Question: Did Joseph Smith have a Jupiter talisman on his person at the time of his death?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith have a Jupiter talisman on his person at the time of his death?

The only source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person is Charles Bidamon, made long after the death of Joseph and Emma

Did Joseph have this Talisman on him when he was murdered? What would it mean if he did?

This well circulated claim finds its origins in a 1974 talk by Dr. Reed Durham. Durham said that Joseph "evidently [had a Talisman] on his person when he was martyred. The talisman, originally purchased from the Emma Smith Bidamon family, fully notarized by that family to be authentic and to have belonged to Joseph Smith, can now be identified as a Jupiter talisman."[1]

There is only one source of evidence that claims Joseph Smith had the Jupiter Talisman on his person, and that source is Charles Bidamon. Bidamon's statement was made long after the death of Joseph and Emma, relied on memories from his youth, and was undergirded by financial motives.

The idea that Joseph Smith might have had a Jupiter Talisman in his possession is used by critics of the Church as proof of his fascination with the occult. As one work put it: "The fact that Smith owned a Jupiter talisman shows that his fascination with the occult was not just a childish fad. At the time of his death, Smith had on his person this talisman....[2]

By contrast, contemporary evidence demonstrates that Joseph did not have such a Talisman in his possession at his death.

Durham, the source of the idea in modern discourse, would later say:

I now wish I had presented some of my material differently… For instance, at the present time, after rechecking my data, I find no primary evidence that Joseph Smith ever possessed a Jupiter talisman. The source for my comment was a second-hand, late source. It came from Wilford Wood, who was told it by Charlie Bidamon, who was told it by his father, Lewis Bidamon, who was Emma’s second husband and a non-Mormon not too friendly to the LDS Church. So, the idea that the Prophet had such a talisman is highly questionable!... [One author who was presented wrote:] "Dr. Durham also told me he was trying to play the “devil’s advocate” in his Nauvoo speech, which is what many there, including myself, sensed. Unfortunately others took the words to further their purposes."[3]


Notes

  1. Dr. Reed Durham’s Presidential Address before the Mormon History Association on 20 April 1974.
  2. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 225. ( Index of claims )
  3. https://www.fairmormon.org/archive/publications/the-truth-about-the-god-makers