Question: What is the source of the story about Joseph Smith possessing a Jupiter talisman?

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Question: What is the source of the story about Joseph Smith possessing a Jupiter talisman?

The source of the Talisman story, upon which Dr. Durham based his remarks, was Wilford C. Wood, who was told it by Charles Bidamon, the son of Lewis Bidamon

Lewis was Emma Smith's non-Mormon second husband. Charles was born following an affair between Lewis Bidamon and Nancy Abercrombie, which occurred while Lewis was married to Emma. Charles was taken in by Emma when four years old, and raised by her until her death 11 years later.[1] (This action says much for Emma's charity.)

The talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon

Richard Lloyd Anderson wrote that the Talisman, or "silver pocket piece" as described in 1937, appeared on a list of items purportedly own by Joseph Smith which were to be sold by Charles Bidamon. One item listed was "a silver pocket piece which was in the Prophet's pocket at the time of his assassination."[2]:541 Wilford Wood, who collected Mormon memorabilia, purchased it in 1938 along with a document from Bidamon certifying that the Prophet possessed it when murdered. The affidavit sworn to by Charles Bidamon at the time of Wilford C. Wood's purchase was very specific:

This piece came to me through the relationship of my father, Major L. C. Bidamon, who married the Prophet Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith. I certify that I have many times heard her say, when being interviewed, and showing the piece, that it was in the Prophet's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage, Ill.[2]:558

Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.

Anderson noted that Bidamon waited fifty-eight years after Emma’s death to make his certification, and notes that at the time of her death he was only fifteen years old.

Durham based his comments on Wood's description for the item which was: "This piece [the Talisman] was in Joseph Smith's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage Jail."[2]:558[3] However, a list of the items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death was provided to Emma following the martyrdom. On this list there was no mention made of any Talisman-like item. If there had been such an article, it ought to have been listed.

The list of items in Joseph's possession at the time of his death did not list the talisman among them

In 1984, Anderson located and published the itemized list of the contents of Joseph Smith's pockets at his death. The list was originally published in 1885 in Iowa by James W. Woods, Smith's lawyer, who collected the prophet's personal effects after the Martyrdom. The contents from the published 1885 printing are as follows:

Received, Nauvoo, Illinois, July 2, 1844, of James W. Woods, one hundred and thirty- five dollars and fifty cents in gold and silver and receipt for shroud, one gold finger ring, one gold pen and pencil case, one penknife, one pair of tweezers, one silk and one leather purse, one small pocket wallet containing a note of John P. Green for $50, and a receipt of Heber C. Kimball for a note of hand on Ellen M. Saunders for one thousand dollars, as the property of Joseph Smith. - Emma Smith.[2]:558[4]

No Talisman or item like it is listed. It could not be mistaken for a coin or even a "Masonic Jewel" as Durham first thought. Anderson described the Talisman as being “an inch-and-a-half in diameter and covered with symbols and a prayer on one side and square of sixteen Hebrew characters on the other.”[2]:541 Significant is the fact that no associate of Joseph Smith has ever mentioned anything like this medallion. There are no interviews that ever record Emma mentioning any such item as attested to by Charles Bidamon, though he claimed she often spoke of it.

Notes

  1. Jerald R. Johansen, After the Martyrdom: What Happened to the Family of Joseph Smith (Springville, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 2004[1997]), 79. ISBN 0882905961. off-site
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 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
  3. Original coming from LaMar C. Berett, The Wilford Wood Collection, Vol. 1 (Provo, UT: Wilford C. Wood Foundation, 1972), 173.
  4. Anderson points to its original source in J. W. Woods "The Mormon Prophet," Daily Democrat (Ottumwa, Iowa), 10 May 1885; and in Edward H. Stiles, Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa (Des Moines: Homestead Publishing Co., 1916), 271.