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Early Mormonism

Laying the Foundation

      Mormonism stands or falls on the word of just one man—its prophet— Joseph Smith Jr. If Joseph Smith lied, if there was no "revelation", if he is proven a false prophet, then Mormonism is "another gospel"—a tragic lie.

      The following information is taken from books considered rare or difficult to find. Dr. William Wyl's Mormon Portraits (1886) in particular, infuriated the Mormon Church. Dr. Wyl was a well-known and highly respected German physician, who visited Salt Lake City with no intent to attack the Mormons and came away appalled at all he had seen and heard. He wrote, "I do not wish to insult anybody in this book, or to hurt anybody's feelings. I desire to do my simple duty as a writer. That is all; to do it as a critic and observer, having the courage of my opinions, and being happily free from ‘all entangling alliances.'"

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other
than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"
Galatians 1:8

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but
inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do
people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every
good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit."
Matthew 7:15-17

Joseph Smith Jr. and Family
Eyewitness Statements
Divine Revelation
Book of Abraham
Slavery - God's Will

Brigham Young
False Prophecies
Doctrinal Issues
  • Wallace Bowman
  • Jesse Hartly
  • Henry Jones
  • Book of Mormon
    Textual Difficulties
    Modern Words
    Modern Revival Scenes
    Other Modern Ideas
    Modern Discoveries
    Some Additional Self-betrayals

    Reformation of 1856
    Doctrine of Blood Atonement
    Human Sacrifice
    * "Grayed Out" titles will be added soon

    Joseph Smith Jr. and Family


    Peter Ingersoll:
         "Smith told me the whole affair was a hoax; that he had no such book and did not believe there was such a book in existence; ‘But,' said he, ‘as I have got the damned fools fixed, I shall carry out the fun.'"[1]

    Thurlow Weed
         In 1825, when I was publishing the "Rochester Telegraph," a man introduced himself to me as Joseph Smith, of Palmyra, New York, whose object, he said, was to get a book published. He then stated he had been guided by a vision to a spot he described, where, in a cavern, he found what he called a golden bible. It consisted of a tablet which he placed in his hat, and from which he proceeded to read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon.
          I listened until I became weary of what seemed to me an incomprehensible jargon. I then told him I was only publishing a newspaper, and that he would have to go to a book publisher, suggesting a friend who was in that business. A few days afterward Smith called again, bringing a substantial farmer with him named Harris. Smith renewed his request that I should print his book, adding that it was a divine revelation, and would be accepted, and that he would be accepted by the world as a prophet. Supposing that I had doubts as to his being able to pay for the publishing, Mr. Harris, who was a convert, offered to be his security for payment.
          Meantime, I had discovered that Smith was a shrewd, scheming fellow who passed his time at taverns and stores in Palmyra, without business, and without visible means of support. He was about five feet eight inches in height, had regular features, and would impress one favorably in conversation. His book was afterward published in Palmyra.[2]

    Dr. John C. Bennett:
         "Shortly after I located in Nauvoo, Joe proposed to me to go to New York and get some plates engraved and bring them to him, so that he could exhibit them as the genuine plates of the Book of Mormon, which he pretended had been taken from him, and "hid up" by an angel, and which he would profess to have recovered. He calculated to make considerable money by this trick, as there would of course be a great anxiety to see the plates, which he intended to exhibit at twenty-five cents a sight. I mentioned this proposition to Mrs. Sarah M. Pratt, on the day the Prophet made it, and requested her to keep it in memory, as it might be of much importance." When asked by me in the spring of 1885 about this statement of John C. Bennett, Mrs. Pratt confirmed it fully and stated also that Bennett had reported to her this conversation with Joseph on the very day when it happened.[3]

    Mrs. Abigail Harris:
         "In the early part of the winter in 1828 I made a visit to Martin Harris, and was joined in company by Joseph Smith, Sen., and his wife. The Gold Bible business, so-called, was the topic of conversation, to which I paid particular attention, that I might learn the truth of the whole matter. They told me that the report that Joseph Smith, Jun., had found the Golden Plates was true, and that he was in Harmony, Pa., translating them. The old lady said, also, that after the Book was translated, the plates were to be publicly exhibited—admittance, twenty-five cents."[4]

    Hiel and Joseph Lewis:
         "The statement that the prophet Joseph Smith made in our hearing at the commencement of his translating his book in Harmony, [Pa.] as to the manner of finding the plates was as follows:
          He said that by a DREAM he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an ironbox, were some gold plates with curious engravings, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time, some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down. This attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down. Then he exclaimed: ‘Why can't I git it?' or words to that effect, and then he saw a man standing over the spot, who, to him, appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard down over his breast to about here (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach), WITH HIS (the ghost's) THROAT CUT FROM EAR TO EAR, AND THE BLOOD STREAMING DOWN, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he (Smith) would know at first sight must come with him, and then he would get it; and when he saw Miss Emma Hale he knew that she was the person, and that after they were married she went with him to near the place and stood with her back towards him while he dug after the box, which he rolled up in his frock, and she helped carry it home; that in the same box with the plates were spectacles; the bows were of gold and the eyes were stone, and by looking through these spectacles all the characters on the plates were translated into English."[5]

    Levi Lewis:
         "Know Smith to be a liar. Saw him intoxicated at three different times while pretending to translate the Book of Mormon."[6]

    Mrs. Sarah Pratt:
         "A good deal of whiskey was consumed in Nauvoo. Joe himself was often drunk. I have seen him in this state at different times. One evening one of the brethren brought Joseph to my home. He could not walk and had to be led by a helpful brother. The prophet asked me to make some strong coffee, which I did. He drank five cups, and when he felt that he could walk a little better, he went home. He dared not come before Emma in this state. Joseph was no habitual drunkard, but he used to get on sprees. When drunk he used to be ‘awfully funny.' He sometimes went to bed with his boots on."[7]

    C. G. Webb:
         "Whisky, good whisky, was then 25 cents a gallon. No wonder that Joseph sometimes went to bed with his boots on, or that he slept, as he sometimes did, in a ditch. He was a right jolly prophet. No sanctimonious humbug about him."[8]

    From History of Chenango County, N.Y.:
         Joe Smith, the founder of Mormonism, operated quite extensively in this town [Afton, N.Y.] and vicinity during the early years of his career as a prophet. The reputation of the family was very bad and Joe was considered the worst of the whole. Somewhere about 1828 or 1829 Smith made his appearance in Afton and attended school in District No. 9. Here his supernatural powers manifested themselves by telling fortunes or "foretelling futurity." This was done by placing a stone in his hat and then looking into it drawn over his face so as to exclude the light. He first organized a society at the house of Joe Knight, on the south side of the river, near the Lobdell House, in Broome County. Excavations were made in various places for treasures, and rocks containing iron pyrites were drilled for gold. Previous to digging in any place a sheep was killed and the blood sprinkled upon the spot. Lot 62 was the seat of one of these mining operations.
          To convince the unbelievers that he did possess supernatural powers he announced that he would walk upon the water.
          The performance was to take place in the evening, and to the astonishment of unbelievers, he did walk upon the water where it was known to be several feet deep, only sinking a few inches below the surface.
          This proving a success, a second trial was announced which bid fair to be as successful as the first, but when he had proceeded some distance into the river he suddenly went down, greatly to the disgust of himself and proselytes, but to the great amusement of the unbelievers.
          It appeared on examination that planks were laid in the river a few inches below the surface, and some wicked boys had removed a plank which caused the prophet to go down like any other mortal.
          After pretending to heal the sick, cast out devils, etc., he gained quite a number of followers, but at length came to grief by being prosecuted as an impostor. He was tried before Joseph P. Chamberlain, a Justice of the Peace. Two pettifoggers, by the name of John S. Reed and James Davidson, volunteered to defend him. Three witnesses were examined on the occasion, all of whom testified that they had seen him cast out devils. They saw ‘a devil as large as a woodchuck leave the man and run across the floor'; one of them saw a devil leave the man and ‘run off like a yellow dog.' These witnesses were Mr. Knight and son, and Mr. Stowell, all of whom subsequently went west with Smith.[9]

    Henry Harris:
         "The character of Joseph Smith for truth and veracity was such that I would not believe him under oath. I was once on a jury to a Justice's Court, and the jury could not and did not believe his testimony to be true.[10]

    Mrs. Abigail Harris:
         ". . . Martin Harris and Lucy Harris, his wife, were at my house [early part of winter, 1828]. In conversation with the Mormonites, she [Lucy Harris] observed that she wished her husband would quit them, as she believed it all false and a delusion. To which I heard Mr. Harris reply: ‘What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it!' I was both an eye- and ear-witness of what has been above stated, which is now fresh in my memory, and I speak the truth and lie not, God being my witness."[11]

    Lucy Harris:
         "Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge; for its effects on Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me. His whole object was to make money out of it. I will give a proof of this. One day at Peter Harris' house (Abigail Harris' husband) I told him he had better leave the company of the Smiths, as their religion was false. To this he replied, "If you would let me alone, I could make money out of it.' It is in vain for the Mormons to deny these facts, as they are well known to most of his former neighbors."[12]

    Joseph Capron:
         "The whole family of Smiths were notorious for indolence, foolery and falsehood. Joseph at length pretended to find his plates. This scheme, he believed, would relieve his family from all pecuniary embarrassment. He gave me no intimation at that time that the book was to be of a religious character, or that it had anything to do with revelation. He declared it to be a speculation, and said: "When it is competed, my family will be placed on a level above the generality of mankind!"[13]

    Peter Ingersoll:
         I was once ploughing near the house of old Joseph Smith. When about noon, he requested me to walk with him a short distance from his house, for the purpose of seeing whether a mineral rod would work in my hand, saying at the same time he was confident it would. When we arrived near that place at which he thought there was money, he cut a small witch-hazel bush and gave me direction how to hold it. He then went off some rods, and told me to say to the rod, "Work to the money," which I did in an audible voice. He rebuked me severely for speaking it loud, and said it must be said in a whisper. While the old man was standing off some rods, throwing himself into various shapes, I told him the rod did not work. He seemed much surprised at this, and said he thought he saw it move in my hand. . . . Another time he told me the best time for digging money was in the heat of summer, when the heat of the sun caused the chests of money to rise near the top of the ground. "You notice," said he, "the large stones on the top of the ground— we call them rocks, and they truly appear so, but they are, in fact, most of them, chests of money raised by the heat of the sun."[14]

    Lucy Smith:
         "A man by the name of Josiah Stoal came from Chenango County, N.Y., with the view of getting Joseph to assist in digging for a silver mine. 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 endeavored to divert him from his vain pursuit, but he was inflexible in his purpose, and offered high wages to those who would dig for him in search of said mine, and still insisted upon having Joseph work for him. Accordingly, Joseph and several others returned with him and commenced digging. After laboring for the old gentleman about a month, without success, Joseph prevailed upon him to cease his operations, and it was from this circumstance of having worked by the month at digging for a silver mine, that the very prevalent story arose of Joseph having been a money-digger."[15]

    Hiel and Joseph Lewis:
         "Some time previous to 1825, a man by the name of Wm. Hale, a distant relative of Uncle Isaac Hale, came to Isaac Hale and said that he had been informed by a woman by the name of Odle, who claimed to possess the power of seeing under ground (such persons were then commonly called peepers), that there were great treasures concealed in the hill northeast from Isaac Hale's house, and by her directions Wm. Hale commenced digging. But, being too lazy to work and too poor to hire, he obtained a partner by the name of Oliver Harper, of New York State, who had the means to hire help. But after a short time operations were suspended, for a time, during which Wm. Hale heard of PEEPER Joseph Smith, jr., and wrote to him and soon visited him, and found Smith's representations were so flattering that Smith was either hired or became a partner with Wm. Hale, Oliver Harper and a man by the name of Stowell, who had some property. They hired men and dug in several places.
          The account given in the history of Susquehanna County, p.580, of a pure white dog to be used as a sacrifice to restrain the enchantment, and of the anger of the Almighty at the attempt to palm off on Him a white sheep for a white dog, is a fair sample of Smith's revelations, and of the God that inspired him. Their digging in several places was in compliance with ‘Peeper' Smith's revelations, who would attend with his peep-stone in his hat, and his hat drawn over his face, and tell them how deep they would have to go; and when they found no trace of the chest of money, he would peep again and weep like a child, and tell them that the enchantment had removed it on account of some sin, or thoughtless word, and finally the enchantment became so strong that he could not see, and the business was finally abandoned. Smith could weep and shed tears at any time if he chose to.
          "But while he was engaged in looking in his peep-stone and old white hat, directing the digging for money, and boarding at Uncle Isaac Hale's, he formed an intimacy with Mr. Hale's daughter, and after the abandonment of the money-digging speculation, he consummated the elopement and marriage to the said Emma Hale, and she became his accomplice in his humbug Golden Bible and Mormon religion."[16]

    Porter Rockwell:
         "Brother Joseph, how is it in the other world?" Joseph said in answer: "Don't you bother, Brother Rockwell, about the other world; try to be as comfortable as possible in this and make the most of it; nobody knows what the other world will be."[17]

    FOOTNOTES: [1] Cake, Lu B., Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, p. 52 Old acquaintance [2] Scribners Monthly, August, 1880. Vol. XX. p. 614. (Affidavit - New York, April 12th, 1880) [3] Wyl, Dr. W., Mormon Portraits, p. 21 Joseph's Nauvoo Accomplice [4] Cake, Lu B., Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, p.33. Member of the Society of Friends, and universally respected [5] Wyl, Dr. W., Mormon Portraits-Joseph Smith. p. 80. Relatives of Emma Hale Smith [6] Ibid. p. 20. Neighbor [7] Wyl, Dr. W., Mormon Portraits-Joseph Smith, p. 22. Wife of Orson Pratt [8] Ibid. p. 22 (attributed Mr. W.) [9] Ibid. pp. 13-15. [10] Ibid. p. 20 (Affidavit before Jonathan Lapham, Justice of the Peace) [11] Cake, Lu B., Peepstone Joe and the Peck Manuscript, p. 34. [12] Ibid. p. 35. (Affidavit Palmyra, N.Y., November 29, 1833) [13] Ibid. p. 34. [14] Wyl, Dr. W., Mormon Portraits-Joseph Smith, p. 18 (Affidavit dated Palmyra, December 2, 1833.) [15] Ibid. p. 78. Joseph Smith's mother, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet [16] Ibid. p. 78, 79. Close relatives of Emma Hale Smith [17] Ibid. p. 20. (As related by Mr. Johnson) Joseph Smith Jr.'s Coachman and Factotum

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