Joseph Smith/Money digging/Was this a blot on his character/Further Reading

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Further reading

Further reading

FairMormon Answers articles

"Magic" in Mormon history

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Joseph Smith's family and "folk magic"

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Joseph Smith, Jr.

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Early Smith family history

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Joseph Smith's character

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith was a disreputable person.

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Joseph Smith's alleged narcissism

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Treasure seeking, money digging and Joseph Smith, Jr.

Summary: Was Joseph Smith's engagement in "money digging" or looking for buried treasure a blot on his character?

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The relationship between Joseph Smith's seer stone and the Urim and Thummim

Summary: Joseph Smith used the Nephite Interpreters as well as his own seer stone (both of which were later referred to as "Urim and Thummim") to translate the Book of Mormon.

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Joseph Smith's First Vision

Summary: Joseph Smith's claim that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 has produced a wide variety of criticism. This set of articles addresses the various critical claims related to the First Vision. The linked articles below are designed to help readers to see some of the weaknesses that are found in arguments that are made against Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts. Some of these arguments are currently being advocated in anti-Mormon literature that is handed out near the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York.

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Joseph Smith and the "occult" or "magick"

Summary: Citing Joseph Smith's experiences with folk magic, treasure seeking and seer stones, it is claimed that Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences were originally products of magic and the occult. Some charge that only much later did Joseph retrofit his experiences in Christian, religious terms: speaking of God, angels, and prophethood rather than in terms of magic, treasure guardians and scrying. It is also claimed that a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the Palmyra area, and that when Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith.

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Joseph Smith as a translator

Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith claimed to translate other texts or items, which can be checked against modern academic translations. They claim that this "cross-checking" proves that Joseph could not have translated the Book of Mormon or other ancient texts.

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The "Joseph Smith Translation" of the Bible

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Joseph Smith and miracles

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Joseph Smith and the priesthood

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Joseph Smith as a prophet

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Joseph Smith and legal issues

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Kirtland Safety Society

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Joseph Smith, politics and government

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Joseph Smith and polygamy

Summary: Joseph Smith is frequently criticized for his introduction and practice of polygamy. From a Christian perspective, these attacks usually focus on arguing that polygamy is unchristian or unbiblical, and that Joseph hid the truth from the world. From a secular perspective, it is asserted that the practice of polygamy sprung from Joseph's carnal desires to marry young women. Of particular interest is the fact that Joseph was sealed to women who were already married to other men (polyandry).

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Death of Joseph Smith

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Joseph Smith's status in Latter-day Saint belief

Summary: Do members worship Joseph Smith or treat him as more than a man? Critics charge that since Joseph claimed (or it was claimed in his behalf) the right to "approve whether or not someone gets into heaven," this arrogates to a mortal a right properly reserved for God and Jesus Christ. Some critics have even charged that "Mormons worship Joseph Smith."

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Joseph Smith and legal issues

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Joseph Smith: Alleged false prophecies

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Mormonism and prophets

Joseph Smith as a prophet

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Revelation after Joseph Smith

Summary: If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants? Revelations used to be printed in Church periodicals such as the Times and Seasons and the Evening and Morning Star. Why are revelations no longer published on an ongoing basis?

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Do modern prophets prophesy, or are they simply "men of their time?"

Summary: Is they anything special about prophets that set them apart from others, or are they simply "men of their time?" Do modern day prophets actually prophesy of anything?

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Apostles as personal witnesses of Christ

Summary: It is claimed that Brigham Young and his successors lacked the ability to bear witness of Christ as a true apostle because they had not had divine manifestations.

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Divine manifestations since the time of Joseph Smith

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Prophecy fulfillment

Summary: The fulfillment of prophecy does not end with death--blessings, promises, and fulfillment extend into the Millennial years of the Lord.

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Blessings given by Oliver Cowdery

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Brigham Young ordination blessing

Summary: FairMormon has found no criticism about the blessing given to Brigham Young upon his ordination as an apostle. His blessing is referenced by at least one other blessing, however, and so is included here for reference.

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President Monson bearing witness of foundational doctrines of Mormonism

Summary: It has been claimed that President Thomas S. Monson does not bear testimony of such foundational concepts as the truth of the Book of Mormon, the reality of Joseph Smith's First Vision, and so forth. Some have wondered if this means that he intends to downplay such doctrines, or if he does not believe strongly in them.

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Joseph F. Smith at the Reed Smoot hearings

Summary: It is claimed that at the Smoot hearings, Joseph F. Smith said that he never received revelation.

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The Proclamation on the Family

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Criticisms related to 19th-century prophets

Brigham Young's sermons are scripture?

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John Taylor 1886 revelation

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Missouri myths?

Summary: Will members "walk back to Jackson County" before the second coming of Christ? Will the whole Church return to Jackson county before the second coming?

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Wilford Woodruff's 1889 revelation

Summary: Did Wilford Woodruff receive a revelation on November 24, 1889 the said that the Church would prevail against the Government effort to seize the Church's assets?


Criticisms related to modern day prophets

LDS prophets don't prophesy?

Summary: Some critics say that Latter-day Saint prophets aren't really "prophets" because they don't prophesy by foretelling unknown events. They commonly issue challenges such as, "If Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet, tell me one event that he's prophesied." Do LDS prophets "prophesy"?

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Prophetic inerrancy?

Summary: Critics sometimes impose absolutist assumptions on the Church by holding inerrantist beliefs about scriptures or prophets, and assuming that the LDS have similar views. Critics therefore insist, based upon these assumptions, that any statement by any LDS Church leader represents LDS doctrine and is thus something that is secretly believed, or that should be believed, by Latter-day Saints.

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David O. McKay liked to be lionized?

Summary: Some authors distort a biography of President McKay to claim that he liked to be "lionized."

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Do Latter-day Saint prophets not address current issues?

Summary: It is claimed that General Authorities are very silent about some issues, and that academic or volunteer organizations take their place

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Church Public affairs does not represent the Church?

Summary: Some people do not agree with statements issued by the Church's public affairs department. They claim that the public affairs department does not always reflect the beliefs or statements of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This claim is both absurd and false.

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False revelation or private matters

Summary: Statements by leaders of the Church on the propriety of Church members teaching new doctrines, or publicizing personal revelations, dreams, visions, etc.

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No paid ministry

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Mormonism and doctrine

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Official or "core" Mormon doctrine

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"Official" Mormon doctrine

Summary: What constitutes official or "core" doctrine of the Church? Joseph Smith defined our fundamental core doctrine: "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121.)

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Establishing new Mormon doctrine

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Procedures to establish or modify Mormon doctrine

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Church publications as doctrine

Summary: Are Church publications considered doctrine? It is claimed that anything that is, or ever was, officially published by the Church at any time ought to represent doctrine, thus define what Latter-day Saints really believe. However, just as Brigham Young taught principles that applied to the 19th-century saints, modern prophets teach us what we need for our particular time.

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Mormon doctrine of the past

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Statements made by past prophets as "scripture"

Summary: Are statements of past prophets considered doctrine? It is claimed that anything that is, or ever was, officially published by the Church ought to represent doctrine.

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The Law of Adoption: The sealing of men and women as children to prominent Latter-day Saint leaders

Summary: Critics point to the early practice of sealing men and women as children to prominent LDS leaders as an example of changes in LDS belief.

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Repudiated concepts

Summary: Some teachings previously considered doctrinal have since been repudiated by the Church.

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Why would a current prophet repudiate the teachings of an earlier prophet?

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"Blood atonement"

Summary: It is claimed that during the administration of Brigham Young apostates were secretly put to death. They claim this is in line with the teachings of LDS leaders at the time that apostasy was the unforgivable sin, and that the only thing an apostate could do to redeem himself was to give his own life, willingly or unwillingly.

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Mormonism and the concept that some were "neutral" in the "war in heaven"

Summary: It is true that LDS scripture states that those with lighter skin color "are favored because of what they did as spirits in a pre-earth life?" Is it true that some Church leaders taught that people who were born with dark skin were "neutral" in the pre-existence?

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Mormonism and the "curse of Cain"

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Brigham Young's Adam-God theory

Summary: Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father. Since this teaching runs counter to the story told in Genesis and commonly accepted by Christians, critics accuse Brigham of being a false prophet. Also, because modern Latter-day Saints do not believe Brigham's "Adam-God" teachings, critics accuse Mormons of either changing their teachings or rejecting teachings of prophets they find uncomfortable or unsupportable.

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Mormon views of various beliefs

Rapture and LDS theology

Summary: What is the "Rapture"? Do Latter-day Saints believe in this or a similar doctrine?

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The Law of Adoption: The sealing of men and women as children to prominent Latter-day Saint leaders

Summary: Critics point to the early practice of sealing men and women as children to prominent LDS leaders as an example of changes in LDS belief.

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Joseph Smith's First Vision

Summary: Joseph Smith's claim that he saw the Father and the Son in 1820 has produced a wide variety of criticism. This set of articles addresses the various critical claims related to the First Vision. The linked articles below are designed to help readers to see some of the weaknesses that are found in arguments that are made against Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts. Some of these arguments are currently being advocated in anti-Mormon literature that is handed out near the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York.

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FairMormon web site

"Magic" FAIR web links
  • Matthew B. Brown, “Revised or Unaltered?: Joseph Smith’s Foundational Stories,” 2006 FAIR Conference lecture
    Debunks the “Walters the Magician” rumor floating around Palmyra, New York. FairMormon link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?," 2009 FAIR Conference lecture, 7 August 2009 off-site
1826 trial FAIR web links
  • Russell Anderson, "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith," (2002 FAIR Conference presentation.) FairMormon link (Key source)
  • Danel W. Bachman, "Mormonism -- Shadow or Reality? History or Propaganda? Joseph Smith as a Case Study," (2000 FAIR Conference presentation.) FairMormon link
  • Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith Miscellany," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 2005 FAIR Conference). FairMormon link
Joseph Smith FairMormon articles on-line
  • Ron Barney, "Joseph Smith’s Visions: His Style and his Record" FairMormon link
Joseph Smith other visionary issues FairMormon links
  • Craig Ray, "Joseph Smith's History Confirmed," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, August 2002) FairMormon link

External links

"Magic" web links
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," Brigham Young University Studies 10 no. 3 (1970), 283–314. PDF link
    Discusses content of Hurlbut ‘affidavits’ / Stafford, Chase, Ingersoll, Deming ‘affidavits’ – money digging / other Smith family with seerstone.
  • 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
  • Richard L. Anderson, "The Alvin Smith Story: Fact and Fiction," Ensign (August 1987), 58. off-site
    Discusses Salamander Letter / Magic; Chase affidavit; Saunders memories; rumored Oliver Cowdery history
  • Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Review of Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined by Rodger I. Anderson," FARMS Review of Books 3/1 (1991): 52–80. [{{{url}}} off-site]
    Discusses seerstones; magic; money-digging; animal sacrifice; ‘faculty of Abrac’.
  • Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 34–100. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki
  • Davis Bitton, "Review of John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: the Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844," Brigham Young University Studies 34 no. 4 (1994–95), 182–192. PDF link
  • John Gee, "Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob (Review of The Use of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical Review by Edward H. Ashment)," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 19–84. off-site
  • John Gee, "'Bird Island' Revisited, or the Book of Mormon through Pyramidal Kabbalistic Glasses: Review of Written by the Finger of God: A Testimony of Joseph Smith's Translations by Joe Sampson," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 219–228. [ off-site]
  • John Gee, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 185–224. [{{{url}}} off-site]  (Key source)
  • William J. Hamblin, "'Everything Is Everything': Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah? Review of Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance S. Owens," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 251–325. [ off-site]
  • William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  • William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Review of John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: the Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844," Brigham Young University Studies 34 no. 4 (1994–95), 167–181. PDF link
  • William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, "Mormon in the Fiery Furnace Or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge (Review of The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke)," FARMS Review of Books 6/2 (1994): 3–58. [{{{url}}} off-site]
    Shorter version of BYU Studies paper above; discusses Hermeticism; Masonry
  • Marvin S. Hill, "Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 473–488.
    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. off-site
  • Rhett S. James, "Writing History Must Not Be an Act of Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 395–414. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  • Larry E. Morris, "'I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates (Review of: "From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism")," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 11–82. off-site
  • Larry E. Morris, "Joseph Smith and "Interpretive Biography", review of Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet by Dan Vogel," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 321–374. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki
  • Stephen E. Robinson, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn," Brigham Young University Studies 27 no. 4 (1987), ?–??. PDF link
  • Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars (Review of Answering Mormon Scholars: A Response to Criticism Raised by Mormon Defenders)," FARMS Review of Books 9/1 (1997): 87–145. [ off-site] (page 87–145; see especially section "Joseph Smith and 'Magic'")
  • Janet Thomas, "Magic," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:849. off-site
  • Ronald W. Walker, "Joseph Smith: The Palmyra Seer,," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 461–472. off-site
    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.
  • Ronald W. Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 427–459. off-site
    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.
  • Benson Whittle, "review of Michael Quinn, Mormonism and the Magic World View, 1st ed.," Brigham Young University Studies 27 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 105–121. off-site
  • William A. Wilson, "review of Michael Quinn, Mormonism and the Magic World View, 1st ed.," Brigham Young University Studies 27 no. 4 (Fall 1984), 96–104. off-site
Joseph Smith, Jr. on-line articles

Printed material

"Magic" printed materials
  • Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000).
  • Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith's Family Background," in The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, ed. Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 1–18. ISBN 0875791778. GL direct link
  • Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 41–52.
  • Stephen D. Ricks and Daniel C. Peterson, “Joseph Smith and ‘Magic’: Methodological Reflections on the Use of a Term,” in Robert L. Millet, ed., To Be Learned Is Good If . . . (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), 129–147.


Joseph Smith, Jr. printed materials
  • Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith's Family Background," in The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, ed. Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988), 1–18. ISBN 0875791778. GL direct link
  • Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 1.
  • 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 (Key source)