--Exhibit E: Hugh Nibley is Hung Out to Dry on Con Man Joseph Smith's Authenticated Arrest and Conviction Record on "Glass-Looking" Charges
For the record, go-to Mormon Church excuse-maker Hugh Nibley had serious warnings about the serious nature of con charges against Smith, should they be proven true (and they have, in fact, been proven true).
What is particularly damning about certain press revelations is that they further validate the devastating nature of the crimes that Smith committed--as, in fact, admitted by nont-so-nimble Nbley himself. In 1961, Nibley authored a book entitled "The Mythmakers," in which he ventured to boldly debunk (at least so he thought) assertions that Joseph Smith had committed, or had been arrested for, the con-job crime of "glass-looking." Nibley (in words he probably later wished he could retract) went so far as to declare that if, in fact, Smith was actually proven guilty of such nefarious activity, it would constitute the most damning blow that could be imagined to Smith's claim of divine prophetship.
Derick S. Hartshorn, in his work, "Bearing the Testimony of Truth," reviews the history of apologetic denials uttered by Mormonism's stoutest defenders--and then compares those desperate defenses to the actual evidence found--evidence that cuts Smith off at the knees. Under the sub-section, "Guilty! Next Case!," Hartshorn exposes the serious nature of the charges against Smith and how they have plunged a dagger into the heart of Smith's claims to divine guidance:
"It was charged that Joseph Smith was accused and found guilt of parting a local farmer from his money in a less than honest scheme, commonly known as 'money-digging' or 'glass-looking.' It was reported to have been an activity that brought him rebuke from his soon-to-be father-in-law, Isaac Hale. It is also historically recorded that he was removed from membership in a local Methodist church because of the activity and trial results.
"Joseph Smith skims over the specific event leading to the trial in the Pearl of Great Price, explaining that he was only a day worker for the man so engaged and not personally involved.
"Mormon writers have continually challenged its doubters to find the records (seemingly lost) and prove Joseph Smith a liar or stop the attacks. Mormon writer Hugh Nibley, the most prolific defender of the Mormon faith, used almost 20 pages in his book, 'The Mythmakers,' in an attempt to discredit this 'alleged' court trial. On p. 142 we find:
"'. . . If this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith' and would be 'THE MOST DEVASTATING BLOW TO SMITH EVER DELIVERED.' [emphasis added]
"Of course, when that was first published back in 1961, Dr. Nibley undoubtedly felt that after 130 years no such record would turn up in 1971. Once again, the actual evidence, which the Mormon Church had denied ever existed came to light in 1971. You can read about how it was discovered, as well as the relevance of other historical documents of that time that Joseph used a 'seer' stone to find money, etc. in the 54-page brochure 'Joseph Smith's Bainbridge, New York, Court Trials.'
"One might wonder why this should be cause for concern among investigators of Mormonism. The fact is the up to then, the Mormon Leaders had denied that there WAS such a trial. Indeed, they claim that the story of Joseph's arrest was a 'fabrication of unknown authorship and never in a court record at all.'
"The charge that Joseph was known to hunt treasure with 'peep' or 'seer' stones, etc., was serious enough that Mormon scholar Francis W. Kirkham stated that if the court record could be found, it would show that the Mormon Church was false:
"'Careful study of all facts regarding this alleged confession of Joseph Smith in a court of law that he had used a seer stone to find hidden treasure for purposes of fraud, must come to the conclusion that no such record was ever made, and therefore, is not in existence . . .
"'If any evidence had been in existence that Joseph Smith had used a seer stone for fraud and deception--and especially had he made this confession in a court of law as early as 1826, or four years before the Book of Mormon was printed, and this confession was in a court record--it would have been impossible for him to have organized the restored Church.'
"Later, in the same book, Mr. Kirkham states:
"'. . . [I]f a court record could be identified, and if it contained a confession by Joseph Smith which revealed him to be a poor, ignorant, deluded and superstitious person unable himself to write a book of any consequence, and whose Church could not endure because it attracted only similar persons of low mentality if such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must deny his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him. . . . How could he be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been superstitious fraud which the pages from a book declared he confessed to be? . . . '
"Well, in spite of 140 years of silence, the records did surface. Rev. Wesley Walters discovered the documents in the basement of the Chenango County, New York, jailhouse at Norwich, New York, in 1971. The records, affidavits and other data show conclusively that Joseph Smith was arrested, went to trial, was found guilty as an imposter in the Stowell matter of 'glass-looking.' It is not a matter of debate, opinion or religious preference. It is a proven historical fact.
"Initially Mormons denied that Joseph ever participated in 'money-digging' activities, saying that would invalidate his claim as a prophet. Now that indisputable evidence confirms that Joseph was a convicted 'money- digger,' Mormons have taken a 'so what' attitude. At least one says, now that the evidence proves that Joseph was a 'money-digger,' that it really doesn't matter. (What could a BYU professor say?) Mormon scholar Marvin Hill says:
"'There may be little doubt now, as I have indicated elsewhere, that Joseph Smith was brought to trial in 1826 on a charge, not exactly clear, associated with money-digging.' Brodie's thesis that the prophet grew from necromancer to prophet assumes that the two were mutually exclusive, that if Smith were a money-digger he could not have been religiously sincere.
'This does not necessarily follow. Many believers active in their churches, were money-diggers in New England and western New York in this period. Few contemporaries regard these money-diggers as irreligious, only implying so if their religious views seemed too radical. . . . For the historian interested in Joseph Smith the man, it does not seem incongruous for him to have hunted for treasure with a seer stone and then to use with full faith to receive revelations from the Lord.'
"Marvin Hill's appraisal of the treasure-seeking activities makes it appear that contemporaries of Joseph Smith treated this enterprise with a casual air. One such contemporary, that was closer to Joseph than most, could hardly disguise his disdain. This was Isaac Hale, father of the girl that Joseph would later elope with. In an affidavit signed by Hale and published in the Susquehanna Register, May 1, 1834, Joseph's father-in-law said:
"'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 what 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.
"'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. Young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused . . . [H]e was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve. . . . Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called "glass-looking" and that he expected to work hard for a living . . .
"'Soon after this, I was informed that they had brought a wonderful book of plates down with them . . . 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.'"
(“The Arrest Records of Josepth Smith from 1826 to 1830 are Rediscoverd and Given to the Mormon Church,” at: http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon430.htm
; and http://www.scari.org/conundrum2.exc4.html
--Exhibit F: Joseph Smith's Attempt to Join a Methodist Sunday School, AFTER God and Jesus Told Him Not To
Some years ago I was in a small Utah town, where my faithful LDS host was driving me around pointin out what was described to me as the oldest non-Mormon church building in the entire state—It happened to be a Methodist one. (Note: Although that is what the LDS host claimed to me, the actual history of that particular church structure is somewhat different. According to the Utah State Historical Society, the structure in question is the oldest Protestant church building in Utah that is still in use--and it happens to be Methodist). The host also informed me that this Methodist edifice is still actively being used by members of the town for various social functions, including weddings.
The mention of a Methodist church within the context of Mormonism brought to mind at that moment a matter of historical relevancy, so I proceeded (albeit delicately) to inform my host that Joseph Smith (subsequent to having experienced the First Vision where he was told by God and Jesus in no uncertain terms to join none of the churches of his day), nonetheless applied for and became a member of a Methodist Sunday School in his area. I added that Smith was ultimately stripped of that membership by the Methodist elders of the local congregation because they considered Smith to be a disreputable character (due to his involvement in occultic, digging-for-buried-treasure necromancing activity--none of which I chose to bring up in detail to my host at that time). Still, I proceeded to gently point out the curiosity of Smith trying to join the Methodist church after God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ told him in no uncertain terms in that grove of trees that day not to do anything of the sort.
The response of my host was (and I quote):
"You need to get over it."
(Me, get over it? Hey, I wasn't the one who brought up the oldest non-Mormon/Methodist church in Utah. Donchya just love it when you venture into the LDS Church-State, where Mormons bring up religion to you? You respond to their comments by politely attempting to add to their knowledge base with some interesting and relevant Mormon history pertaining to the founder of their Church. They bristle and essentially tell you to shut up, thereby sternly reminding you that they are the ones who set the terms and conditions for dialogue on such matters--at least when you're in Utah).
Provided below is some historical background on Joseph Smith, Mormonism and the Methodist church that I was not able to share with my host at the time, given that my host was not inclined to hear any of it:
"'The Mormon Prophet Attempts to Join the Methodists,' by Wesley P. Walters:
"In June 1828 Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, joined the Methodist Church [probationary class] in Harmony, Pennsylvania. This was a strange thing for this prophet of a new religion to do, and seriously challenges the story he put out ten years later about the origin of his work.
"That later story claims that in 1820 Joseph Smith had seen two glorious personages, identified as the Father and the Son, and was informed that the creeds of all the 'sects,' or various denominations, 'were an abomination' and he was twice forbidden to join any of them.
"In retelling this same tale to Alexander Neibaur on May 24, 1844, Joseph specifically singled out the Methodist church as being unworthy of his membership. Mr. Neibaur's diary recorded the divine warning as related by Joseph: 'Mr. Smith then asked must I join the Methodist Church - No - they are not my People. They have gone astray there is none that doeth good no not one.' (quoted in 'The Improvement Era,' April 1970, p.12).
"Perhaps the death of his first-born son on June 15, 1828 induced him to seek membership in the church his wife had belonged to since she was seven years old. Joseph had told his neighbor, Joshua McKune, that 'his (Smith's) first born child was to translate the characters and hieroglyphics upon the plates, into our language, at the age of three years.' ('The Susquehanna Register,' May 1, 1834, p.1).
"When this child died at birth instead, and his wife's life also hung in danger, Smith may have considered entirely abandoning his project of writing a book and decided to join the Methodist Church.
"'At least Martin Harris later told Rev. Ezra Booth that when he went to Pennsylvania to see Joseph about the translation that 'Joseph had given it up on account of the opposition of his wife and others,' and Martin 'told Joseph, "I have not come down here for nothing, we will go on with it."' ('The Story of the Mormons,' by William Alexander Linn, New York: Macmillan Co. 1902, p.36).
"The young prophet's rol[e] as a Methodist member did not last very long, however - only three days according to statements made by his wife's cousins, Joseph and Hiel Lewis. In their local newspaper at Amboy, Illinois they told of their earlier years with Joseph Smith in Pennsylvania and of his uniting with their Methodist class:
"'He presented himself in a very serious and humble manner, and the minister, not suspecting evil, put his name on the class book, in the absence of some of the official members. ('The Amboy Journal,' Amboy, Illinois, April 30, 1879, p.1).
"When Joseph Lewis, who was twenty-one at the time (about a year and a half younger than Smith), learned of this act, he felt that Joseph's manner of life rendered him unfit to be a member and told him either to 'publicly ask to have his name stricken from the class book, or stand a disciplinary investigation.' Mr. Lewis gave further details about the incident a month after the first article appeared in the Amboy paper, and he wrote:
"'I, with Joshua McKune, a local preacher at that time, I think in June, 1828, heard on Saturday, that Joe Smith had joined the church on Wednesday afternoon, (as it was customary in those days to have circuit preaching at my father's house on week-day).
"'We thought it was a disgrace to the church to have a practicing necromancer, a dealer in enchantments and bleeding ghosts, in it.
"So on Sunday we went to father's, the place of meeting that day, and got there in season to see Smith and talked with him some time in father's shop before the meeting. Told him that his occupation, habits, and moral character were at variance with the discipline, that his name would be a disgrace to the church, that there should have been recantation, confession and at least promised reformation-. That he could that day publicly ask that his name be stricken from the class book, or stand an investigation. He chose the former, and did that very day make the request that his name be taken off the class book.' ('The Amboy Journal,' June 11, 1879, p.1).
"Like so many of the early Methodist records, the early class books of the Harmony (now Lanesboro) Church are lost, so we will never know for certain whether Joseph Smith remained a member for only three days or six months. However, there was never any dispute that he had become a member, and by this one act he undercut the story he later put forth that God in a special vision had instructed him specifically not to join the Methodist Church." [end of Walters' article]
"This event is also mentioned in 'Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith,' by Linda K. Newell and Valeen T. Avery, University of Illinois Press, 1994, p. 25:
";Emma's uncle, Nathaniel Lewis, preached as a lay minister of the local Methodist Episcopal church. His congregation met in the homes of the members for Sunday services. On Wednesdays a regular circuit preacher visited Harmony.
"'In the spring or summer of 1828 Joseph asked the circuit rider if his name could be included on the class roll of the church. Joseph 'presented himself in a very serious and humble manner,' and the minister obliged him.
"'When Emma's cousin, Joseph Lewis, discovered Joseph's name on the roll, he "thought it was a disgrace to the church to have a practicing necromancer" as a member. He took the matter up with a friend, and the following Sunday, when Joseph and Emma arrived for church, the two men steered Joseph aside and into the family shop. 'They told him plainly that such character as he . . . could not be a member of the church unless he broke off his sins by repentance, made public confession, renounced his fraudulent and hypocritical practices, and gave some evidence that he intended to reform and conduct himself somewhat nearer like a christian than he had done. They gave him his choice to go before the class, and publicly ask to have his name stricken from the class book, or stand a disciplinary investigation." Joseph refused to comply with the humiliating demands and withdrew from the class. His name, however, stayed on the roll for about six more months, either from oversight or because Emma's brother-in-law, Michael Morse, who taught the class, did not know of the confrontation. When Joseph did not seek full membership, Morse finally dropped his name.'
“('Amboy Journal,' p. 311, fn 2, 11 June and 30 April 1879. In 1879 Joseph and Hiel Lewis, sons of Uncle Nathaniel Lewis, debated with a Mormon named Edwin Cadwell over events in Harmony while Emma and Joseph lived there. The 'Amboy Journal' reproduced their letters.'" [end of "Mormon Enigma" excerpt]
"Another LDS historian, Richard L. Bushman, referred to Smith's involvement with the Methodists in his book 'Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism,' University of Illinois Press, 1984, pp. 54, 94-95. Below is the complete quote from 'The Amboy Journal,' Amboy, Illinois, Wednesday, April 30, 1879, p. 1.
"'Statements of Joseph and Hiel Lewis, sons of Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, concerning what they saw and heard of the sayings and doings of the prophet Joseph Smith, jr. while he was engaged in peeping for money and hidden treasures, and translating his gold bible in our neighborhood.
"'And that during all the time that said Smith was engaged in the above named business, in the township of, Harmony, Susquehanna Co., Pa., our home and residence was within one mile of where he lived and transacted his business.
"'First, we would add our testimony to the truthfulness of the statements of Isaac Hale, Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, (the letter "C" in his name was inserted by mistake of the person copying the affidavit); Alva Hale, Levi Lewis, and Sophia Lewis, as contained in a somewhat abbreviated form in a book entitled 'Mormonism and the Mormons,' by Daniel P. Kidder, and published by Lane & Scott, (pp. 30-35) 200 Mulberry St., New York, 1852. Also, the statements of Joshua McKune and Hezekiah McKune, as found in the history of Susquehanna County, PA., p. 579, by Emily C. Blackman, and published in 1873.
"'According to our recollection, the starting point of the money-digging speculation in our vicinity, in which Joseph Smith, jr. was engaged, was as follows:
"'We are unable at this time to give precise dates, but some time previous to 1825, a man by the name of Wm. Hale, a distant relative of our uncle Isaac Hale, came to Isaac Hale, and said that he had been informed by a woman named Odle, who claimed to possess the power of seeing under ground, (such persons were then commonly called peepers) that there was great treasures concealed in the hill north-east from his, (Isaac Hale's) house.
"'By her directions, Wm. Hale commenced digging, but being too lazy to work and too poor to hire, he obtained a partner by the name of Oliver Harper, of York state, who had the means to hire help. But after a short time operations were suspended for a time; during the suspension, Wm. Hale heard of peeper Joseph Smith, Jr., [He] wrote to him and soon visited him; he found Smith's representations were so flattering that Smith was either hired or became a partner with Wm. Hale, Oliver Harper and a man by the name of Stowell, who had some property.
"'They hired men and dug in several places, as described in the history of Susq. Co., p. 579. The account given in the said history at p. 580, of a pure white dog to be used as a sacrifice to restrain the enchantment, and of the anger of the Almighty at the attempt to palm off on him a white sheep in the place of a white dog, is a fair sample of Smith's revelations, and of the God that inspired him.
"'Their digging in several places was in compliance with peeper Smith's revelations, who would attend with his peep-stone in his hat and his hat drawn over his face, and would tell them how deep they would have to go; but when they would find no trace of the chest of money, he would peep again and weep like a child, and tell them the enchantment had removed it on account of some sin or thoughtless word; finally the enchantment became so strong that he could not see, and so the business was abandoned. Smith could weep and shed tears in abundance at any time, if he chose.
"'But while he was engaged in looking through his peep-stone and old white hat, directing the digging for money and boarding at Uncle Isaac Hale's, he formed an intimacy with Mr. Hale's daughter Emma, and after the abandonment of the money-digging speculation, he consumated the elopement and marriage with the said Emma Hale, and she became his accomplice in his humbug golden bible and Mormon religion.
"'The statement that the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., made in our hearing, at the commencement of his translating his book, in Harmony, as to the manner of his finding the plates, was as follows. Our recollection of the precise language may be faulty, but as to the substance, the following is correct:
"'He said that by a dream he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an iron box, were some gold plates with curious engravings, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time, some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down; this attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down.
"'Then he exclaimed, "Why can't I get it?" or words to that effect; and then he saw a man standing over the spot, which to him appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard coming down over his breast to about here. (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach) with his (the ghost's) throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he, Smith, would know at first sight, must come with him, and then he could get it.
"'And when Smith saw Miss Emma Hale, he knew that she was the person, and that after they were married, she went with him to near the place and stood with her back toward him, while he dug up the box, which he rolled up in his frock, and she helped carry it home. That in the same box with the plates were spectacles; the bows were of gold and the eyes were stone, and by looking through these sbectacles [sic] all the characters on the plates were translated into English.
"'In all this narrative, there was not one word about "visions of God," or of angels, or heavenly revelations. All his information was by that dream, and that bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages of angels, etc, contained in Mormon books, were after-thoughts, revised to order. The moving of Smith from York state to Harmony, PA., has been stated by Mr. Hale and while he, Smith, was in Harmony, PA., translating his book, he made the above statements in our presence to Rev. N. Lewis.
"'It was here also, that he joined the M. E. [Methodist] church. He presented himself in a very serious and humble manner, and the minister, not suspecting evil, put his name on the class book, in the absence of some of the official members, among whom was the undersigned, Joseph Lewis, who, when he learned what was done, took with him Joshua McKune, and had a talk with Smith.
"'They told him plainly that such a character as he was a disgrace to the church, that he could not be a member of the church unless he broke off his sins by repentance, made public confession, renounced his fraudulent and hypocritical practices, and gave some evidence that he intended to reform and conduct himself somewhat nearer like a christian than he had done.
"'They gave him his choice, to go before the class and publicly ask to have his name stricken from the class book, or stand a disciplinary investigation. He chose the former and immediately withdrew his name.
"'So, his name as a member of the class was on the book only three days. It was the general opinion that his only object in joining the church was to bolster up his reputation and gain the sympathy and help of Christians; that is, putting on the cloak of religion to serve the devil in.
"'We will add one more sample of his prophetic power and practice, while translating his book. One of the neighbors whom Smith was owing, had a piece of corn on a rather wet and backward piece of ground; and as Smith was owing him, he wanted Smith to help hoe corn.
"'Smith came on but to get clear of the work, and the debt, said, 'If I kneel down and pray in your corn, it will grow just as well as if hoed." So he prayed in the corn and insured its maturity without cultivation, and that the frost would not hurt it. But the corn was a failure in growth and was killed by the frost.
"This sample of prophetic power was related to us by those present, and no one questioned its truth.
(“The Mormon Prophet Attempts to Join the Methodists,” by Wesley P. Walters, at: http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/josephsmithmethodist.htm
Try telling any of the above to a devout Mormon driving you past a Methodist church in Utah and see how far it gets ya. :)
It's gets even better—or worse, depending on one's point of view.
*Forget the FAIR Apologists' Predictable Response--Two Mormon Apostles Secretly Acknowledge Joseph Smith's Flirtation with the Methodists but Try to Spin His Disobedient Dance with Another Church
When I met privately with Mormon Apostles Dallin Oaks and Neal Maxwell in Salt Lake City's LDS Church Administration Building on 24 September 1993 to talk Mormon doctrine and history, Oaks informed me that the LDS Church did not (at least not at the time of our conversation) regard abandoning the Mormon religion in favor of another demonination as grounds, in and of itself, for excommunication.
Oaks' claim was in response to me asking him and Maxwell why Smith had joined a local Methodist Sunday School in 1828, after being told by God and Jesus Christ in the First Vision not to join any of the churches, given that they were all false. Oaks replied that Smith's "state of knowledge was much deeper than mine" (meaning Oaks's). Oaks added that because after receiving the First Vision Smith "could not meet with others of his own faith," he therefore "would want to meet with other Christians."
Really? Did Joseph Smith wanting to do meet-and-greets with other Christians mean that God and Jesus were telling him he could join their membership ranks?
Oaks described Joseph Smith as a "friendly" person, one who was "interested in sampling what others taught."
Really? Did God and Jesus tell Joseph Smith that he could engage in post-First Vision sampling of other churches, just as long as he didn't join up and as long as he was friendly about it?
Maxwell added that Smith was "social" and "gregarious" and that, at any rate, his joining with the Methodists was "brief."
Really? Did God and Jesus tell Joseph Smith that he could join other churches because he was an easy mixer and an outgoing guy, but only on the condition that he didn't join for very long?)
Oaks further noted that just as people were "moving in out and out of marriage in the Utah period,' so, too, on the New York frontier during the 1830s, an attitude prevailed requiring "no formal divorce in church membership."
Really? Did God and Jesus tell Joseph Smith that because others in his day were moving on and off various church membership rolls, he could, too?
Oaks added that, according to the LDS "General Handbook of Instructions" (at least at that time), "joining other churches is not, by itself, a sign of apostasy."
Really? Did God and Jesus tell Joseph Smith that if he violated their command not to join any of the other churches, they wouldn't consider him an apostate if he did, even though they had told him in the grove of trees that they were all an "abomination"?
Neither Oaks or Maxwell adequately explained to me why Joseph Smith--God's prophet on Earth who restored the one and only true church to the planet, i.e., the Mormon one--flagrantly disobeyed his Sacred Grove orders from God and Jesus by going ahead and joining a Methodist Sunday School.
Oh well, it didn't work anyway. The Methodists knew a fraud when they saw one and kicked him out.
Yes, really. Which, of course, means but Joseph Smith was a fraud but at least he wasn't a pious one.
--Exhibit G: The Affidavits Sworn Out Against Joseph Smith Don't Lie
Anderson, in his above-cited book, “Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Re-Examined,” tackles the significant number of legal affidavits (over 80) that were sworn out against the character and conduct of Joseph Smith’s by his neighbors, associates and fellow citizens of New York state.
*The Damning Nature of the Affidavaits Against Joseph Smith
Anderson (who provides exact copies of the affidavits as well as other statements and interview) describes the affidavits’ contents, which were originally published by Eber D. Howe in his book, “Mormonism Unvailed” (Painseville, Ohio: Eber D. Howe, printer and publisher, 1834):
“In affidavit after affidavit the young Smith was depicted as a liar and self-confessed fraud, a cunning and callous knave who delighted in nothing so much as preying upon the credulity of his neighbors.
“A money digger by profession, Smith spent his nights and his days lounging about the local grocery story entertaining his fellow tipplers with tales of midnight enchantments and bleeding ghosts, the affidavits maintained. . . .
“In a statement dated 4 December 1833 and signed by 51 residents of Palmyra, New York, Smith was described as being ‘entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits.’”
Moreover, Smith, as noted by Anderson, was portrayed by his affidavit-signing critics as being “animated by no loftier purpose than the love of money”–“a money digger who told marvelous tales of enchanted treasure and infernal spirits.”
(Anderson, pp. 2-3, 8)
*Reaction by Smith the the Affidavits Denouncing them as the Work of the Devil
Anderson describes Smith’s desperate response to the release of the troublesome affidavits:
“Once published in 1834 [after being collected by Dr. Philastus Hurlbut, 'a one-time Mormon who was excommunicated in 1833 for, among other things, saying "that he deceived Joseph Smith's God, or the spirit by which he was actuated"'], Hurlbut’s affidavits became especially dangerous to the newly founded church and its leader.
“To defuse the potentially explosive documents, Smith read them aloud at public meetings, denouncing them as the work of Satan. More importantly, Hurlbut’s affidavits stimulated Smith to publish the first official history of the new church, ‘Early Scenes and Incidents in the Church,’ authored by Smith’s closest associate at the time, Oliver Cowdery.”
(Anderson, pp. 2-3)
*Failure of Early Smith Apologists to Effectively Deny the Affidavits
Anderson reports on an “ambitious” attempt by William and E.L. Kelley to refute the affidavits–claiming in their own published report that they “could find virtually no one who knew anything firsthand against the Smiths and a number who remembered the family as being quite respectable.”
In this effort, the Kelleys produced less than impressive results.
The credibility of the Kelley claims were strongly disputed by even some of those to whom the Kelleys spoke during their dubious effort to build a chase for Smith.
Anderson, for instance, reports that “[a]t least three of those interviewed were so incensed with the published [Kelley] report that they produced affidavits of their own charging the Kelleys with misrepresentation.”
The complaints included Palmyra resident John H. Gilbert, who according to Gilbert’s affidavit on file in the clerk’s office of Ontario County, New Jersey, responded by appearing before a judge to state that he was “designedly” and “grossly misrepresented in almost every particular . . . .” Along with the affidavits of others, Gilbert’s complaint was subsequently published in local area newspapers.
(Anderson, pp. 5-6, 8)
*Taking on the Affidavit Attackers
Anderson notes that Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley, in his 1961 book, “The Myth Makers” (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, p. 6)--together with fellow Mormon defender Richard L. Anderson, in his 1970 article, “Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reappraised” (“Brigham Young University Studies,” 10, pp. 283-314)--have attempted “to discredit the Smith family neighbors.”
Nibley contends that the affidavit signers “told the best stories they could think of, without particularly caring whether they were true or not” (brushing them off as “trumped-up evidence”). Richard L. Anderson claims that the Kelley report was supposedly more objective and based on positive testimony from people who claimed to have known the Smiths personally.
Roger I. Anderson remains unpersuaded by such apologetic efforts. He exhibits particular disdain for the tactics of Nibley, whom he regards essentially as an unprofessional hit man for Smith. His list of academic crimes against Nibley are substantive.
First, Anderson says Nibley’s book suffers from the “unqualified scope of its generalization” in concluding that because he claims to have found “some writers who were lass than careful with the truth, . . . all such writers must have been similarly careless, a conclusion that is simply not justified.”
Second, Anderson says that Nibley’s book is characterized by its “use of arguments which are non sequiturs.”
Third, Anderson notes that Nibley is ‘mistaken when he charges that those who testified to Smith’s character were themselves disreputable,” rebutting Nibley by pointing out that “[w]itnessing a deed is not the same as committing it, and hearing a man boast of some act does not necessitate participation in it.” Anderson further points out that “[e]ven if it could be demonstrated that Smith’s accusers were in fact involved in the same practices they related, it would not mean their testimony was for that reason suspect. Defending the accused by pointing to the imperfections of their accusers is fallacious and only serves to deflect attention from the original issue.”
Fourth, Anderson point out what he calls “[a]nother significant defect of Nibley’s analysis”--namely, “its frequent high-handedness in dealing with testimony unfavorable to Smith. Rather than consider whether similar testimony from more than one person might indicate that what they report is true, Nibley often dismisses the topic with flippant and unsupported assertions.”
Fifth, Anderson criticizes Nibley’s repeated charge that Smith is supposedly the victim of exaggerated hearsay by noting that Nibley makes that unconvincing charge through the use of selective quotations and historically uninformed assumptions.
Sixth, Anderson notes that Nibley’s “Myth Makers” is “marred by numerous factual errors, exacerbated by “a tendency to suppress information potentially harmful to traditional interpretations of the Mormon past.” Anderson goes so far as to say that “Nibley’s suppression of vital information . . . seems intentional.”
Seventh, Anderson debunks Nibley’s apologetics by arguing that it is burdened by “a lack of scholarly standards in evaluating sources.” In criticizing Nibley on this score, he notes that “[f]irsthand accounts are impeached because they are not consistent with anti-Mormon fulminations of a century later, and contemporary accounts of episodes in Joseph Smith’s life are discredited almost wholly on the basis of later secondary reports.” Anderson criticizes Nibley for his “indiscriminate use of sources [which] enables him not only to oppose witnesses with non-witnesses but also to introduce sources whose only merit is that they make others appear unreliable by comparison.”
Eight, Anderson chides Nibley for his “failure to consider Mormon sources when they concur with non-Mormon accounts,” further observing that “’The Myth Makers’ tends to disregard context” driven by Nibley’s “earnestness to impugn the whole corpus of non-Mormon literature.”
Finally, Anderson sums up his critical assessment of Nibley’s multi-leveled demonstration of unprofessionalism by writing that “Nibley’s method of analysis is arbitrary” and “only proves what no one ever thought of denying, namely that not all historical documents are of the same evidential quality.”
“. . . Nibley’s argument fails on every significant point. Illogic, unsupported speculation, specious charges, misrepresentation, factual errors, indiscriminate and arbitrary use of sources, disregard of context, and a lock of scholarly standards characterize the book advertised by its publisher as a ‘masterful expose . . .[of] the makers of myths who told their untruths about Joseph Smith.’
“If Joseph Smith’s neighbors are to be discredited, it must be on the basis of better evidence than that advanced by Nibley.”
*The Fundamental Reliability of the Affidavits
Despite efforts by Nibley and other Mormon defenders to deny historical reality on the reliability of the affidavits in question, Anderson says:
“I believe that the testimonials collected by Hurlbut, [Arthur Buel] Deming, and others are in fact largely immune to the attacks launched by Nibley, Anderson, and others. . . . [T]here can be no doubt that these reports [from Hurlbut’s collected affidavits], in early twentieth-century German historian Eduard Meyer’s words, ‘give us the general opinion of his [Smith’s] neighbors in their true, essential form’”
(quoted in Heinze F. Rahde and Eugene Seaich, trans., “The Origins and History of the Mormons . . . “[Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah, n.d., p. 4])
“ . . . [I]t is clear that a broader picture of Joseph Smith emerges from these early affidavits and interviews than is otherwise available from [Smith’s] family and followers.”
(Anderson, pp. 6-12, 14, 16-18, 20-22)
*Wider Scholary Assessemtn that the Affidavits are Authentic and Believable
Predictably, Mormon apologists have relied on their traditional limited circle of Mormon defenders in unconvincing attempts to repudiate the affidavits. Anderson writes that because of “the questionable reliability of the Kelley report and the lack of credible testimony discounting the affidavits collected by Hurlbut and others, most scholars outside of Mormonism have tended to accept the non-Mormon side of the issue. The number of witnesses, the unanimity of their testimony, the failure to impeach even a single witness, and the occasional candid reminiscence by Martin Harris, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith,. Lucy Mack Smith, William Smith, Joseph Knight, or other early Mormons have contributed to the conclusion that Hurlbut and his followers were probably reliable reporters.
Citing the work of J. H. Kennedy, “Early Days of Mormonism . . . “ (New York, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888, pp. 17-18), Anderson observes that “[e]ven those who suspected that the witnesses against Smith may have been motivated by more than a simple desire to inform have not questioned the depictions of Smith as a basically self-seeking charlatan.”
(Anderson, pp. 6, 9)
*In the End, the Affidavits Hold Up
Anderson crystallizes his assessment of the affidavits reliability as follows:
“First, I can find no evidence that the primary source affidavits and other documents collected by Philastus Hurlbut, Eber D. Howe, and Arthur B Deming are other than what they purport to be. The men and women whose names they bear wither wrote them or authorized them to be written. Ghost-writing my have colored some of the testimony, but there is no evidence that the vast majority of testators did not write or dictate their own statements or share the attitudes attributed to them.
“Second, every contemporary attempt [in Smith’s era to impugn these accounts failed. Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris’s effort to prove Isaac Hale’s letter a forgery was contradicted by Hale himself. The attempts by Lucy Mack Smith and William Smith to exonerate the Smith family of certain charges were undone by the more candid admissions of friends or other family members. And RLDS apostle William Kelley’s report, designed to discredit Joseph Smith’s debunkers was itself discredited by many of those contacted by Kelley. The fact that these efforts resulted in impeaching not a single witness who testified against Smith, though many of these same witnesses were still alive and willing to repeat their testimony, supports the conclusion that the statements collected by Hurlbut and Deming can be relied on as accurate reflections of their signers’ views.
“Third, with the possible exception of Peter Ingersoll, there is no evidence that the witnesses contacted by Hurlbut in 1833-34 and Deming in 1888 perjured themselves by knowingly swearing to a lie. In fact, existing evidence goes far to substantiate the recorded stories. The harmony of the accounts, the fact that they were collected by different people at different times and place, and the sometimes impressive confirmations supplied by independent witnesses or documents never intended for public consumption discredit the argument that the work of Hurlbut and Deming contains nothing but ‘trumped-up evidence.’
“Fourth, there is no evidence that the majority of witnesses indulged in malicious defamation by repeating groundless rumors. Many based their descriptions on close association with the Joseph Smith, Sr., family. They did not always distinguish hearsay from observation, fact from inference, but they generally state whether or not the source of the information is firsthand, and several witnesses provided enough information to demonstrate that much what was previously thought to be popular rumor about the Smiths was not wholly groundless.
“Having survived the determined criticism of Mormon scholars Hugh Nibley and Richard L. Anderson, the Hurlbut-Deming affidavits must be granted permanent status as primary documents relating to Joseph Smith’s early life and the origins of Mormonism.”
*The Affidavit Signrs' Final Assessment of Joseph Smith
“In general terms, the Hurlbut, Howe, Deming and Kelley testimonials paint a portrait of a young frontiersman and his family, struggling to eke out a minimal existence in western New York, facing the discouraging realities of life on the margins of society.
“Intelligent and quick-witted, if not always a hard worker, Joseph Smith, Jr., had been brought up by parents who believed in angels, evil spirits, and ghosts; in buried treasures that slipped into the earth if the proper rituals were not performed to exhume them; in diving rods and seer stones, in dreams and visions, and that despite their indigent status, theirs was a family chosen by God for a worthy purpose. . . .
“Whether hunting for buried treasure or the ancient record of a lost civilization, neither Joseph nor his family saw any conflict between the secular pressures of earning a living, even by so esoteric a means as money digging, and a religious quest for spiritual fulfillment. If they could accomplish one goal by pursing the other, so much the better.”
“Nondescript and of little consequence until he started attracting others to his peculiar blend of biblical Christianity, frontier folk belief, popular culture, and personal experience, Joseph Smith was an enigma to his incredulous New York neighbors.
“For them, he would always remain a superstitious adolescent dreamer and his success as a prophet a riddle for which there was no answer.”
(Anderson, pp. 113-116)
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 05/17/2017 01:11AM by steve benson.