Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits claim about the Smith family and treasure digging?

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Question: What do the Hurlbut affidavits claim about the Smith family and treasure digging?

Statements of individuals who claimed to have assisted Joseph Smith, Sr. in digging operations

Several individuals who had participated with Joseph Smith, Sr. on treasure digging activities made some unique claims regarding Joseph Smith, Jr.


Question: What did Willard Chase claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Willard Chase claimed that he discovered Joseph's seer stone, and that it belonged to him

Willard Chase and Joseph Smith were digging a well together when one of Joseph's seer stones was discovered. When it became known that Joseph was able to use the stone, Chase later claimed that Joseph had stolen it from him.

  • Claimed that he discovered Joseph Smith's seer stone.
  • Claimed that the seer stone rightfully belonged to Chase.

Willard Chase claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Moroni appeared in the form of a toad

Chase claimed that the Prophet's father told him that certain "magical" practices had to be performed in order for Joseph to obtain the plates.

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Joseph Jr. removed the plates from the stone box, set them on the ground, and that they went back into the stone box on their own.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that Joseph Jr. was required to wear certain clothes and perform certain actions in order to obtain the plates.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that the angel Moroni appeared in the form of a toad.

Responses to these claims


Question: What did Peter Ingersoll claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

Peter Ingersoll claimed that the Smiths' "general employment" was money digging

  • Claimed that the Smith family's general employment was "digging for money."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. taught him to use a divining rod.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. and Alvin Smith used a stone in a hat to see things.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr., was engaged in "divination."

The Smith farm was improved to the point that it was worth more than 9 out of 10 farms in the region.[1] Given that the Smiths' property was worth more than most of their neighbors, it is difficult to credit the after-the-fact claims by some neighbors in the Hurlbut affidavits that the Smiths were lazy ne'er-do-wells who spent all of their time "money digging."

Ingersoll claimed that Joseph admitted to his father-in-law that he was a fraud

  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. admitted to his father-in-law that he only pretended to be able to see things in the stone.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Jr. fooled his family into thinking that a frock full of sand was the "Gold Bible."
  • Claimed that Joseph told his family that nobody could see the "Gold Bible" and live.

On the threat that no one could see the "gold bible" and live, see: Viewing gold plates would result in death

Ingersoll claimed that the story of the gold plates was created as a joke

  • Claimed that Joseph made up the story of the gold plates on the spot, after which he is supposed to have said, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." However, Ingersoll is discredited on his claim that Joseph made the story of the "gold bible" up on the spot as a way to have "fun" with his family. Joseph was telling various people about his Moroni visits well before recovering the plates (see for example various Knight family recollections). Note also that the name "Moroni" appears in the claim made by Lemon Copley.
  • Claimed that Joseph told him that "he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book."
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. said that there had been a book found in a hollow tree in Canada that described the "first settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus."

It is very difficult to believe that Joseph would have privately confided to Ingersoll that the plates didn't exist, when he told everyone else that they did.

See also:


Question: What did C.R. Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

C.R. Stafford claimed that Joseph Smith told his uncle that he wanted to sacrifice a sheep

(nephew of William Stafford)

  • Claimed that "Jo Smith, the prophet, told my uncle, William Stafford, he wanted a fat, black sheep. He said he wanted to cut its throat and make it walk in a circle three times around and it would prevent a pot of money from leaving."

Response to these claims

  • This is hearsay; it provides no additional evidence than the original claim made by Stafford's uncle.


Question: What did William Stafford claim about Joseph Smith in the Hurlbut affidavits?

William Stafford claimed that Joseph could see "spirits" guarding treasures

(uncle to C.R. Stafford)

  • Claimed that the family of Joseph Smith, Sr. devoted a "great part of their time" to "digging for money."
  • Claimed that he was told that Joseph Smith, Jr. could see "large caves" in "nearly all the hills in this part of New York."
  • Claimed that Joseph could see "spirits" guarding great treasures.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. told him that treasure could "sink" into the ground.
  • Claimed that Joseph Smith, Sr. took one of his sheep on the pretense of using it to search for money by cutting its throat.
  • Claimed that Joseph promised to show him the gold plates.

The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors

The claim that the Smiths were lazy is belied by objective financial data showing them to be more hard-working than most of their neighbors. The attacks on their industry date from after they had become notorious for the Book of Mormon and the Church, and probably spring from religious hostility more than truth.

For a detailed response, see: Lazy Smiths?

William Stafford's story contradicts Peter Ingersoll's story

William Stafford's claim that Joseph promised to show him the gold plates directly contradicts Peter Ingersoll's claim that Joseph confided to him that there were no plates.

Stafford claimed that "The two Josephs and Hiram, promised to show me the plates, after the book of Mormon was translated. But, afterwards, they pretended to have received an express commandment, forbidding them to show the plates."[2]

Ingersol,on the other hand, said that Joseph confided to him that "he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book."[3]

Stafford's oldest son John: "I have heard that story [about the black sheep] but don't think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep"

Stafford's oldest son John would later say "I have heard that story [about the black sheep] but don't think my father was there at the time they say Smith got the sheep. I don't know anything about it....They never stole one [a sheep], I am sure; they may have got one sometime....I don't think it [the story of the sheep] is true. I would have heard more about it, that is true." [4]


Notes

  1. Enders, 220.
  2. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 240.
  3. "Testimony of William Stafford," Mormonism Unvailed, 236.
  4. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121–122. The material removed by ellipses consists of questions being asked by the interviewer.