The next part of this incredible journey began while we were spending the winter in St. George, Utah, a nice break from the cold winters of Manti. I was about to experience the most soul-searching time of my life since Cindy's death. It would challenge the very foundation I had trusted and built my life upon. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Larry had spent the day reading the History of Utah by Hubert Howe Bancroft. I had spent the day shopping. When I returned I could tell there was something terribly wrong, because Larry always met me with a smile and a kiss, but this day was different. He looked troubled and deeply hurt. Then he dropped the bomb! The initial shock was all consuming! He told me he wasn't sure if Joseph Smith was a Prophet, or that he believed that The Book of Mormon was divine scripture, or even whether the LDS Church was the only true church on the earth. He voiced concerns that it may have all been built on lies and deceit.
Disbelief spread through my entire being. I could feel the color draining from my face. I looked for a place to sit down before my knees buckled beneath me. Larry sat down next to me. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to run away and pretend that the last few minutes had never happened. I asked myself, had I heard him correctly or was he just teasing me? He's always been a big tease. But I could tell by the look on his face that he was dead serious! His eyes were brimming with tears as he tried to explain. (Big boys may not cry, but men do.) Larry cried that day as he tried to tell me what he was feeling and what he had found. He said that for the last few months he had privately been addressing many of his concerns about the doctrine and history of the Church. He started to tell me what he had discovered, but I didn't want to hear anything else he had to say. It was too painful. I emotionally took flight in order to survive. I became Scarlet O'Hara who, when faced with difficulties, chose not to address them. I felt my world come crashing down around me the day Larry uttered those fateful words, "I no longer believe in Mormonism." Those words rang in my head, day and night, until I thought I would surely die.
We eventually moved to St. George, Utah. The warmer, drier climate was better for Larry's health. He continued to study Church history. No sooner would he finish reading one book than he would start reading another. I was hoping that he would put away his doubts about the Church, and that all his studying would help him regain his testimony. He had been reading for some time before I became aware that many of the books he was studying were not Church approved. In fact they were what the Church refers to as anti-Mormon literature. I later discovered that these books contained suppressed, unsanitized, controversial but authentic Church history.
Dr. Shades at internet site firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: "The less-scholarly majority of the Church's members are much easier to control by simply labeling negative literature anti-Mormon. The word anti-Mormon is what's called a thought-terminating cliché. Using a word like anti-Mormon is a subtle brainwashing technique. By using a word specifically designed to create a mental aversion, the leadership cues their membership to subconsciously censor themselves, and avoid Satan's temptation. This tactic is common among cults. It is very effective in insulating members from outside information."
When I realized what Larry was reading, I found myself resenting, even hating the material and the time he spent studying. I was afraid of Satan taking hold of my husband, yet I knew Larry was a man of honor and great integrity and I trusted him with my very life. But with this danger hovering over my head and his, trust wasn't enough, and I wasn't ready to seek my own truth. Searching through this kind of material terrified me. I tried to reason with Larry, but it was pointless to argue with his logic. What if Larry was right? What then? These two questions tormented me daily.
Hardly a day went by that I didn't go in and out of what I will call the gray area. Is the Church true? Is it not true? What is true? I suffered guilt for doubting my leaders. I felt guilty for not trusting my husband. There was also self-doubt, and I asked myself, "What about all those special feeling I've had about the Church? What about the spiritual experiences I've had?" They were real. I could not deny them. But what if we had been deceived? I had so many questions, but I was desperate and fearful of finding the answers. Had Larry been deceived? Had he lost the spirit? Did Satan have him? Was our eternal marriage and our eternal Family gone? What about Cindy? Who will raise her? (That question just about killed me.) Will Larry lose his countenance like I had been told members who left the Church would? The questions went on and on. The pain of answering these questions was so overwhelming at times; I found it difficult, if not impossible to even collect my thoughts. All of this placed me in an unimaginable position. I had been so indoctrinated that my logical thinking was somewhere far away, almost separate from myself. I felt as though I had fallen into the deepest and darkest part of the ocean and was drowning in pain, confusion and hurt.
Larry stopped attending Church, so I continued to go by myself. I felt as though my heart would break as I sat on the Church bench feeling so alone. Larry and I had always attended Church together. It was all I could do to hold back the tears each time I went. I made up excuses to the Bishop and others when they asked me where Larry was. I wanted so desperately for things to be the way they were before.
Larry had mentioned to our children some of his thoughts and feelings in a beautiful, sincere and heartfelt letter. I know it must have been very difficult for him to write that letter, for he adores our children as I do, and the last thing he would ever want to do is to hurt them. But try as he did not to hurt them, it was inevitable. We had brought them up in the Mormon religion and had born our testimonies to them. They had trusted us. As hard as it was for him to write his letter, I know it was equally as hard for our children to receive it. What else could they have felt but confusion, pain, and even anger? Larry knew there would be a price to pay for honor. He didn't know how our children or I would respond. That was probably the hardest part of all for him, not knowing. He tried to help all of us see the deception we were under, but we each built a wall around us that was too strong to break through. Larry was in an extraordinary place and did what he had to do. He had to take a stand and tell the truth about what he had discovered, hoping that we would trust him enough to listen.
Several years later Larry shared with me his personal thoughts and fears during that time of great personal pain. He said he wasn't sure what I would do when he told me how he felt about the Mormon Church. Would our love for each other stand the test, or would it separate us enough that I would leave him, perhaps for someone else who would take me to the Celestial Kingdom? His fears were not unfounded for he had seen this separation happen in other families. The thought of leaving him never entered my mind. Our kind of love is eternal. I felt it then and I feel it now. He wondered if he could ever make me happy again, or if I would lose all trust in him? I guess this was all part of his gray area. He thought that by being the messenger and delivering the bad news he would be misunderstood, that he might be hated; while the institution which was doing the lying and deceiving, the Mormon Church, would be set free to continue its destructive pattern in our lives. He wondered if our children would ever speak to him again or ever want to see him and yet he found the courage to stand up for what he believed to be right. The old clichés, "sometimes the truth hurts," and "ignorance is bliss," are certainly true. Still, he could do nothing less than share with us, his family, what he had found in his studies, for that is who he is. I'm sure that because of our negative responses to the information that he was trying to share with us, he must have felt terribly alone.
MY LAST STAND, OR AM I GOING CRAZY?
Even though Larry had stopped attending Church, we were still home-teaching together (visiting other members' homes for fellowship and spiritual instruction) and receiving home teachers in our home. I gave the lessons and he supported me, for he could no longer support the teachings of the Mormon Church. The Bishop called us in several times to extend joint callings, but we always declined making one excuse or another. I was called to serve in the Relief Society Presidency as Homemaking Counselor, but for the first time in my life I didn't accept the call. I knew what the calling required and I was just too emotionally and physically exhausted. I felt so guilty for saying no, however, I continued to be involved in the Relief Society organization, helping where I could, substituting as a teacher and faithfully doing my visiting teaching. I felt that if I kept giving and serving, God would forgive Larry and we would still be able to be together in the next life. I was desperately trying to hold on to my belief system. I had a constant prayer in my heart that I would wake up from the nightmare, that it would have been just a horrible dream.
I felt the sorrow and saw the tears of our children as their father became
inactive. I wanted to shield them from the pain. But how could I? I didn't even
know how to deal with my own pain. I've always tried to protect the children
from the madness in the world, but I couldn't protect them from something I
didn't understand. I searched my mind and heart for the right words to say to
them, but the words were not there.
I continued to read The Book of Mormon every day, praying that I would find the solution to my dilemma written in the words of the Prophets. It became my security blanket. I began to feel like I was leading a double life. I was pretending that everything was all right, putting on a façade on the outside, while dying a little everyday on the inside. I was an expert at hiding my true feelings. I had learned the technique as a child.
As time went on Larry shared little tidbits of information with me concerning the unsanitized historical records of the Church. But as usual my anger would rise toward him and I would close down. I didn't want to hear or believe anything he was saying. Larry became more discreet about his reading and studying. He knew it upset me, so he studied in private. He never once asked me to stop attending church or change my beliefs. He respected my freedom of choice and somehow we found a middle ground in our relationship and that's where we stayed for some time. We didn't want to hurt each other, and our love carried us through this difficult time.
I thought I was coping pretty well, but I was really just kidding myself. Resentment was building up inside, and I could feel the overwhelming stress crippling me, both emotionally and physically. There were times when I thought I would literally explode. And that is exactly what happened one-day while we were fishing with our oldest grandson at Otter Creek. I couldn't hold on any longer, or hide my deepest emotions. The nightmare had to stop if I was to survive. The pain had become so intense that death was beginning to look like a welcome companion. I looked at Larry in desperation. I told him I wanted to go home and be alone. I needed some time to myself. I needed to sort things out and find some sort of peace in my life or else… It was hard to let Larry see me this way. I knew that he was suffering his own pain and I didn't want to hurt him anymore. We made up some excuse to tell our grandson and I drove home.
For the next three days I lived in total solitude. I kept the blinds pulled down and the phone off the hook. I fasted and prayed continually. I told God, "I can't do this anymore. I'm so torn and so tired." I felt like I wanted to die, thinking that only then the pain would go away. But down deep inside I knew that death wasn't an option. I had too much to live for. I pleaded with God for answers: "Please talk to me! Tell me what to believe! I just want to know the truth, that's all. Is that too much to ask? God please help me!" I thought about the promise in James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given." Joseph Smith's prayer had been answered. Why wasn't mine? I curled up in the fetal position and cried until there were no more tears. Then I waited and listened for an answer. Nothing. Nothing happened. No feelings, no quiet voices, no peace. No one was home. The silence was deafening. I was both physically and emotionally spent. My mind retreated into an incredibly dark and lonely place.
Today I look back on that extraordinarily difficult time in my life and realize that my belief that God would answer my prayer was not enough. I needed to study and search out the answers to my questions. I now believe wisdom comes through study, investigation, doubts, experiments, experience, logic and reason, not from faith.
On the fourth day I drove back to Otter Creek. Nothing had been resolved, and I knew I would go mad if I didn't get hold of my emotions. I continued to play the happy wife and mother. I could not let our children see my pain, nor did I want them to blame their father for what I was going through, for I knew they would. Part of me blamed him for the emotional distress and unhappiness of our family. I was so caught up in my own suffering and that of our children that I had no idea how much pain and hurt Larry was going through.
He was as much a victim as we were. Larry was so patient with me and did all
that he could to help. He knew I was hurting, so he kept his thoughts about the
Church to himself and turned from studying Church history to books about the
settling of the Americas, the colonies, trappers, Indians and explorers. I was
MY SACRED QUEST
Horses, Tapirs, Deer or Deceit?
During the early spring of 1996 Larry and I took a much-needed vacation to
Yellowstone National Park and eventually ended up at Flaming George Reservoir in
northern Utah. While we were enjoying the beauty and serenity of the area, a
most remarkable thing happened. The answer to my prayer about the Church being
true or not came in a most unusual way. Larry began reading the book 500
Nations. It's an illustrated history of the North American Indians. He was
intrigued with their customs, their culture, their courage and their dreams.
It's a history of the hundreds of Indian nations that have inhabited the
American continent for more than 15,000 years. It tells of their centuries-long
struggle with the Europeans who arrived in ever-increasing numbers after 1492.
It tells of their lives, their culture and their heritage.
While sitting in our trailer one beautiful afternoon, Larry asked me if I would like him to read to me from the book, and I said that would be great. I was doing some folk art painting at the time and enjoyed listening to the history of the Indians. Larry read for a while and then we stopped to have dinner. After dinner I asked him to keep reading while I cleaned up the dishes. He began to read again when something he said struck me as being very odd. I stopped him and asked him to read again what he had just read. He did so, and the following is what I had him repeat.
"For centuries, tens of millions of buffalo roamed the great plains, the seemingly endless grasslands rising from the Mississippi Valley westward to the Rocky Mountains. For centuries, Plains Nations, many of them engaging in small scale agriculture along the waterways of the plains, but also hunting on foot, relied on the immense herds for food and for raw materials to provide essentials in their lives." "There were no horses yet on the Plains or in any other part of the Western Hemisphere, nor would there be any until Columbus brought the first ones from Spain to the West Indies on his second voyage, in 1493." The Plains Nations in the ancient past had learned the ways of pedestrian nomads on the grasslands, building small portable tipi dwellings of poles covered with sewn buffalo hides, and raising dogs to transport meat and belongings on travois formed by tipi poles that were hitched to the dogs and were dragged along behind them" (500 Nations, p. 358). (Underline added)
"That can't be right", I said to myself. Horses had to have been
here before 1493; The Book of Mormon says so. I knew of several places in The
Book of Mormon where it spoke of horses.
Horses in The Book of Mormon and approximate dates...
And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the land, and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses. (475 B.C.)
And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi; for there had been a great feast appointed at the land of Nephi, by the father of Lamoni, who was king over all the land. (90 B.C.)
Now when king Lamoni heard that Ammon was preparing his horses and his chariots he was more astonished, because of the faithfulness of Ammon, saying: Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them. (90 B.C.)
And it came to pass that when Ammon had made ready the horses and the chariots for the king and his servants, he went in unto the king, and he saw that the countenance of the king was changed; therefore he was about to return out of his presence. (90 B.C.)
Now when Lamoni had heard this he caused that his servants should make ready his horses and his chariots. (90 B.C.)
3 Nephi 3:22
And it came to pass in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies. (17 A.D.)
3 Nephi 4:4
Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land; and thus the eighteenth year did pass away. (19 A.D.)
3 Nephi 6:1
And now it came to pass that the people of the Nephites did all return to their own lands in the twenty and sixth year, every man, with his family, his flocks and his herds, his horses and his cattle, and all things whatsoever did belong unto them. (26 A.D.)
3 Nephi 21:14
Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots; (34 A.D.)
And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms.... (Unstated Date)
I came to a crossroad that day. I needed to stop for a moment and catch my breath. For the first time in two years I knew what I had to do. I heard the answer to my prayers loud and clear and I didn't like what I heard. Feelings of uncertainty, distrust, and suspicion as to whether the Church was really true or not entered the picture. Knowing something is defined by an absence of doubt. But now my knowing that the Church was true, my testimony, had a hole in it. Not a big hole, but a hole. I would no longer be able to declare that I knew the Mormon Church was true until I explored my feelings and the information I had just heard.
As Opray Winfrey would say, "this was my light bulb moment." The wall of resistance and fear came tumbling down. Afterward there was a driving force for which there aren't words to explain that motivated me to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Before that day I had been terrified of the truth and what I might find. Now the BIG QUESTION became who or what information can I trust to be the truth? I needed concrete evidence, not opinions, not hearsay, he said she said, and not testimonies.
We returned home a few days later and my quest began. It had been easier to question Larry's findings than it was to question the Church. How could I separate myself from the Church? Mormonism and I had become one. To find fault or question the Church was to question myself, my honor, my integrity, my way of life, and my God. I was entering forbidden waters, and I knew I was doing the unthinkable. I was questioning the integrity of the Mormon Church. I would need a steady moral compass.
I still didn't want Larry to tell me what he knew. I had to trust myself to find my own truth. I'm sure this hurt his feelings, but I could do nothing less than find out for myself. I did ask him if he would be willing to help me locate different materials and books that I needed for my study. He said he would. I began a quest that would change my life forever, and it began with something as simple as a four-legged animal called a horse.
I needed to know everything I could about the evolution of the horse, and I
knew it would take a lot of effort and study on my part. I read books,
magazines, newspaper articles and encyclopedias. I watched documentaries, wrote
to museums, the National Geographic Society, and The Smithsonian Institute. I
was told that The Smithsonian Institution had used The Book of Mormon in their
research. The letter that I received from them strongly denied that claim:
THE DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY
STATEMENT REGARDING THE BOOK OF MORMON
Public Information Officer
Department of Anthropology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution, MRC 112
Washington, D.C. 20560
Your recent inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution's alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide has been received in the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology.
The Book of Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and any information that you have received to the contrary is incorrect. Accurate information about the Smithsonian position is contained in the enclosed Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon, which was prepared to respond to the numerous inquiries that the Smithsonian receives on this topic.
Because the Smithsonian regards the unauthorized use of its name to disseminate inaccurate information as unlawful, we would appreciate your assistance in providing us with names of any individuals who are misusing the Smithsonian name.
Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon.
Camels and horses were in the Americas along with the bison, mammoth and mastodon, but all these animals become extinct around 10,000 years ago. The extinction was at the same time period when early big game hunters spread across the Americas.
1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.
2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World--probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age--in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.
3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen, who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around 1000 A.D. and then settled in Greenland. There is no evidence to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.
4. None of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. This is one of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific premise that contacts with Old World civilizations, if they occurred, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, or camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time the early big game hunters traveled across the Americas.)
5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.
6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asia and the Near East.
7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt.
8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones, which have been found in Greenland.
9. There are copies of the Book of Mormon in the library of the National
Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian Institution...
Washington, D.C. 20560
I gathered all the information I could find about what the Church had to say concerning the horses during The Book of Mormon time period. I read and reread the scriptures in The Book of Mormon about horses. I pulled out every book, magazine and manual I had in my possession to see what the Church said. I was desperately hoping that they had some logical explanation for the dilemma I faced. I pulled out my Book of Mormon student manual prepared by the Church Educational System. On page 46, referring to 1 Nephi 18:24-25, they asked the reader the question. "Is there any evidence of the existence of the horses in the America's before the time of Columbus?" The following is the Church's answer.
"If Joseph Smith had been writing The Book of Mormon instead of translating it from ancient records, he would have been very foolish to have included references to horses on the American continent in the BOM times. (1 Nephi 18-25; Enos 21). In 1830, nearly all the historians and scholars were convinced there had been no horses on the American continent before the coming of Columbus. After the BOM was published, however, archaeological discoveries were made that clearly indicate that horses were in the Americas before Columbus arrived. In the asphalt deposits of Rancho La Brea in southern California, numerous fossil remains of horses have been found that antedate (before) Mormon times. Although these discoveries do not absolutely prove horses were in the Americas in the time period covered by the BOM (About 2600 B.C. to A.D. 421) they do prove horses were here before the coming of Columbus." (Underline added) This same information is in the current manual.
I needed to know more about the Rancho La Brea Fossils the Church had referenced. I contacted the Page Museum where the fossils are located and found the following information. "The fossils were from the Pleistocene or ice age. Horses became extinct 10,000 years ago in the Americas and they were reintroduced by the Spanish only 500 years ago. The fossil remains of the horses had been removed from the pits from 1913 to Aug 1915. The Pleistocene period terminated some twenty-five thousand years ago and extends back of that period indefinitely some two hundred thousand years. The bones of these finds were accumulated sometime during that period."
I turned to the Church's own historians and discovered the following: Because of the constant concern and questions of Church members about the many unanswered questions concerning the historicity of The Book of Mormon, General Authority & Church Historian B. H. Roberts, by church assignment, was to prove The Book of Mormon to be true. He spent many years working on that assignment. In the end he concluded there was no proof, only more unanswered questions. He reported his findings to the Church leaders and said, "We face grave difficulties in all these matters, none of them seem to belong." (Referring to the horses, asses, oxen, cows, swine, iron, steel swords, scimitars, silk, wheat, barley and wheeled vehicles (chariots). Roberts referred to the difficulties of establishing the existence of the horse in America during historic times as "our embarrassing problem." (Quest for the Gold Plates by Stan Larson, p. 194). Roberts then went on to say, "Again I ask, is silence our best answer?" (Studies of The Book of Mormon by B. H. Roberts, p.115) B. H. Roberts was surprised that the Church leaders would reference the Pits as proof of The Book of Mormon horses.
I wrote to Brigham Young University asking if they had any further evidence of the horse being here during The Book of Mormon time line. Their reply is as follows. "Evidence for pre-Columbian horses is sparse. I should say that we need not expect lots of horse remains, since horses are mentioned only in passing in a few places in the Book of Mormon. None of the horse remains from the Yucatan have been carbon-dated, but some of them are being sent to the lab to do this. They were all found with archaeological artifacts that indicate pre-columbian context. A horse skeleton from near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been carbon-dated to ca. 100 B.C., but I don't have references to that article. Moreover we must remember that animal names are often transferred from one animal to another." (Letter from John A. Tvedtnes, Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies aka FARMS)
John was wrong about horses being mentioned in only a few places in The Book of Mormon. I knew of at least 10 places where it mentions horses. Bruce MacFadden, a well-known paleontologist from the University of Florida, wrote the article that John references about the skeleton in Florida. Larry wrote to McFadden and the following was his response to the question about horses in the Americas: "Horses became extinct in North America about ten thousand years ago. We cannot give you a more exact date than this. Horses were then re-introduced in North America by the Spanish. There is no definitive evidence that horses existed in North America after ten thousand years ago. Hope this helps.--- Bruce MacFadden."
Mormon apologists say, "Maybe they meant tapir or deer," when referring to the horses. I found this comment to be misleading and ignorant of the facts. Surely, the Nephites would have called a horse a horse. They would have been well acquainted with the name (horse) from the old country. Again, I wrote to John with no reply. I wrote to Church Headquarters with the same result, no reply. Was B. H. Roberts right when he said, "Is this our embarrassing problem? And again is silence our best answer?"
Larry e-mailed a professional archaeologist in Central America concerning the archaeological findings in that area. I cannot give his name because he needs to remain anonymous as he is working in the same area (Meso-America) as some of the Church archaeologists from BYU and does not want to get into a religious feud. This is the place in the Americas where the Mormon Church now claims all, or most of, the evidence is as to the proof and truthfulness of Book of Mormon historicity and archeology. The following is just one of Dr. X's responses.
"The essential problem with divine revelation is that it always seems to reflect the current human understanding. This is not a problem in oral traditions because God is updated with each retelling. The dilemma develops with the invention of writing because times change but the written word does not. The section you sent about the first people arriving around 450 B.C. is a good example. Nineteenth century writers who discuss the "dawn of civilization" generally referred to the Greeks so 450 B.C. was "ancient." Through the first half of the 20th century archaeologists were absolutely convinced that humans arrived so recently that they would not be found in association with extinct animals. Until five years ago a huge segment of the field was convinced that humans entered the New World at about 10,000 B.C. Now even that has been blown away. So, the lesson in all this, when you start your next religion, the first commandment is,.. "Thou shalt not write anything down."
After e-mailing back and forth several times, Dr. X concluded that the archaeologists at BYU and FARMS, "have not been totally honest with their study and findings."
Without a doubt, the article that had the most impact on me was the statement
published by the Smithsonian Institution. In very strong language the report
spoke of a complete lack of evidence for any connection between the Old World
and the New World. Scientists rarely make such a dogmatic statement unless they
can back it up.
Even though the evidence strongly supported the fact that there weren't any horses in the Americas during the time frame of The Book of Mormon, coupled with the fact that I was greatly troubled by this information, I was not about to lose my testimony on just one issue. I was determined not to prejudge or process this information prematurely. Other material I read raised other questions that I would have to address, such as the origin of the American Indians, American archeology, and the use of iron, steel, glass, silk, etc., before 1492.
I was putting my most trusted book, The Book of Mormon, as well as the Church I had grown to love and trust on trial. How would I handle this? Could I handle it? Did I have the strength? Sometimes I said to myself, "This is a journey I don't want to take. However, if I don't I will always wonder what is true and what is not." Emotional obstacles were in my path at every turn, especially the thought: "What will the children do if they know I am doubting the Church?"
Feeling somewhat ignorant concerning the complete doctrine and history of my religion, because I had relied on others to do my thinking for me, I started out with very limited knowledge and understanding. Now I could no longer rely on the testimony and knowledge of others. I had to study, evaluate and understand for myself. I had to be willing to spend whatever it took to obtain all the information I could. I plunged in, determined to stay on neutral ground, kind of like a juror when asked to bring in a decision during a court trial. I had to weigh all the evidence on both sides and bring in a verdict honoring the facts, my feelings and my intuition. It wouldn't be easy, but I knew I had to do it. It bothered me that for so many years I had shelved all of my concerns about the doctrine and the history. I'd put my inner feelings aside and hadn't addressed the unanswered questions...until now.
I began a quest to find out what was authentic and what was not. I had to stay focused. I had never bothered to check the reliability of Joseph Smith, other Church leaders, or Church history. I had just followed what the authoritarian figures in the Church taught.
The thought of finding fault with the Mormon Church was both heart-wrenching and painful. In the Mormon Church it is particularly difficult to adopt an analytical viewpoint because members are admonished to respect authority, obey the brethren, hold covenants sacred, and above all, guard our testimony of the gospel.
I found myself going in and out of the gray area. Who is God? Is He playing cruel games with His children? Is Satan influencing me? Does he have me? Does he have Larry? Why would the Church deceive us? The list kept getting longer.
Ultimately I knew I would have to decide whether Joseph Smith was truly a
Prophet of God, an extraordinary young man with a highly imaginative mind who
created this Upside-Down world from his own religious background, or a con-man
who willfully deceived his family, friends and thousands of followers. I would
have to find out whether The Book of Mormon was an actual history of the
Americas, a nineteenth-century interpretation expressing Joseph's actual
religious belief, or a mere book of fiction conjured up in his very creative
mind. I was determined to find out at any cost. I began reading books that were
'historically accurate' as opposed to 'faith-promoting.'
THE MAN NAMED JOSEPH
The central character in Mormonism is its founder, Joseph Smith. The precise path that Joseph walked has been colored by the dust of nearly two centuries. Historically though, the Mormon story is a fairly young one and for that reason alone it can be investigated. I recognize the difficulty of maintaining balance in describing historical events that many people hold sacred. It is with humility that I offer the following thoughts and information.
Unfortunately, I was incredibly ignorant of the complete history of the man named Joseph whom I had revered and testified was God's Prophet. There are relatively few men who have made such an impact on America as has Joseph Smith. I was taught that he was an uneducated boy who was visited by God and His Son, Jesus Christ, receiving instructions (revelations) and discovering ultimate truths that had been lost from mankind for close to two thousand years.
President Joseph F. Smith (10th Prophet of the LDS Church) stated: "Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. I pp. 188-189).
It was in a funeral sermon that the Mormon prophet flung a challenge to his future biographers. To an audience of ten thousand in his city of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith said on April 7, 1844, "You don't know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it; I shall never understand it. I don't blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself" (No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie, p. vii).
The road that led Joseph into a career of prophet, seer, and revelator is overgrown with a tangle of legend and contradiction. Mormon and non-Mormon accounts conflict at every turn. However, it has been possible to reconstruct Joseph's life with a fair degree of accuracy. Sorting through the evidence has been frustrating and heartbreaking, yet at the same time enlightening.
To understand Joseph Smith I needed to understand his family and the times in which he grew up. Assuming that Joseph's mother would have considerable insight regarding the personality and character of her son, I started by rereading Joseph Smith's History written by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. I had read it many years earlier when we first became active in the Church. When Larry saw what I was reading he suggested that I might want to read the original 1853 edition. I was surprised because I thought I had the original history by his mother. Larry explained that the LDS Church had revised, deleted and edited many portions of the original book that was entitled, biographical sketches of Joseph Smith the prophet and his progenitors for many generations by Lucy Mack Smith. Larry said there had been 436 words added, 1,379 words deleted, and 220 words changed without any footnotes to that effect in the 1954 edition that I was reading.
I immediately felt like the Church leaders had broken the rules of literary honesty by changing, adding to, and deleting the words of Joseph's mother without so much as a notation. After all, it was her biography, not theirs. What were the leaders afraid of? What were they trying to hide?
I learned that in 1865 Brigham Young told the members of the Church that he wanted Lucy Mack Smith's book either suppressed or destroyed, and a new edition published omitting embarrassing passages relating to the family's magic practices, troubles with the law, and especially the references concerning Joseph's brother, William Smith. (Original copies are very hard to find.)
Brigham Young appointed a committee consisting of George A. Smith and Judge
Elias Smith, cousins of Joseph Smith, to revise Lucy's book. Here are just a few
1) On pages 216 and 217 Lucy told of some trouble her husband had with the law and his subsequent escape. In the 1954 reprint many words were deleted and changed.
2) On page 225 of the first edition Lucy states that her son Joseph "was tried for treason against the state of Missouri." This has been completely changed in the 1954 reprint.
3) On pages 218, 225 and 254 Lucy writes about her son William. She tells that he had revelations and of his work for the Mormon Church. In the 1954 reprint all the good things she said about William have been deleted. The Mormon leaders evidently feared William Smith's influence, as he had been an Apostle in the Church until after Joseph Smith's death, then left the Church and stated that he once heard his brother Joseph say that Brigham Young was a man whose passions, if unrestrained, were calculated to make him the most licentious man in the world, and should the time ever come, he said, that this man should head the Church he would lead it to destruction. (A Proclamation, by William Smith, as quoted in the Warsaw Signal, Oct. 29, 1845).
For a closer look at the changes see The Case Against Mormonism by Gerald & Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry.
Although I discovered Lucy's writings to be filled with a mother's love and unshakable devotion to her son, the original 1853 edition offers insights into the Smith family and events that may have played an important role in the evolution of Church doctrine and history.
After I finished reading biographical sketches I picked up Fawn Brodie's book
No Man Knows My History. Her book provides a remarkable history of the early
Mormon Church. Some of the following information is taken from her book as well
as Gerald & Sandra Tanner's Shadow or Reality.
Lucy Mack Smith and Family...
Lucy Mack was born in the town of Gilsum, Cheshire County, New Hampshire on July 8, 1776. During Lucy's lifetime, gross ignorance and superstition prevailed in almost every household, including her own. Spirits, fairies, angels, witches, ghosts, and even the devil himself were thought to be in every shadow in all the land. When someone recovered from a life threatening illness or accident, it was often said that the good spirits overwhelmed evil spirits, or it was the will of the Lord. She had never known luxury or security growing up. Her father, Solomon Mack, was a son of misfortune and poverty.
Neither Solomon nor his daughter, Lucy, had much formal schooling, but the impulse to self-expression was strong within them, and the fact that they both married schoolteachers compensated for the absence of schooling. Solomon married an accomplished young schoolteacher by the name of Lydia Gates in 1759. As religious dissenters, the Mack family believed more in the integrity of individual religious experience than in organized religion. Lucy said she remained aloft from any church, for to join one church would bring about a condemnation of another. She said, "No church will admit that I am right, except the one which I am associated. This makes them witnesses against each other; and how can I decide in such a case as this, seeing they are all unlike the Church of Christ, as it existed in former days" (biographical sketches by Lucy Mack Smith. pp. 21,52).
Lucy had four brothers and three sisters. Lucy's brother, Jason, ran sharply counter to the religious and economic traditions of New England when he became a 'Seeker' and set up a communistic society of thirty indigent families whose economic and spiritual welfare he sought to direct. He believed that through prayer and faith one might attain the gifts of the Gospel that were enjoyed by the ancient Disciples of Christ. He labored almost incessantly to convert others to his faith.
Jason, however, has not received the attention from Mormon historians that has been devoted to another of Lucy's brothers. When the family from which the Mormon Prophet sprang is called idle, thriftless, and degenerate, Steven Mack, Lucy's other brother, is cited triumphantly to the opposite. He made a fortune in Detroit and left an estate worth fifty thousand dollars at his death. When Lucy and Joseph were married, Steven and his partner furnished Lucy with the dowry of a thousand dollars that her father could not provide.
Lucy's sister, Lovisa, who had been married a short time, was taken very sick and not expected to live. She lay in this situation three days and two nights. A few days later she related to a large congregation assembled at their local church what had happened. She sang a hymn and then addressed the audience as follows: "I seemed to be borne away to the world of spirits, where I saw the Savior, as through a veil, which appeared to me about as thick as a spider's web, and he told me that I must return again to warn the people to prepare for death; that I must exhort them to be watchful as well as prayerful; that I must declare faithfully unto them their accountability before God, and the certainty of being called to stand before the judgment seat of Christ; and that if I would do this, my life should be prolonged." She continued to speak boldly of these things for the space of three years, at which time she was seized with consumption and ended her earthly existence.
Before Lovisa's death she wrote a hymn that said, "My friends I bid you all adieu." This same French word, adieu, is found in The Book of Mormon: Before Jacob's death he said; "I bid farewell, Brethren, adieu." (Jacob 7:27) I found it odd that a French word was in The Book of Mormon. In the meantime, Lavina, another sister, had also died of consumption. The care of Lavina during her illness was chiefly upon Lucy, who was thirteen at the time. Before Lavina's death she told her young friends to remember that life upon this earth cannot be eternal. "Hence, the necessity of looking beyond this vale of tears, to a glorious inheritance, where moths do not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal." These same words are printed in BOM, 3 Nephi, 13: 19-20.
Lucy spoke little of her sister Lydia, except to say she was beloved in this life, so she was bewailed in death. Lucy spoke of her brother, Daniel, as being an adventurous young man who would very often come to the aid of others, even at the peril of his own life. After saving three young men from drowning one of them said, "Mr. Mack, we have reason to look upon you as our savior, for you have delivered us from a watery tomb." Could young Joseph have wanted the same praise when he declared himself a Prophet? Surely these stories and others were discussed in the Smith household as Joseph was growing up.
While visiting her brother Steven in Tumbridge, Vermont after the death of her sister Lavina, Lucy became acquainted with a young man by the name of Joseph Smith (Senior).
Joseph Smith Senior and Family...
Joseph Smith Sr.'s father was Asael Smith, born in New England on March 1, 1744. Asael's ancestors had lived in New England for more than a century. Like many others of the time, Asael proclaimed himself to be a Christian, but basically he was irreligious. He wrote the following to his children. "I would not wish to point any particular form (of religion) to you; but first I would wish you to search the Scriptures and consult sound reason." (This letter was dated April 10, 1799. Topsfield Historical Society Collections, vol. VIII, pp. 92-94.) Although Asael was not involved in any particular religion he once predicted that a prophet would be raised up in his family. (Was he right, or did Joseph Jr. play out his grandfather's prediction?) Asael married Mary Duty on Feb. 12, 1761. They had eleven children, Joseph, father of the first Mormon prophet, being the third.
In 1789 Asael left Massachusetts to clear a farm in Virginia. He took his son Joseph with him. Joseph was a strapping two-hundred-pound young man, six foot tall and handsome. One passer-by commented that the conditions in which Joseph was reared were poor, low lived, and indelicate. He said the people were nasty, yet cheerful, many profaned, and yet the women were quiet, serene and peaceable. He spoke of the women being contented and loving their husbands and their homes. He said the young girls were unpolished and would bear work as well as mules (No Man Knows My History, p. 2). It was while living in these conditions that Joseph and Lucy Mack met. They were married on Jan. 24, 1796.
Over the next twenty-two years Joseph and Lucy had ten children. Alvin, Hyrum, Sophronia, Joseph Jr., Samuel, Ephraim, William, Catherine, Don Carlos, and Lucy. The Smith family lived in Tunbridge, Vermont for six years tilling the earth for a livelihood. In 1802 they moved to Randolph, Vermont where they opened a mercantile establishment. The first two children were born here, but a short time after the birth of their second child, Lucy became deathly sick with consumption, and wasn't expected to live. She prayed to the Lord that he would spare her so that she could raise her small children. She said that during the night she made a solemn covenant with God that if he would let her live, she would endeavor to serve him according to the best of her abilities. Shortly after this, she heard a voice say to her, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me" (biographical sketches by Lucy Mack Smith, p. 47). (Lucy's experience and the words she heard have a familiar ring. Matthew 7:7 say, "seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "...Therefore if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you." D&C 6:5.)
Lucy, like her father, accepted a personalized God with whom she would talk as if He were a member of the family, a God who invaded dreams (which were often called visions) and invoked miracles. After her illness Lucy said she became deeply impressed with the subject of religion. She began to attend Methodist meetings and asked her husband to join her. He said he considered it hardly worth his while, as it would prove of little advantage to them. Lucy said, "I was considerably hurt by this and retired to a grove not far distant, where I prayed to the Lord in behalf of my husband 'that the true gospel' might be presented to him." (Underline added) (Was Joseph Jr. forming his religious story of the "First Vision" with his mothers' assertions?) She returned home and wrote, "I soon fell asleep, and had the following dream."
" I thought that I stood in a large and beautiful meadow, which lay a short distance from the house in which we lived, and that everything around me wore an aspect of peculiar pleasantness. The first thing that attracted my special attention in this magnificent meadow, was a very pure and clear stream of water, which ran through the midst of it; and as I traced this stream, I discovered two trees standing upon its margin, both of which were on the same side of the stream. These trees were very beautiful, they were well proportioned, and towered with majestic beauty to a great height. Their branches, which added to their symmetry and glory, commenced near the top, and spread themselves in luxurious grandeur around. I gazed upon them with wonder and admiration; and after beholding them a short time, I saw one of them was surrounded with a bright belt, that shone like burnished gold, but far more brilliantly. Presently, a gentle breeze passed by, and the tree encircled with this golden zone, bent gracefully before the wind, and waved its beautiful branches in the light air. As the wind increased, this tree assumed the most lively and animated appearance, and seemed to express in its motions the utmost joy and happiness. If it had been an intelligent creature, it could not have conveyed, by the power of language, the idea of joy and gratitude so perfectly as it did; and even the stream that rolled beneath it, shared, apparently, every sensation felt by the tree, for, as the branches danced over the stream, it would swell gently, then recede again with a motion as soft as the breathing of an infant, but as lively as the dancing of a sunbeam. The belt also partook of the same influence, and as it moved in unison with the motion of the stream and of the tree, it increased continually in refulgence and magnitude, until it became exceedingly glorious. I turned my eyes upon its fellow, which stood opposite; but it was not surrounded with the belt of light as the former, and it stood erect and fixed as a pillar of marble. No matter how strong the wind blew over it, not a leaf was stirred, not a bough was bent; but obstinately stiff it stood, scorning alike the zephyr's breath, or the power of the mighty storm. I wondered at what I saw, and said in my heart, what can be the meaning of all this? And the interpretation given me was, that these personated my husband and his oldest brother, Jesse Smith; that the stubborn and un-yielding tree was like Jesse; that the other, more pliant and flexible, was like Joseph, my husband; that the breath of heaven, which passed over them, was the pure and undefiled Gospel of the Son of God, which Gospel Jesse would always resist, but which Joseph, when he was more advanced in life, would hear and receive with his whole heart, and rejoice therein; and unto him would be added intelligence, happiness, glory, and everlasting life." (biographical sketches, by Lucy Mack Smith, pp. 54-56)
Lucy's literary talent was remarkable. Her children were certainly exposed to knowledge and writing skills from both her and their father.
Of great significance is the Reverend Walter's discovery in the Palmyra Presbyterian Church for 1830 that Lucy and her sons, Hyrum and Samuel, were active members of this church for at least eight years after Joseph Jr. received The First Vision. This raises a question that has never been seriously studied: Did Joseph's own family take his religious mission seriously before his alleged discovery and unearthing of the Golden Plates, or did his parents make fun of him, like so many others did. In Lucy's biography she never speaks of the monumental First Vision except as quoted directly from Joseph's official history. Why?
It was while living in Randolph that Joseph Sr. invested all of their money in a shipment of ginseng that went bad. The family lost all they had, leaving them penniless. The Smith family then began to travel, first to Royalton and then to Sharon, Vermont, where Joseph Sr. rented his father-in-law's farm and supplemented his meager earnings by teaching school in the winter. It was in Sharon that Lucy gave birth to Joseph Smith Jr. on December 23, 1805. He was their third son and fourth child. Joseph was born into an insecurity he was never able to escape.
After Joseph's birth the family moved back to Tumbridge for a short time,
where Samuel was born. They then moved to Royalton, where Ephraim and William
were born. Lucy wrote: "About this time my husband's mind became much
excited upon the subject of religion; yet he would not subscribe to any
particular system of faith, but contented for the ancient order, as established
by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and his Apostles." She then went on to
write, in Joseph Sr.'s own words, a vision that he had received in 1811. The
following is a portion of that vision.
"I was alone in this gloomy desert with the exception of an attendant spirit who kept constantly by my side. Of him I inquired the meaning of what I saw and why I was thus traveling in such a dismal place. He answered thus: "The field is the world, which now lieth inanimate and dumb, in regard to the true religion, or plan of salvation; but travel on, and by the wayside you will find on a certain log a box, the contents of which, if you eat thereof, will make you wise, and give unto you wisdom and understanding. I carefully observed what was told to me by my guide, and proceeding a short distance, I came to a box. I immediately took it up, and placed it under my left arm; then with eagerness I raised the lid, and began to taste of its contents; upon which all manner of beasts, horned cattle, and roaring animals, rose up on every side in the most threatening manner possible, tearing the earth, tossing their horns, and bellowing most terrifically all around me, they finally came so close upon me, that I was compelled to drop the box, and fly for my life. Yet, in the midst of all this I was perfectly happy, though I awoke trembling." (biographical sketches, p. 57) Did this vision contribute to Joseph fantasizing the visionary box into the more elaborate story of the box that contained the Gold Plates?
The discrepancies between fantasy and reality in Joseph's life are difficult to sort out. Both Joseph's father, and Nephi's father in The Book of Mormon, are reported to have had many dreams. Lucy recorded another of her husband's dreams that has numerous parallels to Lehi and Nephi's dream in The Book of Mormon. The two dreams have so much in common that it challenges the integrity of the vision called 'The Tree of Life' found in I Nephi 8 and I Nephi 11. (Lucy records Joseph Sr.'s dream in biographical sketches, p. 58-59.)
The following is a list of parallels between Joseph Sr.'s dream and Lehi's
dream as related and further expounded by Lehi's son Nephi. Both dreams state:
1) they were traveling
2) there was a field
3) compared the field to a world
4) both have a guide
5) both mention a broad road or roads
6) a narrow path
7) a stream of water
8) something extending along the banks of the stream
9) both mention a tree
10) the beauty of the tree
11) the tree bore fruit
12) both compare the whiteness of the fruit to snow
13) both J. S. Sr. and Lehi ate the fruit
14) they found the fruit to be very delicious
15) wanted their families to partake of the fruit
16) after eating the fruit both experienced great joy
17) both mention a spacious building
18) the building reached high into the air
19) the building was filled with people
20) the people were finely dressed
21) the people in the building pointed the finger of scorn at those partaking of the fruit
22) they both ignored the people in the building
23) both state that the meaning of the fruit is the pure love of God
24) both state two members of the family aren't present
25) they mention the fall of the building
26) they imply that pride was connected with the building or its inhabitants
Having heard this dream recounted during his youth, did Joseph Jr. simply incorporate it, with a few changes, into The Book of Mormon as the vision of Lehi and Nephi, intertwined with both his mother's and father's dreams?
Dr. Hugh Nibley, a professor at BYU, admits that the two dreams are similar. He said, "It is interesting that Joseph Smith, Sr., had almost the same dream, according to his wife, who took comfort in comparing the wanderings of her own family with those of Father Lehi." (Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, p. 49)
The atmosphere in which Joseph Jr. grew up was unstable. His family was impoverished and moved several times. Chaos was evident in the different religious sects of that period. Ignorance and superstition prevailed, and new religions were springing up.
There were faith healers, evangelists, with one revival after another sweeping through the area. There were numerous incidents common to every family and individual that they felt certain were either the workings of the devil, or the intervention of God. Most often they were not able to discern which.
People's philosophies and beliefs were as numerous as the sands of the seashore. They thought that evil spirits caused disease, and that insane people's bodies were occupied by demons. Knowledge, logic and reason were scarce.
These Pentecostal years that coincided with Joseph Smith's adolescence and early manhood were the most fertile in America's history for the sprouting up of prophets. In the same decade that young Joseph announced his mission, Jemima Wilkinson, the 'Universal Friend,' thought she was the Christ. There were the Perfectionist societies led by Simon Lovett and John Humphrey Noyes who were converted to the theory that the millennium had already begun and laid plans for a community based on Bible communism, free love, and scientific propagation. Simon Lovett preached the doctrine of Spiritual Wifehood in New England in 1835, the same year that the first whispers of polygamy were heard among the Mormons. Robert Matthias strode about New York City brandishing a sword and a seven-foot ruler, shouting that he had come to redeem the world. In southern Ohio, Dylks, the 'Leatherwood God,' proclaimed his divinity to a groveling congregation with shouts and snorts that shook the roof of his tabernacle. William Miller proclaimed that Jesus would visit the earth in March 1843 and usher in the millennium. Thousands flocked to his ranks, auctioned off their property, and bought ascension robes. And a young man by the name of Joseph Smith Jr. proclaimed he had a visitation from God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They instructed Joseph to organize the Only True Church on the earth, warning him that the other churches were an abomination in their sight.
Of these and several other prophets of the day, only one was destined for real glory. Jemima Wilkinson, who governed her colony by revelation and prophetic visions, was forgotten with the division of her property; the Noyes Oneida, New York community degenerated from a social and religious experiment into a business enterprise; and Dylks was ridden out of the Leatherwood country astride a rail. William Miller, although his Adventists are still an aggressive minority sect, never regained face after 1845, when after two recalculations Jesus still failed to come. But Joseph Smith Jr., a century after his death, had a million followers who held his name sacred and his mission divine.
I discovered that both the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack families were devoted to mysticism, a practice common among those suddenly released from disciplined churches, such as the Church of England. Solomon Mack, Lucy's father, fell into a kind of senile mysticism, with lights and voices haunting his sickbed. Joseph Sr. reflected contempt for the established churches, and remained aloof from any church until he joined the one organized by his own son. He was prone to many dreams and visions. He would share these visions and dreams with his family as they sat around the evening table visiting with each other and recounting the happenings of the day.
Lucy talked to God as if he were a member of the family circle. She believed in visions, dreams, and miracles. It stands to reason that her children learned to do the same. It is no wonder that Joseph Jr. had a highly imaginative mind with qualities that arouse curiosity. Lucy said about him: "Joseph Jr. would give some of the most amusing recitals [stories] concerning the ancient inhabitants of this continent." Did his fascination of the subject become The Book of Mormon's catalyst? Where the myths more exciting than history? And were their dreams more powerful than the facts?
It is well documented by Mormon historians that for a number of years before Joseph Jr. married Emma, he and his father were heavily involved in various magic-occult practices, including the use of a seer stone or peep stone. Some of the Smith family heirlooms currently possessed by the Reorganized LDS Church (an off-shoot of the original LDS Church) includes a dagger used in ceremonial magic rituals, ornate with occult symbols, which Joseph's father owned. Joseph's brother, Hyrum, possessed three parchments (lamens, in occult terms) inscribed with the signs and names of ceremonial magic. Also, Joseph's favorite piece of jewelry was a Jupiter talisman, an astrological necklace piece used to defend against evil spirits. At the time of his death Joseph was wearing this talisman. (Photographs of all these items appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on August 24, 1985, p. B-1.)
In Lucy Mack Smith's original manuscript, although not included in her book,
biographical sketches, she references the practices of the occult. In response
to the affidavits of some Palmyra residents that the Smiths in the 1820s
neglected their farm and other necessary work in order to dig for treasure, Lucy
seemed to confirm that her family practiced ritual magic. In the first draft of
her dictated 1845 history she stated, "let not my reader suppose that
because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt [stopped] our
labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac[,] drawing Magic circles or
sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business. [W]e never during our
lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation but
whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remember the service of and the
welfare of our souls"...
Joseph Smith's mother did not deny her family's participation in occult activities but simply affirmed that these did not prevent family members from accomplishing other, equally important work.
As early as 1831, their neighbors stated that Joseph Sr. and Joseph Jr. drew circles for treasure hunting. By the early 1820s, "Faculty of Abrac" had become a well-known phrase, linking magic and divinity. Medieval and early modern magic manuscripts in England used "Abrac" and "Abraca" as one of the names of God in conjurations. "Abrac" is short for "Abracadabra", the science of the occult.
Joseph Jr. was notorious for telling tall tales and, by his own admission, indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold. Perhaps the most complete account is given by former BYU history professor D. Michael Quinn in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1987.
"Indeed, in 1826, four years before the publication of the Book of Mormon, Joseph was arrested, jailed, and examined in court in Bainbridge, New York on the charge of being a disorderly person and an impostor in connection with his use of a peep stone to search for buried treasure. Not one, not two, but several witnesses remarked that: "Joseph was about the country in the character of a glass-looker: pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, and mines of gold and silver… While the evidence indicates he was found guilty of this charge, the young Joseph was apparently fined and released on the condition that he leave the area."
(Dr. Quinn resigned from BYU in 1988 due to disputes with administrators over academic freedom. While at BYU, Dr. Quinn was Director of the History Graduate Program. He was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1993. Regarding his failure to attend his final disciplinary council, he wrote: "I vowed I would never again participate in a process which was designed to punish me for being the messenger of unwanted historical evidence and to intimidate me from further work in Mormon history.")
For many years the Mormon Church denied that there was ever such a trial, let
alone that Joseph was found guilty. When the court records were found that
proved the trial did take place, the Church leaders declared that the record was
a forgery. However, because the court document found in 1871 has been proven to
be factual, Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington has now admitted that Joseph
Smith was tried as a 'glass looker', and found guilty. *
In his book The Myth Makers Mormon apologist Dr. Hugh Nibley wrote almost 20 pages in an attempt to discredit the Bainbridge court record. On page 142 Nibley wrote, "If this court record is authentic, it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith." The court record (now proven) is indeed damning and as Nibley went on to write, "The most devastating blow to Smith ever delivered."
Finding this court record means that Joseph Smith was engaged in fraudulent treasure-hunting with the same magic seer stone method in 1826, the very time period in which, according to his First Vision story, Joseph was receiving yearly visits from the angel Moroni (1823-1827) regarding recovery of the gold plates from the Hill Cumorah. The Mormon Church leaders are now faced with quite a dilemma. The information surely raises the question of whether, in his story of locating and translating the gold plates, he was simply trying to legitimize his use of an occult 'seer stone' by carrying it over to a religious context.
Neighbors and acquaintances of Joseph consistently described him as: Something of a confident young man, who told fascinating tales, and whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and a 'seer stone.'
In 1833 D. P. Hurlbut collected sworn statements from more than a hundred of the early friends and neighbors of Joseph Smith in the vicinity of Palmyra, New York and Harmony, Pennsylvania. Mormon historians have largely ignored these statements. However, since Joseph's money-digging is now established, not only by the court record, but by newspaper stories and sworn affidavits, they can hardly be ignored or dismissed, particularly since they throw considerable light on the method Joseph used in the writing of The Book of Mormon. The following are the most significant extracts as cited in Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History.
"We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family, for a
number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation
in saying, that we consider them destitute of that moral character, which ought
to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly
famous for visionary projects, spent
much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth; and to this day, large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasure. Joseph Smith, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits." (Fifty-one Palmyra residents signed this statement.)
* The earliest and most important account of Joseph Smith's money-digging is a court record dated 1826. Wesley P. Walters in Norwich, New York, where the Chenango County Jail keep their dead storage, found the record in 1971. The record covers Joseph's trial in Bainbridge, New York, on the charge of being a disorderly person and an impostor. On the basis of testimony presented, including Joseph's own admissions of indulging in magic arts and organizing hunts for buried gold, the court ruled him guilty of disturbing the peace, and fined him $2.68. For a photocopy of this ruling see the Tanners Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?, p. 33.
Daniel Hendrix, who helped set type for The Book of Mormon, wrote: "Everyone knew him as Joe Smith. He lived in Palmyra a few years previous to my going there from Rochester. Joe was the most ragged, lazy fellow in the place, and that is saying a good deal. His torn, patched trousers held to his form by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico shirt as dirty and black as the earth and his uncombed hair sticking through the holes in his old battered hat. In winter I used to pity him for his shoes were so old and worn out that he must have suffered in the snow and slush. He was known among the young men I associated with as a romancer of the first water. I never know so ignorant a man as Joe was to have such a fertile imagination. He never could tell a common occurrence in his daily life without embellishing the story with his imagination; yet I remember that he was grieved one day when old Parson Reed told Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits." (Hendrix letter of Feb. 2, 1897, published in the St Louis Globe Democrat).
"I, William Stafford... first became acquainted with Joseph, Sen., and his family in the year 1820. They lived, at that time, in Palmyra, about one mile and a half from my residence. A great part of their time was devoted to digging for money: especially in the night time, when they said the money could be most easily obtained. I have heard them tell marvelous tales, respecting the discoveries they had made in their peculiar occupation of money digging. They would say, for instance, that in such a place, in such a hill, on a certain man's farm, there were deposited keys, barrels and hogsheads of coined silver and gold-bars of gold, golden images, brass kettles filled with gold and silver gold candlesticks, swords, &c. [sic]&c [sic]. They would say, also, that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph, Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth, that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates, that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress.
Old Joseph and one of the boys came to me one day, and said that Joseph Jr. had discovered some very remarkable and valuable treasures, which could be procured only in one way. That way, was as follows: That a black sheep should be taken on to the ground where the treasures were concealed, that after cutting its throat, it should be led around a circle while bleeding. This being done, the wrath of the evil spirit would be appeased: the treasures could then be obtained, and my share of them was to be four fold. To gratify my curiosity, I let them have a large fat sheep. They afterwards informed me, that the sheep was killed pursuant to commandment; but as there was some mistake in the process, it did not have the desired effect. This, I believe, is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business."---William Stafford
"I, Peter Ingersoll, first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen. in the year of our Lord, 1822. -I lived in the neighborhood of said family, until about 1830; during which time the following facts came under my observation. The general employment of the family was digging for money. I had frequent invitations to join the company, but always declined . . . the said Joseph, Sen. told me that the best time for digging money, was, in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground.... At another time, he told me that the ancient inhabitants of this country used camels instead of horses. For proof of this fact, he stated that in a certain hill on the farm of Mr. Cuyler, there was a cave containing an immense value of gold and silver, stand of arms, also, a saddle for a camel, hanging on a peg at one side of the cave.
In the month of August 1827, I was hired by Joseph Smith, Jr. to go to Pennsylvania, to move his wife's household furniture up to Manchester, where his wife then was. When we arrived at Mr. Hale's in Harmony, Pa. from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting. His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: "You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money, pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people." Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones. Mr. Hale told Joseph, if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would assist him in getting into business. Joseph acceded to this proposition. I then returned with Joseph and his wife to Manchester.
Joseph told me on his return, that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; but, said he, it will be hard for me, for they will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money: and in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him, day after day, to resume his old practice of looking in the stone. He seemed much perplexed as to the course he should pursue. In this dilemma, he made me his confident [sic] and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths. One day he came, and greeted me with a joyful countenance. Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: "As I was passing, yesterday, across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refused to see it, and left the room." Now, said Jo, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book, yet, he told me that he actually went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest, in which he might deposit his golden Bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box himself, of clap-boards, and put it into a pillow case, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel of it through the case." ---Peter Ingersoll
After reading the preceding statements I was left without words to express my feelings. Had Joseph made up the whole story of finding the gold plates? Had he fooled his own family?
Joseph Smith's first writings of his early years took the form of an apology for his youthful indiscretions. Shortly after the book Mormonism Unveiled by Eber D. Howe appeared, Joseph wrote the following reply for his church newspaper, Messenger & Advocate:
"At the age of ten my father's family removed to Palmyra, New York, where, and in the vicinity of which, I lived, or, made it my place of residence, until I was twenty-one; the latter part, in the town of Manchester. During this time, as is common to most or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are, and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark that, though, as I have said above, as is common to most, or all youths, I fell into many vices and follies, I have not, neither can it be sustained, in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion to lament, were a light, and too often, vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation" (Latter-day Saints Messenger & Advocate, vol. 1 pg. 40 1834).
Joseph confirmed what his neighbors had said about him. He wrote; "During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three--having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends.... I was left to all kinds of temptation; and mingled with all kinds of society. I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, and gratifying of many appetites offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, (lightness of mind, character, or behavior) and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with the character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth" (P of G P, J.S. 1:28).
After the Bainbridge trial Joseph remained for some months with Josiah Stowel, who had defended him during the trial. Joseph and his father had been hired by Stowel to find a lost silver mine said to have been worked by the Spaniards in the Susquehanna Valley. Having had no success, Joseph's father returned home leaving Joseph to board with Stowel. During the trial Stowel said the prisoner, Joseph, had been at his house for something like five months and had a skill of telling where hidden treasure in the earth was located by looking through the medium of a 'stone.' However, Joseph never found any gold or silver mines, nor any treasure. While Joseph was in the employ of Stowel he boarded a short time with Isaac Hale. It was during this time that he met and became acquainted with Emma, his future wife.
At first, Emma's father, Isaac Hale, helped subsidize Josiah Stowel's expedition to find the Spanish silver mine. But with the first failures he was quickly disillusioned and pulled out. Emma's father had misgivings about Joseph's character from the start. The following is an affidavit of Isaac Hale, father-in-law of Joseph Smith, given at Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1834. (Mormonism, Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian 9: 1 May 1834:1, Montrose, Pennsylvania, as cited in No Man Knows My History by Brodie.)
"I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called money-diggers; and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man - not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father. Smith, and his father, with several other money-diggers boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the money-diggers great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found - he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12.68 for his board, which is still unpaid.
After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place. Not long after this, he returned, and while I was absent from home, carried off my daughter, into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent. After they had arrived at Palmyra N. Y., Emma wrote me enquiring whether she could take her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In a short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and reside upon a place near my residence.
Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called glass-looking, and
that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so. He also
made arrangements with my son Alva Hale, to go to Palmyra, and move his
(Smith's) furniture &c. to this place. He then returned to Palmyra, and soon
after, Alva, agreeable to the arrangement, went up and returned with Smith and
his family. Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful box of
Plates down with them. I was shown a box in which it is said they were
contained, which had to all appearances been used as a glass box of the common
window glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to
understand, that the book of plates was then in the box - into which, however, I
was not allowed to look.
I inquired of Joseph Smith Jr., who was to be the first who would be allowed to see the Book of Plates? He said it was a young child. After this, I became dissatisfied, and informed him that if there was anything in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that, the Plates were said to be hid in the woods....
The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods! ...I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole "Book of Mormon" (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary - and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallow the deception. ---Isaac Hale
Affirmed to and subscribed before me, March 20th, 1834.
CHARLES DIMON, [Justice]. [of the] Peace."
Joseph Jr. and Emma...
There were only about two hundred people living in Harmony when Emma and Joseph met. Emma was approaching the age of twenty-three, and may have felt herself threatened with spinsterhood as there weren't many eligible men. Joseph, like his father, was big, powerful and handsome, except for his nose, which was very prominent. Emma was probably quick to notice his charismatic nature and that he was an extremely confident young man. Peter Stowel, who was fond of the young couple, arranged for Emma and Joseph to meet in South Bainbridge on Jan. 18, 1827, where Squire Tarbell secretly married them. After the ceremony they went to live with Joseph's parents. One of the neighbor's said Emma was miserably unhappy living in Manchester. Lorenzo Sanders, then a sixteen-year-old youth, wrote; "Joseph's wife was a pretty woman, just as pretty a woman as I ever saw. When she came to the Smith's she was disappointed and used to come down to our house and sit down and cry. Said she was deceived and got into a hard place." (Unpublished affidavit of Lorenzo Saunders made in Reading, Michigan, Sept. 20, 1884, now in the library of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2001 the RLDS Church changed their name to Community of Christ, but I will reference them as the RLDS Church because they are better known by that name).
It was during this short time period that Joseph started The Book of Mormon. Were Emma's tears only for their poverty and the inevitable petty troubles that sprang from living in a house not her own, or was it from wondering about gold plates that were too sacred to be seen, but not too sacred to be stolen. Eight months later they went back to Harmony to face Emma's father and collect her belongings. It was during this visit that Joseph promised Emma's father he would give up digging for money and looking into stones for treasure.
There was great impatience in this young man named Joseph. He hated farming.
Grubbing in the soil was hateful labor. Nevertheless, Joseph tried to keep his
promise to Emma's father and stop his money digging activities. Although he had
become disillusioned with the money digging and treasure seeking profession, he
retained a superb faith in himself. When Joseph was twenty-one he entered into a
whole new profession, one much more exciting than the previous one. In the next
five years Joseph climbed up out of the world of magic into the world of
religious fanaticism. He was transformed from a believer and participant of
mysticism into a self-made prophet, surrounded by an enthusiastic following with
common purposes and ideals.
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Note: Copyright 2003 Tammy and Larry Braithwaite.