely unconscious tendency may lead us to expect too much of artists, whose gifts and talents may lie in areas unrelated to textual criticism and the fine details of Church history.

Even this does not tell the whole story. "Every artist," said Henry Ward Beecher, "dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."[125] This is perhaps nowhere more true than in religious art, where the goal is not so much to convey facts or historical detail, as it is to convey a religious message and sentiment. A picture often is worth a thousand words, and artists often seek to have their audience identify personally with the subject. The goal of religious art is not to alienate the viewer, but to draw him or her in.


Question: How do non-Mormon artists treat the Nativity?

A look at how other religious artists portray the birth of Christ

The critics would benefit from even a cursory tour through religious art. Let us consider, for example, one of the most well-known stories in Christendom: the Nativity of Christ. How have religious artists portrayed this scene?

BRUEGEL Le dénombrement de Bethléem.png   A personal favorite of mine is Belgian painter Pierre Bruegel the Elder. In his Census of Bethlehem (1569, shown at left) he turns Bethlehem into a Renaissance Belgian village. The snow is the first tip-off that all is not historically accurate. But the skaters on the pond, the clothing, and the houses are also all wrong. However, it's unlikely that anyone would suggest Bruegel's tribute was an attempt to perpetuate a fraud.

An Italian work from the thirteenth century gives us The Nativity with Six Dominican Monks (1275, shown at right). There were surely no monks at the Nativity, and the Dominican order was not formed until the early thirteenth century. But any serious claim that this work is merely an attempt to "back date" the order's creation, giving them more prestige would certainly be dismissed by historians, Biblical scholars, and the artistic community.   Nativity with 6 Dominicans.png

Bellini Madonna 1.png  

Renaissance Italian Madonna

Even details of no religious consequence are fair game for artists to get "wrong." Giovanni Bellini's portrait of Mary might seem innocuous enough, until one spots the European castle on the portrait's right, and the thriving Renaissance town on the left.

Non-European cultures

Other cultures follow the same pattern. Korean and Indian artists portray the birth in Bethlehem in their own culture and dress. Certainly, no one would suspect that the artists (as with Bruegel the Elder) hope we will be tricked into believing that Jesus' birth took place in a snow-drenched Korean countryside, while shepherds in Indian costume greeted a sari-wearing Mary with no need for a stable at all under the warm Indian sky?
  Korean Nativity 1.png Indian Nativity 1.png

Jesus mafa 1.png  

African example

For a final example, consider an African rendition of the Nativity, which shows the figures in traditional African forms. If we were to turn the same critical eye on this work that has been turned on LDS art, we might be outraged and troubled by what we see here. But when we set aside that hyper-literal eye, the artistic license becomes acceptable. Clearly, there's a double standard at work when it comes to LDS art.


As the director of Catholic schools in Yaounde, Cameroon argues:

It is urgent and necessary for us to proclaim and to express the message, the life and the whole person of Jesus-Christ in an African artistic language…Many people of different cultures have done it before us and will do it in the future, without betraying the historical Christ, from whom all authentic Christianity arises. We must not restrict ourselves to the historical and cultural forms of a particular people or period.[126]

The goal of religious art is primarily to convey a message. It uses the historical reality of religious events as a means, not an end.

Religious art—in all traditions—is intended, above all, to draw the worshipper into a separate world, where mundane things and events become charged with eternal import. Some dictated words or a baby in a stable become more real, more vital when they are connected recognizably to one's own world, time, and place.

This cannot happen, however, if the image's novelty provides too much of a challenge to the viewer's culture or expectations. Thus, the presentation of a more accurate view of the translation using either the Nephite interpreters (sometimes referred to as "spectacles") or the stone and the hat, automatically raises feelings among people in 21st Century culture that the translation process was strange. This type of activity is viewed with much less approval in our modern culture.


Question: What message does the Book of Mormon translation painting convey?

The translation was carried out openly—Joseph had no opportunity to hide notes or books

What religious message(s) does the Del Parson translation picture convey?

Artist's rendition of Joseph and Oliver translating the Book of Mormon.
  1. The translation was carried out openly—Joseph had no opportunity to hide notes or books. This was confirmed by Elizabeth Ann Cowdery and Emma Smith.[127]
  2. The plates had a physical reality, and Oliver Cowdery was convinced of this reality. Unlike some of the other Three Witnesses, who spoke only of seeing the angel and the plates, Oliver Cowdery insisted that "I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That book is true…I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet."[128] Oliver is also quoted in one account as describing Joseph "as sitting at a table with the plates before him, translating them by means of the Urim and Thummim, while he (Oliver) sat beside him writing every word as Joseph spoke them to him. This was done by holding the "translators" over the hieroglyphics..."[129] This alternative technique was confirmed by John Whitmer, who said of Oliver that "[w]hen the work of translation was going on he sat at one table with his writing material and Joseph at another with the breast-plate and Urim and Thummim. The later were attached to the breast-plate and were two crystals or glasses, into which he looked and saw the words of the book."[130]
  3. The translation was not a weird, esoteric exercise.

The hat detail causes problems for the critical theory that Joseph cheated with notes while dictating. With a curtain in place, it is much easier to postulate that Joseph used notes or a Bible in the translation process. With the stone and the hat, however, witnesses were able to view the entire process, thus highlighting the total lack of notes or Bible in the translation process. Note also that in Parson's painting, with it's open setting, the cheat-notes theory can't get any traction.

One needs to consider the impressive witness testimonies of the plates' reality, and the fact that the use of a seer stone in a hat is not intrinsically less plausible than the use of two seer stones mounted in a set of "spectacles" attached to a breastplate. In fact, there are even accounts which effectively mix the two methods, with Joseph purportedly removing one of the stones from the "spectacles" and placing it in a hat.

Efforts to diminish the miracle of the translation effort by emphasizing the substitution of one seer stone for another seems to convey something to a modern audience that it never portrayed to the participants—that the Book of Mormon was uninspired and uninspiring.


Response to claim: "Why did Joseph Smith’s polygamy pre-date any revelation sanctioning it?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why did Joseph Smith’s polygamy pre-date any revelation sanctioning it?

FairMormon Response

Note: This material is part of a collection of draft essays on LDS plural marriage. They are provided for the use of FairMormon and its readers. (C) 2007-2017 Gregory L. Smith. No other reproduction is authorized.

Question: When and how did plural marriage begin in the Church?

Of the little we do know, much comes from later reminiscences

Of the little we do know, much comes from later reminiscences. Later memories are not useless, but memory can change, and can be influenced by what people later came to believe or desire. Such data must be used with caution.

There are enough scattered bits of evidence, however, that let us form some tentative conclusions.

The first specifically-LDS encounter with plural marriage was the 1829 Book of Mormon

The first specifically-LDS encounter with plural marriage was the 1829 Book of Mormon. The prophet Jacob rebuked the Nephites for their practice of having many wives and concubines. Jacob forbade this practice, and declared monogamy to be the norm unless "I will…raise up seed unto me…." [131]

It is not clear that the early Saints contemplated any exceptions to this command in their own case, until after Joseph had taught plural marriage. As late as May 1843, Hyrum Smith (not yet converted to Joseph's plural marriage doctrine) attempted to rebut rumors of plural marriage by citing the condemnation in Jacob 2. [132]

There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it

There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it. One account has Brigham Young placing the revelation to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1829 while translating the Book of Mormon. [133]

Most scholars have rejected this early date. Brigham was not even a member at this time, so he would have heard such a story second-hand at best, and may well have misunderstood the timing. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that portrays plural marriage positively, so there is little which would inspire Joseph and Oliver to ask questions about it, and such questioning seems to have been a prerequisite to Joseph and Oliver's early revelations on baptism, the priesthood, and other matters. The journal which records the 1829 date may be in error, since there is another, earlier record in which Brigham Young opines that Joseph had the plural marriage revelation "as early as in the year 1831." [134]

Evidence also points to an 1831 date for receipt of the revelation on plural marriage

Other evidence also points to an 1831 date. Joseph undertook his revision/translation of the Bible, and was working on Genesis in February–March 1831. [135] Hubert Howe Bancroft was the first to suggest this theory, [136] while Joseph Noble, [137] B.H. Roberts, [138] and Joseph F. Smith [139] have agreed. The obvious approval of the polygamous patriarchs in Genesis is a more likely stimulus for Joseph's questions to the Lord about plural marriage than the Book of Mormon's generally negative view.

Joseph's First Mention of the Doctrine in 1831

The date of 1831 is reinforced by a letter written years later by W.W. Phelps. Phelps reported that on 17 July 1831, the Lord told Joseph "It 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." Phelps then said that he asked Joseph three years later how this commandment could be fulfilled. Joseph replied, "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpha, by revelation.” [140] Phelps' recollection is reinforced by Ezra Booth, an apostate Mormon. In November 1831, Booth wrote that Joseph had received a revelation commanding a "matrimonial alliance" with the natives, though he says nothing about plural marriage per se. [141]

Since Joseph's explanation to Phelps came three years later, this does not help us date the receipt of the revelation specifically. It may be that Joseph did not understand the import of the July 1831 revelation any more than Phelps did. On the other hand, Orson Pratt reported that Joseph told some early members in 1831 and 1832 that plural marriage was a true principle but that the time to practice it had not yet come. [142] Lyman Johnson also reportedly heard the doctrine from Joseph in 1831, [143] as did a plural wife who recalled late in life that in 1831 Joseph told her that he had been commanded to one day take her as a plural wife. [144] Mosiah Hancock reported that his father was taught about plural marriage in the spring of 1832. [145]

Some authors have suggested that Phelps' late recollection is inconsistent with other things that he wrote earlier. Richard Van Wagoner argues that:

…the Phelps letter has been widely touted as the earliest source documenting the advocacy of Mormon polygamy, [but] it is not without its problems. For example, Phelps himself, in a 16 September 1835 letter to his wife, Sally, demonstrated no knowledge of church-sanctioned polygamy: "I have no right to any other woman in this world nor in the world to come according to the law of the celestial kingdom.” [146]

It seems to me, though, that the problem is more in Van Wagoner's reading of the data. Phelps says nothing about "church-sanctioned polygamy," one way or the other. He merely tells his wife that he has no right to any other woman. This was certainly true, since Joseph Smith had introduced no other men to plural marriage by September 1835. In fact, Phelps' remark seems a strange comment to make unless he understood that there were circumstances in which one could have "right to" another woman. [147]

Joseph F. Smith gave an account which synthesizes most of the preceding data:

The great and glorious principle of plural marriage was first revealed to Joseph Smith in 1831, but being forbidden to make it public, or to teach it as a doctrine of the Gospel, at that time, he confided the facts to only a very few of his intimate associates. Among them were Oliver Cowdery and Lyman E. Johnson, the latter confiding the fact to his traveling companion, Elder Orson Pratt, in the year 1832. (See Orson Pratt's testimony.)" (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]: 219) [148]

The bulk of the evidence, therefore, suggests that plural marriage was known by Joseph by early 1831. The Prophet was probably teaching the idea to a limited circle by the end of that year.


Question: When did Joseph Smith receive the revelation on plural marriage?

Joseph's first introduction to the concept of plural came during the 1829 translation of the Book of Mormon

Of the little we do know, much comes from later reminiscences. Later memories are not useless, but memory can change, and can be influenced by what people later came to believe or desire. Such data must be used with caution.

There are enough scattered bits of evidence, however, that let us form some tentative conclusions.

The first specifically-LDS encounter with plural marriage was the 1829 Book of Mormon. The prophet Jacob rebuked the Nephites for their practice of having many wives and concubines. Jacob forbade this practice, and declared monogamy to be the norm unless "I will…raise up seed unto me…." [149]

It is not clear that the early Saints contemplated any exceptions to this command in their own case, until after Joseph had taught plural marriage. As late as May 1843, Hyrum Smith (not yet converted to Joseph's plural marriage doctrine) attempted to rebut rumors of plural marriage by citing the condemnation in Jacob 2. [150]

Evidence points to a 1831 date for the revelation to Joseph regarding plural marriage

There are no contemporaneous records which tell us when Joseph first taught plural marriage, or when he first had a revelation endorsing it. One account has Brigham Young placing the revelation to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith in 1829 while translating the Book of Mormon. [151]

Most scholars have rejected this early date. Brigham was not even a member at this time, so he would have heard such a story second-hand at best, and may well have misunderstood the timing. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that portrays plural marriage positively, so there is little which would inspire Joseph and Oliver to ask questions about it, and such questioning seems to have been a prerequisite to Joseph and Oliver's early revelations on baptism, the priesthood, and other matters. The journal which records the 1829 date may be in error, since there is another, earlier record in which Brigham Young opines that Joseph had the plural marriage revelation "as early as in the year 1831." [152]

Other evidence also points to an 1831 date. Joseph undertook his revision/translation of the Bible, and was working on Genesis in February–March 1831. [153] Hubert Howe Bancroft was the first to suggest this theory, [154] while Joseph Noble, [155] B.H. Roberts, [156] and Joseph F. Smith [157] have agreed. The obvious approval of the polygamous patriarchs in Genesis is a more likely stimulus for Joseph's questions to the Lord about plural marriage than the Book of Mormon's generally negative view.

Joseph was probably teaching the idea of plural marriage to a limited circle by the end of 1831

The date of 1831 is reinforced by a letter written years later by W.W. Phelps. Phelps reported that on 17 July 1831, the Lord told Joseph "It 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." Phelps then said that he asked Joseph three years later how this commandment could be fulfilled. Joseph replied, "In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpha, by revelation.” [158] Phelps' recollection is reinforced by Ezra Booth, an apostate Mormon. In November 1831, Booth wrote that Joseph had received a revelation commanding a "matrimonial alliance" with the natives, though he says nothing about plural marriage per se. [159]

Since Joseph's explanation to Phelps came three years later, this does not help us date the receipt of the revelation specifically. It may be that Joseph did not understand the import of the July 1831 revelation any more than Phelps did. On the other hand, Orson Pratt reported that Joseph told some early members in 1831 and 1832 that plural marriage was a true principle but that the time to practice it had not yet come. [160] Lyman Johnson also reportedly heard the doctrine from Joseph in 1831, [161] as did a plural wife who recalled late in life that in 1831 Joseph told her that he had been commanded to one day take her as a plural wife. [162] Mosiah Hancock reported that his father was taught about plural marriage in the spring of 1832. [163]

Some authors have suggested that Phelps' late recollection is inconsistent with other things that he wrote earlier. Richard Van Wagoner argues that:

the Phelps letter has been widely touted as the earliest source documenting the advocacy of Mormon polygamy, [but] it is not without its problems. For example, Phelps himself, in a 16 September 1835 letter to his wife, Sally, demonstrated no knowledge of church-sanctioned polygamy: "I have no right to any other woman in this world nor in the world to come according to the law of the celestial kingdom.” [164]

It seems, though, that the problem is more in Van Wagoner's reading of the data. Phelps says nothing about "church-sanctioned polygamy," one way or the other. He merely tells his wife that he has no right to any other woman. This was certainly true, since Joseph Smith had introduced no other men to plural marriage by September 1835. In fact, Phelps' remark seems a strange comment to make unless he understood that there were circumstances in which one could have "right to" another woman. [165]

Joseph F. Smith gave an account which synthesizes most of the preceding data:

The great and glorious principle of plural marriage was first revealed to Joseph Smith in 1831, but being forbidden to make it public, or to teach it as a doctrine of the Gospel, at that time, he confided the facts to only a very few of his intimate associates. Among them were Oliver Cowdery and Lyman E. Johnson, the latter confiding the fact to his traveling companion, Elder Orson Pratt, in the year 1832. (See Orson Pratt's testimony.)" (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record 6 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]: 219) [166]

The bulk of the evidence, therefore, suggests that plural marriage was known by Joseph by early 1831. The Prophet was probably teaching the idea to a limited circle by the end of that year.


Response to claim: "A middle-aged man ‘marrying’ a 14 year old girl, was far from normal. Joseph Smith's marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was likely the only 37/14 marriage in New York State that year"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

A middle-aged man ‘marrying’ a 14 year old girl, was far from normal. Joseph Smith's marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was likely the only 37/14 marriage in New York State that year

FairMormon Response

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

Joseph Smith was sealed to Helen Mar Kimball in 1843 during the time that the Saints lived in Nauvoo, Illinois, not New York State. And, in fact, Illinois Governor Thomas Ford at age 28 was married to 15-year-old bride Frances Hambaugh in 1828, and had five children by her. William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, married a 16-year-old girl in 1808 when he was 37 years old. When his wife died young, Clark married his wife's cousin. By this time, Clark is in his 50s, marrying a woman in her late 20s.


Response to claim: "FairMormon’s attempt to make it sound like young girls barely past puberty marrying middle aged men was quite common place is deceitful"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Nevertheless, the apologists at FairMormon would have you believe that middle-aged men marrying 14-year-old girls was not at all unusual in Smith's day.

“Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages to young women may seem difficult to understand or explain today, but in his own time such age differences were not typically an obstacle to marriage. The plural marriages were unusual, to say the least; the younger ages of the brides were much less so. Critics do not provide this perspective because they wish to shock the audience and have them judge Joseph by the standards of the modern era, rather than his own time."

...FairMormon’s attempt to make it sound like young girls barely past puberty marrying middle aged men was quite common place is deceitful

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

FairMormon does not claim that "young girls barely past puberty marrying middle aged men was quite common place" or even that it was "not at all unusual." If one reads the FairMormon text that the author quotes, one will see that FairMormon states that marriages to younger brides were "much less" unusual than plural marriages.

Evidence supports that Mormon teens did not marry until they had reached maturity.

Scholars that study fertility often divide large samples into cohorts which are 5 years wide based on birth year or marriage age . In contrast to what some critics claim, the marriage cohort of 15-19 year olds has been shown at times to be more fertile than the 20-24 cohort. The authors of one study found that

"Unlike most other reported natural-fertility populations, period fertility rates for married Mormon women aged 15-19 are higher between 1870 and 1894 than those for married women in their 20s. Women aged 15-19 in 1870-74 would have been born in the 1850s when 55.8 percent were married before their 20th birthday; thus, this cannot be treated as an insignificant group." And also "In addition, the median interval between marriage and birth of the first child is consistently about one year for all age-at-marriage groups." [167]

Another study disproved that younger marital age (15-19) resulted in a higher infant mortality rate due to the mother not being fully mature (refuting the "biological-insufficiency hypothesis.") [168]

Evidence supports that Mormon males in their upper 30s, including Joseph Smith, did not marry teens at a rate significantly higher than their near contemporaries on the frontier or in the South

Since Joseph Smith's averaged 36.5 years at the time of his 33 plural marriages, a groom cohort aged 34.0 to 38.99 is the best match. The IPUMS database has a record of all marriages in the year prior to the 1850 census, which is used for convenience. In the following table, the column headers are used:

N = the number of marriages that meet the selection criteria, Place = regions of the USA surveyed. Joseph Smith's marriages and the total of all regions are used as a baseline of comparison, States = a list of states belonging to each region, Mean = the average age gap between grooms (34-38) and their brides of all ages, Std = the standard deviation of age gaps, roughly 17% of marriage couples will have an age gap larger than Mean+Std for a given row, Teen % = the percentage of teenage brides the groom cohorts wed as a fraction of all their brides.

Place States N mean std Teen %
Joseph Smith OH IL MO 33 6.7 12.5 30%
USA 4601 9.7 6.2 16%
New England NH ME VT CT MA RI 564 8.4 6.0 7%
Mid Atlantic NY PA NJ 1189 9.0 6.2 12%
NE Central OH MI IN WI IL 1181 10.0 6.0 15%
NW Central MN IA MO ND SD NE KS 230 9.7 6.2 15%
S. Atlantic DE MD VA NC SC GA FL WV DC 520 10.5 6.6 21%
SE Central AL MS TN KY 447 11.0 6.4 24%
SW Central OK AR LA TX 250 11.9 6.3 33%
West AZ CO ID UT NM MT WY NV OR WA CA HI AK 220 8.6 5.9 13%
[I]t is easy to see why criticism of the ages involved in Joseph’s marriages has only gained traction recently. Average age differences between husband and wife have also changed dramatically since the mid 19 century. Using IPUMS data, Rolf and Ferrie charted the fall of the age gap from 4.55 years in 1850 to 2.30 years in 2000 after peaking at 4.96 in 1870. They also found the western frontier had an average gap that was two years higher than elsewhere between 1850 and 1880.

In the 19th century teenage brides very seldomly married someone near their own age. The average age gap for the mid-teens was typically 2-3 years higher than the overall average. Typically men would court across the entire eligible age spectrum younger than themselves and the economic stability of older men could make them competitive. ...

While on average Joseph Smith married older women than his 1880 peers, his wives’ ages were more spread out. Though his percentage of teenage brides (30%) was slightly higher than a reasonable estimate for his peers in 1840s Illinois (20%), it was far from being historically high. One might wonder if America could have met its manifest destiny without adapting marital practices on the frontier.[169]

Response to claim: "Joseph Smith may have been a pedophile"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith may have been a pedophile

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The falsehood: No, actually it wasn't pedophilia.The facts: Joseph being sealed to Helen does not meet the definition of "pedophilia." The term "pedophilia" is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as "psychosexual disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child of the same or the opposite sex". Pedophilia requires that the adult involved have sexual acts with a prepubescent child. The term was not even coined until 1896 or broadly utilized until around 1920.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to Emotion—The author attempts to manipulate the reader's emotional response instead of presenting a valid argument.

<While the term "pedophilia" is a favorite of some critics for its emotional punch, any supposed sexual interaction between Joseph and Helen appears only in the minds of critics, without supporting evidence. The accompanying stock photo used by the letter's author is distasteful. A reverse Google image search names it as "Abusive Man Choking Female Victim."

Question: Was Joseph Smith's marriage to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball indicative of "pedophilia"?

It is claimed by critics that the average age of menarche in 1840 was 16.4 years and that therefore Helen Mar Kimball was prepubescent when she was sealed to Joseph Smith at age 14

Critics of Mormonism claim that Helen Mar Kimball was prepubescent at at 14 at the time that she was sealed to Joseph Smith, and that this is therefore evidence that Joseph was a pedophile. Pedophila describes a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. However, there is no evidence that Helen ever cohabited with or had sexual relations with Joseph - in fact, she continued to live with her parents after the sealing.

The use of the term "pedophilia" by critics in this situation is intended to generate a negative emotional response in the reader. Pedophiles don't advertise their obsession, and they certainly don't discuss marriages with the parents of their intended victims. It was Heber C. Kimball that requested that this sealing be performed, not Joseph. There is no evidence that Joseph was a pedophile.

The age of menarche in America in 1840 has a normal distribution close to a mean of 15.2 years and a standard deviation of 1.85

European data indicates a long term linear drop, while US data is much more sparse. Using post-1910 data, Wyshak (1983) determined that the average age at menarche was dropping linearly at 3.2 month/decade with a value of 13.1 in 1920. This trend projects to 15.2 in 1840 and 16.3 in 1800. The onset of menarche follows a normal distribution that had a larger spread in the 19th century (σ≈1.7 to 2.0) in Brown (1966) and Laslett (1977). [170]

Helen Mar Kimball was likely married near the end of the month of May in 1843 off-site and was thus approximately 14.8 years old when she married to Joseph Smith. With only the statistics cited above we can conclude that of 40% the young women her age would have already matured and thus in their society be considered marriage eligible. If 40% is taken as an a priori probability, additional information puts maturity at her first marriage beyond a reasonable doubt using Bayesian methodology.

Helen and her contemporaries considered her mature for her age

Helen remembered transitioning from childhood to adulthood over a year before her first marriage as she attended social functions with older teens. Here is quote from on the abruptness of this transition in the past from a graduate course's textbook on child development:

In industrial societies, as we have mentioned, the concept of adolescence as a period of development is quite recent. Until the early twentieth century, young people were considered children until they left school (often well before age 13), married or got a job, and entered the adult world. By the 1920s, with the establishment of comprehensive high schools to meet the needs of a growing economy and with more families able to support extended formal education for their children, the teenage years had become a distinct period of development (Keller, 1999). In some preindustrial societies, the concept of adolescence still does not exist. The Chippewa, for example, have only two periods of childhood: from birth until the child walks, and from walking to puberty. What we call adolescence is, for them, part of adulthood (Broude, 1995), as was true in societies before industrialization. [171]

Helen recalls that by March 1842, she "had grown up very fast and my father often took me out with him and for this reason was taken to be older than I was." At these social gatherings, she developed a crush on future husband Horace Whitney. She later married him after Joseph Smith's martyrdom and her 16th birthday and had 12 children with him.

According to Helen:

Sarah Ann's brother, Horace, who was twenty months her senior, made one of the party but had never dreamed of such a thing as matrimony with me, whom he only remembered in the earliest school days in Kirtland as occupying one of the lowest seats. He becoming enough advanced, soon left the one taught in the red schoolhouse on the flat and attended a higher one on the hill, and through our moving to Missouri and Illinois we lost sight of each other. After the party was over I stopped the rest of the night with Sarah, and as her room and his were adjoining, being only separated by a partition, our talk seemed to disturb him, and he was impolite enough to tell us of it, and request us to stop and let him go to sleep, which was proof enough that he had never thought of me only as the green school girl that I was, or he would certainly have submitted gracefully (as lovers always should) to be made a martyr of.
—Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 1828-1896, Autobiography (c. 1839-1846), "Life Incidents," Woman's Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and "Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882-83)) off-site

Joseph was sealed to Helen Mar Kimball at her father's request

Joseph was indeed sealed to 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball, and it was at her father's request. According to Helen:

My father was the first to introduce it to me, which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann [Whitney] to me as Joseph's wife.
—Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, 1828-1896, Autobiography (c. 1839-1846), "Life Incidents," Woman's Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and "Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882-83)) off-site

Evidence supports that Mormon teens did not marry until they had reached maturity.

Scholars that study fertility often divide large samples into cohorts which are 5 years wide based on birth year or marriage age . In contrast to what some critics claim, the marriage cohort of 15-19 year olds has been shown at times to be more fertile than the 20-24 cohort. The authors of one study found that "Unlike most other reported natural-fertility populations, period fertility rates for married Mormon women aged 15-19 are higher between 1870 and 1894 than those for married women in their 20s. Women aged 15-19 in 1870-74 would have been born in the 1850s when 55.8 percent were married before their 20th birthday; thus, this cannot be treated as an insignificant group." And also "In addition, the median interval between marriage and birth of the first child is consistently about one year for all age-at-marriage groups." [172] Another study disproved that younger marital age (15-19) resulted in a higher infant mortality rate due to the mother not being fully mature (termed the "biological-insufficiency hypothesis.") [173]

Helen continued to live with her parents after the sealing, and then married someone else and had children with them after Joseph's death

Helen continued to live with her parents after the sealing. After Joseph's death, Helen was married and had children.

Unlike today, it was acceptable to be sealed to one person for eternity while being married for time to another person. It is not known if this was the case with Helen, however.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Helen's marriage to Joseph was ever consummated

There is, despite the critics' insinuations, no evidence that Helen Mar Kimball's marriage was consummated. (Consummation would not have been inappropriate, since this was a marriage, but the critics are too anxious to find problems where no evidence for such exists. Helen did have some disappointments—these mostly revolved around being less free to participate in parties and socials, not at being physically joined to an older husband.

But, Helen later saw her youthful displeasure as inappropriate and insisted that she had been protected and blessed by being a plural wife, even though she did not know it at the time.

Helen spoke out on the subject later in her life

Helen ought to allowed to speak for herself:

I did not try to conceal the fact of its having been a trial, but confessed that it had been one of the severest of my life; but that it had also proven one of the greatest of blessings. I could truly say it had done the most towards making me a Saint and a free woman, in every sense of the word; and I knew many others who could say the same, and to whom it had proven one of the greatest boons--a "blessing in disguise." [174]


Response to claim: "Mormon apologists...focus now on the lack of direct evidence that he actually have sex with them. What evidence are they looking for?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Mormon apologists...focus now on the lack of direct evidence that he actually have sex with them. What evidence are they looking for?

FairMormon Response

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

There is direct evidence of marital relations between Joseph and some of his plural wives as evidenced by testimony in the Temple Lot case, in which the Church was attempting to prove that Joseph had practiced plural marriage. With regard to what evidence one might be "looking for" with respect to plural marriage, children would be an obvious one. There is absolutely no evidence of children produced through any of Joseph Smith's plural marriages, and all existing possibilities have been disproven through DNA testing (including, now, Josephine Lyon).


Question: Did Joseph Smith father any children through polygamous marriages?

Science has eliminated all of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith

It is claimed that Joseph Smith fathered children with some of his plural wives, and that he covered up the evidence of pregnancies. It is also claimed that Joseph Smith had intimate relations with other men’s wives to whom he had been sealed, and that children resulted from these unions.

Critics of Joseph Smith have long had difficulty reconciling their concept of Joseph as a promiscuous womanizer with the fact that the only recorded children of the prophet are those that he had with Emma. Science is now shedding new light on this issue as DNA research has eliminated all of the possibilities that had long been rumored to be descendants of Joseph Smith.

The available evidence does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with married women

There is no question that Joseph Smith was capable of producing children by Emma. It is logical to assume that if Joseph had intimate relations with many other women, that there would be evidence of pregnancy and children. The focus of the critics is primarily on Joseph’s sealings to women who were married to other husbands, since having a child by any of the previously single women to whom he was married would fall within the expected scope of plural marriage.

The available evidence, however, does not support the claim that Joseph had intimate relations with married women. Fawn Brodie, who repeatedly stated her belief that Joseph had intimate relations with many of his plural wives, identified several individuals that she thought “might” be children of Joseph Smith, Jr. Yet, even Brodie noted that “it is astonishing that evidence of other children than these has never come to light.” Brodie postulated, in spite of a complete lack of evidence, that Joseph must have been able to successfully practice some sort of primitive birth control, or that abortions must have been routinely employed.

Brodie does indeed identify some specific individuals whom she claims are likely to have been the progeny of Joseph Smith. These individuals are examined, along with a comparison of Brodie’s claims against modern evidence.

Mother Brodie’s claim (‘’No Man Knows My History’’, p. 301, 345, 465) Modern evidence

Buell

Brodie claims that “the physiognomy revealed in a rare photograph of Oliver Buell seems to weight the balance overwhelmingly on the side of Joseph’s paternity.” Oliver Buell is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Presendia Huntington Buell’s son Oliver, born sometime in 1838-1839, was the son of Norman Buell.[175] "Only 9 of the 23 genetic markers match when comparing the inferred Oliver Buell haplotype to that of Joseph Smith. Such a low degree of correlation between the two haplotypes provides strong evidence that they belong to two unrelated paternal lineages, thus excluding with high likelihood Joseph Smith Jr. as the biological father of Oliver N. Buell. Further weight is given to this observation by the close match of the inferred haplotype of Owen F. Buell to the independent Buell record in the SMGF data base, which genetic relationship dates back prior to Joseph Smith's era. Additionally, the two genetic profiles were run through a haplogroup predictor algorithm that assigned the Smith haplotypes to a cluster known as R1b and the cluster for the Buell's haplotypes to I1b2a, two deeply divergent clades that separated anciently, thus providing further evidence that the Oliver Buell and Joseph Smith lineages are not closely related."[176]

Alger

Brodie states that “[t]here is some evidence that Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child in Kirtland.” DNA research in 2005 confirmed Fanny Alger’s son Orrison Smith is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.[177]

Hancock

”Legend among the descendants of Levi W. Hancock points to another son of the prophet. If the legend is true, the child was probably John Reed Hancock, born April 19, 1841.” Nothing is yet known regarding the patrilineage John Reed Hancock.

John Reed's brother Mosiah is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2007 confirmed Clarissa Hancock's son Mosiah, born 9 April 1834, was the son of Levi Hancock.[178] "A 12-marker haplotype was already available for a paternal descendant of Mosiah Hancock, generated by an independent commercial laboratory. A comparison of the 12 markers to the shortened Joseph Smith haplotype showed only 5 matches, indicating a low likelihood of a biological relationship between Mosiah and Joseph. Additionally, we queried the SMGF database with the 12 Ycs Hancock markers. Six independent records returned matching all 12 markers, all having the surname Hancock with documented connections to Mosiah's grandfather Thomas Hancock III."[179]

Lightner

The son of Mary Rollins Lightner “may as easily have been the prophet’s son as that of Adam Lightner.” George Algernon Lightner, born March 22, 1842, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Hyde

Mrs. Orson Hyde’s sons Orson and Frank “could have been Joseph’s sons.” Orson Washington Hyde, born November 9, 1843, died as an infant and therefore had no descendants. DNA testing cannot help determine paternity.

Pratt

Mrs. Parley P. Pratt’s son Moroni “might also be added to this list.” Moroni Llewellyn Pratt is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Mary Ann Frost Pratt's son Moroni, born 7 December 1844, was the son of Parley P. Pratt.[180]

Snow

”According to tradition,” Emma beat Eliza Snow and caused her to abort Joseph’s child. Both LDS and non-LDS reviewers have found several flaws in the story about Eliza.[181] Emma's biographers note that "Eliza continued to teach school for a month after her abrupt departure from the Smith household. Her own class attendance record shows that she did not miss a day during the months she taught the Smith children, which would be unlikely had she suffered a miscarriage."[182]

Jacobs

Zina was “about seven months pregnant with Jacobs' child at the time of her marriage to the prophet.” (Brodie, p. 465) John D. Lee and William Hall stated that Zina had been “pregnant by Smith.” Zebulon Jacobs is not the son of Joseph Smith, Jr.

DNA research in 2005 confirmed Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs's son Zebulon was the son of Henry Bailey Jacobs.[183]

Josephine Lyon

In 1915, Sylvia Sessions Lyon's daughter, Josephine, signed a statement that in 1882 Sylvia "told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." For many years, it was not known whether Sylvia was referring to her daughter as being a literal descendant of Joseph Smith, or if she was referring to the fact that she had been sealed to the prophet. However, DNA research ultimately proved that Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith.

In an article published in Mormon Historical Studies, Brian C. Hales demonstrates that Sylvia considered herself divorced prior to marrying Joseph polygamously. [See: Hales, Brian C. "The Joseph Smith-Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealing: Polyandry or Polygyny?" Mormon Historical Studies 9/1 (Spring 2008): 41–57.]

For more detail regarding the investigation into possible children from Joseph's polygamous marriages, please refer to the book chapter on this subject.


Question: What did the husband of Sylvia Sessions know about her sealing to Joseph Smith for eternity?

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married

Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. She was sealed to Joseph Smith at some point after she was married. Brian Hales notes that , "This marriage triangle is unique among all of the Prophet’s plural marriages because there is strong evidence that Sylvia bore children to both men. She became pregnant by Windsor Lyon in October of 1838, September of 1840, and April of 1842. Then a year later became pregnant with a daughter (named Josephine—born February 8, 1844) that was purportedly fathered by the Prophet." Sylvia's daughter, who had the intriguing name "Josephine," made the following statement:

Just prior to my mothers [Sylvia Sessions Lyon] death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret fro me and from others until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church.

Daughter Josephine was proven not to be a daughter of Joseph Smith, Jr. through DNA analysis

For many years, Josephine appeared to be the only viable candidate as a child of Joseph Smiths "polyandrous" sealings. However, DNA analysis ultimately disproved the paternity claim: Josephine was not a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.[184]

Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church

It appears, however, that Sylvia may have considered herself divorced from Windsor after he was excommunicated from the Church and left Nauvoo. Hales points out that "Currently, no documentation of a legal divorce between Windsor and Sylvia after his excommunication has been found. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, religious laws often trumped legal proceedings. Stanley B. Kimball observed: 'Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages . . . were annulled simply by ignoring them.'" [185] The sealing to Joseph occurred after Windor's excommunication. Andrew Jenson, in his historical record, referred to Sylvia as a “formerly the wife of Windsor Lyons.” [186] There is no known evidence that Windsor lived with Sylvia after he returned to Nauvoo, but Sylvia did "rejoin" Windsor after he was rebaptised in 1846. Hales states, "No details are available to clarify what authority was used to reconfirm the marriage relationship between Sylvia and Windsor after their previous marital separation. Most likely the couple consulted with Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball, who authorized their rejoining. Whether a private religious marriage ceremony for time was performed or the couple resumed observing their legal marriage is unknown. Importantly, even with the renewed conjugality between Windsor and Sylvia after Joseph Smith’s death, no evidence has been found to support her involvement in sexual polyandry at any time." [187]

A biography of Sylvia Sessions may be viewed on Brian and Laura Hales' website "josephsmithspolygamy.org". off-site


Response to claim: "Emma was unaware of most her husband’s marriages, and she certainly did not consent to most of them as required by D&C 132"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Emma was unaware of most her husband’s marriages, and she certainly did not consent to most of them as required by D&C 132

FairMormon Response

Question: Was Emma aware of the possibility that Joseph could take additional wives even without her consent?

Emma was warned about the possibility that Joseph could take wives even without her consent

Emma was warned about the possibility that Joseph could take wives even without her consent. [188] The D&C 132 revelation was Joseph's written instructions on the matter, put into writing at the request of his brother Hyrum, who felt he could use it to persuade Emma that plural marriage was a true principle. [189] However, there's an important line in there that speaks to the circumstance in which Joseph found himself with regard to Emma:

Therefore, it shall be lawful in me, if she receive not this law, for him to receive all things whatsoever I, the Lord his God, will give unto him, because she did not believe and administer unto him according to my word; and she then becomes the transgressor; and he is exempt from the law of Sarah, who administered unto Abraham according to the law when I commanded Abraham to take Hagar to wife (DC 132:65).

The Law of Sarah: Wives were to be first taught the revelation to see if they would accept it

In short, the Lord brings up something called "the Law of Sarah"--this refers to Sarah, wife of Abraham, who in order to fulfill the covenants made to Abraham, was willing to seek out another wife (Hagar) for her husband. So, the principle seems to be that wives were to be first taught the revelation, and see if they would obey. The previous verse reads:

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law (DC 132:64

If Emma rejected the teaching, then Joseph was exempt from the Law of Sarah

Thus, Joseph (who held the keys--and the only one who did so at the time, see DC 132:7) was to teach Emma--which he did. But, ultimately, if she refused to accept the revelation, then "he is exempt from the law of Sarah"---i.e., he no longer requires her approval or acceptance.

This is a stern doctrine, and we can all probably sympathize with Emma's situation. But, it is not clear that the alternative is any better, if one believes Joseph was acting by revelation--ultimately, either a mortal's will has to trump, or God's does. So, Joseph was to teach Emma, but if she ultimately refused, then Joseph was to obey, even in the face of her disobedience. She could not choose for him.

It may be that this clause did not apply to any other situation--the scripture says that it applies to a "man...who holds the keys of this power," and only the President of the Church did or does. So, this was likely not much of a model for others; it was very much an issue just between Joseph and Emma. One can see that throughout--the whole revelation is really targeted at helping solve their problems. (Joseph F. Smith would later say that if the revelation had not been written in that context, it would have been different, and perhaps more useful in a sense.) [190]

We can and should have considerable sympathy for Emma, since she was in a very difficult situation

She may ultimately have taken a harder road (leaving the Church, marrying outside the Church, lying about Joseph's teaching of plural marriage, raising an illegitimate child of her second husband's as her own child, etc.) to learning the same sorts of things that plural marriage would have taught her. As Brian Hales has pointed out, she had the hardest job (in a way) because she was the only woman who was faced with a revelation from her husband commanding it:

Emma may have also confronted the fear that perhaps she was inadequate to bind Joseph's affections, leading him to desire other companions and thus introducing the possibility that he could have been deceived by those desires. None of the first wives of other polygamists would have experienced this trial, because none of the other first wives were married to the man who received the polygamy revelation. All other pluralists could hold the Prophet and his teachings responsible....unlike Emma, they could more easily dismiss the question of whether their husband's adoption of plurality was related to their own contributions to the marriage or that they were somehow deficient. [191]

Emma believed in Joseph as a prophet but could not bear plural marriage

On the other hand, though, we must remember that Emma had many experiences that others did not have. (When asked by some women in the midst of the plural marriage at Nauvoo if she still believed Joseph was a prophet, she replied, "Yes, but I wish to God I did not know it." [192]) She accompanied Joseph to retrieve the golden plates. She wrote for him during the initial translation of the Book of Mormon. She participated in sacred ordinances, and knew Joseph and his calling in an intimate way that few if any others did, and continued to insist to her death that he had been a prophet. [193] So, perhaps it is not surprising that she was tested in ways that few others were. And, Joseph may well have not handled it perfectly. He likely did did his best, but it was an agonizing situation without ideal options. As Richard Bushman noted:

I see their [Joseph and Emma's] relationship as tragic. She believed in him but could not bear plural marriage. He loved her but could not resist his own revelation. They were both heroic actors on a large stage trapped in terrible moral dilemmas. [194]


Response to claim: "three weeks after his secret wedding to Sarah Ann Whitney age 17, she received a letter from Joseph instructing her to come to this house that night"=

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

three weeks after his secret wedding to Sarah Ann Whitney age 17, she received a letter from Joseph instructing her to come to this house that night

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith write a "love letter" to his plural wife Sarah Ann Whitney to request a secret rendezvous?

On 18 August 1842, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney, who had become his plural wife three weeks earlier, asking them to visit him while he was in hiding.

Critics of the Church would have us believe that this is a private, secret "love letter" from Joseph to Sarah Ann, however, Joseph wrote this letter to the Whitney's, addressing it to Sarah's parents. The "matter" to which he refers is likely the administration of ordinances rather than the arrangement of some sort of private tryst with one of his plural wives. Why would one invite your bride's parents to such an encounter? Joseph doesn't want Emma gone because he wants to be alone with Sarah Ann—a feat that would be difficult to accomplish with her parents there—he wants Emma gone either because she is opposed to plural marriage (the contention that would result from an encounter between Emma and the Whitney's just a few weeks after Joseph's sealing to Sarah Ann would hardly be conducive to having the spirit present in order to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads"), or because she may have been followed or spied upon by Joseph's enemies, putting either Joseph or the Whitneys in danger.

The Prophet was in hiding as a result of the assassination attempt that had been made on Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs

On the 16th of August, 1842, while Joseph was in hiding at the Sayer's, Emma expressed concern for Joseph's safety. She sent a letter to Joseph in which she noted,

There are more ways than one to take care of you, and I believe that you can still direct in your business concerns if we are all of us prudent in the matter. If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

It is evident that there was concern on Emma's part that Joseph's hiding place would be discovered because of all the people visiting Joseph, particularly if they were in the company of Emma

Joseph wrote the next day in his journal,

Several rumors were afloat in the city, intimating that my retreat had been discovered, and that it was no longer safe for me to remain at Brother Sayers'; consequently Emma came to see me at night, and informed me of the report. It was considered wisdom that I should remove immediately, and accordingly I departed in company with Emma and Brother Derby, and went to Carlos Granger's, who lived in the north-east part of the city. Here we were kindly received and well treated." (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, pp. 117-118)

The next day, while in hiding at the Granger's, Joseph wrote a letter to three members of the Whitney family inviting them to come visit him

The letter is addressed to "Brother and Sister Whitney, and &c." Scholars agree that the third person referred to was the Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann, to whom Joseph had been sealed in a plural marriage, without Emma's knowledge, three weeks prior. The full letter, with photographs of the original document, was published by Michael Marquardt in 1973, [195] and again in 1984 by Dean C. Jessee in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. [196] The complete text of the letter reads as follows (original spelling has been retained):

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

Some critics point to this letter as evidence the Joseph wrote a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann, requesting that she visit him while he was in seclusion. Others believe that the letter was a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring their daughter to him so that he could obtain "comfort," with the implication that "comfort" involved intimate relations.


Question: How do critics of the Church portray Joseph Smith's letter to the Whitney family as a "love letter"?

Critical treatments of the letter: Was this a "love" letter to Sarah Ann?

Did Joseph Smith write a private and secret “love letter” to Sarah Ann Whitney? Was this letter a request to Sarah Ann's parents to bring her to Joseph? Was Joseph trying to keep Sarah Ann and Emma from encountering one another? Certain sentences extracted from the letter might lead one to believe one or all of these things. Critics use this to their advantage by extracting only the portions of the letter which support the conclusions above. We present here four examples of how the text of the letter has been employed by critics in order to support their position that Joseph was asking the Whitney's to bring Sarah Ann over for an intimate encounter. The text of the full letter is then examined again in light of these treatments.

Critical presentation #1

Consider the following excerpt from a website that is critical of the Church. Portions of the Whitney letter are extracted and presented in the following manner:

... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith.
—’’Rethinking Mormonism’’, “Did Joseph Smith have sex with his wives?” (Web page)

This certainly has all of the elements of a secret “love letter:” The statement that it would not be safe if Emma were there, the request to “burn this letter as soon as you read it,” and the stealthy instructions for approaching the house. The question is, who was this letter addressed to? The critics on their web site clearly want you to believe that this was a private letter to Sarah Ann.

Critical presentation #2

Here is the way that Van Wagoner presents selected excerpts of the same letter. In this case, at least, he acknowledges that the letter was addressed to “the Whitney’s,” rather than Sarah, but adds his own opinion that it “detailed [Joseph’s] problems in getting to see Sarah Ann without Emma's knowledge:”

My feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us ... if you three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me, now is the time to Afford me succor ... the only thing to be careful is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safety.
—Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 48.

Critical presentation #3

This version, presented by George D. Smith, presents excerpts from the letter which makes it sound like Joseph was absolutely lusting for the company of Sarah Ann. Smith even makes Napoleon Bonaparte a Joseph Smith doppelgänger by quoting a letter from the future Emperor to Josephine of their first night together:

"I have awakened full of you. The memory of last night has given my senses no rest. . . . What an effect you have on my heart! I send you thousands of kisses—but don’t kiss me. Your kisses sear my blood” (p. xi). George Smith then claims that a “young man of ambition and vision penned his own letter of affection to a young woman. It was the summer of 1842 when thirty-six-year-old Joseph Smith, hiding from the law down by the Mississippi River in Illinois, confessed:"

Smith then compares the excerpts from Napoleon's letter above to portions of the Whitney letter:

My feelings are so strong for you . . . come and see me in this my lonely retreat . . . now is the time to afford me succour . . . I have a room intirely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect saf[e]ty, I know it is the will of God that you should comfort me.
—George D. Smith, “Nauvoo Polygamy: We Called It Celestial Marriage,” Free Inquiry [Council for Secular Humanism] 28/3 (April–May 2008): 44–46.

Critical presentation #4

Finally, we have a version which acknowledges the full contents of the letter...but only after presenting it in the manner described above numerous times. The author eventually provides the full text of this letter (150 pages after its comparison with Napoleon). Since there are no extant "love letters" from Joseph Smith to any of his plural wives, the mileage that the author of Nauvoo Polygamy..."but we called it celestial marriage" extracts from the single letter to the Whitney's is simply astounding:

  • "[i]t was eleven years after the Smiths roomed with the Whitneys that Joseph expressed a romantic interest in their daughter, as well." (p. 31)
  • "recommended his friend, whose seventeen-year-old daughter he had just married, should 'come a little a head, and nock…at the window.'" (p. 53)
  • "Emma Hale, Joseph's wife of fifteen years, had left his side just twenty-four hours earlier. Now Joseph declared that he was "lonesome," and he pleaded with Sarah Ann to visit him under cover of darkness. After all, they had been married just three weeks earlier. (p. 53)
  • "As will be seen, conjugal visits appear furtive and constantly shadowed by the threat of disclosure." (p. 63)
  • “when Joseph requested that Sarah Ann Whitney visit him and ‘nock at the window,’ he reassured his new young wife that Emma would not be there, telegraphing his fear of discovery if Emma happened upon his trysts.” (p. 65)
  • "Three weeks after the wedding, Joseph took steps to spend some time with his newest bride." (p. 138)
  • "It was the ninth night of Joseph's concealment, and Emma had visited him three times, written him several letters, and penned at least one letter on his behalf…For his part, Joseph's private note about his love for Emma was so endearing it found its way into the official church history. In it, he vowed to be hers 'forevermore.' Yet within this context of reassurance and intimacy, a few hours later the same day, even while Joseph was still in grave danger and when secrecy was of the utmost urgency, he made complicated arrangements for a visit from his fifteenth plural wife, Sarah Ann Whitney." (p. 142)
  • "Smith urged his seventeen-year-old bride to 'come to night' and 'comfort' him—but only if Emma had not returned….Joseph judiciously addressed the letter to 'Brother, and Sister, Whitney, and &c." (p. 142-143)
  • "Invites Whitneys to visit, Sarah Ann to 'comfort me' if Emma not there. Invitation accepted." (p.. 147)
  • "As if Sarah Ann Whitney's liaison were not enough…another marriage took place…." (p. 155)
  • "summer 1842 call for an intimate visit from Sarah Ann Whitney…substantiate[s] the intimate relationships he was involved in during those two years." (p. 185)
  • “his warning to Sarah Ann to proceed carefully in order to make sure Emma would not find them in their hiding place.” (p. 236)
  • "Just as Joseph sought comfort from Sarah Ann the day Emma departed from his hideout…." (p. 236)
  • "Elizabeth [Whitney] was arranging conjugal visits between her daughter, Sarah Ann, and [Joseph]…." (p. 366)

One must assume that this is the closest thing that the author could find to a love letter, because the "real" love letters from Joseph to his plural wives do not exist. The author had to make do with this one, despite the fact that it did not precisely fit the bill. With judicious pruning, however, it can be made to sound sufficiently salacious to suit the purpose at hand: to "prove" that Joseph lusted after women.

The full story

In contrast to the sources above, Compton actually provides the complete text of the letter up front, and concludes that "[t]he Mormon leader is putting the Whitney's in the difficult position of having to learn about Emma's movements, avoid her, then meet secretly with him" and that the "cloak-and-dagger atmosphere in this letter is typical of Nauvoo polygamy." [197]

What parts of the Whitney letter do the critics not mention?

As always, it is helpful to view the entire set of statements in content. Let's revisit the entire letter, this time with the selections extracted by the critics highlighted:

Nauvoo August 18th 1842

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams; for my feelings are so strong for you since what has pased lately between us, that the time of my abscence from you seems so long, and dreary, that it seems, as if I could not live long in this way: and <if you> three would come and see me in this my lonely retreat, it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am alied, do love me; now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile, for you know I foretold you of these things. I am now at Carlos Graingers, Just back of Brother Hyrams farm, it is only one mile from town, the nights are very pleasant indeed, all three of you come <can> come and See me in the fore part of the night, let Brother Whitney come a little a head, and nock at the south East corner of the house at <the> window; it is next to the cornfield, I have a room inti=rely by myself, the whole matter can be attended to with most perfect safty, I <know> it is the will of God that you should comfort <me> now in this time of affliction, or not at[ta]l now is the time or never, but I hav[e] no kneed of saying any such thing, to you, for I know the goodness of your hearts, and that you will do the will of the Lord, when it is made known to you; the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater frendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I <will> tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me, I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont dont fail to come to night. I subscribe myself your most obedient, <and> affectionate, companion, and friend.

Joseph Smith

So, let’s take a look at the portions of the letter that are not highlighted.

Dear, and Beloved, Brother and Sister, Whitney, and &c.—

The letter is addressed to “Brother and Sister Whitney.” Sarah Ann is not mentioned by name, but is included as “&c.,” which is the equivalent of saying “and so on,” or “etc.” This hardly implies that what follows is a private “love letter” to Sarah Ann herself.

Could this have been an appeal to Sarah's parents to bring her to Joseph? In Todd Compton's opinion, Joseph "cautiously avoids writing Sarah's name." [198] However, Joseph stated in the letter who he wanted to talk to:

I take this oppertunity to communi[c]ate, some of my feelings, privetely at this time, which I want you three Eternaly to keep in your own bosams;

Joseph wants to talk to “you three,” meaning Newel, Elizabeth and Sarah Ann.


Question: What was the real purpose of the letter written by Joseph Smith to the parents of Sarah Ann Whitney?

The one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics

Interestingly enough, the one portion of the letter in which Joseph actually gives a reason for this meeting is often excluded by critics:

..one thing I want to see you for is <to> git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads, &c. you wi will pardon me for my earnest=ness on <this subject> when you consider how lonesome I must be, your good feelings know how to <make> every allowance for me...

According to Richard L. Bushman, this may have been "a reference perhaps to the sealing of Newel and Elizabeth in eternal marriage three days later." [199] Compton adds, "This was not just a meeting of husband and plural wife, it was a meeting with Sarah's family, with a religious aspect. [200]

Joseph needed to have the company of friends who supported him

In addition to the stated purpose of the meeting, Joseph "may have been a lonely man who needed people around him every moment." [201] Consider this phrase (included in Van Wagoner's treatment, but excluded by the others):

...it would afford me great relief, of mind, if those with whom I am al[l]ied, do love me, now is the time to afford me succour, in the days of exile. (emphasis added)

These are not the words of a man asking his secret lover to meet him for a private tryst—they are the words of a man who wants the company of friends.

"...when Emma comes then you cannot be safe"

So, what about Emma? The letter certainly contains dire warnings about having the Whitney's avoid an encounter with Emma. We examine several possible reasons for the warning about Emma. Keep in mind Emma's stated concern just two days prior,

If it was pleasant weather I should contrive to see you this evening, but I dare not run too much of a risk, on account of so many going to see you. (History of the Church, Vol.5, Ch.6, p.109)

Joseph wished to discuss and/or perform a sealing ordinance that Emma had not yet received

Joseph had been sealed to Sarah Ann three weeks before without Emma's knowledge.[202] Joseph may have wished to offer a sealing blessing to Newel and Elizabeth Whitney at this time. Given Joseph's indication to the Whitneys that he wished to "git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads," and the fact that Emma herself was not sealed until she consented to the doctrine of plural marriage nine months later, Joseph may have felt that Emma’s presence would create an uncomfortable situation for all involved—particularly if she became aware of his sealing to Sarah Ann.

Joseph wished to avoid involving his friends in case he were found by those looking for him

If Joseph was in hiding, he had good reason to avoid being found (hence the request to burn the letter that disclosed his location). He would also not want his friends present in case he were to be found. Anyone that was searching for Joseph knew that Emma could lead them to him if they simply observed and followed her. If this were the case, the most dangerous time for the Whitney's to visit Joseph may have been when Emma was there—not necessarily because Emma would have been angered by finding Sarah Ann (after all, Emma did not know about the sealing, and she would have found all three Whitney's there—not just Sarah Ann), but because hostile men might have found the Whitney's with Joseph. Note that Joseph's letter states that "when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty: only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible." Joseph wanted the Whitneys to avoid observation by anyone, and not just by Emma.


Response to claim: "Joseph’s use of coercive stratagems to get women, often young girls, to enter plural marriages with him, including the promise of eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom for her and her family"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s use of coercive stratagems to get women, often young girls, to enter plural marriages with him, including the promise of eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom for her and her family

FairMormon Response

Question: Were plural wives forced into the marriage?

Plural wives were not forced into marriage

Brian Hales:

Some writers affirm that Joseph Smith put pressure on women to marry him. They portray him almost as a predator gallivanting about Nauvoo seeking new wives, even marrying other men’s spouses. While it makes for an entertaining storyline, it does not square with the historical record. One of Joseph’s plural wives, Lucy Walker, remembered the Prophet's counsel: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” The Prophet taught that eternal marriage was necessary for exaltation and encouraged all those he taught to comply, but he always respected their agency and choices in the matter.[203]


Question: Did any woman suffer consequences for turning down Joseph's proposal?

Two women afterward attacked Joseph's character and misrepresented his offer, to which Joseph responded. Those who did not were left strictly alone

There are numerous accounts of women to whom Joseph proposed plural marriage, who turned him down.

Two women afterward attacked Joseph's character and misrepresented his offer. He responded. Those who did not were left strictly alone. There were no consequences to these women. Sarah Kimball reported Joseph's mild reaction to the rejection:

Early in the year 1842, Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach it with commandment, as the Church could travel (progress) no further without the introduction of this principle. I asked him to teach it to some one else. He looked at me reprovingly, and said, 'Will you tell me who to teach it to? God required me to teach it to you, and leave you with the responsibility of believing or disbelieving.‘ He said, 'I will not cease to pray for you, and if you will seek unto God in prayer you will not be led into temptation.'[204]

(Sarah's husband was not a member of the Church until 1843. There was some tension between him and Joseph as a result of this episode, but he seems to have resolved any animosity he held for the prophet.[205] They were later to go Utah with the Saints, where Sarah assumed a prominent role in the Relief Society. Her husband died while en route to a mission in Hawaii.[206]

Other women loudly trumpeted the plural marriage doctrine in Nauvoo and the hostile press. These women's testimony and character were generally attacked to try to discredit them in an effort to preserve the secrecy which surrounded plural marriage. (This factor is complicated by the fact that at least some were guilty of inappropriate behavior (e.g., likely Sarah Pratt). Despite attacks on their character, some remained in Nauvoo and likewise suffered no physical harm (e.g., Nancy Rigdon).


Question: Were women put under "tremendous pressure" to accept a proposal of plural marriage?

Given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight

  • No one was coerced or forced into marriage (see above). However, given that the Saints believed Joseph was a prophet, any command from him would carry significant weight.
  • Despite this, the reported initial reactions are all negative: these women were strong-minded, and did not simply obey because Joseph told them to.
  • Because of their distaste for the idea, many plural wives reported divine revelations that confirmed the truth of plural marriage. Joseph encouraged women to seek for such divine confirmation.


Question: Did Joseph Smith give a woman only one day to decide about entering a plural marriage, and would refusal mean terrible consequences?

One woman was told that the opportunity for plural marriage would expire in twenty-four hours. She was not threatened with damnation or physical consequences

This claim distorts the account of Lucy Walker. Joseph offered to teach Lucy about plural marriage, but she angrily refused:

When the Prophet Joseph Smith first mentioned the principle of plural marriage to me I became very indignant and told him emphatically that I did not wish him to ever mention it to me again....and so expressed myself to him....He counseled me, however, to pray to the Lord for light and understanding in relation thereto, and promised me if I would do so sincerely, I should receive a testimony of the correctness of the principle. Before praying I felt gloomy and downcast; in fact, I was so entirely given up to despair that I felt tired of life...."

Joseph then said nothing more to her for at least four months (and possibly as long as sixteen). Lucy continues:

[I] was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not ask in faith for light. Gross darkness instead of light took possession of my mind. I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable....

The Prophet discerned my sorrow. He saw how unhappy I was, and sought an opportunity of again speaking to me on this subject....

[He said] "I have no flattering words to offer. It is a command of God to you. I will give you until tomorrow to decide this matter. If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you."

– Lucy Walker, italics added

Lucy was told that the opportunity for plural marriage would expire in twenty-four hours. She was not threatened with damnation or physical consequences. Yet, she did not meekly obey:

This aroused every drop of scotch in my veins...I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living Sacrafice, perhaps to brook the world in disgrace and incur the displeasure and contempt of my youthful companions; all my dreams of happiness blown to the four winds, this was too much, the thought was unbearable.... I...at last found utterance and said, "Although you are a prophet of God you could not induce me to take a step of so great importance, unless I knew that God approved my course. I would rather die. I have tried to pray but received no comfort, no light....The same God who has sent this message is the Being I have worshipped from my early childhood and He must manifest His will to me."

Joseph's response:

He walked across the room, returned, and stood before me. With the most beautiful expression of countenance, he said, "God almighty bless you. You shall have a manifestation of the will of God concerning you; a testimony that you can never deny. I will tell you what it shall be. It shall be that peace and joy that you never knew."

That night, Lucy reported:

It was near after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud. The words of the Prophet were indeed fulfilled. My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that "I never knew." Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage, which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and give vent to the joy and gratitude that filled my soul. As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below, took me by the hand and said, "Thank God, you have the testimony. I too have prayed." He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head, and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire.
– Lucy Walker

Even with Lucy's revelation and consent, Joseph then sought the permission of her oldest male relative in Nauvoo, her brother William Holmes Walker. He said:

The Prophet invited me to hitch up my horse with one of his...and to ride with him....On this occasion the subject of celestial, or plural marriage, was introduced to me. As we returned home he remarked, 'If there was anything I did not understand to hold on a little, and I would understand it."....

In the spring of 1843, my father, being away on a mission, the Prophet asked my consent, for my sister Lucy in Marriage. I replied that if it was her free will and choice, I had no objection....

When father returned from his mission, the matter being fully explained in connection with the doctrine, received his endorsement and all parties concerned received his approbation.

— William Holmes Walker

This is the only case of any kind of deadline being given, and it only came because Joseph saw how unhappy Lucy was as she hesitated with a decision over a period of months.


Question: Did Joseph claim that an angel threatened him with a "drawn sword" or "flaming sword" if a woman refused to marry him?

The references to the "angel with a sword" refer to Joseph's postponement of the initiation of polygamy

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs said that Joseph mentioned an angel with a drawn sword.[207] The account of a "flaming" sword came from Eliza Snow and Orson F. Whitney.

The "angel with a sword" reference refers to Joseph's postponement of the practice of polygamy. Brian Hales notes that,

"Twenty-one accounts by nine polygamy insiders left recollections that the Prophet told of one specific reason: an angel with a sword who threatened him if he did not proceed. All nine witnesses could have heard the statement from the Prophet himself; however, the narratives themselves suggest that Benjamin F. Johnson and Eliza R. Snow may have been repeating information gathered from other people. Joseph Lee Robinson's narrative is difficult to date and his actual source is not clear. Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner quote the Prophet directly and Mary Elizabeth provides details not available elsewhere. Unfortunately, with the possible exception of the Robinson account, all of the reminiscences date to at least twenty to thirty years after the event." [208]

Here are the quotes attributed to Zina on the matter:

1881: Zina Huntington—Zina D. Young told of Bro. Joseph's remark in relation to the revelation on celestial marriage. How an angel came to him with a drawn sword, and said if he did not obey this law he would lost his priesthood; and in the keeping of it he, Joseph, did not know but it would cost him his life. [209]

1894: Zina Huntington—[Joseph] sent word to me by my brother, saying, 'Tell Zina I put it off and put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth, I would lost my position and my life.'" [210]


Question: Were women "locked in a room" in order to convince them to accept plural marriage?

While Nancy Rigdon and Martha Brotherton were likely approached about plural marriage in private, it is unlikely that they were locked in rooms or confined against their will

The author of Nauvoo Polygamy:..."but we called it celestial marriage," claims that "…both Nancy [Rigdon] and Martha [Brotherton] were…isolated in a locked room during the...effort" to persuade them to practice plural marriage.[211]

The claims about being "locked in a room," while dramatic, seem unlikely. Much of the evidence hinges on the unreliable and vindictive John C. Bennett, who published the exposé, The History of the Saints, or an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. While Nancy and Martha were likely approached about plural marriage in private, it is unlikely that they were locked in rooms or confined against their will.

Hyrum Smith touched upon this subject during a Conference talk on April 6, 1842:

He [Hyrum Smith] then spoke in contradiction of a report in circulation about Elder Kimball, B. Young, himself, and others of the Twelve, alledging that a sister had been shut in a room for several days, and that they had endeavored to induce her to believe in having two wives...

Pres't. J. Smith spoke upon the subject of the stories respecting Elder Kimball and others, showing the folly and inconsistency of spending any time in conversing about such stories or hearkening to them, for there is no person that is acquainted with our principles would believe such lies, except Sharp the editor of the "Warsaw Signal."[212]

The claim that Martha was locked in a room for "days" is likely an exaggerated rumor: It was more likely "about ten minutes" while Joseph was summoned

RLDS authors Richard and Pamela Price, who firmly believed that Joseph did not practice plural marriage, uses the Times and Seasons account to assert that Martha "changed her story" regarding the length of time during which she was held in the room:

The records show that Martha changed her story. As Hyrum reported to the Conference, at first she had told that she was locked in a room for days. But since that was such a ridiculous, unbelievable story, she changed it in her St. Louis affidavit to read that Brigham locked her in Joseph's office for only "about ten minutes."

However, we have no access to Martha's original story, so the Prices' assumption that Martha originally claimed that she was held in the room for a number of days cannot be verified. The source of the claim that Martha was held in the room for "days" is likely an exaggeration, however, the source of the rumor cannot be determined. The claim that she was locked in the office for "about ten minutes" while Joseph was summoned seems much more plausible.

The Prices provide additional reasoning against the idea that Martha was in the room for a number of days,

It would have been impossible for Martha to have been imprisoned in any room in the Red Brick Store without it being detected. In fact, she could not have gone up and down the stairs and from room to room without being observed by many. The store was a small, two-story building, and Joseph's office was only about ten feet square. Since dozens of people came to the store daily, her calls for help would have been heard. Martha had but one witness—John Bennett, who asserted in the Sangamo Journal for July 15, 1842, "She was locked up ... I saw her taken into the accursed room."

If Martha's story had been true, there would have been many witnesses, because Joseph' s store was the hub of activity in Nauvoo. People came to the store to buy everything from food to footwear. The store building also housed the headquarters for the Church and the city. There, the people paid their tithing and taxes, and conducted banking and real estate business. The store was alive with people by day and by night, for it was also in constant use as a civic and religious center…."[213]

One suspects Bennett's influence in this part of the story, since Bennett would likewise claim Joseph locked him in a room. In Bennett's case, the story is unworkable and contradicted by a non-LDS eyewitnesses.[214]


Response to claim: Joseph Smith's "arrogant and boastful behavior, trumping the Savior himself"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith's "arrogant and boastful behavior, trumping the Savior himself"

FairMormon Response

Question: Is the quote of Joseph Smith's "boasting" of keeping the Church intact accurate?

The entries in History of the Church were made by scribes after Joseph's death

There are two issues here:

  • The accuracy of the quote in History of the Church, since it is based upon a synopsis of Joseph's remarks by Thomas Bullock.
  • Assuming that the quote is accurate, it is evident in any case that the quote has been removed from its larger context. For more detail on this aspect, see "Question: Was Joseph Smith prone to boasting?".

Even in the History of the Church (where the speech is recreated in 6:408-409), it is described as resting upon a "synopsis" by Thomas Bullock. Is it, therefore, a primary source? Arguably not.[215]

But there are further questions. The date of the sermon is 26 May 1844. A month later, the Prophet was dead. Did he supervise this entry? No. The last years of his entries in the History of the Church were actually made by others after his death.[216] It was common at the time for other authors to write as if someone else was speaking. So, these are not Joseph's words--they are the words which others (who admired him enormously after his murder) put in his mouth. The basic content is more likely to be accurate than the subtle details of tone and style.

This point is vitally important to keep in mind when trying to assess the character of Joseph Smith, his moral and spiritual quality, through the so-called "Documentary History." Even when it seems to have Joseph Smith speaking in the first person, the History of the Church may or may not actually be representing Joseph Smith's actual voice. (Dean Jessee's "Preface" to his collection of The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith specifically addresses the issue of the seeming egotism that entered into Joseph's later statements which was quite foreign to the man himself--this came not because Joseph suddenly became egotistical, but because the voice we hear is no longer Joseph's: it is the work of scribes following his death. They felt comfortable "praising" Joseph in ways which he would probably not have used.)

The impression which one gets of Joseph Smith from reading his authenticated personal statements is that of a humble and sincere man, struggling to do the will of God as he understood it. However, even if a note of proud defiance had crept into Joseph's tone during a speech in Nauvoo, at a time when both city and Church were under threat and pressure from gangs of unprincipled bigots, such a moment of weakness would be understandable.

But, there is more to the story than this. What was Joseph's intent in his speech? We can guess, even from the reconstruction that is available to us, as we will see in the next section.

First, though, we must address an issue which the above answer raises—does this mean the History of the Church is not reliable?

Is the History of the Church unreliable, then?

It worth saying that in the general reliability of the History of the Church, in view of the way it was put together, it is not the overall thrust or narrative that is likely to be inaccurate, but the nuances, the tone, the details. This is precisely the opposite problem from that which anti-Mormon critics would have us see in it: they think the overall story of the History incorrect (e.g. divine intervention, revelation, Joseph Smith's prophetic calling, etc.), but they want us to accept the details of tone and mood that it furnishes—or at least they do when those details seem to put the Prophet in a bad light.

It's amusing that the very same people who vehemently reject the History of the Church as an unreliable source when it seems to support the LDS position clutch it to their bosoms as an unparalleled historical treasure when they think they can use it as a weapon against the alleged errors of Mormonism.[217]


Question: Was Joseph Smith prone to boasting?

Joseph made a statement that sounded boastful, and unbecoming a prophet

Joseph Smith is reported as saying:

I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, 6:408–409. Volume 6 link

This attitude strikes some as boastful, and unbecoming a prophet.

There are two issues here:

Joseph's quote, if accurate, is taken out of context

Assuming that the quote is accurate in History of the Church, it is evident that Joseph's quote is taken out of context. What was Joseph's intent, and why did he use this approach? As it turns out, he was drawing from the Bible and applying its lessons to his own situation. In the original context, Joseph was facing intense persecution by many people, including some he had previously considered to be his friends. The statement about "boasting" was supposedly made about a month before he was killed. He made it after reading 2 Corinthians 11: to the congregation. Note the following statement by Paul, in this scripture:

Paul: "let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little"

Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little. That which I am speaking, I am not speaking it as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, bear the foolish gladly. (2 Corinthians 11:16-19, NASB)

Paul then launches into a literary tirade where he claims many things to make himself look the fool, to contrast himself with those who the Corinthians were listening to for their words of salvation, instead of to him. His words were meant to compare and contrast what the Saints at Corinth were doing against what he was offering.

Joseph employed the exact same literary approach that Paul the Apostle did

Do the critics dismiss the words of Paul and deny his calling as an Apostle because he used such a literary approach that included boasting? No, they do not. Yet, they dismiss Joseph Smith when it is clear by his own statements, in context, that he engaged in the exact same literary approach. Consider the words of Joseph right after reading this chapter of Paul's to the congregation:

My object is to let you know that I am right here on the spot where I intend to stay. I, like Paul, have been in perils, and oftener than anyone in this generation. As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did, I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions. Perhaps my brethren think it requires all this to keep me humble. The Lord has constituted me curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last. My enemies are no philosophers: they think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down; but for the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.[218]

It would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted

Joseph then makes the statements that the critics attack, in the same way that Paul made outrageous "boasts" to contrast his position with the position of those who the Corinthians were starting to listen to. Paul starts the next chapter of 2 Corinthians with the statement "boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable." So, it would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times against the wicked and hard-hearted (though it may do little good, being unprofitable), yet the critics do not allow Joseph to follow Paul's advice and, of necessity, boast at times.

Perhaps the critics are unaware of Paul's advice? Or perhaps they apply a double standard where Paul is allowed such literary and rhetorical license, but Joseph is not?

Such double standards are, sadly, the stock-in-trade of sectarian anti-Mormonism.

In short, Joseph is using the scripture in Paul as a counter-argument (or a rhetorical device)--he is responding to his critics, and demonstrating that (as with Paul) true messengers from God are often persecuted by those who should listen, while the false and apostate are praised.


Question: Did Joseph Smith believe that he was better than Jesus Christ?

Joseph was not a man who believed himself to be better than Christ

Consider the following excerpt from a letter Joseph wrote to his wife Emma:

I will try to be contented with my lot, knowing that God is my friend. In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me [except] to do his will.[219]

These are not the words of a man who believed himself to be better than Christ. Joseph loved Christ and throughout his life strove to follow him. These words written in private to his wife demonstrate that Joseph was not so prideful as to think himself better than Christ. Consider also the following statement, made in public, by Joseph Smith:

I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else....I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.[220]

Both in private and in public Joseph Smith demonstrated his humility before the Lord.


Response to claim: "Why was the restoration of the priesthood not reported by Joseph and Oliver Cowdrey until years later and then earlier revelations changed to match that account?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why was the restoration of the priesthood not reported by Joseph and Oliver Cowdrey until years later and then earlier revelations changed to match that account?

FairMormon Response

Question: Why did several years pass before Oliver talked about the priesthood restoration?

We don't know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone - we only know when he first put it in print

We don't know when Oliver first mentioned the priesthood restoration to anyone - we only know when he first put it in print. But consider this: If Oliver was covering up a fraud on the part of Joseph Smith when he talked of receiving the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, then why didn't he expose the fraud after he fell into disagreement with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated from the Church? Why, in fact, did Oliver continue to insist that the events related to the restoration of the Priesthood actually happened?

The implication is that Oliver was dishonest, yet his associates during the time that he was a lawyer after leaving the Church viewed his character as "irreproachable". Harvey Gibson, a political opponent of Oliver's, and another lawyer (whose statue now stands in front of the Seneca County courthouse) wrote:

Cowdery was an able lawyer and [an] agreeable, irreproachable gentleman. [221]

Webster's 1828 dictionary defines "irreproachable" as "That cannot be justly reproached; free from blame; upright; innocent. An irreproachable life is the highest honor of a rational being." [222]

Oliver wrote the following to Phineas Young two years after Joseph's death, well after he had left the Church:

I have cherished a hope, and that one of my fondest, that I might leave such a character, as those who might believe in my testimony, after I should be called hence, might do so, not only for the sake of the truth, but might not blush for the private character of the man who bore that testimony. I have been sensitive on this subject, I admit; but I ought to be so—you would be, under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John, with our departed Brother Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood—and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and looked down through time, and witnessed the effects these two must produce,—you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long sought rest. [223]


Response to claim: "Joseph and Emma's disturbing attempts...to partner swap with William and Jane Law"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph and Emma's disturbing attempts...to partner swap with William and Jane Law

FairMormon Response

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

There is not only no evidence to support this assertion, but there is evidence that contradicts it.


Question: Did Joseph Smith offer to trade Jane Law for Emma Smith in a wife swap with William Law?

This claim rests on a single, unreliable hostile source. Other hostile sources (including William Law) deny the tale

This question arises because of a somewhat opaque verse in the Doctrine and Covenants section on plural marriage. (The revelation was written down at Hyrum Smith's request, who believed that he could persuade Emma Smith of the doctrine's provenance from God.) The verses in question read:

51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice....54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. (D&C 132:51,54.

No one is certain as to what this refers. William Clayton, Joseph's scribe and secretary, wrote in his contemporaneous journal:

This A.M. President Joseph took me and conversed considerable concerning some delicate matters. Said [Emma] wanted to lay a snare for me. He told me last night of this and said he had felt troubled. He said [Emma] had treated him coldly and badly since I came…and he knew she was disposed to be revenged on him for some things. She thought that if he would indulge himself she would too.[224]

Some have seen this as Emma claiming she would practice plural marriage (a strange idea, given how she felt about it), and these readers have then extended the reading to include a belief that she was threatening to marry William Law. Others have seen these verses (perhaps more plausibly) as Emma simply threatening divorce if Joseph didn't cease plural marriage. In this reading, Joseph would have agreed to a divorce--both were probably speaking somewhat in the heat of the moment—and the Lord in D&C 132 makes it clear that he does not endorse Joseph's offer of (or agreement to) a divorce.

The idea of Joseph offering William Law to Emma springs out of an anti-Mormon work. As D. Carmon Hardy noted:

Belief that the prophet contemplated a 'spiritual swap' of wives with William Law, based on Joseph Jackson's statement in his exaggerated Narrative, 20–21, should be viewed with caution. The best review of the matter remains Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 176–77.[225]

It becomes clear how shaky the evidence is when one drills down to the ultimate source of the idea. The source of this charge seems to be a book by Joseph H. Jackson. Jackson claimed to have insinuated himself into Joseph's counsels, and claimed Joseph had told him that he was going to attempt to "get Mrs. William Law for a spiritual wife…for the purpose of affecting his object [Joseph] got up a revelation that Law was to be sealed up to Emma, and that Law's wife was to be his; in other words there was to be a spiritual swop [sic]…[Joseph] had never before suffered his passion for any woman to carry him so far as to be willing to sacrifice Emma for its gratification."[226]

However, Jackson appears on no Church membership records, and Joseph's early opinion was that he was "rotten hearted." Note that D&C 132 was given almost a year prior to Jackson's claimed revelation.[227]

Testimony that contradicts the claim

William Law himself denied that Joseph ever attempted such a swap:

Joseph Smith never proposed anything of the kind to me or to my wife; both he and Emma knew our sentiments in relation to spiritual wives and polygamy; knew that we were immoveably opposed to polygamy in any and every form…[but Law did believe] that Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute, for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in the house.[227]:176

Law thus saw the verse as referring to divorce, not a swap.

It is also interesting that another anti-Mormon writer (and former wife of Brigham Young) Ann Eliza Webb Young wrote:

One particular passage [of D&C 132] is said to refer to a matrimonial scene in which a threat was held out that the life of the Elect Lady should be terminated [84] by poison. She is here commanded to "stay herself, and partake not" of that which Joseph had offered her. It is, however, only right to add that the Mormon exponents of the Revelation say that this passage refers to an offer which Joseph had made to sacrifice his own personal feelings, and to accede to a divorce between Emma and himself. In these few lines more is disclosed of the Prophet's domestic life and difficulties than he probably was aware of. I give these paragraphs in full, that the reader may judge for himself. [She then cites D&C 132:51–60][228]

Ann Eliza wasn't old enough to have direct personal knowledge about plural marriage in Nauvoo, but her parents (who also later apostatized) were there--so this may well reflect their insights. At the very least, she too would have had reason to condemn Joseph Smith if Joseph had offered a wife swap, but she didn't. In fact, she understood the mysterious verses quite differently.

Most historians have thus not given much weight to this idea. It is probably best seen as anti-Mormon folk history. It still crops up now and again among those who either don't know the data well, or who are working with a lascivious picture of Joseph and so this "fits" how they think he behaved.

William Law and complicating the picture

The story is complicated by the issue of William Law (who was a counselor to Joseph in the First Presidency before he apostatized and helped write the Nauvoo Expositor) and his wife, Jane. There are various versions of that story, and so they get tangled up in this issue.

It is not clear whether or not William and Jane were ever sealed. Alexander Neibaur, a close friend of the Prophet, said that "Mr Wm Law--wisht to be Married to his Wife for Eternity Mr [Joseph] Smith said would Inquire of the Lord, Answered no because Law was a Adultereous person. Mrs Law wandet to know why she could not be Married to Mr Law Mr S said would not wound her feeling by telling her, some days after Mr Smith going toward his Office Mrs Law stood in the door beckoned to him more the once did not Know wheter she bekoned to him went across to Inquire yes please to walk in no one but herself in the house. she drawing her Arms around him if you wont seal me to my husband Seal myself unto you. he Said stand away & pushing her Gently aside giving her a denial & going out. when Mr Law came home he Inquired who had been in his Absence. she said no one but Br Joseph, he then demanded what had[pass[ed] Mrs L then told Joseph wandet her to be Married to him." (Journal of Alexander Neibaur, 24 May 1844, Church Archives. See also Hyrum Smith's statement in Nauvoo Neighbor, Extra, 17 June 1844, regarding Law's adulterous conduct.) Yet at Law's trial of excommunication, Jack John Scott, a Canadian convert, testified that to ameliorate conditions between William and Joseph (possibly because of the accusations that the Prophet had made advances to Jane Law) Joseph Smith had sealed William Law and his wife (Minutes of meeting, 18 April 1844, Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives).[229]

This could be Joseph just spin-doctoring, but his account told to Neibaur was done privately, and wasn't used in public to discredit Law or his wife. This, to me, adds to its plausibility. It didn't really benefit Joseph if he were to lie in private to a very few about Law, while Law was making such public trouble for Joseph. Here's Hyrum Smith's evidence (and many regarded Hyrum as impeccably honest):

Councilor Hyrum Smith continued—Jackson told him he (Jackson) meant to have his daughter, and threatened him if he made any resistance. Jackson related to him a dream, that Joseph and Hyrum were opposed to him, but that he would execute his purposes; that Jackson had laid a plan with four or five persons to kidnap his daughter, and threatened to shoot any one that should come near after he had got her in the skiff; that Jackson was engaged in trying to make bogus, which was his principal business. Referred to the revelation read to the High Council of the Church, which has caused so much talk, about multiplicity of wives; that said revelation was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days. That when sick, William Law confessed to him that he had been guilty of adultery, and was not fit to live, and had sinned against his own soul, &c., and inquired who was Judge Emmons? When he came here he had scarce two shirts to his back; but he had been dandled by the authorities of the city, &c., and was now editor of the Nauvoo Expositor, and his right hand man, was Francis M. Higbee, who had confessed to him that he had had the——! [the blank at the end likely refers to a venereal disease contracted by Higbee from a prostitution ring run by John C. Bennett][230]

Law, in his turn, claimed "[Joseph][ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and[ha[s] found her a virtuous woman".[231]

The best reconstruction may be Cook's:

A possible explanation for this discrepancy is that Neibaur's account (cited above), though reasonably accurate, is simply incomplete. Obviously, Jane Law's frustration over not being permitted to be eternally sealed to her husband might have prompted her to request eternal marriage to the Mormon leader (say, in late 1843), and (as per Neibaur) she was rebuffed. Subsequently, possibly to gratify and assuage the Laws, Joseph might have finally agreed to seal the couple near Christmas 1843 (as per John Scott). Then later, just before or soon after the Laws' excommunication, Joseph Smith might have sought to have Jane Law sealed to him in an attempt to keep her from following her apostate husband (as per Law's diary and other published sources noted above). Bathsheba W. Smith, one of the anointed quorum who was conversant with all the ramifications of plural marriage in Nauvoo, believed that Jane Law may well have been sealed to the Prophet (Bathsheba W. Smith Deposition, Eighth Circuit Court, 1892 Temple Lot Case, carbon copy of original, Church Archives). However, if this were the case, it was short-lived because Jane, who was expecting her sixth child, did remain with her husband, William Law. In July 1867, John Hawley reported that Wilford Woodruff had said, "When Brigham Young got the records of the Church in his hands, after the death of Joseph Smith, he found by examination that . . . [William] Laws wife and [Francis] Higbys wife and[L[yman] Wights wife and [Robert D .] Fosters wife had all been Sealed to Joseph, as their Husbands could not Save them" (John Hawley, Autobiography, January 1885, p. 97, RLDS Library-Archives).[229]

See also Brian Hales' discussion: William and Jane Law and the Prophet
William Law was Joseph's counselor, but eventually broke with the Prophet and helped publish the Nauvoo Expositor. (Link)
Plural Marriage and the Martyrdom
Did Joseph Smith Intend to Abandon Plural Marriage?
William Marks related that Joseph’s conversation denouncing plural marriage occurred “three weeks before his death” or around June 6. Perhaps Joseph had such a change of heart during the first week of June, but this seems unlikely and other parts of Marks’ recollection are implausible. (Link)


See also Brian Hales' discussion: 1840—Plural Marriage Secretly Introduced
Sometime in 1840 Joseph Smith first broached the topic of plural marriage privately to trusted friends. Most of the apostles were in England and thus were unavailable for an introduction to the practice. (Link)
Emma Learns that Plural Marriage Has Been Restored
Emma Accepts Plural Marriage and Participates in Four of Joseph’s Plural Sealings
Emma’s Resistance Prompts a New Revelation
Joseph and Emma: Conflict and Agreement


Response to claim: "Joseph’s ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor for unmasking his polygamy"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor for unmasking his polygamy

FairMormon Response

Question: Was the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor legal?

The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor led directly to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum

It is claimed by one critic of the Church that Joseph "could not allow the Expositor to publish the secret international negotiations masterminded by Mormonism’s earthly king." [232] Another claimed that "When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press in an attempt to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination." [233]

The Expositor incident led directly to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum, but it was preceded by a long period of non-Mormon distrust of Joseph Smith, and attempts to extradite him on questionable basis.

The destruction of the Expositor issue was legal; it was not legal to have destroyed the type, but this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and one for which Joseph was willing to pay a fine if imposed.

Joseph seems to have believed—or, his followers believed after his death—that the decision, while 'unwise' for Joseph, may have been in the Saints' interest to have Joseph killed. For a time, this diffused much of the tension and may have prevented an outbreak of generalized violence against the Saints, as occurred in Missouri.

The destruction of the first issue was legal, but it was not legal to destroy the printer's type

It is claimed that "When the Laws (with others) purchased a printing press in an attempt to hold Joseph Smith accountable for his polygamy (which he was denying publicly), Joseph ordered the destruction of the printing press, which was both a violation of the 1st Amendment, and which ultimately led to Joseph’s assassination." [234]

The destruction of the Expositor issue (i.e., the paper itself) was legal; it was not legal to have destroyed the type, but this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and one for which Joseph was willing to pay a fine if imposed.

Joseph did not unilaterally order the action against the Expositor—it was the Nauvoo City Council (which included non-Mormons) which reached the unanimous decision. Having reached that decision, Joseph Smith then issued an order, as mayor, to carry out the Council's decision. As described in the Church's 2011 Priesthood/Relief Society manual:

On June 10, 1844, Joseph Smith, who was the mayor of Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo city council ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and the press on which it was printed. [235]

History of the Church also describes this event [236]:

I [Joseph Smith] immediately ordered the Marshal to destroy it [the Nauvoo Expositor] without delay, and at the same time issued an order to Jonathan Dunham, acting Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to assist the Marshal with the Legion, if called upon so to do." [237]

The First Amendment is irrelevant to this discussion. In 1844, the First Amendment only applied to federal law; it had no application to state or local law until the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War.


Question: What caused William Law to apostatize from the Church and turn against Joseph Smith?

William Law in 1836: "I assure you I have found [Joseph Smith] honest and honourable in all our transactions which have been very considerable"

A Canadian, William Law joined the Church in 1836 and moved to Nauvoo in 1839. After having lived near Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, William wrote to a friend:

I have carefully watched his movements since I have been here, and I assure you I have found him honest and honourable in all our transactions which have been very considerable. I believe he is an honest upright man, and as to his follies let who ever is guiltless throw the first stone at him, I shant do it.[238]

William Law in 1844: "I cannot fellowship the abominations which I verily know are practiced by this man [Joseph]"

8 January 1844
William Law released as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Joseph Smith noted that William “was injuring him by telling evil of him…” William considered his release to be “illegal,” since he had been called “by revelation,” but wrote “I cannot fellowship the abominations which I verily know are practiced by this man [Joseph], consequently I am glad to be free from him."[239]


One of William’s key concerns seems to have revolved around plural marriage

His non-member son, Richard, later recounted:

About the year 1842, he was present at an interview between his father and the Prophet Joseph. The topic under discussion was the doctrine of plural marriage. William Law, with his arms around the neck of the Prophet, was pleading with him to withdraw the doctrine of plural marriage, which he had at that time commenced to teach to some of the brethren, Mr. Law predicting that if Joseph would abandon the doctrine, 'Mormonism' would, in fifty or one hundred years, dominate the Christian world. Mr. Law pleaded for this with Joseph with tears streaming from his eyes. The Prophet was also in tears, but he informed the gentleman that he could not withdraw the doctrine, for God had commanded him to teach it, and condemnation would come upon him if he was not obedient to the commandment.

During the discussion, Joseph was deeply affected. Mr. Richard S. Law says the interview was a most touching one, and was riveted upon his mind in a manner that has kept it fresh and distinct in his memory, as if it had occurred but yesterday.

Mr. Law also says, that he has no doubt that Joseph believed he had received the doctrine of plural marriage from the Lord. The Prophet's manner being exceedingly earnest, so much so, that Mr. Law was convinced that the Prophet was perfectly sincere in his declaration.[240]

William Law was excommunicated

18 April 1844
William Law excommunicated. Austin Cowles of the Nauvoo high council, James Blakeslee, Charles G. Foster, and Francis M. Higbee joined him in leaving the Church, and he was supported in his opposition to Joseph by his brother Wilson.[241] They announced the formation of a ‘reform’ Church based upon Joseph’s teachings up to 1838, with William as president.

William even decided that Joseph Smith’s opposition to Missouri (and the treatment the Saints had received there) was “unChristian"!

The hostile spirit and conduct manifested by Joseph Smith, and many of his associates towards Missouri . . . are decidedly at variance with the true spirit of Christianity, and should not be encouraged by any people, much less by those professing to be the ministers of the gospel of peace.[242]

Williams had financial quarrels with Joseph

William had economic quarrels with Joseph, and was probably too fond of his own financial state, rather than helping the poor of the Church. William and his brother Wilson had bought the higher land on the outskirts of Nauvoo; the Church (through Joseph) owned the land in the river bottom. Joseph declared that new arrivals should purchase lands from the Church (this was in part an effort to help liquidate the Church’s debts), but William objected to this plan as prejudicial to his own financial interests.[243]

Hyrum presented Law and his wife with the revelation on plural marriage, which affected Law greatly

William was probably also troubled by the death of his wife and daughter even after Church leaders had prayed for them. Hyrum presented Law and his wife with the revelation on plural marriage. Long after the fact, William reported his reaction:

Hyrum gave it [the revelation] to me in his office, told me to take it home and read it, and then be careful with it, and bring it back again…[My wife Jane] and I were just turned upside down by it…We did not know what to do.[244]

Law ultimately called Joseph a "demon"

It is not clear whether Jane and William Law were ever sealed. Alexander Neibaur and Hyrum Smith both reported that Joseph told William he could not seal him to Jane because the Lord forbade it; Neibaur indicated that this was because William was “a Adulterous person.”[245] There is no evidence of this other than Neibaur's statement however.

In the clash that followed, William began “casting the first stone,” at Joseph’s supposed failings, and the man which he had once admired as honourable and without cause for complaint became, in his newspaper, a “demon,” a power-mad tyrant, a seducer, and someone who contributed to the early death of young women.


Question: Did Joseph Smith or his associates attempt to reconcile with William Law before he published the Nauvoo Expositor?

Prior to the publication of the Expositor, Hyrum Smith, Almon W. Babbitt, and Sidney Rigdon attempted to reconcile William Law to the Church

William Law announced he would reconcile only under the condition that Joseph publicly state that the practice of polygamy was "from Hell":

I told him [Sidney] that if they wanted peace they could have it on the following conditions, That Joseph Smith would acknowledge publicly that he had taught and practised the doctrine of plurality of wives, that he brought a revelation supporting the doctrine, and that he should own the whole system (revelation and all) to be from Hell.[246]

The Nauvoo Expositor declared that Joseph was "“blood thirsty and murderous...demon...in human shape”

Shortly afterward, on 7 June 1844, the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor was published. It detailed Joseph’s practice of plural marriage, and charged him with various crimes, labeling him a “blood thirsty and murderous...demon...in human shape” and “a syncophant, whose attempt for power find no parallel in history...one of the blackest and basest scoundrels that has appeared upon the stage of human existence since the days of Nero, and Caligula.”[247]


Question: How was the decision reached to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor?

Destruction of Expositor

8 June 1844
Nauvoo city council meets regarding the Expositor.
10 June 1844
The city council declares the Expositor a public nuisance and threat to the peace. This was not mere exaggeration; there were sixteen episodes of mob violence against controversial newspapers in Illinois from 1832 to 1867, and so the leaders’ fears of civil unrest were likely well-founded. The city council therefore ordered the press and the paper destroyed.[248]
This was done. The decision to suppress the Expositor, while legal for the day, worsened a tense situation (in the years following the Expositor suppression, similar tactics would be used in 1862, 1893, 1918, and 1927).[249]
Historically, presses which violated community ideas of what was proper were a genuine risk to the public peace. Elijah Lovejoy, an anti-slavery editor of The Saint Louis Observer was killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837.[250]
Joseph and the city council might well have had memories of what happened in Missouri when some members of the Church became frustrated with the lack of legal redress for their mistreatment by Missouri citizens.
Missouri probably also set the stage for the legal decision to suppress the press. In 1833, the Evening and Morning Star, the LDS paper in Independence, was subject to being "razed to the ground" at the unanimous decision of the mob committee established to drive out the Mormons.[251] The mob's ultimatum later stipulated that the Mormons were not to publish anything before leaving.[252]
The law of the day probably gave Joseph and the council the right to destroy the offending issue; however, since they had also ordered the press and type destroyed, they violated property laws. Joseph later said he would be happy to pay for the damages.[253] Critics are inconsistent when they complain about the Nauvoo city council's decision to suppress the Expositor (an action that was legal) and yet do not also acknowledge that Mormon presses had been destroyed by mobs acting with no legal authority whatever.
Despite the fact that the Expositor's suppression was legal, the destruction of the press appeared high-handed to Church critics, and other newspapers began to call for the Mormons’ expulsion or destruction. Joseph and others were arrested on charges of “riot.”


Response to claim: "the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and The View of the Hebrews"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and The View of the Hebrews

FairMormon Response

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

The two books are so different that BYU actually republished it so that it could be made more widely available to those who wanted to compare them.


Question: Could Joseph Smith have used Ethan Smith's View of the Hebrews as a guideline for creating the Book of Mormon?

Criticisms related to View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon

  • It is claimed that a 19th century work by Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, provided source material for Joseph Smith's construction of the Book of Mormon.
  • Some also postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written.

Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon

The View of the Hebrews theory is yet another attempt to fit a secular origin to the Book of Mormon. Many of the criticisms proposed are based upon B. H. Roberts' list of parallels, which only had validity if one applied a hemispheric geography model to the Book of Mormon. There are a significant number of differences between the two books, which are easily discovered upon reading Ethan Smith's work. Many points that Ethan Smith thought were important are not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon, and many of the "parallels" are no longer valid based upon current scholarship.[254]

Advocates of the Ethan Smith theory must also explain why Joseph, the ostensible forger, had the chutzpah to point out the source of his forgery. They must also explain why, if Joseph found this evidence so compelling, he did not exploit it for use in the Book of Mormon text itself, since the Book of Mormon contains no reference to the many "unparallels" that Ethan assured his readers virtually guaranteed a Hebrew connection to the Amerindians.


Question: Was the View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon origin advanced during the lifetime of Joseph Smith?

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during Joseph Smith's lifetime

The theory the Joseph Smith plagiarized View of the Hebrews was never advanced during his lifetime. The prevailing theory of the day was the Spalding Theory, which quickly lost credibility upon the discovery of an actual Spalding manuscript in 1884 which bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon. There are no records which indicate that Joseph Smith came into contact with the View of the Hebrews during the period of time that he was translating the Book of Mormon. The View of the Hebrews theory was in fact first proposed by I. Woodbridge Riley in 1902, 58 years after the death of the prophet.[255]

Joseph Smith quoted View of the Hebrews as supporting the Book of Mormon

There was, however, a reference to View of the Hebrews within Joseph Smith's lifetime, but it came from the prophet himself. In an article published in the Times and Seasons on June 1, 1842, Joseph quoted View of the Hebrews in support of the Book of Mormon:

If such may have been the fact, that a part of the Ten Tribes came over to America, in the way we have supposed, leaving the cold regions of Assareth behind them in quest of a milder climate, it would be natural to look for tokens of the presence of Jews of some sort, along countries adjacent to the Atlantic. In order to this, we shall here make an extract from an able work: written exclusively on the subject of the Ten Tribes having come from Asia by the way of Bherings Strait, by the Rev. Ethan Smith, Pultney, Vt., who relates as follows: "Joseph Merrick, Esq., a highly respectable character in the church at Pittsfield, gave the following account: That in 1815, he was leveling some ground under and near an old wood shed, standing on a place of his, situated on (Indian Hill)... [Joseph then discusses the supposed phylacteries found among Amerindians, citing View of the Hebrews p. 220, 223.][256]

It strains credulity to claim that Joseph drew attention to the work from which he derived most of his ideas. Why would he call attention to the source of his forgery?


Response to claim: "the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and ..The Golden Pot"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and ..The Golden Pot

FairMormon Response

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

The "Golden Pot" theory by Grant Palmer is claimed to be a source for the story of Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith, not a source text or inspiration for the Book of Mormon text.


Question: Did Joseph Smith develop the story of Moroni's visit based upon information contained in the story The Golden Pot?

This claim has not been found credible by any other historians or authors, including other anti-Mormon writers

Former LDS Church Education System (CES) teacher Grant Palmer argues that Joseph Smith developed his story of visits by Moroni and the translation of a sacred book from The Golden Pot, a book by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann.

To date, Palmer's conclusion has not been found credible by any other historians or authors, including other anti-Mormon writers. His theory is based on a forgery from twenty years before his book's publication, and he remained wedded to his ideas despite this. His inability to jetison his convoluted pet theory once the Salamander forgery became known does not speak highly of his historical skills, or his work's intellectual rigor. Palmer's decision to hide his hostile work until he could retire with a pension paid by the tithing funds of the Church belies his claimed commitment to honesty and 'telling the whole truth.'

Understanding this attack requires that we understand the intellectual history of Palmer's claim. This is not to dismiss Palmer through argumentum ad hominem, but because the context in which ideas are developed can often explain the origin of those ideas.

Therefore, one must realize that Grant Palmer was a teacher in the Church educational system. More than twenty years prior to publication, while still a Church employee, Palmer began work on the manuscript that was later published as "An Insider's View."

Palmer's Golden Pot theory is based on a known forgery

In 1985 a Hofmann forgery known as the Salamander letter became public. Louis Midgley has shown how this letter affected Palmer's faith. When Palmer became aware of the book The Golden Pot, he saw parallels between the Salamander letter and the fictional story. As his personal doubts grew, Palmer saw a connection between these two fictional stories and a secular explanation for the origins of Book of Mormon.

When the true nature of the Salamander letter as a forgery became known, Palmer had already convinced himself that the Book of Mormon was not a work of God. He therefore was unwilling or unable to reconcile his faith. He took his 20 years worth of letters and began writing a book during this time of which an early draft came into Midgley's possession during 1987. Palmer first used the name Paul Pry, Jr., a pseudonym also used by an early anti-Mormon writer active in the 1800s. Midgley indicated that "[b]y hiding behind the name Paul Pry, Palmer signaled his anti-Mormon agenda in the first draft of his book."[257]

After going through a detailed examination of some of the claims of Palmer relating to the similarities between the two, Midgley makes the observation that "Every claim that Palmer makes concerning parallels between Hoffmann's weird tale and the story of the restoration is just as tenuous and problematic—just as forced or contrived—as is his claim that there is translation of an ancient history being described in that tale."[257]:395

James Allen points out that the comparisons between The Golden Pot and Joseph's story are forced, "that is, they are presented in such a way that the context in 'The Golden Pot' is distorted and the comparison with Joseph Smith's story is contrived."[258]

A Tortured Tale

To believe Palmer's version of history one must subscribe to the following scenario (or something very similar) with all its assumptions—

Der golden Topf (The Golden Pot) was first published in Europe in German in 1814 and 1819. It was published in French in 1822.[259]:141 It was not available in English until 1827 in London and Edinburgh,[259]:138 and became available in America that same year. According to Palmer, a man by the name of Luman Walters lived in Paris after the story had been first published and when the story would have been available to him. Palmer suggests, although he offers no real evidence, that Mr. Walters had an unusual interest in the occult and things magical and therefore would surely (despite a lack of evidence) have brought Der golden Topf with him from Europe. Mr. Walters moved to Sodus, New York,[259]:139 about 25 miles from Palmyra, and lived there at least during the period of 1820 to 1823 when he likely knew Joseph Smith.[259]:142 Walters and Joseph Smith were part of a group involved in digging for treasure at Miner's Hill, owned by Abner Cole.

According to Palmer, Luman Walters became acquainted with Joseph Smith during this period, and was thought to be the "most likely conduit"[259]:141 for The Golden Pot to be made available to Joseph Smith. Abner Cole and others claimed that it was during this period the "idea of a 'book' [The Book of Mormon?] was doubtless suggested to the Smiths by one Walters, although they make no direct connection with 'The Golden Pot.'"[259]:142

Even as Palmer points to the relationship between Walters and Joseph Smith as a reason to accept The Golden Pot as the basis for early Mormon history, he fails to mention that Brigham Young noted that Walters "rode over sixty miles three times the same season they [the gold plates] were obtained by Joseph" in an effort to obtain the plates for himself.[260] This hardly sounds like a man who had convinced Joseph to concoct the story of the plates based on some fictional story.

Either Walters believed the plates were real or knew they were not because of his part in formulating the plan of deception. His desire to obtain them certainly suggests the former and argues against the latter. Even this does not establish that Joseph and Walters were acquainted; only that Walters knew about Joseph Smith, had heard about the plates, and presumed they were genuine. This, of course, is fatal to Palmer's theory, but he does not account for it.

Joseph Smith reported his First Vision from God the Father and Jesus Christ as happening in 1820. Yet Palmer claims that Joseph received the idea of this divine visit from conversations with Luman Walters sometime during the period 1820-1823. This means that Joseph Smith was chosen by Mr. Walters from a town 25 miles from his own (a significant distance in the 1820s), and was convinced, apparently rather quickly, by virtue of a story Walters related (from the German or the French version as the English version was not available until 1827) to formulate a lifelong plan of deception. Palmer never claims that Joseph ever read The Golden Pot, only that Walters shared the story with him.

Joseph was 15–18 years old during these years, and yet the reader is to believe that Walters convinced him to adapt and concoct a story that would follow in some crude manner the outline of this fictional book. Somehow, Palmer insists, Walters convinced this young man, whom he had known for a relatively short time, to commit to living a lie for the rest of his life. Furthermore, Walters had Joseph backdate his First Vision to an earlier year and then immediately begin the deception that would become the central focus of his entire life. This plan would be followed in spite of the persecution that immediately came into the Prophet's life because of the very nature of the story.

It is not clear what Walters would have gained from encouraging Joseph in such a course, and there is no evidence that Walters turned up later to try to profit from Joseph's position of prominence in Kirtland or Nauvoo.

Not only did the young Joseph need to commit to this path, it also had to be enthusiastically accepted and followed by his trusting family. According to Palmer's strained scenario, Joseph's family must have seen some virtue in doing so, although no evidence is given as to what they hoped to gain. During this period the Smiths were under extreme financial hardship, and they would scarcely had seen any economic advantage to the tale. (Any delusions which the Smiths might have entertained about Joseph's story making them rich and popular would have been quickly dispelled by events.

Walters would have had to persuade Joseph, or the future prophet was able to immediately take the story verbally related to him (as he was unable to read it in German or French), make the personal commitment needed, and then quickly convince his family that it was true and that God had, indeed, visited him a few years ago and that he had just forgot to mention it.

It is no wonder that Palmer's theory has not been embraced by others who share his disbelief in the Restoration, since this reconstruction is at least as incredible as talk of angels and gold plates. </blockquote>


Question: What influences led to the development of Grant Palmer's "Golden Pot" theory of Book of Mormon origin?

The evidence indicates that Palmer turned from his faith based on a Mark Hofmann forgery and E.T.A. Hoffman's fairy tale, and then wrote this book to justify his new found disbelief

Despite his lack of faith in the Church's foundational events, Palmer continued to portray himself as a believer, in order to maintain his employment with the Church. However, Palmer did wish to publish his book; he simply waited until he retired with Church pension intact.

Palmer's supporters have argued that there is nothing wrong with Palmer deceiving Church leaders and members about his convictions and beliefs, while being paid with Church funds to teach Church doctrine to its youth in the CES. Palmer's supporters on this point should consider that non-LDS thinkers clearly understand the ethical and moral problem here, even if Palmer doesn't. As C.S. Lewis observed:

It [the clergy's] duty to to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.[261]


Response to claim: "the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and...The First Book of Napoleon"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

the many similarities between the Book of Mormon and...The First Book of Napoleon

FairMormon Response

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

The spin: It is only "shocking" if you look at the heavily edited paragraphs presented by the critic.The facts: One has to examine over 25 pages in The First Book of Napoleon in order to assemble these phrases, including pulling phrases from the Table of Contents and the first three chapters. This is hardly the "beginning" of the First Book of Napoleon.

Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter—The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

In this case, the critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

Question: Was the beginning of the Book of Mormon derived from The First Book of Napoleon?

Some critics of Mormonism postulate that the first part of the Book of Mormon was derived from The First Book of Napoleon, a 19th century book that was written in Biblical style

One individual makes the following claim, [262]

Another fascinating book published in 1809, The First Book of Napoleon, is shocking....The following are a side-by-side comparison of the beginning of The First Book of Napoleon with the beginning of the Book of Mormon: The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Napoleon...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...their inheritances their gold and silver and...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of their hearts...small in stature...Jerusalem...because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

Book of Mormon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Nephi...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...his inheritance and his gold and his silver and...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of his heart...large in stature...Jerusalem...because of the wickedness of the people.

Note 1: The rendition above of phrases from the First Book of Napoleon is incorrect. The correct version follows:

The First Book of Napoleon:

Condemn not the (writing)...an account...the First Book of Napoleon...upon the face of the earth...it came to pass...the land...their inheritances, their gold and silver...the commandments of the Lord...the foolish imaginations of their hearts...small in stature...Jerusalem...the wickedness and perverseness of the people

Note 2: The first phrase in the Book of Mormon list is not referring to "writing" as indicated above. The phrase is:
Book of Mormon:

wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Not so "shocking": In order to make these paragraphs look similar, you have to go through the first 25 pages of The First Book of Napoleon (extracted text is highlighted in blue)

The locations in the First Book of Napoleon from which the critics extract their text in an attempt to make it appear similar to the Book of Mormon

ELIAKIM’S ADDRESS TO HIS READERS.

Charitable and Gentle Reader! To thee the Author of this book has little to say, thy attributes being the godlike virtues of meekness and charity. Pious and Religious Reader! Let not thy feelings be offended, and withhold thy censure, until thou shalt find in these pages a single sentiment inconsistent with the spirit and principles of that holy religion which thou professes; and condemn not the feebly imitative manner of writing therein occasionally employed, until thou canst point out a language more impressive, or more appropriate, than that in imitation whereof these chapters are framed.

Readers in general! Take warning from the awful examples, and profit by the whole-

Some admonitions therein contained, and believe that they are truly intended for you good and welfare. Napoleon if, peradventure, this little volume should ever reach thee, may its truths sink deep into thine heart, and remember in the midst of the torrents of blood thy guilty ambition is shedding, and the ruin and desolation it is spreading far and wide, that thou are a mortal man; and one day, perhaps ere long, thy soul shall be required of thee, and an account of all thy deeds, by that omnipotent, unerring, and upright Being, who, as he made and governeth, so in like manner shall he judge the world.

King of the Albions! Of whom mention is made in thee pages, be assured, that the effusions of loyalty to thy person, and admiration of thy virtues, which they contain, are those not of the author only, but of a brave, affectionate, and dutiful people.

ELIAKIM

Contents of The First Book of Napoleon.

Chap. I

1. Appearance of an Evil Spirit on the face of the earth, being the forerunner of the Tyrant.-2. It seizeth upon the inhabitants of the land of Gaul.-3. Its progress.-4. The Idolatry of the Gauls.=5. Description and signs of the Beast, or Idol, which this people worshipped. Page 1

Chap. II.

1. The Evil Spirit increaseth.-2. The corrupt tree, and its fruits.-3. It is a cumberer of the ground, and doth not prosper therein; but is cast down, and destroyed. 14 Chap. III.

1. The birth-place of the Tyrant Napoleon.-2. He professeth himself to be a worshipper of the idol.-3. He goeth into the land of Egypt, wageth war, and sojourneth for sometime there.-4. He threateneth Palestine and Jerusalem.-5. He returneth suddenly from thence, destroyeth the first Idol, and putteth himself at the head of the armies of the Gauls.-6. He becometh a mighty Conqueror, powerful in war, and overwhelmeth many of the Kings and Princes of the earth.-7. He is a punishment unto the nations for the wickedness of their ways.-8.- The oppressed cry aloud unto the Lord for relief from the oppressor; but for a season he listeneth not unto them, and hardeneth the Tyrant’s heart, because fo the perverse wickedness of the people. Page 19

Chap. IV.

Character of Napoleon 26

Chap V.

1. Description of the land of Albion, and of the good king that reigneth over the same. – 2. His Throne.-3. Description also of the Tree which had grown and flourished in this Land for many generations, and of the goodly fruits thereof 32

Chap VI.

1. How the people of Albion resisted the temptations of the idol.-2. Are hated by the Gauls, and the tyrant Napoleon, who plotteth their destruction, and sweareth vengeance against them, and their good king Albanus 39

Chap VII.

1. The threats of the Gauls, and of the Tyrant, come to the ears of the Albions, who accordingly make mighty preparations to resist their foes.-2. The people of Albion cleave to their King and native land, and rise as one man to oppose the Tyrant and his hosts, who dread the sea, and the valour of the Albions, by sea and land 46

Chap VIII.

1. The ships of war which carried the army of the Gauls into Egypt, are destroyed in a dreadful battle, by a captain of the navy of King Albanus.-2. The armies of the Albions thereafter defeat those of the Gauls wheresoever they meet.-3. The Albions rescue the land of Egypt from from the Gauls.-4. The chief of the army of the Albions falls in battle.-5. The Gauls are afterwards defeated by the Albions in the land of Calabria 52

Chap. IX.

1. The dominion of the Tyrant extendeth itself upon the face of the earth.-2. He continueth to deceive the Kings and Princes thereof, and the people over whom they reigned.-3. Some are overthrown by open force, others soothed and beguiled, until a convenient season arriveth for their complete and final destruction 56

Chap. X.

1. Wise Counsellors, and mighty Captains of host and of ships, with whom it pleased the Lord to bless King Albanus.-2. He is deprived of some of them by death.-3. Lamentations for their loss Page 65

Chap. XI.

1. The oak Albion.-2. He claimeth the sovereignty of the Wood and of the Flood 72

Chap. XII.

1. The kings and Princes of the earth are warned of the craft and subtleties of the Tyrant.-2. Virtue is recommended as the only secure foundation of the kingdoms of this earth.-3 The solidity of the Empire of Almighty God ascribed, amongst other things, to the sense felt by created existence of the purity and holiness of the Great Governor of all things 75

Chap. XIII.

1. The People of Albion are told of their increasing wickedness and licentiousness, and are admonished accordingly.-2. Their manners are inveighed against, and they are summoned to repentance and amendment of life 82

Chap. XIV.

1. A mighty storm ariseth.-2. The vessel of the State is in danger of perishin.-3. A wise and good Counsellor pilots the vessel and weathers the storm.-4. The vessel is brought into a safe harbor; but the pilot therof dieth, through his endeavours to save the vessel Page 90

Chap. XV.

1. Mode of reforming the Commonwealth recommended.-2. Warnings against violent and dangerous changes.-3. Admonitions to the people of Albion in regard thereto 95

Chap. XV.

1. Mode of reforming the Commonwealth recommended.-2. Warnings against violent and dangerous changes.-3. Admonitions to the people of Albion in regard thereto 95

Chap. XVI.

1. The parable of the Bear and the Monkey.-2. The Monkey is suddenly changed into a Tyger, which devoureth the Bear, and scattereth his flesh and his bones to the winds of heaven 100

Chap. XVII.

The Vision of Eliakim 104

Chap. XVIII.

The Vision Continued 108

Chap. XIX.

The End of the Vision 115

Chap XX.

The warnings and admonitions which the Angle gave in commission, to be delivered unto the King of Albion, and to his first born, and to all the sons and daughter of the King.-2. As also unto the Rulers and Counsellors of the land, and the Judges thereof, and unto all the people who dwell therein Page 120

Chap. XXI.

Admonitions and Warnings to the Priests and Nobles of the land.-2. To the Representatives and Counsellors of the people.-3 To Judges and Magistrates 127

Chap. XXI.

Admonitions to the Matrons and Daughters of Albion. 134

Chap. XXIII.

General admonitions to the people of Albion 140

Conclusion 145

NAPOLEON THE TYRANT BOOK I.

CHAP. I.

1. Appearance of an Evil Spirit on the face of the earth, being the forerunner of the Tyrant-2. It seizeth upon the inhabitants of the land of Gaul.-3. Its progress.-4. The idolatry of the Gauls.-5. Descripton and signs of the Beast, or Idol, which this people worshipped. And behold it came to pass, in these latter days, that an evil spirit arose on the face of the earth, and greatly troubled the sons of men.

And this spirit seized upon, and spread amongst the people who dwell in the land of Gaul. Now, in this people the fear of the Lord had not been for many generations, and they had become a corrupt and perverse people; and their chief priests, and the nobles of the land, and the learned men thereof, had become wicked in the imaginations of their hearts, and in the practices of their lives. And the evil spirit went abroad amongst the people, and they raged like unto the heathen, and they rose up against their lawful king, and slew him, and his queen also, and the prince their son; yea, verily, with a cruel and bloody death.

And they moreover smote, with mighty wrath, the king’s guards, and banished the priests, and nobles of the land, and seized upon, and took unto themselves, their inheritances, their gold and silver, corn and oil, and whatsoever belonged unto them. Now it came to pass, that the nation of the Gauls continue to be sorely troubled and vexed, and the evil spirit whispered unto the people, even unto the meanest and vilest thereof, that all men being born equal, were free to act, each one according to the imaginations and devices of his own heart, without the fear of God, or the control of the lawful rulers of the land.

And lo! This foolish and wicked counsel of evil designing men, being seemly, and well-pleasing in the sight of the multitude, they raged furiously against all principalities and powers; and having slain the good king whom the Lord had appointed to rule over them, and to administer justice unto them; they moreover sought to overthrow and destroy the kings and rulers over the other nations of the earth, and made war upon them; and stirred up the people of those nations in like manner to wage war against the lawful rulers of the lands, wherein they had been appointed to dwell.

Now, it so happened, that the evil spirit stirred up every one to seek his own exaltation, by humbling and debasing those whom God had made superior to him, in mind, body, and estate.

And while this spirit raged in Gaul, the curse of God was upon the land, and bloodshed, murder, and rapine, and all manner of blasphemy, wickedness, and uncleanness, prevailed amongst the people thereof.

And they not only despised the commandments of the Lord, but also blasphemed the name of the only true and living God, and they made idols and false gods to themselves, and fell down and worshipped them.

And lo and behold, the chief idol, which this wicked and perverse people set up and worshipped, was like unto a beast, although made somewhat after the image of a man.

And out of the head of the beast there arose three horns, and upon each of the horns there were written these words, SEDITION, PRIVY CONSPIRACY, and REBELLION; and on the forehead of the beast, and under the horns, there were written, in letters of blood, the words TREASONS and CRIMES.

And from the eyes of the beast there proceeded flashes of devouring fire, and its jaws and throat were like unto the mouth of hell, and from its tongue there issued cursings and blasphemings.

And upon the breast of the beast, there were written these words, IRRELIGION, INFIDELITY, and TUMULT.

And in its right hand, it held an emblem of fire and sword, and in its left, an emblem of rapine and murder.

And upon the feet of the beast, there were brazen sandals, like unto those worn by men, and upon the sandal of the right foot, there was engraven, in letters of brass, TERROR and DISMAY; and upon the sandal of the left foot, BLOOD and FAMINE, signifying, that wheresoever the beast established itself, or trode, those direful evils would afflict the land.

And behold, the name of the idol was called LICENTIOUSNESS.

And lo! A loud and warning voice, proceeding as it were from the heavens on high, was heard upon the earth beneath, saying, “Beware, O man, of the exceeding great vileness and abominations of the beast or idol herein described, for upon the followers and worshippers thereof, there shall descend justice, and divers and direful judgments.”

CHAP. II

1. The evil spirit increaseth.-2. The corrupt tree, and its fruits.-3. It is a cumberer of the ground, and doth not prosper therein: but is cast down, and destroyed.

And the evil spirit continued to spread itself amonst the nations of the earth, and they were sorely afflicted, and troubled therewith.

And the idolatry of the beast in like manner prevailed among the sons of men, and it pleased the Lord to deliver the worshippers thereof into the hands of the Gauls.

Now the Gaul continued to rage as heretofore, with mighty ire, and waged war against all nations, people, and languages.

And the kings and ruler of the earth, beheld the raging of the storm, and combined together to quell the fury thereof.

But the power of the evil spirit, and of the multitude which it moved, was mighty great, and from amongst them there arose valiant captains, and men of war, and they overthrew those that waged war against them.

And lo! The tillers of the ground, and the labourers thereof, together with mechanics, artificers, and all manner of handicraftmen, left their sundry and peaceful occupations, and became lawmakers and lawgivers, and sought to rule over their superiors.

Now, it had pleased the Lord to darken the understandings of those foolish men; for they vainly imagined, that the laws and institutions may be forthwith made, like unto things of cunning device, or built in a season, or by models, like unto earthly habitations; whereas, they grow naturally and gradually after the manner of trees, and, like them, require to be trained and pruned by the wary hand of age and time.

Now, as good and wholesome laws and institutions, or, as they are called in these latter days, good constitutions, after the manner of trees, do not take root and grow but in good soils, and where they are well watered and sheltered; so, in like manner, as is known unto all husbandmen, the tree that springeth and flourisheth in one, and a good soil, decayeth and dieth in another, or bad soil.

As the dew of heaven, and the sun-beams thereof, water and cherish the earthly tree, so als, do the spirits of the departed patriots of a land, and the blood of the warriors thereof, foster and support the political tree, or constitution of the state.

But the Gauls were altogether a wicked and perverse people, and the tree which they had planted in the midst of them was a blasted tree, and lo and behold, it brought forth nothing but bad and forbidden fruit, and all manner of unrighteousness, such as pertaineth unto the idol of whom it is before-write, and whom they, in the foolish imaginations of their hearts, had vainly worshipped.

And this evil tree was planted in many and divers places; but the leaves and branches thereof decayed, and were blasted, and its roots rotted; because the sap which was in the tree, was poison, and all those who tasted of its fruit perished thereby; yea, even with a cruel and bloody death.

And behold the tree partook of the nature of the beast, of which it is before-written; for it had sprung from the rottenness and corruption thereof.

And when the Lord looked down from heaven, and beheld the perverse wickedness of the Gauls, he said, yea, verily, I will punish this people for the wickedness of their ways.

So the Lord spake by his prophets, and said unto the people of Gaul, O foolish people, ye have cast down and slain, with a cruel and ignominious death, the king whom I had appointed to rule over you, and whose fathers had reigned in the land for many generations; and ye have destroyed all principalities and powers, and have despised all holy things, and have imagined vain and wicked conceits, and have moreover troubled the peace of the world, and sworn enmity to the kings and rulers of the earth; but I will punish you, O people, for these evil doings; and lo and behold, a mean born stranger shall come from afar, and ye shall pay obeisance to him, and fear him, and lick the dust under his feet, and tremble under his crown, which, unto you, shall be a crown of iron. And lo! The prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, as will be made manifest from what is hereafter written in this book.

CHAP. III

1. The Birth-place of the Tyrant Napoleon.-2. He professeth himself to be a worshipper of the idol.-3. He goeth into the land of Egypt, wageth war, and sojourneth for some time there.-4. He threateneth Palestine and Jerusalem.-5. He returneth suddenly from thence, and destroyeth the first Idol, and putteth himself at the head of the armies of the Gauls.-6. He becometh a mighty Conqueror, powerful in war, and overwhelmeth many of the kings and princes of the earth.-7. He is a punishment unto the nations for the wickedness of their ways.-8. The oppressed cry aloud unto the Lord for relief from the oppressor; but for a season he listeneth not unto them, and hardeneth the Tyrant’s heart, because of the perverse wickedness of the people.

Now, in the land called Corsica, which is an island in the sea, there was a man born, and his name was NAPOLEON.

And this man, though small in stature, was nevertheless vast in spirit, and he not only conceived unto himself, great and marvelous designs, but was moreover wicked, and cunning in council, mighty in deeds, and powerful in war.

And he professed himself to be a true worshipper of the idol, and yet he hated the idol in his heart, and had made unto himself another idol, of the nature whereof it is hereafter written.

And he declared himself to be an enemy unto all principalities and powers, and the friend of freedom and equality amongst the sons of men, and he was appointed Captain over the armies of the worshippers of the idol.

And he commanded the hosts thereof, and went forth against the lawful rulers of the earth, and overthrew them, together with the mighty high priest, who for many generations had commanded the fear and veneration of men.

And lo this man went into the land of Egypt, with many ships and a mighty army; and having conquered the inhabitants thereof, he proceeded against Palestine, and threatened the city of Jerusalem.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how are the mighty fallen, and how nearly hadst thou been conquered, yet a second time, by the arm of an infidel.

But behold the progress of this man, in the land of Egypt, was stopped by a captain of the navy of good King Albanus, the King of the Albions, the history of whom is herein after written.

Now, this man Napoleon, after sojourning for many days in the land of Egypt, suddenly took his departure from thence, and returned unto the county of the Gauls, and overthrew like a whirlwind the rulers thereof, and put himself at the head of the armies of the multitude, and declared himself to be the governor of the nation, which he began to rule with a rod of iron.

And this man being a mighty man of war, and a great captain, put himself at the head of the host of the Gauls, and thirsted for glory, dominion, and power.

And he waged war against the surrounding nations, and overthrew one people after another.

And his hosts were in number like unto the sands of the sea, and in power to the thunders of the skies; for his deeds resembled in quickness the lightning of heaven, and in might they were likened unto the thunderbolts thereof.

And lo, the people of Gaul forgot their former idol, which is described in the beginning of this book, and fell down and worshipped this strange and new idol, the nature whereof differed from the former in manner and in kind.

For upon the crown of this idol, which being a man, was altogether after the likeness thereof, there were written DOMINION, PRINCIPALITIES, and POWER; and under the crown, which was an iron crown, and on the forehead of the man there was written AMBITION; and on his breastplate there were also written, COUNSEL, PROMPTITUDE, and DECEIT.

And the man Napoleon held in his right hand a sword of steel, whereon were engraven DEATH, VICTORY, and CONQUEST, and in his left a roll of parchment, and in the roll was written the DOMINION of the WORLD, and under the same the names of the nations which he had conquered, yea all people within the reach of his power.

And on the sandal of his right foot there was engraven, in letter of brass, OPPRESSION, and on that of his left, SLAVERY.

And his throne, which reached unto the clouds, was raised on the backs of fallen nations, once great and glorious, but now prostrate and humbled in the dust.

For he had overthrown, like a whirlwind, and in the twinkling of an eye, the armies of many of the kings and rulers of the nations of the earth; because they had become vile and polluted in all manner of sinful corruption, and would not be warned by the voice of wisdom, and combine firmly together, nor be true and faithful on to another; but listened to the suggestions of the evil spirit and of the idol, which had darkened their understandings, and prepared them for downfall and ruin.

Now, the sway of this man pervaded many lands, and many of the kings and princes of the earth were made tributary to him, and the nations thereof groaned under his feet.

And he now compelled the tillers of the ground, and the labourers thereof, and the husbandmen, and the handicraftmen, who, under the first idol, had met together to commune concerning superiorities and powers, and to make laws unto themselves, to leave their peaceful homes, their wives, children, and kindred, and their lawful occupations, and to go into distant lands, and there endure cold and hunger, and suffer long marches, and mix in direful and bloody battles, all to fill up the measure of this man’s boundless ambition.

And it pleased the Lord, as a punishment for the wickedness and perverseness of the people, to deliver into the hands of this man the dominion over many lands, that they might be ruled as with a rod of iron, and chastened for the iniquity and wickedness of their ways, and brought back from the paths of sin and licentiousness, and the idolatry of the beast, to those of justice, moderation, and truth, and the fear of the only true and living God.

And the people of the land of Gaul, and all the nations whom it had pleased the Lord to deliver into the hands of this strange man, groaned heavily, and cried unto the Lord in their hearts for freedom, forgiveness, and mercy. But having forgot and despised the Lord their God, in the pride and wickedness of their hearts, he left them to reap the fruits of their evil ways, and for a season listened not unto them in their sufferings and distress.

Now behold, all the nations within the reach of this man Napoleon, groaned under the dominion of his power, and were sore afflicted in mind, body, and estate, for his ruled over them with a scepter of iron.

CHAP. IV.


Response to claim: "The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain; used in New York state schools which Joseph Smith likely was exposed to, that reads very much like and has staggering parallels and similarities to, the Book of Mormon

FairMormon Response

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

The spin: The "staggering" parallels aren't so "astounding" once you take a closer look at them.The facts: The critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter—The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

In this case, the critic scours a book in order to extract similar phrases, then declares that this proves that this book was a source for the Book of Mormon.

Question: Did Joseph Smith plagiarize passages from Gilbert Hunt's book The Late War, between the United States and Great Britain, from June, 1812, to February, 1815?

Was the Book of Mormon influenced by the language and themes of "The Late War" by Gilbert Hunt?

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: "when Joseph Smith wrote the JST of the Bible, he also went back and corrected Christ’s Sermon on the Mount passage in the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

when Joseph Smith wrote the JST of the Bible, he also went back and corrected Christ’s Sermon on the Mount passage in the Book of Mormon

FairMormon Response

Relationship of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible to the Book of Mormon

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: "Joseph’s gross mistranslation of the Egyptian papyri that formed the basis of the Book of Abraham"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Joseph’s gross mistranslation of the Egyptian papyri that formed the basis of the Book of Abraham

FairMormon Response

Question: How was the text of the Book of Abraham produced by Joseph Smith?

The Book of Abraham was claimed to have been received by revelation

Richard Turley notes that the Book of Abraham was received by revelation:

"Very quickly, let me just say a few things about it very simple. Number 1, again, it was received by revelation."
Richard Turley, Questions Asked at 2010 Swedish Fireside

The questions surrounding the Book of Abraham are complex, and involve a number of disciplines and sub-disciplines, including: Egyptology (including Egyptian archaeology, Egyptian iconography, Egyptian religion, Egyptian history, papyrology, etc.), Syro-Palestinian archaeology, biblical studies, textual criticism, Mormon history, Mormon theology, English paleography and manuscript transmission, etc. As such, any approach to the Book of Abraham or the Joseph Smith Papyri must be conscious of how these various disciplines (with their respective methods) can be used, or misused, in studying the Book of Abraham.

19th century sources confirm that the text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation

Consider these two quotes, the first from John Whitmer, who was Church Historian from 1831 until his excommunication in 1838, and the second from Warren Parrish, who was one of the scribes during the translation.

John Whitmer said,

"Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records . . . which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints." [263]

Warren Parrish said,

"I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphicks [sic] as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration from Heaven." [264]


Question: Did Joseph use his seer stone to receive the text of the Book of Abraham in the same manner as he did for the Book of Mormon?

There is second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone in the translation of the Book of Abraham

There is also second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone (or what came to be called the "Urim and Thummim") in the translation of the Book of Abraham; though these accounts must be accepted carefully because of their secondary nature.

Wilford Woodruff said,

"The Lord is blessing Joseph with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim ancient records and hieroglyphics old as Abraham or Adam which caused our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us." [265]

"The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation-the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, the gift of bringing to light old and ancient records." [266]

The official position of the Church is that the Book of Abraham is "an inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri." [267] Anything beyond this is speculation, and does not constitute official Church doctrine relative to the Book of Abraham's origins. Nevertheless, it's clear from the historical evidence that Joseph Smith was not attempting a scholarly translation of the Book of Abraham à la Jean-François Champollion or other Egyptologists, but rather produced a revelatory translation (see Richard Turley's comments below). The exact nature of this revelatory translation is uncertain, with various theories having been offered over the years.


Question: Do we have all of the papyri that Joseph Smith had?

There is no question that we are currently missing some papyri

Even critics of the Book of Abraham must acknowledge this. For example, we are missing the originals to Facsimiles 2 and 3. The question therefore is: how much papyrus are we missing? Professor John Gee has estimated, based on historical eyewitness testimony, papyrilogical considerations, and mathematical calculations, that we're missing a sizable portion of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Professor Gee further argues the likelihood that the text of the Book of Abraham translated (again, via revelation, and not by scholarly means) by Joseph Smith was contained in this missing portion of papyri. [268] Professor Gee is not without his critics, however, who argue instead that we're missing only a small portion of the original papyri. [269]

As such, this is still an open question. Further research is being conducted that will hopefully shed further light on this question. In the mean time, however, Professor Gee's so-called "Missing Papyrus Theory" cannot merely be dismissed. Those who struggle with the Book of Abraham controversy must deal with the evidence presented by Professor Gee.


Question: Does the papyri consist of Egyptian funerary documents?

[Brother Turley]: The papyrus that we have we know what books those are from Egyptian.


Question: Could Joseph Smith translate Egyptian?

At that time, nobody could translate Egyptian - the only way Joseph could translate would be through revelation

Joseph couldn't translate Egyptian. At that time, nobody could translate Egyptian. Joseph was able to receive the text of the Book of Abraham in the same manner that he did for the Book of Mormon, by revelation.

It is crucial to note that besides just apologetic work defending the Book of Abraham from criticisms, LDS scholars have actually mustered considerable evidence for the antiquity of the text. This evidence ranges from authentic ancient cultural, linguistic, and geographical details in the text, [270] to authentic ancient cosmological concepts, [271] to ancient stories about Abraham not found in the Bible that share common themes and details with the Book of Abraham. [272]

This isn't to say that this evidence proves the Book of Abraham is true, but rather that before critics merely dismiss it, they should first consider the evidence in favor of the Book of Abraham.

Detailed responses:

Link to:

http://josephsmithpapers.org/intro/introduction-to-egyptian-material

http://josephsmithpapers.org/intro/revelations-and-translations-series-introduction

http://josephsmithpapers.org/intro/introduction-to-book-of-abraham-manuscripts

http://www.fairblog.org/2013/08/08/new-research-on-the-book-of-abraham/

http://www.fairblog.org/2013/06/27/the-book-of-abraham/

http://www.fairblog.org/2013/03/06/reverend-spalding-strikes-again-a-response-to-internet-criticism-of-kerry-muhlesteins-book-of-abraham-videos/

http://www.fairblog.org/2012/08/21/the-book-of-abraham-and-continuing-scholarship-ask-the-right-questions-and-keep-looking/

http://www.fairblog.org/2011/10/07/a-most-remarkable-book-supplementary-reading/

http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham


Response to claim: "The embarrassing Kinderhook Plates episode wherein primary sources show that Joseph “translated” forged items with meaningless symbols"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

The embarrassing Kinderhook Plates episode wherein primary sources show that Joseph “translated” forged items with meaningless symbols

FairMormon Response

Question: What are the Kinderhook Plates?

The Kinderhook Plates are a forged set of metal plates that were given to Joseph Smith to translate

Image of front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, 5:374–375. Volume 5 link

A set of small plates, engraved with characters of ancient appearance, were purported to have been unearthed in Kinderhook, Illinois, in April 1843. The so-called "Kinderhook plates" have been something of an enigma within the Mormon community since they first appeared. While there are faithful LDS who take a number of different positions on the topic of these artifacts, most have concluded that they were fakes.

Joseph Smith appears to have had the plates in his possession for about five days.

Joseph Smith's personal secretary, William Clayton said,

President Joseph has translated a portion [of the Kinderhook plates], and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found; and he was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom through the ruler of heaven and earth.

The Kinderhook plates were fakes, thus bringing into question any claim of "inspiration" that Joseph used to translate them and by extension any other revelations he received.

Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL)

However, Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL). (The GAEL was composed in Kirtland about the time of the translation of the Book of Abraham.) Joseph found one of the most prominent characters on the plates to match a character on the second page of characters in the GAEL. Both were boat shaped. The GAEL interpretation of this boat-shaped character included everything that William Clayton said Joseph said.

Corroborating this is a letter in the New York Herald for May 30th, 1843, from someone who signed as "A Gentile." Research shows "A Gentile" to be a friendly non-Mormon then living in Nauvoo:

The plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hieroglyphics. They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them, in my presence, with his Egyptian Alphabet…and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.

We know that Joseph was interested in languages. He studied Greek, Hebrew, and German in a secular manner. Therefore, we can easily believe that he attempted to translate the Kinderhook plates without assuming prophetic powers, which powers consequently remain credible.


Question: Why does History of the Church say that Joseph Smith said "I have translated a portion of them..."?

History of the Church was written by others in the "first person," as if Joseph wrote it himself

The following is from Stanley B. Kimball, "Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax," Ensign, August 1981 off-site

These two oblique references to a “translation” were followed thirteen years later by a more direct published statement that until recently was wrongly thought to have been written by Joseph Smith himself. On September 3 and 10, 1856, the following paragraphs appeared in the Deseret News as part of the serialized “History of Joseph Smith”:

“[May 1, 1843:] I insert fac similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. R. Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton, and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

“I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.” (Then followed a reprint of material from the Times and Seasons article.)

Although this account appears to be the writing of Joseph Smith, it is actually an excerpt from a journal of William Clayton. It has been well known that the serialized “History of Joseph Smith” consists largely of items from other persons’ personal journals and other sources, collected during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and continued after the Saints were in Utah, then edited and pieced together to form a history of the Prophet’s life “in his own words.” It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for biographers to put the narrative in the first person when compiling a biographical work, even though the subject of the biography did not actually say or write all the words attributed to him; thus the narrative would represent a faithful report of what others felt would be helpful to print. The Clayton journal excerpt was one item used in this way. For example, the words “I have translated a portion” originally read “President J. has translated a portion. …”


Question: Did Joseph Smith attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates?

Joseph Smith attempted to translate a character on the Kinderhood Plates by matching it to his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL)"

Don Bradley presented compelling evidence during his 2011 FAIR Conference presentation that Joseph Smith did indeed attempt to translate a character on the Kinderhook Plates. [273] Bradley noted that William Clayton's account is likely representing personal and specific knowledge acquired from Joseph Smith, since evidence indicates that he made his journal entries that day while he was at the Prophet's home. Clayton's account states that

Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.

Bradley noted that one of the most prominent characters on the Kinderhook Plates (a symbol shaped like a boat), when broken down into its individual elements matched a symbol found on page 4 (the second page of characters) of the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), often referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet. The GAEL provides meanings for the individual symbols, and the meaning assigned to the particular symbol found on the plates supports the translation reported to have been provided by Joseph.

The conclusion is that Clayton's account appears to be accurate, that Joseph did attempt to translate "a portion" of them by non-revelatory means, and the translation provided matches a corresponding symbol and explanation in the GAEL.

  • As William Clayton noted in his journal, Joseph "translated a portion" of the Kinderhook plates. Joseph attempted to translate one of the characters on the plates by matching it to a similar character on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), a document that was produced in the same timeframe as the Book of Abraham. It is from the GAEL that he derived the "descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh" meaning.
  • This data was introduced by Don Bradley at the 2011 FAIR Conference. For a detailed explanation, see Don Bradley "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," 2011 FAIR Conference.
Kinderhook.plates.don.bradley.description.jpg


Question: Did Joseph attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates using the "gift and power of God?"

Joseph apparently did not attempt to translate by the "gift and power of God". Joseph never translated more than the single character

At the time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he only claimed the ability to translate by the "gift and power of God." Over time, Joseph studied other languages and wished to learn to translate by other means. His attempt to use the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (a document that he and others had created) to attempt a translation of the Kinderhook Plates fits in with this desire. Since only a single character "matched," Joseph would have been unable to continue to translate the plates in this manner. This may explain why such a translation was never produced: beyond the single character which happened to match, it would not have even been possible to translate the fraudulent plates either manually or by the "gift and power of God." Therefore, no translation was ever produced.


Question: What does Joseph's attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates tell us about his "gift of translation?"

Joseph's attempt to translate manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God"

A critical graphic from "mormoninfographics" states that "Joseph didn't discern the fraud. The LDS Church now concedes it's a hoax. What does this tell us about Joseph Smith's gift of translation?"

Mormoninfographic.kinderhook.josephs.gift.jpg

Simply put, Joseph's attempt to translate the plates manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God."


Response to claim: "Why did Joseph Smith misidentify a simple Greek Psalter, as an Egyptian document?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why did Joseph Smith misidentify a simple Greek Psalter, as an Egyptian document?

FairMormon Response

Question: Did Joseph Smith misidentify a Greek "psalter" as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics?

There is no other evidence of Henry Caswall's claim save his anti-Mormon work

It was claimed by Henry Caswall that an ancient text of Greek psalms (a "psalter") was misidentified by Joseph Smith as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics.

There is no other evidence of Caswall's claim save his anti-Mormon work. That Caswall took no steps in Nauvoo to get Joseph on record is fatally suspicious, since this was the entire reason he claimed to be there. He is also clearly attempting to make Joseph Smith appear uncouth and ignorant, having him say "them plates" and "them characters", when this contrasts markedly with other known examples of Joseph's speaking and writing style at the time. [274] Furthermore, Joseph was familiar enough with Greek to recognize Greek characters, and so is unlikely to have mistaken them for an unknown language—even if we believe Joseph was attempting to deceive Caswall, it seems unlikely he would fail to recognize the characters of a language he had studied.

Those who tell this story rarely provide the source details for the tale, and do not inform their readers about John Taylor's witness regarding Caswall's later dishonesty.

An English clergyman from Missouri named Henry Caswall visited Nauvoo in 1842 and claimed that Joseph identifed a Greek psalter as a "Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics"

On 19 April 1842, an English clergyman from Missouri named Henry Caswall visited Nauvoo, and would later claim that he had shown Joseph Smith a Greek psalter, which the Prophet claimed to translate:

He [Joseph Smith] has a downcast look, and possesses none of that open and straightforward expression which generally characterizes an honest man. His language is uncouth and ungrammatical, indicating very confused notions respecting syntactical concords. When an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalms was exhibited to him as a test of his scholarship, he boldly pronounced it to be a "Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics." Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said, "Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics, and them which follows is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian language. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates." [275]

John Taylor: "Concerning Mr. Caswall, I was at Nauvoo during the time of his visit. He came for the purpose of looking for evil"

Of this claim, John Taylor would later say:

Concerning Mr. Caswall, I was at Nauvoo during the time of his visit. He came for the purpose of looking for evil. He was a wicked man, and associated with reprobates, mobocrats, and murderers. It is, I suppose, true that he was reverend gentleman; but it has been no uncommon thing with us to witness associations of this kind, nor for reverend gentlemen; so called, to be found leading on mobs to deeds of plunder and death. I saw Mr. Caswall in the printing office at Nauvoo; he had with him an old manuscript, and professed to be anxious to know what it was. I looked at it, and told him that I believed it was a Greek manuscript. In his book, he states that it was a Greek Psalter; but that none of the Mormons told him what it was. Herein is a falsehood, for I told him. Yet these are the men and books that we are to have our evidence from. [276]

An earlier, more detailed account from Caswall

That Caswall is not being entirely honest is demonstrated by another version of the same tale which he published the year earlier:

[p. 5] I had laid aside my clerical apparel, and had assumed a dress in which there was little probability of my being recognized as a " minister of the Gentiles." In order to test the scholarship of the prophet, I had further provided myself with an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalter written upon parchment, and probably about six hundred years old….

[p. 35] On entering the house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and gaping crowd remained standing. I handed the book to the prophet, and begged him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter; but that I should like to hear his opinion. "No," he said; "it ain't Greek at all; except, perhaps, a few words. What ain't Greek, is Egyptian ; and what ain't Egyptian, is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics." Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said : "Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics; and them which follows, is [p. 36] the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates." Upon this, the Mormons around began to congratulate me on the information I was receiving. "There," they said ; "we told you so we told you that our prophet would give you satisfaction. None but our prophet can explain these mysteries." The prophet now turned to me, and said, "this book ain't of no use to you, you don't understand it." "Oh yes," I replied; "it is of some use; for if I were in want of money, I could sell it, and obtain, perhaps, enough to live on for a whole year." "But what will you take for it?" said the prophet and his elders. "My price," I replied, "is higher than you would be willing to give." "What price is that?" they eagerly demanded. I replied, "I will not tell you what price I would take; but if you were to offer me this moment nine hundred dollars in gold for it, you should not have it." They then repeated their request that I should lend it to them until the prophet should have time to translate it, and promised me the most ample security; but I declined all their proposals. [277]

The Times and Seasons noted somewhat sardonically that Caswall had returned home and been 'rewarded' with status in his own denomination because of his attacks on the Church

The newspaper gave a version of events which seems to accord much better with the facts than Caswall's claim that Joseph was anxious to translate the psalter but Caswall refused to sell or lend it:

It will be recollected by some, that a Mr. Caswall, professing to be an Episcopal minister, came to this city some twelve or eighteen months ago. He had with him an old manuscript, professing to be ignorant of its contents, and came to Joseph Smith, as he said, for the purpose of having it translated. Mr. Smith had a little conversation with him and treated him with civility, but as the gentleman seemed very much afraid of his document, he [Joseph] declined having any thing to do with it. [278]

There are suspicious differences between Caswall's accounts

In his first version, Caswall claims that he told Joseph and the Mormons what the book was–a copy of the Psalms in Greek. Despite this warning, the bumbling Joseph that Caswall wishes us to see presses blindly on, utterly confident in his ability. The prophet and Mormons are also extraordinarily anxious to purchase the Psalter or borrow it with "the most ample security," but Caswall will not do so. Extraordinary! He has come to Nauvoo, he tells us, with the firm intent of exposing Joseph Smith as a charlatan. In front of a mass of witnesses, Joseph makes claims about the contents of a book that Caswall knows to be Greek, and the prophet offers to translate the document. Caswall, however, refuses to let him continue, refuses to loan it, and tries to discourage the Mormons from even thinking about buying it. Why? If Joseph committed himself publicly, in print, on the document's contents, Caswall would have iron-clad proof that Joseph could not translate.

Joseph walked right into Caswall's trap, and Caswall then goes to great length to spring the prophet from it? His claim does not stand up.

Caswall also claimed at first to have disguised his identity as a minister (the better to fool Joseph and the Mormons) but the Times and Seasons noted that Caswall had claimed to be an Episcopal minister. Caswall's second account likewise says nothing about him hiding his identity.

It is not surprising, then, that critics often cite the later, less-detailed version(s) of Caswall's tale, which omit many of the absurdities in Caswall's claim. Critics make his charge look plausible, when the earliest document demonstrates that it is not, and that Caswall (as John Taylor claimed) was not above hiding or altering the facts to suit his polemical purpose.

Joseph studied Greek and would have recognized Greek letters

Joseph Smith's journal reveals that Joseph actually studied a bit of Greek well before Caldwell's visit.

On 20 November 1835, Oliver Cowdery returned from New York and brought Joseph a Hebrew and Greek lexicon. [279] On 23 December 1835, Joseph wrote that he was "at home studying the greek Language..." [280]

Joseph was probably not a great scholar of Greek. But, Caldwell's claim that he was able to deceive Joseph with a Greek psalter seems pretty implausible when we realize that Joseph had studied a book on Greek. Joseph would not even need to be able to read the psalter to recognize Greek letters—learning such letters is the first task of any Greek student.

This, coupled with the other absurdities in Caswall's tale, and his efforts to make Joseph appear as a simple ignorant yokel make his tale even more unlikely.


Response to claim: "Was it pure coincidence that Freemasonry symbols, signs and tokens were incorporated into the temple ceremonies shortly after Joseph becomes a Mason?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Was it pure coincidence that Freemasonry symbols, signs and tokens were incorporated into the temple ceremonies shortly after Joseph becomes a Mason?

FairMormon Response

Question: Why would Joseph Smith incorporate Masonic elements into the temple ritual?

There are two aspects of temple worship: The teaching of the endowment, and the presentation of the endowment

In order to understand the relationship between the temple endowment and Freemasonry it is useful to consider the temple experience. In the temple, participants are confronted with ritual in a form which is unknown in LDS worship outside of that venue. In the view of some individuals the temple endowment is made up of two parts:

  1. The teachings of the endowment, i.e., the doctrines taught and the covenants made with God.
  2. The method of presenting the endowment, or the "ritual" mechanics themselves.

It is in the ritual presentation of the endowment teachings and covenants that the similarities between the LDS temple worship and Freemasonry are the most apparent. The question is, why would this be the case?

Joseph's challenge was to find a method of presenting the endowment that would be effective

It is the opinion of some people that in developing the endowment Joseph Smith faced a problem. He wished to communicate, in a clear and effective manner, some different (and, in some cases, complex) religious ideas. These included such abstract concepts as

  • the nature of creation (matter being organized and not created out of nothing)
  • humanity's relationship to God and to each other
  • eternal marriage and exaltation in the afterlife

The theory is that Joseph needed to communicate these ideas to a diverse population; some with limited educational attainments, many of whom were immigrants; several with only modest understanding of the English language; all of whom possessed different levels of intellectual and spiritual maturity—but who needed to be instructed through the same ceremony.

Ritual and repetition are important teaching tools

Joseph Smith's very brief experience with Freemasonry before the introduction of the full LDS endowment may have reminded him of the power of instruction through ritual and repetition. Some people believe that Joseph may have seized upon Masonic tools as teaching devices for the endowment's doctrines and covenants during the Nauvoo era. Other people are of the opinion that since these elements were previously present in the worship of the Kirtland Temple they were not 'borrowed' by the Prophet at all.

Regardless, the use of symbols was characteristic of Joseph Smith's era; it was not unique to him or Masonry:

Symbols on buildings, in literature, stamped on manufactured goods, etc. were not endemic to Mormons and Masons but were common throughout all of mid-nineteenth century American society (as even a cursory inspection of books, posters, buildings and photos of the periods will bear out.) So, assuming [Joseph] Smith felt a need to communicate specific principles to his Saints, he might naturally develop a set of easily understood symbols as were already in familiar use about him. [281]


Response to claim: "The Church speaks of the “Fullness of the Gospel” in the Book of Mormon, but many essential elements are not contained therein"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

The Church speaks of the “Fullness of the Gospel” in the Book of Mormon, but many essential elements are not contained therein.

FairMormon Response

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

The core of Mormon doctrine is centered wholly in Christ and his atonement. Without the foundation which the Book of Mormon lays, the other LDS teachings are meaningless. The Book of Mormon itself defines "the gospel" as simply the doctrine of Christ, faith in him, repentance, and the introductory ordinances.


Question: How can the Book of Mormon contain the "fulness of the Gospel" if it does not speak of ordinances such as baptism for the dead or celestial marriage?

The Book of Mormon does not contain detailed descriptions of many religious topics and ordinances, such as eternal marriage or baptism for the dead

Is it possible that the Book of Mormon cannot contain "the fulness of the gospel" because it doesn't teach certain unique LDS doctrines, such as baptism for the dead, the Word of Wisdom, the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, vicarious work for the dead, and the corporeal nature of God the Father?

There are many religious topics and doctrines which The Book of Mormon does not discuss in detail (e.g., the premortal existence—see Alma 13:), and some which are not even mentioned (e.g., the ordinance of baptism for the dead).

This is unsurprising, since the Book of Mormon's goal is to teach the "fulness of the gospel"—the doctrine of Christ.

Harold B. Lee: "our scoffers say, 'How can you say that the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel when it doesn't speak of baptism for the dead?'"

Of this criticism, Harold B. Lee said:

Now, our scoffers say, "How can you say that the Book of Mormon has the fulness of the gospel when it doesn't speak of baptism for the dead?" Some of you may have asked that question.

What is the gospel as it is defined? Let me give you how the Lord defines the gospel, in these words: "And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me. And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom." (DC 39:5-6.)

Wherever you have a restoration of the gospel, where those fundamental ordinances and the power of the Holy Ghost are among men, there you have the power by which the Lord can reveal all things that pertain to the kingdom in detail, don't you see, including baptism for the dead, which He has done in our day. That is what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he was questioned, "How does your church differ from all the other churches?" and his answer was simple, "We are different from all the other churches because we have the Holy Ghost." (See History of the Church 4:42.) Therein we have the teachings of the fulness of those essentials in the Book of Mormon upon the foundations of which the kingdom of God is established.[282]

BYU professor Noel Reynolds wrote:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not synonymous with the plan of salvation (or plan of redemption), but is a key part thereof. Brigham Young stated that the 'Gospel of the Son of God that has been revealed is a plan or system of laws and ordinances, by strict obedience to which the people who inhabit this earth are assured that they may return again into the presence of the Father and the Son.' While the plan of salvation is what God and Christ have done for mortals in the creation, the fall, the atonement, the final judgment, and the salvation of the world, the gospel contains the instructions--the laws and ordinances--that enable human beings to make the atonement effective in their lives and thereby gain salvation.[283]


Response to claim: "Why was it necessary to make thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon, 'the most correct book in the world?'"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why was it necessary to make thousands of changes to the Book of Mormon, 'the most correct book in the world?'

FairMormon Response

Question: Why were textual changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years after it was first published?

The few significant modifications were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith to clarify the meaning of the text, not to change it

The published text of the Book of Mormon has been corrected and edited through its various editions. Many of these changes were made by Joseph Smith himself. Why was this done?

The authenticity of the Book of Mormon is not affected by the modifications that have been made to its text because the vast majority of those modifications are minor corrections in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The few significant modifications were made by the Prophet Joseph Smith to clarify the meaning of the text, not to change it. This was his right as translator of the book.

These changes have not been kept secret. A discussion of them can be found in the individual articles linked below, and in the references listed below, including papers in BYU Studies and the Ensign.

Joseph Smith taught "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."[284] As the end of the preceding quote clarifies, by "most correct" this he meant in principle and teaching. The authors of the Book of Mormon themselves explained several times that their writing was imperfect, but that the teachings in the book were from God (1 Nephi 19:6; 2 Nephi 33:4; Mormon 8:17; Mormon 9:31-33; Ether 12:23-26).

There are over 100,000 insignificant changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon

If one counts every difference in every punctuation mark in every edition of the Book of Mormon, the result is well over 100,000 changes.[285] The critical issue is not the number of changes that have been made to the text, but the nature of the changes.

Most changes are insignificant modifications to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and are mainly due to the human failings of editors and publishers. For example, the word meet — meaning "appropriate" — as it appears in 1 Nephi 7:1, was spelled "mete" in the first edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 1830. (This is a common error made by scribes of dictated texts.) "Mete" means to distribute, but the context here is obvious, and so the spelling was corrected in later editions.

Some of these typographical errors do affect the meaning of a passage or present a new understanding of it, but not in a way that presents a challenge to the divinity of the Book of Mormon. One example is 1 Nephi 12:18, which in all printed editions reads "a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God," while the manuscript reads "the sword of the justice of the Eternal God." In this instance, the typesetter accidentally dropped the s at the beginning of sword.

The current (2013) edition of the Book of Mormon has this notice printed at the bottom of the page opposite 1 Nephi, chapter 1:

Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Some Book of Mormon changes were corrections of transcription or printing errors.

There are a few significant changes that have been made to the Book of Mormon

Changes that would affect the authenticity of the Book of Mormon are limited to:

  • those that are substantive AND
    • could possibly change the doctrine of the book OR
    • could be used as evidence that the book was written by Joseph Smith.

There are surprisingly few meaningful changes to the Book of Mormon text, and all of them were made by Joseph Smith himself in editions published during his lifetime. These changes include:

The historical record shows that these changes were made to clarify the meaning of the text, not to alter it.

Many people in the church experience revelation that is to be dictated (such as a patriarch blessing). They will go back and alter their original dictation. This is done to clarify the initial premonitions received through the Spirit. The translation process for the Prophet Joseph may have occurred in a similar manner.


Question: Why did Joseph Smith say that the Book of Mormon was the "most correct book"?

Joseph Smith: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth"

In the History of the Church, the following entry is recorded as having been made by Joseph Smith on November 28, 1841.[287]

Sunday, 28.--I spent the day in the council with the Twelve Apostles at the house of President Young, conversing with them upon a variety of subjects. Brother Joseph Fielding was present, having been absent four years on a mission to England. I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.

Critics of the Church assert that the phrase "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth" means that the Prophet Joseph Smith was declaring the Book of Mormon to be without error of any kind. Since each edition of the printed Book of Mormon since 1829 (including editions published during the life of Joseph Smith) has included changes of wording, spelling, or punctuation, critics declare Joseph Smith's statement to have been demonstrably false, thus proving that he was a false prophet.

Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" because of the principles it teaches

When Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" on earth, he was referring to the principles that it teaches, not the accuracy of its textual structure. Critics of the Book of Mormon have mistakenly interpreted "correct" to be synonymous with "perfect," and therefore expect the Book of Mormon to be without any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity of phrasing, and other such ways.

But when Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon was the "most correct of any book," he was referring to more than just wording, a fact made clear by the remainder of his statement: He said "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." When read in context, the Prophet's statement refers to the correctness of the principles it teaches. The Book of Mormon is the "most correct of any book" in that it contains the fulness of the gospel and presents it in a manner that is "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40).


Response to claim: "Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church such as outlawing polygamy and Blacks in the priesthood, were in direct response to American political pressure?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Can it not be argued that changes made to core doctrines of the Church such as outlawing polygamy and Blacks in the priesthood, were in direct response to American political pressure?

FairMormon Response

Question: Was the priesthood ban lifted as the result of social or government pressure?

Social pressure was actually on the decline after the Civil Rights movement and coordinated protests at BYU athletic events ceased in 1971

Jan Shipps, a Methodist scholar and celebrated scholar of Mormon history and culture, considers it factual that "this revelation came in the context of worldwide evangelism rather than domestic politics or American social and cultural circumstances." She wrote:

A revelation in Mormondom rarely comes as a bolt from the blue; the process involves asking questions and getting answers. The occasion of questioning has to be considered, and it must be recalled that while questions about priesthood and the black man may have been asked, an answer was not forthcoming in the ‘60s when the church was under pressure about the matter from without, nor in the early ‘70s when liberal Latter-day Saints agitated the issue from within. The inspiration which led President Kimball and his counselors to spend many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple pleading long and earnestly for divine guidance did not stem from a messy situation with blacks picketing the church’s annual conference in Salt Lake City, but was "the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth." [288]


Response to claim: "several witnesses to the Book of Mormon confessed that they did not see the plates with their natural eyes, but with 'visions of the mind'"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

several witnesses to the Book of Mormon confessed that they did not see the plates with their natural eyes, but with 'visions of the mind'.

FairMormon Response

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

We are unfamiliar with the phrase "visions of the mind" in relation to any of the Book of Mormon witness statements.


Question: Did Martin Harris tell people that he did not see the plates with his natural eyes, but rather the "eye of faith"?

A former pastor, John A. Clark, said that a "gentleman in Palmyra" told him that Harris said that he saw the plates with the "eye of faith"

John A. Clark, a former pastor who considered Joseph Smith a fraud and the Book of Mormon “an imposture,” states,

To know how much this testimony [of three witnesses] is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly,-”Did you see those plates?” Harris replied, he did. “Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?” Harris replied, “Yes, I saw them with my eyes,-they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.” “But did you see them with your natural,-your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Harris replied,-”Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,-though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.[289]

John A. Clark did not interview Martin Harris - he was repeating what someone else told him

The source cited is “Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828,” Early Mormon Documents 2:270. However, rather than being an interview between Clark and Harris, as implied by the title of reference work using in the citation, Clark’s actual statement clearly says that he received his information from a “gentleman in Palmyra…a professor of religion,” who said that he had talked with Harris. This is not an interview between Clark and Harris.

Larry E. Morris notes that the “claim that ‘Harris told John A. Clark’ is not accurate. This is not secondhand testimony but thirdhand—’he said that he said that he said.’….As if that weren’t enough, Clark does not name his source—making it impossible to judge that person’s honesty or reliability. What we have is a thirdhand, anonymous account of what Martin Harris supposedly said.” (Larry E. Morris, FARMS Review, Vol. 15, Issue 1.)

Clark's account mixes elements from both before and after Harris viewed the plates as one of the Three Witnesses and portrays Harris as contradicting himself

The two elements that are mixed together in Clark's account are the following:

  1. Martin Harris said that he only saw the plates through the "eye of faith" when they were covered with a cloth prior to his experience as a witness.
  2. Martin Harris saw the plates uncovered as one of the three witnesses.

Note also that the date assigned to these comments places them prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon, yet Clark’s statement appears to include elements from both before and after Harris viewed the plates as a witness. Harris “saw them” with his eyes when he acted as one of the Three Witnesses, but he only saw them through the “eye of faith” when they were covered with a cloth prior to his being a witness. Clark’s third-hand hostile relation of another hostile source, makes no distinction between these events, and instead portrays Harris as contradicting himself.

When Martin Harris said that he had seen the angel and the plates with his "spiritual eyes" or with an "eye of faith" he may have simply been employing some scriptural language that he was familiar with. Such statements do not mean that the angel and the plates were imaginary, hallucinatory, or just an inner mental image—the earliest accounts of Martin Harris' testimony makes the literal nature of the experience unmistakable.

Rather than being hallucinatory or "merely" spiritual, Martin claimed that the plates and angel were seen by physical eyes that had been enhanced by the power of God to view more objects than a mortal could normally see (cf. DC 76:12; DC 67:10-13).


Question: Did Martin Harris tell people that he only saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"?

John H. Gilbert, who printed the Book of Mormon, reported that Harris said that he saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"

John H. Gilbert:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses,—(Harris—Cowdery and Whitmer—) I said to him,—"Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spir[i]tual eye."[290]

Pomeroy Tucker told of Harris using the phrase "seeing with the spiritual eye"

Pomeroy Tucker in his book Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (1867) also refers to Harris using the phrase "spiritual eye":

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement, in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never be easily explained. In reply to uncharitable suggestions of his neighbors, he used to practise a good deal of his characteristic jargon about "seeing with the spiritual eye," and the like. [291]

Martin elsewhere emphasized that the vision was also with the "natural eye," to enable them to "testify of it to the world"

In 1875, Martin said:

"The Prophet Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer and myself, went into a little grove to pray to obtain a promise that we should behold it with our eyes natural eyes, that we could testify of it to the world (emphasis added)."[292]

Harris did not, then, see "spiritual eye" and "natural eye" as mutually exclusive categories. Both described something about the witness experience.


Question: Why would Martin Harris use the phrases "eye of faith" or "spiritual eye" to describe his visionary experience?

Martin Harris was using scriptural language to describe his visionary experience

Why did Martin Harris use the particular phraseology that he did in describing his experience? Perhaps the answer lies in another passage found in the book of Ether 12:19.

And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

Here it is noted that those people who have "exceedingly strong" faith can see things "within the veil." But even though they see things in the spiritual realm "with their eyes" it is described as beholding things with "an eye of faith."

Another possibility can be seen in the text of Moses 1:11. It reads:

But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face.

This dovetails nicely with the description of David Whitmer who "explained that he saw the plates, and with his natural eyes, but he had to be prepared for it—that he and the other witnesses were overshadowed by the power of God." [293]


Question: Do Martin Harris's statements related to the "spiritual eye" or "eye of faith" contradict the reality of his witness?

Some wish to make it appear as though the statements made by Martin Harris about the Three Witnesses’ manifestation discount its reality. Doing so pulls Harris’ statements out of their proper context. This vital viewpoint can be regained by simply taking a look at several passages from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants—which all predate Martin’s public statements about the nature of his experience.

The scriptural witnesses

Ether 5:2–3

This prophetic passage had a direct application to Martin Harris as one of the Three Witnesses. It said: “the plates . . . . unto three shall they be shown by the power of God

D&C 5:11,13,24–26

“unto [three of my servants] I will show these things . . . . I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are.” Speaking specifically of Martin Harris: “then will I grant unto him a view of the things which he desires to see. And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man. And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.”

D&C 17:1–3,5

All three of the witnesses were told: “you shall have a view of the plates . . . . And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old . . . . And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them . . . . And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith

From these scriptural texts it is evident that:

  • The Three Witnesses were required by God to exercise faith like “the prophets of old” in order to view the angel and the plates (cf. Moroni 7:37; DC 20:6).
  • God would exercise His power to enable the Three Witnesses to see things that were not usually visible to mortal eyes.
  • Nevertheless, the Three Witnesses would see the angel and the plates “with [their] eyes” and “as they are” in objective reality.

Contemporary witnesses

Joseph Smith was an eyewitness to what Martin Harris said at the exact moment that the manifestation took place. He reported that Martin's words were: "Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld". [294] Another eyewitness, named Alma Jensen, saw Martin Harris point to his physical eyes while testifying that he had seen both the angel and the plates. [295]

Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to a skeptical author in November 1829, and spoke for both himself and Harris on the question of whether there was some trickery or "juggling" at work:

"It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven. Now if this is human juggling—judge ye".[296]


Question: What did the Book of Mormon witnesses mean when they used the word "supernatural" to describe their experiences?

The term "supernatural" is used as a synonym for "miraculous"

An early hostile account of the three witnesses' testimony from February 1830 is instructive:

In the Investigator, No. 12, Dec. 11, I published, by way of caution, a letter of Oliver H.P. Cowdry, in answer to my letter to Joseph Smith, Jun. Martin Harris, and David Whitmore—the believers in said bible of gold plates—which they affirm they have miraculously, or supernaturally beheld. I sought for evidences, and such as could not be disputed, of the existence of this bible of golden plates. But the answer was—the world must take their words for its existence; and that the book would appear this month.[297]

Clearly, the author here uses "supernatural" as a synonym for "miraculous," not an attempt to argue that the plates do not literally exist, since "their words" are intended as "evidences...for its existence."

Martin Harris was claimed to have "supernaturally" seen the plates and angel, yet he also insisted that the experience was tangible and literal

Furthermore, Martin Harris' testimony is reported in a mocking newspaper article, which still makes it clear that Harris' experience was tangible and literal:

Martin Harris, another chief of Mormon imposters, arrived here last Saturday from the bible quarry in New-York. He immediately planted himself in the bar-room of the hotel, where he soon commenced reading and explaining the Mormon hoax, and all the dark passages from Genesis to Revelations. He told all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.—He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God! [298]

John Whitmer, one of the eight witnesses, did not see an angel, but he did say that he "handled those plates." Yet, Whitmer was also said by Theodore Turley to have described the plates as being shown to him by a "supernatural power".

...all I know, you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith." Whitmer replied "I now say I handled those plates. there was fine engravings on both sides. I handled them." and he described how they were hung "and they were shown to me by a supernatural power." he acknowledged all. Turley asked him why the translation is not now true, & he said "I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.[299]

In a letter written by Myron Bond in 1878, Whitmer is said to have "saw and handled" the plates:

John Whitmer told me last winter....[that he] 'saw and handled' [the plates and]....helped to copy [the Book of Mormon manuscript] as the words fell from Joseph’s lips by supernatural or almighty power[300]

Some who repeated John Whitmer's words may have conflated his "non-supernatural" experience in handling the plates with his "supernatural" experience of listening to Joseph dictate the Book of Mormon

Note that Bond describes how Whitmer helped to copy the manuscript as Joseph dictated the words "by supernatural or almighty power." It is possible that Theodore Turley's recollection conflated Whitmer's non-supernatural handling of the plates with the description of the translation process by a "supernatural" power.

Like Martin Harris, John Whitmer, when speaking in his own words, was very clear that he had physically handled the plates:

It may not be amiss in this place, to give a statement to the world concerning the work of the Lord, as I have been a member of this church of Latter Day Saints from its beginning; to say that the book of Mormon is a revelation from God, I have no hesitancy; but with all confidence have signed my named to it as such; and I hope, that my patrons will indulge me in speaking freely on this subject, as I am about leaving the editorial department. Therefore I desire to testify to all that will come to the knowledge of this address; that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the book of Mormon is translated, and that I have handled these plates, and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, jr. has translated the book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and in this thing the wisdom of the wise most assuredly has perished: therefore, know ye, O ye inhabitants of the earth, wherever this address may come, that I have in this thing freed my garments of your blood, whether you believe or disbelieve the statements of your unworthy friend and well-wisher.[301]


Question: What did the other witnesses say regarding "spiritual" versus "natural" viewing of the plates?

David Whitmer clarified the idea of "spiritual" versus "natural" viewing of the plates

David Whitmer helps clear up the "spiritual" vs. "natural" viewing of the plates. Responding to the questions of Anthony Metcalf (the same Metcalf who interviewed Harris) Whitmer wrote:

In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it 'being in vision.' We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God. Daniel saw an angel in a vision; also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled at noon day, and there in a vision, or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. I am now passed eighty-two years old, and I have a brother, J. J. Snyder, to do my writing for me, at my dictation. [Signed] David Whitmer. [302]

And to leave absolutely no doubt about the nature of the manifestation Whitmer explained, "I was not under any hallucination . . . . I saw with these eyes." [303]

The young James Henry Moyle would write of a visit he had with Whitmer:

I inquired of those whom I met: What kind of man is David Whitmer? From all I received the same response, that he was a good citizen, an honest man, and that he was highly respected in the community....

I wanted to know from him...what he knew about the Book of Mormon, and what about the testimony he had published to the world concerning it. He told me in all the solemnity of his advanced years, that the testimony he had given to the world, and which was published in the Book of Mormon, was true, every word of it, and that he had never deviated or departed from any particular from that testimony, and that nothing int he world could separate him from the sacred message that was delivered to him. I still wondered if it was no possible that he could have been deceived. I wondered if there was not something in that psychological operation which some offer as the cause of these miraculous declarations and by which he could have been deceived...so I induced him to relate to me, under such cross-examination as I was able to interpose [Moyle had just graduated from law school], every detail of what took place. He described minutely the spot in the woods, the large log that separated him from the angel, and that he saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, that he handled them [this may be in error, given that the contemporaneous record says otherwise], and that he did hear the voice of God declare that the plates were correctly translated. I asked him if there was any possibility for him to have been deceived, and that it was all a mistake, but he said, "No."[304]

He also wrote later:

He said that they (Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris) were out in the primitive woods in Western New York; that there was nothing between them and the Angel except a log that had fallen in the forest; that it was broad daylight with nothing to prevent either hearing or seeing all that took place...he did see and hear the Angel and heard the declaration that the plates had been correctly translated; that there was absolutely nothing to prevent his having a full, clear view of it all. I remember very distinctly asking him if there was anything unnatural or unusual about the surroundings or the atmosphere. He answered that question. I do not remember exactly the words he used, but he indicated that there was something of a haze or peculiarity about the atmosphere that surrounded them but nothing that would prevent his having a clear vision and knowledge of all that took place. He declared to me that the testimony which he published to the world was true and that he had never denied any part of it.[305]

We note here that the experience is very literal and real--but there is also a difference in atmosphere or "haze" that renders it different from day-to-day life. This dovetails well with the Three Witnesses' insistence that there was a spiritual component to their experience, though it was also literal and "real."


Response to claim: Martin Harris "tells us that because they had not seen a physical object, only a vision of them, some balked but were eventually persuaded by Smith to sign the document he had prepared"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Martin Harris "tells us that because they had not seen a physical object, only a vision of them, some balked but were eventually persuaded by Smith to sign the document he had prepared"

FairMormon Response

Question: How did newspaper accounts describe the nature of the witnesses experience?

Hostile newspaper accounts clearly stated that both Harris and Whitmer physically handled and examined the plates

Early hostile newspapers claimed that the witnesses' descriptions did not match, but were clear that both Harris and Whitmer had at some point physically handled and examined the plates:

Whitmar’s [sic] description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris; both of whom it would seem have been of late permitted, not only to see and handle it, but to examine its contents. Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more, when he returned it to Smith, who placed it in its former position, alledging that the book was in the custody of another, intimating that some Divine agent would have it in safe keeping. [306]

David, like Martin, had been charged with being deluded into thinking he had seen an angel and the plates. One observer remembers when David was so accused, and said:

How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height--a little over six feet--and said, in solemn and impressive tones: "No sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!" (Joseph Smith III, et al., Interview, July 1884, Richmond Missouri, in Lyndon W. Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 134-35) [307]

On another occasion in which Whitmer was asked about the plates, the interviewer recorded:

He then explained that he saw the plates, and with his natural eyes, but he had to be prepared for it--that he and the other witnesses were overshadowed by the power of God and a halo of brightness indescribable. [308]


Question: How did the apostle Paul describe spiritual experiences?

The apostle Paul understood the difficulty of describing spiritual experiences

Paul understood the difficulty of describing spiritual experiences when he wrote:

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 2 Corinthians 12:2

Paul's vision was real, yet he was unsure whether he had the experience in or out of his body. Harris may have felt a similar experience. He knew the plates were real, yet he also knew that when the angel showed him the plates he was only able to see them by the power of God. On a separate occasion Harris testified to the reality of his vision. The scene as recorded by Edward Stevenson was instrumental in getting Harris to re-enter the Church.

On one occasion several of his old acquaintances made an effort to get him tipsy by treating him to some wine. When they thought he was in a good mood for talk they put the question very carefully to him, "Well, now, Martin, we want you to be frank and candid with us in regard to this story of your seeing an angel and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon that are so much talked about. We have always taken you to be an honest good farmer and neighbor of ours but could not believe that you did see an angel. Now, Martin, do you really believe that you did see an angel, when you were awake?" "No," said Martin, "I do not believe it." The crowd were delighted, but soon a different feeling prevailed, as Martin true to his trust, said, "Gentlemen, what I have said is true, from the fact that my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel, and it was the brightness of day." [309]


Martin Harris: "The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard"

George Godfrey, and Martin Harris's response to him, after Godfrey suggested that Harris had been deceived:

A few hours before his death and when he was so weak and enfeebled that he was unable to recognize me or anyone, and knew not to whom he was speaking, I asked him if he did not feel that there was an element at least, of fraudulence and deception in the things that were written and told of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he replied as he had always done so many, many times in my hearing the same spirit he always manifested when enjoying health and vigor and said: ‘The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.[310]


George Mantle (1888): Martin Harris said "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that...he translated that book by the power of God"

When in England to preach for an LDS splinter group, Martin Harris was ejected from a meeting of Latter-day Saints. He left, and began to loudly criticize the Church leadership. Critics of Mormonism arrived quickly.

George Mantle to Marietta Walker, 26 December 1888:

When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God."[311]


Edward Stevenson (1870): Martin Harris said "my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel"

Elder Edward Stevenson reported in 1870:

On one occasion several of his old acquaintances made an effort to get him tipsy by treating him to some wine. When they thought he was in a good mood for talk they put the question very carefully to him, ‘Well, now, Martin, we want you to be frank and candid with us in regard to this story of your seeing an angel and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon that are so much talked about. We have always taken you to be an honest good farmer and neighbor of ours but could not believe that you did see an angel. Now, Martin, do you really believe that you did see an angel, when you were awake?’ ‘No,’ said Martin, ‘I do not believe it.’ The crowd were delighted, but soon a different feeling prevailed, as Martin true to his trust, said, ‘Gentlemen, what I have said is true, from the fact that my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel, and it was the brightness of day.” [312]

Response to claim: "Why does the Book of Mormon mention the ...use of the word Bible, crucifixion, and synagogue?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why does the Book of Mormon mention the ...use of the word Bible, crucifixion, and synagogue?

FairMormon Response

Question: Why does the Book of Mormon mention "synagogues" when they were not present among the Jews until after the Babylonian captivity?

Assemblies for Jewish worship were known and used prior to the Babylonian captivity

The Book of Mormon mentions "synagogues" twenty five times. It is claimed that "synagogues" were not present among the Jews until after the Babylonian captivity, and thus Lehi and his family cannot have known of them. The critics insist, therefore, that Book of Mormon use of synagogues is anachronistic.

Assemblies for Jewish worship were known and used prior to the Babylonian captivity. The term "synagogue" is a translation, and need not be the actual Nephites word for these structures. However, pre-captivity Jews had such sites for communal worship. In any case, nothing prevents Nephites from independently developing the idea of a building for group worship, and Joseph Smith translating such a concept as "synagogue."

The claim that no synagogues were present before the Babylonian captivity is based on out-of-date information

[Lee] Levine, a leading scholar on the history of the synagogue, has suggested that synagogues did exist before the Babylonian captivity in the form of chambers in the city gates. Such gates have been excavated by archaeologists at such important Old Testament sites as Beersheba, Gezer, Lachish, and Megiddo. Each of these has

  1. at least one chamber (which is nearly square) lined with stone benches around the interior walls (the benched chamber at Lachish has two tiers of benches),
  2. a single doorway, and
  3. where there is enough of the original wall left to determine it, a niche. I suggest that these niches were used for storing special ritual items, perhaps even sacred scrolls.

Levine concludes that since later synagogues closely mirror the architecture of the gate chambers, these chambers may well have been the original synagogues. This conclusion is supported by a number of biblical passages that indicate that the city gate and its vicinity were the hub of a community's life. The gate area served as

  1. the market place (see 2 Kings 7:1),
  2. the general court (see Genesis 23:10,18; Deuteronomy 17:5, Deuteronomy 21:19 and Deuteronomy 22:24; Ruth 4:1–12; Jeremiah 38:7; Daniel 2:48–49; and Esther 5:9,13; Esther 6:10),
  3. the royal court (see 2 Samuel 18:4 and 2 Samuel 19:8; and 1 Kings 22:10, which equals 2 Chronicles 18:9), and
  4. a place of worship (see 2 Kings 23:8 and Nehemiah 8:1).

Support for Levine's conclusion is also found in the Old Testament terminology for worship service. Several Old Testament writers (see Hosea 2:11; Jeremiah in Lamentations 2:6; Ezekiel 44:24) link Sabbath worship with the Hebrew word mo‘ed which means "assembly, meeting."

If Levine is correct, then, before the captivity, a town's or city's social activities centered around the city gate, and it seems reasonable that these social activities included Sabbath worship in a chamber of the gate that resembled later synagogues and functioned similarly.[313]

Further information on the chambers in city-gates being a proto-synagogue as a result of Josiah's centralization of Temple worship in Jerusalem and the establishment of congregations meeting for non-sacrificial worship in the chambers of city-gates is available in non-LDS works.[314]


Response to claim: "Why does the Book of Mormon incorrectly state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

Why does the Book of Mormon incorrectly state that Jesus was born in Jerusalem?

FairMormon Response

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

The Book of Mormon does not claim that "Jesus was born in Jerusalem". It claims that Jesus was born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." It is referring to the land of Jerusalem.


Question: Why does the Book of Mormon say that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" when the Bible states that he was born in Bethlehem?

The town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem" since it is only five miles away

Some have noted that Alma 7:10 says that Jesus would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers." Yet, every schoolchild knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. They claim that this is a mistake, and evidence that Joseph Smith forged the Book of Mormon.

The town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem." In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely "in the land," especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the "land of Jerusalem." This is, in reality, another literary evidence for the Book of Mormon. While a forger would likely overlook this detail and include Bethlehem as the commonly-understood birthplace of Jesus, the ancient authors of the Book of Mormon use an authentic term to describe the Savior's birthplace—thereby providing another point of authenticity for the Book of Mormon.

A picture of Bethlehem taken from Jerusalem in 2006. The photo was taken from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Bethlehem is located in Palestinian territory about five miles away from Jerusalem.

This is an old criticism that has been dealt with at least as far back as 1842

This is an old criticism that has been dealt with at least as far back as 1842.[315] but continues to pop up now and again.

BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson pointed out the absurdity of this argument:

To suggest that Joseph Smith knew the precise location of Jesus' baptism by John ("in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" (1 Ne. 10:9) but hadn't a clue about the famous town of Christ's birth is so improbable as to be ludicrous. Do the skeptics seriously mean to suggest that the Book of Mormon's Bible-drenched author (or authors) missed one of the most obvious facts about the most popular story in the Bible — something known to every child and Christmas caroler? Do they intend to say that a clever fraud who could write a book displaying so wide an array of subtly authentic Near Eastern and biblical cultural and literary traits as the Book of Mormon does was nonetheless so stupid as to claim, before a Bible-reading public, that Jesus was born in the city of Jerusalem? As one anti-Mormon author has pointed out, "Every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows Christ was born in Bethlehem." [Langfield, 53.] Exactly! It is virtually certain, therefore, that Alma 7:10 was foreign to Joseph Smith's preconceptions. "The land of Jerusalem" is not the sort of thing the Prophet would likely have invented, precisely for the same reason it bothers uninformed critics of the Book of Mormon.[316]

This is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East

It is important to note what Alma's words were. He did not claim Jesus would be born in the city of Jerusalem, but "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers."

Thus, the Book of Mormon makes a distinction here between a city and the land associated with a city. It does this elsewhere as well:

This is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East. El Amarna letter #290 reports that "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah."[317] (One over-confident 19th century critic blithely assured his readers that "There is no such land. No part of Palestine bears the name of Jerusalem, except the city itself."[318] While this was perhaps true in the 19th century, it was not true anciently. A supposed "howler" turns into evidence for the text's antiquity.

Thus, the Book of Mormon gets it exactly right — the town of Bethlehem is in the "land of Jerusalem." In fact, Bethlehem is only 5 miles south of Jerusalem: definitely "in the land," especially from the perspective of Alma, a continent away. Even locals considered Hebron, twenty five miles from Bethlehem, to be in the "land of Jerusalem."

The use of the term "land of Jerusalem" is authentic ancient usage

Hugh Nibley noted in 1957:

while the Book of Mormon refers to the city of Jerusalem plainly and unmistakably over sixty times, it refers over forty times to another and entirely different geographical entity which is always designated as "the land of Jerusalem." In the New World also every major Book of Mormon city is surrounded by a land of the same name.

The land of Jerusalem is not the city of Jerusalem. Lehi "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days" (1 Nephi 1:4), yet his sons had to "go down to the land of our father's inheritance" to pick up their property (1 Nephi 3:16,22). The apparent anomaly is readily explained by the Amarna Letters, in which we read that "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib, has been captured."17 It was the rule in Palestine and Syria from ancient times, as the same letters show, for a large area around a city and all the inhabitants of that area to bear the name of the city.18 It is taken for granted that if Nephi lived at Jerusalem he would know about the surrounding country: "I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about" (2 Nephi 25:6; italics added). But this was quite unknown at the time the Book of Mormon was written—the Amarna Letters were discovered in 1887. One of the favorite points of attack on the Book of Mormon has been the statement in Alma 7:10 that the Savior would be born "at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers" (italics added). Here Jerusalem is not the city "in the land of our forefathers"; it is the land. Christ was born in a village some six miles from the city of Jerusalem; it was not in the city, but it was in what we now know the ancients themselves designated as "the land of Jerusalem." Such a neat test of authenticity is not often found in ancient documents.[319]


Response to claim: "How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period?"

The author(s) of A Letter to an Apostle make(s) the following claim:

How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period?

FairMormon Response

Question: Was the Lehite colony too small to produce the population sizes indicated by the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to 'other' peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times

A superficial reading of the Book of Mormon leads some to conclude that the named members of Lehi's group were the only members of Nephite/Lamanite society.

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to 'other' peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times. Indeed, many Book of Mormon passages make little sense unless we understand this. The Nephite record keeps its focus on a simplistic "Nephite/Lamanite" dichotomy both because it is a kinship record, and because its focus is religious, not politico-historical.

But, as one author observed, it is

inescapable that there were substantial populations in the "promised land" throughout the period of the Nephite record, and probably in the Jaredite era also. The status and origin of these peoples is never made clear because the writers never set out to do any such thing; they had other purposes. Yet we cannot understand the demographic or cultural history of Lehi's literal descendants without taking into account those other groups, too.

Hereafter, readers will not be justified in saying that the record fails to mention "others" but only that we readers have hitherto failed to observe what is said and implied about such people in the Book of Mormon.[320]:34


Notes

  1. John L. Sorenson, "Addendum," to John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors (Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 93–119. off-site
  2. Daniel C. Peterson and Matthew Roper, "Ein Heldenleben? On Thomas Stuart Ferguson as an Elias for Cultural Mormons," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004)
  3. Daniel C. Peterson, [https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1458&index=12 "On the New World Archaeological Foundation," The FARMS Review 16:1 (2004).
  4. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Death,", 655. off-site direct off-site
  5. For a representative sample of the non-official statements made by Elder McConkie and others from a variety of perspectives, see here.
  6. Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 10, 83. ( Index of claims ); Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 205. ( Index of claims ); La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 7 (17 February 1838) off-site
  7. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  8. Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), p. 141.
  9. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (September 1977).
  10. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 2004[1986]), 49. ISBN 188647253X.
  11. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004),193–196. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786. (Key source)
  12. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12:2
  13. See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72. ISBN 0937892068.
  14. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 12–25. off-site wiki For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FairMormon link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  15. "Thomson's Translation," Wikipedia (accessed 11 Feb 2015) off-site
  16. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),142–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  17. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  18. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887), 12; cited frequently, including by Neal A. Maxwell, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (January 1997), 34–41. off-site
  19. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site
  20. Emma Smith to Edmund C. Briggs, "A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856," Journal of History 9 (January 1916): 454.
  21. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  22. “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, (1 Oct. 1879): 290.
  23. Jay P. Green Sr., The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English (Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1995), 975. ISBN 1878442821. ISBN 1565639774.
  24. See LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},", 707. off-site
  25. Bruce R. McConkie, "Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah," Ensign (October 1973), 78–83. off-site.
  26. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},",756–759. off-site
  27. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 128. ISBN 0875791395.
  28. See Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4.
  29. See such scriptural examples as DC 109:34,42,56,68; DC 110:1-3; DC 128:9. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 220, 221, 250–251. off-site
  30. See, for example, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 2012). Other examples of similar choices in translation include: Robert H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1976), and Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem: Baptist House, n.d.).
  31. Gordon A. Madsen, "Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 2 (1990), 106.
  32. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  33. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:252–253.
  34. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 103.
  35. H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates [distributed by Signature Books], 1994), 227.
  36. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, 2 vols., (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1959[1942]), 1:479. ASIN B000HMY138.
  37. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:248–249..
  38. Anonymous, "Highlights in the Prophet’s Life," Ensign (Jun 1994), 24. off-site
  39. Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Greg Kofford Books, 2011), 82.
  40. Joseph Smith to William W. Phelps, "Dear Brother Phelps, 22 July 1840, Nauvoo, Illinois; cited in History of the Church, [citation needed]:162-164. [citation needed]/1.html&A={{{start}}} Volume [citation needed] link
  41. On the evident sincerity of Joseph in his personal writings, see Paul H. Peterson, "Understanding Joseph: A Review of Published Documentary Sources," in Joseph Smith: The Prophet, the Man, ed. Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1988), 109–110.
  42. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965). GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  43. "To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and to All the Honorable Part of the Community," Times and Seasons 3 no. 17 (1 July 1842), 839. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  44. History of the Church, 5:35-37. Volume 5 link
  45. For more details, see a discussion of the entire complex Bennett period here in PDF.
  46. Harrison, 755.
  47. This wiki article was originally based on Jeff Lindsay, "If any prophecy of a so-called prophet proves to be wrong, shouldn't we reject him? Isn't that the standard of Deut. 18:22?," off-site Due to the nature of a wiki project, the text may have been modified, edited, and had additions made.
  48. James L. Mays (editor), Harper's Bible Commentary (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 226.
  49. Shalom M. Paul, "Prophecy and Prophets" a supplemental essay in Etz Hayim, a Torah/Commentary published by the Jewish Publication Society, 1411, (emphasis added).
  50. Jewish Study Bible (published by the Jewish Publication Society), commentary on Deu. 18:20-23.
  51. 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), 5:394. Volume 5 link
  52. "Missouri in the American Civil War," Wikipedia (accessed 3 January 2009) off-site.
  53. "General Order No. 11," Wikipedia (accessed 3 January 2009) off-site.
  54. "Whig Party (United States)," Wikipedia (accessed 3 January 2009) off-site
  55. 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), 6:56–57. Volume 6 link
  56. George A. Smith, "Difficulties With Which the Church Has Had to Contend in Its Establishment in Utah," (10 September 1861) Journal of Discourses 9:110.
  57. 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), 4:81. Volume 4 link
  58. Stephen S. Harding; cited in Eugene. E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988), 291.
  59. Eugene. E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988), 291.
  60. Brigham H. Roberts, "The Evidence Of Prophecy," in New Witnesses for God, 3 Vols., (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909[1895, 1903]), 1:311. ISBN 0962254541.
  61. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "shall."
  62. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. "generation."
  63. 63.0 63.1 Neal A. Maxwell, Sermons Not Spoken (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), 66.
  64. 64.0 64.1 Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965). GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  65. Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1947).
  66. Donald Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith in Salem, (D&C 111)" Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (editors), Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 433.
  67. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:410–411. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  68. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), p. 896.
  69. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 350.
  70. Cannon, 436.
  71. 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
  72. All examples from Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  73. Joseph Smith, “Journal History 1830–1833,” Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
  74. Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site
  75. Roger Nicholson, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8:27-44 (December 6, 2013).
  76. "The First Vision," mormonthink.com.
  77. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:170. Volume 2 link
  78. J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 68–69.
  79. Oliver Cowdery, "?," (October 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:13. (emphasis added)
  80. The Reflector, 2/13 (14 February 1831).
  81. Patriarchal Blessing Book, 1:3–4.
  82. A death notice in the December 1834 issue of the Messenger and Advocate is dated "12th inst." - meaning that the acknowledgment of First Vision story themes by the Prophet's father occurred shortly before Cowdery published his First Vision story themes in the Messenger and Advocate.
  83. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (October 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:13-16.
  84. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (December 1834) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:42-43.
  85. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (February 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:65-67.
  86. See Oliver Cowdery, "?," (February 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1:78.
  87. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  88. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  89. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  90. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161. AISN B000FH6N04.
  91. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  92. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  93. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  94. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  95. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  96. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  97. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  98. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  99. Because of the significant number of Book of Mormon passages that speak of Jesus as God, the original readings in 1 Nephi are perfectly acceptable in their original form. Royal Skousen, editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, has recommended that they be restored to their original readings (Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon 4/1: 233).
  100. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:128–129. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) "[Martin Harris] said that the Prophet possessed a Seer Stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as with the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he sometimes used the Seer Stone."
  101. Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign (July 1993), 61. off-site
  102. "Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870," Early Mormon Documents, 1:532.
  103. Brant A. Gardner, Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation.
  104. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  105. Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:539.
  106. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org
  107. “Martin Harris Interview with Joel Tiffany, 1859,” in Early Mormon Documents, 2:305.
  108. Roger Nicholson, "The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5 (2013): 121-190
  109. "Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870," Early Mormon Documents, 1:532.
  110. Accusations of the Church lying because of inaccurate artwork are offered by the following critical sources: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 8. ( Index of claims ); MormonThink.com website (as of 8 May 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/moroniweb.htm; MormonThink.com website (as of 28 April 2012). Page: http://mormonthink.com/transbomweb.htm; Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) 1. ( Index of claims )
  111. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference.
  112. Note: Most of the images used in this paper are centuries old, and so are in the public domain. I have tried to indicate the creator each of these works of art. No challenge to copyright is intended by their inclusion here for scholarly purposes and illustration. Click each photo for title and author information.
  113. Del Parson, "Translating the Book of Mormon," © Intellectual Reserve, 1997. off-site
  114. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (September 1977), 83. off-site
  115. Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign (July 1993), 61. off-site
  116. Brigham H. Roberts, "NAME," in New Witnesses for God, 3 Vols., (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909[1895, 1903]), 1:131–136. ISBN 0962254541.
  117. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:130–131. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  118. Francis W. Kirkham, "The Manner of Translating The BOOK of MORMON," Improvement Era (1939), ?.
  119. Dean C. Jessee, "New Documents and Mormon Beginnings," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 397–428.; Royal Skousen, "Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon," Brigham Young University Studies 30 no. 1 (Winter 1990), 51–52.
  120. Stephen D. Ricks, "Translation of the Book of Mormon: Interpreting the Evidence," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 201–206. wiki
  121. Matthew Roper, "A Black Hole That's Not So Black (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism of the Book, vol. 1 by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 156–203. off-site
  122. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000), commentary on D&C 9.
  123. Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 26.
  124. Anonymous, "A Conversation with Robert J. Matthews," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12/2 (2003): 88–92. off-site wiki
  125. Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887.
  126. P. Pondy, "Why an African Christ?" jesusmafa.com. off-site
  127. Cowdery: “Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe” [John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information,” F.A.R.M.S. report WRR–86, 25.] Emma: Joseph translated "hour after hour with nothing between us." [Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (October 1879).]
  128. Reuben Miller Journal (21 Oct. 1848), LDS Church Historian's Office; Richard L. Anderson, "Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery’s Reaffirmations," Brigham Young University Studies 8 no. 3 (Spring 1968), 278.
  129. Oliver Cowdery; as cited by Personal statement of Samuel W. Richards, 25 May 1907, in Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, Special Collections, cited in Anderson, "By the Gift and Power of God," 85.
  130. John Whitmer, in S. Walker, "Synopsis of a Discourse Delivered at Lamoni, Iowa," 26 Saints' Herald 370 (15 December 1879).
  131. Jacob 2:27–30.
  132. Levi Richards Journal, 14 May 1843; cited by Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 54.; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 141, 332.
  133. Brigham Young, quoted in Charles L. Walker, "Diary," (Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, 1855–1902), 25–26.
  134. Journal History, 26 August 1857; cited by Hyrum Leslie Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom (Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Co., 1999), 489n436.
  135. Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 64–67. Also discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 67 and Danel W. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage," Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 24. This view is endorsed by Todd Compton, "Fanny Alger Smith Custer: Mormonism's First Plural Wife?," Journal of Mormon History 22/1 (Spring 1996): 178–181.
  136. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 22n11 notes that Roberts' History of the Church introduction (5:xxix) and Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft Co., 1889), 161 were the first to posit the role of Joseph's revision of the Bible in the plural marriage revelation.
  137. Joseph Noble, cited in Millennial Star 16:454.
  138. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, ed. Brigham H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980), 5:xxix.
  139. }Joseph F. Smith at funeral of Elizabeth Ann Whitney; cited in Deseret Evening News (18 February 1882).
  140. W.W. Phelps, Letter to Brigham Young, 1861, original in Church Archives, emphasis in original; cited by B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice, and Demise, Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark Co., 2007), 36–37
  141. Ezra Booth, Letter to the editor, Ohio Star (10 November 1831).
  142. Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans (7 October 1869), Vol. 13 (London: Latter-day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 192–193.
  143. Lyman Johnson as recounted by Orson Pratt, reported in “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40/50 (16 December 1878): 788; cited in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 56.
  144. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, Summer 1905, LDS Archives; cited by Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 65.
  145. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 644. ( Index of claims ); citing Mosiah Hancock Autobiography, 61–62.
  146. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 3n2.
  147. Phelps would publicly teach the idea of eternal marriage soon thereafter: "[W]e came into this world and have our agency, in order that we may prepare ourselves for a kingdom of glory; become archangels, even the sons of God where the man is neither without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord…" - WW Phelps to O[liver] Cowdery, "Dear Brother in the Lord," Latter-day Saint Messenger & Advocate 1/9 (June 1835): 130. See discussion of the Phelps material in Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 28–29
  148. Joseph F. Smith (comment made 4 March 1883) in "Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888," LDS Archives;Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Vision Articles [from Vision Magazine, Vol. 32–46, 48–51, 53–56], vol. 2 (E-book: Price Publishing Company, n.d.), "LDS Leaders Accused Oliver Cowdery of Polygamy".
  149. Jacob 2:27–30.
  150. Levi Richards Journal, 14 May 1843; cited by Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 54.; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd ed. (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 141, 332.
  151. Brigham Young, quoted in Charles L. Walker, "Diary," (Harold B. Lee Library, BYU, 1855–1902), 25–26.
  152. Journal History, 26 August 1857; cited by Hyrum Leslie Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom (Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Co., 1999), 489n436.
  153. Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 64–67. Also discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 67 and Danel W. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage," Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 24. This view is endorsed by Todd Compton, "Fanny Alger Smith Custer: Mormonism's First Plural Wife?," Journal of Mormon History 22/1 (Spring 1996): 178–181.
  154. Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 22n11 notes that Roberts' History of the Church introduction (5:xxix) and Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft Co., 1889), 161 were the first to posit the role of Joseph's revision of the Bible in the plural marriage revelation.
  155. Joseph Noble, cited in Millennial Star 16:454.
  156. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, ed. Brigham H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980), 5:xxix.
  157. }Joseph F. Smith at funeral of Elizabeth Ann Whitney; cited in Deseret Evening News (18 February 1882).
  158. W.W. Phelps, Letter to Brigham Young, 1861, original in Church Archives, emphasis in original; cited by B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham: Mormon Polygamy: Its Origin, Practice, and Demise, Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier (Norman, Okla.: Arthur H. Clark Co., 2007), 36–37
  159. Ezra Booth, Letter to the editor, Ohio Star (10 November 1831).
  160. Orson Pratt, "Celestial Marriage," Journal of Discourses, reported by David W. Evans (7 October 1869), Vol. 13 (London: Latter-day Saint's Book Depot, 1871), 192–193.
  161. Lyman Johnson as recounted by Orson Pratt, reported in “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40/50 (16 December 1878): 788; cited in Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 56.
  162. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, Summer 1905, LDS Archives; cited by Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 65.
  163. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 644. ( Index of claims ); citing Mosiah Hancock Autobiography, 61–62.
  164. Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 3n2.
  165. Phelps would publicly teach the idea of eternal marriage soon thereafter: "[W]e came into this world and have our agency, in order that we may prepare ourselves for a kingdom of glory; become archangels, even the sons of God where the man is neither without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord…" - WW Phelps to O[liver] Cowdery, "Dear Brother in the Lord," Latter-day Saint Messenger & Advocate 1/9 (June 1835): 130. See discussion of the Phelps material in Bachman, "New Light on an Old Hypothesis," 28–29
  166. Joseph F. Smith (comment made 4 March 1883) in "Utah Stake Historical Record, 1877–1888," LDS Archives;Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Vision Articles [from Vision Magazine, Vol. 32–46, 48–51, 53–56], vol. 2 (E-book: Price Publishing Company, n.d.), "LDS Leaders Accused Oliver Cowdery of Polygamy".
  167. Mineau, G. P., L. L. Bean, and M. Skolnick 1979 “Mormon demographic history, II: The family life cycle and natural fertility.” Population Studies 33, 3:429–446.
  168. Bean, L., Mineau, G., & Anderton, D. (1992). High-Risk Childbearing: Fertility and Infant Mortality on the American Frontier. Social Science History, 16(3), 337-363.
  169. Craig L. Foster, David Keller, and Gregory L. Smith, “The Age of Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives in Social and Demographic Context,” in Bringhurst and Foster, eds., The Persistence of Polygamy, 152–83. The authors cite Karen Rolf and Joseph Ferrie, “The May-December relationship since 1850: Age homogamy in the U.S.” Working Paper (September, 2008).
  170. Craig L. Foster, David Keller, and Gregory L. Smith, “The Age of Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives in Social and Demographic Context,” in Bringhurst and Foster, eds., The Persistence of Polygamy, 152–83. The authors cite Grace Wyshak "Secular changes in age at menarche in a sample of US women", Annals of Human Biology, 10:1 (1983):75-77; P. E. Brown, “The Age at Menarche,” British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 20 (1966):9-14; and Peter Laslett, Family life and illicit love in earlier generations (1977, New York : Cambridge University Press).
  171. Papalia, D., Martorell, G., & Feldman, R. (2014). Cognitive Development in Middle Childhood. In A Child's World: Infancy through Adolescence (13th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
  172. Mineau, G. P., L. L. Bean, and M. Skolnick 1979 “Mormon demographic history, II: The family life cycle and natural fertility.” Population Studies 33, 3:429–446.
  173. Bean, L., Mineau, G., & Anderton, D. (1992). High-Risk Childbearing: Fertility and Infant Mortality on the American Frontier. Social Science History, 16(3), 337-363.
  174. Helen Mar Kimball, Why We Practice Plural Marriage, 23-24 cited in Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom.
  175. DNA Tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants, Deseret News Nov. 10, 2007.
  176. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 133.
  177. Ugo A. Perego, Natalie M. Myers, and Scott R. Woodward, “Reconstructing the Y-Chromosome of Joseph Smith Jr.: Genealogical Applications, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer 2005) 70-88.
  178. Deseret News, 2007.
  179. Ugo A. Perego, Jayne E. Ekins, and Scott R. Woodward, "Resolving the Paternities of Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah L. Hancock through DNA," JJHWA, 134-135.
  180. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  181. This bit of folklore is explored in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher et al., "Emma and Eliza and the Stairs," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), 86–96.. RLDS author Richard Price also argues that the physical layout of the Mansion House makes the story as reported by Charles C. Rich unlikely, see "Eliza Snow Was Not Pushed Down the Mansion House Stairs," in Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy: How Men Nearest the Prophet Attached Polygamy to His Name in Order to Justify Their Own Polygamous Crimes, Volume 1 (Price Publishing Co, 2000), chapter 9. Price's dogmatic insistence that Joseph never taught plural marriage, however, cannot be sustained by the evidence.
  182. Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 136. See also discussion in Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Purdue University), 140n173.
  183. Perego, Myers and Woodward, 2005.
  184. R. Scott Lloyd, ""Joseph Smith apparently was not Josephine Lyon's father, Mormon History Association speaker says," Deseret News (13 June 2016)
  185. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  186. Andrew Jenson Papers, MS 17956, CHL, box 49, folder 16.
  187. Brian and Laura Hales, "Sylvia Sessions," Note 28 josephsmithspolygamy.org off-site
  188. Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy Before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (1975) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Purdue University), 164–166.
  189. 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:xxxiii. Volume 5 link
  190. Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 20:29-30.
  191. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 2, 136.
  192. Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 251.
  193. Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (editor), "Memoirs of Joseph Smith III (1832–1914)," The Saints Herald (2 April 1935): 431–434.
  194. Richard L. Bushman, Interview with Millennial Star Blog, 14 November 2005; conveniently reprinted in Richard Lyman Bushman, On the Road With Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, Ltd., 2007), 72.
  195. Michael Marquardt, 1973 pamphlet "The Strange Marriages of Sarah Ann Whitney to Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, Joseph C. Kingsbury, and Heber C. Kimball," George Albert Smith Family Papers, Manuscript 36, Box 1, Early Smith Documents, 1731-1849, Folder 18, in the Special Collections, Western Americana, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (source). The original is in the LDS Church Archives.
  196. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, [original edition] (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1984), 539–540. ISBN 0877479747. GL direct link
  197. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  198. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 349. ( Index of claims )
  199. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  200. Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 350. ( Index of claims )
  201. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  202. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 473.
  203. Brian Hales, "A Response to Concerns Regarding Joseph Smith and the Practice of Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," October 17, 2013.
  204. Augusta Joyce Crocheron (author and complier), Representative Women of Deseret, a book of biographical sketches to accompany the picture bearing the same title (Salt Lake City: J. C. Graham & Co., 1884).
  205. See 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), 5:12–13. Volume 5 link; Richard S. Van Wagoner, "Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18/3 (Fall 1985): 77; Van Wagoner, "Joseph and Marriage," Sunstone 10/9 (January 1986): 32.
  206. Jill C. Mulvay, "The Liberal Shall be Blessed: Sarah M. Kimball," Utah Historical Quarterly 44/3 (Summer 1976): 209; citing (221n11) "Jenson dates Hiram's baptism July 20, 1843. Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1901-36), 2:372. At the end of 1844 Hiram received a patriarchal blessing, an ordinance usually reserved for church members. Patriarchal Blessings, vol. 9, December 25, 1844, manuscript, LDS Archives."
  207. Brian C. Hales, "Encouraging Joseph Smith to Practice Plural Marriage – The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword," Mormon Historical Studies 11/2 (Fall 2010).
  208. Brian Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History, 2:187.
  209. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History 2:190. Originally quoted in "The Prophet's Birthday," Deseret News, January 12, 1881, 2.
  210. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History 2:190. Originally quoted in "Joseph, the Prophet, His Life and Mission as Viewed by Intimate Acquaintances," Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, January 12, 1895, 212.
  211. George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), 154. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review))
  212. Times and Seasons, April 15, 1842 p. 763.
  213. Richard and Pamela Price, Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy—Vision Articles [Subsequent to Volume 1] (From Vision Magazine, Vol. 32, "The Martha Brotherton Case," off-site. FairMormon's consultants cannot endorse the Prices' contention that Joseph Smith did not practice plural marriage.
  214. Bennett, History of the Saints, 287–288. See affidavit from a non-LDS witness denying that Bennett was locked in a room by Joseph: Daniel H. Wells, "[Affidavit], "Times and Seasons 3/19 (1 August 1842): 873–874.
  215. This wiki article was originally based on a personal message from Daniel C. Peterson. It has since been subject to editing and additions because of the nature of a wiki project.
  216. "By 27 June 1844, the date of Joseph Smith's death, the manuscript of the history [of the Church] had been completed only to 5 August 1838 and published [in the Times and Seasons] to December 1831." Dean C. Jessee, "The Reliability of Joseph Smith's History," Journal of Mormon History 3/1 (1976), 23–46. PDF link
  217. For those who want a better handle on Joseph Smith's true character, a good resource is Mark L. McConkie, Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 2003).(print version) ISBN 978-1570089633 GL direct link
  218. 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), 6:408. Volume 6 link
  219. Letter from Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, Greenville, Indiana; Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois.
  220. History of the Church 5:401.
  221. "Letter from General W. H. Gibson," Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio) 12 April 1892.
  222. Webster's Dictionary, off-site
  223. Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, 23 March 1846, Oliver Cowdery Collection, "Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith Jr." (kept by George W. Robinson), 22, LDS Church Historical Department (published in Scott H. Faulring, ed, An American Prophet's Record.— The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), emphasis in original; cited in Scott H. Faulring. “The Return of Oliver Cowdery”, FARMS Featured Paper, no date.
  224. William Clayton and George D. Smith (editor), An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1995), 108 (entry dated 23 June 1843).
  225. B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham, 65, note 99.
  226. Joseph H. Jackson, The Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo: Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villany <sic> Practiced in Nauvoo (Printed for the Publisher: Warsaw, Illinois, 1846), 21-22.
  227. 227.0 227.1 See Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 2nd edition, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994).:176-177 The conclude that "Its meaning [the verse in D&C 132] remains a mystery.
  228. Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage...(Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 84.
  229. 229.0 229.1 Lyndon W. Cook, "William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), footnote 82.
  230. 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), 6:434-436 (10 June 1844). Volume 6 link
  231. Law Diary, 13 May 1844
  232. Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, (New York:HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), 16. ( Index of claims )
  233. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  234. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  235. "Chapter 46: The Martyrdom: The Prophet Seals His Testimony with His Blood," Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (2011), 528–40.
  236. It should be noted that History of the Church was begun after Joseph's death, and was written in the "first person," as if Joseph himself had written it. For further information on this, see Question: Who is the author of ''History of the Church''?
  237. History of the Church, 6:432. Volume 6 link
  238. William Law to Isaac Russell, 29 November 1840, Archives Division, Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah, as cited in Lyndon W. Cook, William Law (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1994), 11; cited by Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1997), 173.
  239. William Law, "Record of Doings at Nauvoo in 1844" (William Law's Nauvoo diary), as cited in Lyndon W. Cook, William Law (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1994), 46; cited by Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1997), 176.
  240. Joseph W. McMurrin, "An Interesting Testimony / Mr. Law’s Testimony," Improvement Era (May 1903), 507–510.
  241. Wilson may or may not have been a member. He was not a member when he came to Nauvoo, but is later mentioned as having been “excommunicated.” We have no record of his baptism.
  242. Nauvoo Expositor, “Resolution 4”, (7 June 1844): 2; cited in Lyndon W. Cook, "William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 1 (Fall 1982), 47–72.
  243. Cook, "Nauvoo Dissenter."
  244. Dr. W. Wyl interview with William Law in Shullsburg, Wisconsin, 30 March 1887, published in The Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 31 July 1887, 6; cited by Cook, "Nauvoo Dissenter"
  245. See Cook, "Nauvoo Dissenter."
  246. William Law, "Record of Doings at Nauvoo in 1844," 13 May 1844; cited by Cook, "Nauvoo Dissenter"
  247. Francis M. Higbee, “Citizens of Hancock County,” Nauvoo Expositor (7 June 1844).
  248. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review 9 (1965):874.  (Key source)
  249. Oaks, 897–898.
  250. "Today in History, November 7," United States Library of Congress. off-site
  251. Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1922), 134. See also 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), 1:390–395. Volume 1 link; Anonymous, "A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri," Times and Seasons 1 no. 2 (December 1839), 18. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  252. 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), 1:338–339. Volume 1 link
  253. James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd edition revised and enlarged, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1992[1976]), 208. ISBN 087579565X. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  254. John W. Welch, "View of the Hebrews: 'An Unparallel'," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 83–87.
  255. I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (New York, 1902), 124–126.
  256. Joseph Smith, Jr., "From Priest's American Antiquities," (1 June 1842) Times and Seasons 3:813-815.
  257. 257.0 257.1 Louis Midgley, "Prying into Palmer (Review of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins)," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 365–410. off-site
  258. James B. Allen, "Asked and Answered: A Response to Grant Palmer (Review of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 235–286. off-site
  259. 259.0 259.1 259.2 259.3 259.4 259.5 Palmer, An Insider's View
  260. Allen, "Asked and Answered," 261; and Brigham Young, "The Priesthood and Satan, Etc.," (18 February 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:180.
  261. C.S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics," Easter 1945; reprinted in God in the Dock, edited by Walter Hooper, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970 [1945]), 89–90.
  262. Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director (March 2015 revision).
  263. John Whitmer, quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847 (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 86.
  264. Warren Parrish, letter to the editor, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, cited in John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 115, n. 4.
  265. Wilford Woodruff journal, February 19, 1842.
  266. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 20:65.
  267. The Pearl of Great Price–––Introduction (2013 ed.). Elsewhere official Church publications say concerning the Book of Abraham: "The book of Abraham is a translation that the Prophet Joseph Smith made from some Egyptian papyri." Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996), 1.
  268. John Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri," in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 175–218; "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," 115–123; "Formulas and Faith," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 21, no. 1 (2012): 60–65; "Book of Abraham, I Presume," online at http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-book-of-abraham-i-presume; See also http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/Size_of_missing_papyrus
  269. Andrew W. Cook and Christopher C. Smith, “The Original Length of the Scroll of Hôr,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43, no. 4 (Winter 2010), 1–42; Andrew W. Cook, "Formulas and Facts: A Response to John Gee," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 45, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 1–10.
  270. Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000; An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 375–468; Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Where Was Ur of the Chaldees?” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University, 1989), 119–136; John Gee and Stephen D. Ricks, “Historical Plausibility: The Historicity of the Book of Abraham as a Case Study,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University, 2001), 63–98; John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein, “An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 20, no. 2 (2011): 70–77; John Gee, "Abraham and Idrimi," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 1 (2013): 34–39; Kevin L. Barney, "On Elkenah as Canaanite El," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 19, no. 1 (2010): 22–35.
  271. John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson, “‘And I Saw the Stars’: The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2005), 1–16; Kerry M. Muhlestein, “Encircling Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3,” The Religious Educator 10, no. 1 (2009): 33–50. Further research showing the convergence between the Book of Abraham and ancient Egyptian, Canaanite, and Babylonian cosmology is forthcoming.
  272. John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001); John Gee, “An Egyptian View of Abraham,” in Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown, ed. Andrew C. Skinner, D. Morgan Davis, and Carl Griffin (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2011), 137–156; Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, passim.
  273. Don Bradley, "President Joseph Has Translated a Portion': Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," 2011 FAIR Conference, August 5, 2011. off-site
  274. Craig L. Foster, "Henry Caswall: Anti-Mormon Extraordinaire," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995-96), 144–159.
  275. Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, or, the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints : To Which Is Appended an Analysis of the Book of Mormon (London: Printed for J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1843), 223. off-site
  276. [John Taylor,] "Three Nights: A Public Discussion between the Revds. C. W. Cleeve, James Robertson, and Philip Cater, and Elder John Taylor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France" (Liverpool: John Taylor, 1850), 5. off-site
  277. Rev. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons: Or, Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Rivington, 1842), 5, 35–36.
  278. Unsigned author, "Reward of Merit," Times and Seasons 4 no. 23 (15 October 1843), 364. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  279. Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (editors), The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 1832–1839 (Church Historian's Press, 2008), 107. ISBN 1570088497.
  280. Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (editors), The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 1832–1839 (Church Historian's Press, 2008), 135. ISBN 1570088497.
  281. Allen D. Roberts, "Where are the All-Seeing Eyes?," Sunstone 4 no. (Issue #5) (May 1979), 26. off-site off-site(emphasis added)
  282. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 156. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  283. Noel B. Reynolds, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Taught by the Nephite Prophets," Brigham Young University Studies 31 no. 3 (Summer 1991), 33.
  284. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:139. ISBN 0941214133. Quoted in 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), 4:461. Volume 4 link See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 194. off-site
  285. Royal Skousen, "Changes In the Book of Mormon," 2002 FAIR Conference proceedings.
  286. Daniel K. Judd and Allen W. Stoddard, "Adding and Taking Away 'Without a Cause' in Matthew 5:22," in How the New Testament Came to Be, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Frank F. Judd Jr. (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2006),159-160.
  287. 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), 4:461. Volume 4 link
  288. Jan Shipps, "The Mormons: Looking Forward and Outward" Christian Century (Aug. 16-23, 1978), 761–766 off-site
  289. “Martin Harris interviews with John A. Clark, 1827 & 1828,” Early Mormon Documents 2:270.
  290. John H. Gilbert, "Memorandum," 8 September 1892, Early Mormon Documents, 2: 548.
  291. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 71 in "Pomeroy Tucker Account, 1867," Early Mormon Documents, 3: 122.
  292. Martin Harris Interview with Ole A. Jensen, July 1875 in Ole A. Jensen, "Testimony of Martin Harris (ONe of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon)," undated (c. 1918), original in private possession, photocopies at Utah State Historical Society, LDS Church Archives, and Special Collections of BYU's Harold B. Lee Library; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:375.
  293. Nathan Tanner Jr. Journal, 13 April 1886.
  294. NeedAuthor, Times and Seasons 3 no. 21 (1 September 1842), 898. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  295. Autobiography of Alma L. Jensen, 1932.
  296. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, in letter dated 29 November 1829, quoted in Corenlius C. Blatchly, "THE NEW BIBLE, written on plates of Gold or Brass," Gospel Luminary 2/49 (10 Dec. 1829): 194. (emphasis added)
  297. C. C. Blatchley, “Caution Against the Golden Bible,” New-York Telescope 6, no. 38 (20 February 1830): 150. off-site
  298. Martin Harris . . .,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 39 (15 March 1831).
  299. "Theodore Turley's Memorandums," Church Archives, handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking in late 1843; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:241.; see also with minor editing in 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), 3:307–308. Volume 3 link
  300. Saints’ Herald 25/16 (15 August 1878): 253; letter written by Myron Bond in Cadillac, Michigan on 2 August 1878.
  301. John Whitmer, "Address To the patrons of the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate," (March 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:286-287. (italics added)
  302. Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast (Malad, Idaho: A. Metcalf, 1888), 74.
  303. Palmyra Reflector, 19 March 1831; cited in The Saints' Herald, 28 January 1936.
  304. James Henry Moyle, Address, 22 March 1908, in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:142-143.
  305. James Henry Moyle, statement, 13 September 1938; in Template:EMG
  306. “Gold Bible, No. 6,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 16 (19 March 1831): 126–27. off-site
  307. Joseph Smith III visited David Whitmer in 1884, along with a committee from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and several onlookers. According to Joseph III's memoirs, one of the non-believers there was a military officer, who suggested the possibility that Whitmer "had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance or hallucination, which had deceived him into thinking he saw" the angel and the plates. Joseph III's recollection of Whitmer's response is quoted above. See Memoirs of Joseph Smith III, cited in Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Joseph Smith III and the Restoration (Independence, MO: 1952), pp. 311-12. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 88. ISBN 0877478465.
  308. "David Whitmer Interview with Nathan Tanner, Jr., 13 May 1886," Early Mormon Documents, Dan Vogel (editor) 5:166.
  309. Letter of Elder Edward Stevenson to the Millennial Star quoted in William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 57–58.
  310. George Godfrey, “Testimony of Martin Harris,” from an unpublished manuscript copy in the possession of his daughter, Florence (Godfrey) Munson of Fielding, Utah; quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 65–66. Also cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 117. ISBN 0877478465.
  311. George Mantle to Marietta Walker, 26 December 1888, Saint Catherine, Missouri, cited in Autumn Leaves 2 (1889): 141. Cited in Matthew Roper, "Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193. wiki
  312. Letter of Elder Edward Stevenson to the Millennial Star Vol. 48, 367-389. (1886) quoted in William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 57–58.
  313. William J. Adams Jr., "Synagogues in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 4–13.. wiki (references silently omitted; see original for much more detail)
  314. See: Lee I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years (2d ed.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005). ISBN 0300106289.
  315. See John Hardy, Hypocrisy Exposed (Boston: Albert Morgan, 1842), 3-12 off-site Full title. See later responses in John E. Page, "To a Disciple," Morning Chronicle (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (1 July 1842). off-site, John E. Page, “Mormonism Concluded: To ‘A Disciple.’” Morning Chronicle (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) (20 July 1842). off-site, and George Reynolds, "Objections to the Book of Mormon," Millennial Star 44/16 (17 April 1882): 244–47.
  316. Daniel C. Peterson, "Is the Book of Mormon True? Notes on the Debate," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 6. ISBN 093489325X ISBN 0934893187 ISBN 0884944697. off-site GL direct link
  317. James B. Pritchard, editor, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3d ed. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), 489, translation by W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall; cited by D. Kelly Ogden, "Why Does the Book of Mormon Say That Jesus Would Be Born at Jerusalem? (I Have a Question)," Ensign (August 1984), 51–52.
  318. Origen Bachelor, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: Privately Published, 1838), 13. off-site
  319. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 8, references silently removed—consult original for citations, (italics in original).
  320. John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land Did They Find Others There?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992): 1–34. wikiGL direct link