The Real Founder of Mormonism
William H. Whitsitt
BOOK THE THIRD:
THE DISCIPLE PERIOD: Oct. 11, 1823 -- Nov. 8, 1830
(Section IV, pp. 249-353)
Contents | Book I | Book II | Book III: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 | Book IV | Book V
This important and in some directions able person was born at Sharon, Windsor county, Vermont, on the 23rd of December, 1805 (Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and his Progenitors for Many Generations. By Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet, Plano, Illinois, 1880, p.53). His family were of Puritan extraction and of unpuritan-like thriftlessness, The father and mother were married at Tunbridge, Orange county Vermont, on the 24th of January, 1796 (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.39 and p.41). Here Joseph Smith Sr. was the owner of a small farm, which his wife reports to have been worth about fifteen hundred dollars (ibid. p.54), upon which the newly wedded couple established themselves and lived in comfort for a period of six years. In the year 1802 the father concluded that he would enter upon a new line of business, leasing his farm, he opened a merchant's shop in the town of Randolph, Vermont (ibid. p.43).
But Joseph Smith, Sen. was a very indifferent merchant. After a brief season at Randolph he found himself bankrupt, being indebted in the city of Boston for eighteen hundred dollars worth of "store goods" and having nothing wherewithal to pay except "about two thousand dollars in bad debts", and an apocryphal consignment of crystallized ginseng
root, which he had sent to China in order to remedy a plague that he had been informed was prevailing in that country. The ship upon which he had set his hopes returned in due season from China, but it brought nothing to the Randolph merchant except a small chest of tea, in return for the venture he had made in it. The debt in Boston and the bad debts about Randolph were enough to swamp his fortunes without any reference to the Chinese plague. Immediately after this venture was forwarded to the Celestial Empire, Mr. Smith closed his shop and returned to his farm at Tunbridge, which his Boston creditors speedily sold for him at the price of eight hundred dollars, and left him with all the world before him where to choose his place of rest (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp.51-54). He proceeded to fulfill this privilege; from the year 1803, or at the latest 1804, when he was driven from his farm at Tunbridge, until the year 1815 he effected seven different removals, the last of these to Palmyra in Wayne county, New York. Among the places that were honored by the residence of the family during this gypsy period of their existence were Royalton on two occasions, Sharon, Tunbridge and Norwich in Vermont, and Lebanon in New Hampshire.
At Sharon, Vermont, Solomon Mack, the father of Mrs. Smith, provided for the household a temporary refuge on a farm which Joseph Smith, Sr.
is said to have rented from his father-in-law. This appears to have been the most comfortable haven they found during the gypsy epoch; it was likewise the place longest occupied, for Mrs. Smith reports that they continued for several years in Sharon (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.58). During the summer months Mr. Smith employed what slender energies he possessed in the business of farming: in the winter season he taught school. While he was thus engaged his fourth child -- the third son -- was born on the 23rd of December, 1805, and in honor of his sire, was christened Joseph Smith, Jr.
Notwithstanding the very natural exertions which in her biographical sketches the mother of the household puts forth to represent agreeably their circumstances, it is evident from her narrative that the fortunes of the family bad fallen to the lowest ebb. In addition to the burdens of poverty they were also compelled to bear the heavier burdens of worthlessness and vulgarity. [Lucy] herself was a notably credulous person, and perhaps not without a measure of cunning. The weakness she displayed for the ravings of extravagant religious exhorters (pp. 48-49) was resented by the family to which her husband belonged (pp. 56-7), but she contrived to gain an influence over him which they could not easily correct and it was no great while until he was walking comfortably upon as low a plane as her own.
In the year 1811 occurred their removal to Lebanon, N.H.
and not long afterwards a visitation of typhoid fever brought much affliction in its train. The attack which young Joseph suffered was of brief duration "something like two weeks", but the effects it left in its train were very serious. He was seized with fever sores, which first attacked his breast near the shoulder, and then shifted to his leg. The attending surgeons suggested the propriety of amputation, but that motion being overruled, they were content with the removal of a large portion of the decayed bone, and the patient accomplished a satisfactory recovery (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp.64-68). From the effects of this operation Joseph was ever afterwards able to procure exemption from the burdens of military service (Ibid. p.237).
When he was recovering from his tedious and painful illness the family were visited by Jesse Smith, the eldest brother of Joseph Smith, Sr., who at the moment was residing at Salem, Massachusetts. Being moved by the situation of his nephew he took Joseph to his home for a visit, where. the sea breezes were of benefit to his health. This sojourn in Salem bore fruit in coming years. It was perhaps the occasion of the violent prejudices which Jesse Smith entertained for Mormonism after it came forth in the year 1830 (Ibid. pp.163-5). It is likely that he had formed too just an estimate of his nephew during the period of convalescence to permit him to conceive
any considerable amount of respect for an enterprise where he might be concerned.
It is also possible that this youthful. acquaintance with Salem was one of the main reasons that induced the prophet to honor that venerable town with a visit and a revelation in the year 1836. According to Mr. Remy the company of Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith and Oliver Cowdery cheered and aided Mr. Smith on this occasion, which however, was only to a moderate extent successful (Remy and Brenchley, vol. I p.307). The revelation that was vouchsafed for the benefit of Salem is dated on the 6th of August 1836 (O. Pratt's edition of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 111).
Whether the family acquired a taste for fortune telling and the seeking out of lost treasures during the years of their gypsy existence in Vermont and New Hampshire cannot now be determined with certainty. The legend concerning certain treasures which Capt. William Kidd the pirate was fabled to have concealed in some unknown locality before his capture at Boston was still rife in New England and other portions of the country. It is possible that already before their exodus to New York they had been excited by these wonderful stories and had already learned the use of the divining rod, by means of which the abiding place of lost mineral substances, it was believed, might be pointed out.
In his Autobiography, the prophet informs the public that his father removed from New England to New York when he was in the tenth year of his age (Pearl of Great Price, p.56). If this statement be correct they entered Palmyra sometime during the summer of 1815. Mr. Pomeroy Tucker (Origin and Progress of Mormonism, D. Appleton & Co. 1867), who claims to be an eye-witness, declares that upon his arrival Joseph Smith Sr., opened a shop under the legend of "cake and beer", and did business on a small scale, occasionally varying his industry by performing jobs at common labor in the garden and harvest fields of the villagers. The frequency with which mention is made of their employment in the task of opening wells is believed to indicate that at this early season of their sojourn in New York the divining rod was chiefly employed in searching after hidden streams of water, which they would induce the proprietors of the soil in any given instance to employ their services to render available by sinking a well. Mrs. Smith makes no allusion to the shop for cake and beer, but rather claims for herself the honor of sustaining the household by her skill at painting oil cloth coverings for tables and stands. She says that she set up in that business and did extremely well, supplying all the provisions for the family and gradually replenishing the depleted household furniture (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.73).
Referring once more to the Autobiography of the Prophet, it will
be perceived that about four years after their entrance into Palmyra, Joseph Smith, Sr. removed into the adjoining township of Manchester (P.G.P. p.56). This period bridges down the history to the spring or summer of the year 1819. Lucy Smith is authority for the information that her husband had contracted with a land agent for one hundred acres of land, the price of which he agreed to discharge in three equal annual payments. The family were never able to fulfill the conditions of this contract; after holding the property for ten years and building two houses upon it they were at length forced to surrender it some time in the early portion of the year 1829 (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 137). All accounts except that of Lucy Smith are agreed that the husbandry of the Smiths while occupying this farm was of the most slovenly type. The second house built, composed of wood and of the style commonly known as a frame house, was never completed by them, although it was commenced and nearly half constructed by their eldest son, Alvin Smith, prior to his death on the 19th of November 1826 (Ibid. p.90).
In the year 1820, when Joseph Smith Jr. was approaching the twentieth year of his age, there was a considerable degree of religious excitement abroad, in which the family were, most of them, involved. By some means which are not recorded the Mother, whose early leanings were decidedly towards the Methodists, was
induced to attach herself to the Presbyterian communion; her example was by Hyrum her oldest living child, by Sophronia, her eldest daughter, and by Samuel Harrison Smith, at the time just turned of his twelfth year. But Joseph found that the Methodists pleased his fancy more, accordingly he resisted the power of his mother's influence and example and persistently leaned towards that sect. In the year 1838, while engaged in setting forth the details of his life, he allows that "his mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and he felt some desire to be united with them (P.G.P., p.57). Mr. Tucker affirms that he joined as a probationer of the Methodists, but soon withdrew (Origin and Progress, p.13). It is not too much to claim that throughout his life he did not quite succeed in outgrowing these early Methodist preferences. There will be more than one occasion to refer to their effect upon his teachings and conduct in the subsequent portion of this history.
It would be in vain for any student of his life to call in question the fact that Mr. Smith was a person of considerable ability. Though he was in all probability indebted to his father for the earliest training he obtained in the mysteries of the divining rod, it is not unlikely that he speedily surpassed his teacher in the mastery of it. A passage in 2 Nephi 3:17 may be conceived to allude to his virtuosity in this regard and to the reputation it had brought him: "And the Lord said, I will raise up a Moses; and I will give him power in a rod." The entire chapter is devoted to a prediction concerning his own self and he was thoughtful enough to include this as one of the features by which he might be more certainly recognized. Perhaps the Smith family was not in the custom of employing any other instrument of divination until the year 1822.
At that time Mr. Willard Chase, one of their neighbors, who by the way was a Methodist class leader (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 108), had engaged Joseph and his eldest brother Alvin to open a well, the site of which the former may have suggested to Mr. Chase by the aid of his rod of witch hazel. At the distance of about twenty feet under the surface, Chase, being at the instant alone in the well, discovered "a singularly appearing stone which excited his curiosity."
On bringing it forth to the light the attention of Joseph was arrested, and placing it in his hat he began to apply his face to it. The next morning he was permitted to borrow the interesting curiosity, and publishing abroad what marvels he could see in it, succeeded in making a deal of disturbance "among the credulous part of the community," in which manner, unless many signs are at fault, fully included the owner of the stone himself.
After the lapse of two years Mr. Chase was able to recover the marvelous specimen, but not until Joseph, by its use, had achieved a great many triumphs. The stone must have been a concern of importance to Chase; Lucy Smith informs the public that a member of his family -- his sister -- was in the habit of indulging her skill in that line. After the famous seer-stone had been removed from her reach she found "a green glass through which she could see many wonderful things" doubtless with as much clearness and accuracy as Joseph (Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 115). But none of those who in the community gave their thoughts in this direction possessed a tithe of the genius and geniality of Mr. Smith. He was shortly the talk of almost every circle in the countryside (Howe, p.241). Pomeroy Tucker declares that "the fame of Smith's money-digging performances had been sounded far and near. The newspapers had heralded and ridiculed them." (Origin & Progress, p. 27).
The active zeal with which this extensive gratuitous advertisement was bestowed speedily bore its appropriate fruits; the business of treasure-seeking increased apace upon his hands, and he was regarded more and more as a man of mark. To all appearance the interest of a very large circle was directed towards him. Even those who did not accept his pretensions would be attracted by the mystery and by the singularity of his character and his actions, Tucker says "One respectable and forehanded citizen now living in Manchester, confesses to have patronized Smith's perseverance, and says he once handed him a silver dollar, partly in view of the notion that there might be something in it, and partly to get rid of the fellow." (Origin and Progress, p.23). It is not too much to suppose that there were hundreds of people in the vicinity of Manchester, who at this period were in a like state of semi-adhesion to the claims of the gifted young man with the seer-stone.
At length in the year 1825, some while after Willard Chase had recovered possession of the stone which he claims was his personal property, a remarkable excitement occurred in the hovel of the Smiths. The fame of the young magician had come to the ears of Mr. Josiah Stowel; or Stoal, in Joseph's rather vulgar cacography, This person, who is described as an "honest old Dutchman" resided in South Bainbridge, a poor hamlet
situated in the southern portion of Chenango county, New York. Though the distance was near one hundred miles to Manchester, Mr. Stowel came in person to solicit the services of Joseph to aid him in an enterprise towards which he had conceived the highest hopes. There was in his part of the world a tradition regarding an old silver mine which the Spaniards were reported to have opened at some former period (Howe p.263). It was situated on the Susquehanna river in the county of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, a distance of thirty-five or forty miles from the place of Stowel.
The presence of Mr. Stowel in the northern part of New York on this errand is distinctly vouched for by Lucy Smith, who adds that he "came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye" (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.96), which is the nearest allusion that the good body makes to the fact that her son was an adept in the use of the famous seer-stone.
It is likely, however, that at the moment when Stowel announced his business the stone was no longer at the command of Joseph; Willard Chase, who was also given to the belief in the marvelous, and at a later date even employed a conjurer to perform a journey of sixty or seventy miles for the purpose, if possible, of gaining control of the "plates" which Joseph had been
entrusted to preserve (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 103), had reclaimed his treasure; and, it may be, had often meanwhile tried what skill he could bring to bear in the art of seeing through it. But his exertions in that way would not be rewarded with success; he lacked both the genius and the knavery of Joseph. In the course of time and experiment he must have come to the conclusion that, while Mr. Smith might be endowed to discern things invisible to the natural eye, that benefit had for some reason been withheld from Willard Chase. Consequently, he would not resist upon occasion a proposition to the effect that he should commit the care and service of the stone to Joseph.
The necessary occasion was at hand when Josiah Stowel -- a stranger from a remote section, whose pockets were comfortably lined with fools' pence -- had made his appearance. Joseph therefore sent his brother Hyrum to confer with neighbor Chase for the purpose of borrowing [for] a second time the coveted specimen, "alleging that they desired to accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone." Chase acceded to this request after [demanding] a pledge of Hyrum's word and honor that the highly valued property should be returned upon demand -- a premise which it is reported, was never fulfilled, though several different requests were proposed to that end by the rightful owner (Howe p.241).
The results of the connection this established between Stowel and Smith were to the latter in many ways important and satisfactory. Armed with his seer-stone and accompanied by his father and several of his dupes from the vicinity of Palmyra and Manchester, Joseph arrived at the place of his operations just after the middle of October 1825 (P.G.P., p.66). The party soon fell to work, receiving at the outset, according to the witness of Mr. Isaac Hale in whose house they procured lodging, great encouragement at the hands of young Smith, but he adds: "When they had arrived in digging to near the place where he stated an immense treasure would be found, he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see" (Howe, p.263). This saying went abroad in the quiet community, and in subsequent years when Joseph, who had now come to reside there, chanced to fail in keeping any of his promises, his acquaintances were wont to inquire "if the enchantment had not proven too powerful" (Howe, p.267).
After the work had been interrupted by the unhappy intervention of enchantment, the workmen lost heart and gave it up about the 17th of November 1825 (Howe p.268), which Mr. Smith declares was [barely] one month after the excavations were commenced (P.G.P., p.66).
It is a fine evidence of Joseph's skill in the management of men to perceive
that the unlucky conclusion of this important venture did not effect the relations existing between Smith and Stowel in any way except to render them apparently more intimate. Joseph reports that he was retained in the service of Stowel from the date last mentioned until his marriage on the 17th of January, 1827, a period of just 14, months to a day. (P.G.P., p.67).
This last declaration however, must be understood in a general sense; the service which Joseph performed for his master Stowel did not preclude his immediate return from Pennsylvania after the failure of the mining venture on the Susquehanna (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.97). Neither did the conditions of it prevent the residence of Joseph at the house of his father in Manchester, N.Y. during the larger portion of the above named interval. In the biography which she has supplied of her son, Lucy Smith alludes to the presence of Joseph at the place of Stowel upon only a single occasion, namely in the last months of 1826, a short while prior to the date of the union with Miss Hale, on the 17th of January 1827, and despite the explanation which she proposes of that visit, she rather succeeds in suggesting that it was made with the design of inducing Stowel to advance a sufficient amount of money to redeem the farm upon which they were sojourning for so many years without paying for it (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp.96-7).
Considering all the facts that have come to light it seems likely that the service which Joseph had engaged to Stowel must have consisted in nothing more than a contract to keep a diligent eye upon the seer-stone in order to discern if possible the abiding place of any unusually abundant deposits of precious metals. A contract of this character was highly convenient to Mr. Smith at this moment, for while he was lodging at the house of Isaac Hale in the month of November 1825, the young man had cast an eye of favor upon the person of his excellent daughter, Miss Emma, and would be pleased with an opportunity to push forward his interests there. Mr. Hale, the father of Emma, reports (Howe, p.263) that during the interval Joseph made several visits at his house. The suit he offered was acceptable to Miss Emma, and in one season the young man was allowed to ask the consent of her parents to the marriage which they had agreed to effect. This was denied, almost as a matter of course, and the youthful couple were constrained to resort to the expedient of elopement.
In that business Mr. Stowel was the main counselor and support of the young suitor, with whom he was glad to maintain the most confidential and kindly footing. The request for Mr. Hale's consent was perhaps proposed during the visit that Joseph made in company with his father during the latter months of the year 1826. When it became necessary to resort to strategy Stowel gave permission that
his own house at South Bainbridge should be employed as the base of future operations. At Joseph's next appearance on the ground, in January 1827, his friend and host had likely spied out the land and found that Hale contemplated being absent from home at a designated season. Advising young Smith to take advantage of this occasion, and perhaps providing him with the necessary means of conveyance, Miss Emma was soon safely escorted to the residence of Stowel.
Mrs. Emma Smith herself seems to represent that her visit to the Stowels was not an elopement, but merely a friendly interchange of civilities. She says,
I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but during my visit at Mr. Stowel's your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, aided by Mr. Stowel, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him than any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire Tarbell's and were married." (Life of Joseph, the Prophet, Tullidge, 1880, p.790).
This statement puts a somewhat different aspect upon the proceeding, but it is considered more safe to follow the testimony of Mr. Isaac Hale, the father of Emma, as given in Howe (pp. 262-266). Her father understood that the entire affair was to be considered in the light of an elopement from the instant when his daughter left his roof. In that performance, as has been signified above, Joseph had
the benefit of the counsels and of the active support of Stowel. The "honest old Dutchman" by natural consequence, would be expected to complete the favor which he had thus far so bravely performed by conveying the young people to the house of the Smiths' at Manchester, N.Y. By way of suggesting a hope of remuneration, Joseph related to him a story concerning a discovery that he had made through the aid of the seer-stone at Watertown in Jefferson county, N.Y., a distance of about 150 miles in a northwestwardly direction from Manchester. This communication must have been exactly in the line of the young magician's duty under the contract he had assumed with Stowel. Possibly the glittering prize of "a bar of gold as large as his leg, and about three or four feet long" had been held up to the gaze of the simple old gentleman long enough before the nuptial knot with Miss Emma was securely fastened, as an effective method of exciting him to concern and activity. Stowel brought the twain which had just been made one flesh to the hovel of the Smith family in Manchester with the best will and hopes in the world; he was fated to experience the usual disappointment of those who gave any credence to the word of Joseph Smith. As soon as the journey had been performed and there was no further demand for his good offices, the old man was coolly given to understand that the bridegroom would not leave his young
wife alone among strangers for the best riches of El Dorado (Howe, pp.244-5).
But the magnetism of Joseph Smith was so decided that even is unworthy treatment and second disappointment was not sufficient to disturb the faith and affection of the "honest old Dutchman." He remained still devotedly attached to his young but slippery friend. In September 1827 the report went far abroad that Mr. Smith would come into possession of the "Gold Bible" on the 22nd day of the current month. By way of preparation to receive the valued treasure he approached Willard Chase, the Methodist class-leader, with a proposition that the latter should construct a wooden chest for the purpose of keeping it out of the reach of curiosity or of danger. The consideration offered for the article in question was a share in the profits of the enterprise. Though Chase was clearly disposed to believe in the pretensions of the prophet, Joseph did not strike him quite fair on the present occasion, and the bargain was perhaps doubtfully declined. (Howe, p. 245).
It is highly probable that Mr. Stowel by some means had also received notice of the expected event. At any rate on the 20th of September 1827 he made his appearance once again at the cabin of the Smiths. Lucy Smith declares that he came merely in order that he might inform himself concerning the progress of the battle which the family were waging against their creditors. To retain possession of their little
homestead; but this motive does not appear sufficiently weighty to explain a journey almost entirely across the State of New York from South to North. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Stowel drew nigh in this opportune moment that he might, if possible, gain a sight and a share of the gold which he must have firmly believed would shortly be committed to Joseph.
In the company of Stowel on this long journey traveled one Joseph Knight, Sr. of Colesville in Broome county, N.Y., a hamlet which is situated only a few miles away from South Bainbridge (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.105). This Mr. Knight had previously joined Stowel in a visit to the Smiths' in the spring of the year 1826, (Lucy Smith, p.97). The pretext advanced by Mrs. Smith on that occasion was an errand of commerce; the two old neighbors were solicitous to purchase wheat in Manchester. The Smiths are given out to have made a contract with them for the crop which then was growing on their farm, but it seems not to have been paid for at the time that was fixed, and yet there is no kind of explanation of the failure which, according to Lucy Smith, cost the loss of the homestead upon which the family had set their hearts. In few words the suggestion of a journey of traffic in the early part of 1826 is believed to be only a very flimsy covering for the real aim of Stowel and Knight. They must have come to ask after the prospects of the "Gold Bible," and were perhaps accurately informed of the date of its advent. Joseph and his father, in hopes that the brace of simpletons were
now sufficiently blinded by the stories the former had supplied, returned the visit of the Spring of 1826 by another visit in the winter of 1826, with a view as has been previously intimated, to obtain by some kind of trick a sum that would relieve their small establishment from the debt which encumbered it. It has been shown above how they failed in this effort; but Joseph was successful in engaging the interest of Stowel and perhaps of Knight, in something that was more feasible and promising, namely, his matrimonial project.
After the appearance of Knight and Stowel at Manchester on the 20th of September 1827, the pair made themselves as well content as they might in order to await and to watch the development of the marvelous business. They tarried until the 22nd, and even when several days afterwards the curiosity and the cupidity of the community was excited by the rumor of such a considerable find of gold, both Knight and Stowel were still at hand to aid Mr. Smith in guarding and securing the riches which neither of them had got a sight of (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 111).
Joseph was afterwards enabled to capture Knight and make him a leader among the hosts who rallied under the Book of Mormon; one of the first churches of his adherents was organized at Colesville: Joseph Knight, Sr. was its chief support. No information has been transmitted regarding the further history of Stowel; perhaps death had meanwhile kindly stepped in to shield the "honest old Dutchman" from this sort of a disaster.
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When the newspapers are solicitous of patronage from the advertising public they will often set forward the maxim that "there is nothing pays like printer's ink." This maxim was supported by the experience of Mr. Smith. Different journals had proclaimed his peculiarities so industriously that the accounts they supplied must have reached the eye of Mr. Rigdon at Pittsburgh. At this moment indeed, his eye was broad awake for notices of a genius like the youthful prodigy in New York.
Rigdon had succeeded in acquiring possession of Spaulding's Book of Mormon about the first of January 1823, at which date the firm of Patterson and Lambdin was caught in the wreck of bankruptcy. It was natural that he should now engage his mind upon the evolution of a plan by means of which the most effective use could be made of the work. Several years would pass by before the labor of adapting it to the purpose that sat next to his heart could be accomplished; but when this service was achieved he would urgently desire a channel through which it might be commended to the attention of the public in the guise of a sacred revelation. It is hardly possible that he could have anticipated that the person who should be selected to discover it would be in a situation to command a sufficient amount of money to
put the work through the press. But Sidney considered that he would encounter no heavy difficulty in raising the requisite pecuniary advances for that end and in case the public could be led to believe that the manuscript had been once discovered and proclaimed as undoubtedly containing the record of divine communications to mankind.
It was imperative, however, that the book as it left his own hands should first be transcribed. If it were exhibited, especially in Ohio or in Pennsylvania with large sections of it composed in his hand-writing there was reason to fear that some of those who might examine it would recognize the character by which circumstance it was plain to foresee that his name and scheme would both be blasted. Furthermore, if the person who professed to have exhumed it should give the public to understand that the foolscap upon which Messrs. Rigdon and Spaulding had composed their effusions was the same as he had found underneath the surface of the earth, the cheat would be apparent both by reason of the English characters and also by reason of the fact that the writing materiel we now employ was not in use during the presumably remote age of Nephi and the other saints of the Mormon calendar.
Such, therefore, was the nature of the problem which Rigdon was called to solve; he must find a person who would not only be willing to discover the Book of Mormon, but would also have it in his power to cause it to be copied into another hand. It is questionable whether
he would have permitted any portion of his own chirography to go before the eye of a printer who resided at even so remote a distance as Palmyra, N.Y. Detection would be destruction, and he must avoid it by all the means at his disposal. Accordingly it will appear farther on that as soon as Oliver Cowdery had finished transcribing the last word of his manuscript in 1829, it was forthwith delivered into the hand of the angel, and was never seen again. Speaking of the fabulous "plates," Joseph Smith says: "According to arrangements the messenger called for them; I delivered them up to him and he has them in his charge until this day, being the 2nd day of May 1838." (P.G.P., pp.67-8).
The arrangements here alluded to for the return of the original document to the hand of Rigdon were doubtless precise and binding, and he was on the ground at the earliest moment when it was possible for him to reclaim it. Joseph Smith was the master of a greater amount of vigor than Mr. Rigdon could have anticipated that such a specimen of humanity should display; nay he was more vigorous than was any way agreeable to Sidney. He not only was able to hoodwink Martin Harris into the preposterous measure of paying the printer, and by that means to bring forward the Book of Mormon without imposing a particle of that kind of labor and sacrifice upon his principal, but he also was agile enough, in consequence of this achievement and of his remarkable capacity in other regards, himself to vault into the position
of leadership, forcing the man who really was at the head of the movement to assume the second position.
This posture of affairs was galling to Rigdon's vanity, and to his relish for supremacy, but Joseph had fairly deserved his advantage, and he was always skillful enough to assert it. In describing a passage at arms that befell between them in Missouri, many years after the events that transpired in New York, an old Mormon leader adds: "After that, Rigdon never countermanded the orders of the Prophet to my knowledge -- he knew who was boss". (Life and Confessions of John D. Lee, St. Louis 1877, p.78).
Could Sidney have been made aware that he was now engaged in choosing a master instead of a tool there is reason to suspect that he would have looked elsewhere for an agent to help on his project, leaving Joseph to continue the amusement of treasure-seeking among his numerous dupes about Manchester and South Bainbridge.
The session of the Redstone Association during the first days of September 1823 would be an occasion of special interest to Rigdon. The church in Pittsburgh over which he then presided, by his arts and efforts to betray it into the power of Mr. Campbell, had been divided into factions. It was likely that he had already procured the excommunication of the party which resisted his own and Mr. Campbell's wiles. The battle would again be joined and waged at the Association, and he naturally solicitous about the result. The conflict was more interesting than he anticipated. The favor of the body
was clearly distracted towards his adversaries, as was to be expected; but in addition to this calamity the attention of the body was fixed upon the machinations of Mr. Campbell himself, whether in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, and that gentleman was compelled to resort to flight in order to avoid something worse (Richardson, Memoirs of A. Campbell II, pp.68-70).
After the adjournment of the Association Mr. Rigdon would make his way towards the northern part of New York with a view to cultivate the acquaintance of Joseph Smith, Jr. His first interview with that person is described as having occurred on the night of the 21st and the day of the 22nd of September 1823. When about the year 1838 Joseph sat down to compose his Autobiography, his brilliant imagination transfigured Sidney into an angel called Nephi, who came down through the ceiling that night in a halo of celestial light. All of the earlier copies of the Autobiography gave this appearance to Nephi, but in the recent editions the honor has been transferred to Moroni. Either designation would suit Mr. Rigdon equally well; he had composed "the small plates of Nephi" as well as the Book of Moroni, and it was not singular that upon occasion each of these names should be applied to him.
The angel Nephi was likely also visible to the other members of the Smith household. Lucy Smith informed her neighbor, Mrs. Abigail Harris that "she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was
dressed very plainly (Howe, p. 253). When she came to the task of composing the "Biographical Sketches" of her son she merely describes the public accession of Rigdon to the movement, and passes over in silence the fact that he was ever before under her roof (p. 179). Discarding the pictorial covering in which the prophet has shrouded his first contact with the angel Nephi (Moroni), it is likely that Sidney and Joseph took a bed together in the hovel of the family and almost throughout the night of the 21st of September, the former kept his associate awake describing the details of his plan and the part which Mr. Smith was expected to bear in it. A complete understanding would be reached respecting even the minutiae of it so far as these could be calculated in advance.
The next day the angel Nephi found his way southward with all convenient speed, since he had an engagement to accompany Alexander Campbell to a religious jousting at Washington, Ky., which was appointed to be opened on the 14th of October. Most of the subsequent communications between Rigdon and his colleague in New York, it may be presumed, were transacted by epistolary communication until the month of September 1827, when Sidney would find it essential to come in person and deliver his now modified Book of Mormon. Of course the position is not advanced that it was impossible that Rigdon should have resorted to Manchester during the progress of the four years that intervened; it is only claimed that everything that was
meanwhile undertaken in this interest could have been effected by the aid of epistolary correspondence.
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There was no necessity for the employment of the seer-stone in connection with this enterprise. Joseph now had the benefit of the vision and counsels of an angel, which was something far more desirable than such a very earthy expedient.
It was likely arranged from the outset that Mr. Smith should observe all the industry and skill in his power in trying to call the attention of the public to the discovery which Sidney had promised he should perform at the earliest moment after the task of rewriting and adopting the extensive work that Spaulding had left behind had been completed. Dark rumors were to be set afloat to the effect that it would be a large "book of plates," and the suggestion was often heard that these "plates" were composed of gold. Writing in later years regarding the arrangements between himself and Rigdon as enacted on the occasion of the first meeting Smith also makes allusion to the Urim and Thummim, but there is here a confusion of memory (P.G.P., pp. 62-3). The two stones in silver bows which went by that name were not invented until the year 1829. In no contemporary document or report can they be found mentioned as early as 1823, or at any period prior to the Revelation given to Joseph Smith, jun., in Harmony Pennsylvania, May 1, 1829, informing him of the alteration of the fore part of the Book of Mormon (D&C, Pratt's ed., S. 10:1).
The young man fulfilled his part of the business with the utmost skill and attention. Lucy Smith loves to dwell upon the stories which her son just after the departure of Rigdon was in the custom of narrating in the bosom of the family circle. There can be no question that they (were every way) extraordinary, and carried the family to the highest pitch of enthusiasm and expectation (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp.36-7). She says that exertions were made to keep the account of these things as related by her son from being heard abroad, but there are no evidences of this kind of caution in the reports of other eye witnesses as detailed in the volume of Mr. Howe. On the contrary the community was kept well informed regarding the progress of the affair and each new development of it appears to have been diligently advertised and by none with so much zeal as by the members of the household themselves.
When on the 22d of September 1824, the time for the first annual public demonstration came round Joseph made a great amount of noise in his preparations for the occasion. These were ordered after his own peculiar taste, and though of the rudest nature, the display he made was of a kind to impress the thoughts of the vulgar portion of the community. By the witness of his father it had been revealed to the boy (Howe, p.242), that "he must repair to the place where was deposited the manuscript, dressed in black cloth and riding a black horse with a switch tail."
That was a very good stroke on the part of Joseph to obtain a shining suit of the best broadcloth. It is likely that this was the outfit to which Pomeroy Tucker alludes (Origin and Progress, p. 56), as being purchased with considerable display in Palmyra at the charges of the poor simpleton, Martin Harris. Mr. Tucker it is allowed, represents that the suit of which he there makes mention was obtained on the occasion of the marriage of the prophet in 1827, but in the fact that, the marriage was by elopement, there may be found some reason to refer the incident to the celebration that befell in 1824. The pastures of Harris, or of some neighbor who might he disposed to do him a good turn, were possibly drawn upon to procure the "switch tail horse" which chanced to show neither spots nor hairs of white. This apparition in black must have contributed no mean addition to the already general excitement.
One result of the conference which Joseph gave
the public to understand he had enjoyed with the angel in 1824 is too important to be passed without notice. By some means which have not been described Rigdon must have been made aware that the habits of Joseph were not in the least exemplary. The young man was to a considerable extent addicted to the excessive use of ardent spirits (Howe, p.2 50, 253, 262-3). In the testimony of David Stafford as supplied by Mr. Howe (p. 249), reference is made to what is believed to have been the earliest occasion on which Smith was ever brought before the civil courts, where he was fined for a breach of the peace committed on the person of the said Stafford and a certain Mr. Ford at a moment when he had "drinked a little too freely." Stafford adds concerning his youthful associate: "I know him to be a drunkard and a liar."
Possibly in consequence of the unsteadiness of his habits, and also, it may be, with reference to his youthful age -- he was not quite nineteen -- the angel, whether in person or by letter, signified his desire that at his appearance in September 1825 Mr. Smith should bring his oldest brother with him.Unhappily however, Alvin Smith, who was the said oldest brother, did not live to keep the tryst; on the 19th of November 1824, he was surprised by death (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 42). Lucy Smith intimates that Alvin highly appreciated the
distinction he obtained in being selected by the angel to assist his brother in the work of bringing forth the "fullness of the gospel." She says, Alvin manifested, if such could be the case, greater zeal and anxiety in regard to the record that had been shown to Joseph, than any of the rest of the family (p. 94).
When the annual conference with the angel came round in the year 1825, the affair passed by with a smaller amount of display. It is conceivable that Mr. Smith had been certified that Sidney was not highly edified by the apparition in black of the preceding year. Joseph dryly announced when inquiry was made for his oldest brother, who must be produced upon the occasion, that the brother in demand was dead. "The Spirit then commanded him to come again in just one year, and bring a man with him. On asking who might he the man, he was answered that he would know him when he saw him" (Howe, p. 243).
The suspicion lies not very far away that Mr. Smith was not pleased with the degree of mistrust that was covered up in the demand of Rigdon to the effect that he should provide himself with an associate. Nevertheless he kept down most of his displeasure and professed to go about the enterprise of selecting a person who should be worthy of that important station and relation. For a season he affected to have discovered the character he was in search of in the person of one Samuel T. Lawrence (Howe, p. 243), who was perhaps among the more devoted of the thirty or forty adherents whom he had in one place
or another gathered around his banners. It is even reported that Lawrence was influential enough to induce Mr. Smith to try the virtues of the seer- stone in the neighborhood of the place where the "plates" were said to be concealed, but this story bears marks of confusion which would seem to relegate to a later period when the recollections of Willard Chase who relates it had become a trifle confused by reason of the distance of time which had intervened.
When the 22d of September, 1826, drew near, and Joseph went to meet the angel on the third annual rendezvous, the case of Lawrence had already been decided adversely; it was a point made out and defined in the thoughts of the prophet that the man he had selected to be his assistant was hardly the proper character. Thereupon Joseph gave him up and pretended that the information he had hitherto conveyed to him regarding the spot where the "plates" were deposited was not correct, but deceptions rather. The angel, however, was manifestly not content with the unwillingness of the young man to be awarded a companion in his labors and responsibilities. Sidney perhaps now [boldly] took the
position that Joseph should never be intrusted with his precious manuscript until he had succeeded in selecting a partner who should watch as well as aid him. Mr. Rigdon's plans looked towards a transcription of the document and he must have believed that was the most likely way to effect the end he sought.
Smith was at all times handy with expedients; he (___) appears to have suggested the name of Miss Emma Hale. The idea must have been pleasing to Rigdon as soon as it was proposed. Accordingly the statement was speedily given out that an angel appeared, and told Joseph he could not get the plates until he was married (Howe, p. 252). This was indeed the best arrangement that had been offered for consideration; one may observe in it one of the earliest and most notable displays of that genius for practical affairs which in subsequent years distinguished the career of Joseph the Prophet.
Though the aforesaid Samuel T. Lawrence had sometime since been cast aside, Mr. Smith was still able to bring to bear a sufficient amount of influence and cajoling to make him of service to his wishes. In the autumn of 1826 Smith conceived that it would aid his suit if it were recommended not simply by his old friends Knight and Stowel, but also by some person from the vicinity of Manchester who knew his standing at home and could be persuaded to draw a rose colored sketch of his position and prospects. With this aim in sight he contrived to hoodwink poor Lawrence into a journey to Harmony, Pennsylvania, in
which he not only discharged all the costs of travel but likewise favored Miss Hale with a loyal recommendation of his traveling companion (Howe, pp. 243-4). It is difficult to perceive how Lawrence could ever again respect himself after an exhibition of stupidity which carried him on a wild chase after an impossible silver mine on the banks of the Susquehanna River, that promised to yield steamboat cargoes of the precious substance, and yet in point of fact resulted in nothing but needless expense and humiliation.
During the year 1826 another project was [bruited?] which attracted no small degree of attention on the part of the angel and of the young treasure-seeker. Certain family connections of Joseph Smith, Sr. had by this time removed to the state of New York and established themselves in the county of St. Lawrence not many miles from the borders of Canada. Here in the township of Stockholm resided Asael Smith, the father of Joseph Smith, Sr., and his mother Priscilla Smith; likewise his brothers Jesse, who was left, in 1811 at Salem, Massachusetts; Asael; Silas and John, and his sisters Susan and Fanny (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp. 163-5). The presence of this large family connection so near to the banks of the river St. Lawrence must have come to the knowledge of Mr. Rigdon. They would supply a desirable base for any operations which young Joseph might see fit to undertake in that section of the world. The latter therefore made a journey to the country of St. Lawrence to visit his
grand parents and uncles and aunts, with a view to survey the territory and to decide whether it would be preferable to discover the golden "plates" in Canada rather than at Manchester, N.Y.
This scheme was entertained with so much favor that for a season the Smiths of Manchester began to talk about Canada as the scene of the exploit. Peter Ingersoll witnesses: "Sometime before young Joseph found, or pretended to find the gold plates, the old man told me that in Canada there had been a book found, in a hollow tree, that gave an account of the final settlement of this country before it was discovered by Columbus" (Howe, p. 234). The same person also testifies regarding a hoax that was enacted by young Joseph, but a short while before Rigdon placed the manuscript in his hands. He reported his method to Mr. Ingersoll in the following words: "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 parts 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 told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise they were credulous enough to believe what I said" (Howe, pp. 235-6).
For some reason which has not been explained it was preferred by Sidney
to cause the "plates" to be discovered and brought forward in Manchester rather than in Canada. The Smiths of Manchester were more credulous and more concerned perhaps than the Smiths of Stockholm. The only permanent advantage which young Joseph is believed to have derived from his journey to visit his relatives at Stockholm in 1826, was connected with the city of Watertown in Jefferson county, which is situated next to the county of St. Lawrence. Watertown lies directly on the route which he must travel over. Making a brief halt there he pretended to find within the limits of the place a cave in which was a bar of gold as big as his leg, and about four feet long (Howe, p. 244). It has been shown above what an excellent purpose was served him by this fabled bar of gold. Returning to visit Miss Emma Hale at Harmony, Pennsylvania, he held it up before the eye of the "honest old Dutchman," Mr. Stowel, and fired his zeal amazingly to assist the hopeful treasure-seeker to capture a richer prize much nearer home. Where every accident seems thus to work together for the advantage of Joseph it would argue a degree of blindness to deny hint the possession of a large endowment of genius for knavery.
The fact of Joseph's marriage in January 1827 coming duly to the knowledge of Sidney, and his redaction of Spaulding's Book of Mormon being now in a state of completeness there could be no good reason why it should be longer withheld. It was therefore given out that upon
return of the approaching anniversary the long coveted treasure would be committed to his charge and keeping. Shortly after the session of the Mahoning Association at Warren, Ohio, where he had played such a distinguished part along with Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott and other leaders of the Disciples Sidney got himself ready for the journey to Manchester, New York. Joseph, on his part, likewise made special preparations for the wonderful events; both Stowel and Knight were notified of its approach, and they together performed the journey from their homes in Chenango and Broome counties respectively in order to be present. Traveling in a vehicle that was supplied by Mr. Knight for the purpose (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p.106), they had accomplished their advent on the twentieth of the month, sure to be in good time for the extraordinary transaction (Ibid., p. 105).
In the fore part of September young Smith had approached his old associate, the Methodist class-leader, Willard Chase, who he rightly fancied was not inaccessible to such an appeal, and offered him a portion of the profits if he would construct a chest for the purpose of securing the book. Chase being at the instant a trifle out of temper, perhaps because Joseph had without due warrant retained the seer-stone in his keeping, declined the bargain (Howe, p. 245).
The night of the 21st of September seems to have been passed by the inmates
of the Smith household in a state of considerable excitement; Lucy Smith refers to the fact that she did not retire until after midnight (p.105) , and that she did not get any sleep after retiring. She says that, having failed to secure it at the hands of Willard Chase, Joseph came to her about twelve o'clock and asked whether she could supply a chest with a lock and key, but having none to offer him, she was greatly alarmed lest some kind of disaster should befall the enterprise by reason of the lack of such a receptacle. Her son, however, was considerate enough to request her to be calm and to dismiss her fears. Proceeding with her relation she adds: "Shortly after this Joseph's wife passed through the room with her bonnet and riding dress; and in a few minutes they left together, taking Mr. Knight's horse and wagon. I spent the night in prayer and supplication to God, for the anxiety of my mind would not permit me to sleep. At the usual hour I commenced preparing breakfast. My heart fluttered at every footstep, as I now expected Joseph and Emma momentarily, and feared lest Joseph might meet with a second disappointment (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 106).
From this lively description of the concern that existed within the family circle, the conclusion may be gathered either that Sidney omitted to be prompt to the instant in keeping his engagement, or that he had detained young Smith a long time, even to the break of day, in discussing the plan of operations which in the future it was desirable
he should work out. An important feature of this transaction in the forest is brought to view by the description which young Smith himself, a few days afterwards gave of the same matter. Speaking to Willard Chase in the confidence of familiar intercourse, he remarked that "he left his wife in the wagon by the road, and went alone to the hill a distance of thirty or forty rods from the road: he said he then took the book out of the ground and hid it in a tree top, and returned home (Howe, pp. 245-6).
From this description it appears that Emma Smith did not set a sight of the "plates" at the time when they were first committed to the charge of her husband. Joseph had an excellent knowledge of human nature; he was aware that of the business that was there placed under his hands it was important there should be no immediate witnesses except Sidney and himself. Emma was more honored than any other person; she was allowed to occupy a station that was distant about two hundred yards from the scene of the secret meeting, but only the two principals were thought worthy to attend in person.
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In his Autobiography Joseph remarks: "I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep safe the plates, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hands he would call for them; for no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me; every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose; the persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were continually on the alert to get them from me if possible; but by the wisdom of God they remained safe in my hands" (P.G.P, p. 67).
The nature of this persecution will be apparent, when it is brought to mind that the Smiths -- and none of them more decidedly than Joseph -- were a thriftless unkempt tribe who at all times were much involved in debt (Howe, p. 260). When therefore the legion of creditors of himself and other members of the family were given to understand that Joseph had succeeded in procuring a generous amount of the precious metal, the possibility was forthwith apparent of recovering upon a number of old executions which had been returned by officers appointed to effect distraint with the notification that no property could be found for the purpose. This was one of the natural results of the gushing announcements regarding "Plates of Gold" which the family,
it is conceivable, had not previously taken into the account. Early perceiving that too much had been fabled in this direction, and fearing that a constable armed with a search warrant might come upon the spot where he had bestowed the manuscript and obtain possession of it, Joseph is said to have given out, "that he had not got any such book, nor never had such an one" (Howe, p. 246).
The cupidity of a number of his neighbors was also excited, a phenomenon which has commonly accompanied any important discovery of the precious metals, whether in New York or elsewhere in the world. Willard Chase was particularly disturbed by discontent. Joseph had retained the seer-stone in his keeping, since the year 1825 and Mr. Chase believed that the gold, which he little doubted Joseph had obtained, was procured by that instrument. Indeed he does not hesitate to declare that young Smith confessed in his hearing that he was indebted that way: "He then observed that if it had not been for that stone (which he acknowledged belonged to me), he would not have obtained the book." (Howe, p. 246).
Whether Smith ever yielded this point is highly problematical; the angel Rigdon stood him in the stead of this valued instrument, in such concerns as had any reference to the manuscript. But Chase was nevertheless firmly assured that the discovery had been accomplished through the agency of his wonderful stone, and to a corresponding degree he was clear and intense in the persuasion that it was only fair that Joseph should divide
the proceeds. It was not long, therefore, until he had collected a body of men, and reinforced their strength by the presence and arts of a conjurer, who were intent upon capturing the "plates" in the teeth of opposition. (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 109). His lieutenant, and the second ringleader in this enterprise, was another close neighbor whom Lucy Smith designates by the Christian name alone, namely "Sam." This person is suspected to be none other than Mr. Samuel T. Lawrence, who it has been shown also had a serious grievance to nurse against young Smith.
Joseph was apprised of the gathering of this mob through the exertions of his wife, who rode to Macedon, where he was engaged in opening a well, with the design of earning by the success a sufficient amount of money to pay for the construction of a chest with a lock and key. Returning with her in much haste to his father's house, he set out just after nightfall to reach the spot where he had left the manuscript in the forest. Chase and his party were on the alert; they waylaid him and came near accomplishing their object. After that danger had been evaded, Hyrum Smith, who was married about a year previously and had set up at housekeeping not far away, was induced to favor his brother with the loan of a chest which he had in the family, perhaps as a portion of his wife's dowry. (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp. 108-112).
Lucy Smith supplies an account of two other efforts that were
made by mobs of greater or smaller proportions to capture the "Gold Bible" from her son. In the last of these the movements of the party were directed by a rival of Joseph's; Miss Chase, a sister of Willard's, had become an adept in the use of a piece of green glass, as related on a former page, and came perilously near to success in pointing out the precise spot where the manuscript had been hidden (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 115).
Young Smith was likewise exposed to an annoyance from the innocent curiosity of his neighbors. For example, Pomeroy Tucker mentions an escapade that was enacted by a couple of these (William T. Hussey and Azel Mandr[ake]), (Origin and Progress, pp. 31-2). He relates,
"They were notorious wags, end intimately acquainted with Smith. They called at his residence, and strongly importuned him for an inspection of the golden book, offering to take upon themselves the risk of the death penalty denounced. Of course the request could not be complied with; but they were permitted to go to the chest with its owner, and see where the thing was, and observe its shape and size, concealed under a thick canvas. Smith with his accustomed solemnity of demeanor, positively persisting in his refusal to uncover it; Hussey became impetuous, and suiting his action to his word, ejaculated, 'Egad, I'll see the critter, live or die.' And stripping off the cover a large tile brick was exhibited. But Smith's fertile imagination was equal to the emergency. He claimed that his friends had been
sold by a trick of his own; and 'treating' them with the customary whiskey hospitalities, the affair ended in good nature."
This same Mr. Hussey has been set in the pillory by Lucy Smith as the leader of a mob who a few years later had collected at a point between the family residence and the town of Palmyra in order to play a vicious prank upon her son, but his courage was displayed so brilliantly in the affair that it fell out entirely to the discomfiture and ridicule of his enemies (Joseph Smith, p.150). It is possible that the incident here given from Tucker might be the basis of the shining exploit related with so much satisfaction by the mother of Smith.
After a survey of all the facts that are now accessible it must be allowed that during the period which elapsed between September and December of the year 1827, though Joseph was exposed to a degree of annoyance, there was nothing in it [at] all which remotely resembles a religious persecution, Nevertheless, the whole tribe of the Smiths were eagerly looking out for the honors of martyrdom, and it was not singular that they should interpret in this light the disturbances that then befell their repose. In his Autobiography, Mr. Smith represents that "the persecution became so intolerable, that he was under the necessity of leaving Manchester, and going with his wife to Susquehanna county in the State of Pennsylvania." (P.G.P. p.63).
A more rational, and to appearance every way trustworthy explanation of the cause which led to the removal of Smith to Pennsylvania in the month of December 1827 is given by the testimony of Peter Ingersoll in the volume of Mr. Howe. After the elopement of his daughter in January 1827, Isaac Hale says,
Emma wrote to me inquiring whether she could take her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, etc. I replied that her property was safe and at her disposal. In a short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersoll, and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and reside in a place near my residence (Howe, p. 263).
Peter Ingersoll describes the visit to which Mr. Hale here alludes, in the following terms:
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, Penn., from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself, truly affecting.
pretensions to 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 confidant, and told me what daily transpired in the family of the Smiths" (Howe, pp. 234-235).
It will appear from the above that the marriage of young Smith upon which Mr. Rigdon had set so many hopes came within a little of defeating the scheme which the couple had been nursing for the last four years. Joseph had formed an alliance above his station; he was pleased with the fortune which made him the son-in-law of a man of good estate and of respectability, and was seriously disposed for a season to break with his past history and associates and to become a decent gentleman.
But after the return from Harmony in the month of August 1827
only a few weeks would intervene until Mr. Rigdon was expected upon the scene to deliver the manuscript which he had so long promised, and considering the entreaties and the influence of his family, Joseph must have found it highly difficult to refuse the treasure. Sidney on his part would not wish to hear of any such thing as a reconsideration; the young man was therefore forced into a situation which had meanwhile become in a sort distasteful to his feelings.
Moreover it would be urged that it was entirely possible for him to keep his promise to Mr. Hale, even though he should consent to discover and to bring forth the "Golden Bible." The promise had no reference to any other specification than the disuse of the seer-stone; and there was no occasion whatever for the exhibition of that instrument in this business. In few words, Mr. Rigdon must have been so earnest in his persuasions and was supported in them so industriously by the other members of the Smith family, that the virtuous resolutions of the young man were quite broken down, and he consented to the arrangement.
The above declaration of Ingersoll also demonstrates that Smith was preparing to fix his residence in Pennsylvania even before the date when he was placed in charge of the manuscript, and that he would have removed thither in case there had been no kind of annoyances consequent upon his decision to keep his contract to become a fellow laborer with Rigdon in the business of bringing forth the "fullness
of the gospel." He had been too long leading the miserable life of a gypsy to permit the opportunity that was kindly offered by Mr. Hale to enter upon a comfortable property and a worthy social station, to pass by unimproved. Consequently, it must be maintained that it was not religious persecution, but on the contrary, a valued stroke of good fortune, which carried Mr. Smith to Pennsylvania.
In preparation for the journey young Smith esteemed it was necessary to provide with especial concern for the manuscript. It was placed in a box, which when it was exhibited to Mr. Hale at the end of the journey, he says "had to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common window glass" (Howe, p. 264). Lucy Smith adds that he nailed up the "plates" in this box, and then put it into a strong cask; and after filling the cask with beans, headed it up again (Joseph Smith, p. 120).
Orson Pratt has related an incident that fell out on the way to Harmony. He says that Joseph "had not gone far before he was overtaken by an officer with a search warrant, who flattered himself with the idea that he should surely obtain the plates; after searching very diligently he was sadly disappointed at not finding them. Mr. Smith then drove on, but before he got to his journey's end he was again overtaken by an officer on the same business, and after ransacking the wagon very carefully, he went his way as much chagrined as the first, at not being able to discover the object of his research" (Remarkable Visions, p. 6).
It was perfectly natural that many citizens to whom Joseph was indebted for amounts which were of considerable importance to them, should be unwilling to permit him to slip away with a large amount of gold, such as common fame gave him the credit of having in possession, without making an honest effort to collect the money that was justly due them. No blame can attach to them for resorting to the use of a search warrant under these conditions. Lucy Smith, after her usual fashion magnifies these harmless and peaceful occurrences into a mob of fifty men (Joseph Smith, p. 120).
True to his promise, upon his arrival at Harmony in December 1827, Mr. Hale provided Joseph with a place of residence. Emma Smith affirms that her husband purchased the place of her eldest brother Jesse Hale off her father's farm (Tullidge, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 79): but this claim sounds wholly preposterous. Joseph was not then in a situation to buy even so much as his dinner. He had been able to affect his removal to Pennsylvania, only by means of the simplicity of Martin Harris in presenting him the sum of fifty dollars to pay his expenses (Howe, p. 246); and besides, it is not to be conceived that he would make an effort to purchase a landed estate which he anticipated (he would) in the progress of events come to receive by inheritance. It seems more reasonable to suppose that Jesse Hale, who who had built a residence
on a portion of his father's domains, was now deceased or had removed elsewhere, and that the old gentleman, eager to aid his daughter, permitted her to enter this domocile until further arrangements might be effected. They retained the house of Jesse Hale until the Book of Mormon was issued in the spring of the year 1830.
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When young Smith went. to request Willard Chase to supply a chest for the purpose of securing the "plates" he expected soon to receive, he told him that he was "commanded to keep the book two years without letting it come to the eye of any one but himself" (Howe, p. 245). The casual statement here given forth, sheds an amount of light upon the nature of the plan(s) which had been elaborated for bringing the work before the public. The manuscript was then considered as something quite too sacred to be connected in any way with the seer-stone. No idea of that sort entered the mind of Joseph until other resources upon which he had firmly fixed his thoughts had come to naught.
Another allusion to his maiden scheme may be seen in the testimony of Mr. Isaac Hale. Referring to the advent of the young man at Harmony, and the box of "plates" which he had brought, Hale adds: "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" (Howe, p. 264).
A third allusion is made to this first plan in the evidence of Sophia Lewis. She states that she heard Smith say "the Book of Plates could not be opened under penalty of death, by any other person but his (Smith's) firstborn child, which was to be a male" (Howe, p. 269).
The next tidings of the young child and of Joseph's scheme respecting him is conveyed by Martin Harris. For a considerable period prior to the discovery of the boasted treasure Mr. Harris had been mentioned in the character of a prominent member of the "Gold Bible Company" (Howe, p. 251 & 255). He had already invested fifty dollars to purchase for young Smith a suit of black clothes, and fifty dollars more to assist his removal to Pennsylvania, besides perhaps many other smaller sums of which no record has been retained. It was a distinguished reward for Martin, when Joseph was at last able to announce that he had been entrusted with the manuscript. Then for the first time it was in his power to look into the faces of his family and of his more respectable neighbors, with a sort of assurance that he was not as they represented the silly victim of a charlatan, but that in the teeth of their sneers there was after all a basis of fact underneath the project.
Even his wife, Lucy Harris, who hitherto had the honor to stand in opposition, was disposed to listen as well as her deafness would allow. If there was really any profit in the speculation, she was eager to he a shareholder. Lucy Smith declares that Mrs. Harris came with her husband to visit Joseph, and the pair passed a night together in the hovel of the Smiths. As an earnest of what might follow in case a witness was given to her of the actual existence of the "plates," Mrs. Harris then left in the hands of young Smith the sum of twenty-eight dollars, which she had received as a dying gift from her mother (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 119).
When in the month of December 1827 at the expense of Harris, young Smith accomplished his removal to the residence of his wife's father in Pennsylvania, Martin was naturally in a high state of concern regarding the fortune of his venture and the promotion of his interests in the wonderful "plates." It was therefore agreed that he should speedily follow Joseph, that he might look after his business in person. The interval was employed by Joseph in concocting a series of pretended transcripts drawn from the pretended hieroglyphics on the "plates."
Having failed to obtain a sight of the "plates" when they first appeared at Manchester, Mrs. Harris, like the sensible matter of fact person that she was, repented the twenty-eight dollars which she is reported to have invested in the speculation, and strove to prevent her husband from venturing any portion of his own shekels that way. It was a part of her plan to keep him at home and to disappoint his intention of visiting Pennsylvania in February 1828; or if he was bent upon executing his intention, she conceived it would be safer that she should bear him company. Martin, however, was shrewd enough to circumvent her cares, by departing suddenly and without her knowledge, in the much more agreeable company of Mr. Hyrum Smith (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, pp. 120-131).
Arrived at the house of Joseph, Harris was made fully acquainted with the method in which he proposed to proceed with the translation. His report of the matter is thus detailed by an eyewitness: "In the
Spring of 1829" (an error; it was the month of February 1828) "Harris went to Pennsylvania, and on his return to Palmyra, reported that the Prophet's wife, in the month of June following would be delivered of a male child that would be able when two years old to translate the Gold Bible. Then, said he, you will see Joseph Smith, Jr. walking through the streets of Palmyra, with a Gold Bible under his arm, and having a gold breastplate on, and a gold sword hanging by his side. This, however, by the by, proved false" (Howe, pp. 246-7).
By means of the above showing, it will be clear that the earliest provision was to the effect that Smith should quietly seat himself at the residence and transcribe the voluminous document of Rigdon according to contract, but should all the while give the public to understand that he was only setting down the words one by one at the inspired dictation of an infant that had been miraculously endowed with sight and power" to decipher the characters of the "Reformed Egyptian language" and to render them into a language which as yet itself had not acquired the ability to control.
Everything considered, this was by no means an ill conceit. The vulgar people, whom alone he could expect to reach, are commonly predisposed to feel a superstitious regard for the divinity they are apt to conceive communicates with young children. In case Rigdon had a hand in suggesting this provision, it is possible the case of the youthful prophet Samuel was present in his thoughts. Joseph was so much delighted
with the plan, that he must have often spoken of it in the circle of his associates at Harmony. Joshua M'Kune affirms that "Joseph Smith, Jr. told him that Smith's firstborn child was to translate the characters and hieroglyphics upon the plates into our language" (Howe, p. 267).
Meanwhile Martin Harris having duly obtained his budget of specimens, set forward with the most hopeful spirits in the world to astonish the learned with a sight of the singular find. The first person there is any record of his having consulted was the Rev. John A. Clark, D.D, rector of the Episcopal Church of Palmyra. At a subsequent season Dr. Clark set down the substance of his reminiscences, in the Episcopal Recorder newspaper of Philadelphia. It is clear from his relation, that the transcripts were brought forward in his presence by Mr. Harris, who during the same interview had much to communicate regarding the destiny and service of Smith's first-born child (Gleanings by the Way, By Rev. John A. Clark, D.D., Philadelphia 1842, pp. 222-229).
Lucy Smith declares that Martin's wife, through the co-operation of a certain Mr. Dikes of Palmyra, was able to gain possession of the [pretended] hieroglyphics for a sufficient length of time to secure a copy of them, in which service Dikes was so efficient that Mrs. Harris rewarded him with the hand of her daughter, which
hitherto she had resolutely denied him. It would be a discovery of considerable interest and of some importance if this copy or any other that might have been retained could be produced for the purpose of comparing it with the specimens that are found published in many of the works relating to the subject. These first appeared in "The Prophet," a Mormon journal edited by Elder Samuel Brannan and printed in New York some time prior to the death of Smith; and again in the Millennial Star for August 13th, 1853. They agree ill enough with the description of them given from memory by Professor Anthon in the year 1834 (Remy and Brenchley, volume II, p. 532 and Howe, pp. 271-2). As the characters appeared to Professor Anthon, they stood in perpendicular columns "like the Chinese mode of writing," and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac. The writing which the Mormons have pretended was a delineation of the original transcript, is set down in horizontal columns, and there is nothing in it which answers to the zodiac.
Not content with the adverse judgment of the Rev. Dr. Clark, Mr. Harris took his specimens and his journey to the city of New York, where they were submitted to the examination of the Hon. Luther Bradish (Tucker, Origin and Progress, p. 42), Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell and Prof. Charles Anthon. None of these gentlemen, nor any other authority who had the honor to be consulted has left behind any record of the transaction except the Rev. Mr. Clark and Professor Anthon. The latter became responsible for two separate accounts which unhappily do not agree in every detail (Letter to E. D. Howe and letter to Rev. T. W. Coit of New Rochelle, New York. The former is
given in Howe, pp. 270-273, and the latter may be seen in Bennett's History of the Saints, p. 112, and in Clark's Gleanings by the Way, pp. 232-238). The only point of important difference between these two reports relates to the question whether Professor Anthon allowed himself to furnish Harris a written certificate. In the communication to Mr. Howe, dated February 17, 1834, he says that the person who interviewed him "requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving," while in the letter to Mr. Coit, dated April 3, 1841, he says "that he save his opinion in writing to this man, that the mark on the paper appeared to be merely an imitation of various alphabetic characters and had no meaning at all, connected with them."
As might be anticipated the account which Mr. Smith supplies of the occurrence differs in some things from both of these. Citing at least professedly, the language of Harris as verbally reported to him, Joseph deposeth as follows:
I (Harris) went to the City of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof to Professor Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyric and Arabic, and he said that they were the true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into
my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.
"The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Joseph was destined to experience the sorest disappointment both in the character of translator and of expectant parent. The child upon whose life and assistance he had fixed so many hopes was appointed to a miscarriage. Sophia Lewis testifies: I was present at the birth of this child, and it was still-born, and very much deformed (Howe, p. 269). Joshua M'Kune also declares, this child was not permitted to live, to verify the prediction relative to his part in the work of translating the "plates" (Howe, pp. 267-8).
Returned from his visit of exploration in New York City, Martin would be unable to find rest until he had gone to Pennsylvania, that he might report to Smith the result of his conferences with the "learned." This time Mrs. Harris was on the alert and determined to prevent her husband from performing the journey alone. The notion had come into her head that Joseph had laid a scheme to become the owner of her husband's comfortable property, and she was inclined to suspect that he would be fully equal to the task of hoodwinking Martin. If the worst of her fears should be fulfilled, she was solicitous to make sure of her dowry rights before the estate which she had industriously contributed her share to amass should be foolishly compromised by the [unadvised] engagements of her husband. Evidently it was a very unwelcome arrangement for Mr. Harris to be burdened with the presence of his spouse; but she had set her purpose to perform the journey, and there was no choice but. submission to her demands. Mrs. Harris intended to push Joseph to the wall, and compel him either to exhibit the "plates" or to confess that he did not have them. If she could demonstrate to the satisfaction of Mr. Harris that the whole business was a base imposture, he might be easily released from the toils which had been placed about him.
Wherever on the way her husband was minded to draw forth his transcripts from the "plates," she was sure to meet the display by calling attention to her own copy of the document, for the purpose
of proving that Smith did not. enjoy a monopoly either of divine commerce or of Egyptian learning (Joseph Smith, p. 122). Lucy Smith adds that "As soon as Mrs. Harris arrived at Joseph's she informed him that her object in coming was to see the plates, and that she would never leave until she had accomplished it. Accordingly, without delay she commenced ransacking every nook and corner about the house -- chests, trunks, cupboards &c.: consequently, Joseph was under the necessity of removing both the breastplate and the record from the house and secreting them elsewhere. Not finding them she concluded that Joseph had buried them, and the next. day she commenced searching out of doors, which she continued to do until about two o'clock P.M....
The woman was so perplexed and disappointed in all her undertaking, that she left the house and took lodging with a near neighbor... While this woman remained in the neighborhood, she did all that lay in her power to injure Joseph in the estimation of his neighbors -- telling them that he was a grand impostor, and that by his specious pretensions he had seduced her husband into the belief that he (Joseph Smith) was some great one, merely through a design upon her husband's property." (Joseph Smith, pp. 122-3). Following closely upon the heels of his bereavement in the matter of his firstborn child this visit of Mrs. Harris must have been a painful trial to young Smith. His spirits were nearly crushed by
that blow. The better element in his composition was about to declare itself, causing him to turn away from Rigdon and his project. Evident signs of this condition of his temper may be perceived in a remark which at this juncture he uttered to his brother-in-law, Mr. Alva Hale, to the effect that "he was deceived himself, but did not intend to deceive others" (Howe, p. 268). On another occasion, addressing himself to Mr. Levi Lewis, a relative of his wife's, Smith said "With regard to the plates, God had deceived him" (Howe, p. 269).
This statement referred to the scheme in which the agency of his young child was expected to be employed as a pretext. It was a common topic of [observation] in the circle to which he belonged; in a conversation with the Rev. Nathaniel C. Lewis, Smith alluded to it once more in excuse for the fact that he had not brought forward the enterprise with greater rapidity (Howe, p. 269).
Under favor of the mournful [casualty] and of the accompanying depression of Joseph, the Hale family put forth all their influence and exertions to induce him to break off his connection with the entire project. Their wishes were rewarded with a fair degree of success. His wife had now joined her solicitations to those of her kindred, and of that section of the community who were concerned for the prosperity of the recently married pair. His resolution for the time being was quite broken down; as Martin Harris reports,
"Joseph had given it up." Possibly it was with reference to this adverse conclusion on his part that young Smith made the visit to the Rev. Mr. Lewis of which that gentleman gives mention in the following language: "At one time he came to my house and asked my advice whether he should proceed to translate the Book of Plates or not. He said that God had commanded him to translate it, but he was afraid of the people" (Howe, p. 266).
The opportune appearance of Harris upon the scene put a speedy end to all of these doubts and virtuous promptings. Martin in later years was in the custom of extolling the value of the service which he was permitted to accomplish by his presence immediately after the death of the young child, Ezra Booth relates the following version of his conversation: "Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, may be considered as the principals in this work; and let Martin Harris tell the story, and he is the most conspicuous of the four. He informed me that he went to the place where Joseph resided, and Joseph had given it up, on account of the opposition of his wife and others; but he told Joseph 'I have not come down here for nothing, and we will go on with it'" (Howe, pp. 182-3).
The main outlines of this version are believed to be entirely correct. When Joseph would plead that God had deceived him in the matter of the young child, and declare his intention [of refusing] to
lend his assistance any further, Martin's thoughts would be fixed upon the value in sterling coin of the golden plates which he assuredly believed his young friend had discovered, and he could not make friends with the notion of losing so much of precious [lucre] merely for the behoof of an infant which had not rightly come into the world.
He remind[ed] Smith that he had already invested a considerable sum in the venture and that he had a pecuniary right to insist that it be carried forward at least to such a point as to render him financially whole. Joseph was unable to resist the force of these considerations. Consequently after the fortnight was concluded in which it pleased Mrs. Harris to remain in the vicinity it was arranged to get quit of her presence and persecutions by his returning with her to Palmyra. If Lucy Harris fancied she had now gained a triumph and delivered her lord from the snare of the fowler, she was much mistaken. No sooner had he set her down before her hearthstone, but he returned post-haste to Pennsylvania, in order to continue the labor of assisting Joseph which he had already begun while his wrathful spouse was pouring out her fury in the ears of the people of Harmony (Joseph Smith, the Prophet, p. 124).
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It was no part of the original intention that Smith should be favored with the aid of an amanuensis, beyond perhaps such turns as his good wife, Emma, should be able to perform that way in the intervals of domestic occupation, In sooth it scarcely could have been foreseen that the presence of a grown up man at the scene where the work was going forward would be in any way acceptable or even endurable. The plan concerning the young child was proposed because there could be nothing embarrassing in the investigations of the suspicions of a creature of that age and ripeness. Evidently Joseph was relied upon to perform all the labor of transcription either with his own hands, or by the hand of his wife.
With a view to secrecy this was the most desirable arrangement; but it overlooked one important defect in the character and habits of Smith. His indolence was patent to a proverb: It was the judgment of his neighbors throughout the season of his boyhood that he was averse to serious labor. Joseph Capron declares that "he, and indeed the whole family of Smiths, were notorious for indolence" (Howe, p. 260); and all of the rest who enjoyed close acquaintance with him attest the correctness of that conclusion. It is confirmed by the circumstance that one of his early cares was to insert into the Book of Mormon a provision to the end that no kind of manual labor should be expected at his hands (2 Nephi 3:8). Also in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants he was careful
to insert a revelation to the effect that "in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling" (Sect. 24:9, dated Harmony, Pennsylvania, July 1830).
When the same kind of objection was prepared against him by no less a person and saint than Bishop Partridge during the sojourn of Smith in Missouri in the months of July and August 1831, Joseph neither denied the allegation nor defied the allegator. He simply replied, "I am commanded not to labor" (Howe, p. 200).
It is believed to be safe to suggest that if young Smith had been left to himself and his wife and his young child the work of copying the manuscript of the Book of Mormon would never have been accomplished; it would have dragged its slow length along from year to year without coming to any conclusion. It was therefore, a piece of good fortune for his enterprise that the child upon which he had counted so largely made its appearance in no condition to fulfill the role it was expected to perform.
Nevertheless, it is not in the least likely that Joseph desired the help of Martin Harris in the capacity of amanuensis, on the contrary there is much reason to believe that Martin fairly forced his services upon his friend. Harris was in haste to finger the returns of his speculation, and hence found it hard to reconcile his wishes to the slightest delays.
In addition, since the death of the child Joseph was deprived of the pretext and explanation which [hitherto] had been so fondly desired.
Everybody had been advertised that the infant would come into the world endowed with "sight and power to translate" the "plates", which plainly implied that Smith himself did not enjoy that power. Now that the infant was quietly laid away under the shade of the Hale cemetery, its father would very naturally be at considerable loss, What expedient next to adopt was the puzzle that encountered his thinking, it would be something bare-faced suddenly to pretend that the capacity to translate was vested in himself, when it was notorious that he had been quietly waiting all these months till the leisure and capacity of his firstborn should supply a key to documents which had been firmly locked up for fourteen centuries.
But Martin Harris would listen to no reason; the business must go forward, He wanted to satisfy his curiosity regarding the nature and the details of the revelation which he was given to understand was inscribed upon the "plates"; he also consoled his eagerness and his cupidity, with the speediest possible hopes of realizing upon the golden substance after the engravings had been duly rendered into the English tongue. In short, Joseph was now for the first time reduced to the complexion of the old seer-stone of Willard Chase. Hitherto the sacred contents of the "plates" had not 'been brought into any recognized connection with that truly earthly and highly suspicious instrument. Whether this was a bright notion of his own devising or whether it had been suggested by Harris as possibly a way out of the providential straits in which they were
at the moment involved is a question that cannot easily be settled. At any rate, however, when the young child came to naught, the magical stone came into his inheritance, and performed his functions with even better intelligence and efficiency.
Harris lost little time in the journey that was made necessary to get quit of the infliction of his better half; he went to New York and returned by the 12th of April, 1828 (Life of Joseph the Prophet by Tullidge, p. 32). Instantly the work of writing was resumed. The hand of Mr. Harris was unhappily trained to handle the pitchfork with better deftness than the pen; with the kindest of intentions in the world his progress would be slow. Still it was a consolation to feel that the enterprise was moving at all, and to know by virtue of a seat at headquarters just how it was moving. There was also a recommendation for Martin in the fact that he was the owner of a plethoric purse whose contents were considered in the light of fair spoil. The season of the year was already at hand if Joseph intended to fulfill the contract with Mr. Hale, upon the faith of which he had been invited to Pennsylvania, when his presence was every instant due and demanded in the fields among his crops; but he could very well neglect these as long as the money and the enthusiasm of Harris would hold out to sustain himself and his family, Their table would lack no good thing, although the head of the household cultivated scarcely a holiday acquaintance with his farming husbandry.
The work progressed as smoothly as could have been expected, Harris
must be kept in ignorance of the facts at all hazards; a sight of the manuscript of Rigdon would have broken up the game, as nothing but veritable "gold plates" would satisfy the conditions of the problem for him. With a view to prevent him from seeing more than was good for him, Harris reports that at one time a screen was hung up between himself and the prophet. This proceeding was justified upon the pretext that the presence of the Lord was too overpowering to justify Joseph in risking the life of his friend without such a measure of precaution, When the cool and sometimes biting April weather was abated by the warmth and gladness of May, it was possible for them to dispose with an arrangement which must have interfered with the domestic affairs of the household. After fires were no longer required the screen was removed, and young Smith would retire to a different room or even up stairs, whence he could dictate from Rigdon's foolscap without the cheat of a wizard-stone and without any fear of detection (Howe, p. 14).
After Harris had been employed in this way until the 14th of June 1828 (Remy and Brenchley, vol. I p.245), a sense of the necessities of his growing crops and other important business concerns that were going unattended in New York, broke upon his mind, and he took leave for a few days or weeks of necessary absence. The question as to how much he had written scarcely admits of an accurate solution, The only conclusion that is established beyond dispute in connection with the business is that Harris had transcribed more than was embraced by the
116 pages on which the Book of Lehi was written. This point is made clear by a passage in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants 10:41 as follows: "Therefore you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till yon come to the reign of King Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated which you have retained." Evidently there was a portion translated which Joseph retained over and above the Book of Lehi, that Mr. Harris had carried away.
In the address "To the Reader" that was prefixed to the first edition of the Book of Mormon is contained a passage quite similar to that cited above, as follows: "Therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated which ye have retained." This also puts the issue beyond controversy that Joseph retained a portion of the work besides that which he entrusted to the care of his secretary.
After Martin's departure very little labor was devoted to the work of transcribing. This cessation of activity does not appear to be the result of Joseph's inability to write; it is suspected that those interested in his cause have said much more about his ignorance than is true; they could hardly say more about his laziness than would be true. Mrs. Emma Smith, speaking in the year 1879 concerning these matters, declares that she also wrote for her husband, as did her brother Reuben Hale (Tullidge, Life, p. 791). It is possible that she may have taken up the
pen for a few days, but it does not seem likely that either herself or her brother could spare a sufficient amount of time to make any considerable progress. In fact it was not very long after Mr. Harris returned to Palmyra, before the while affair was thrown into confusion, and the work stopped by a casualty which will be described in the following chapter.
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Mr. Harris had a sad experience with the disbelief and the disgust of his good wife. It was reasonable to anticipate that the father of a family who had left his farmstead and his occupations in the month of February only to return in the latter portion of the month of June would not be entertained by a very hearty welcome. He perhaps foresaw the proportions of the tempest that waited on his appearance at Palmyra, and would be naturally solicitous to (break the force of it by any means that he could bring to bear) for his defense and justification.
The first book of the work in hand being now copied in the best style be could control, Harris could conceive of nothing that would be so potent to hush the complaints of his wife Lucy, as a sight of its contents. To enter his house empty-handed was to a man in his situation a truly irksome affair; he wanted something to show for himself.
Accordingly he importuned young Smith most ardently for permission to carry to Palmyra for exhibition the manuscript of the Book of Lehi, which was comprised in a hundred and sixteen pages of his own character. The request was not well received; Lucy Smith says it was three several times proposed, and all but the last time refused. At length, however, Joseph yielded the point, after the exaction of a binding written obligation from Mr. Harris, which contained the injunction
that none but the five members of the Harris household in New York should be admitted to view it (Joseph Smith, pp. 124-5).
Though the promises that had been required of him were of the most explicit conditions and very sacred, Mr. Harris was so proud of his treasure that it was out of his power to keep them. He exhibited the manuscript first to one person and afterwards to another outside the limits of the prescribed circle. Curiosity regarding it must have been brought to a high state; it was duly gratified in every case where the person who made application "was regarded as prudent enough to keep the secret," except in the case of the Smith family, who it is complained were "not allowed to set their eyes upon it" (Joseph Smith, p. 130).
The manuscript was kept by Harris under lock and key; its receptacle was a bureau which stood in the parlor, and he was in strict possession both of the key to the drawer and also of the key to the parlor door, but by some means which he was never able to explain the document was abstracted from its place while he was asleep.
On his wife being asked where it might be she solemnly averred that she did not know anything about it. Diligent search was made throughout the house; beds and pillows were incontinently ripped open, and every exertion that desperation could suggest was made, but to no purpose at all (Joseph Smith, p. 131 and p. 129).
The day when the loss occurred was marked by a considerable calamity to the wheat of Mr. Harris: the crop being at the moment in blossom, a dense fog spread itself over the fields and blighted
it with mildew. This note of time as recorded by Lucy Smith would fix the date of the loss in the first days of July 1828, since this cereal is in blossom about that period in the latitude of Palmyra.
Joseph would speedily obtain tidings of the disaster in Pennsylvania, but it is not likely that he took any steps in the affair until there was space allowed for communication with Mr. Rigdon in Ohio. Finally when Rigdon reached Harmony a council seems to have been held that resulted in a journey to Palmyra in which it is competent to suspect that he accompanied Joseph. At least this is the most natural inference to be derived from Lucy Smith's account of a mysterious stranger who was present with her son all the way in the mail coach, and when the young man alighted, though a foot journey of twenty miles through a dense forest by night was in front of him this gentleman was so deeply interested in his welfare as to break his own journey and to traverse the entire distance with a man who was completely unknown to him. Arrived at the hovel of the Smiths the kind stranger was so eager to continue his journey as to obtain his breakfast and take his leave about the dawn of day (Joseph Smith, pp. 126-7).
It was apparently sometime before setting forth from Harmony on this occasion that young Smith was favored with his first revelation from the Lord. It bears date Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, July 1828, and foreshadows the admirable powers which he afterwards displayed in the matter of always falling on his feet (D&C, Section 3).
The reason for placing this particular revelation at the head of the list may be seen in the fact that it was set down there in the early editions of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. In the edition of Orson Pratt, Sr., it is given the third position in the order of number, but the two which come before it were both of later origin. Section 1, which was originally designated as "the Lord's Preface to this Book," was produced for a special occasion at Kirtland Ohio on the first of November 1831 (Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Fourth European edition, Liverpool 1854, p. ix), but Mr. Pratt has concealed that fact. The second revelation in Mr. Pratt's edition (Section 2), is nothing more than a passage copied from the Autobiography of Joseph Smith, which was not composed until the year 1838, when Smith was engaged in the task of reconstructing his early history upon pictorial and marvelous principles (Pearl of Great Price, p. 63).
The substance of this initial revelation was with a great deal of very human shrewdness adapted to the exigencies of the disaster in which Joseph now found himself involved; announcing that the work which had come to naught in the way above indicated was not the work of the Lord, but rather the work of man; rebuking Smith for his weakness in the point that he had "gone on in the persuasions" of Harris: promising in case of more prudent circumspection that his honors
should be restored, and assuring him and all that the designs of the Lord in this concern should finally triumph above every sort of opposition.
It is also to be observed that his suspicions induced him to perpetrate an act of injustice against poor Martin Harris, by calling him "a wicked man" but it was not to be anticipated that a person in his present state of excitement should be wholly just towards one who had experienced a misfortune that was felt so keenly by all who were well disposed towards the enterprise. Martin was to be pitied; he did not deserve to be blamed for purfidy.
It was to this unexpected casualty that the first opening of the life of the prophet is due. Hitherto it was not in the calculation that Joseph should play any other role than that of a simple translator (Omni 1:11); but the existing emergency could not in his judgment be fairly surmounted without resort to the more sure word of immediate revelation, and hence through it his future career, he was always ready to assume in addition to the original scheme, the title and the functions of a "Revelator."
It would be a point of interesting speculation to inquire whether this new prophetical function was undertaken at the suggestion or with the consent of Mr. Rigdon. The demand for some such bold stroke was imperative, but in case Rigdon had any hand in helping to deliver it he was beyond dispute unwise, since he thereby placed in the
way of his subaltern a ready means of rising above the principal figure in the movement. On the contrary, if the first revelation was exclusively a conceit of Joseph's it must have been already apparent to his partner that he had formed an alliance with a character who was more powerful and adroit than would in all relations be desirable, however convenient such qualities might be regarded in seasons of embarrassment or of danger.
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This point may have been already arranged between Rigdon and himself when the initial revelation was proclaimed; in that document it was announced "and this is the reason that thou hast lost thy privileges for a season, for thou hast suffered the counsel of thy director to be trampled upon from the beginning" (D&C, 3:14-15, cf. 10:2). Under the excitement and even consternation that was occasioned by the tidings of the loss of the Book of Lehi, it would be natural for Rigdon to suggest that it might be safer for him to reclaim and preserve the manuscript till such time as they could have an opportunity to satisfy their minds regarding the extent and the effects of the accident.
Lucy Smith professedly employing the very words of her son, supplies the following account of this transaction:
As I was pouring out my soul in supplication to God that if possible I might obtain mercy at his hands, and be forgiven of all that, I had done contrary to his will, an angel stood before me and answered saying that I had sinned in delivering the manuscript into the hands of a wicked man, and as I had ventured to become responsible for his faithfulness, I would of necessity have to suffer the consequences of his indiscretion, and I must now give up the Urim and Thummim into his (the angel's) hands.
This I did as I was directed, and as I handed them to him he remarked 'If you are very humble, and penitent, it may be you will receive them again; if so it will be on the 22nd of next September' (Joseph Smith, pp.132-3).
When shortly after that date young Smith's father and mother contrived to obtain passage to Pennsylvania, the "first thing which attracted her attention on entering; the house was a red morocco trunk, lying on Emma's bureau, which Joseph shortly informed her contained the Urim and Thummim and the plates." These dates and facts indeed are given from the memory of an aged person who set them down about fifteen years after the occurrences were enacted; but while there may be room enough to question their accuracy in detail, they are yet sufficient to indicate the correctness of the conclusion drawn from other sources that the manuscript of Rigdon
The treasure being again restored to Joseph he preceded in a feeble way to prosecute the work before him. His wife Emma wrote for him as her domestic occasions would offer a few moments of leisure, but no great amount of progress would be accomplished this way. Joseph had now become aware of the benefit derived from the presence of a scribe, who might serve to keep him to his task, and he had received a promise from the angel of the Lord that one should be given him (Joseph Smith, p. 134).
Emma Smith herself refers to the aid she bestowed upon her husband: "In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us." The above is perhaps in one or two points a fancy sketch; it was drawn at the distance of 51 years from the events, and there was ample time for the memory to become a trifle hazy. It leaves no great room to doubt however, that Smith's wife was induced to lend a hand to the business of transcription.
Into this period of depression and partial idleness may with some degree of likelihood be placed the faults of dissipation which Joseph was charged with while he resided in Pennsylvania. Mr. Levi Lewis of Harmony testifies that "he saw him intoxicated at three different times while he was composing the Book of Mormon" (Howe p. 268).
The winter of 1828-9 was wearing drearily away In the month of February of the latter year the father of Smith was once again enabled to pay a visit to Pennsylvania, where the old gentleman was rewarded and delighted by another revelation which conveyed to himself a call to the ministry of the gospel (D&C Sect. 4). This was the second revelation and the first call to the sacred office given in the new movement. This call was perhaps (set forth) in the words of a formula that Mr. Rigdon may have considerately provided for the use of
Joseph under necessities of this kind. It was conceived in strict terms of Disciple orthodoxy, and expressly disclaims the evangelical notion of a divine call to the ministry. Their position and the hand of Rigdon are particularly apparent in the following provisions: "Therefore if ye have desire to serve God ye are called to the work, for behold the field is ripe white already to harvest, and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perish not, but bringeth salvation to his soul" (D&C 4:3-4).
This idea regarding the nature of the call to the sacred office was at that time strenuously insisted upon by the theologians of Rigdon's communion, and is still maintained by them; but there was a palpable impropriety in the conduct of Smith who presented the formula in the [shape] of a divine call when the words of it themselves indicate that nothing more than a simple desire to serve God might constitute a sufficient call to the work. Most of the earlier proclaimers of Mormonism were honored with a copy of this Disciple formula. The call of Oliver Cowdery was conveyed in these terms of spotless Disciple orthodoxy: "Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God" (D&C, 6:4). The call of Hyrum Smith is given in the very same words (D&C, 11:4), as also that of Joseph Knight, Sr. (D&C, 12:4), and of David Whitmer (D&C, 14:4). The general principle of procedure in such cases is thus summed up in another place, "And if they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart
they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel to every creature (D&C, 18:23).
The wound which had been inflicted upon poor Martin Harris hurt him sorely throughout the summer and winter of the year 1828; it was clear to his mind that to neglect the opportunity for a speculation in the precious metals like that afforded by the "Golden Bible" would be an act of pecuniary madness.
Hence in the month of March 1829, about a month after the visit of Joseph Smith, Sr., he sets out once more to inspect the condition of affairs at Harmony, Pennsylvania.
The influence of his wife Lucy Harris however, was now beginning to be apparent in the attitude which Martin was assuming towards the project. Mrs. Harris could have no objections to investing her money in the way her husband suggested, provided that Smith would give a plain and indisputable demonstration that he had in his possession the treasure of which he so often prated. This sensible precaution of his better half did not at present seem so unreasonable in the estimation of Harris. Accordingly when he arrived at the residence of Joseph his temper of mind was almost as critical and inquiring as that of his wife had been the year before. He informed Joseph that he could not help him any further in the speculation
except he should be favored with a "greater witness." This demand implied a sight of the "plates," and permission to handle and to inspect them until he might be convinced that they were just (what he claimed them to be).
Of course it was impossible for Joseph to accede to that condition; but in order to evade the issue he proposed to "go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and after he came back that Harris should follow his track in the snow, and find the book and examine it for himself." The purpose of this arrangement was to cast the blame upon the Lord who could, it might be affirmed, (have) been at pains to remove the book in the interval that should elapse between the moment when young Smith retired, and that in which Mr. Harris approached the spot where it was concealed.But this skillful conceit was not satisfactory to Martin; he "followed Smith's directions and could not find the plates and was still dissatisfied" (Howe, p.261-5).
In such an emergency Joseph was again constrained to have recourse to visions of the Lord; he got a revelation for Martin's especial behoof, in which the whole question was treated from the standing-point of the heavenly chancery. This revelation is marked Section 5 in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants and is dated "in Harmony, Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, March 1, 1829."
An important change of policy is announced in that communication. Mr. Harris had succeeded in convincing Joseph that it was indispensable there should be eye-witnesses of the
existence and the character of the "plates," if it were expected that people should believe what he asserted. Smith offered as a pretext against this the fact that the Lord had commanded himself "to stand as witness of these things" (D.&C., 5, 2); but with as good grace as he could command he yet acceded to what was clearly a dangerous requirement. Accordingly he caused the Lord to specify as follows: "But this generation shall have my word through you, and in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you" (D.&C., 5:10-11). This concession must have occasioned a deal of disquiet on the part of Mr. Rigdon, but his colleague had enjoyed such exceptional privileges in the art of jugglery that there was reason to anticipate that he would come through the questionable ordeal with distinction.
A second demand of Mr. Harris is believed to have referred to the performance of a miracle by the hand of young Smith in order to demonstrate the truth of his claims and assertions; but Joseph was easily made to extricate himself from an embarrassment like that. His method was as follows: "And you have a gift to "translate the plates, and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift, until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant you no other gift until it is finished" (D&C, 5:4).
Nevertheless it was not desirable to Harris to take leave without making an effort to bind him further. To accomplish that design it was conceived to be important for Martin to be made aware that his individual doings had been mentioned in the prophecies of Nephi several centuries prior to the coming of our Savior. To bring this result about it was decided to cause him to write a few pages for the Book of Mormon, in the course of which Smith would pretend that the ancient prophet had predicted his journey to visit Prof. Anthon. Revelation enjoined that special scheme in the following terms: "And if this be the case, behold I say unto thee Joseph, when thou hast translated a few more pages thou shalt stop for a season, even until I command thee again; then thou mayest translate again" (D&C 5:30).
Inasmuch as he was only a few pages in the calculation, Mr. Harris could hardly refuse to lend his aid to the young man for that amount, and there is reason to conclude that the 27th Chapter of 2nd Nephi was at this time written down by Martin at his friend's dictation. The chapter in question contains a prediction concerning the three witnesses that had just now been mentioned in the revelation for Martin's behoof, besides relation of the recent conversation held by Mr. Harris with the man of linguistic lore in the city of New York, both of which points it was conceived ought to be of advantage to wavering faith. Indeed it is difficult to understand why a character like Martin should have failed to yield on the spot to the arts of his young friend; Joseph was certainly skillful
in setting his springs on this occasion.
But the warnings and wisdom of his spouse would be still ringing in the ears of Mr. Harris. Contrary to the expectations of Smith he persisted in his demands regarding a sight of the "plates" and as that was entirely out of the question, Harris took up his luggage and returned to his place in New York.
When after all these efforts to capture him, he yet succeeded in effecting his escape, there must have been small hope in the mind of Smith that Mr. Harris would ever stand among his followers. Almost any other person would have been lost to the cause from that instant; but Martin was a weakling both in respect to his superstitious credulity and also in respect to his passion for gain. Mr. Smith was meanwhile obliged to search elsewhere for a secretary.
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Mr. Oliver Cowdery was a blacksmith by profession (Howe, p. 15), but by means of a lucky accident he was enabled in the early winter of 1828 to acquire the dignity of pedagogue in the township of Manchester. His brother Lyman had been awarded the position, but finding another opportunity, he induced the trustees, one of whom was Hyrum Smith, to accept his brother Oliver in his stead. The new blacksmith-teacher went to lodge with the family of Joseph Smith Sr., who were in a prodigious condition of excitement regarding the affairs of Joseph in Pennsylvania. Scarcely any other subject of conversation was broached in the household, and every kind of effort seems to have been put forward to gain his ear for the pretended divine enterprise. They would often speak of the lack of a secretary and of the promise that Joseph had obtained from the Lord that in due time one should be provided for his advantage. Martin Harris went to Harmony in March, 1829, and for a season it might have been anticipated that he would remain and serve their son in that capacity, but his unexpected return would shortly bring their attention once again to the urgency of the case.
It was not long before Oliver was the subject of serious impressions to the effect "that he should yet have the privilege of writing for Joseph" (Joseph Smith, p.136). His sentiments were very
intense, so that one day he remarked to his landlord "The subject upon which we were yesterday conversing seems working in my very bones, and I cannot get it out of my mind." He made it an occasion of prayer, and in one of his approaches to the Supreme Being he claims that the Lord "had manifested to him that these things were true" (Tullidge, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 40).
At his visit in February 1829 the old gentleman, his father, would give Joseph a favorable account of Mr. Cowdery and of the progress he was making in this direction. It was a natural consequence that he should decide to visit Pennsylvania at the close of his school. He arrived at Harmony on the 15th of April 1829, and on the 17th of April the business of transcription was resumed in earnest (P.G.P., p. 69).
The hand of the pedagogue was better trained to the pen; but his purse was not so well filled as that of Harris. Joseph was now compelled to leave his fields and crops to themselves in order to keep pace with the eagerness and the industry of Mr. Cowdery. A reference to this fact is supplied in one of his revelations, given after the new secretary had been engaged about two weeks in his office: "Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent to the end" (D&C, 10:4). Evidently Mr. Cowdery was keeping him closer employed than was his custom; Joseph had no particular relish for severe and continuous labor.
Shortly after Oliver had taken up his pen he was favored
with a revelation for his especial behoof (D&C 6). This document was opened with a call to the ministry conceived in the true spirit of the Disciples' theology (v.3&4), to which was added an assurance that no pecuniary (empl)oyments must be expected from the "plates", but Cowdery must be content with the riches of eternal life (v.8), and a reference to the fact that like Martin Harris he was insisting upon "a further witness" (v.22), which however, could not be granted for the reason that the witness already received ought to be satisfactory, as also the promise of a gift to "translate" if he should have the temerity to "desire it" of the Lord (v.25), the whole performance being interspersed and closed with exhortations adapted to the necessities of the occasion.
Mr. Smith, soon perceiving that contrary to his wishes, Cowdery was still solicitous regarding "a further witness," and before the month of April had passed away, he was constrained once more to resort to divine communication to keep him within bounds. The second sacred appeal to him is expressed in the following terms: "Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engraving of old records which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which have been spoken, by the manifestation of my
spirit, behold I will tell you in your mind and in your heart" (D&C, 8:1-2).
It was difficult for the faithful amanuensis to understand the reason why he should not also be informed by the sight of his eyes and by the touch of his hands concerning the existence and reality of the wonderful record, but he appears to have neglected to press that request any farther.
Mr. Cowdery had also been audacious enough to desire of the Lord that he might "translate:` even as my servant Joseph"; but this difficulty was not so hard to surmount. It is likely that Joseph tried his friend with a few of the specimens which Martin Harris had laid before Prof. Anthon. As was to be anticipated, Oliver could make nothing of them, and shortly turned away to his task of copying the manuscript of Rigdon at Joseph's dictation. Seizing the opportunity which this occurrence afforded Mr. Smith immediately procured another revelation for Cowdery's behoof: "Behold I say unto you, my son, that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun,, even so I would that you should continue until you have finished this record which I have entrusted unto him (D.&C., 9:1).
This last ruse was successful, and sufficient to keep Cowdery under check until the work was completed. Joseph's knowledge of human nature was very extensive and exact. It rightly convinced him that it was out of
question improper that any person of average honesty should be entrusted with his secret. If Oliver had been suffered to gain a sight of Mr. Rigdon's sheets of stained foolscap it would have been impossible to have kept him to his task, or to have sealed up his lips, The same thing was true of Joseph's wife, Emma Hale. Referring to the circumstance at a period of fifty years later, this lady claims that "the plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does thumb the edges of a book" (Tullidge, Life p. 793).
More reliable testimony regarding this subject may be found in a contemporary document according to which Emma had never seen the "record" and was not in least content with this task of confidence. The revelation which bears the number 25 in Pratt's edition was directed to Mrs. Smith, and at the fourth verse of it occurs the following language: " not at the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come." This passage renders it questionable whether the articles which Mrs. Smith may have observed folded in a table cloth and lying upon the table were the same as she in the year 1879 was
inclined to believe they were, although it is conceivable that her husband might have arranged some sheets of tin after the fashion she describes for the purpose of exciting additional faith in his veracity.
There is no account of the employment of a blanket screen in the story of Oliver Cowdery's connection with the work. The season of the year was already far advanced and perhaps the weather was sufficiently friendly to permit Mr. Smith to keep his place in another chamber or even upstairs as at times he had previously done when Mr. Harris was employed in the same service.
The task, before them was prosecuted with industry and success under the labors of Cowdery. It was begun on the 17th of April 1829, and in a couple of revelations dated at Fayette N.Y. in June 1829, it is spoken of being already completed (D&C, 17:6, cf. 18:27). Thus in little more than two months the entire business was brought to a conclusion; it is not likely that many moments were lost by Joseph and Oliver after the enterprise was once rightly undertaken. The necessities of poverty were lying heavily upon them both and they were exhorted by the embarrassments that encountered them on that side to make the best use of their opportunities.
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Mr. Rigdon was the owner of a vulgar literalistic conceit regarding the continued existence of the apostle John on the earth, which he had contrived without any right permission to borrow from the words directed by our Savior to the beloved disciple as found recorded in John 21:21-23. It would have been too great a stretch of self denial for him to avoid airing this notion in the Book of Mormon. He makes an opportunity for that business in the course of a prophecy in which Nephi is supposed accurately to describe the condition of the world in the year 1830, and the rising up of the true church. In his vision of these times and things Nephi gets his attention directed to a very extraordinary phenomenon as follows:
And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying, Look! And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and the angel said to me, behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb... And Nephi, heard and bear record that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel" (1 Nephi 14:10-27).
The imagination of Smith was naturally much excited by what he found here it was exactly vulgar enough for his taste. He turned to the passage in the last chapter of the gospel according to John and concluded that it was easily possible to improve upon the notion of Rigdon. The result was a curious creation enough in the form of a direct revelation given to Smith and Cowdery, which was yet represented to have been composed by the
apostle John and written upon parchment. The title of the effusion is worth noting in full: "Revelation given to Joseph Smith, Jun. and Oliver Cowdery, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829, when they desired to know whether John the beloved disciple, tarried on earth. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself" (D.&C., Sect. 7).
The parchment thus fortunately recovered and deciphered, reveals the astounding fact that not only John, but also Peter and James had contrived to escape the touch of death; the whole triumvirate were still existing in the flesh, and occupied in deeds of righteousness somewhere about the earth. Here was indeed a strong advance upon the simplicity of Mr. Rigdon. Is it possible to suggest a feasible explanation of the fresh conceit of Joseph?
The most reasonable suggestion in this connection would point to the passage at 1 John 5:8, which refers to the fact that "there are three that bear witness in earth." No doubt this explanation would inflict a colossal abuse of the words of scripture, but the man who never could persuade himself to adopt the conclusion that Elias and Elijah were one and the same person was capable of almost any stretch of exegesis. It is therefore not unfair to presume that the word regarding the three that bear witness in earth was floating somewhere about in Joseph's brain.
To correspond with the three witnesses whom he had thus adroitly created from the circle of Christ's apostles, Mr. Smith was afterwards good enough to provide three others from the ranks of the
Nephite church for the special secret service and consolation of that body of Christians (3 Nephi ch. 23).
The above revelation is further noteworthy as being the last experiment that Mr. Smith ever made with parchment; it was also the first. When his hand became practiced in such matters he never deigned to accommodate himself with anything below a direct call upon the Deity in the holiest place, if a revelation was wanted, whether regarding things past, present or to come.
It is only fair to add that Mr. Smith later found a great many occasions for the assistance of Peter, James and John, whom he had thus rescued from their graves and given an indefinite lease upon temporal existence.
A second incident of this period befell when Mr. Cowdery had completed the labor of re-transcribing the Book of Lehi. It has already been shown how the copy of this book of Lehi, which Mr. Harris had made, was abstracted from his drawers at Palmyra, N.Y. Joseph was at the moment clear in the conviction that Martin's conduct in that transaction could only be rightly described as treason (D.&C., 10:6). He could invent no other way to interpret the recent demand which that gentleman had advanced in favor of a further "witness." (D.&C., 5:1). The circumstance that Mr. Harris had finally turned away and refused to perform the duties of secretary any more, even after the witness of hoary prophecies had been imparted to confirm his
faith, was inexplicable upon any other supposition, This judgment prevailed for many years among the Mormons, and brought to Mr. Harris a deal of cruel and unjust suspicion. Even recent and intelligent authors who might be expected to stand above the clamors of vulgar prejudice sometimes are not ashamed to describe his misfortune as an act of "perfidy" (Tullidge, Life, p. 33). That kind of weakness may be pardoned in such a garrulous grandam as Lucy Smith, but men of sense are under obligations to judge better; Martin Harris was as thorough and as honest a fool as Joseph could reasonably desire. He had many faults, but treachery was not one of them.
These suspicions of Martin's faithfulness caused Mr. Smith to apprehend that at some future day the transcript of Harris would be paraded before the public for the special purpose of confounding the friends of this movement, and he decided to circumvent that scheme at the outset.
His plan was to re-transcribe the book of Lehi, and to insert it into the Book of Mormon under another title, namely, as the First Book of Nephi. Mr. Smith pretended to fear that if he should produce another copy of Rigdon's Book of Lehi, that the persons who had the transcript of Martin Harris in their keeping; would alter it and thus seek to embarrass him (D.&C., 10); but the chief obstacle, it may be deduced, lay in the opposite direction. He had not been content to produce a simple transcript of the document as Rigdon placed it in his hands; everywhere he had made alterations according to his own sweet will, especially where he deemed it of consequence to insert any passage
that might later be interpreted with reference to his own personal advantage and promotion above the position which be foresaw must be occupied by his colleague.
In fact there is good reason to conclude that Joseph had assumed to put himself forward as a sort of second editor of the performance of Mr. Spaulding; he was by many degrees too vigorous and alert to permit this opportunity to pass unimproved. His situation was one of conspicuous advantage, and Sidney was a simpleton if he supposed that his co-laborer did not have sense and strength enough to make the most of it.
If the issue that now lay before Joseph had related to nothing else than a faithful reproduction of the words of Rigdon's manuscript, he might have snapped his fingers in the faces of all his antagonists, whether real or imaginary. But Mr. Smith had an evil conscience at this point. He had caused so many alterations of the original to be inserted into the copy made by Mr. Harris, that he could not remember them all, much less the connections where they were severally inserted, and the exact words in which they were expressed. This is believed to have been the chief source of his alarm at the disaster which befell his secretary.
In order to carry into execution his scheme regarding a change of name for the Book of Lehi, Joseph found himself impelled to resort once more to the benefits of direct divine communication. The revelation bearing upon this business did not come till the
first days of May 1829 (D.&C,, Sect. 10). Oliver Cowdery had already completed the labor of re-transcribing the Book of Lehi, as may be seen from the allusion to the apostle John that was cited above, The revelation bearing on this matter therefore was not vouchsafed in advance, but it was rather post eventum; it served no other purpose than to explain and to justify the reason which Mr. Smith had invented and was now in the act of applying concerning a change of name of that book to the First Book of Nephi.
That was a simple and effective scheme. Supposing that some evil disposed person had carefully preserved and even artfully altered the copy that had been abstracted from the keeping of Harris, it would be of no avail to present it for purposes of comparison after the publication of the Book of Mormon, for Mr. Smith had been duly careful to provide in advance an answer to cavils of that kind. The only writing in the volume with which it would show any resemblance had now been christened by a different title. Whoever wishes to investigate this procedure of Mr. Smith may find the materials for reaching a conclusion in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants 10:30-45 cf. the address "To the Reader" that was placed before the first edition of the Book of Mormon. In both of these pieces Joseph gives us obscurely to understand that after the casualty which chanced to Mr. Harris he was instructed to resort to the large plates of Nephi by which was intended the original document as it came from the hand of Spaulding before Mr. Rigdon had
undertaken any abridgment of it. But on perusing the First Book of Nephi it will be found that it claims just the same to be taken from the "small plates" or the abridgment of Rigdon (1 Nephi ch. 6). In point of fact the "large plates" of Nephi, to which reference is made by Smith were represented as being sealed up; in all probability he never obtained a sight of them, since Rigdon would find it convenient to retain them in his own possession. That Smith really did nothing else than procure the re-copying of the Book of Lehi under the title of the First Book of Nephi, is likewise confirmed by the circumstance that the printed work gives the public plainly to understand that the "small plates" of Rigdon's abridgment extend from the beginning down to the close of the Book of Omni (Omni 1:30). Orson Pratt in a footnote appended to D.&C., 10:41 also confesses that Smith caused Cowdery to rewrite the "small plates of Nephi."
Nevertheless the very apparent procedure of Smith's has served to confuse the minds of students to a large degree. Few of the authors who have treated this part of the subject have paused to trace him to his hiding place, and to show that no other change was effected beyond the simple alteration of titles which has been above explained.
Another important incident in connection with Section 10 of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants may be seen in the circumstance that it contains the earliest mention of the Urim and Thumim. Nowhere in contemporary literature is there the slightest
allusion to this famous instrument prior to the first days of May 1829 (D.&C., 10:1). Subsequent historians and reminiscences it is conceded often speak of it as having been found in the same receptacle which contained the "plates," but no strictly contemporary utterance has a word to say regarding it. The Urim and Thummim was evidently an afterthought. It is out of the question that it should have been discoursed or dreamed of at the outset.
For, it will be remembered that the earliest scheme of Joseph had reference to the powers and inspirations of his firstborn child. When this resource failed he was constrained to look about for another, and the first that occurred to him was the old and favorite wizard stone. This did service throughout the period when Mr. Harris was employed in the character of secretary. Emma Smith likewise alludes to its use when she would come to render assistance to her husband after the departure of Harris (Tullidge, Life, p. 793).
But the time had now arrived when it was considered a degrading idea that the divine record upon which he professed to be employed should be brought into connection with anything so earthly as the disreputable stone. Joseph had freely remarked to his brother-in-law that "this peeping was all d-----d nonsense" (Howe, p. 263), and Alva Hale, who to all appearance felt contempt for him may have been ungracious enough at times to remind him of this admission. In short, things had attained to such a pass that it was found convenient to
multiply the wizard stone by two and christen it the Urim and Thummim. There can be no question that this was a very happy conceit; Mr. Smith was a genius in the way of expedients. By this change he not only got quit of the jeers of his neighbors, but also succeeded in imparting a sort of mysterious antiquity and sanctity to the instrument which had served him so well.
But it remained the same old stone all the way. Willard Chase had a longing and lively interest in it as his personal property, with which upon occasion it might be possible for himself or certain members of his own family to enact marvels as well as the Smith family. Accordingly after the publication of the Book of Mormon he made a strong effort to recover his treasure: "In April 1830," says Willard, "I again asked Hyrum for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it for Joseph had made use of it in translating his Bible" (Howe, p. 247).
It was but a brief season after the adoption of this genial conceit, until Joseph decided to introduce the Urim and Thummim into the Book of Mormon. Oliver was laboring with energy and making decided progress; when he arrived at Mosiah 8:13, Mr. Smith thought it would be in order to drop a hint there, and he accordingly dictated something about certain "interpreters" which "no man can look into except he be commanded, lest he should look for what he ought not, and he should perish." A few chapters farther on these "interpreters" are described as "two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow" (Mosiah 21:13).
When the scheme had been carried to this extent the (disreputable) old wizard stone became one of the select relics of Mormonism, and it would be in vain for Willard Chase to plead his rights in the premises.
Joseph Smith had been invited to settle himself in Pennsylvania in December 1827 on the faith of a promise that he made to Mr. Isaac Hale to the effect that he would "give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones" (Howe, p. 235). His respected father-in-law understood him to go even farther; he says "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" (Howe p. 264).
But the description that has been given above regarding his occupations since the date of his establishment at Harmony will show that he had kept this promise very ill. To be sure there were no further expeditions to search of fabulous mines of silver or gold, but Mr. Smith continued to employ his wizard stone, and if possible, he was accomplishing less towards the support of his family than he had been accustomed to perform in Manchester.
It is plain that Mr. Hale must have had small patience left for his benefit; the crops of 1828 had teen virtually lost through the engagement with Mr. Harris from the middle of April to the middle
of June of that year; and now the crops of 1829 were going the same way through the closer engagement with Oliver Cowdery. It would be natural for Mr. Hale to reflect that if Smith had come down to want, the result was due to his own indolence. He would therefore be little inclined to give additional assistance to his worthless and unreliable son-in-law.
The resources which Oliver Cowdery had brought from his school in Manchester would be speedily exhausted by the drafts which Joseph was compelled to make upon them; it was a daily pressing inquiry by what means they should obtain food and raiment until the labor of transcribing might be completed. There was no lack at all of inspiration and revelation, but good coined money was exceedingly hard to come by.
The first resource to which young Smith applied himself was the exchequer of the Knight family at Colesville. Joseph Knight, Sr. who had taken such a lively interest in the "plates" as to traverse the breadth of the State of New York to be present when they were delivered into the hands of Smith in September 1827, had not yet escaped from the [coils] of his charmer.
The "honest old Dutchman" Mr. Josiah Stowel had also thrown away a deal of money in the fabled gold mine at Harmony, and he had not yet quite come to his senses. Joseph was able to procure a horse from him in return for his own note of hand which there is every reason to believe was never paid. (Tullidge pp. 24-5).
Mr. Jonathan Thompson was likewise hoodwinked to the extent of a yoke of oxen (Tullidge, p. 85). Both of the above were valuable though unwilling contributions to the expenses of the Book of Mormon; but neither Stowel nor Thompson could be induced to become members of the Mormon community.
On the contrary, Joseph Knight and his family later became devoted adherents of the new church and followed the fortunes of the prophet to the ends of the earth. Polly Knight, the wife of Joseph Knight, Sr., was dragged away to Missouri, where she died shortly after her arrival in the month of August 1831, greatly to the surprise of the faithful who had a firm conviction that death should never visit that favored shore. Mr. Smith was present at the funeral (Tullidge, Life, p. 126).
Smith translates the appeal he must have made to Joseph Knight, Sr., into the following rather decent form:
About the same time came an old gentleman to visit us, of whose name I wish to make honorable mention -- Mr. Joseph Knight, sen., of Colesville, Broome county, N. Y., who having heard of the manner in which we were occupying our time, very kindly and considerately brought us a quantity of provisions, in order that we might not be interrupted in the work of translation by the want of the necessaries of life; and I would just mention here as in duty bound, that he several times brought us supplies (a distance of at least thirty miles) which enabled us to continue the work, which otherwise we must have relinquished for a season" (Tullidge, Life, p. 67).
But the aid which Knight of Colesville was in a situation to extend did reach as far as the necessities of his beneficiaries. The next effort was directed towards the Whitmer family, who resided about 25 miles from Manchester, N.Y., in the adjoining county of Seneca. Lucy Smith claims the merit of having introduced her son to the Whitmers as well as to Oliver Cowdery (Joseph Smith, p. 145). She gives us to understand that there was no acquaintance between the two families prior to the visit which herself and her husband made to Pennsylvania in the autumn of the year 1828. On this journey they passed a night with the Whitmers and explained to them all the
facts and happenings respecting the "record."
When his pecuniary embarrassment was no longer tolerable Joseph wrote an epistle to Mr. David Whitmer, "requesting him to come immediately with his team, and convey himself and Oliver to his own residence" (Joseph Smith, p. 143). Mr. Smith leaves out of view every account of any preliminary arrangements and supplies the following notice of the transaction:
"Shortly after commencing to translate, I became acquainted with Mr. Peter Whitmer of Fayette, Seneca county, N. Y., and also with some of his family. In the beginning of the month of June (1829) his son David Whitmer, came to the place where we were residing, and brought with him a two horse wagon, for the purpose of having us accompany him to his father's place, and there remain until we should finish the work. He proposed that we should have our board free of charge, and the assistance of one of his brothers to write for me, as also his own assistance when convenient (Tullidge, Life, p. 68).
The task was within two or three weeks of completion at the date when this removal was accomplished. Another important incident belonging to the period of Oliver Cowdery's engagement in the labors of an amanuensis will be treated in the next chapter.
continue reading on: p. 354