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The GODLY  GOLD-DIGGERS
The Joseph Smith, Sr. Family and the Quest for Religious Riches


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???
(18??)

J. C. Brewster
(1843)

J. R. Orton
(1848)

R.L. Anderson
(1984)

Brooke, etc.
(1995)

Ashurst-McGee
(2000)


Indian Mounds   |   Captain Kidd   |   Treasure Seekers   |   American Israelites   |   Rods & Stones


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excerpts from: James Colin Brewster's 1843 Pamphlet
Dated on p. 12: "Springfield, March 20, 1843."



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VERY  IMPORTANT!

TO  THE

MORMON  MONEY  DIGGERS.



Why do the Mormons rage, and the People imagine a vain thing?

_____
BY JAMES COLIN BREWSTER.
_____

I copy the following from the "Nauvoo Times and Seasons" of December 1st. 1842: --

"NOTICE."

"We have lately seen a Pamphlet, written, and published by James C. Brewster, purporting to be one of the Books of Esdras, and to be written by the gift and power of God. We consider it a perfect humbug, and should not have noticed it, had it not been assiduously circulated, in several branches of the church. This said Brewster is a minor, but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a a stone, and has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, Ohio. His father and some of our weak brethren, who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith, about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans, for which they were dealt with by the church -- they were at that time suspended, and would have been cut off from the church if they had not promised to desist from their ridiculous and pernicious ways, since which time the family removed to Springfield, in this state, and contrary to their engagement have been seeing, and writing, and prophecying, &c. for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield church. The father of the boy has very frequently requested an ordination; but has been as frequently denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priesthood. We have written the above for the information of the brethren, and least there should be any so weak minded as to believe in it, we insert the following from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants." --
"But behold, verily, verily I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this Church, excepting my servant Joseph Smith, jr. -- for he receiveth them even as Moses, and thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the churches. And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hiram Page between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath




[ 2 ]


written from that stone are not of me, and that satan deceiveth him: for behold these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall any thing be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the Church covenants, for all things must be done in order and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith."
As the writer of this notice did not favor the public directly with his name, I shall not pretend to say who it was, although I have good reason to believe it was written by Joseph Smith, or at least by his directions.

Firstly. The writer says he considers it a perfect humbug; but before the pamphlet was printed the manuscript was taken to Joseph Smith; he had it in his possession six days; and, at that time, he stated that he enquired of the Lord concerning it and could not obtain an answer. Since then, he told certain individuals that he did receive an answer that it was not of God.

Secondly. He says Brewster is a minor, but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a stone. Now, as for my "seeing and looking through or into a stone," it is a perfect falsehood, and Joseph Smith and many of the first presidents of the church know it to be false, and at the same time knowing that they could not bring any thing against our moral character have endeavored to injure us by publishing these falsehoods.

Thirdly. "And he has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, his father and some of our weak brethren who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are [propapagated] concerning Joseph Smith about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans." This is a little nearer the truth than the second statement. The fact is that my father ever regarded money diggers with the utmost contempt, but believing in the Gospel as preached by the Mormons, and, becoming a member of that church removed to Kirtland, Ohio. While residing at that place Joseph Smith Senr. the Prophet’s father, with others of high standing in the church, came to see us, and stated that they knew there was money hid in the earth, that it was our duty to assist in obtaining it, and if we did not the curse of God would rest upon us. We were foolish enough to believe them, not knowing at that time the weakness and folly of those men. They also told us concerning their digging for money in the state of N. Y., and




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that the places where the treasures were deposited were discovered by means of the mineral rods and a seeing stone; likewise to prevent the Devil deceiving them they anointed the mineral rods and seeing stones with consecrated oil, and prayed over them in the house of the Lord in Kirtland, and then sent a man into the state of N. Y. to obtain the money that was supposed the mineral rods pointed out, but they found no treasure and returned empty. Soon after this interview, I and my father were requested by J. Smith, Sen'r and Eld. Beaman to come to the house of the Lord. We went in and the door was locked; -- after some conversation with J. Smith sen'r, Beaman and Holeman, Eld. Beaman called upon the Lord -- they then proceeded to lay their hands upon my head and pronounced a blessing upon me, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and sealed it up on me by the power of the Holy Priesthood, which they held, J. Smith sen'r then acting as first President of the Church in Kirtland. The prophetic blessing was that I should be a Prophet, a Seer, a Revealer, and Translator, and that I should have power given me of God to discover and obtain the treasures which are hid in the earth. The men above mentioned, went with me and my father several times in pursuit of the money, but it was not obtained. Joseph Smith sen'r and Beaman, being old and feeble, thought best to remain in the Temple, while the remainder of the party went to dig. John and Asel Smith joined with those who remained in the Temple to pray and continue their supplications until a very late hour; this was repeated several times, and at length afraid of being discovered in the Temple they retired to a barn in a remote part of the town, and continued there the most part of the night, still no treasure was obtained. By this time my father was convinced that we should not succeed, and then gave up the business entirely. All this was carried on privately, being understood only by those concerned. Soon after this my father and his family, Eld. Norris and his family, in company with several others, members of the church, who were knowing to what had transpired, were dealt with by the High Council and Church in Kirtland -- Joseph Smith sen’r then acting as first President of the Church , and his brother John Smith first President of the High Council in Kirtland. The Brewsterites, as we were called by the Church, were all condemned, although many of the Counsellors, by whose vote we




[ 4 ]


were condemned, had been engaged with us in the money digging business. The writer in the "Times and Seasons" now says that my father was assisted by some of "our weak brethren." This is true, but he must remember that the names of those weak brethren are as follows: -- Joseph Smith sen’r, John and Asel Smith, Eld. Beaman then President of the Elders’ Corum, Joshua Holeman, and many others, of high standing in the Mormon Church, whose names we can produce if occasion requires. He also says it was those who had "some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging." The following are the reasons we had for believing the stories. In Kirtland, Joseph Smith sen'r, the Prophet’s father, said in Council: "I know more about money digging, than any man in this generation, for I have been in the business more than thirty years." Father Smith, in private conversation with my father, told many particulars, which happened in N. Y. where the money digging business was carried on to a great extent by the Smith family. The writer of the article in the "Times and Seasons" calls it a ridiculous and pernicious practice. I would ask him who was the author of this practice among the Mormons? If he has a good memory, he will remember the house that was rented in the city of Boston, with the expectation of finding a large sum of money buried in or near the cellar. If he has forgotten these things, I have not. And, if he is not satisfied with what I have written, he can have the remainder shortly.

Fourthly. The writer of the article says, that contrary to their engagements they have been seeing, writing, and prophecying, for which they have been dealt with by the Springfield church. The father of the boy has frequently requested an ordination, but has as frequently been denied the privilege, as not being considered a proper person to hold the priest-hood. We was dealt with by the Springfield church. But the only thing found against us was that we had not joined that branch of the church, and supposed we acted wisely in all things. As for the ordination, my father has been ordained by the order of JOSEPH SMITH, without his requesting it, under the hands of J. Adams, High Priest and Patriarch, Elder Mariam, President -- both of the Springfield church.

Fifthly. To close the notice, the writer adds "we have written the above for the information of the brethren." I would




[ 5 ]


only say that the information it contains is very incorrect, and I would advise the Editors of the "Times and Seasons" not to publish any more information concerning us, except it is written by one who regards the truth.

I have written the above that the people may know who the "weak brethren" are that assisted us in the money digging business. The Mormons may deny it, but every word it contains is true; and I might have written much more, but I think it unnecessary. But if the Mormons publish another line of falsehood concerning us, they shall have the history of the money diggers from the beginning.

Below will be found my father’s certificate, which goes to corroborate the statements I have given.
JAMES COLIN BREWSTER.        

I, Z. H. Brewster, do hereby certify, that the above account of the money digging business is true. In the year 1837, in the month of May or June, we commenced the money digging under the kind care and protection of Joseph Smith sen’r, then first President of the church of Latter Day Saints and, according to my best recollection, the foregoing statements are strictly true. I also believe the Gospel that is attended with the power of gifts revealed in the New Testament, and Book of Mormon. I also believe that God works by whomsoever he will, and reveals himself to all who faithfully serve him. I have no reason to believe that Nauvoo is a place of safety, but have every reason to believe that California is. I also believe that the pure in heart, and those who are desirous to serve God, will soon leave Nauvoo, that God may destroy the wicked and ungodly inhabitants thereof. I believe that Joseph Smith was called and chosen of God to bring forth the Book of Mormon, and to establish the church of Latter Day saints. But I do not believe that the spirit of God will remain with him since he has forsaken the ways of truth and righteousness, and is now preaching and practicing those things which he in the beginning taught to be the works and inventions and secret combinations of the Devil, (see Book of Mormon, 3d Edition -- pages 320 and 538.) I also believe that all liars, adulterers, fornicators, and whoremongers shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the anger of the Lord.
Z. H. BREWSTER.        

______

Our Belief -- California, or the Country beyond
the wilderness of Deluca.

We believe the Gospel that was preached by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, which is contained in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. We believe that God has as much power now to instruct, direct, support and defend the saints, as in former times; and I am willing to believe what he reveals to me, although it may be called a humbug by those who consider




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Jason Rockwood Orton Story
The Ladies' Garland,
XIV:4 (October, 1848)

Reprinted from: The Rover: A Weekly Magazine of Tales,
Poetry, and Engravings...
1843 -- vol. 1:264-66
)



[ 1 ]




THE GLASS-LOOKERS.


Near the waters of Unadilla, in the state of New York, there lived, some years since, a lean shoemaker and his sturdy, well-to-do wife. No lousy cobbler was Samuel Fish, and no slatternly, good-for-nothing body was Ruth; but, somehow or another, mouths increased upon them faster than they could well fill them; their knack at children, Aunt Eunice said, was dreadful! and indeed, the good man and his family, all told, numbered a dozen and one to spare; and could they have been seen marching in a row, from a very respectable front, made up of himself and wife, they would have run down nearly to a point. No wonder, though he industriously plied the awl, and made the waxed ends glisten and twang, morning, noon and night, while she, with equal ardor, made music with her constant step around him, that anxious care with them was a frequent guest, and want, with difficulty, barred the door.

In this dilemma, the good woman took it upon her, one night, to dream a dream; and awoke therefrom in a very agreeable frame of mind. Her first impulse was to arouse her husband, who was sleeping like a log at her side; but she bethought herself that he had had a hard day's work, and after all, it was but a dream; and so with commendable self-control, she again composed herself to rest.

Half an hour after, she awoke in a state of joyous trepidation, which would admit of no further delay. The self-same dream, complete in all its parts, had presented itself to her fancy again, giving an importance to the subject matter thereof, not to be attached to the ordinary vagaries of the night. She shook Samuel by the shoulders, and proceeded to recount it to him.

She had dreamed that a little old man, in a tarpaulin hat and sugar-paper small-clothes, stood before her, and after complimenting her and her husband as very worthy well-disposed people, if they only had the where-with-all to live, proceeded to inform her that near at hand, under a certain tree on the banks of the Unadilla, was buried a rich treasure, which might be theirs for the taking, and would do them and their little ones much good.

"'Twas the ghost of Captain Kidd," said Samuel.

"Oh no, not a ghost!" said Ruth, starting.

"Well, well, ghost or no ghost," said Samuel, "it is a singular dream -- a very singular dream -- an extraordinary dream. Twice you have dreamed it, Ruth?"

"Twice."

"Well, good Ruth, go to sleep again, and remember, if you dream it over the third time, it will come true to a certainty. Go to sleep, go to sleep!"

In obedience to the wishes of her spouse, the dame composed herself on her pillow; and Samuel, after fidgeting an hour or more in uneasy expectancy, becoming too nervous for repose, carefully got up and lighted a candle. With it in his hand, his face flushed with hopes new and exciting, he approached the bed and leaned over to see if he could get any clue to the success of his wife, in the expression of her features. She, good woman, with a start of terror, opened her eyes and met his inquiring gaze. The candle fell from his hand, and she bounded out of bed to extinguish it, and as she did so, exclaimed:

"Why, Samuel, what on earth is the matter? Are you going to burn me up alive?"

"What luck? what luck?" shouted Samuel.

"Dear me!" returned his spouse, "I have not been asleep."

Crest-fallen and discomfitted, the shoemaker crawled back into bed, and there he lay quietly until daylight, but he lay awake. Whether his wife slept, he knew not, and although he would have given half the contents of his shop to know, he dared not disturb her. At length, as gray morning had fairly got over the hills, he was electrified by a sudden spring on her part as she came bolt upright in bed, exclaiming,

"I have it, Samuel! I have dreamed it again!"

"The Lord be thanked," said he: "and now, wife, dress thee and speed the breakfast, while I myself will attend to the children; and then we will go and consult Shaker Brown respecting this most singular visitation."

Shaker Brown was a tall, venerable man, of near three-score and ten, who lived hard by. His long locks were faded nearly to a white, but his limbs retained a goodly portion of their vigor, and his pure, blue-eye, was still delightful to look upon. He had passed most of his life as one of a community of Shakers, whence having emerged and taken to him a young wife in his old age, a child to the world, but deeply imbued with a knowledge of hidden things and a love for the mystical, he was peculiarly qualified to act as counsellor on an occasion like the present. Hither went Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Fish for advice, and the result of their visit was satisfactory in a high degree. Shaker Brown recommended that Joe Smith, an itinerant vagabond glass-looker, who has since made quite a figure in the world, and was then in that region, but few miles away, should be sent for to take the command of the important affair in hand, and for him, a messenger was accordingly despatched.

Joe Smith had already begun to lord it in a small way in matters occult. When he arrived, he listened very respectfully to the narration of Dame Fish, but did not condescend to ask any questions, or to gape or wonder over her dream; but treated the subject in all respects as though it were a matter of course that coffers of gold should be buried, that she should dream about them, and he be called upon to bring them again to the light of day. He told some marvelous stories of his success in this way; and finally, having secured to himself a certain compensation, to be paid in hand by Samuel and Shaker Brown, beside an equal share in the venture, he proceeded to arrange a


[ p. 91 ]
plan of operations for disemboweling the particular treasure which the little tarpaulin man had mentioned to Ruth in her dream. He exhibited a flat opaque glass, or stone, about the size of his palm, which he said was found in the grave of an Indian magician, lying upon the bones of the skeleton, over the heart, and which possessed the property of revealing to him the hidden things of earth.

Armed with this invaluable talisman, the dusk of evening was scarcely suffered to approach, when Samuel, Shaker Brown and Smith sallied forth. The tree, a spreading beach, indicated in Ruth's dream, was easily found; for there was a bridge across the Unadilla near by it, hid by an intervening clump of alders; and, indeed, both Samuel and his wife, had been to the very spot a hundred times, hunting for their cow, or their pigs, or their children, and knew the tree as well as they did the butter-nut close by their own door. Arrived thereat, Smith very gravely put the magical glass into his hat, and that to his face, in such a manner as to shut out all the light, while Samuel and Brown placed themselves on either side of him, and awaited in a very trying suspense, his expected revelations. Soon Joe brought down the hat, and with an exclamation of delight informed them that he had discovered the box of gold, buried but a few feet below the surface of the ground; but that it was enchanted, and he should have to break the spell which held it there before it could be got at.

Satisfied with this, as a precurser, the party returned to Samuel's house, where Ruth and Mrs. Brown anxiously awaited them. And then Smith showed a strong inclination to remain for the night, but the ardor of the others was too much aroused to permit of inactivity: they insisted, with much show of reason, that a delay of even one night was full of danger, and that the only safe course was to make sure of the treasure while it was within their reach. Joe was obliged to give way; and as soon as the necessary shovels and other implements could be got together, the party, enlarged by the addition of Ruth and Mrs. Brown, returned to the spot; where by this time many hopes and fears had become centered.

Joe now disposed himself to play his part with effect. Assuming all the dignity of bearing which he could command, he proceeded to describe a circle around the tree, and stepping within it, he pronounced some cabalistic words, or words, at least, of unknown sound and import to his auditors. Having, by his ceremony taken possession of the ground, as he termed it, he charged his associates that while the work was in the progress, they must not, on peril of their lives, or, what with them was of equal moment, the loss of the treasure now so nearly within their grasp, utter a single word; and stationing Ruth and Mrs. Brown a little away, as an outpost to guard against surprise, he seized a bar, and the three men fell most lustily to digging.

Near by the scene of these events was a little village; and indeed, the houses of Samuel Fish and Shaker Brown might be said to for its extreme suburb of the river. The moving spirit of this place was Colonel Spreeaway; a drinking, gambling, roistering merchant: and on the night in question, the business of the day having been brought to a close, he sat in his store with several of his boon companions to a late hour, and they made themselves merry with story-telling and brandy and sugar.

At length some one of the company said:

"What can have brought Joe Smith here! I saw him pass by my shop to-day."

"Yes; and he stopped at Fish's," said another.

"My wife was by there after dark," remarked a third, "and saw Shaker Brown through the window, and another man. I'll wager it was Joe."

"That puts me in mind," said the Colonel, "that I saw three men going across the fields toward the river, as I was coming home to-night, over the bridge. One of them I knew was Brown, for he cannot be easily mistaken; but it was so dark that I could not make out the others."

"Some new money-digging humbug, I'll warrant," said another.

"And if so," continued the colonel, "they are at it now, and I move, boys, we have a little sport. Come, I'll lock up, and we'll take a turn down by the bridge."

This proposition met with universal favor, and the company, to the number of half-a-dozen, set forth, and soon arrived in the neighborhood of the river. Dividing off into little scouting parties, it was not long before the money-diggers were discovered, who, by this time, by dint of sweat and vigorous blows, had succeeded in excavating the hole of considerable size in the loose, gravelly earth. Having maintained a scrupulous silence, and cut through the matted roots of the beech with a chisel, they had got on with little noise and the more speed; until the shoulders of tall Shaker Brown, as he slowly erected himself in discharging his shovel's burthen, hardly exceeded in attitude the level of the turf.

Carefully approaching close enough to ascertain the position of affairs, which they succeeded in doing without disturbing the sentinels of the night, Ruth and Mrs. Brown, who like two deserted river-nymphs, stood alone at a little distance from their friends, but eyes and soul absorbed in what was going on in the pit, the colonel and his followers re-assembled near the bridge. There was a large bright moon, but an occasional cloud passed over it; and selecting a moment when it was obscured, they betook themselves to the bridge, and, presently, the diggers were interrupted by a noise, as of a thousand cattle upon it. Mrs. Brown screamed and fled toward the pit, but Ruth, with masculine courage, stood her ground. Joe Smith dropped his shovel, and cautiously peered around; and then motioned Shaker Brown to help himself out upon the level of the earth to reconnoitre. This old gentleman did with some difficulty, but by the time he came in sight of the bridge, all was still. The moon was shining brightly again; the bridge was bare and cold, and not a living thing to be seen in any direction. After waiting a little time, he returned and expressed to his companions, by mute looks and gestures, his inability to explain the strange occurrence, and so, after wondering in silence a minute or two, the trio proceeded in their labor.

Soon, however, they were startled and alarmed by a most vigorous caterwauling, set up on all sides of them, and in their immediate neighborhood; and screams and screeches, as of a score of panthers succeeded, and every variety of noise which mortal organs may be supposed capable of producing. The sounds were enough to curdle one's blood in his veins. The woman shrieked, and the men, not excepting the king conjurer, Joe, turned pale. And now to add to their affright, amidst the din were seen strange beings on all


[ p. 92 ]
fours, leaping like frogs from bush to bush; and turning with threatening, and, to the excited imaginations of the money-diggers, hellish aspect toward the pit. It was too much for human strength to bear. Joe Smith, Samuel Fish, and Shaker Brown, bold men though they were, as they subsequently proved themselves when matched with flesh and blood, clambered upon terra firma as best they might, and taking their women between them, broke from the magical spot, beset as they believed it, with a host of devils from the infernal regions, and fled toward home.

Up to this time it is probable, that Smith, although well aware he was deceiving others, was not deceived himself. But now he appears to have been caught in one of his own snares. Unable to account for the singular interruptions they had experienced, he came to the sage conclusion that in the practice of his conjurations, he had indeed called up the spirits of the invisible world, and spirits, it would seem, that it might be no very easy matter to quell.

Colonel Spreeaway and his friends, as soon as the coast was clear, gathered around the pit and enjoyed a hearty laugh. There lay the shovels, and bars, and picks, as they had been dropped in the alarm which seized upon those who had them in use, and the lights by which they had worked were left burning. Dispatching one of his fellows in pursuit of the diggers, to make sure against a surprise in return, the colonel sent another to his store after an old box and some nails. These presently arrived, when the box was filled with stones, nailed down, and lowered into the pit, and the party now in possession commenced digging in turn. They sunk a hole some two or three feet below the depth previously attained, and placing the box therein, piled stones upon it, and finished by smoothing the surface as nearly as possible, to the shape in which they found it. This done, they retired to their several homes.

The money-diggers, meanwhile, were brooding over their discomfiture at Shaker Brown's. Their appearance was draggled and wo-begone in the extreme, and to add to their despondency, Joe had made the astounding disclosure that he had felt the box of gold once that night with his shovel, just as Mrs. Brown screamed, when it moved away from his touch, grating as it went, and very likely had gone to the other side of the tree, if not farther. This sad effect of the unfortunate scream, made Mrs. Brown, for the time being, a sort of scape-goat, on which the rest were disposed to lay not only their sins, but their misfortunes, and occasioned her being regarded with sinister looks, even by her doating husband; and Ruth, not content with this, in that spirit of charity which one woman occasionally delights to exhibit to another, added a variety of taunting expressions, so that the but round-faced, and pale but handsome Mrs. Brown, kept aloof in a corner and pouted by herself.

By and by, Smith and Samuel gathered composure and courage enough to revisit the scene of their unaccountable adventures. They found everything quiet, and to appearance, as they had left it, except that the candles had burned low. These they extinguished, and pilling some loose brushwood over the pit, to conceal it as much as possible from chance of observation, they finally adjourned for the night.

The day following was devoted by the male part of the money-diggers to rest. Samuel slept, but Ruth, as usual, was astir. Her faith in the truth of her dream was by no means shaken; on the contrary, it seemed to have gathered strength from the very obstacles which had presented themselves in the way of its fulfilment. In fact, she was in a sort of bewilderment. Visions of wealth and the pleasures attendant thereon, floated through her brain, and as she dismissed her husband's customers from the door, she could not well refrain from assuming some unaccustomed airs, and treating them with an indifference very foreign from her usual affable deportment. some she informed that her husband was sick, and could not be disturbed; others, that he had given up his shop and they must go elsewhere, and others still, that he was about to move away to the city and establish a wholesale boot and shoe store. No wonder those who listened came to the conclusion that the poor woman was demented.

At Shaker Brown's the scene was somewhat similar. Mrs. Brown was rather frail, and found herself flurried from her last night's exertions. Her head was bound round with a white handkercheif, for she had the tooth-ache; and she would gladly have obtained some rest, but as often as she lay down, or threw herself back in her rocking-chair on her pillows, with her feet upon a stool, and her teapot on a stand at her elbow, she was sure to be interrupted by some one's calling to examine the little articles of wooden-ware which her husband was in the habit of manufacturing. Indeed, Joe Smith was the only one of the number whom worldly matters that day had no power to disturb. He, the shrewdest of conjurers, having eaten his fill, stretched himself at his length in Mrs. Brown's best bed, and snored like a prince, at his leisure.

Night having again arrived, and the moon and stars taken their places aloft, the party, as before, with the exception that Mrs. Brown was left behind, like so many sheep-thieves, stole in a circuit round the hills to the river, and after an anxious survey of the placid water and the still shore and upland, resumed their labor in the pit. Joe was evidently ill at ease: there was an air of perplexity and doubt upon his countenance; and as he was the central luminary to whom the others looked for light, it is not be wondered at that every movement betrayed uncertainty and apprehension. The shovels were operated by spiritless wills, and an hour or more wore away before they reached the stones or any evidence of the handiwork of Colonel Spreeaway and his friends. Then, indeed, there was an increased movement among them; and when, finally the box itself was laid bare, the haggard, clutching joy of the money-diggers was beyond bounds, and the greater as pictured on their faces, that they dared not give it tongue. No word was uttered; no, not even by Ruth, who stood staring at the top of the pit, like one transfixed and dumb.

With much difficulty, for it was found very heavy, the mysterious chest was raised to the surface and placed upon the ground. Then, while the hands of the silent operators trembled as with the palsy, it was attached to two poles by a rope; and Ruth readily lending her aid, it was slowly raised between the four, and borne in toilsome triumph toward the village.

Going by the fields to avoid observation, they were about to descend a little hill which had cost them some trouble to climb, when they were suddenly brought to a stand by a company of men


[ p. 93 ]
whose faces were muffled in handkershiefs, and a furious assault commenced upon them. But the money-diggers were in no mood to be trifled with. Forming a hollow-square around their treasure, they gave back taunt for taunt, and buffet for buffet, and grappled with their foes as for life or for death. The exact order of the battle, however, was soon broken; for Ruth, with a quick instinct, perceiving it was likely to go hard with her friends, threw herself upon the box, and grasped it in her arms; and soon thereafter, all its brave defenders were down and lying prostrate upon the turf. While they were there held, each by a strength superior to his own, one of the assailants undertook to disengage Ruth from her hold. This he found no easy task, and losing his own footing in the struggle, cavalier and box, and the courageous spouse of Samuel Fish, together rolled down to the bottom of the hill.

The reader will readily come to the conclusion that the attacking party were no other than Colonel Spreeaway and his friends, who had taken this rough method of closing up the trickery commenced by them the night before. In fact, Ruth's antagonist was no other than the gallant colonel himself. At the foot of the hill the two combatants gained their legs at the same instant, and, disdaining all parley or maneuvering as unworthy of the occasion, Ruth rather flew than ran upon her foe. The black muffler which concealed his features vanished in a moment; and then it was that furrows long and deep, which time in its ravages had as yet spared him, were ploughed upon his face in a twinkling. To save himself he was obliged to throw her upon the ground, and there hold her.

While the colonel was engaged in this awkward passage of arms, the others of his party came up and seized the mysterious box, and quickly bore it away. Giving them a little time to secure their retreat, he then shook himself clear of Ruth, and those who had the rest of the vanquished party in charge on the top of the hill, doing the same, they all took to their heels and disapeared. But they did not go without carrying with them substantial evidence of the fray. Beside the colonel's smeared and smarting visage, one of his followers had received a cut in the throat, which threatened him with a lock-jaw for a month; and another, whose fortune it had been to join in mortal strife with Samuel Fish, received a wound from some unknown instrument of war, similar to an awl, in the region below the back, which compelled him for a time of the pleasure of sitting in a chair.

Left to themselves, the money-diggers gathered together, and sent up toward the sky a most woeful howl of despair.

Slowly they turned toward home, crying as they went, and making the desolate night more desolate with their moans. As they came near the village, the noise they made alarmed their neighbors; and soon, although at a very unusual hour, a half-dressed company collected together to listen to the incoherent accounts they gave of the treasure which they fancied had been even in their very hands, and cruelly wrested from them and their poverty, and turned to the sustenance and enjoyment of others.

By daylight, Joe Smith and Shaker Brown had become comparatively collected, and talked loudly of the law; but by this time the other side of the story got wind. Soon thereafter, Joe quietly decamped; but no explanations, then or afterward, were found to have any effect upon Samuel and his wife; or indeed, upon Shaker Brown. They all believed most firmly to the day of their deaths, that they had been robbed of countless treasures; and although they came to the conclusion that Colonel Spreeaway had a hand in the robbery, they entirely discarded that potion of the current belief which referred to his agency the depositing of the mysterious box where they had found it.

In short, their imaginary losses and disappointments so preyed upon the minds of these poor creatures, as to unfit them for the business of life: they became dispirited, indeed, broken-hearted; and ere many years rolled away, Samuel and Ruth -- their children having scattered over the world, a thriftless uncombed set -- and Shaker Brown and his wife, dragged out, and at length finished a miserable existence at the public charge.

Note: The original printing of the above story was subscribed, "Binghampton, N.Y., June, 1843."



Unadilla River Country -- Chanango & Otsego counties (1825)








Excerpts from: Richard L. Anderson Article
(BYU Studies, 24:4, Winter 1984)


Copyright © 1984, Brigham Young University. This transcription duplicates the text
already featured on-line at the BYU Studies site. If the copyright holder wishes this
duplicate transcription shortened, please contact the transcriber)




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The Mature Joseph Smith and
Treasure Searching


Richard Lloyd Anderson

Joseph Smith turned twenty-one at the end of 1826 and the following year began adult responsibilities as he married and set up his small farm. Contemporary records are available after that time, since he obtained the plates late in 1827 and recorded revelations in 1828. In 1829 there are written revelations, important letters, the surviving Book of Mormon manuscript, and newspaper articles on the new faith. Before these years there is a kind of prehistory, a term normally applied to early cultures without written sources. Such a term could be misused, for the Prophet's recollection of youthful religious experiences are early and impressive in detail. Yet the analogy of prehistory is useful in areas not later noted, for his teen years have few contemporary documents and thus invite speculation.

The past year intensified the study of two "treasure letters" seeming to illuminate the pre-Book of Mormon period. But the coming year and more will be needed to clarify charges of fraud against the main dealer associated with these manuscripts. The questionable letter of Joseph Smith to Josiah Stowell in 1825 has a "clever spirit" guarding a treasure hoard. [1] The questionable 1830 letter from Martin Harris to William W. Phelps claims that Joseph spoke of a salamander and "old spirit" at the hill in 1827, though Joseph's real experience could be obscured by such a singular secondhand report. [2] Publicity on these documents has stimulated research and reevaluation, some of it asserting a lifelong interest of the Prophet in paranormal discovery of riches. This paper examines the basis of such claims after 1827 and finds them wanting.

Most sources of Joseph Smith's early treasure digging are historically flawed because of late recollection, extreme bias, or remote hearsay. But there are some early correlations in Mormon and non-Mormon versions of the 1825 excavations of Josiah Stowell and the 1826 trial of Joseph Smith. Most researchers will not contest young

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1 Joseph Smith, Jr., to Josiah Stowell, 18 June 1825, Canandagua, N.Y. For a convenient transcription, see page 399 of this issue of Brigham Young University Studies or see Church News, 12 May 1985, 10. Unless otherwise noted, all documents cited are held by the Library-Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City; hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives. Historical quotations in this article are occasionally corrected in spelling or clarified through capitalization, punctuation, or writing out abbreviations. Glenn Rowe and Steven Sorensen of the LDS Church Archives assisted in locating Far West, Mo., postmarks. For helpful criticism, I am indebted to colleagues Ron Esplin, Edward Geary, and Dean Jessee. I also express thanks to Ron Walker for sharing Vermont research and to my assistant Barbara Jo Rytting for careful source checking.

2 Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps, 23 October 1830, Palmyra, N.Y. For a convenient transcription, see page 403 of this issue of BYU Studies or see Church News, 28 April 1985, 6.




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Joseph's treasure involvement then, but some are confident that Joseph never abandoned mystic methods for finding buried wealth. Their argument rests mainly on two Doctrine & Covenants revelations plus a newly found revelation sold by the same dealer whose early treasure letters are legally suspect. The purported revelation of 1838 contains treasure language with close parallels in the Old Testament, Joseph Smith's blessings, and revelations to the Church. This problematic Missouri document raises the question of several meanings of treasure in the Prophet's pre-Nauvoo language. Moreover, Joseph's published history of that time furnishes a deceptive reference to buried treasure in Missouri, a reference which is important to clarify.

The length of this paper is justified by the importance of the subject and the attention it has recently attracted. This study collects available references relevant to Joseph's mature views on treasure digging. But each Joseph Smith source must be examined in careful context, for mere verbal associations can gloss over historical realities. There may be distinctly different applications of such catch-words as treasure, earth, or rod. Before we look closely at the main Joseph Smith documents that include such terms, his public reactions to the first exposure attempts will be studied for clues to his own perspectives. In Ohio the Prophet and his chief spokesman Oliver Cowdery established an official position downgrading the New York money-digging practices. This study probes whether the Prophet's private views and acts are consistent with that self-definition. The concluding sections come back to Joseph's youthful environment and early revelations with the theme of transition. Every phase of this study strongly discloses the seriousness of a mission transcending the false starts of Joseph Smith's teens.

PUBLISHED  STATEMENTS

Reevaluation can be overreaction. Thus, the supposed treasure letters have caused some to reinstate the 1833 Palmyra-Manchester affidavits as accurate recollections. So a review of why these affidavits are tainted is important, and that old story will be told here with some new material. And another critical purpose is served, for Joseph Smith's and Oliver Cowdery's responses can be understood only in terms of particular charges of the affidavits. These are tempting but dangerous to use; since they claim too much to be credible, selection from them is generally a subjective exercise. Therefore, the Prophet's




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early life must be synthesized mainly from later autobiographical summaries, a pattern he shares with numerous public figures who came up from obscurity. If Joseph later underplayed his youthful involvement in money digging (by admitting imperfections without giving details), it is equally obvious that the intense denunciations from the most negative neighbors are grossly overdone.

Such exaggerations are historical satire, not history, as if an estimate of Lincoln could be based on the crude cartoons of the opposition press. The 1833 affidavits labeled the Smith family as lazy, though detailed family history proves the contrary, backed up by sixty acres of cleared land with improvements. The warnings of a New York historian about the affidavits' overstatements on this major issue remain a wholesome caution to historians reexamining the early sources on the Prophet:
Every circumstance seems to invalidate the obviously prejudiced testimonials of unsympathetic neighbors (collected by one hostile individual whose style of composition stereotypes the language of numerous witnesses) that the Smiths were either squatters or shiftless "frontier drifters." Many an honest and industrious farmer followed their identical experience, pursued by bad luck or poor judgment, and sought a new fling at fortune farther west. No doubt the Smiths, like many of their fellows, wasted valuable time hunting gold at the proper turn of the moon. One of the potent sources of Joseph's local ill repute may well have been the jealousy of other persons who failed to discover golden plates in the glacial sands of the drumlins. [3]
Since the 1833 statements miss the mark on laziness, they demand similar caution on money digging. The Prophet described working on a treasure project but did not say that he actively directed others where to dig. Thus this author earlier admitted the possibility of "aggressive treasure seeking" on the part of the Smith family but left the question open: "If it took place, they participated in a passing cultural phenomenon, shared widely by people of known honesty." [4] A year after that statement appeared, the reimbursement of costs was discovered in an 1826 misdemeanor case against Joseph Smith involving treasure digging. Oliver Cowdery had noted such a trial before 1827, saying Joseph was "honorably acquitted" after being charged "as a disorderly person... before the authorities of the county." [5] When the constable's billings for such a hearing were discovered in 1971, the trial date and amounts corresponded to the published summary testimony, suggesting its authenticity. But fairness to Joseph Smith is another question, since these sketchy notes

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3 Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-Over District (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 141-42.

4 Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," BYU Studies 10 (Spring 1970): 302. This article featured William Smith's recollections on the real values of the family and his refutation of the 1833 Palmyra affidavits. Although he was born in 1811 and perhaps knew little of Joseph's Pennsylvania life, William is still an important witness to the incidental nature of treasure activity of the Smiths as he became an observant teenager. The specifics of family history remain a critical control on the use of general cultural patterns in attempting to explain Joseph Smith.

5 For the Cowdery trial summary, see Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 (October 1835), 202 (commenting on events before getting the plates from the hill); reprinted in Francis W. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, 3d. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1960), 1:105.




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were quite clearly taken by a skeptic who indulged in mild ridicule of the youth's claims. In this framework Joseph is reported as admitting
that he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures... were... and had looked for Mr. Stowell several times... that at Palmyra... he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was... that he has occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up... that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business. [6]
In an 1859 interview, Martin Harris recalled that Joseph could find a lost object through his stone and that the older Smith men were involved in a money-digging company. Both Joseph and his mother refute treasure-searching accusations without total denials, and Lucy Mack Smith comments that Josiah Stowell came from Pennsylvania to enlist Joseph's help in his excavations because he heard the youth "possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." [7] Yet the extent of such activity is hard to reconstruct, so these particularized reports certainly do not validate all the tall stories of anti-Mormon folklore or the extensive hearsay in county histories.

Responsible investigation will not jump from Harris and the Stowell involvement to the neighborhood certificates. Indeed he spoke not only of their content, but of the character, motivation, and methods of the man who gathered them, Doctor (has given name) Philastus Hurlbut. Mormon histories easily prove Hurlbut's bias and impeach his motives, but unpublished sources also verify the defects noted by virtually every person who mentioned him. Ironically, his own character appears to be worse than the worst he gathered about Joseph Smith. [8]

Joseph's journal notes Hurlbut's appearance in Kirtland as a new member on 13 March 1833, when the Prophet "conversed with him considerably about the Book of Mormon." [9]

Within the week, Hurlbut was ordained an elder and returned to the mission field to preach. But three months later he was tried by "the Bishop's Council of High Priests in a charge of unchristian conduct with the female sex," and he was granted an appeal to the Kirtland higher council, then presided over by Joseph Smith. His "liberal confession" moved the court to mercy: "This council decided that the Bishop's Council decided correctly before, and that Bro. H's crime was sufficient to cut

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6 Christian Advocate (Salt Lake City), January 1886. For the various accounts of the 1826 trial and a copy of the constable's bill, see Marvin S. Hill, "Joseph Smith and the 1826 Trial: New Evidence and New Difficulties," BYU Studies 12 (Winter 1972): 223-33. Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:359, conveniently prints two trial accounts, including W. D. Purple's statement that he "was invited to take notes of the trial, which I did" (Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:364). What seem to be Purple's "notes" surfaced in Salt Lake City through a niece of the trial judge and are quoted here in the version of Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle, who prefaced his "exact copy" by indicating that "Miss Pearsall tore the leaves out of the record found in her father's [uncle's] house and brought them to me" (Christian Advocate, January 1886). The same document was published by Tuttle in a religious encyclopedia; reproduced in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:360-62. See also n. 30.

7 Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet (Liverpool: Orson Pratt, 1853), 92; compare 106, which identifies the Urim and Thummim as that "which Joseph termed a key." The last term, applied to the pre-1827 period, suggests the reference quoted in the text refers to the seer stone. Joseph's refutations are discussed in this section of the paper, whereas his mother's most direct comment appears in the last section. The Harris interview appears in Tiffany's Monthly 5 (1859): 163-70 and is reproduced in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:373-83. A related early document is Isaac Hale's affidavit regarding the Stowell treasure dig. The affidavit appeared in the Susquehanna Register, 1 May 1834, before E. D. Howe's publication. Isaac Hale's quotation of the revelation to Martin Harris (D&C 5) shows his mind at work -- accurate in general information but placing details in an unfavorable light.

8 For background, see Max H. Parkin, Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio between 1830 and 1838 (Salt Lake City: Max H. Parkin, 1966), 120-28. Spelling of Hurlbut's name conforms to the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph, vital records, and later documents from him, though consistency is lacking.

9 Joseph Smith, Jr., Diary, 28 January 1834, cited in Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 26-27. This entry is retrospective; compare the Kirtland Council Minute Book, 18 March 1833: "Ordination of Doctor Hurlburt by the hand of Sidney Rigdon to be an Elder."




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him off from the Church, but on his confession, he was restored." Two days later the decision was reversed when evidence surfaced "that Bro. D.P.H. said that he had deceived Joseph Smith, God, or the Spirit by which he is actuated etc." [10]

But Hurlbut insisted on the last word. E. D. Howe was then editor of the Telegraph, which he had earlier founded in Painesville, Ohio, a dozen miles from Mormon Kirtland. He remembered Hurlbut's next moves:
In 1833 and 34... many leading citizens of Kirtland and Geauga Co. employed and defrayed the expenses of Doctor Philastus Hurlbut... and sent him to Palmyra, N.Y. and Penn. to obtain affidavits showing the bad character of the Mormon Smith Family.... Hurlbut returned to Ohio and lectured about the county on the origins of Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. I heard him lecture in Painesville. He finally came to me to have this evidence he had obtained published. I bargained to pay him in books. [11]
Since Hurlbut's support came from those who sought to expose Joseph Smith, a balanced picture would not be expected. The Prophet was apprehensive even before Hurlbut gathered his New York evidence. Hurlbut had been "expelled from the Church for lewd and adulterous conduct, and to spite us he is lying in a wonderful manner, and the people are running after him and giving him money to break down Mormonism." [12] His New York affidavits were gathered in November and December 1833, and his employers were happy with the result. Early the following year they advertised that they had "employed D.P. Hurlbut" and that his evidence proved that Solomon Spaulding really wrote the Book of Mormon and that Joseph Smith could now be stripped" of all claims to the character of an honest man." [13]

Joseph Smith soon took successful legal action against Hurlbut's physical threats, but the point here is the Prophet's response to the negative testimonials. The First Presidency warned Missouri leaders that unreliable material was circulating:
Doctor Hurlbut, an apostate elder from this Church, has been to the state of New York and gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and some affidavits respecting the character of Bro. Joseph and the Smith family, and exhibited them to numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, and Painesville, and fired the minds of the people with much indignation against Bro. Joseph and the Church. [14]
These first Mormon reactions were defensive but not blanket denials. They are traceable to Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdery, who

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10 Kirtland Council Minute Book, 3 June (this excommunication date entered after 18 March), 21 and 23 June 1833, LDS Church Archives. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1902-32), 1:354-55. These volumes have primary value as being dictated or approved by Joseph Smith until 1838, and after that official value as being compiled from good sources by his associates.

11 Statement of E. D. Howe, 8 April 1885, Painesville, Ohio, Chicago Historical Society.

12 Joseph Smith to William Phelps et al., 18 August 1833, cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 287.

13 "To the Public," Painesville Telegraph, 31 January 1834.

14 First Presidency to the Brethren in Christ Jesus Scattered from the Land of Their Inheritance, 22 January 1834, Kirtland, Ohio, Letter Book 1, p. 81, LDS Church Archives; also cited in History of the Church, 2:475.




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as a schoolteacher had lived with the Smiths in New York before assisting in Book of Mormon translation. Neither Joseph nor Oliver denied treasure digging, but both said there was serious defamation. Oliver Cowdery, who managed the Church newspaper in Kirtland, claimed that a hostile community had used Hurlbut, fostering "every foolish report that ignorance could believe, or malice could invent." He also noted the known credibility gap, pointing out that reliable materials would have been collected by "a more respectable agent." [15] Joseph Smith was sarcastic about the man with "Doctor" as a mere personal name: "A doctor not of physics but of falsehood." [16] Even Hurlbut's publisher, E. D. Howe, painted an unfavorable picture of the man. He later commented, "Hurlbut was always an unreliable fellow," and on another occasion he characterized Hurlbut in these terms: "He was good sized, fine looking, full of gab but illiterate, and had lectured on many subjects." [17]

Editor Howe added long histories of the Book of Mormon and Mormonism, and by October 1834 his copy was ready. [18] On 28 November, he advertised that Mormonism Unvailed was "just published" and contained the truth about "the Mormonite imposition." [19] Joseph Smith reacted quickly, publishing an overview of his early life in December issue of the Church newspaper. He answered the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits by mentioning his "accusers" and explaining his youth. Oliver Cowdery had begun printing installments on the New York history of the Prophet in October, but in December he specifically mentioned the need of accurate information "to convince the public of the incorrectness of those scurrilous reports which have inundated our land." [20] Joseph Smith's statement admitted an imperfect past but not serious sins -- what he outlined was "all, and the worst, that my accusers can substantiate against my moral character." His remarks specifically applied to his "residence" in the Palmyra area from "the age of ten... until I was twenty-one" -- the years from 1816, when the family arrived in New York, to 1827, when Joseph married, obtained the plates, and moved from his parents' home:
During this time, as is common to most of all youths, I fell into many vices and follies. But as my accusers are and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community, I take the occasion to remark that... I have not, neither can it be sustained in truth, been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of man. And those imperfections to which I allude, and for which I have often had occasion

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15 The Evening and the Morning Star 2 (April 1834): 150. paraphrasing the non-Mormon committee's g goal for Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery thought their work was incomplete until they did similar investigation on Hurlbut to expose his character, and hold him up to the view of the community in the true light which his crimes merit."

16 Joseph Smith "To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 (December 1835): 228.

17 Ellen E. Dickenson interview with E. D. Howe, 1880, Painesville, Ohio, in Ellen E. Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885), 73; interview date, 62. The characterization is in Statement of E. D. Howe, 8 April 1885. Compare a similar Mormon evaluation of Hurlbut: "He was of a conceited, ambitious and ostentatious turn with a degree of education, but of a low moral status" (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review [Independence, Mo.: Zion's Printing & Publishing Co., 1947], 25).

18 E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: E. D. Howe, 1834), with prefatory "Advertisement" dated October 1834. For the spelling of this title, compare Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), under "veil" and "vail." Webster preferred the latter as more obviously indicating the Latin sound.

19 Painesville Telegraph, 28 November 1834.

20 Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 (December 1834): 42. See also the other obvious reference to Howe's book on the same page. Speaking of Mormon detractors, Cowdery noted: "They have been giving in large sheets their own opinions of the incorrectness of our system, and attested volumes of our lives and characters." The latter phrase noticed the affidavits, while "large sheets" was used in the sense of "large books," with no other competitor at that date than Howe's 290 page work. For this archaic usage, see the 1828 edition of Webster, An American Dictionary: "5. Sheets, plu. a book or pamphlet."




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to lament, were a light and too often vain mind, exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation. [21]
This answer takes shape in the light of the affidavits. "Trifling conversation" is the key, which has nothing to do with speech, for "conversation" in the King James Bible is action or pattern of life. [22] So Joseph Smith really confesses "foolish and trivial actions," though in the religious language of another generation. For instance, the Prophet earlier wrote of the Church's members obligation of "a godly walk and conversation" (D&C 20:69), strict synonyms. Indeed, in his answer to Howe he went on to talk of "this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk, and unchaste conversation," reiterative phrases meaning "improper activity." [23]

So what activity was the Prophet confessing? The affidavits are the guide, for the repeated charges were threefold: the Smiths were a "lying and indolent set of men" and "the general employment of the family was digging for money." [24] Lying, laziness, and money digging are woven into the Hurlbut affidavits. In 1834, Joseph Smith stressed that he had not injured the community, which most obviously denies lying. We know historically that neither he nor his family were guilty of indolence and laziness. [25] So the major charge left is money digging, which certainly fits Joseph Smith's acknowledgment of "trifling conversation," meaning "trivial activity." Such general language could fit other youthful "follies" as well, but money digging is the glaringly visible charge not expressly challenged. [26]

Oliver Cowdery's account of Joseph Smith's early history continued regularly for ten months after the issue containing the Prophet's answer to the affidavits. The closing installment suggests finality, since it covers an unusually long time and concludes with gratitude that "thousands" now believe and are members of the Church. [27]

Here Oliver surveyed the period 1823 to 1827 discussed in Hurlbut's interviews, the later teens that Joseph spoke about. And these final comments complete his "purpose" stated right after Howe's book appeared -- to combat the slanderous "reports" with "a correct account." [28] Joseph Smith's response to Howe had only been general. But Oliver was more specific, even mentioning Joseph Smith's trial and acquittal on the charge of being a "disorderly person" sometime "previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites." [29] As already mentioned, notations of fees in this case have surfaced, along with later recollections about it. There is also a "record," a highly condensed selection of Joseph's testimony. Even if contemporary, it is far

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21 Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 (December 1834): 40; also cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 336-37.

22 In the King James New Testament, conversation generally translates anastrophe, a term profiled accurately as "way of life, conduct, behavior" in its uses there (F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965]). Compare Paul's "conversation" as his former life as a Pharisee (Gal. 1:13) and Peter's advice to wives to win over husbands for the gospel by "conversation," not talk (1 Pet. 3: l).

23 Unchaste is used without sexual context here. In the 1828 edition of Webster, An American Dictionary, there was a neutral sense of "not pure." In the two synonymous phrases quoted here, it corresponds to the previous adjective uncircumspect.

24 Anderson, "Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reappraised," 288-89, lists stereotyped repetitions on these three themes in nine of the fifteen affidavits from the Palmyra-Manchester area.

25 See William Smith's refutation of the charge of lazines in ibid., 314. The same detailed picture is given in Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches (Liverpool: Orson Pratt, 1853), and its later printings as the History of Joseph Smith. For a reconstruction of the Smiths' farm life, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Reliability of the Early History of Lucy and Joseph Smith," Dialogue 4 (Summer 1969): 13-28.

26 Compare the social emphasis of the Nauvoo reviews of his youth by the Prophet. His "foolish errors" included "mingling with all kinds of society" (Times and Seasons 3 [1 April 1842]: 749). For the edited manuscript, see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 202. Joseph's clarification note in the first person rules out serious sins and explains. "I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been" (ibid., 666).

27 Cowdery's first installment contemplated a narrative until the time when the church was driven from Jackson Co., Mo" (Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 [October 1834]: 13). Yet the series ended where it had begun, at the outset of Book of Mormon translation. Since it closed with an extended answer to the affidavits, that was obviously one major purpose of the whole history.

28 Ibid. 1 (December 1834): 42.

29 Ibid. 2 (October 1835): 201; also cited in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 1:105. Cowdery's final installment is printed in full here.




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from a balanced statement of his words in court or of his religious views. [30] But the point here is the basic credibility of Cowdery's survey of Joseph's 1823-27 personal life, since Oliver includes this charge relating to pre-Mormon money digging, one not even in the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits.

Oliver Cowdery responds to each of the charges most repeated in the affidavits: laziness, lying, and money digging. He introduces his rebuttals "in consequence of certain false and slanderous reports which have been circulated, for "by some he is said to have been a lazy, idle, vicious, profligate fellow." Cowdery's refutation rests on his own experience with Joseph's personal and moral "merits" and the “many persons with whom I have been intimately acquainted." Regarding laziness and lying, persons of "unquestionable integrity... agree in saying that he was an honest, upright, virtuous, and faithfully industrious young man." Repeating his rebuttal Oliver adds, "I have been told by those for whom he labored, that he was a young man of truth and industrious habits." [31]

Since the whole Smith family was included in Hurlbut's salvos, Oliver Cowdery also defends their honesty and industry, admitting their poverty and reverses, which he had shared from the time he entered their home as the neighborhood schoolteacher in 1828.

Oliver named the affidavit of Isaac Hale, found in the "productions of those who have sought to destroy the validity of the Book of Mormon," along with "certain statements of some others of the inhabitants of that section of the country." These are pointed references to Howe's printing of the Susquehanna Valley affidavits, including that of Joseph's father-in-law, who claimed that Joseph sought treasure through a seer stone for Josiah Stowell. Oliver skirts this issue, claiming exaggeration: because of that project Joseph was "accused of digging down all, or nearly so, the mountains of Susquehanna, or causing others to do it by some art of necromancy." Here Joseph's apologist does exactly what Joseph had done earlier -- he vigorously contradicts the claims of dishonesty and indolence but does not specifically deny treasure hunting. Indeed, Oliver goes into some detail on Stowell's Spanish mine but then trails off with the hint that there is more that could be told: "This, I believe, is the substance, so far as my memory serves, though I shall not pledge my veracity for the correctness of the account as I have given." Oliver thus avoids a full history of how Joseph's group was "excavating the earth in pursuit of this treasure." But this point is that detail is irrelevant -- Joseph is now "worthy of the appellation of a seer and a

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30 Compare the text quote at note 6 for the summary of the Joseph Smith testimony, the whole taking up about 200 words in the best transcript. If young Joseph was on the witness stand a moderate time (40 minutes), the surviving abstract would be about five percent of the total testimony, a selection probably not designed to be favorable to him. Furthermore, in the questioning about the narrow legal issues, his broader religious experiences were probably not even mentioned.

31 This paragraph quotes Cowdery's final history installment, Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 (October 1835): 200-201; also cited in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 1: 102-5.




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prophet of the Lord," even though he is "a man subject to passion like other men, beset with infirmities and encompassed with weaknesses." [32]

This sentence brings the evidence full circle, for Oliver is really paraphrasing what Joseph said about himself in the pre-1827 years. Both stress that the real issue is not what Joseph Smith was, but what he became. Both talk of Joseph's earlier questionable pursuits and equate them with "imperfections " and "weaknesses." Both tacitly admit money digging as a past, irrelevant activity. This public position continued through the Prophet's career in Nauvoo, when John Taylor vigorously criticized such practices by the Brewster group, whose young spiritual leader claimed rival revelations. John Taylor was accountable to Joseph Smith in his public statements, and the Prophet allowed the following criticism to stand without comment:
This said Brewster is a minor but has professed for several years to have the gift of seeing and looking through or into a stone, and has thought that he has discovered money hid in the ground in Kirtland, Ohio. His father and some of our weak brethren, who perhaps have had some confidence in the ridiculous stories that are propagated concerning Joseph Smith about money digging, have assisted him in his foolish plans, for which they were dealt with by the Church. They were at that time suspended, and would have been cut off from the Church if they had not promised to desist from their ridiculous and pernicious ways. [33]
Young Brewster soon published an answer, angrily aiming at his real enemy: "I have good reason to believe it was written by Joseph Smith, or at least by his directions." Then he counterclaimed that the Prophet's father and Alva Beaman were the principal movers in getting him "to discover and obtain the treasures which are hid in the earth." [34] In fact, Brewster claimed to have been blessed by the elder Smith for the above purpose, although this might not be more than a patriarchal blessing, since similar wording appears in a number of blessings of Joseph Smith, Sr., in surviving Mormon journals. Such language is not always literal, however, and Brewster's one-sided account may be as flawed here as it is at other places. [35] For instance, he represents himself as hypocritically condemned for money digging by the Kirtland High Council, which included some others that had engaged in the practice. But that misstates the real issue of his Kirtland trial and the Nauvoo public criticism, which started by warning the Church against Brewster's 1842 publication of his

__________
32 Ibid.

33 Times and Seasons 4 (1 December 1842): 32. end33

34 James Colin Brewster, Very Important to the Mormon Money Diggers (Springfield, Ill., 20 March 1843), 2-3.

35 Brewster admits that he and his father did money digging at Kirtland but plays a rhetorical game in claiming the "weak brethren" of the Times and Seasons editorial included Joseph Smith, Sr., who supposedly induced him to dig for treasure. But the editorial speaks of those around Brewster who had been disciplined "by the Church," not at all true of the Prophet's father. In Brewster's view, the elder Smith persuaded the Brewster family to engage in money digging. On that side is the more frequent mention of the elder Smith than young Joseph in the Howe affidavits on the subject. Supposedly assisting Joseph Smith, Sr., in the persuading was Alva Beaman, perhaps the reason Brewster adds "others of high standing," since Beaman was president of the Kirtland elders quorum. Beaman is associated with money digging in New York by some source (see the Martin Harris interview with Joel Tiffany, Tiffany's Monthly 5 [1859]: 164; also cited in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:377). But Brewster's unsupported accusations are unsatisfactory. His claim on the blessing might be based on the treasure language appearing in a small percentage of the blessings given by the elder Smith, though the method of gaining the riches of the earth is not clear. For instance, the Wilford Woodruff blessing says that an angel will "show thee the treasures of the earth" (Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1983], 1:143, entry of 15 April 1837). Since Father Smith uses vivid blessing language, a careful reader is not sure how much literalism was intended either for angelic appearance or for treasure underground. Other blessings show that Father Smith could use such language in the sense of earth's resources, as he did 2 May 1836 for Lyman Leonard. "Riches shall flow unto thee. The great men of the earth shall bring thee treasures" (William Harris, Mormonism Portrayed: Its Errors and Absurdities Exposed and the Spirit and Designs of Its Authors Made Manifest [Warsaw, Ill.: Sharp and Gamble, 1841], 26). All these questions are peripheral here to the study of Joseph Smith, Jr.




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revelations. The information about money digging was added to portray Brewster's unreliability. Kirtland High Council minutes have nothing on digging but state false revelation as his overriding fault, just as it was in Illinois:
The charge was for giving heed to revelations said to be translated from the Book of Mormon by Collin Brewster, he entering into a written covenant different from the Articles and Covenants of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, and following a vain and delusive spirit. [36]
John Taylor had exposed Brewster's false revelations and incidentally had condemned his Kirtland money digging. Brewster's answer sidestepped the larger issue of becoming counter-prophet but named others as encouraging money digging at Kirtland. He sought to tar the Prophet with the same brush by sarcastically noting Joseph's trip to Salem for treasure, an incident next to be discussed. But, though attacking the Prophet, Brewster does not implicate Joseph in continuing the mystic searches of early New York. He does accuse Joseph Smith, Sr., and John Smith of encouraging these practices. Yet those two presided over the Kirtland higher council when Brewster was humbled. Since his motive is to blacken them, the truth of his charges is not clear. That cannot be decided here, if at all, but at most Brewster's claims would mean that New York money digging continued with some Mormons in Kirtland. Except for Salem, Brewster only involves the Prophet in retrospective hints, threatening in his pamphlet to give "the history of the money digging from the beginning," an apparent reference to his mention of Father Smith's conversations about "New York, where the money diggers from the beginning,"an apparent extent by the Smith family."

The same format is followed by an early Ohio dissenter, Ezra Booth. Disillusioned by human weakness and the idea of Missouri as Zion, in 1831 he ridiculed his Mormon experiences:
It passes for a current fact in the Mormonite Church, that there are immense treasures in the earth, especially in those places in the State of New York from which many of the Mormonites emigrated last spring. And when they become sufficiently purified, these treasures are to be poured into the lap of their church. And then, to use their own language, they are to be the richest people in the world. These treasures were discovered several years since by means of the dark glass, the same with which Smith says he translated most of the Book of Mormon. Several of those persons, together with Smith, who were formerly unsuccessfully engaged in digging and searching for these treasures, now reside in this county, and from them I received this information. [37]

__________
36 Kirtland High Council Minutes, 20 November 1837; summary in History of the Church, 2:525-26. See also the earlier minutes of 30 October 1837, where the issue is whether the Brewster vision of Moroni was from God or Satan. "The Presidents John Smith and Joseph Smith, Sr., agreed with the council in this matter of faith, that it was a delusion, a trick of the devil. Brother Brewster spoke and said that as he had got so far out of the way, he would strive to get back as soon as possible." (Compare History of the Church, 2:520.)

37 Ezra Booth, "Mormonism, No. III," Ohio Star, 27 October 1831; also cited in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 187.




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Booth also stops short of implicating Joseph Smith in continued belief in treasure digging. Both published his letters to expose a false prophet, but he merely recites continued commitment of some New York Mormons, not any Joseph Smith example. So Booth's exposés in Ohio and Brewster's in Illinois suggest that many private convictions about money digging did not die suddenly. But the lack of direct accusation of Joseph Smith is striking. Booth and Brewster were but two of a dozen important figures who become disenchanted and sought to rationalize their positions by written exposés of the Prophet. These were generally articulate men who sought their self-interest or who thought their views on doctrine or church management were superior to the Prophet's. These apostasies occurred not only during the Ohio but also during the Missouri and Illinois periods. So far their handbooks of Joseph Smith's weaknesses have anticipated whatever has been said on that question for the obvious reason that they knew their subject firsthand. This negative literature turns out to be an important control on how to assess the Prophet's connection with treasure digging. And these exposures mention only pre-Mormon New York searchers and the special trip to Salem in 1836. As just discussed, the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery essentially admitted the former, and Joseph Smith sources also include the Salem incident and verify its purpose. Since the Mormon founder's life is so well illuminated by hostile contemporaries, faithful journals, and detailed personal records, further treasure involvement is not likely beyond early New York and the Salem trip.

THE  SALEM  VISIT  IN  CONTEXT

Why did Joseph Smith go to Salem in 1836? The answer is more complex than is generally known. The negative version was given by James C. Brewster seven years later. Stung by John Taylor's criticism of money digging, Brewster accused Joseph Smith of being the real source and struck back: "If he has a good memory, he will remember the house that was rented in the city of Boston, with the expectation of finding a large sum of money buried in or near the cellar." The Boston inaccuracy hints that Brewster's information was not as direct as that of Ebeneezer Robinson, who gives his source as the Prophet's brother, with whom he worked in the Kirtland printing office. Brewster's summary and Robinson's negative recollection are the points of beginning, to be corrected by details now available in other historical sources. Since an overview is helpful at the outset,




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Robinson's entire narrative of the incident is spliced together here from his memoirs a half-century later:
A brother in the Church, by the name of Burgess, had come to Kirtland and stated that a large amount of money had been secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow, and he thought he was the only person living who had knowledge of it, or to the location of the house. We saw the brother Burgess, but Don Carlos Smith told us with regard to the hidden treasure. His statement was credited by the brethren, and steps were taken to try and secure the treasure, of which we will speak more fully in another place...

We soon learned that four of the leading men of the Church had been to Salem, Massachusetts in search of the hidden treasure spoken of by Brother Burgess, viz.: Joseph Smith, Jr., Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery...

We were informed that Brother Burgess met them in Salem, evidently according to appointment, but time had wrought such a change that he could not for a certainly point out the house and soon left. They, however, found a house which they felt was the right one, and hired it. It is needless to say they failed to find that treasure or the other gold and silver spoken of in the revelation. [38]

The Prophet visited a city of past glory and lingering prosperity. That year a patriotic editor observed that "from 1790 to 1800... has always been considered the golden age of Salem." [39] By 1836, docks that had once received the goods of the world were being redeveloped. [40] Fortunes had been made, and rumors of secret wealth had some basis. In 1836, Hawthorne published "Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure," a story of searching for a trunk of money in a Salem house. The author sketched an exciting find with the twist that it turned out to be devalued Continental paper. Hawthorne's plot began with looking for "an immense hoard of the precious metals which was said to exist somewhere in the cellar or walls, or under the floors, in some concealed closet, or other out-of-the-way nook of the house." [41] Joseph Smith went to Salem on a similar rumor, perhaps no more specific than this. Brewster was indefinite -- "buried in or near the cellar." But Robinson says only that it was "secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem." [42] So Joseph Smith went east in search of treasure, not necessarily to dig for it. Since neither source is firsthand, the details are not necessarily trustworthy. We shall later see variance with the 1836 evidence on one event.

Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery left for New York and the Boston area on 25 July 1836. Ebeneezer

__________
38 For the shorter version, see Brewster, Very Important to the Mormon Money Diggers, 4. For Ebeneezer Robinson's longer version, see "Items of Personal History of the Editor," The Return, July 1889. These detailed recollections are generally based on skeletal facts but are written up to prove Robinson's theory that Joseph Smith had become a fallen prophet.

39 Salem Gazette, 30 September 1836.

40 Ibid., 29 July 1836: "The old Crowninshield Wharf, that former center and heart of business, and now almost dilapidated and useless slip, is certainly and forthwith to be rebuilt."

41 Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales (New York: Washington Square Press, 1960), 303. The 1842 edition first contained this treasure story, which was published in The Token in 1838 (Nina E. Browne, ed., A Bibliography of Nathaniel Hawthorne [Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1905], 211).

42 Robinson, "Items of Personal History," The Return, July 1889.




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Robinson was sarcastic in hindsight, but any journey must be judged by its prospects at the outset. What is the difference between disreputable money digging and a reasonable mining venture? Only the projected probability of success. On this scale, the justification for going to Salem was proportional to the reliability of information. Were the leaders too eager to believe that a providential find would relieve their heavy personal debts and the related debts of the Church? They talked to a man who claimed to have definite information on a likely city. Any guidebook at that time would have said something about "the commercial prosperity of the place during the... active trade with the East Indies and China, some years ago." [43] Indeed, Joseph Smith had family knowledge of such a hoard, for right after the Salem "golden age" his father's agent had embezzled the profits of his ginseng shipment to China. Before the swindler left for Canada, Lucy's brother had been shown the proceeds that really belonged to Joseph's parents -- a "trunk of silver and gold." [44] In the year the Prophet visited Salem, a local newspaper still listed "wealth" as one of the city's characteristics. [45] On arrival, Oliver Cowdery verified his expectations: "The inhabitants as I learned are generally wealthy, and the almost entire business of the place is commercial." [46]

The month was now August. The Mormon leaders had quickly traveled to New York on Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, and the Hudson. After a short stay in commercial Manhattan, they took the Providence ferry and Boston railroad, arriving in the area the afternoon of 5 August. [47] Robinson suggests that their Kirtland informant preceded them: "We were informed that Brother Burgess met them in Salem, evidently according to appointment, but time had wrought such a change that he could not for certainty point out the house, and soon left." [48] Did Burgess meet them on arrival? D&C 111 was given the day after the visitors came to the area. Its mood either is prophetic of Burgess's ineptitude or reflects the frustration of the letdown. This revelation repeatedly emphasizes that the treasure they came to seek is not the treasure they would get. Thus they were not necessarily promised the riches they expected.

This Salem message has been called a false prophecy because its promised wealth was never received. But the definition of riches came in doublets, a scriptural pattern of restating one idea in two aspects. The Salem instruction has this striking parallel:

__________
43 William Darby and Theodore Dwight, Jr., A New Gazetteer of the United States of America (Hartford: Edward Hopkins, 1833), 495.

44 Lucy Smith, preliminary manuscript, rephrased in Biographical Sketches, 50.

45 "Census," Salem Gazette, 30 September 1836.

46 Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 24 August 1836, Boston, Mass., cited in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3 (October 1836): 391.

47 Oliver wrote to his brother Warren Cowdery while shipboard on Long Island Sound on 4 August 1836, cited in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2 (September 1836): 373. The date was printed as 3 August but was corrected to 4 August in the following letter (Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 24 August 1836, 3:386), which also described taking the train from Providence to Boston early the next day.

48 Robinson, "Items of Personal History," The Return, July 1891 [sic - July 1889].




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Concern not yourselves
about your debts,
for I will give you
power to pay them
(D&C 111:5).
Concern not yourselves
about Zion,
for I will deal
mercifully with her
(D&C 111:6)

Such similar phrasing suggests that paying debts and the welfare of Zion were but different forms of the same hope. In fact, the Prophet typically linked them in public statements and in private prayers. Another set of paired phrases relates to this debt -- Zion promise:

I have much treasure
in this city for you

for the benefit of Zion
(D&C 111:2a).
and many people
in this city, whom I
will gather out in due time
for the benefit of Zion
through your instrumentality.
(D&C 111:2b).

In this literary parallel,"gather" correlates with "treasure," which in the first half of the relation is equated with "gold and silver" (D&C 111:4). This verse says that Salem's "much treasure" and "many people" will each contribute to the same cause -- "the benefit of Zion." These similarities of wording and style strongly point to an equivalence of idea -- the gathering of the converts is at the same time a gathering of their resources. This conclusion is reinforced by placement of "in due time" alongside promises of conversions and wealth: (1) there are "many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time"(D&C 111:2); (2) "this city" and "its wealth" will be given over to Church leaders "in due time"(D&C 111:4). This chronological match also associates the wealth of Salem with conversions from Salem.

These stylistic pointers are verified by other revelations and by the realities of Church finance at that time. Needing strategic non-Mormon land, Presidents Smith, Cowdery, and Williams had prayed in 1834 "that the Lord would send faithful Saints to purchase their farms that this stake may be strengthened and its borders enlarged." [49] Church programs at Kirtland heavily depended on special donations from early 1830s converts such as John Tanner and Vienna Jacques. Although its unique circumstances tend to isolate the Salem revelation as a special case, it continues a distinct theme in the early Doctrine and Covenants. In the 1831 apocalyptic language of gathering, enlightened Israel would "bring forth their rich treasures" to Zion (D&C 133:30). And in 1835 came the phrasing that the Lord would "consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my

__________
49 Joseph Smith, Diary, 28 January 1834, cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 27.




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gospel" to the poor, and by implication to the full needs of the Church (D&C 42:39). So Salem's gathering "for the benefit of Zion" had clear economic overtones. In the light of Joseph's earlier revelations on gathering. Salem exemplifies the spiritual and material developments that the Prophet saw synoptically and ultimately: "as fast as ye are to receive them" (D&C 111:11). Joseph was a developer of programs, for right after the Salem trip the Kirtland Bank was organized. But a year after the bank's 1837 failure came the successful system of tithing, based on contribution of convert surplus and regular proportionate giving (D&C 119:1-5).

Thus, the Salem revelation is attuned to the reality of increasing numbers and expanding Church economy. Six years after the Prophet's visit, Erastus Snow raised up a Salem branch of 100 before a number migrated to build Nauvoo and its temple. These included resourceful pioneers Howard Eagan and Nathaniel Ashby, whose Illinois brick home stands as evidence of savings transferred from Salem to Nauvoo. [50]

If the 1836 revelation rebuked the leaders for their "follies" in coming for treasure, the actual wording is more positive: "I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies" (D&C 111:1). There was a New York business phase, to be discussed shortly, so the trip as a whole may have been prudent, with the "follies" being too-eager hopes for an easy find. Or Joseph Smith may have used follies in his normal sense of personal transgressions without negative judgment on the Salem visit. According to Robinson, the lead was represented as a solid one, only to vanish on their arrival at Salem. If so, fault lay more on Burgess than the Mormon Presidency. Like David Whitmer, ex-Mormon Robinson wanted an infallible prophet, not merely a responsible leader receiving revelation in the midst of real struggle. So Robinson's facts are broader than his personal explanation of them. [51]

Did the Mormon leaders gain control of the treasure house? Brewster claimed that it was "rented" and hinted at digging. [52] Similarly, Robinson wrote, "They, however, found a house which they felt was the right one, and hired it." [53] But two weeks after their arrival, Joseph wrote Emma from Salem that they had no immediate hope of getting possession:
Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we would wish to have it... With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house

__________
50 In 1841, Erastus Snow was called to Salem by Hyrum Smith and given a copy of the Salem revelation on the "many people in this city" the Lord would gather. The story of his rich harvest is told in Andrew Karl Larson, Erastus Snow (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1971), 67-74. For Nathaniel Ashby's conversion and Nauvoo home, see ibid., 80-82, 751. For newspaper references to Mormon conversions, see Donald Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith in Salem," Studies in Scripture Volume One, The Doctrine and Covenants, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Sandy, Utah: Randall Book Co., 1984), 436.

51 Ebeneezer Robinson's memoirs indicate that when he moved to Missouri in 1837, he had begun to doubt Joseph Smith. After the Martyrdom, he followed Sidney Rigdon for a time and was baptized into the Whitmerite church after David Whitmer's death in 1888. He closed his Salem sketch with "regret," since he portrayed short-term failure and had no belief in the positive results of the trip (Robinson, "Items of Personal History," The Return, July 1891).

52 Brewster, Very Important to the Mormon Money Diggers, 4. Brewster's full sentence is the first quote of this section of the paper.

53 "Items of Personal History," The Return, July 1891 [sic - 1889].




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since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. [54]
Hyrum left with this letter, apparently feeling that he could not wait longer, and the rest soon came to the same conclusion. Six days after Joseph wrote Emma, a Salem newspaper updated the stories of Latter-day Saint preaching:
Mr. Rigdon, the Mormon preacher, who introduced himself at our Lyceum last week, has since left the city, with his three or four associates. It is said they retain possession of the tenement leased by them in Union Street, and intend to return to this city next spring. [55]
This report that the Mormon had "since left the city" was printed on 25 August. Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter with a Boston dateline the day before -- 24 August. [56] On that date, the Boston Daily Times reported that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were present in Boston, meeting "the day before yesterday," which would be 22 August. [57] So the move of the Prophet, Sidney, and Oliver came within a few days after Joseph's letter to Emma on 19 August. As quoted, Joseph said that access to the building was not likely then: "The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it." So present evidence contradicts Robinson and Brewster on hiring the house and searching for treasure in it. The editor reporting the move knew of only one residence in the two-and-a-half weeks they were in Salem: "They retain possession of the tenement leased by them in Union Street." Indeed, "tenement" is normally an apartment, not a whole building -- a further indication that they probably failed to gain possession of the "house" mentioned in Joseph's letter. [58]

But the leaders' activities in the East had broader scope. There were public speeches in Salem and Boston by eloquent Sidney Rigdon, leadership conferences with Apostles Brigham Young and Lyman E. Johnson, needed recreation, and much instructive sightseeing in Boston and New York. [59] This is a reminder that busy people often make trips for more than one reason. The overriding problem of Kirtland in late 1836 was paying for the temple and maintaining credit and cash flow in stores and land operations. Early in the following year, Sidney Rigdon explained publicly that approximately $13,000 was outstanding on the temple -- evidently for purchase of supplies and wages paid by goods charged on accounts. [60] Large creditors included New York wholesalers, so personal negotiations

__________
54 Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, 19 August 1836, Salem, Mass. No original can be located today, though the letter was described and copied by Joseph Smith III in 1879, The Saints' Herald, 26:257; also cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 350.

55 Essex Register, 25 August 1836, closing by observing "they had been for a week or two in the city."

56 Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 24 August 1836, 3:391.

57 Boston Daily Times, 24 August 1836.

58 Compare the 1817 language of Daniel Webster about "two tenements... under the same roof" (Oxford English Dictionary [1933], 11:183 ).

59 The composite picture is drawn from Cowdery's Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate letters, Brigham Young's memoirs, Salem newspapers (compare Cannon, "Joseph Smith in Salem," 436), and the Boston Daily Times, 24 and 26 August 1836. See also History of the Church, 2:463-66.

60 See the minutes of the 6 April conference in Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3 (April 1837): 488: "The nature of this debt had been changed, and was now a merchant debt." Compare the Corrill quote, n. 61.




[ 505 ]


of the First Presidency there are highly probable. [61] They must have given some time either to maintaining good relations in existing accounts or establishing new ones. [62] The Salem journey should be called an eastern journey, for there was first a week in New York City, then two weeks in Salem, and about a week in Boston afterward. [63]

Did these Church leaders stake all on a Salem find? They returned in early September, and in just two months had a finished "constitution" for a Mormon bank; the "constitution" was adopted in a formal organization meeting on 2 November. [64] Advance planning for this step was necessary, and such is hinted in Cowdery's shipboard letter written right after an intense week in New York's business district: "There is money yet in Wall Street, and 'Draper, Underwood,' and others ready to help incorporated bodies to plates and dies, to make more." [65] Therefore, on their way to Salem the First Presidency seriously investigated the banking business as a means of capitalizing Church debts. Two engraving firms are mentioned here, and on his return Oliver Cowdery "was delegated to Philadelphia to produce plates for the institution." [66] His mention of the "Underwood" firm in New York suggests that some tentative arrangement was then made for the bank notes, for its Philadelphia branch later supplied them. [67]

Cowdery's reference to "money yet in Wall Street" may also mean that lending agents were contacted. But at a minimum, his mention of printing plates for "incorporated bodies" shows that the First Presidency was issuing the first publicity on the bank on the way to Salem -- in Cowdery's letter of 4 August. They returned to Kirtland in early September and some six weeks later opened their books, with the first purchase of stock recorded on 18 October. [68]

Thus Salem was really incidental to more substantial attempts to restructure Church debts by (1) creating immediate capital through Mormon banking; (2) establishing credit or extending due dates of wholesalers' accounts; (3) meeting short-term needs through new loans; (4) insuring long-term resources through regularized contributions of converts and members. This journey investigated and announced the first program, and the Salem revelation shows continued thought given to the last one. It is probable some of the time in New York was devoted to the second program, with a suggestion of the third in Cowdery's reference to Wall Street money. Responsible managers have contingency plans, and good investors spread the risk. Since Joseph's Salem visit is one of multiple eastern goals, his phrase

__________
61 Isolating 1836 New York debts needs further work, but two cases are quite clear. Winthrop Eaton is listed as a merchant on Water Street (near Wall Street) at the time of the Prophet's visit Manhattan (Longworth's American Almanac, New York Register, and City Directory [New York: Thomas Longworth, 1836]). He sued through attorneys in Ohio for the amount of an 11 October 1836 note of $1143.01 plus $1200 for "money lent and on an account stated" as of 1 May 1837. Since an amount of this size would normally be negotiated in person, probably the Prophet or cosigner Oliver Cowdery called on this businessman in New York, and the note given a month after return may have related to delivery of goods then (Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, Book U, 277-78). Another evidence of New York City negotiation is the note of 12 October 1836 from Joseph Smith to the firm of Bailey, Keeler, and Rensen, in the amount of $1804.94 (located in LDS Church Archives). They were listed as New York dry goods merchants in the previously mentioned directory. The firm of Smith, Rigdon, and Cowdery is indicated in other Common Pleas cases in 1837, and the LDS Church Archives has a Smith-Rigdon ledger with entries from September 1836 through mid-1837. Although his figures seem extravagant, seceder John Corrill gives the sequence of building the temple (dedicated April 1836) and then trying the "mercantile business" to cover the construction deficit, going into debt for goods "in New York and elsewhere" (A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints [St. Louis: John Corrill, 1839], 26-27). A list of Ohio debts survived, apparently made in connection with Joseph Smith's 1842 bankruptcy application, probably about doubled then from interest. About half of approximately $33,000 owed was due to New York businesses, with most of the rest due to firms in Buffalo (cited in Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946], 201). Some accounts, like those of Eaton and the Bailey firm discussed before, probably go back to the summer of 1836 and are relevant to the New York visit. See also Warren Cowdery's editorial indicating credit buying at this period. Speaking of "one year ago," he reviewed the economy: "A great amount of merchandise was purchased on credit, and sold in this town during the summer, fall, and winter past" (Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3 [June 1837]: 521).

62 Church member Ira Ames and seceder Cyrus Smalling both give the sequence of establishing credit with Buffalo merchants and on their recommendation extending it to New York suppliers. Both start these events in the spring of 1836 and speak of Hyrum Smith's and Oliver Cowdery's going to New York on store business (see the Ira Ames journal and also the 1841 letter of Cyrus Smalling in E.G. Lee, The Mormons, or, Knavery Exposed [Philadelphia: E.G. Lee, 1841], 12-15). Yet the trip with Joseph in July-August is the only known eastern trip for Hyrum at this time, so these references may really reflect the New York-Salem journey. Compare Brigham Young's 1852 reference to the Prophet's store: "Joseph goes to New York and buys 20,000 dollars worth of goods, comes into Kirtland and commences to trade" (Journal of Discourses [Liverpool: F. D. and S. W. Richards, 1854], 1:215). This seems an 1836 recollection, since the Prophet's only other New York trip was 1832, when he accompanied Newel K. Whitney, who selected goods then for his own store. (Statements of Ira Ames and Brigham Young are in Parkin, Conflict at Kirtland, 291-95.)

63 For the main sequence, see Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 4 and 24 August 1836. They left Kirtland 25 July, arrived in New York 30 July, left New York 4 August, arrived in Salem area 5 August, left Salem about 21 August (as discussed previously in this article), and were in Boston until at least 24 August, according to Boston Times articles and the 24 August 1836 Oliver Cowdery letter.

64 Joseph Smith's early History of the Church notes his return to Kirtland "some time in the month of September" (2:466). It also notes the first bank organization (2:467), which was redone 2 January 1837 as a business organization without a bank charter (2:470-73). The "constitution" adopted 2 November was printed on a single sheet in December 1836.

65 Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 4 August 1836, 2:375; this corrected date is in Oliver Cowdery to Warren Cowdery, 24 August 1836, 3:386.

66 History of the Church, 2:467-68.

67 Cowdery's New York letter (4 August 1836) mentions "Draper, Underwood." Longworth's... City Directory for 1836 lists the former as "Draper, Toppan, Longacre & Co., engravers, 1 Wall." It lists the Underwood firm as "Underwood, Bald & Spencer, engravers, 14 Wall." The name of the latter firm is on the Kirtland bank notes: "Underwood Bald Spencer & Hufty N. York & Philad." (for photographs of Kirtland notes, see Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 316).

68 The surviving stock ledger is held by the Chicago Historical Society but is available on microfilm at the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. Accounts of Sidney Rigdon, Jared Carter, and Isaac Bishop are opened 18 October 1836, within the first five pages of the book. The purchase of the safe is documented 16 October 1836 (Marvin S. Hill, C. Keith Rooker, and Larry T. Wimmer, "The Kirtland Economy Revisited," BYU Studies 17 [Summer 1977]: 462). The note to New Yorker Winthrop Eaton was made 11 October 1836, and its language is apparently quoted as made payable "at the Kirtland Safety Society Bank" (see n. 61).




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to Emma on the "great object of our mission" perhaps refers only to its Salem phase.

This 1836 trip remains the only known treasure quest of the Prophet after beginning the Book of Mormon translation. But pre-1827 efforts are strikingly different. Salem represents searching for wealth, but the important question i s what kind of searching? In the Salem incident, inside information came from an informant claiming knowledge of a location, not from a paranormal process through a stone or a rod. The patterns described in the 1826 trial are not repeated in Joseph Smith's later pursuit of a New England hoard. Some assume similarities in these two episodes, but difference loom large. Not every speculative venture is money digging. It is superficial to verbally equate treasure in 1826 with treasure in 1836 without distinguishing the mystical context of the former from the practical context of the latter.

MISSOURI  PROBLEMS  AND  SCRIPTURAL  PERSPECTIVE

Although Missouri was designated for the Mormon gathering since 1831, Kirtland was a more natural geographical center of the Church for a time. But the collapse of Kirtland precipitated Joseph Smith's move to Missouri at the beginning of 1838. His exploration for settlement there produced a trivial incident that has been overused in the past year's preoccupation with treasure sources. The Prophet's printed history mentions riding by an early earthwork, and these words are put in his mouth: "These mounds were probably erected by the aborigines of the land, to secrete treasures." [69] No digging for such treasures is indicated in his history or any known Missouri source. The context is opinion, not divination. But in view of the document behind this incident, the opinion does not even appear to be that of Joseph Smith.

The History of the Church for 1838 is based on the "Scriptory Book," kept by George W. Robinson, whose position as "general church recorder and clerk for the First Presidency" had been reaffirmed at the conference of 6 April 1838. [70] His record is the manuscript history from March to September of that year and includes official letters and many revelations. Although it begins with first-person dictation of the Prophet, it quickly moves to Robinson's own style and candid observations. As historian Dean C. Jessee notes, "With the exception of the first two pages, the journal portion of the record was written by Robinson as he observed Joseph's comings and

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69 History of the Church, 3:37 (22 May 1838). At the prophets death, Willard Richards had compiled Joseph's History to late 1838 -- see Dean C. Jessee "The Writing of of Joseph Smith's history," BYU Studies 9 (Summer 1971): 441, 466.

70 Far West Record, 6 April 1838, LDS Church Atchives; also in Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 156. Compare History of the Church, 3:13-14. The Kirtland Council Minute Book notes Robinson's appointment on 17 September 1837 as "general clerk and recorder of the whole Church"; see also History of the Church, 2:513.




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goings." [71]

Some of Robinson's personal comments were later rephrased to appear to be the Prophet's language. The published History is superb in giving facts from contemporary sources, but quoting it as Joseph Smith's words here is inaccurate.

The preceding 22 May 1838 entry has Joseph's comment on stone ruins in the vicinity of Adam-ondi-Ahman. But accurate evaluation of this statement depends on identifying the real source. In the "Scriptory Book" Robinson himself speaks about looking for settlement locations by retracing the steps of the Rigdon party:
President Smith and myself followed on in their course, but could not find them and consequently returned to camp in Robinson's Grove. We next scouted west in order to obtain some game to supply our necessities but found or killed none. We {found} some ancient antiquities about one mile west of the camp, which consisted of stone mounds apparently low set in square piles, though somewhat decayed and obliterated by the almost continual rains. Undoubtedly these were made to seclude some valuable treasures deposited by the aborigines of this land. [72]

The whole case for Joseph Smith's treasure digging in Missouri rests on this source. But it falls short for the following reasons: (1) the treasure comment is speculation -- "undoubtedly" prefaces it; (2) since the language is Robinson's, Joseph Smith's views are unknown; [73]
(3) the men were hunting game, not treasure, and were only incidentally interested in the mound; and (4) they evidently did not dig in the ruins, since a guess is made at the underground configuration -- "apparently low set in square piles." Indeed, there is a close similarity of Robinson's ruin to "the remains of an old Nephitish altar or tower" near Lyman Wight's cabin a few miles away. But treasure is not among the many traditions of what Joseph said of that site. [74] A half-dozen journals also record Joseph's remarks a few years earlier at a burial mound in Illinois, with no recorded comment on treasure. [75]

The real program in that area was laying out the new settlement of Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County and surveying adjacent lands. Robinson clearly described what went on: "We continued surveying and building houses, etc, for some time day after day; the surveyors ran out the city plan, and we returned to Far West." [76] These activities are also documented by a short-term convert, William Swartzell, who arrived from Ohio in late May, spent the night at Joseph Smith's, and traveled north with his party in his new job as surveyor. He was fifty-six of age and not very flexible in a

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71 Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 354.

72 "The Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith, Jr.," 22 May 1838, 45.

73 Joseph Smith was not necessarily the source for Robinson's view of treasure, since there was common speculation on mounds. Compare Alphonso Wetmore, Gazetteer of the State of Missouri (St. Louis: C. Keemle, 1837), 254: "The mounds are no other than the tombs of their great men."

74 The quoted phrase is attributed to Joseph Smith in the "Scriptory Book," 19 May 1838, 43. Varied recollections have in common Joseph Smith's view of an ancient altar or structure, not a treasure site. These recollections are conveniently gathered in John Wittorf, Newsletter and Proceedings of the S. E. H. A., no. 113 (15 April 1969). Henele Pikale there is the adopted Polynesian name of Henry Bigler.

75 Zion's Camp journals and recollections indicate that Joseph considered the mounds burial places, which he verified by digging a foot in the Zelph mound and finding a skeletOn and the arrowhead that evidently caused the death. History of the Church, 2:79, is dependent on Heber C. Kimball's journal; other reporters say little more. These include Levi Hancock , Reuben McBride, George A. Smith, and Wilford Woodruff. (Compare Joseph Smith to Emma Smith, 4 June 1834, mentioning the "mounds" and finding only "skulls and their bones" [cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 324]).

76 "Scriptory Book," 45-46, the basis for History of the Church, 3:37-38. On 28 May, Robinson notes meeting Hyrum and Joseph, who "were going to seek locations in the north." The surveying quote of the text pertains to Hyrum's return trip 21 June. These dates and activities agree with Harrison Burgess, who wrote "1837" but described unique accivities of 1838: "We arrived at Far West the 27th of May , 1837. The next day I went to Daviess County with Joseph and Hyrum Smith and some others to look out a new location. I remained there nine days and helped survey the site for a city." ("Sketch of a Well-Spent Life," Labors in the Vineyard [Salt Lake City: Juvenile InstructOr Office, 1884]. 68.) The Hyrum Smith diary held by Eldred Smith has the isolated notation, "'Arrived in the Far West, May the 29th, 1838." However, Robinson's daily record is more likely to be precise.




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new religious and physical environment. He soon renounced Mormonism and published his "private journal" to expose Mormon worldliness. Swartzell's jottings pertain to digging wells and surveying lots in the Daviess County area. He complains of his "mush and milk" diet, Lyman Wight's combativeness, and finally the militarism of the Danite group. Swartzell's journal enlarges to expose all Mormon weaknesses he can find. But digging for riches is not mentioned. [77] The same is true of others whose faith failed when Mormons began to stand aggressively for their rights. The most persuasive case is Ebeneezer Robinson, who perceived the Salem treasure trip as a scandal deserving exposure. Although a clerk and High Council member throughout the Missouri residence, Robinson writes a negative history of Joseph in Missouri without a mention of treasure searching. [78] John Corrill, Reed Peck, and John Whitmer also wrote up Mormon shortcomings in their justifications for leaving the Church -- but without mention of treasure hunting. Nor is this found in the dozen good journals of the faithful who are extremely candid on Mormon military operations.

About two years ago a new Missouri treasure document surfaced, was purchased by the LDS Church Historical Department, and published in Dean Jessee's Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. [79] On its face it is a revelation in Joseph Smith's handwriting, sent to a way station to encourage the Prophet's brother as he neared the end of a long migration from Ohio to Missouri with his family. But confidence in its authenticity was shaken by the criminal charges of deception against the dealer who sold this treasure revelation to the Church. The handwriting is not wholly satisfactory, though judgment on that question may be subjective, since it is easier to expose a poor imitation than authenticate a historic document by handwriting alone. The Hofmann trial may disclose hard evidence on the questions of source of the document, the origin and treatment of paper on which it is written, and other issues which cannot yet be settled.

But there are a number of observable problems with this supposed Joseph Smith document. It has a Far West postmark with a 25 May date, making 1838 the only year when Joseph Smith could have written from that location. With the help of the LDS Historical Department staff, six Far West postmarks have been located, all of which match in the orange-brown color of ink used in 1838 and 1839, years which do not appear on the handstamps but are indicated within each letter. However, the disputed treasure revelation has an irregular dark red postmark. This Hofmann document is also out of

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77 William Swartzell, Mormonism Exposed, Being a Journall of a residence in Missouri from the 28th of May to the 20th of August, 1838 (Pekin, Ohio: William Swartzell, 1840). His preface reiterates that the pamphlet is properly my private journal."

78 Compare no. 38 and 51.

79 See Jessee Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 359, for a photograph of the letter and address side of the single page document.




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sequence in its type face. Known postmarks fall into two distinct groups and are reproduced here for comparison. The 1838 marks of 3 February, 3 June, 18 June, and 15 July have a common block-letter design that is symmetrical, with the "Mo." abbreviation using the lower case o and period. But after mid-July a different stamp appears, with more stylized narrow and wide strokes to form unbalanced letters, ending with the "MO" abbreviation in upper case without the period. This face appears in the handstamps of 3 October 1838 and 1 May 1839. [80] Although the letters in the Hofmann stamp are badly formed, they clearly resemble the broad-narrow strokes of the later postmark, including the capital "MO" abbreviation. But since the revelation's handstamp of 25 May should fit that used in the first half of 1838, available postmarks indicate anachronism, not confirmation.

Moreover, a careful examination of the lettering raises the question of whether the treasure revelation merely imitates a postmark. The six authentic impressions are generally more solid than the Hofmann document because of ink saturation of the paper. The handstamps of 15 July 1838 and 1 May 1829 partially resemble the Hofmann document in that the stamp came down hard on the right, leaving a light dotted effect on the left. Under a magnifying glass, this freckling has random dots because the slight contact caught the raised grains of the paper in their uneven combinations. But the same thing is not true of the disputed treasure revelation. When enlarged, its postmark shows regularly spaced dotting and lining. For instance, the front leg of the R and the right side of the M are made by close parallel lines. The conclusion can be phrased negatively and positively. No other handstamp shows heavy dots and lines alternating with even spaces, and every other handstamp shows ink flow and other evidence of the pressure of the printing stroke. But every letter in the disputed 25 May 1838 postmark has characteristics of a freehand sketch. Art designer Carma de Jong Anderson feels strongly that this apparent stamp was "drawn painstakingly by an unskilled person." The straight edges and geometric clarity of authentic engraving are lacking here. For instance, the Hofmann document offsets the F, straightens the top of the leg of the R, while exaggerating its bottom thrust, and also displays a misshapen S, whose lower curve breaks out of the rectangular frame that can be superimposed on the S in the authentic block prints.

Below this postmark is a puzzling address: "Mr. Hyram Smith, Plattesgrove." Joseph Smith normally wrote the state even in addressing

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80 Postmarks noted obviously lag behind the letters itemized here the first is held by the Henry E. Huntington Library and the postmark is reproduced with their permission Oliver Cowdery to his brothers Warren and Lyman 24 February 1838 the rest are from letters held by the LDS Church Archives and appear with their cooperation Oliver Cowdery to his brothers Warren and Lyman 2 June 1838 Thomas B. Marsh to Wilford Woodruff undated but written on an Elders Journal prospectus of 30 April 1838 and reproduced in the July issue of that year. Thomas B. Marsh to Wilford Woodruff 14 July 1838 Joseph Smith, Jr. and Sidney Rigdon to Stephen Post 17 September 1838 W. W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, 1 May 1839 for a photocopy of Oliver cowdery to his brothers 2 June 1838 see Stanley R. Gunn, Oliver Cowdery, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft 1962 266 the postmark page).




[pp. 510-514]





[Various graphics -- not copied]











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handcarried letters, and it appears to have been his invariable practice to add the state on posted letters. [81] And the handwritten postage of six cents adds a location difficulty, for it was the statutory amount for a letter sent within thirty miles of origin. [82] But after careful searches of place names, I have been unable to find a "Plattesgrove" in upper Missouri, or even in the state. [83] And there are serious obstacle with sentence construction and spelling. For instance, in documents ranging throughout the 1830s, the Prophet wrote great without a known exception. With over two dozen consistent examples, it is jarring to have the treasure revelation appear with the unprecedented grate, as though an imitator were aware that Joseph Smith handwriting should have misspellings but only guessed that this word should be incorrectly written. [84] Since the 1838 treasure revelation fails too many of the checks that historian can make, it should not now be classed as an authentic Joseph Smith document.

The questionable Missouri revelation promises Hyrum Smith "a great treasure in the earth," but such language broadly resembles promises in revelations and some Joseph Smith blessings. Thus asking the meaning of treasure to Missouri Mormons is highly relevant here. Even if the doubtful revelation was authentic, its treasure phrase would be fit ancient and modern revelations picturing the resources of the land given by God. Before showing why this is so, I will quote the entire document, followed by a summary of the historical setting at the time defined by the postmark, May 25 {1838}.
Verily thus saith the Lord unto Hyram Smith, if he will come strateaway to Far West and inquire of his brother, it shall be shown him how that he may be freed from det and obtain a grate treasure treasure in the earth. Even so, Amen. [85]
Like the 1836 eastern trip, the trip of early summer 1838 has a practical setting: Before Hyrum's move to Missouri, the Prophet had hammered out a program for supporting the Presidency with an annual stipend. [86] While his brother journeyed, Joseph gave the main revelation on building Far West, commanding Hyrum as a member of the First Presidency not to "get in debt anymore for the building of a house unto my name" (D&C 115:13). Six weeks after Hyrum's arrival, financial reform culminated with the revelation commanding surplus consecration and the continued duty of tithing. This was explicitly to finance ongoing temple and priesthood programs -- and also "for the debts of the Presidency of my Church" (D&C 119:2), many of which had been incurred personally for the Church. Thus any

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81 I have examined about eight hand delivered letters of Joseph Smith's and all but two have the state or county as part of the address. The suspected Hofmann letters are not figured in this comparison. Posted letters are indicated by postage entered or marks and all the available Joseph Smith letters in this category have the state written, which would seem obviously necessary for a mailed item.

82 See the official publication, Table of Post Offices in the United States (Washington City: Post Master General, 1822), 97. This rate continued until the legislation of 1845 (Daniel C. Roper, The United States Post Office [New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co., 1917], 61-63).

83 For instance see the list of Missouri post offices in Wetmore's 1837 Gazetteer of the State of Missouri. Searches at the LDS genealogical society and the State Historical Society of Missouri have likewise failed to verify a "Plattesgrove" or "Plattisgrove."

84 The following twenty six examples of great show Joseph Smith's long habitual pattern of spelling great correctly. His handwritten diary entries or letters all appear in Jessee s Personal Writings of Joseph Smith in sequence: 1832 history (2); 27 October 1833 diary (2); 21 December 1835 diary; letters of 3 March 1831, 13 October 1832 (5), 18 August 1833 (6), 2 June 1835, 20 July 1835, 12 November 1838, 4 April 1839 (4), 9 November 1839, 18 August 1842. There are also a half dozen more forms of the same adjective or adverb that do not vary from the above pattern. The only known example of grates is in the 4 April 1839 letter and correctly refers to the prison bars, with the confusion of greates a few linesabove, showing the Prophet's observable tendency of of writing the ea combination in the adjective great. Compare n. 85.

85 For a photo of the original see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 359. A transcription of misspellings is made here for evaluation of authenticiity for instance det has not been found elsewhere in Joseph Smith holographs, though dept appears once in his journal on 23 September 1835, showing the prophet's apparent awareness of the correct pattern of spelling debt. (For the transcription andphotograph of the journal entry see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 58, 188. Research assistant Deborah Browning Dixon located this example and a number of other stylistic variations from the problem revelation.)

86 History of the Church, 3:31-32 is the summary of several sources showing that as Hyrum neared Missouri his brother was determined to work out a secure and adequate allowance for the first presidency contemporary documents show that Joseph Smith was convinced that the growing church needed full time administrators who were not to be subject to the past or future debts of the organization compare the 13 May 1838 entry of the Far West Record indicating high council authorization to pay the first presidency a fair wage for their services see also the note in Cannon and Cook eds., Far West Record 187-88, quoting the scriptory book Robinson's quoted view that this action was rescinded is not supported by further minutes or John Corrill's report that it was thought best by the high council to give them some certain amount each year which would be sufficient to support them, Brief History of the Church, 29.




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1838 promise to Hyrum on getting out of debt would be independent of "a great treasure in the earth." Yet the latter language, though questionably Joseph Smith's parallels ancient and modern revelations to Israel on their promised land.

The first program of uprooting homes and gathering came as a shock to the Church at the end of 1830 (D&C 37). Then the revelation known as section 38 followed in the early January conference that John Whitmer said was filled with the "solemnities of eternity." It required faith to sell farms and relocate, so section 38 has the theme of "the riches of eternity" (D&C 38:39). [87] The related major subject was the material reward for sacrifice: "And it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give (D&C 38:39)." In the abstract, this could refer to treasure digging, but it does not, for the document defines what God will give: "greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey... the land of your inheritance" (D&C 38:18-19). This was originally Moses' assurance of reward for leaving Egypt (Ex. 3:17). In the 1831 command, "greater riches, even a land of promise" was afterwards summarized as the gift of "the riches of the earth" (D&C 38:18, 39).

One must beware of reading the writings of Old Testament prophets or Joseph Smith as simple prose without poetic elements. Emotional language uses symbols, alliteration, and reiteration. It often needs interpretation, a type of translation. The 1838 gathering was the second stage of that aborted in 1833 by the forced exodus from Jackson County; it was temporarily suspended until Caldwell County was created for the Mormons in late 1836. Hyrum had traveled to Independence in 1831 when priesthood leaders met to dedicate the center place. Missouri minutes record his public reading of Psalm 102, one filled with parallelism and the prophecy that "the Lord shall build up Zion." [88] From that summer, he knew the modern revelation about the abundance of "the land of Zion:" its righteous inhabitants would receive "the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength" (D&C 59:3). Saints in Missouri would share in "the fulness of the earth" and "the good things which come of the earth" (D&C 59:16-17). This prophetic-poetic language is repeated in the 1838 "gathering together upon the land of Zion" (D&C 115:6), reiterating Old Testament promises that the "solitary places" would "blossom" and "bring forth in abundance" (D&C 117:7). If Hyrum's treasure revelation was authentic, there

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87 For John Whitmer on the mood of the January conference, see The Book of John Whitmer, chap 1; also cited in F. Mark Mckiernan and Roger D. Launius, eds., An Early Latter Day Saint History, the Book of John Whitmer, (Independence Mo.: Herald House Publishers, 1980), 32 even after section 38 on moving, Whitmer notes "divisions" and anger against the prophet for requiring so much (Book of John Whitmer, chap 1; also cited in McKiernan and Launius, eds., Book of John Whitmer, 34-35). Thus the context of section 38 is the stress of resettlement on a new land, not treasure digging. It is doubtful if Ohio was ever considered the permanent "land of promise," since earlier that fall the Missouri missionaries were told that Zion would be built "on the borders by the Lamanites" (D&C 28:9).

88 Far West Record, 24 August 1831; also in Cannon and Cook, eds., Far West Record, 14. I have quoted verse 16, which was likely read by Hyrum: "Br. Hyrum Smith gave an exhortation, spoke of Zion and the gathering of the saints into her, etc. and read a part of the 102 Psalm."




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would be no real difference between his "great treasure in the earth" and "the fatness of the earth" (D&C 56:18).

Economics and rebellion in the Church forced the First Presidency to leave Kirtland suddenly early in 1838. On 12 January the Prophet received a remarkable set of revelations still not well known. The one about leaving Kirtland came to "the presidency of my Church" and declared that "your labors are finished in this place for a season," adding the call to upper Missouri: "Therefore arise and get yourselves into a land which I shall show unto you, even a land flowing with milk and honey." [89] The Prophet and Sidney soon left for Far West, but Hyrum and his family did not arrive until late May. That spring brought the scent of prosperity as Saints created new cities in a sparsely settled area. An editorial written at the time of Hyrum's arrival informed the whole Church that Missouri Saints would "turn a solitary place into a fruitful field." Joseph Smith was nominal editor of the Elder's Journal, and this May article provides a major insights into his thinking because he either helped formulate the ideas or approved their publication. The paper noted that hundreds of acres of wheat and corn were under cultivation and that supplies were "somewhat scarce," getting good prices. This forecast of high profits is ironic because the military occupation largely destroyed Mormons crops that fall. But optimism was justified as they looked to "an abundant harvest." [90] This crop-raising economy was earthly wealth. Sidney Rigdon said so in outlining the Mormon program for building communities, education, and temples. With rich material blessings, the Saints would offer "the sacrifice of our first fruits" to God, "whose worship we esteem of more consequence than we do the treasure of Missouri." [91]

President Rigdon's speeches and writings were saturated with the Mormons theme of recreated Israel, an important caution on taking "treasure" in a nineteenth-century American sense. The most obvious use of that concept in the Bible and the Book of Mormon is the theme of the riches of the lands of inheritance. For instance, Moses promised Israel the Lord's "good treasure" (Deut. 28:12). And this meant fertility of herds and of the earth: "The Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods,... in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee" (Deut. 28:11). Thus the model of Mormons treasure language is the Old Testament assurance of abundant resources of the promised land. Phraseology of riches consistently expresses this exodus-inheritance theme in ancient and modern revelation.

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89 "Scriptory Book" 53: "Revelation Given Jan. 12, 1838," LDS Church Archives; also cited in Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Provo, Utah: Seventy's Mission Bookstore 1981), 332. As noted in the preceding discussion, "a land flowing with milk and honey" is the theme stated in Ex. 3:17, reiterated a dozen times in the Pentateuch, and restated in the first major revelation on the modern LDS exodus west from New York D&C 38:18-19.

90 Elders' Journal 1 (July 1838): 33-34. The piece has a dateline: "Far West, May, 1838."

91 Oration Delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon on the 4th of July, 1838 (Far West: Journal Office, 1838), 8; reprinted in BYU Studies 14 (Summer 1974): 523.




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These scriptural precedents are also critical for interpreting treasure language in the personal blessing given by the Prophet, since he restored the role of ancient patriarchs who foretold through symbols and dramatic comparisons. The Mormon historian finds these pronouncements in personal histories of the Joseph Smith period. They contain devotional phraseology above normal biblical narrative. Here is the lofty fervency of the Psalms rather than the descriptions of Genesis or Chronicles. The promises of these blessings have deep meaning, but discernment is required to adapt rhapsodic language to a practical frame of reference. The Prophet typically reapplies terms and metaphors of Old Testament blessings of the tribes of Israel. For instance, he laid hands on his father and promised the "blessing of heaven above... and the blessing of the deep that lieth under," after reciting that he was heir to the prophecies upon ancient Joseph. [92] These words come from Genesis 49:25, Jacob's promise to that son.

In his blessings, the Prophet most frequently quotes Deuteronomy 33, Moses' promises to the twelve tribes. In that reference, predictions upon Joseph's descendants explicitly relate to "his land" (Deut. 33:13), and Joseph's favored inheritance is an intense theme: "the precious things of heaven... the deep that coucheth beneath... the chief things of the ancient mountains... the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof" (Deut. 33:13- 15). Just as these divine covenants with Joseph are applied to their American land by Book of Mormon descendants, they are reapplied to the Latter-day Saints in early blessings. For instance, the Prophet's most frequent promise to family and Church leaders is an "abundance of the good things of the earth." [93] In biblical context, this is the assurance of wealth to do the work of the kingdom and restates the "fulness" of the "precious things of the earth" in the blessing of Moses.

Moreover, Joseph Smith uses another Deuteronomy phrase that could suggest money digging until one sees that the Prophet defines it otherwise. The wealth of Zebulun and Issachar was sketched in metaphor: "for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand" (Deut. 33:19). Joseph Smith quoted that passage to William Phelps's wife Sally to explain the importance of her husband's long assignment to Kirtland during 1835. In a postscript to one of William's letters to her on Missouri, the Prophet wrote that her husband would "return and teach you things that have been hid from the wise and prudent, hidden things of old times, as Moses said in Deut. 33d chap., 19th verse: 'for they shall suck of the

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92 Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, p. 9, LDS Church Archives; also transcribed in full in Buddy Youngreen, ed., Program Joseph Smith Sr. Family Reunion (N.p.: Buddy Youngreen, 1972), prefatory section. A summary is given in in Joseph's diary on the date of the blessing, 18 December 1833; see Jessee Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 24.

93 This phrase appears in the blessings of Samuel H. Smith and Frederick G. Williams, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, pp. 10, 13, in contexts of old testament blessing language. The quoted phrase is slightly modified in the blessings of W. W. Phelps and Hyrum Smith, quoted in the following discussion in the article.




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abundance of the seas and of the treasures hid in the sand.' Some of these things have begun to come forth." [94] Here the treasures from the sand were the recently acquired papyri from Egypt. Joseph's postscript was added to the letter in which William W. Phelps told how the mummies and papyrus rolls came to Kirtland, concluding: "These records of old times, when we translate and print them in a book, will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon. There is nothing secret or hidden that shall not be revealed, and they come to the Saints." [95]

The Abraham Papyri are similarly described in Phelps's blessing two months after Joseph's postscript to Sally. The Prophet then blessed her husband: "He shall have part in that that coucheth beneath: and it shall be revealed unto him things by the hand of the Lord's anointed that have been secret from the foundation of the world, concerning the last days." In reality, William W. Phelps was then a scribe writing new knowledge concerning Abraham that had been hidden from the world. [96] The Prophet also gave similar words to Oliver Cowdery, reciting his heritage of the ancient "blessings that couch beneath, even the hidden things of the ancient mountains, even the records that have been hid from the first ages; from generation to generation shall he be an instrument in the hands of God, and his brother Joseph, of translating and bringing forth to the house of Israel." [97]

Thus in the Prophet's blessing to family and Kirtland leaders, the buried treasure concept has figurative application to newly restored scriptures. Joseph also promised Phelps the resources of the earth, but not on condition of digging for them:
He shall be filled with a fulness of the good things of the earth: with houses and with lands, with the fruit of the vine and with the fat of the olive, and he shall feed on the finest of the wheat. And because of his liberal soul the Lord will make him rich, even with treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, and with all precious metals. [98]
Here the Prophet outlines a full range of blessings with spiritual metaphor. Translated to life, the fruits of the land are the results of labor, not discovery. And biblical imaginary is evident, for the Prophet nowhere encourages olive culture in Missouri. A parallel example is the early revelation using the biblical term chariots in reference to Missouri stagecoaches (D&C 62:7). In this figurative context, the "treasures" of precious things are promised with Mosaic phrasing. The discerning reader of these early blessings must sort out the

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94 Postscript of William W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, 19 and 20 July 1835, cited in Jessee, Personal writings of Joseph Smith, 340 with facsimile on 342; also cited in Leah Y. Phelps, "Letters of Faith from Kirtland," Improvement Era 45 (August 1942): 529.

95 Ibid.

96 Joseph Smith's blessing of William W. Phelps, 22 September 1835, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, pp. 14-15. W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery were aiding in translating the Book of of Abraham at this time, (Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 60, and History of the Church, 2:286).

97 Joseph Smith's blessing of of Oliver Cowdery, 18 December 1833, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, p. 12. Several phrases from the blessing are quoted in the summary in Joseph Smith's diary of this date (see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 23-24).

98 Joseph Smith's blessing of William W. Phelps, 22 September 1835.




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imaginary from the message, for they are clearly patterned after the poetic-symbolic blessings closing Genesis and Deuteronomy.

In 1833, Joseph had given Hyrum a special blessing filled with biblical figures: "The goings of his feet shall ever be by streams of living water." Closing with the theme that Hyrum would have means to serve God, the Prophet gave a panorama of wealth in terms of the cattle, asses, and camels of Genesis and also promised "an abundance of riches of the earth: gold, silver, and treasures of precious stones, of diamonds and platina." [99] These 1833 words to Hyrum are nearly identical to the imagistic inventory after the "good things of the earth" in Phelps blessing. In that blessing underground discoveries were equated with new scripture, but general wealth was promised through a figurative list. Since Hyrum's 1833 personal blessing has similar metaphor and lofty language, the inventory of riches also amounts to an assurance of earth's resources. The Prophet's blessings generally give comfort and instruction in specific terms, but promises of wealth are often elaborate with no particulars of when and where and how obtained. In the above 1833 blessing, Joseph promised Hyrum "an abundance of riches of the earth." If it were proved authentic, Hyrum's 1838 revelation would be equally general about "a great treasure in the earth." Joseph Smith gives such assurance as intense metaphor in his personal blessings.

This survey of Joseph Smith's usage of treasure shows us that term and its synonyms are predominately applied to the wealth of the land given the faithful. The Prophets's applications of the treasure concept are mostly biblical and refer to natural resources, so much so that the first major exodus revelation promised "riches" that are equated with "a land of promise" (D&C 38:18). Jesus' contrast of earthly and heavenly treasures appears in the revelations, and Joseph Smith's private blessings sometimes use specific figures of precious metals and stones in promising prosperity. Although such riches are from the earth, nothing suggests hoards to be gained by digging. On the contrary, agricultural possessions stand beside mineral possessions in such blessings, showing that both come from practical enterprise. Moreover, biblical symbolism is vivid in these promises. Indeed, the personal blessings given by Joseph Smith describe treasures actually coming out of the earth in case of ancient records, and even there the figurative concept suggest revelation as much as discovery. The Salem revelation (D&C 111) remains the only known document after 1829 in which Joseph Smith used treasure in

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99 Joseph Smith's blessing of Hyrum Smith, 18 December 1833, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, p 10, summarized in Joseph Smith's diary of that date, (see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 24).




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the sense of a hoard of riches, and by way of correction, not approval.

"THE  GIFT  OF  AARON"

"The gift of Aaron" first appeared in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, referring to powers of revelation that Oliver Cowdery should use as he began assisting Joseph Smith in Book of Mormon Translation (D&C 8:6-7). Both men were later on the First Presidency committee to revise the Book of Commandments when the wording of this 1829 revelation was changed. [100] However, its first printing referred to Cowdery's "gift of working with the rod." [101] To some, this means that Oliver Cowdery had used a divining rod to locate buried wealth in pre-Mormon days. If this practice was Cowdery's gift, Joseph Smith apparently approved prior money digging or else asked him to put the rod to a higher use.

Some view Oliver Cowdery as a treasure diviner because of a local historian's theory in Oliver's boyhood area. Around 1801, a bubble of zeal burst for the Wood family and associates in Middletown, Vermont. They had enthusiastically claimed revelation setting up a new Israel and a new Jerusalem by using the Bible and treasure sticks. They were discredited after an intense night of unrest while waiting for God's destructions. About forty years later, the movement was investigated by lawyer Barnes Frisbie, who sought to prove that these money-digging Israelites were "one source, if not the main source from which came this monster -- Mormonism." [102] His evidence was their biblical restorationism plus a fugitive counterfeiter named Winchell or Wingate, who had an undefined relationship with Oliver Cowdery's father, William, in nearby Wells, Vermont. Frisbie heard that the stranger "stayed at Cowdery's some little time, keeping himself concealed." [103] The Wood group supposedly learned their rodding from this faceless individual. But Frisbie gives no reason for including William Cowdery in the Wood group except as host to Winchell/Wingate.

This last point needs emphasis because William Cowdery is the only direct link between Mormonism and the Wood movement. Frisbie mentions him in two very disconnected paragraphs. At first he profiles William's supposed relationship with the counterfeiter. Then William is dropped for fifteen pages while full details of the Wood affair or "scrape" are told. But William Cowdery did not live near the Wood group, did not attend their meetings, nor is he even

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100 First Presidency members were assigned to compile "the items of the doctrine" of the Church from the standard works, including "the revelations which have been given to the Church up to this date or shall be, until such arrangement is made" (Kirtland High Council Minute Book, 24 September 1834; also cited in History of the Church, 2:165). This resolution might suggest the correction of former wording through revelation. Present section 8 was section 34 in the Kirtland Doctrine and Covenants, issued in August 1835 with a 17 February 1835 preface signed by the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, the revision committee.

101 A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ (Zion, Mo.: W. W. Phelps and Co., 1833), 7:3.

102 Barnes Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont (Rutland, Vt.: Turtle and Co., 1867), 64. This is the earliest printing of a history that was reissued in Abbie Maria Hemenway, The Vermont Historical Gazeteer (Burlington, Vt.: A. M. Hemenway, 1871), vol. 3, with the quote here on 819. An abridgment of these accounts is found in H. P. Smith and W. S. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont (Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason and Co., 1886), 653-60. This history also contains specific dates in Frisbie's life (889-90), showing how distant he was from the Wood affair. He was born in 1815 and married in 1843 after a late education and reading for law, resulting in bar admission in 1842. Thus his start of collecting serious history was about forty years after the discredited Woods had migrated. In fact, Frisbie's preface to his 1867 History mentions "the labor and attention I have given the matter during the last twelve years" (3), indicating serious collecting about 1855. (Compare n. 105 and the text there for Frisbie's development of a Mormon connection after 1860.)

103 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 46; also cited in Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:812.




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mentioned as a distant sympathizer. To repeat, his one relationship was supposedly boarding the pretender, who supposedly taught divining to the Woods and used them as a front for a coining scam. From this loose chain of association, Frisbie draws a strange conclusion: "I have before said that Oliver Cowdery's father was in the 'Wood scrape.'" But William Cowdery's knowing a man who knew the Woods does not make him a participant. Indeed, Oliver's father is absent from all sources preceding Frisbie. An 1828 newspaper history of the Wood episode refers to neither the mysterious counterfeiter nor Cowdery. [104] The main group of Middletown survivors of the 1800 period -- "more than thirty men and women" -- were interviewed up to 1860, and they said nothing of a counterfeiter or of Cowdery. [105] The 1867 recollections of a minister who visited the group in the final weeks of their movement include mention of the counterfeiter but not Cowdery -- when a disciple was asked where the criminal stayed, he answered: "He keeps himself secreted in the woods." [106] Frisbie's own claims about the Cowdery connection to the Wood group are both unclear and unsupported. [107] This is the patchwork of folklore, not tightly woven history.

Frisbie's summation soars even further beyond his facts: "I have been told that Joe Smith's father resided in Poultney at the time of the Wood movement here, and that he was in it and one of the leading rodsmen." That claim is empty, for family and town sources clearly place the Prophet's father fifty miles away as a young married farmer in Tunbridge, Vermont. [108] Frisbie is here building his picture of a Vermont money-digging team -- Winchell/Wingate and the elders Cowdery and Smith -- to be later revived in Palmyra with their sons added. But both Oliver and Joseph said they had never seen each other before beginning the 1829 translation. [109] Frisbie also claims, without supporting evidence, that after leaving Vermont the counterfeiter was in the Smiths' New York neighborhood, a contention Frisbie claims "has been fully proven by men who... knew him in both places." Hardly so, for the historian's sources associate the counterfeiter with the Woods but not with New York Mormons. In fact, Frisbie admits there is no document linking the counterfeiter to the Mormons: "The name of the counterfeiter, whether it was Winchell or Wingate, does not appear in any account that I have seen, unless he had by this time assumed another name, but he had been at Palmyra for some years and went with them from Palmyra to Ohio." [110] Again, after the claim that the elder Smith was a Wood rodsman, Frisbie admits: "Of this I cannot speak positively, for the

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104 "The Rodsmen," The Vermont American (Middlebury, Vt.), 7 May 1828.

105 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 43; Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:810. Frisbie explains here that most survivors knew only of the Wood movement and their local activities, evidently making his Mormon connection the speculation of a few people long after the fact.

106 Laban Clark to Barnes Frisbie, 30 January 1867, Middletown, Conn., cited in Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 57; also cited in Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:816.

107 Like some who write today on Mormon origins, Frisbie features dark hints rather than definite information. For instance, the counterfeiter allegedly starred his money digging at Wells, obviously an attempt to include William Cowdery, since he lived there. Yet this conclusion is based on no personal knowledge, only the "opinion of some with whom I have conversed" (Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 46; also cited in Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:812).

108 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 62; Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:819. Town records of Tunbridge, Vt., locate the eider Smith there at his marriage and the births of three children through 1803. He also appears there on the 1800 census and in the land records in these years. Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches verities the above information with independent family tradition, and she details her husband's regular activities in Tunbridge and the adjoining towns in this period.

109 For Joseph Smith, see History of the Church, 1:32: "On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery came to my house, until which time I had never seen him." See note in History of the Church for the corrections in printed dates, which conform to the manuscript written during the Prophet's life. For Oliver Cowdery, see Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 (October 1834): 14: "Near the time of the setting of the sun, Sabbath evening, April 5, 1829, my natural eyes for the first time beheld this brother."

110 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 62; Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:819. Frisbie's sources may have carelessly assumed that his counterfeiter was the same as the "vagabond fortune-teller by the name of Walters, who then resided in the town of Sodus... the constant companion and bosom friend of these money digging imposters" (Palmyra Reflector, 28 February 1831; also cited in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 1:291-92). Soon after this local publication, the story was exported by Palmyra anti-Mormons (Painesville, Ohio, Telegraph, 22 March 1831). However, the New York magician does not meet the conditions. Waiters has the wrong name, lives in the wrong town, and does not fit Frisbie's contention that the man went to Ohio with the Mormons. Frisbie claimed that he relied on those "who knew him in both places" (Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 62; Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:819). But "knew" for Frisbie includes "knew about" or rumored -- his pattern is to name firsthand witnesses when he has them. There is no support for Frisbie's quoted view that Winchell/Wingate accompanied the Mormons "from Palmyra to Ohio." Again, candidates with these names do not fit the conditions required, including Edward Bradley Wingate, a Nauvoo Mormon who married Sidney Rigdon's daughter Sarah. Although the 1850 New York Census indicates his birth in New Hampshire, his birthdate is 7 August 1820, two decades after the "Wood Scrape" (Charles E. L. Wingate, History of the Wingate Family [Exeter, N.H.: James D. P. Wingate, 1886], 164). His father, Francis, is not documented as a Mormon and was born 13 August 1784, making him too young for the experienced counterfeiter of Frisbie's story (ibid., 162).




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want of satisfactory evidence." While speculating beyond his data, Frisbie overstates William Cowdery's role as a Wood participant, as already noted, and also makes him and Joseph Smith, Sr., the central characters in his plot of how Mormonism really began:
He then lived in Wells, afterwards in Middletown, after that went to Palmyra, and there we find these men with the counterfeiter, Winchell, reaching for money over the hills and mountains with the hazel rod. And their sons Joe and Oliver, as soon as they were old enough, were in the same business, and continued in it until they brought out "vilest scheme that cursed the country." [111]
This guesswork deserves little notice, but it was apparently taken at face value by Whitney Cross, the analyst of New York revivalism, who shattered chronology by referring to the Wood movement and adding: "One of the two leaders, named Winchell, and a follower, named Oliver Cowdery, moved to Palmyra, New York, where the latter in time became Joseph Smith's clerical assistant." [112] The Wood movement deflated about 1801; Oliver was born in 1806, so he could hardly have been a "follower" of Wood or Winchell. Further, as we have seen, no Winchell is known in Palmyra or around the Smiths, nor does present evidence make William Cowdery a Wood adherent or a rodsman.

Here a good historian relies on secondary description and does not get his facts straight. Cross cites David M. Ludlum, who says that "Winchell and Oliver Cowdery, a son of a prominent actor in the Wood Scrape, subsequently moved from Middletown to Palmyra." [113] Cross has simply taken the son for the father. But Cross's source Ludlum carelessly repeated Frisbie's exaggeration of the elder Cowdery's affiliation with the Woods. Although Ludlum made this mistake, he realized there were only common cultural roots, not direct relationship, between the Vermont millennialists and Mormon founders a quarter of a century later: "The strands of connection between the Wood Scrape and Palmyra outcroppings are too tenuous to withstand historical criticism." [114]

One can begin to see the real people when the historical ghosts are removed. A newspaper reconstruction of the Wood affair was written forty years before Frisbie's, nearer the event and not infected with the goal of tying it to Mormonism. This account simply says that discredited "leaders of the fraternity... removed into the county of St. Lawrence, New York, where it is said something of their former delusion stuck by them." This location is a hundred

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111 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 62; Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:819. Frisbie's quote closely imitates the Laban Clark letter of 30 January 1867 to him.

112 Cross, Burned-Over District, 38-39. For Oliver Cowdery's birthday five years after the "Wood scrape," see Mary Bryant Alverson Mehling, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Coudray Genealogy (N.p.: Frank Allaben Genealogical Co., 1905), 172. He also gave this chronology in his Mormon historical work.

113 David M. Ludlum, Social Ferment in Vermont, 1791-1850 (New York: AMS Press, 1966), 242; italics added.

114 Ibid. Despite this caution, recent Joseph Smith books uncritically tend to assume that William Cowdery was a Wood disciple. In the future a related pitfall may be assuming that Mormons with Rutland County origins are committed to treasure-digging beliefs. That is too simplistic, since newspaper comments and literary satire suggest that a minority of Americans ever had faith in the paranormal search for buried wealth.




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miles from Palmyra, and there is no known New York interaction of the Woods and the Smiths.

This best Wood source has the further value of listing multiple uses of the rod:
They claimed also inspired power with which to cure all sorts of diseases, intuitive knowledge of lost or stolen goods, and ability to discover the hidden treasures of the earth, as well as more convenient talent of transforming ordinary substances into the precious metals.... The instrument of their miraculous powers was a cleft stick, or rod, something of the form of an inverted Y. And when this talisman was firmly grasped in either hand by its two points, it was believed to indicate the proper course to be pursued, or point out some substances of medicinal utility, or fix the locality of some valuable mine -- whichever of this the agent was pleased to wish. [115]
As will be seen, this forked branch is not the type suggested by Cowdery's revelation on the "gift of working with the rod." But though the direct Mormon-Wood connection fails historically, the Wood example does show that the divining rod was used for guidance in other matters besides searching for gold. Uncritical historian may report valuable information along with unreliable conclusions. Thus Frisbie quotes the letter of a visiting minister, who described how the rod pointed to "plants and roots that they used to cure diseases," and also answered yes-no questions on what tribe of Israel an individual was from. [116] Frisbie also seems to credit old-timers Jabez D. Perry in picturing the rod as used "whenever they desired any information," not only for the right medicine in sickness "but also to know whether they would live or die," as well as "all their business matters." [117] While such answers might be manipulation, superstition, or attempts at true revelation, they show broader possibilities for Cowdery's instructions on the rod. Shortly after meeting Oliver, Joseph Smith commended him on his "gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things." [118] Since this suggests general guidance, Joseph Smith's 1829 revelation did not necessarily refer to money digging.

As discussed, the Wood episode is no more than a cultural analogy. Joseph Smith's reasons for approving the rod must be reconstructed from Mormon sources. The rod instruction came in April 1829, soon after the two men met early that month. It is one of two revelations clarifying translation, but the third in this series came earlier. That first message introduced Oliver to the concepts

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115 "Rodsmen," Vermont American, 7 May 1828.

116 Laban Clark to Barnes Frisbie, cited in Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 54-55; also cited in Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:815.

117 Frisbie, History of Middletown, Vermont, 49-50; also cited in Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazeteer, 3:813.

118 Book of Commandments 7:3.




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behind the rod revelation. Thus section 6 defines the scope of approval for the rod in section 8. [119]

Oliver Cowdery's first revelation commanded him to lay aside the world and build the restored kingdom: "Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich" (D&C 6:7). Whatever prior use Oliver made of his "gift of working with the rod," this revelation directed him to heavenly treasure. Indeed, this first commandment names but one special power: "Thy gift" is "sacred and cometh from above." It is defined as the ability to "inquire" and "know mysteries which are great and marvelous." Thus Oliver is commanded to "exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways." [120] Thus his gift of knowledge of salvation will lead to the "greatest of all gifts," the "gift of salvation" (D&C 6:10-13).

Oliver's initial revelation closes with the command to seek heavenly "treasures" by assisting "in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity" (D&C 6:27). The revelation on the gift of the rod probably followed within a week. [121] It continued the theme of learning ancient truth through translating: "Remember, this is your gift" (D&C 8:5). And it could be exercised by believing "you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records" (D&C 8:1). Then a second promise was made:
Now this is not all, for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod. Behold, it has told you things. Behold, there is no other power save God that can cause this rod of nature to work in your hands, for it is the work of God. And therefore whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, will I grant unto you, that you shall know. [122]
But there were strict limits to this promise: "Trifle not with these things. Do not ask for that which you ought not. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate all those ancient records." [123]

So the "rod of nature" in Cowdery's "hands" would be a means of gaining revelation on doctrine. The only known counterpart in early Mormon documents says the same, though reflected in a waffled mirror. One of the strangest witnesses to early Latter-days Saint convictions is Jesse Smith, the hostile brother of Joseph Smith, Sr.

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119 The very similar phraseology of sections 6 and 8 is matched by their close connection in time. Meeting 5 April (see n. 109), Joseph and Oliver began translation 7 April and "continued for some time," after which section 6 was given (History of the Church, 1:32-33). This was perhaps a week of work, 15 April or later for receiving section 6. Section 8 then followed "whilst continuing the work of translation during the month of April" (History of the Church, 1:36). Perhaps section 8 came about 21 April, but definitely within that month. Joseph's comments on dating were first published in the Times and Seasons 3 (1842): 832, 853.

120 A full concordance to the Doctrine and Covenants shows that Joseph Smith used mystery in the consistent sense of a truth pertaining to salvation, often implying God's premortal plan for man. This is also the earliest Christian use of the term.

121 See n. 119.

122 Book of Commandments 7:3, present D&C 8.

123 Book of Commandments 7:4, also D&C 8:10-11 with slight changes. Compare n. 120.




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Hyrum had written letters to his grandfather's family similar to Mother Smith's 1831 letter to her brother, announcing that God had "sent forth a revelation in these last days, and this revelation is called the Book of Mormon." [124] Although Joseph's immediate family believed, his grandfather's family was divided, with the oldest son Jesse as bitter minority leader. Hyrum's correspondence has to be
But alas, what is man when left to his own way? He makes his own gods. If a golden calf, he falls down and worship before it and says, "This is my god which brought me out of the land of Vermont." If it be a gold book discovered by the necromancy of infidelity and dug from the mines of atheism, he writes that the angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge, even divine revelation which has lain in the bowels of the earth for thousands of years is at last made known to him. He says he has eyes to see things that are not, and then has the audacity to say they are. And this angel of the Lord (devil it should be) has put me in possession of great wealth, gold and silver and precious stones, so that I shall have the dominion in all the land of Palmyra. [125]
Hyrum's earlier message that the record came from the "angel of the Lord" is clear, as in the "gold book," mocked again in the middle and given a closing sneer: "The story is that the gold book proved to be lead." The serious claims of the Joseph Smith family can be seen by Jesse's repeated scoffing at the same things. On the other hand, the "possession of great wealth" is one-time jibe, possibly Jesse's ironic overstatement that those claiming "the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge" ought to get "gold and silver" in the bargain. [126]

Jesse Smith also speaks of a rod possessed by Joseph's father, but his statement is probably distorted like his version of the Book of Mormon story. The rod information came to Jesse by an intermediary from Joseph Smith, Sr.: "Your father would not be implicated in this place, but for the message he sent by the hands of a fool to my brother Samuel." [127] The messenger, who "believes all to be a fact," could be Martin Harris, or someone like him who had time and money to make the trip to St. Lawrence County. The month was June 1829, when the Book of Mormon was being finished and printing worries were beginning, so Uncle Samuel might have been approached for help, which would intensify the irony of Jesse's "great wealth" language. Uncle Jesse seems to know firsthand what the Palmyra messenger said about a rod, which is ridiculed not because it leads to treasure, but because it leads to information. Jesse scolds Hyrum,

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124 Lucy Mack Smith to Captain Solomon Mack, 6 January 1831, LDS Church Archives, 1; also cited in Ben E. Rich, Scrap Book of Mormon Literature (Chicago: Ben E. Rich, n.d.), 543.

125 Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829, Stockholm, N.Y., Letter Book 2 (1837-43), 59. Joseph's ancient objects of gold and silver and the translation stones might be behind Jesse's broad comments on wealth (compare D&C 17:1).

126 Compare n. 125.

127 Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829, 60. Samuel Smith was then fifty-one, born 15 September 1777, according to Lucy Smith's Biographical Sketches, 38. He died "about the second day of May, 1830" (Petition of creditor Samuel Partridge, 20 November 1833, Potsdam, N.Y., in Estate of Samuel Smith, File 304, St. Lawrence County, N.Y., Surrogate's Court; photocopy at Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo).




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"He says your father has a wand or rod like Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses in Egypt -- that he can tell the distance from India to Ethiopia and another fool story, many other things alike ridiculous." [128]

So there are two rod sources in mid-1829. Cowdery's revelation names his "rod of nature" in a phrase suggesting simply cut wood, perhaps in contrast to a magician's wand made of rare materials. Then there is Uncle Jesse's "wand or rod like Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses in Egypt." Since his rhetoric associates the Smith rod with God's enemies, a 180 degree correction must be made. [129] Jesse consistently takes the words of his visionary kinsmen and makes exact reversals. His sarcasm changes their "gold book" to a "lead book" and makes their "angel of the Lord" into one of Satan's angels. [130] Jesse regularly changes the good source to an evil one, and the opposite of the wands of Jannes and Jambres would be the rod of Aaron.

As noted, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants deleted two "rod" references and replaced them with "the gift of Aaron" possessed by Joseph's new scribe. Although this supposedly shifted meanings, it looks like clarification. The revision retained words about holding the rod: "You should hold it in your hands and do marvelous works, and no power shall be able to take it out of your hands, for it is the work of God" (D&C 8:8). Such language does not really remove the rod but identifies it with Aaron. As will be seen, section 8 even implied this in its original form.

A surprising harmony exists between the two 1829 sources on the function of the rod. Uncle Jesse said the messenger claimed that "the distance from India to Ethiopia" was discerned through the rod -- perhaps more heavy satire, since one expert on magic names these as best sites for stones of special properties. [131] Yet Jesse ridicules the idea of receiving information through the rod, whether or not his sneer correctly represents his source. The bitter uncle could have been expected to make the most of the Smiths' divining for treasure, but instead he associates a Mormon rod with Pharaoh's magicians. So his hostile letter pictures that rod as something more than a treasure rod.

In Oliver Cowdery's revelation, "the gift of working with the rod" is subordinated to revelation, since no Doctrine & Covenants section has a more concentrated theme. The opening lines state the message of translating "by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (D&C 8:1-2). The closing

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128 Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829.

129 The scriptural source of this language is 2 Tim. 3:8: "Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses," referring to the Egyptian magicians who opposed the miracles of Aaron's rod with their rods (Ex. 7:10-12). Their names were also in common use in English literature.

130 Jesse Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829. In addition to changing Joseph's "angel of the Lord" to one of the devil, Jesse closes his letter quoting the scriptural doom of the "devil and his angels" and adding: "These are the angels that tell where to find gold books."

131 See the reprint of Reginald Scot's 1584 Discovery of Witchcraft (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964), 249, giving traditions on the formation of stones of "certeine proper vertues" through astral influence: "as appeareth by plaine proofe of India and Aethopia, where the sunne being orient and meridionall, dooth more effectuallie shew his operation, procuring more pretious stones there to be ingendred, than in the countries that are occident and septentrionall." The 1584 London edition continued to be reprinted in following centuries.




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lines immediately follow the rod references and invite Oliver to "ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate all those ancient records." [132] Asking for these two reasons refer to the double gifts of the short revelation: the "gift" of "the Spirit of revelation" in translation (D&C 8:3-4), and "another gift" of working with the rod (D&C 8:6). [133] But that second gift serves the same purpose as the first: "Whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, that you shall know," referring to "the mysteries of God." [134] Both gifts result in revelation through inner faith, the single subject of the inspired message. Both the rod and translation stones are dependent upon "the Spirit of revelation -- behold this is the Spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground" (D&C 8:3). These words call up a biblical epic of revelation and use of the rod. In Exodus, "the Lord spake unto Moses" is the constant means of moving Israel to the Red Sea. Moses' authority and God's power were then shown through a physical instrument: "But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea" (Ex. 14:16).

No known source tells whether Oliver did money digging before becoming the Book of Mormon scribe. And American divining does not really fit the inner sources of the new religion. To make a divining rod, the stem was cut just below forked branches. The diviner held one of the branches in each hand and located treasure or water by movement of the center stub under tension. But the forked stick is not the pattern for Oliver Cowdery's rod, either in purpose or association with Aaron. True, section 8 told Oliver that the rod worked "in your hands." However, a straight rod may also be held by both hands. In any event, section 8 approves a rod only for sacred information. It also suggests the rod that displayed God's power in the Egyptian plagues, in striking the rock for life-giving water or in calling down strength on Israel's warriors. That rod was a straight shaft, the shepherd's staff possessed by Moses at his call (Ex. 4:2-4). Used by both Moses and Aaron, it was foremost the "rod of God," also Moses' rod, but formally called the "rod of Aaron." [135] It functioned as a visible sign of authority, just as Judah's "scepter" was a sign of divine kingship in Jacob's blessing or Elijah's staff held by the servant who went in his name. [136] Thus the rod of Aaron was a staff of delegated agency, and the 1835 revision to "The gift of Aaron" suggests Oliver's spiritual power to assist Joseph Smith as Aaron assisted Moses.

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132 Book of Commandments 7:4; also D&C 8:10-11 with slight changes.

133 For the context of the quotation, see the text at n. 122.

134 For the context of the quotation, see the text at n. 123.

135 The "rod of God" appears in Ex. 4:20 and 17:9. It is described as Moses' rod in Ex. 9:23, 10:13, 14:16, 17:5, and Num. 20:11. Examples of the formal "rod of Aaron" are in Exodus 7 and 8, and Numbers 17.

136 See Gen. 49:10 and 2 Kgs. 4:29-37. Compare Homer's regular practice of gathering the Greek assembly by the herald with the staff of authority from the king.




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Here is a crossroads of method for the interpreter of Joseph's revelations. It is unwise to pursue environmental influences on too narrow a basis, for the Bible is the controlling background for this restorationist Christianity. As discussed, Oliver Cowdery's rod appears right after mention of Moses and the Red Sea miracle. Though "the gift of Aaron" was not substituted for the "rod of nature" until 1835, Oliver's role as spokesman for Joseph was present from the outset of their relationship. In 1830, the authority of the presiding prophet was emphasized with Joseph receiving revelations "even as Moses" and with Oliver declaring them "even as Aaron" (D&C 28:2-3). This referred to Moses as the presiding prophet and Aaron as the "mouth": "And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people" (Ex. 4:16).

Oliver Cowdery's mission to Ohio was soon a main force in converting Sidney Rigdon, who traveled to meet the Prophet and who was named scribe and spokesman in the absence of Oliver (D&C 35:17-23). As the First Presidency developed, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery both had their place as assistants. When Oliver was heavily involved as Church editor in 1833, Joseph relied principally on Sidney as his counselor. A revelation then declared Sidney "a spokesman unto my servant Joseph," again Aaron's Bible role, since Joseph as the "revelator" was to guide the "spokesman" (D&C 100:9, 11). Two months later, Joseph Smith gave Sidney a patriarchal blessing, severely cautioning him against pride but outlining his call and potential: "A spokesman unto the Lord shall he be all the days of his life; and it shall come to pass that he shall hold the rod as of Aaron in his right hand." [137]

This blessing adds the rod to the image of Aaron as "voice," with one other relevant phrase added about Sidney Rigdon: "For the Lord shall reveal unto the Seer of Israel, and he shall declare it." Since Aaron's rod was really Moses' staff that had been touched by God, "the rod as of Aaron" is here a sign of a delegated representative. In Exodus, God commanded the miracles through Moses, but they generally took place as Aaron raised the rod. Thus the "rod as of Aaron" is probably a metaphor in Rigdon's blessing, but one that reveals the biblical basis of Joseph Smith's thinking. In Joseph's revelations, only two men are entitled as spokesman. Because these two are also associated with the rod, Oliver's "working with the rod" suggests that the rod would bring revelation because it signified associate authority. This is the major distinction from Aaron's rod in early magical handbooks. Anyone could read the Bible and attempt

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137 Blessing of 13 December 1833, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, p. 12.




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to duplicate any practice -- anyone could attach Aaron's name to magical wands or divining sticks. The name is not the issue but the authentic context of delegated power.

The revelation-authority aspects of Oliver Cowdery's rod are clues to its method of operation. The Woods' rods probably chose between alternatives, so the dips of the stem would answer questions on a yes-no basis. But the prophetic authority staff provides a better model, one harmonious with Joseph Smith's known thinking as the leader of the restored Church. Some associates of the Prophet used a rod in a special prayer. In 1841, Orson Hyde wrote from the Near East after dedicating Israel for the Gathering: "On what was anciently called Mount Zion, where the temple stood, I... used the rod according to the prediction upon my head." [138] He had previously prayed on the Mount of Olives, moving down to the edge of the city, erecting similar stone materials at both places, and obviously praying again. So he used a rod of petition in some form. What personal prophecy was fulfilled? Perhaps that of Oliver Cowdery in ordaining Orson Hyde an Apostle and promising: "He shall have power to smite the earth with pestilence, to divide waters and lead through the Saints; he shall go from land to land and from sea to sea." [139] Did this transatlantic prophet feel empowered to use a "rod of Aaron" once again to invoke plagues on modern Egypts that prevented Israel from returning? Here the rod of authority would be the rod of prayer. Cowdery's blessing is the only known source behind Hyde's "prediction upon my head." Thus Hyde's use of the rod in Jerusalem suggests how Oliver might have understood his 1829 revelation.

A staff is also visible in Heber C. Kimball's biography, where functions of prayer and special authority are blended. Heber recalled dreaming of Joseph Smith during Heber's 1837 voyage to England. The Apostle stood near the front of the ship and was visited by the Prophet, who said, "'Brother Heber, here is a rod (putting it into my hands) with which you are to guide the ship. While you hold this rod you shall prosper... and the hand of God shall be with you.'" In the dream the promise was fulfilled by the ship's knifing through all obstacles. Heber's was a straight staff: "This rod which Joseph gave me was about three and a half feet in length." [140] The dream must have approximated what Heber C. Kimball knew in reality, for his journal records several prayers answered by this means. His son gives the recollection of capable pioneer Sarah Granger Kimball:

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138 Orson Hyde to Parley P. Pratt, 22 November 1841, Alexandria, Latter Day Saints Millennial Star 2 (January 1842): 135; also cited in History of the Church, 4:459.

139 Blessing of Oliver Cowdery to Orson Hyde, Kirtland Council Minute Book, 14 February 1835; also cited with modification in History of the Church, 2:190. Compare Hyde's 1840 vision of divine destructions preceding israel's gathering: "The destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way" Orson Hyde to Rabbi Solomon Hirschell, Times and Seasons 2 (October 1844): 553; also cited in History of the Church, 4:376).

140 History of Heber C. Kimball, Deseret News, 21 April 1858; also cited in Orson F. whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888, 127.




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Brother Kimball showed me a rod that the Lord through the Prophet Joseph had given to him. He said that when he wanted to find out anything that was his right to know, all he had to do was to kneel down with the rod in his hand, and that sometimes the Lord would answer his questions he had time to ask them. [141]
Heber's son added: "My mother and my sister, Helen Mar, told me the same thing and added to it, that President Young received a similar rod from the Lord at the same time." [142] This description does not fit the Y-shaped rod that the diviners held by both hands. [143] But it fits the three-foot staff of Kimball's dream as well as the blessing of Sidney Rigdon, who was told he would "hold the rod as of Aaron in his right hand," perhaps a metaphor but one with literal imagery. If answer came to Heber C. Kimball before the questions were asked, then the rod functioned as an aid to faith, a symbol of authority in prayer rather than some physical pointer. As noted, Oliver Cowdery's rod instruction is the middle directive of three messages forming a cohesive context. And they contain classic summaries of the inner process of revelation: "peace to your mind" (D&C 6); "the Holy Ghost... shall dwell in your heart"(D&C 8:2); "your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right"(D&C 9:8). Mormon documents on the rod give no hint of an external, mechanical operation.

Heber C. Kimball's journal notes his staff in context of solemn prayer. In Nauvoo, after the Martyrdom, "he went home and used the rod. I got a witness Elder Richards would live -- that we would overcome our enemies." [144] One cannot be sure, but Kimball's entries suggest more than yes-no questions. In Washington, three weeks before the Martyrdom, Heber detailed the most solemn priesthood prayer, the comfort he received, and then he added: "I inquired by the rod. It was said my family was well, that my wife would come to me in the east, and that Congress would not do anything for us." [145] A similar procedure recurs in the Kimball journal, 25 January 1845, in solving a mosaic of personal concerns:
The same evening I sat down in my house in the presence of my wife and inquired of the Lord by the rod as follows: If we should finish the temple--it was verily, yes. That my sins were forgiven and that I should overcome and get my appointment of my inheritance while in this probation. And that the temple committee were not enemies to the Twelve Apostles. [146]
Another complex answer came in the Utah period as the method is tersely noted: "In the evening it was told me by the Lord -- rod -- that

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141 Solomon F. Kimball, statement unsigned undated LDS Church Archives also cited in Robert J. Woodford, The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:188-89. Solomon Kimball quotes Sarah Granger Kimball's statement which he says she signed 21 June 1892. Sarah (1818-98) was prominent in Nauvoo; her husband was Heber C. Kimball's cousin.

142 Ibid. Solomon F. Kimball (1847-1920) was twenty when his mother died. She was Vilate Murray Kimball (1806-67) the sister was Helen Mar Whitney (1828-96) (Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball [Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1981], 311).

143 Compare the view of Heber C. Kimball's biographer: "Unlike the cane, there are no family traditions regarding this unusual rod; it has completely disappeared. Perhaps it was an aid to guidance and revelation. There is no evidence that it was a divining stick or 'water witch,' popular at that time" (ibid., 248-49).

144 Heber C. Kimball Journal 5 September 1844 LDS Church Archives.

145 Ibid., 6 June 1844. Kimball's later autobiography added another detail of the answer though not identifying it as through the rod in publication: "I inquired of the Lord what we should do, and he revealed to me that Congress had not got it in their hearts to do anything for us, and we were at liberty to go away" (Deseret News, 28 April 1858).

146 Heber C. Kimball, Journal, 25 January 1845.




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Congress of the United States would reject the Saints and would not admit us as a state government, and force their officer on us by their power." [147]

Jesus' miracles sometimes involved physical aids, but faith was always the basis of God's blessings. Although Paul and Joseph Smith sent handkerchiefs as signs for successful healing, this was exceptional for both prophets. [148] The same thing is true of the Kimball rod authorized by the Prophet; it was used in special cases without establishing a Church-wide pattern. Here is a rod for answer to prayer, matching the context and symbolism of the 1829 directive to Oliver Cowdery. Continued use of the divining rod by any individual Mormon has little bearing on the meaning of Cowdery's gift in section 8. He and Joseph Smith were the parties to an understanding of its meaning, and no line of evidence establishes their use of a rod for material treasure on meeting in 1829. Thus their 1835 change of "the rod of nature" to "the gift of Aaron," apparently came from a desire to make a distinction between Oliver's gift and the divining rod. It also clarified a context present from the beginning. Moreover, actual practice is the check on verbal analysis, and Hyde's use of the rod apparently comes from Cowdery, while Kimball's periodic use traces to the Prophet. In the 1829 "gift of the rod," the original and continuing emphasis was on God's "gift" rather than the "rod," though the latter continued as a sign before God in occasional religious practice.

BEYOND  ENVIRONMENT

Religion, science, and magic all have the same broad goal -- explaining reality and controlling it. So if the young Joseph Smith crossed borders, would he necessarily lose credibility? He did for biographer Fawn Brodie, who portrayed an early schemer of "cunning and deception" who later put on a religious costume and played his new role with "a highly compensated but nevertheless very real sincerity." [149] One major problem with this theory is that Joseph's immediate family, wife, and major employers knew him in both eras and saw an equally sincere youth in the pre-Mormon period. For instance, Josiah Stowell, the main proprietor of the Spanish treasure dig, was quoted on the 1827 background of the Book of Mormon: "He never staggered at the foundation {of} the work, for he knew too much concerning it." [150] Stowell also specifically reviewed the transition years from 1824 to 1830 and was quoted in a simple testimonial

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147 "H. C. Kimball's Memorandum," 21 January 1862, LDS Church Archives, pointed out to me by Stanley B. Kimball. "Lord rod" is written without punctuation above the place where I have inserted it. and the entry is initialled "HCK."

148 see Acts 19:11-12 and the same practice for Joseph Smith as remembered by Wilford Woodruff (cited in History of the Church 4:5 n.) and Heber C. Kimball, (Journal of Discourses, 4:294). Compare Heber C. Kimball's sending a cane or cloak, and his faith that the cane from the wood of Joeseph's first coffin could be an instrument of of healing, (Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball, 248, 257-58; see also Steven G. Barnett, "The Canes of the Martyrdom," BYU Studies 21 [Spring 1981]: 205-11.

149 Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 85.

150 Martha L. Campbell to Joseph Smith "by the request of brother Stowell," 19 December 1843, Elmira, N.Y., LDS Church Archives.




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of the young Joseph Smith: "He has been acquainted with him six years and he never knew anything of him but what was right -- also know him to be a seer and a prophet." [151]

Fresh investigations of folk magic have made Joseph's dabblings in money digging more respectable, but at the possible cost of misinterpretation. Descriptive history is highly tolerant of most cultures and world views. Thus it is easy to place occult practices under the umbrella of religion, adopting a rationalization broader than Joseph Smith's. Community rumor in the Howe affidavits does not reflect Joseph's limited admissions in the 1825 notes on testimony, where the youth used "frequently" of divining lost objects but "occasionally" of treasure seeking, reinforced by "had always rather declined having anything to do with this business," which is the orientation of his own history and that of his mother. [152] Will the open-mindedness of analysts of treasure digging suggest scenes broader than Joseph's realities? His later negative judgments on such searching correlate with the tone of the earliest trial notes and therefore suggest limited involvement. Thus the historian should be cautious about assuming that the later religious years continued a practice about which young Joseph had misgivings, evidently because of his religious experiences.

Abstract definitions separate religion and magic only partially and with great difficulty. Yet Joseph Smith sources show that the restored Church made important choices at several religious cross-roads. One is Joseph's education from self-seeking to God-seeking. He was under condemnation in most of his accounts of first viewing the plates; his mother, Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Knight all give the reason as covetousness, hoping to acquire some of the ancient objects for the semi-altruistic goal of enriching his family. The period of training that followed is summarized in the artless of the Prophet's first autobiography:
For now I had been tempted of the adversary and sought the plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God. Therefore I was chastened and sought diligently to obtain the plates and obtained them not until I was twenty one years of age. [153]
One informed popularizer defines magic as the "technique of harnessing the secret powers of nature and seeking to influence events for one's own purpose." [154] Most occult money digging did fit such a goal. Water witching is practiced today by hundreds who use it

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151 Josiah Stowell, Jr., to J. S. Fullmer, 17 February 1843, Elmira, N.Y., LDS Church Archives. The quote comes from the postscript that begins "I now write you for my father."

152 See nn. 5, 6, and the text for the 1826 trial. For later hints that the venture was questionable, see History of the Church, 1:17, and Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, 92, compare n. 202.

153 Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 7.

154 Nevill Drury, Dictionary of Mysticismm and the Occult (San Francisco: Harper & Row 1985), 161.




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merely as a mechanistic method. [155] Formerly, supernatural treasure guardians were often appeased, which added ritual to money digging but not a religious purpose. On the other hand, Joseph Smith's revelations from the first insisted that all religious service and ceremony was exclusively for God's purposes. So there was a deep doctrinal tension between the published ideals of the new religion and any paranormal search for enrichment by individual Mormons. In Utah, Brigham Young acknowledged supernatural forces in some New York money digging. But he took the position of Mormon documents from the beginning -- that seeking buried treasure was not the business of Latter-day Saints devoted to lives of eternal significance. [156]

Several other basics of theology prevented the restored Church from approving magical practices and put individual Mormons in an inconsistent position if there was continuation of the occult. [157] With other major religions, Mormonism holds deep convictions on the sovereignty of God, which traditional magic weakly acknowledges, if at all. Thus invincible procedures are designed to control supernatural forces in standard situations, not bend to the will of a higher power. The pattern of prayer in Gethsemane is not generally found in magical handbooks. But the revelations of the restored Church promised answers to prayer in accordance with God's will, not man's dictation. Thus David Aune, who has conceptual problems in separating religion and magic, finds a central difference when magic deviates from majority religion in methods and "when the goals sought are virtually guaranteed through the management of supernatural powers." In more concise terms, this is the contrast "between manipulative magic and supplicative religion." [158] As discussed, the Prophet came to Salem, Massachusetts, in search of treasure and was told to wait for the "due time" of the Lord. Since his revelation there flatly said wealth would come later, it ruled out the power of any incantation or charm, had one been available to the Prophet. Thus D&C 111 required patient humility and did not fit a magical context of allowing a skilled practitioner to force an immediate result.

On a functional level, magic tends to work with objects and words by themselves, not inner spirituality or moral worthiness of the petitioner. As Aune observes, ancient pagan religions tended to do the same. While classical handbooks of magic mention patterns of worthiness, their amulets, elaborate ritual, and standard formulas monotonously of faith as a condition of signs, so scholars who treat his

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155 See Evon Z. Vogt and Ray Hyman, Water Witching USA, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 153-55, 222.

156 Journal of Discourses, 19:36-39, 49.

157 See John S. Carter, Journal, 27 March 1833, indicating an elders' court trial of a member: "Having lost some property, went to a woman who professes the art of telling secrets by cards." The incident is noted with inexact date in Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and and Biographies, Provo, Utah: BYU Press 1977, 62.

158 David E. Aune, "Magic, Magician," in Geoffrey W. Bromley ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), 3:213-14. Compare J. B. Noss, as quoted in Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary 3d ed., s.v. magic: "magic may be loosely defined as an endeavor through utterance of secret words or the performance of secret acts, to control or bend the powers of the world to man's will."




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healing words as ritual patterns are avoiding the real point of why miracles occurred. [159] Likewise, Hugh Nibley notes the similarity of the Book of Mormon Liahona and the little-known practice of arrow divination with the comment: "Religion becomes magic when the power by which things operate is transferred from God to the things themselves." [160] Something of a reverse process was evidently at work as Joseph Smith adapted the seer stone of his environment to the intensely spiritual work of translating the ancient American plates.

There is another striking difference between the mature Joseph Smith and the mystic practitioner. After receiving the plates in late 1827, Joseph bore the burden of worldly survival and the production and publication of a major scripture among world religions. His life is well documented from that time, and all his visible goals were doctrinal and practical. In Ohio, he generated new scripture translations and revelations, shared in weekday instruction for the elders in theology and language, gave regular preaching at the center and in outlying areas. Joseph's practical programs included securing lands for the Gathering, carrying out church businesses and publishing, and planning and building temples. These projects continued during the year of resettlement in Missouri, along with beginning a major history. And the Illinois crescendo left little time for anything else -- constant public speaking, the temple, missionary supervision, the Gathering, evading false arrest, major family and social responsibilities, and management of economic, civic, and military affairs. To assume the Prophet had continued interest in treasure digging is to miss his intense devotion to restoring the ancient gospel and reestablishing Christ's church and people. One flirtation with a Salem windfall means little in the light of overwhelming documentation in eternal concerns. If other Salem-like episodes were discovered, they would still be exceptions to Joseph Smith's impressive record of working to capacity for family and God's kingdom.

This is why the criticism of Brewster's money digging during the Nauvoo period speaks clearly. Latter-day Saint spirituality ran in deep channels of prayer, public worship, and restored biblical ceremonies. Folk practices probably expressed religious striving for some in their pre-Mormon period but were essentially confined to that time. And later temple ceremonies were given a thoroughly biblical and Christian content. Magic rituals and their paraphernalia were foreign to the new religion, perhaps not always suppressed on a private level, but clearly condemned when attempts were made to legitimize them as adjuncts to the faith.

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159 A book that sensationalizes this patterniissmm without religious context is Mortron Smith, Jesus the Magician, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978. It is also structured by the form critical assumption that the gospels radically evolved since it represents a shifting method of scholarship it is not a trustworthy study of Jesus nor a historically responsible base of of comparison for Joseph Smith.

160 Hugh Nibley, The Liahona's cousins, Improvement Era 64, February 1961, 106.




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In Joseph's lifetime, the Church acted against arts of divination, with initiative from local officers, evidently without consulting superiors. The two cases here were affirmed by leaders close enough to the Prophet to reflect his views. In 1841, Joseph's Apostle-cousin, George A. Smith, presides over the Staffordshire Conference and made a public report by calling on fellow Apostle Wilford Woodruff to explain the Church position:
The president then brought up the case of a Brother Moumford, who was holding the office of a priest, from whom fellowship had been withdrawn by the council of officers in consequence of his practicing fortune telling, magic, black art, etc., and called upon Elders Woodruff and Cordon to expose their feelings upon the subject, when Elder Woodruff arose and spoke briefly upon the subject and informed the assembly that we had no such custom or practice in the Church, and that we should not fellowship any individual who practiced magic, fortune telling, black art, etc., for it was not of God. When it was moved and carried by the whole church that fellowship be withdrawn from Brother Moumford. [161]
A clear summary of this action was then sent to Nauvoo and published in the Times and Seasons by Don Carlos Smith, unchallenged by his Prophet-brother. [162] Another stand against occult practices was taken by Hyrum Smith in his Nauvoo role of Assistant President of the Church. A bishop's court had charged Benjamin Holt with "accusing certain persons of being witches or wizards and endeavoring to cure such as he said was bewitched, by art, and meddling with those things unlawfully." After the trial expanded the issues, Bishop David Evans ruled: "The decision of the court is that Brother Hoyt cease to call certain characters witches or wizards, and that he cease to work with the rod he calls a divining rod, and that he cease to burn a board or boards to heal the sick by art." [163] The ruling was ratified when the case went to the High Council on appeal: "After investigation, President Hyrum Smith decided that Council confirm the decision of the bishop's court, which was voted by the Council unanimously." [164]

There is consistency in disciplining those using rods and stones "by art" or "unlawfully," whereas limited religious uses of similar objects were not challenged. The general issue was sensibly discussed in print when the Prophet was nominated editor of the Times and Seasons. Gladden Bishop and others had claimed public revelation, raising the question of the difference between true and false prophecy. The result was a carefully reasoned editorial, "Try the

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161 Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 28 March 1841; also cited in Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 2:75.

162 George A. Smith to Don Carlos Smith, 29 March 1841, Burslem, England, Times and Seasons 2 (June 1841): 434. The Nauvoo paper reported action "for using magic and telling fortunes, etc." and indicated that the member had been "disfellowshipped," which was ratified at the conference "by a unanimous vote."

163 Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 11 march 1843, incorporating the Eleventh Ward Bishop's court minutes. The following redundant run-on of the quoted sentence was crossed out: "that of of heating a board before the fire, to heal the sick by art." The practice seems a form of empathetic magic, intended to influence the condition of a person favorably as the board was warmed.

164 Ibid. The case is summarized in History of the Church 5:311-12, including ratification of the bishop's ruling that Hoyt "cease to work with the divining rod." This narrative is dependent on High Council minutes, not the prophet's dictation.




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Spirits." It reviewed counterfeit prophecy and tongues, including the Kirtland Pentecostal extravagances that were corrected by Joseph Smith, a reminder that similar outward practices may have a godly or ungodly use. Indeed, the gift of tongues had special warnings attached to it. The editorial reasoned that false spirits could be detected by true inspiration, but outward tests were added: true revelation would not produce strange practices overawing others by outward display, by contortion of body or voice, by contradicting God's commands, or by competing with his appointed leadership. [165 ]

Whereas the New Testament depicts inspired and uninspired expressions of the gift of tongues, the Old Testament emphasized the tension between right and wrong use of prophecy. For instance, an accurate summary of Old Testament divination notes the "seership aspect of prophecy" as often misused: "The term could be used occasionally in a good sense, as we might speak of a prophet having clairvoyant gifts without thereby approving all forms of clairvoyance." [166] So the whole Bible wrestles with the problem that a given external pattern may be approved by God at one time and not another. Thus it should pose no religious difficulty that Joseph's seer stone of his youth was later applied to the higher use of inspired translation of the Book of Mormon. There is even a claim that Joseph discovered the plates through the stone, though his own vision accounts do not hint at this, and in 1829 even scornful Uncle Jesse only knows "that the angel of the Lord has revealed to him the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge." [167] No doubt Joseph's fervent religious strivings were real, as he eloquently recounts them. This general unrest involved him to an unknown extent in money-digging ritual. Here it is easier to sketch a model than round it out in the absence of reliable data. Joseph was also involved in the forms of revival religion and then left them behind after visions came. Magical religion could serve the same function of inquiry, since the credibility of the answer is the real question for Joseph Smith. Early Pennsylvania German culture illustrates the marriage of piety and some magic, where spells and Christians prayers intermingle in trust that God can control supernatural forces. [168] Such an environment tinted young Joseph Smith but did not change the unfailing devotional color of his early life. If Joseph Smith's early searches brought him to occult frontiers, his final answers were revelatory, biblical, and Christian. Some assume Joseph's lifetime involvement with stones used in his New York neighborhood for searching out riches or lost objects, but transformation is the core of Joseph's personality. Oliver Cowdery's

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165 "Try the Spirits," Times and Seasons, 3 (1 April 1842): 743-48; also cited in History of the Church, 4:571-81, although the latter source is headed by "The Prophet's Editorial," this evidently understates John Taylor's role. "Ed." followed the article on its first publication, and Joseph Smith was then listed as the editor. However, John Taylor was managing editor, and in the monthly issues of this period those items signed "Joseph Smith" are of more certain authorship by the Prophet. In any event, John Taylor explained the official position of the Church under the Prophet's general supervision. For the special caution on tongues, see the related editorial, "Gift of the Holy Ghost," Times and Seasons, 3 (15 June 1842): 823-26; also History of the Church 4:26-32. For a typical caution of Joseph Smith on tongues, see his Nauvoo Relief Society discourse, 28 April 1842: "You may speak in tongues for your own comfort, but I lay this down for a rule that if anything is taught by the gift of tongues, it is not to be received for doctrine" (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith, [Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980], 119).

166 J. S. Wright, "Divination," in J. D. Douglas, et al., eds., The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdman's, 1971), 320.

167 See n. 125 for full quote and source. For Joseph Smith's consistent narratives, see Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 6-7, 76-77, 202-6, 213-14. Compare Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Confirming Records of Moroni's Coming," Improvement Era 73 (September 1970): 4-8. There is presently a single source close to Joseph Smith that speaks of discovery of the record through the stone. It is the 1859 Martin Harris interview with spiritualist Joel Tiffany, who reported Harris saying: "It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates." But Harris is also quoted as saying that "Joseph did not dig for these plates," adding, "an angel had appeared to him and told him it was God's work." ("Mormonism, No. II," Tiffany's Monthly 5 [1859]: 163-70; also cited in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 2:376-83). Harris later told an editor that Joseph Smith was "directed by an angel" to the hill (Iowa State Register [Des Moines], 26 [sic] August 1870; also cited in Joseph Grant Stevenson, Stevenson Family History [Provo, Utah: J. G. Stevenson, 1955] 1:157). In the questioned letter of Harris to W. W. Phelps, 23 October 1830, Joseph Smith is quoted as telling Harris that he found the ancient record "with my stone." Even if this document was authentic, it raises the problem of whether Joseph Smith was quoted correctly, since Harris is a secondary source on Joseph's private experiences at the hill. And the above Tiffany interview has this same hearsay problem, even if Harris is quoted correctly. The Mormon source saying most about seer stones is Joseph Knight, St., and though his opening narrative is not preserved, it reports that the Prophet knew where the plates were on the hill because of "the vision that he had of the place" (Dean Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 31).

168 John George Hohman, trans., "The Long Hidden Friend," ed., Carleton F. Brown, The Journal of American Folk-lore 17 (1904): 89-152.




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first revelations show the strictly religious use of the translation stone by 1829. Furthermore, a significant Nauvoo episode emphasize its higher use.

In 1841, Wilford Woodruff along with the Twelve visited the Prophet. Joseph "unfolded" much and Wilford "had the privilege of seeing for the first time in my day the Urim and Thummim." [169] That statement may not be technically true, since Brigham Young noted the same occasion and remembered that Joseph "explained to us the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates" and afterward showed the "seer stone." [170] Thus Joseph commented on both types of stones, but their common properties may have caused Wilford Woodruff to use the terms interchangeably. In Utah, President Woodruff must have had the same stone that the Twelve saw in Nauvoo, and he called it "the seer's stone that Joseph Smith found by revelation some 30 feet under the earth, carried by him through life." [171] But this was not the double stone that came from Cumorah just under the surface, which Joseph said was returned to the angel. Concerning the Nauvoo visit of the Twelve, Brigham Young reported that Joseph "showed us his seer stone" and Brigham then explained: "He said that every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it." [172] Here is the Prophet's criticism of the treasure seekers of his environment, for him the most visible possessors of such stones. Moreover, his guarded disclosure to Apostles of seven years shows that the mature Joseph neither taught nor practiced treasure digging or they would have already been familiar with the stone and his views on it.

"Carried by him through life" was Wilford Woodruff's phrase regarding Joseph and the stone, but "possessed by him through life" is the apparent intent of such language. The Urim and Thummim were the means of receiving most of the formal revelations until June 1829. [173] That was the time of completing the Book of Mormon, which was translated through the Urim and Thummim and also the seer stone. But no type of stone is involved in receiving revelation or translation after that. Orson Pratt watched the New Testament revision and wondered why the Book of Mormon procedure was not continued:
While this thought passed through the speaker's mind, Joseph, as if he read his thoughts, looked up and explained that the Lord gave him the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced in the Spirit of inspiration. But now he had advanced so far that he understood the operations of that Spirit and did not need the assistance of that instrument. [174]

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169 Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 27 December 1841; also Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 2:144.

170 "History of Brigham Young," 27 December, 1841, Deseret News, 10 March 1858; also cited in Elden Jay Watson ed., Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844 (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1968), 112a. Brigham Young's report of the Prophet's distinction between the "interpreters" and the single "seer stone" is found in numerous informed sources. For instance, Joseph Knight describes Joseph's use of "his glass" before getting the plates at Cumorah, but at that time he received the additional object "the glasses or the Urim and Thummim" (Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection," 31, 33). Describing early translation, the Prophet said, "The Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the book" (Jessee, Personal writings of Joseph Smith, 8). In 1829 Uncle Jesse Smith sarcastically refers to "your brother's spectacles" (Jessee Smith to Hyrum Smith, 17 June 1829, 59).

171 Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 18 May 1888; also Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 8:500.

172 "History of Brigham Young," 27 December 1841, Deseret News, 10 March 1858; also cited in Watson ed., Manuscript History of of Brigham Young 112a.

173 for additional information regarding the headnotes of the Doctrine and Covenants, see individual headnotes for references to History of the Church 1. Section 1 was given later, and sections 2 and 12 report words of angels.

174 Orson Pratt, Discourse at Brigham City, 27 June 1874, Ogden Utah Junction, cited in Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 36 (11 August 1874): 498-99. Compare Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith to President John Taylor, Deseret News, 23 November 1878, reporting Orson Pratt's 12 September discourse at Plano, Illinois; after mentioning "being present on several occasions" of Joseph's revelations, Orson "declared that sometimes Joseph used a seer stone when inquiring of the Lord and receiving revelation, but that he was so thoroughly endowed with the inspiration of the Almighty and the spirit of revelation that he oftener received them without any instrument or other means than the operation of the Spirit upon his mind." Compare David Whitmer's late recollection that Joseph said in early 1830 that the seer stone would no longer be used in revelation, though they would continue to "obtain the will of the Lord" through the Holy Ghost, (An Address to all Believers in Christ, [Richmond, Mo.: David Whitmer, 1887], 32).




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The same logic would apply to the seer stone, which disappears from historical notice, apparently not operational in Joseph's religious activities. The essence of the new religion was the inner experience of revelation, not its means, whether or not aided by objects like the stone.

"Religion" refers to inner strivings toward God, a definition applicable to the Prophet from youth to martyrdom. Yet strident critics deny this, charging that Joseph's use of the seeking stone for translation involved the occult. But even before the Prophet outgrew the stone, he was applying it to higher spiritual goals after early experimentation with more worldly uses. According to Joseph's mother, Oliver Cowdery, and his own accounts, his four-year tutorial at Cumorah instilled commitment and personal sacrifice in carrying out his translation assignment. The Prophet's testimony asks for belief in his spiritual metamorphosis during years of preparation. Because Joseph himself was a new man, neither Bible nor stone was the same object it had been before. The early visions were the sure lights that guided the young traveler out of the dark forests of his culture. Believers in sudden salvation no doubt have trouble with this gradual and sometimes stumbling journey. Is the stone automatically superstition? That raises the question of defining religion by Christian and Jewish precedents. What is the Bible if not a record of the methods of God's direction of men? One who considers that view will see these Joseph Smith issues in the revelation stones of the Old and New Testaments.

The last book of the New Testament was nearly the last written and divides its contents between a remarkable sequence of visions of the future and first-century revelations to the faithful. In the less symbolic contemporary part, the promise is made: "And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it" (Rev. 2:17). [175] Commentators on this verse wrestle with the issue of religion versus cult. Out of many possible meanings, the trend is to see some sort of magic stone here -- an amulet or charm to ward off evil, drawing power from a sacred name. The similarity with pagan practices is puzzling to many. The same problem exists in Old Testament analysis of the stones of the Urim and Thummim, for the concept of miraculous stones is avoided by many scholars who propose a drawing of yes-no lots with the two stones or their two faces. Although the lot can be biblical when combined with prayer to God, a more spiritual perception of the Urim and Thummim is available:

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175 Rev. 2:17, New King James Version, used for its literalism in word order. This and modern translations correctly describe the name as "on the stone." Rev. 4:1 is the beginning of intense symbolism, with the first three chapters quite direct instructions to the Asian churches.




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Actually, the combining of "dreams, Urim and prophets" (1 Sam. 28:6) indicates that, even as the first and last terms denote revelations to the mind of the petitioner through a prophetic intermediary, so Urim denotes a correspondingly personal revelation, through the mind of that priestly intermediary who wore the shining stones of the breastpiece in Israel's sanctuary... And the priestly oracles were not limited to yes-or-no answers... but provided detailed explanations (Judg. 1:1; 2 Sam. 5:23). Scripture condemns pagan, mechanical divination (Hos. 4:12). [176]
In Revelation, John incorporates past religious symbols into his message. Thus the most internally consistent interpretation of the "white stone" combines with the book's assurance that the faithful will become "kings and priests" to the Most High (Rev. 1:6). These eternal priests will be in tune with God's will, like the High Priest with the breastplate of shining stones and the Urim. In Hebrew that term means "light," corresponding to the "white" stone of John's Revelation. This correlation should be obvious, but Joseph Smith is virtually alone in confidence that John sees the redeemed as full High Priests: "Then the white stone mentioned in Rev. 2:17 is the Urim and Thummim, whereby all things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms, even all kingdoms, will be made know." [177] As for genuine religion, Joseph Smith perceived the stone of John's vision not as a stone of chance but as a conduit of enlightenment and a reward of worthiness of character.

In leaving money digging behind, Joseph Smith also outdistanced the magical milieu of his teens. This fact should warn the careful scholar against making too much of the supernatural charms that were apparently held by the Smiths. Hyrum Smith's descendants possess what Pearson Corbett called three "emblematic parchments." [178] In purpose, they somewhat resemble Jewish phylacteries, which were worn in prayer and contained verses reminding the wearer of Jehovah's covenant promises. These family documents contain Old Testament quotes of prayer and promise, together with cryptic symbols designed to ward off evil and enemies. [179 ] But what does possession prove? Were they inherited by Hyrum, given to him from the outside, or even owned by him? If they were his, did he keep them as curiosities or use them -- and if so, at what points in his life? Until such questions are answered, the objects merely illustrate the occult environment around the Smiths before Mormonism.

And no more than this can be made of the so-called Jupiter talisman, supposedly in possession of Joseph Smith at Carthage.

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176 R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981, 126

177 William clayton, Journal, 2 April 1843, cited in Ehat and Cook, eds., Words of Joseph, 169; with slight word changes this is D&C 130:10. For the indecision of Bible commentaries, see Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdman's 1977), 99. "There are perhaps a dozen or more plausible interpretations of the 'white stone.'"

177 Pearson H. Corbett, Hyrum Smith, Patriarch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co. 1963), 453. There is also a dagger with religious-magical symbols. Association of this and the parchments with masonry is questioned.

179 Old testament references include quotes from Aaron's blessing on Israel in Num. 6:25, 27. For a facsimile of one parchment, see the Salt Lake Tribune, 24 August 1985, B-1. The accompanying article contains irresponsible conclusions, including the implication that "Holiness to the Lord" necessitates a magical connection, since it is written around the borders of another Smith family parchment. But that phrase also has biblical prominence, written on the high priest's plate (Ex. 28:36, 39:30) and descriptive of the spiritual power of a restored Israel (Zech. 14:20-21).




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Mention of this first surfaced in 1937 when Charles Bidamon, who had been reared by Emma, listed items for sale that supposedly came from Joseph Smith. One was listed as "a silver pocket piece which was in the Prophet's pocket at the time of his assassination." [180] Wilford Wood, a collector of Mormon memorabilia, purchased it in 1938 and received Bidamon's certificate that the Prophet possessed it when murdered. But Charles Bidamon was born twenty years after the Martyrdom; he claimed Emma as his source and said that "she prized this piece very highly on account of its being one of the Prophet's intimate possessions." [181] One might wonder what is sales talk and what is history sixty years after Emma's death, particularly when one of her own sons should have retained the coin if it meant that much to their father.

Nor does the Jupiter talisman clear the next historical hurdle. James W. Woods was Joseph Smith's "principal lawyer" at the end. He went to Carthage with him, at Joseph's request went to Nauvoo the morning of the Martyrdom, and rode back to Carthage the next day to help recover the bodies. [182] Later he gave detailed memories, copying "a receipt from Joe Smith's wife of the articles I found upon the person of Joe Smith." It was dated a week after the murder and signed by Emma, obviously at a time when she could begin to handle practical details. But the lawyer evidently collected the Prophet's personal effects the day after the Martyrdom. Emma signed for "one hundred and thirty-five dollars and fifty cents in gold and silver," along with the Prophet's gold ring and a half dozen other pocket items. But this detailed inventory names no item like the Bidamon talisman. [183] The charm was distinct from money -- it was an inch-and-a-half in diameter and covered with symbols and a prayer on one side and square of sixteen Hebrew characters on the other. [184]

To some, the talisman shows that the Nauvoo leader was tainted by traditional magic. But the Jupiter piece does not survive cross-examination any better than the Hyrum Smith family parchments. Joseph's possession of the talisman at any point of his life cannot be proved, nor can the talisman's meaning to him be explained, if he used it. On one side, the square of Jewish letters is bordered by several Hebrew words for the divine "Father." The other face has mystical symbols and an unpolished Latin sentence, "confermo O Deus potentissimus," apparently intended to mean, "Strengthen {me}, Almighty God." [185] Basic studies in both languages gave the Prophet the ability to recognize these Hebrew or Latin devotional terms. If he ever favored the coin, it could be for its divine names and the prayer alone.

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180 Charles E. Bidamon to Wilford Wood, 28 June 1937, Wilmette, Ill., cited in Richard L. Evans, "Illinois Yields Church Documents," Improvement Era 40 (September 1937): 565.

181 statement of Charles E. Bidamon, 5 January 1938, nearly at the end of microfilm roll 16 of the Wilford Wood collection at the LDS church Archives. Bidamon identifies the "silver piece" sold and continues" "This piece came to me through the relationship of my father, Major L. C. Bidamon, who married the Prophet Joseph Smith's widow Emma Smith. I certify that I have many times heard her say, when being interviewed, and showing the piece, that it was in the Prophet's pocket when he was martyred at Carthage, Ill. Emma Smith Bidamon, the Prophet's widow, was my foster mother. She prized this piece very highly on account of its being one of the Prophet's intimate possessions." This item appears as 7-J-b-21 in LaMar C. Berett, The Wilford Wood Collection, vol. 1 (Provo, Utah: Wilford C. Wood Foundation, 1972), 173. Charles Bidamon was fifteen when Emma died and made the above statement fifty-eight years later. Since there are many shifts of memory association, it is possible that Emma really said that Joseph prized the coin when they first met in Pennsylvania. There is a most serious problem with reconstructing Joseph Smith's viewpoint from a very late secondhand recollection without any verifying contemporary data from his life.

182 History of the Church, 6:612, states he was chief attorney. For his movements, see his review of the martyrdom in Times and Seasons 6 (1 July 1844): 563-64.

183 J. W. Woods, "The Mormon Prophet," Daily Democrat, Ottumwa, Iowa, 10 May 1885; also in Edward H. Stiles, Recollections and Sketches of Notable Lawyers and Public Men of Early Iowa (Des Moines: Homestead Publishing Co., 1916), 271. The two copies are nearly identical, and the 1885 printing reads: "Received, Nauvoo, Illinois, July 2, 1844, of James W. Woods, one hundred and thirty-five dollars and fifty cents in gold and silver and receipt for shroud, one gold finger ring, one gold pen and pencil case, one penknife, one pair of tweezers, one silk and one leather purse, one small pocket wallet containing a note of John P. Green for $50, and a receipt of Heber C. Kimball for a note of hand on Ellen M. Saunders for one thousand dollars, as the property of Joseph Smith, Emma Smith."

184 For a physical description of the talisman see Reed C. Durham as quoted in Mervin. B. Hogan, An Underground Presidential Address (Salt Lake City: Research Lodge of Utah, F.&A.M., 1974, 10. Hogan's preface discusses the highly speculative explanations of the talisman.

185 For a duplicate of this talisman, see the "Seal of Jupiter," Francis Barrett, The Magus (1801; reprint, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1980), book 1, p. 175, no. 2.




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The answer in history is so often limited by the structuring of the question. Current concentration on the environment of folk belief may lighten one corner and throw strange shadows elsewhere. Joseph Smith is best served by analyzing "environments" in order to determine the mixture of backgrounds that affected him. Some historians comfortably accept all allegations of money digging/magic on a general impression that where there is smoke there must be fire. Others insist on quality control -- conclusions based on rejecting community hearsay and admitting evidence that is closely firsthand and free from intense bias. On this standard, only sporadic and temporary money digging appears. Even if it was proved authentic, the 1831 Martin Harris letter to William W. Phelps might reveal more about Harris's frame of thinking than what Joseph Smith said to him. Cultural parallels certainly help to formulate questions about the young prophet, but answers about his religious experiences must come primarily from him.

Joseph Smith's total environment juts higher than folk religion. His self-portrait is the youth with Bible, testing each church by scriptural specifications. This was also the dominating force in his family background and in his religious culture. The revival movement of Joseph Smith's area highlights rural Americans who were unchurched and considering some type of commitment. This can be somewhat quantified by the astounding number of biblical restorationists among the first Mormon converts. They combine the characteristics of Bible literalism, intellectuality, and spiritual witness. Their vital inner life appears in similar intimations and dreams about renewal of God's work. Since Joseph Smith is both head and part of this cultural stream, such powerful social and spiritual forces are clearly paramount for him. But divining for treasure is transitory in his life, just as money digging/magic is rare in the autobiographies of the early converts of New England, New York, and Ohio. [186] Although generally written later, these recollections are outpourings of naive candor, revitalizing the main concerns of pre-Mormon life.

Seeking true religion is thus Joseph Smith's strongest background influence, and his considerable family history sources reinforce this conclusion. Grandfather Solomon Mack was a principled and energetic enterpriser, too busy for religion until poor health gave him time to reflect and be converted at the end of his life. Grandfather Asael Smith was a religious dissenter who deeply believed in God's universal salvation, held strong restorationist views, and insisted that true religion must meet the tests of "scripture and

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186 As examples see the conversion discussions in Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young, American Moses, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), and Breck England, The Life and Thought of Orson Pratt (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press 1985). The atraction of Bible seekers to Mormonism is highlighted by the similar searches of these two men of different personalities. And theirs is the predominant story of the converts who became the first leaders under Joseph Smith, as well as the rank and file of that period who left conversion memoirs. For the pattern see Orson Pratt's 1859 reflections. Attendance at the major Protestant groups was unsatisfying: "I had heard their doctrines and had been earnestly urged by many to unite myself with them... but something whispered to not do so. I remained, therefore, apart from all of them, praying continually iinn my heart that the Lord would show me the right way" (ibid., 19).




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reason." [187] Father Joseph Smith followed this tradition, and his mature years were punctuated by symbolic dreams of being religiously lost, finding solutions, and being promised more. [188] Mother Lucy Mack Smith also fits this group of individualists. Receiving deep assurances through her private prayers, she first investigated Methodism and prayed for her husband's soul when he resisted. In mid-life she affiliated with Presbyterianism, again without him. [189] This family illustrates the climate of biblical searching, a more constant influence on young Joseph than patterns of folk magic. Lucy Mack Smith reacted to accusations by considering treasure rites incidental to the deep quest for religion that was their overriding family concern. Noting reports that the Smiths were preoccupied with "magic circles or soothsaying," she bypassed the subject as trivial without affirming or denying: "We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation." Although the quote often stops there in negative literature, Lucy's next sentence completed her thought that their time was mainly used in religious seeking: "But whilst we worked with our hands we endeavored to remember the service of and the welfare of our souls." [190 ]

Joseph's autobiographies and Smith histories create a map. His historical terrain is not as important as his route through it. Whatever his trails of investigation, there was a consistently religious destination. In addition to being biased and exaggerated, the neighborhood affidavits address the wrong question. Young Joseph's observable activities could be trivial, but his inner development is the real issue. In reviewing his youth and mature mission in Nauvoo, he insisted, "You never knew my heart." [191] Only he and a few near him could speak on that subject. His mother watched his private life and pictured a religious quest: "For Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had but much more given to reflection and deep study." [192] Likewise, his father compressed Joseph's youth in a sentence, and the search for God was the controlling theme: "Thou hast sought to know his ways, and from thy childhood thou hast meditated much upon the great things of his law." This father's blessing also alludes to stunning answers, as do Joseph's own vision accounts. [193] The divine responses matched the quality of the young Prophet's pursuit of truth. Indeed, driving inquiry is a core characteristics of his whole life.

Joseph Smith early produced a full review of his youthful searches leading to the First Vision, an intimate sharing of three years

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187 Asael Smith, "A Few Words of Advice," reprinted in Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New England Heritage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971), 125. Compare p. 119.

188 See Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, chaps. 14-18.

189 Ibid., chaps 11-13, 21. Compare Lucy's words in the preliminary manuscript of chap. 11. Her sincere attempts to find spiritual satisfaction in organized churches were frustrated, so she concluded: "There is not on earth the religion which I seek.... The word of God shall be my guide to life and salvation, which I will endeavor to obtain if it is to be had by diligence in prayer."

190 Ibid., in the context of the early years on the Manchester farm before narrating Joseph's visions.

191 Thomas Bullock report of Joseph Smith's afternoon Discourse, 7 April 1844, cited in Ehat and Cook, eds., Words of Joseph, 355; also cited in History of the Church, 6:317.

192 Lucy Smith preliminary manuscript; also cited in Biographical Sketches, 84.

193 Blessing of Joseph Smith, Sr., to Joseph Smith, Jr., Patriarchal Blessing Book, vol. 1, p. 3; also cited in Youngreen, Program Joseph Smith, Sr. Family Reunion, "Joseph" section. Compare the sentence above the one quoted in the text: "The Lord thy God has called thee by name out of the heavens -- thou hast heard his voice from on high from time to time, even in thy youth.




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of reading scriptures, questioning religionists, and thinking deeply about contradictions between the Bible and the available faith: "At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously impressed with regard to the all important soul." [194] Something far deeper was going on spiritually for him even in the years where evidence shows some involvement with money digging.

Conversion and progression are the themes of Joseph's early vision accounts, and the first was embedded in the 1830 statement of beliefs. In his 1834 answer to the Hurlbut-Howe affidavits, Joseph protested that he had already conceded human error before his enemies loudly tried to expose it: "But as the 'Articles and Covenants' of this Church are plain on this particular point, I do not deem it important to proceed further." [195] In original usage, "Articles and Covenants" was the title given to what is now section 20 of the D&C. [196] The First Vision appears there in guarded language, beginning a three-stage sequence. First, a synonym for revealing is used: "It was truly manifested unto this first elder, that he had received a remission of his sins" (D&C 20:5). This is clearly the 1820 appearance of the Father and the Son, since two of the four First Vision accounts give forgiveness as a main message, and Joseph notes no other revelation on this subject in this period. Following this divine communication, Joseph "was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God ministered unto him by an holy angel," who brought the Book of Mormon. [197] So, "the vanities of this world" touched young Joseph between 1820 and 1827; for the time before the angel entrusted the plates to Joseph was also a probationary period.

There is a rough and biased definition of what Joseph probably meant by admitting "vanities of the world" in his 1830 statement on Church doctrine. It comes in the Palmyra Reflector series on the "Gold Bible" in early 1831. The paper specialized in broad satire, and its editor was an aggressive lawyer named Abner Cole. [198] The thorough-going rationalism of his editorials left little room for religious experience; moreover, he started to print Book of Mormon extracts before its publication but angrily backed off when Joseph Smith threatened to sue. Philosophically and personally, he seems motivated to gather the worst on the Smiths. Yet his 1831 exposure is actually more favorable than the 1833 affidavits, which should rouse suspicion of those who know the mob psychology of a time when political campaigns and public testimonials were intensely

__________
194 Jessee, Personal writings of Joseph Smith, 4; compare Lucy Mack Smith's similar words in the text at n. 190.

195 Joseph Smith, Jr., to Oliver Cowdery, Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate, 1:40; also cited in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 337.

196 Present section 20 appeared in the 1833 Book of Commandments as section 24, labelled: "The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ." For a brief discussion of the title, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Organization Revelations," Studies in Scripture: Vol. 1, The Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Randall Book Co., 1984), 109-10.

197 Book of Commandments 24:6-7, with slight change D&C 20:5-6. The Kirtland modifications are also autobiographical and intensify the descriptions of the Prophet's repentance. All the major vision accounts emphasize the Prophet's remorse before the Book of Mormon was first revealed in 1823. Yet section 20 reports a manifestation of forgiveness of sins before that. In the First Vision account of 1832, the Prophet wrote that the Lord declared the churches wrong -- but he had first opened with personal assurance: "I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying, Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments" Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 6). In a private 1835 conversation, the Prophet repeated similar words as part of the First Vision (Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 75).

198 For the full story, see Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, chap. 33, which correctly names the Reflector publisher as a former justice of the peace named Cole. "A. [Abner] Cole, Esq." appears as business manager in the Reflector, 19 March 1831.




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partisan. As earlier noted, the 1833 statements described some Smith family digging, but the most visible charges added laziness and lying, the last perhaps a raw judgment on Smith claims of the supernatural. Cole's Reflector series mentioned no laziness and lying but heaped terse scorn on the family for their poverty, lack of education, lack of church affiliation, and superstitious money digging, which is so harshly attacked that exaggeration is obvious. [199] Since Cole mentioned contacting neighbors, his 1831 accusations probably include all their community could seriously say against Joseph Smith, who is basically vindicated here in his contention that his enemies could show no serious moral wrong in his youth.

Neither the Prophet's 1830 review of the Restoration (D&C 20:1-13) or the 1834 answer to Howe's affidavits came in a vacuum. Because each answered implicit or explicit accusations, Joseph Smith's public statements on his youth essentially label seeking treasure as part of a way of life that he had long left behind. In judging the Prophet's consistency, definition is demanded. The Stowell dig of 1825 and the 1826 trial involve supernatural finding with the aid of a stone. No evidence shows that the Mormon leader returned to such a procedure after beginning translation of the ancient plates in 1827. Indeed, there is but one known attempt to gain treasure afterward. But this 1836 Salem trip started with no occult method -- instead with inside information quite like current attempts to find sunken gold by historical inquiry. [200] Moreover, Joseph's eastern journey had a double purpose, for it was a major step in Church refinancing, especially through the Kirtland Bank. And even the Salem revelation is practical in the sense of associating future riches with future converts in the gathering from there -- and by implication from everywhere.

No document from Joseph Smith shows a continuity of New York divining practices, including Oliver Cowdery's revelation that originally spoke of "the gift of working with the rod" (D&C 8). That message promised knowledge of gospel truths, not locations of earthly hoards. Nor would these be the real topic in the questionable Missouri revelation to Hyrum Smith on "a great treasure in the earth." It clearly claims to be a migration revelation, and in these Joseph Smith consistently followed Moses' statements of the exodus-inheritance theme. Thus the purported message to Hyrum would restate the reward of the first migration command in New York, promising "the riches of the earth" (D&C 38:39), but these

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199 The "Gold Bible" series in the Reflector was an attempt to depart from its normal broad ridicule and give "a plain and unvarnished statement of facts" on the Smiths and the origins of the new religion (Reflector, 6 January 1831). Despite this profession, the editor set up false inconsistencies -- for example, claiming that the story of an ancient spirit appearing to Joseph was necessarily different from the coming of an angel. Nearly all he said about Joseph Smith is on the theory that the Book of Mormon is a deception arising out of magical fanaticism. But beyond this, the editor criticizes the Prophet only for poor education and subnormal intelligence (Reflector, 1 February 1831). The latter point is obviously false to anyone who has studied Joseph Smith's life. The articles from the Reflector are reprinted in Kirkham, New Witness for Christ, 1:283-95.

200 For example, see recent Associated Press stories on the private finding of a Spanish treasure ship lost in a seventeenth-century storm: "Investors Hit Riches with Treasure Hunter," Daily Universe (Brigham Young University), 12 September 1985; "Treasure Salvor's Lab a Fortress," Deseret News, 22-23 October 1985, 10-A.




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were specifically "greater riches, even a land of promise" (D&C 38:18). Although this newly discovered Missouri revelation is historically suspect, the important conclusion here is that treasure has been simplistically used without facing the distinct Joseph Smith applications. In his specific uses of earthly treasure and its synonyms, the meaning of "hidden hoard" is the rare exception. Otherwise, Joseph Smith applies Old Testament language in three main meanings: (1) the resources of the land of promise, following the assurance to faithful Israel that the Lord's "good treasure" would be poured upon them "in the fruit of thy ground" (Deut. 28:11-12); (2) general personal prosperity of individuals, assured mainly in special blessings that reiterate the promises to the tribe of Joseph such as "the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof" (Deut. 33:16); (3) restoration of ancient scriptures through discovery or revelation, using Moses' phrase to Zebulun and Issachar literally or metaphorically -- "treasures hid in the sand" (Deut. 33:19). Thus Joseph Smith's treasure definitions almost totally serve the deep Restoration concepts to which he gave his energies in manhood.

The fullest scriptural summary of Joseph Smith's process of development came shortly after the organization of the Church: [201]
Behold, thou wast called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon, and to my ministry. And I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions and have counseled thee, that thou has been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness! Nevertheless, thou art not excusable in thy transgressions -- nevertheless, go thy way and sin no more. Magnify thine office. (D&C 24:1-3)
The overwhelming theme of Joseph Smith's life from this time is steady devotion to his calling, culminating in the decision to face martyrdom for the safety of his people. His inner thoughts and goals are spelled out in recorded prayers, extensive journals, a hundred detailed discourses, blessings given by him and to him, and the forthright words of his own revelations. These show mature spiritual purposes that reduce any treasure searching to a transitory exploring function for the Prophet's life. [202] Joseph Smith's prophetic years tower above the past, as do those of Paul or Moses. Preoccupation with the early surroundings of such men is a barrier to understanding what they became.

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201 The exclamation mark after "darkness" is carried over from the first printing in 1833, Book of Commandments, sec. 25.

202 Joseph Smith's direct comments treated money digging as incidental, without going into detail. Admitting that he had been a "money digger," he simply said it was not "a very profitable job to him," referring to the brief Josiah Stowell employment (Elder's Journal 1 [July 1838]: 43; also cited in History of the Church, 3:29). The remark is in the continuation of the Prophet's first-person letter that began in the previous issue, November 1837. The other direct statement is similar: History of the Church, 1:16. In his history the Prophet clearly featured those early events that were relevant to what he became -- in other words, what linked with his adult mission. By this standard, his cursory mention of treasure seeking is an index of how little he later valued that youthful experience.




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(this page and subsequent pages not transcribed)









(see also: Brooke's 1994 Refiner's Fire)




excerpts from: Peter Benes (ed)
Wonders of the Invisible World...

Copyright © 1995 Boston University
( limited "fair use" excerpts reproduced here )



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"Hill-Diggers" and "Hell-Raisers":
Treasure Hunting and the Supernatural
in Old and New England


W. R. Jones


Divination and spirit-raising to locate buried treasure and to compel its surrender by supernatural guardians has a history extending from antiquity to the modern age and from Europe to the Americas. Plato had warned against consulting soothsayers about buried treasure, and Roman law prohibited sacrifices to demons to find such things. [1] Several notorious cases involving treasure-seeking conjurors appear in late medieval sources; during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when supernatural treasure hunting had attained the popularity of an amateur sport, Shakespeare has Horatio question the Ghost in Hamlet concerning "Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, / For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death." [2] In Tudor and Stuart England "hill-diggers" and "cross-diggers," acting alone or in concert with conjurors and cunning folk, vandalized Bronze Age barrows, the ruins of Roman forts, Saxon and Scandinavian burial mounds, derelict castles, country churchyards, and wayside crosses in search of the coin-hoards and other precious objects associated with such places in folklore and local tradition. Conjuring to find buried treasure and to dismiss the dragons and gnomes of Celtic and Germanic mythology and the demons and spirits of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim occult lore was considered an affront to both religion and secular authority: in the view of the church, such practices implied heresy and idolatry; and, in the opinion of the state, they violated the Crown's exclusive claim to Treasure Trove. Even after the enactment of punitive legislation, however, magic-assisted treasure hunting, together with other kinds of wonder-working, continued to enjoy a clientele in early modern England and constituted a part of that common tradition of occultism shared by the Old World and the New.

Although the church courts could punish supernatural treasure hunting, most of the cases that came to the attention of English public authorities concerned violations of the royal right to Treasure Trove, which was defined as gold, silver, or other valuable objects hidden in the earth by unknown persons. Unlike continental Europe, where the Roman law permitted finders and landowners to share in buried treasure, English common law reserved to the king such ostensibly ownerless properties as stray animals, wreck of the sea, beached whales,

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1. Plato, Laws, XI, 913; Sir George Hill, Treasure Trove in Law and Practice from the Earliest Time to the Present Day (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936), pp. 28, 30.

2. Hamlet, act 1, sc. 1, lines 136-37.




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and Treasure Trove. [3] The coroners and sheriffs were required to inquire concerning these finds, seize treasure for delivery to the king, and arrest the perpetrators for trial as felons by the royal courts. Although the enforcement of the law of Treasure Trove depended on the cooperation of local witnesses, officials were instructed to notice the changed lifestyles of suspects who "liveth riotously, haunting taverns, and hath done so of long time." [4]

When so inclined, the government could license individual persons or groups to undertake private searches with the proviso that digging be conducted during daylight hours and in the presence of responsible persons. [5] The issuance of such licenses, which the Elizabethans called the king's "placards," often followed upon reports of illegal prospecting. In 1237, for instance, the king ordered his brother, Richard of Cornwall, to excavate certain barrows on the Isle of Wight, which had recently been plundered by unknown persons, and to extend the search to the county of Cornwall. [6] In 1341 the Crown, probably in order to amass bullion for a new coinage, issued a general call to search for treasure and mines throughout the kingdom and promised to share the proceeds with finders. [7] Theft and fraud were not tolerated: on one occasion in the sixteenth century licensees were threatened with the pillory should they behave dishonestly; and, of course, supernatural treasure hunting was denounced by both church and state. [8]

There were probably a sufficient number of lucky finds to keep hope alive, but the wishful thinking of treasure hunters was also sustained by folklore. The physical landscape of England was overlaid by an imaginary landscape that constituted a sort of legendary treasure map. Place-names and prophecies marked likely spots to dig: "Moneyfield" in Somerset and "Money Heap" in Devon; "Goldhorde" in Surrey and Crock of Gold" in Dartmoor. [9] Ancient Roman camps were regarded as especially promising, among them Bilebury (the former Roman Uriconium) in Worcestershire and Dolbury in Somerset. "If Dolbyri dyggyd ware, / Of golde shuld be the share." [10] Many of the heirlooms

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3. Hill, Treasure Trove, pp. 185-255.

4. R.F. Hunnisett, The Medieval Coroner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. 607, 81, 191-94, 198; 4 Edward I. "Offic. Coronatoris," Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols. (London: Dawson of Pall Mall, 1810-1824) 1: 41.

5. Charles R. Beard, The Romance of Treasure Trove (London: Samson Law, Marston & Co., 1933), pp. 27-28.

6. Hill, Treasure Trove, p. 251.

7. Ibid., p. 252.

8. Beard, Romance, p. 54.

9. George Lyman Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England (New York, Russell and Russell, 1929), p. 206.

10. L.V. Grinsell, The Ancient-Burial Mounds of England (London, 1953), p. 67; and for the quotation, Kittredge, Witchcraft, p. 204.




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in the form of cups and bowls cherished by the gentry and local churches as "gifts of the fairies" to patrons and founders may actually have been pilfered from ancient barrows. The famous "Cup of Willey Howe," which tradition reported to have been stolen from a fairy revel held at the mound of that name in Yorkshire's East Riding, was probably a votive offering or grave gift. [11] The medieval hymns of purification and blessing, which were composed to hallow such vessels for Christian liturgical use, reflect their pagan origins. [12] In other instances the sudden prosperity of individuals and families was attributed to successful treasure hunting. [13] Harry Vane, the founder of the fortunes of the House of Barnard, Barnard Castle on the Tees, was rumored to have owed his rise to the discovery of buried treasure, although it is far more likely that his wealth came from his service as Comptroller of the King's Household and Treasurer of the Army under Charles I. [14]

Conjuring for buried treasure was part of that repertoire of magical practices, including fortunetelling, divining for lost or stolen property, uttering charms or curses to help or harm, image-magic and occult cures, which Christian Europe inherited from its pre-Christian past and which were available from village wizards to their clients in the towns and countryside. [15] The revival of learning in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries introduced into Europe the ritual magic and astral lore of Muslim Spain and the Greek, Arab, and Jewish Middle East. [16] The "hoard-guarding" dragon of Beowulf and the black hounds, elves, and fairies of Teutonic and Celtic mythology were supplanted by the demons and spirits bearing outlandish Greek and Hebrew names in the new bookish, ceremonial magic of the medieval and Renaissance necromancer. [17] Conjuring manuals provided European sorcerers with the esoteric knowledge required to energize the crystals, circles, plates, diagrams, rings, and wands by means of which they could force the spirits to disclose the location of buried treasure and to surrender it to human searchers. The most famous of the conjuring books, The Key of Solomon, had a whole chapter devoted to explaining how this was

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11. Charles R. Beard, Lucks and Talismans: A Chapter of Popular Superstition (London, n.d.), pp. 36-37.

12. Kittredge, Witchcraft, p. 205.

13. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), p. 235.

14. Beard, Romance, pp. 59-60.

15. Valerie I.J. Flint, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991); Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 56-94.

16. Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages, pp. 116-75.

17. E.M. Butler, Ritual Magic (New York: Noonday Press, 1959).




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...Books not only guided the performance of the rituals, however; their mere presence at seances and spirit-raisings lent credibility to




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the conjuror's craft. Any book might do in this context, even parts of the Bible; and many cunning folk compiled their own or used what was at hand. Revealingly, the ex-schoolmaster and part-time diviner, John Steward, who was implicated in a spirit-raising scheme to find buried treasure, tried to defend himself before the archbishop's court at York by claiming that he merely showed his clients an astrological almanac and pretended to be a cunning man. [25]

If the "Twelfth Century Renaissance" endowed supernatural treasure hunting with a theoretical content and exotic ritualism, the "Scientific Revolution" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries heightened its technical virtuosity. The adoption of the divining rod, the virgula divina, which was introduced into Britain by immigrant German miners in the sixteenth century, gave treasure hunters a craft tool with a record of success. During the seventeenth century Europeans employed it to locate mineral deposits and water, lost property, and buried treasure and (until prohibited by the Inquisition) accused criminals and heretics. [26] Because of the occult preparations required to transform a hazel switch into a dowsing rod and the similarities of its use to ancient "rhabdomancy" and wand-magic, authorities differed as to its source of power, whether natural magic or demonic magic, and therefore the propriety of its employment. The antiquary John Aubrey, who noted its use by German soldiers during the Thirty Years' War to locate concealed valuables, judged it to be a pagan superstition; and Samuel Sheppard, Abraham Cowley, and Jonathan Swift satirized it in verse. On the other side, Robert Boyle was sufficiently unsure to ask the Royal Society to investigate its use, while on the continent it became the subject of university disputations. Balanced as it was on the line separating natural science from occultism, the divining rod was enthusiastically adopted by treasure hunters on both sides of the Atlantic. [27]

The Christian church invariably opposed any magic other than its own approved kind and from the start opposed the divinatory arts as a pagan superstition and an affront to God's sovereignty. [28] By Aquinas's time the church was imposing canonical penance or worse on persons guilty in its judgment of practicing either white or black magic. The decision of the theological faculty of the University of Paris

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25. Kittredge, Witchcraft, p. 208.

26. Evon Z. Vogt and Peggy Golde, "Some Aspects of the Folklore of Water Witching in the United States," Journal of American Folklore 71 (1958): 519-20.

27. John Aubrey, Three Prose Works: Miscellanies, Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme, Observations, ed. John Buchanan Brown (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972), p. 208; Sir William Barrett and Theodore Besterman, The Divining-Rod: An Experimental and Psychological Investigation (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1968), pp. 11-18.

28. Flint, Rise of Magic, pp. 88-92; Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages, pp. 176-201.




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...A clerical underworld provided the priestly skills and liturgical expertise required to hallow the magical paraphrenalia and exorcise the guardian spirits of treasure hoards. The quest for the great treasure rumored to be concealed in a mound near Kettering Cross outside Halifax engaged the services of three priests, one of whom had been a crystal-gazer in his youth and owned a conjuring manual. [43] Keith Thomas noted the services contributed by chaplains, friars, and university undergraduates to treasure hunting expeditions, comparing conjuring with the modern drug-culture as a "fashionable temptation" of Oxford students. [44] Although most treasure hunters were men, Kittredge and Thomas found several women who had been bitten by the gold bug: the woman who asked a priest to bless a holly stick so that it could be used to divine treasure; Anne Bodenham, executed for witchcraft, who offered for sale a charm which she claimed could locate the thousand pounds buried by the earl of Pembroke; and the woman promised two shillings sixpence by a demon who, after disappointing her, explained that times were hard. [45]

It is hardly surprising that "hill-digging" attracted crooks, cheats, and confidence men: the ex-Benedictine and conjuror Stapleton who pretended to fashion an image for the duke of Norfolk to counter Cardinal Wolsey's pet demon Oberion, and thereby placed himself in an

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...
43. Kittredge, Witchcraft, pp. 207-8.

44. Thomas, Religion, p. 226.

45. Kittredge, Witchcraft, p. 212; Thomas, Religion, pp. 236, 266.




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untenable position vis-a-vis the second most powerful man in the kingdom; and the three rascally servants of of Lord Robert Curzon who, with their master's "placard" to dig for treasure in the vicinity of Norwich, blackmailed farmers whom they accused of illegal prospecting. [46] Even the demons could be the victims of tricksters, however, as two treasure seekers in 1465 showed when, after promising to make a human sacrifice to satisfy the spirit, they sacrificed a cock which they had baptized with a Christian name and looted a hoard of a hundred shillings. [47]

The magical tradition which endured in England to the Victorian j era was, according to Richard Godbeer, introduced into seventeenth-century New England where it coexisted uneasily with a predestinarian theology that it both contradicted and complemented. [48] The services of conjurors and cunning folk were readily available for those who sought them; and a self-help magic of sieve and shears, book and key, witch-bottles and little puppets flourished, much to the dismay of ministers and magistrates. Fortune-telling and, less frequently, the divination of lost animals and stolen property were most popular among early New Englanders. [49] In the absence of a folklore of buried treasure during most of the seventeenth century, an environment conducive to treasure hunting did not exist. [50] The earliest and most explicit evidence for colonial American treasure hunting comes from communities of German pietists and Quakers in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania, who perpetuated the bookish, ceremonial magic of Renaissance occultism and were equipped with the divining rod introduced by German immigrants. [51] The landscape around Philadelphia and the Schuylkill River became pockmarked with excavations for pirate chests and Spanish mines to the extent that young Benjamin Franklin was prompted to decry such foolishness in an early essay and the playwright Thomas Forrest to parody the gullibility of treasure seekers in the theater. [52]

A mania of supernatural treasure hunting swept rural northern New England and western New York during the post-Revolutionary period and the early Republic when, as historian Alan Taylor has shown, the frustrations of marginal farming communities and the enthusiasms of

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46. Beard, Romance, pp. 43-44.

47. Kittredge, Witchcraft, p. 206.

48. Richard Godbeer, The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 24-54.

49. Ibid., p. 33.

50. Jon Butler, "Magic, Astrology, and the Early American Religious Heritage, 1600-1760," American Historical Review 84 (1979): 325.

51. George Corson, Black Rock: Mining Folklore and the Pennsylvania Dutch (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960), pp. 159-61.

52. Herbert Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment: Occultism and Renaissance Science in Eighteenth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 1976), pp. 107-18.




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evangelical sects led some people to seek upward mobility through the mastery of nature and direct contact with the divine. [53] Taylor has collected forty cases of magic-assisted treasure hunting from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that illuminate the coexistence of a hardscrabble natural economy of limited mobility with a "supernatural economy" more capable of satisfying social and economic expectations and a "materialistic faith" offering certitude amid the diversity of competing Protestant churches. A folklore of buried treasure had created an imaginary treasure map sprinkled with pirate coin-hoards and Spanish gold. What the ubiquitous Captain Kidd did for the northern coasts, Morgan and Lafitte did for the south; and provocative place-names such as "The Gold Fields" near Stratford, Connecticut, and "Money Hill" on the beach at Provincetown pointed to places to dig. [54]

The magical constituent of American popular culture was no mere "survival" from a distant and different past, but an element of a complex and composite common tradition shared among peoples of the Old World and the New in the early modern and modern era. Its usefulness as a subject of humanist research is in the insight it offers concerning how such traditions arise, change, and endure across time and space.

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53. Alan Taylor, "The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830," American Quarterly 38 (1986): 6-34; idem, Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), pp. 79-82.

54. Richard M. Dorson, Jonathan Draws the Long Bow (Cambridge: Harvard University ress, 1946), pp. 175, 185.







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"The True Spiritual Seed":
Sectarian Religion and the Persistence of the Occult
in Eighteenth-Century New England


John L. Brooke


In a noted review of occult practice in eighteenth-century New England, the Reverend Ezra Stiles of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote in June 1773 of a "Mr. Stafford of Tiverton lately dead who was wont to tell where lost things might be found and what day, hour and minute was fortunate for vessels to sail." [1] Stiles probably had seen the notice in the Newport Mercury of 31 May 1773, listing the death at Tiverton of "Joseph Stafford, Esq., a very celebrated astrologer." [2] Stiles also probably had seen one or another of Joseph Stafford's almanacs, published in Newport and Boston in the 1730s and 1740s. [3] Though he himself was given to occult speculations, Stiles wrote of Stafford and other scattered "Almanack Makers and Fortune Tellers" as the last manifestations of an "antient System of seeking to an evil invisible Power," a system shared with the "Powaws of the American Indians." Stiles was convinced that "in general the System is broken up, the Vessel of Sorcery shipwreckt, and only some scattered planks and pieces disjoyned floating and scattered on the Ocean of the human Activity and Bustle." [4]

The past two decades have seen an enormous expansion of our understanding of the uses of the occult in early New England. We have learned about astrologers, almanac-writers, diviners, and especially about the continuing fears of and protections against witchcraft. If modern scholars have not followed Ezra Stiles in his condemnation of the occult as a "seeking to an evil invisible Power," they have concurred in his assessment that magical practice in New England

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The author thanks William Stokoe of Silver Springs, Maryland, for making available the collections of his ancestor, Joseph Stafford; the staff at the Rhode Island Historical Society for their able assitance; and Steven Marrone of Tufts University for his advice on Latin translation. Portions of this essay have previously appeared in John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

1. Ezra Stiles, Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D. ed. Franklin B. Dexter, 3 vols. (New York: Scribner, 1901), 1:386.

2. Newport Mercury, 31 May 1773, p.3; see also Providence Gazette, 5 June 1773, p. 3.

3. Stafford's almanacs are noted in Herbert Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment: Occultism and Renaissance Science in Eighteenth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 1976), pp. 47-48; and in Marion B. Stowell, Early American Almanacs: The Colonial Weekday Bible (New York: Burt Franklin, 1977), pp. 77, 234-35, 316.

4. Stiles, Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, 1:385-86.




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was unsystematic and incoherent, a sort of cultural "debris," comprised of bits and pieces of occult knowledge disassociated from a coherent intellectual framework. [5]

New and perhaps unique documentary evidence on the life of Joseph Stafford, and a focused analysis of his specific heritage and milieu, may well qualify this assessment. Modern scholars have found magic in New England an incoherent jumble because they -- perhaps like Ezra Stiles -- have viewed it from the perspective of New England's majority culture. And if Ezra Stiles was himself moving toward a cosmopolitan moderation, [6] the nominally orthodox Calvinism of the majority of New Englanders was fundamentally at odds with occult spirituality. Where the omnipotent Calvinist God occupied center stage, the supernatural powers promised to human beings by the occult could only be found on the cultural margins. [7] But the picture looks quite different if we change our frame of reference, shifting our focus from the Massachusetts Bay of John Winthrop to the Narragansett Bay of Joseph Stafford, and setting aside the intellectual edifice constructed by Perry Miller for that built by Christopher Hill.

The Protestant Reformation, we may need to be reminded, followed two broad paths. The Magisterial Reformers -- Lutherans, Anglicans, Purtians -- endorsed the ideal of a return to Augustinian piety but retained a central place for predestination, a restricted human will, and the state's support for the godly church, the body of invisible saints. Conversely, the Radical Reformers -- Anabaptists, Spiritualists, Evangelicals -- rejected any connection between church and state, advanced doctrines of a miraculous restitution of the true church, advocated free will and universal salvation, and at its extreme announced a perfectionist ideal of human divinity. [8] As the work of Christopher Hill, Keith Thomas, and many others have amply demonstrated, the sectarian theologies of the Radical Reformation and the radical wing of English Revolution accommodated and perpetuated what we classify as magical or occult beliefs. The broad compass of magical intellectualism,

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5. Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment, pp. 262-71; Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), pp. 67-97; David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (New York: Knopf, 1989).

6. Edmund S. Morgan, The Gentle Puritan: A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727-1795 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962).

7. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, pp. 5-7; Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974); Richard Weisman, Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984); Richard Godbeer, The Devil's Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

8. George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962).




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astrology, alchemy, the Cabala, and the quest for a hermetic perfection came over the seventeenth century to be strongly associated with the radical sects. [9]

The sectarian peoples of southeast New England came from Cape Cod to the Connecticut River, close spiritual kin to the sectarians of revolutionary England, have been curiously neglected in recent historiography. This essay proposes that these communities, second to those of the greater mid-Atlantic, comprised an important focus of a religious occult in colonial North America. In southeast New England, shielded from the harassment of a Calvinist ministry and nourished by the mystical dimensions of antinomianism, Gortonism, Quakerism, and Sabbatarianism, and the Arminian universalism of the General-turned Sixth Principle Baptists, the cunning folk survived well into the eighteenth century. [10] Here the relationship between religion and the occult was more symbiotic and less contested; here the occult generated not court testimony and executions, but quiet routine and continuity. It is even possible to go so far as to propose that the sectarian environment acted as a reservoir for much of the fragmentary occult floating around seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England. [11]

More importantly, however, southeast New England may have been a vital node in a web of religious occult sensibility whose connections through time and through space make it a subject of some enduring significance.

Joseph Stafford came from a family situated well outside the orbit of Puritan orthodoxy. His grandfather, Sylvester Stover, settled at Cape

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9. A. L. Morton, The World of the Ranters: Religious Radicalism in the English Revolution (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970); Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner, 1971), pp. 170-71, 227, 270-71, 638; Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside-Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (New York: Viking, 1972); Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine, and Reform, 1626-1660 (New York,: Holmes & Meier, 1976); Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (New York: Viking, 1977); T. Wilson Hayes, Winstanley the Digger: A Literary Analysis of Radical Ideas in the English Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979); Margaret C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons, and Republicans (London: Allen & Unwin, 1981); Christopher Hill, Barry Reay, and William Lamont, eds., The World of the Muggletonians (London: T. Smith, 1983); Geoff Ely and William Hunt, eds., Reviving the English Revolution: Reflections on the Work of Christopher Hill (London: Verso, 1988); Christopher Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628-1688 (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1989), pp. 75-84, 380-81.

10. For general overviews, see William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630- 1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), 1:10-11; Arthur J. Worrall, Quakers in the Colonial Northeast (Hanover, N.H.: University of New England Press, 1980), pp. 18-20; Philip F. Gura, A Glimpse of Sion's Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660 (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1984), pp. 98-105, 108-13, 148-49.

11. The Calvinist Separate Baptist movement which spread during the Great Awakening was not a likely environment for the uncontested survival of occult belief.




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Neddick in York, Maine, in 1649, where he joined a fishing partnership and served as a ferryman. Stover's household on Cape Neddick River was located in an outlying neighborhood in a town given to some religious diversity. The early church in York was nominally Anglican in doctrine, but when in 1663 the settled minister tried to disrupt a meeting of "traveling Quakers" a number of the town's leading men were willing to testify against his conduct before a grand jury that summer. [12] Stover died around 1689, having sailed for England in 1688, and in the following years his family was driven from York by Indian attacks, some children to other Maine towns, his wife to Scituate, Massachusetts, and his son Josiah, changing his name to Stafford, to Tiverton, then part of Bristol County, Massachusetts, a town just east of Newport, Rhode Island. [13] Predominantly Baptist and Quaker, the people of Tiverton and adjacent Dartmouth struggled for decades against the efforts of the Massachusetts authorities to impose church taxes; finally Tiverton was annexed to Rhode Island in 1746. [14] Staffords were among the Quaker families in Tiverton, as were Durfees and Chases, neighboring families with whom they would retain connections for more than a century. [15]

Born around 1700, Josiah's son Joseph Stafford was a man of local standing and a practitioner of the occult. Signing his will in 1770 as "esquire," he was apparently a justice of the peace as well as a physician of local reputation. He was also a writer of almanacs and a teller of fortunes. It is impossible to say exactly which sect he adhered to, but in 1778 his brothers Abraham and David Stafford were attending the Sixth Principle Baptist Church located on the Tiverton-Dartmouth line. The minister, Peleg Burroughs, described by one historian as "tinctured" with Quakerism, was married to a devout Seventh Day Baptist, Keziah Burdick, a granddaughter of one of the founders of the Westerly branch of the Newport Sabbatarian church. [16] Though quite coincidental, it was eminently fitting that Joseph Stafford's death was

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12. Charles E. Banks, History of York, Maine, 2 vols. (Boston: Calkins Press, 1935), 1:110; 2:20-22, 123-25.

13. Banks, History of York, 2:21-22; F. M. Angellotti, "Sylvester Stover of York, Me., and Some of his Descendants," New England Genealogical and Historical Register 85 (1931): 300-305; Don Charles Nearpass, "Materials for a Genealogy of Josiah Stover who became Josiah Stafford of Tiverton, RI," Latter Day Saints Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

14. William G. McLoughlin, "Tiverton's Fight for Religious Liberty, 1692-1724," Rhode Island History 38 (1979), 35-38: idem, "The Dartmouth Quakers' Struggle for Religious Liberty, 1692-1734," Quaker History 78 (1989): 1-23.

15. Lenore Evans et al., A Patchwork History of Tiverton, Rhode Island: A Bicentennial History (Tiverton: Tiverton Historical Society, 1976), p. 41.

16. Peleg Burrough's Journal, 1778-1798: The Tiverton, R.I. Years of the Humbly Bold Baptist Minister, ed. Ruth W. Sherman (Warwick: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1981), pp. xv, 5, 31; McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1:582, note 34.




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noted in the Rhode Island newspapers in the same list as that of the Reverend Thomas Hiscox, "a most able divine," forty years the minister of the Westerly Sabbatarian church. [17]

Tiverton's sectarian religious culture clearly shaped Joseph Stafford's earliest almanacs, the 1737 and 1738 issues of The Rhode Island Almanack, published in Newport by Anne Franklin, widow of Benjamin Franklin's older brother James. A list of the tides and eclipses introduced a detailed astrological chart of the months, with the dates of Quaker and Baptist general meetings in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania listed at the end. In 1735 and in 1739, first James and then Anne Franklin, writing as "Poor Robin," filled out the almanac's pages with secular material: "An Amorous Dialogue between Ben the Sailor and Miss Prue" was one item in 1735, printed with verses on the seasons and the course of human life. Unlike that of the Franklins, Stafford's filler in 1737 and 1738 was explicitly religious and reflected a sensibility nurtured on spiritual certainties rather than Calvinist fears. For April 1737 there was this gentle reminder, suggesting that Stafford, like Peleg Burroughs, was "tinctured" with Quakerism: "What Pains men take to fit their Land to bring the Grain / But the true Spiritual Seed makes the greatest Gain." A year later there was a similar message: "The plow-man guides his Plow with all his care and Skill / So does the Spirit guide all true Believers still." In 1739 Anne Franklin began putting out her own almanac, and for the next seven years Stafford carried his work to Boston for publication. In 1740 he described himself as "A Lover of the Truth," and by 1744 he was boldly calling himself "A Student of Astronomy and Astrology." Again there is the detail on tides, eclipses, and the astrological conditions for each day of the year, but the pious couplets and announcements of dissenting meetings gave way to an accounting of the years since creation according to Greek, Judaic, and Scriptural calculations, the man of signs, and mathematical questions "for the Sons of Art to divert themselves with in a winter-evening." [18]

Such is the published corpus of Joseph Stafford, but much more evidence of his life and practice has survived. His June 1770 will split his farmstead between his older sons John and Samuel. But to his younger son Lilly Stafford, presumably named for William Lilly the Civil War astrologer, he left money, notes, and book debts, as well as "all my library of books with all my apothecary stuff and phials with the Book case that the books are in... and a small chest in

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17. Newport Mercury, 31 May 1773, p. 3; and Providence Gazette, 5 June 1773, p. 3.

18. James Franklin, Joseph Stafford, and Anne Franklin, The Rhode Island Almanack (Newport, 1735, 1737, 1738, 1739); Joseph Stafford, An Almanack for the Year... (Boston, 1739, 1740, 1744); (none of the Stafford almanacs survives for 1741-43 and 1745).




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the Chamber with apothecary stuff in it..." These items, surviving a wagon trip to western New York around 1820, have remained together in family hands for two centuries. Stafford's library, and the tiny manuscript fragments scattered through it, provide a fascinating glimpse of one of the more sophisticated cunning folk in eighteenth-century New England. [19]

Among Stafford's books was a copy of Henry Van Etten's Mathematical Recreation, published in London in 1674, and a 1731 surveying manual by John Love; these texts presumably contributed to his mathematical questions in his later almanacs. Otherwise his collection was dominated by English medical texts, twenty volumes in all, dating from 1659 to 1757, including titles by Nicholas Culpeper, William Salmon, Edward Strother, Thomas Short, John Allen, John Quincy, Peter Shaw, Robert James, and John Huxham. [20]

These manuals were a comprehensive sample of medical opinion over this century, but they were not a particularly rich source for the occult. Compared to the massive occult collections oof the Reverend Thomas Teackle, a seventeenth-century minister in Accomack County, Virginia, Stafford's collection is rather mundane, probably typical for that of a well-prepared country doctor. [21] But the tiny manuscript fragments scattered throughout these volumes tell us something of his practice in both medicine and the occult.

Some of the paper slips (Figure 1), recording notations, page numbers, and transcribed formulas, suggest that Stafford had a busy practice. Among these were notes on "the throat distemper," the springtime scourge of the New England settlements, for which he recommended sixteen grains of "calomel & the golden sulphur of antimony," to be taken "in pills maid with the syrup of buck thorne." Another notation in The Practical Physician for Travelers listed a prescription of crab's eyes, coral, salt peter, and cream of tartar. Other surviving notes list page references regarding "a cure for "ye epilep[sy]," and for "ye gout and rhumatism," which might have plagued Stafford himself in his later years.

It may well be that local responsibilities required Joseph Stafford to abandon his almanac-writing. His last known almanac was dated 1745, the year before Tiverton was assigned to Rhode Island, when

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19 Joseph Stafford's books, manuscript fragments, and some articles of furniture were passed down through the Stafford family to Marie Stafford Stokoe and her son, William Stokoe. At. Dr. Stokoe's invitation the author examined this material at his home in May 1988. The Joseph Stafford collection has since been donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society. One manuscript fragment refers to "Mr. Stover, Sr.," suggesting that the sons of Josiah of Maine changed the family name from Stover to Stafford.

20. See Appendix 1 for full list of titles.

21. For a discussion of Teackle's collection, see Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, pp. 48-49, 77-78.




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Seven months later he wrote another for Keziah Davis "for the party [?] desired," perhaps for a courtship. The most interesting of these slips (Figure 5), written in the shaking hand of an elderly man, shows that Stafford had hopes of finding buried treasure. Another slip notes money paid to Abraham Stafford in 1768 for "digging," perhaps in the search for Mr. Wing's treasure in Sandwich, a Quaker town forty-five miles to the east on Cape Cod.

Joseph and Abraham Stafford probably found nothing at Sandwich, but their brother David's children were still looking for treasure a half-century later. Staffords, Durfees, and Chases from Tiverton all settled in the Quaker settlements of Farmington, in Ontario County, New York, early in the nineteenth century. Here Staffords and Chases searched for treasure in the hills, looking for magical direction in bits of stream-polished stone. Joshua Stafford had "a peepstone which looked like white marble"; Sally Chase's stone was green glass. And here they knew another family inclined to the magical, the family of Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, arriving from Vermont in 1816, for whom the hunt for earthly treasure was only a prologue to the miracles and visions which announced the emergence of the Mormon church.

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Newport harbor in the mid-eighteenth century consulted astrologers for auspicious dates of departure. Joseph Stafford may well have been one of those consulted, but the figure reproduced in Mason does not appear to be in his handwriting. The author is grateful to Peter Benes for this reference.




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The early history of Mormonism would recapitulate the connection between radical sectarianism and the occult which had defined Joseph Stafford's world in eighteenth-century Rhode Island. [24]

Joseph Stafford's book collection and manuscript fragments, when viewed in light of the language of his almanac and his family's religious affiliations, provide a striking view of an eighteenth-century fortuneteller, comfortably situated in rural Rhode Island, passing his occult inclinations down to succeeding generations. Magical practice among the Staff ords was thus both coherent and persistent. A broad spectrum of interventions in the invisible world ran through this family history for almost a century. If magic had lost its hold upon the gentry elsewhere in the eighteenth-century English-speaking world, [25] such was not the case for this Rhode Island "esquire" and his family. And the Staffords were not unique. A scattered but consistent pattern of evidence suggests that the sectarian culture in and around Rhode

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24. D. Michael Quinn, Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), pp. 38-39, and more generally, pp. 27-52. Early American money-digging also has been explored in Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 69-78; Ronald Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," Brigham Young University Studies (hereafter cited as BYUS) 24 (1984): 429-60; Marvin S. Hill, "Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion," BYUS 24 (1984): 473- 89; and Alan Taylor, "The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American North-East, 1780-1830," American Quarterly 38 (1986): 6-34.

25. Butler, Awash in a Sea of faith, pp. 76-77.




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Island harbored a disproportionate share of the occult knowledge in eighteenth-century New England.

Such a connection between sectarians and the occult certainly had its origins in the previous century. In the recent analyses of seventeenth-century witchcraft episodes, particularly that at Salem, scholars have stressed the repeated instances in which the orthodox suspected religious dissenters of witchcraft. [26] But it is also clear that in witchcraft detection and accusation, dissenters could give as good as

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26. Lyle Koehler, A Search for Power: The "Weaker Sex" in Seveenteenth-Century New England (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), pp. 288, 474-77, 480-81; Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: Norton, 1987), pp. 122-25; Hall, Worlds of Wonder, pp. 100-102; John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 113, 380; Christine L. Heyrman, "Specters of Subversion, Societies of Friends: Dissent and the Devil in Provincial Essex County, Massachusetts," in Saints and Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History, ed. David D. Hall, John M. Murrin, and Thad W. Tate (New York: Norton, 1984), pp. 39-75. The links between early dissent and witchcraft accusation have not been fully explored. Mary Oliver was one of several women who persisted in troubling the Salem church after Roger Williams had left for Rhode Island. Her husband returned to England between 1648 and 1652 and on his return remarried a woman later known as Bridget Bishop, who was accused of witchcraft in both 1679 and 1692. Mary Veren Putnam, at the center of a cluster of accusation in 1692, was a sister-in-law of Jane Veren, another noted early dissenter in Salem. Boyer and Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed, pp. 136-51; Koehler, A Search for Power, pp. 217, 478-79; Richard P. Gildrie, Salem, Massachusetts, 1626-1683: A Covenant Community (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1975), pp. 81-83; Sidney Perley, History of Salem, Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Salem: n.p., 1924-28), 1:304; 2:49-51.




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they got. At Salem, at least as many Quakers and their relations made accusations as were accused; the most notable among the Quaker accusers were Thomas Maule, Samuel Shattuck, and Joseph Pope. [27] And dissenters were quick to use the magical defenses against witchcraft which the Calvinist clergy sought to suppress. Thomas Maule had attended a meeting of Quakers in New Hampshire in 1682 where the house was apparently assaulted by spiritual forces, particularly stones thrown down the chimney. The assembled delegates, including the governor and deputy governor of West Jersey and Rhode Island, resorted to the occult defense of boiling bent needles in a pot of urine, to no avail. Samuel Shattuck, another Salem Quaker, had attempted to assault Bridget Bishop and Mary Parker by occult means, convinced that they had harmed his children. In 1694 in New London, Bathsheba Fox, a sister of John Rogers, the leader of New London's Sabbatarian Rogerene separatists, put witches' puppets in the meetinghouse in the midst of conflict between the Rogerene and orthodox families. [28] And diagnostically, whereas Richard Godbeer notes in his recent book— the other New England colonies adopted statutes against witchcraft which were "biblically inspired and followed theological principles," the law against witchcraft in Rhode Island rested on the English statute of 1604. This law made no reference to the devil, and -- as Keith Thomas points out -- "left a loophole for magicians"

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27. Christine Heyrman found accused witches from ten Quaker and Quaker-affiliated families in Salem, Lynn, Beverly, and Andover (Nurse, Proctor, Farrar, Hood, DeRich, Bassett, Hawkes, Hart, Wardwell, and Tookey). Comparing lists of Quakers with the courts records, the author found another ten such families whose members accused or provided evidence against accused witches (Ruck, Pope, Shattuck, Maule, Wilkins, Trask, Bacon, Hill, Gray, Small). Members of three other Quaker-affiliated families signed petitions for the pardon of accused witches (Gaskin, Smith, Stone). Heyrman, "Specters of Subversion," pp. 51-53. Quaker lists in Jonathan Chu, Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts Bay (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985), pp. 169-74; compared with documents in Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds., The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witch Outbreak of 1692, 3 vols. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1977).

28. Chadwick Hansen, Witchcraft at Salem (New York: G. Braziller, 1969), pp. 66, 79-80; Koehler, A Search for Power, p. 421, citing Connecticut Records, 48:27-28. Although this may make too close an identification of the cunning folk and the dissenters (especially in light of the evidence from the Salem witch trials where considerable evidence for occult practice was heard), many of those people who admitted to occult practices were outsiders of some sort or another. Of the ten individuals discussed in Hansen, Witchcraft at Salem, 63-86, Samuel Shattuck and Thomas Maule were Quakers, Bridget Bishop was connected to the Oliver family (see note above), Tituba and Candy were slaves from the West Indies (one Indian, one African), George Burroughs had lived in Maine, and Wilmot Redd was from Marblehead, a fishing community long marginal to Puritan orthodoxy. Similarly, Richard Godbeer's evidence in The Devil's Dominion suggests that dissenters were an important element among those knowledgeable in magic, that many of the latter "were clearly not Puritans," and that only a minority of the "godly layfolk used magic." Godbeer, Devil's Dominion, pp. 46-54.




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who could claim to be dealing with good spirits, rather than "evil" ones. [29] Just as many among the radical sects of seventeenth- century England had a particular affinity for the occult -- whether it be divine healing, alchemical medicine, or treasure hunting -- so too the dissenters of seventeenth-century New England. The same may be said for the eighteenth century. Joseph Stafford was certainly not alone in his practice of magic in eighteenth-century Rhode Island. Of the eleven occultists that Peter Benes has located in the years between 1700 and 1775, five lived in Rhode Island; the others lived in seaport towns or seem to have been wandering itinerants. There is little or no evidence in these decades for consistent magical practice by the orthodox inhabitants of the rural Congregational communities of interior Massachusetts or Connecticut. This may explain why when a child was lost in northern Worcester County, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1755, one of the searchers went down to Scituate, Rhode Island, to enlist the occult skills of a cunning man, a blacksmith named William Wood. [30] This episode has been often cited as evidence of the pervasiveness of the "folklorized occult" in eighteenth-century New England. [31] But why, if folk magic was so pervasive, did he have to travel over thirty miles through the Blackstone Valley into Rhode Island to find a competent diviner? In a very similar case later in the century, William Pynchon of Salem recorded that after a dry-goods shop was robbed in 1784, the proprietress "set... out for Providence to visit the Conjuror to find her goods. [32] Here the pull of Rhode Island magic is even more striking, as there is evidence of several fortune-tellers working at this time in the Essex County seaport towns. Why did these people make this long trek? Quite simply because occult belief and practice best survived in the eighteenth century in the religious culture of sectarian spiritism which prevailed in and around Rhode Island.

Stafford's story leads us to a series of cunning folk, born in the folds of sectarian religion, who carry us into the nineteenth century. In particular, the world of Joseph Stafford was also the world of a diviner

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29 Godbeer, Devil's Dominion, p. 158; Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, pp. 442-43. See also Clive Holmes, "Popular Culture? Witches, Magistrates, and Divines in Early Modern England," in Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century, ed. Stephen L. Kaplan (New York: Mouton, 1984), pp. 85-112.

30. See Peter Benes, "Fortunetellers, Wise-Men, and Transient 'Witches' in New England," in this volume, Table 4. Ebenezer Parkman, The Diary of Ebenezer Parkman, 1703-1782, First Part, ed. Francis G. Walett, (Worchester, 1974), 288.

31. Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, p. 88; Godbeer, Devil's Dominion, p. 228.

32. William Pynchon, Diary of William Pynchon of Salem, Massachusetts (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1890), pp. 175-76. The author is indebted to Peter Benes for this reference.




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described as the "Old Rodsman" in an essay titled "The History of the Divining Rod," published in Ohio in 1850. [33] The "Rodsman" combined magical divining with medicinal lore, metallurgical and alchemical knowledge, and a sense of the mystical, manifested most powerfully in his analogy between salvation and evaporation, a recurring theme among the seventeenth-century sectarians of alchemical inclination. [34]

According to the account of his life in the "History of the Divining Rod," the "Rodsman" was born in 1775 in the Westport section of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a neighborhood adjacent to Tiverton on the east, known as the "devil's pocket hole" and "prolific in witch stories." The "Rodsman" emigrated first in 1797 to the town of Sydney in Kennebec County, Maine, and then 1813 to western New York, arriving in Marietta, Ohio, in 1816. [35] Resarch by Mormon historian Thomas L. Revere indicates that the "Rodsman" was a man named Stephen Davis, born in Westport in 1777. There were a number of Davises among the Seventh Day Baptists in Rhode Island and New Jersey, as was the "Rodsman," they were descendants of Welsh immigrants, one group of whom came to Swansea with Baptist John Miles in 1662. Davis was apparently related to Aron Davis, an early preacher in the Sixth Principle Baptist church attended by Joseph Stafford's brothers Abraham and David in the 1770s; the Keziah Davis for whom Stafford wrote a fortune in 1768 might have been an aunt or a cousin. And when the "Rodsman" moved west from Maine in 1813, his first stop was in Palmyra, New York, adjacent to Farmington, where David Stafford's son Joshua had settled around 1800, and adjacent to Manchester, where in 1816 the family of Joseph Smith, treasure diviner and Mormon prophet, would settle on Stafford Road. [36]

The alchemical universalism of Stephen Davis, as we may safely call the "Old Rodsman," was thus very much derived from the world of Joseph Stafford, a world compounded of magical belief and the

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33. "A History of the Divining Rod; with the Adventures of an Old Rodsman," The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, n.s. 26 (1850): 218-25, 317-27.

34. "A History of the Divining Rod," pp. 318, 326-27: for analogous belief in the seventeenth century, see Morton, The World of the Ranters, pp. 136-37.

35. "A History of the Divining Rod," p. 221.

36. The author is grateful to Thomas L. Revere for the use of his census research on Stephen Davis. Working back from a Stephen Davis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Marietta, Ohio, born in Maine around 1813, Revere found Stephen Davises in Westport in 1790, in Kennebec County in 1800, in Sydney, Maine, in 1810, and in Marietta in 1820 and 1830, and nearby in Ohio in 1840. On the Welsh Davises among the Seventh Day Baptists, see The Seventh Day Baptist Memorial: A Quarterly Magazine devoted to Biography, History, and Statistics 2 (1853): 101-61; Richard M. Baylies, History of Newport County, Rhode Island (New York, 1888), p. 924; Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to the Year 1860, 3 vols. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1930), 2:154; Vital Records of Westport, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1918), p. 39; on Stafford Road, see Bushman, Joseph Smith, pp. 48, 70-74.




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Arminian theology passed down from the seventeenth-century General Baptists and Sabbatarians. Occult interests could spill over into the established church in this region; the Reverend Samuel West, a Congregational minister of liberal inclinations settled in Dartmouth, communicated with Ezra Stiles on his experiments in alchemy during the 1770s. [37] Connections between the occult and Sabbatarian Baptist traditions characterized the origins of at least one other noted post-Revolutionary diviner, the notorious con man Ransford Rogers. Born in the New London area, Ransford was still a minor when his father Joseph Rogers died in 1763. Joseph was a great-nephew both of John Rogers, who founded the Rogerenes in 1677, and of Bathsheba Fox, who put witches' puppets in the New London meetinghouse in 1694. [38]

The Rogerenes suggest a series of other channels by which the affinity between sectarianism and the occult moved through early America. Like the English Seekers, Quakers, and Muggletonians, the Rogerenes claimed earthly perfection, powers of spiritual healing, and descent from the "seed" of Adam through Abel. [39] Starting with these doctrinal continuities reaching back to the English Revolution, the Rogerenes developed wide connections in the colonies. From 1701 the Rogerenes (and other Sabbatarians in Rhode Island) maintained a connection with the German Sabbatarians in Pennsylvania, among whom the religious occult was fully elaborated, including the Wissahickon mystic Johannes Kelpius and the Sabbatarian Brethren at the Ephrata cloister. This connection was most importantly manifested in a pilgrimage by four Ephrata brethren to New London in 1744, where they consulted with the Rogerenes on "abstruse theological mysteries" [40]

According to the Ephrata chronicles, the German pilgrims' visit to New London had a profound impact in this "fruitful garden of God" among "the many converted souls... who were commonly called

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37. Stiles, Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, 2:174; Ronald S. Wilkinson, New England's Last Alchemists," Ambix 10 (1962): 137-38.

38. Joseph Rogers may have named his youngest son for Mary Ransford, John Rogers's common-law wife. For Ransford Rogers and the Rogers family, see New London Probate District Document #4467, 7 April 1763 ("Mrs Charity Rogers is apointed Guardian to her Son Joseph Rogers on his Choice -- & to Benjamin & Ransford in Minority"), and James S. Rogers, comp., James Rogers of New London, Ct., and his Descendants (Boston: n.p., 1902), p. 56.

39. For example, see John Rogers, A Midnight Cry from the Temple of God to the Ten Virgins Slumbering and Sleeping... [Also, An Epistle to the Church of Christ, called Quakers, & to the seventh day Baptists], 2d ed. (New London: Joseph Bolles, 1722), esp. pp. 207, 209, 211; and Peter Pratt, The Prey Taken from the Strong... (New London: T. Green, 1725), esp. pp. 40-41, 46-47, 51-53.

40. "Brothers Lamech and Agrippa," Chronicon Ephratense: A History of the Community of Seventh-Day Baptists at Ephrata, Lancaster County, Penn'a, ed. J. Max Hark. (German publ., Ephrata, 1786; trans. publ. Lancaster, 1889; reprint ed., New York: Burt Franklin, 1972), pp. 176-77; Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, pp. 76-77.




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'New Lights.' " [41] Their influences, and those of the Rogerenes, on the Great Awakening in southeast New England are probably impossible to unravel. But there are interesting parallels between the perfectionism of these radical Sabbatarians and that of a scattering of perfectionist sects which emerged in southeast New England during and after the Awakening.

In particular, perfectionist tendencies emerged among Separates in several towns in eastern Connecticut and in the Blackstone Valley in northern Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Mansfield, Connecticut, Separates wrote in their confession that their election, "humbling us by Gospel Grace[,] has made us Partakers of the Divine Nature, which being added to Christ's taking the Humane Nature makes up the Union between Christ and our Souls." In 1747 the orthodox ministers of Windham County united in condemning this confession, calling it "little short of the Blasphemy of Jacob Bekman [Boehme], our being godded with GOD, and christed with Christ." But claims of immortalism had already begun to spread among the Separates: in 1746 in Windham one group announced that they "were perfect and immortal; and one of them declared he was Christ." Counting themselves to be perfect in holiness, immortal, and even divine, some claimed the right of spiritual wifery; others turned to treasure-divining. [42]

Treasure-divining was a central dimension of the radical perfectionist of the New Israelite movement which emerged in Rutland County, Vermont, at the end of the 1790s, a sect with connections running back to the eastern Connecticut of the Great Awakening. Their leader, Nathaniel Wood, had emigrated in the early 1780s from Norwich, Connecticut, where he had been a member of a Separate meeting in the Newent Parish. Perhaps influenced by Rogerene missionaries who disrupted Sunday worship in Norwich in 1725 and 1763, the Newent Separates "tolerated some serious errors," including a perfectionist immortalism which led to spiritual wifery. [43] The beliefs of the Vermont New Israelites brought together magical practice and millenarian anticipation of a new age of spirit in ways not seen since Ephrata and the English

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41. Chronicon Ephratense, p. 177.

42. C.C. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740-1800: Strict Congregationalists and Separate Baptists in the Great Awakening (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), pp. 150-51, 200-202; William G. McLoughlin, "Free Love, Immortalism, and Perfectionism in Cumberland, Rhode Island, 1748-1768," Rhode Island History 33 (1974): 67-85; Clarke Garrett, Spirit Possession and Popular Religion: From the Camisards to the Shakers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), pp. 134-39.

43. Henry F. Bishop, Historical Sketch of Lisbon, Connecticut, from 1786 to 1900 (New York: n.p., 1903), pp. 16-17; Garrett, Spirit Possession, pp. 134-35; John S. Wood, The Wood Family Index (Germantown, Md.: n.p., 1966), pp. 114, 261, 354, 411; Francis M. Caulkins, History of Norwich, Connecticut (New London: n.p., 1874), p. 441. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism, p. 84; Barnes Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont... (Poultney, Vt.: n.p., 1867), pp. 44-46.




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Revolutionary sects. After his excommunication, Nathaniel Wood prophesied "special acts of Providence" and claimed powers of revelation. Denoting themselves remnants of the Lost Tribes of Israel living in a special dispensation, his family and followers claimed powers of healing and divining -- both for revelations and for treasure. Beginning work on a temple, they divined for gold "to pave the streets of the New Jerusalem." Their expectations that a "Destroying Angel" would bring down earthquakes and plagues on the "gentiles" so alarmed the town that on the appointed night (14 January 1802) the militia turned out under arms. When the apocalypse failed to materialize, the Woods removed west to Ellisburg in St. Lawrence County, New York. Their story was much entangled with the formative origins of Mormonism. [44]

The dissenting world of southeast New England was a pivotal crossroads in the history of an American religious occult. With their own connections running back into the radical experience of the English Revolution, these New England sectarians were receptive to the systematic hermetic perfection of the Pennsylvania German mystics of the Wissahickon Creek and Ephrata cloister. And in the half century following the Revolution, sectarian people from a broader southeastern New England figured prominently in many of the early-nineteenthcentury perfectionist sects.

Historians of magic in early New England have focused most of their, attention on the problem of witchcraft accusation in a Calvinist culture and especially upon the events of exactly three centuries ago. This historiographical focus is in no way misplaced. However, similar efforts should be made to explore the religious and magical beliefs of eighteenth-century sectarians on the axis running from southeast New England to the greater mid-Atlantic. Given the sectarian diversity and perfectionist individualism of nineteenth-century American culture, and the growing attention to the conjuring, alchemical qualities of American capitalism, such an exploration of eighteenth-century antecedents may well prove quite fruitful.

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44. Frisbie, Middletown, pp. 44-46, 52-53, 56; Vermont American (7 May 1828); Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, pp. 30-32, 84-90.




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Note: The transcriber has made a careful effort to keep the extent of this textual excerpt within the limits of the "fair use" provision of copyright law. If the copyright holder wishes this excerpt to be shortened, those wishes will be complied with.





excerpts from: Mark Ashurst-McGee's
"A Pathway to Prophethood..."

MA Thesis: 2000 Utah State University
Copyright © Mark Ashurst-McGee 2000



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CHAPTER  3

JOSEPH  SMITH  AND  THE  GIFT  OF
WORKING  WITH  THE  ROD

There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.
                    -- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  [1]

He carried a magic divining-rod,
And miraculous crystal stone
Which, laid in the darkened crown of his hat,
Would mirror a scene unknown
                    -- A Ballad of Old Pocock, Vermont  [2]

Augmented by later sources, Jesse Smith's contemporary letter establishes Joseph Smith Senior's use of a divining rod. As also noted in the previous chapter, Joseph gave rods to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. Kimball, if not Young, used his rod when praying for revelation. These facts point to Joseph Smith Junior as an inheritor and transmitter of a tradition of rod divining. This chapter reviews the evidence for Joseph Junior's use of a rod in the context of his times and in the context of his own spiritual development. Very little is known about Joseph's use of a divining rod. I explore possibilities suggested by relevant sources. [3] Later, Joseph would use seer stones for divination. His use of a rod may have been rooted in an earlier stage of wisdom divination.

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1 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 175.

2 Leonard Twynham, A Ballad of Old Pocock, Vermont (North Montpelier, Vermont: The Driftwind Press, 1931), 6.

3 In the mid-1980s, a spurious letter from Joseph Smith to Josiah Stowell, which instructed the latter how to cut a divining rod, gained considerable public attention. Later, it was discovered that this letter was the handicraft of document forger Mark Hofmann. Richard E. Turley Jr.,




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From his mother, Joseph inherited an appreciation for health and healing, and may have become familiar with associated methods of wisdom divination. The "Word of Wisdom," his 1834 revelation that prescibed grains, fruit, and "all wholesome herbs," was received within a cultural and family context of health and hygene concern. [4] As noted, the Smith family grew ginseng in Vermont. Later, Joseph's wife Emma used ginseng. [5] Joseph Junior may have passed on an appreciation for its qualities. He taught that sickness should be treated with herbs and mild food. [6]

There is some evidence that Joseph grew in wisdom as he grew in stature. Christopher M. Stafford of Manchester claimed that Joseph read his palm. [7] Joseph may also have subscribed to the related principles of physiognomy. In 1843, Mormon apostle Wilford Woodruff recorded Joseph teaching this method of divination or a nearly identical theory.
Handsome men are not oft wise & strong-minded men but the Strength of a strong minded man will Create corse features like the rough & strong bough of the oak. You will always discover in the first glance of a man in the outlines of his features sumthing of the mind of the man. [8]
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Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Dlinois Press, 1992), 74-76, 356; Sillitoe and Roberts, Salamander, 557.

4 Doctrine and Covenants 89; Lester E. Bush. "The Word of Wisdom in Early Nineteenth Century Perspective," in The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 161-85.

5 As noted, the Smith family grew ginseng in Vermont Later, Joseph's wife Emma used ginseng (EMD, 1:243n34). Joseph Junior may have agreed on its qualities.

6 Lester E. Bush, Jr., Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense, and Scripture (New York: Crossroad, 1993), 89-93.

7 C[hristopher] M. Stafford affidavit, Auburn, Ohio, 23 March 1885, in Arthur B. Deming, "Mormon Prophet," Naked Truths about Mormonism, April 1888, p. 1, col. 1.

8 Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 2:232.




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An entry in the journal of Joseph Smith's brother-in-law Oliver B. Huntington indicates that Joseph practiced what he preached. In 1846, while on a mission in England, Huntington and his missionary companion visited a wise woman who belonged to the church there:
Nothing in her did we discover contrary to the order of truth & righteousness, yet she like... others who have had true gifts look unwisely, and sometimes tell that which they do not know, through over anxiety of themselves or others. She tells what she does by the Planates, from the person's looks and moles.... She would look at a man and tell him all about himself; and such an eye I never saw. She would do just as the Prophet Joseph used to; look a person from head to toe. Her eye commencing at the face, go down and then up. This she called "Taking Stock".... she said she was a seer and not a fortune teller; she would be mad in a minute if the word fortune was spoken. [9]
A background belief in physiognomy may have been what caused Joseph to take phrenology seriously. Practitioners of this nineteenth-century pseudo-science determined human qualities from the bumps on a person's head. Notes of an 1841 discourse record, "Joseph Smith said... to the Congregation that he for a lenth of time, thought on phreknoleagee [phrenology]; & if that he had a Revalation. the Lord Rebuking him sharply in Crediting such a thing...." [10]

Interest in palmistry and physiognomy would have come from Lucy Mack Smith.

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9 "Oliver B. Huntington's Journal, 1846," Ms, Special Conections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, "Book 3," pp. 51-53 (emphasis in original).

10 McIntire Minute Book, LDS Archives, quoted in Ehat and Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith, 61. See also Davis Bitton and Gary L Bunker, "Phrenology among the Mormons," Journal of Mannon History 9, no. 1 (1974): 42-45; Quinn. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 309-10.




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Joseph may also have had a rudimentary knowledge of the basic astrology so common in his day. Astrology entwined itself with numerology, another form of wisdom divination. D. Michael Quinn argues that the Smiths used numerology and that astrology was important in Joseph's life. [11]

Living on the edge of Palmyra, Joseph could gaze into a magnificent night sky that was unaffected by a lantern or two shining in the village. If Joseph believed that earthly matters could be divined by tracking the moon's movement through the constellations of the zodiac, this belief was subsumed by an overarching theology of God's omnipotent dominion over the universe. In 1832, he recalled:
...from the age of twelve years to fifteen [1817/18 - 1820/21] I pondered many things in my heart... I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood... all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds.... [12]
If Joseph subscribed to the principles of astrology, this belief may have been reinforced for him when he translated "The Book of Abraham" from Egyptian

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11 This argument crops up throughout Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. See especially chapter 3: "Ritual MagiC, Astrology, Amulets, and Talismans," 66-W.

12 "A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr.," in Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives, pp.2-3, in PIS, 1:5-6. See also Neal A. Maxwell, "The Disciple-Scholar," in On Becoming a Disciple-Scholar: Lectures Presented at the Brigham Young University Honors Program Discipline and Discipleship Lecture Series, ed. Henry B. Eyring (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1995), 8-14.




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papyri that he acquired in 1835. Joseph's "explanation" of one figure on the papyri speaks of the "governing power" of certain stars. [13]

Water Witching and Treasure Dowsing

Some of Joseph's New York neighbors remembered him dowsing in his youth. He may have taken up the rod for a number of reasons. While Joseph's mother practiced wisdom divination, his father dowsed with a rod. In adolescence, males typically break away somewhat from their mothers and begin to model their behavior after their fathers. American water witches have often considered their gift an inherited one -- usually passed down through a father-to-son tradition. [14] Also, as Joseph entered adolescence, he began working with his father away from home. As Joseph Smith Senior taught his sons how to safely dig wells, it was only natural for him to pass on the art of dowsing as well. [15]

Most dowsers discover the gift in their youth, but do not use it regularly until they reach adulthood because farmers and others who need wells trust adult dowsers more than children. [16] The scarcity of sources regarding Joseph's use of a divining rod probably stem from the fact that he rarely used it. By the

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13 Abraham, "explanation" accompanying facsimile no. 2. The Book of Abraham constitutes a book of scripture in The Pearl of Great Price. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989). See also Robert F. Smith, Oracles & Talismans, Forgery & Pansophia: Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Renaissance Magus (n.p. [Salt Lake City): n.p. [Zion Book Store], 1987), 25-26.

14 For a general assessment of this practice, see Vogel and Hyman, Water Witching U.S.A., 33, 153; Wyman, Witching for Water, Oil, Pipes, and Precious Minerals, 1, 18.

15 Morgan, Quinn, and Marquardt and Walters hold that Joseph Junior learned to use a divining rod from his father. Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism, 229; Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 33; Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, 65.

16 Vogt and Hyman, Water Witching, U.S.A., 159-161.




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early 1820s, Joseph was using a seer stone. This stood out more in the memories of both friends and enemies.

If Joseph Smith Senior wanted his son to be able to use a seer stone, he may have decided to teach him to use a divining rod as an intermediary step. Or, failing to find a stone for him, perhaps he taught him to dowse as a substitute. Relying on local rumor, Thomas Ford, who had been Governor of Illinois during the Mormon sojourn there, wrote concerning the Smiths' dowsing -- possibly in connection with a caul birth. "He [Joseph Smith Junior] and his father before him were what are called 'water witches,' always ready to point out the ground where wells might be dug and water found, and many are the anecdotes of his early life giving bright promise of future profligacy." [17]

Joseph Senior probably wanted to pass on his knack for dowsing. In 1799, Asael decided to give "A few words of advice whic[h] I Leave to you my Dear wife and children whome I expect ear [ere] Long to Leave." He asked his children to be good parents to his grandchildren: "make it your cheafest work to bring them up in the ways of Virtue that they may be usefull in their generation."

The most useful community role that Joseph Smith Senior filled was witching wells. Asael's patriarchal counsel may have motivated Joseph Senior to pass on

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17 Ford, A History of Illinois, 174 [or, 252] (emphasis mine). After speaking with some men from the Palmyra-Manchester area, Barnes Frisbie -- who attempted to document the Wood Scrape in the 1860s -- concluded that Joseph Junior learned rod divining from his father. Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont, 60-64. Although not entirely dismissable, Frisbie's research and reasoning remain dubious.




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this skill. [18] After speaking with Orlando Saunders, an old friend and neighbor of the Smith family, journalist Frederic G. Mather reported that "father and sons believed in witchcraft [water-witchcraft?], and they frequently 'divined' the presence of water by a forked stick or hazel rod."

Of the sources that mention the Smiths' use of divining rods, only Mather ascribed dowsing to more than one son. All others mention only Joseph Junior. As some early Americans ascribed dowsing ability to seventh sons, perhaps Joseph's father singled him out for dowsing because he was the third son. [19] Joseph's use of a divining rod may have grown out of a background in his family's wisdom divination. In one study of rural divination, astrology and dowsing were lumped together under the category of "agricultural magic." [20] Astrology may have provided Joseph a bridge from the wise ways of his mother to the dowsing practiced by his father. As evidence that Joseph Smith believed in the astrological significance of Jupiter, the ruling planet of his birth year, D. Michael Quinn suggests that Joseph took up the rod because Jupiter ruled over hazel -- the wood most preferred by early American dowsers. [21] To document

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18 The Book of Mormon begins, "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father..." (1 Nephi 1:1). Those who take the Book of Mormon as disguised autobiography have taken this to mean that Joseph Smith Junior learned the ways of treasure seeking from his father. See, for example, Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism 315-318.

19 Joseph Smith Junior gave a straight, staff-like cane to Joseph Knight Senior. Joseph Knight Senior named his third son Joseph (See the family chart on the inside front cover of Hartley, "They Are My Friends": A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825-1850). The cane has been handed down to descendents named Joseph (see the photograph of the cane and the caption for this photograph in ibid).

20 Vogt and Hyman, Water Witching, U.s.A., 211.

21 Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 81.




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Jupiter's rule over hazel Quinn produces three arcane sources, only one of which had been reprinted since the 1680s. Also, according to each source, Jupiter rules over not only hazel, but also almond, ash, fig, oak, olive, pear, and vines. [22]

Furthermore, one of these sources infonned the reader that Mercury also rules over hazel. [23] Even if Joseph Smith did have access to the astrological doctrine that Jupiter ruled over hazelwood, it probably meant nothing to him.

However, cutting a divining rod may have provided a bridge for Joseph Smith between wisdom divination and dowsing. Many American dowsers followed a long-standing European practice of cutting divining rods from trees during astrologically significant days and times. [24] A number of dowsers -- ranging from Germany to America -- preferred to cut rods on St. John's day -- the celebration of the Summer Solstice. [25] This was probably the day on which Nathaniel Wood -- the patriarch of the New Israelites -- cut his forked witch-hazel,

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22 William Ully, Christian Astrology (London: Thomas BrudeneU, 1647), 64; Henry Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettesheim, Three Books of Occult Philosophy or Magic: Book One -- Natural Magic (London: Gregory Moule, 1651; Chicago: Hahn & Whitehead, 1898), 100; William Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata; or Astrology Restored: Being an Introduction to the General and Chief part of the Language of the Stars (London: "Published by Authority, Printed for Robert White," 1653), 53. Lilly went through several reprints.

23 Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata; or Astrology Restored, 62.

24 Walker, "The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting," 443. For drawings of seventeenth-century horoscopes for determining times to cut a rod, see Bird, The Divining Hand, 94-95.

25 On "St. John's Day," or "Midsummer's Day," as a day for cutting rods, see Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), s. v. "24 June." On cutting divining rods on this day, see James George Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, part 7, Balder the Beautiful: The Fire Festivals of Europe and the Doctrine of the Eternal Soul, vol. 2, 3d ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), 67-68; Beard, The Romance of Treasure Trove, 55; Cavendish, ed., Man, Myth, and Magic, s.v. "Hazel"; Joshua Trachtenburg, Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion (New York: Atheneum, a Temple Book, 1987), 225. See also Granger, A Motif Index for Lost Mines and Treasures..., motif h 1.8.4.1: "St. John's Day."




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which he called "St. John's rod." [26] The Judeo-Christian religious tradition has always associated divine revelation with light. As Wood used his rod to receive revelation, the day with the longest period of sunlight provided an auspicious day to cut one.

D. Michael Quinn asserts that Joseph Smith's culture "required" him to cut rods on auspicious days. [27] Joseph's father may have been one to observe such practices. Mormon schismatic James Colin Brewster remembered that a group of treasure hunters in Kirtland, Ohio, which included Joseph Smith Senior, anointed their rods and prayed over them before using them. [28] Astrology is absent, however, in the Peter Ingersoll affidavit.
I was once ploughing near the house of Joseph Smith, Sen. 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. As my oxen were eating, and being myself at leisure, I accepted the invitation. -- When we arrived near the place at which he thought there was money, he cut a small witch hazle bush and gave me direction how to hold it [29]
Even if Joseph Smith's first divining rod was cut in accordance with folk astrology, it may have been cut by his father, rather than by himself.

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26 Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont, 50. On the other hand, Wood may have associated his rod with St. John for masonic reasons. William Morgan's contemporaneous expose shows that the Freemasonic "blue lodges" of the early nineteenth century were dedicated to St. John. John L Brooke draws a possible connection between Freemasonry and the New Israelites (Brooke, The Refiner's Fire, 140-146).

27 Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 97.

28 Brewster, Very Important! To the Mormon Money Diggers, 3.

29 Peter Ingersoll, statement, Palmyra, New York, 2 December 1833, quoted in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 232-36.




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Establishing a direct link between wisdom divination and Joseph's initial use of a rod is less important than seeing the place of Joseph's dowsing against the background of the family's wise ways. In his theory of revelation, sociologist Rodney Stark notes that "even the least intense form of religious experience contains the potential for more intense encounters." [30] By taking up the rod, Joseph laid hold on the one accessible form of divination practiced in his family that had an ecstatic element.

For the most part, dowsing constitutes a mechanistic method of divination: The dowser walks around with the tip of the rod pointing up into the air and waits for the rod to dip. Still, dowsing may also be classified as a weak form of ecstatic divination because the rod has to be held in the hands of the dowser in order to work. Alan Taylor explains that "religious seekers wanted direct contact with divinity; they yeamed for a religion that they could experience physically. For some, no experience with the supernatural seemed more tangible than the pull of a divining rod...." [31] In their study of American water witching, Vogt and Hyman note that some have taken up dowsing because they wanted to develop "the gift." [32]

Joseph's later use of a seer stone constituted another step toward ecstatic divination. As with dowsing, saying falls under the category of mechanical divination because it requires a tool, in this case a speculum with which the seer

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30 Stark, "A Theory of Revelations," 291.

31 Taylor, "The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy," 22.

32 Vogt and Hyman, Water Witching U.S.A., 168.




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can focus his or her vision and concentration. However, the stone brought supernatural visions to the eyes and mind of the seer. This experience proved more ecstatic than feeling a stick move.

Some of Joseph's old New York neighbors spoke of his divinatory progression. In 1885, Isaac Butts, a former school-mate of Joseph's, stated that "Young Jo had a forked witch-hazel rod with which he claimed he could locate buried money or hidden things. Later he had a peep-stone which he put into his hat and looked into it. I have seen both." [33] Sarah F. Anderick, an old school friend of Joseph's older sister Sophronia, reminisced about Joseph's claims. She stated, "when a young man, he could tell where lost or hidden things and treasures were buried or located with a forked witch hazel.... I heard that Jo obtained... a peep-stone, which he used in the place of the witch hazel." [34]

Investigators gathered similar reports. Frederic G. Mather, who interviewed Orlando Saunders in 1880, affirmed that Smith used a rod before he obtained a seer stone. [35] Ellen E. Dickinson who interviewed New York

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33 Isaac Butts, statement, South Newbury, Ohio, n.d. [co 1885], quoted in "Isaac Butts," Naked Truths about Mormonism, January 1888, p. 2, col. 5. On the dating of this statement, see Dan Vogel's editorial introduction in EMD, 2:202.

34 Mrs. S. F. Anderick, statement, Monterey County, California, 24 June 1887, quoted in "Mrs. S. F. Anderick's Statement," Naked Truths about Mormonism, January 1888, p. 2, col. 4. Dan Vogel has found evidence that Anderick's first name was Sarah (EMD, 2:207). Anderick believed that the peep-stone Joseph obtained was Sally Chase's, but Sally's brother Abel conected this misconception. He told William H. and Edmund L Kelley that he had a "sister that [had] a stone she could see in, but it was not the one that Smith had" (Abel Chase, interviewed by William H. and Edmund L. Kelley, Manchester, New York 6 March 1881, in William Kelley, Notebook no. 5, William H. Kelley Papers, RLDS Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri, p. 8, in EMD, 2:85; cf. Kelley, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald, 1 June 1881, p. 165, col. 2).

35 Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism," Lippincott's Magazine, August 1980, p. 198, col. 2. See also p. 199, col. 1. Mather, however, was unaware of Joseph's first stone.




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neighbors the following year, also affirmed that "he carried a rod of witch-hazel, to assist in the discovery of water." [36] Disciples of Christ preacher Clark Braden, who corresponded with old Palmyrans in preparation for his 1884 debate with RLDS elder Edmund L. Kelley, spoke of Joseph's "primitive, supernatural capacity as a water-witch." [37] James H. Kennedy, who interviewed neighbors in preparation for his 1888 publication, confirmed Butts and Anderick: "The first venture made by young Smith in the line of mystification was as a 'Water Witch." [38]

During John C. Bennett's 1843 anti-Mormon lecture tour, a broadside announced that on 13 January in Alton, Illinois, he would speak on a number of topics:
Joe Smith's Golden Bible; the Divining Rod; the Urim and Thummim; the Daughter of Zion, (Danites); Destroying Angel, (Destructives); Mormon Miracles; Joe's Spiritual Wife System; the Great Mormon Seraglio; Holy Order Lodge; the Mormon Priesthood, &c. [39]
Before his apostacy, Bennett had served as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. His statements and writings freely mix accurate insider

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36 Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 30. On her interviewing, see p. 4.

37 Public Discussion of the Issues Between The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Church of Christ (Disciples) Held in Kirtland, Ohio, Beginning February 12, and Closing March 8, 1884 Between E. L. Kelley, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Clark Braden, of The Church of Christ (Lamoni, Iowa: The Herald Publishing House, 1913), p. 367, col. 2. Braden received information about the Smiths from John H. Gilbert and others (see EMD, 2:146-48, 535-37).

38 Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 19. The Regional historian Arch Merrill, who collected local lore about Joseph Smith in the early twentieth century, picked up stories about his water witching (Arch Merrill, Pioneer Profiles ["Manufactured in New York, New York, by American Book-Stratford Press; distributed from Rochester, New York, by Seneca Book Binding Company," 1957], 157).

39 MORMONISM! (n.p. [Alton, Illinois?): n.p., n.d. [c. 13 January 1843). A photocopy of this broadside can be found in the Library of the LDS Church's Historical Department.




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information with bald-faced lies. His slate of lecture topics, which certainly contains some of the latter, may also contain some of the former. In this roughly chronological list, the divining rod precedes the urim and thummim. [40]

When did Joseph begin divining with a rod? The fact that Joseph had a rod before he had a stone helps date the initial practice. As argued later, Joseph probably obtained his first seer stone in late 1821 or early 1822. He obtained his second seer stone in 1822. So Joseph was using a divining rod by that year. But Joseph began developing the gift of seeing before he obtained his own stone. Some time prior to his move from Palmyra village to the Palmyra-Manchester township line, he began looking into a neighbor's seer stone. [41]

Dating this move, therefore, helps to date the period of time in which Joseph began dowsing. Road tax lists of April 1819 and April 1820 show that sometime between the days on which these lists were made, Joseph Smith Senior moved from the west end of Palmyra's main street to the south end of Stafford road at the township-county line. Apparently Lucy and some of the younger children remained on the west end of the village while Joseph and the older boys built the family's new log home and began clearing land for farming. [42]

A consideration of further historical data helps to sharpen the interval. Wayne County historian W. H. Mcintosh wrote that for the "two and a half years

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40 Barnes Frisbie also asserted that Joseph Smith Junior used a divining rod prior to his use of a seer stone. However, Frisbie's position was connected to his untenable opinion that Joseph Junior and Oliver Cowdery inherited dowsing from their New Israelite fathers. Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont, 63-64.

41 See chapter 4. of this thesis.

42 Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, 3-4. Alvin may have remained in the village for a year or so to manage the shop. Ibid.




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the family resided in the village [42] Joseph Senior and the boys earned money by hiring out as harvesters and well-diggers. [43] Lucy and the children had followed Joseph Senior to Palmyra from Vermont, arriving around January of 1817. [44]

Adding the two and a half years given my McIntosh to this arrival date places the Smith boys near the township line as early as the summer of 1819.

Considering another set of evidence, Donald L. Enders concludes that the Smiths "could not have moved to the Palmyra-Manchester town line any later than mid-1819." [44] Combining these arguments dates the move to the summer of [1819].

Joseph apparently began using a neighbor's seer stone prior to this move. The succession of divinatory modes laid out in this thesis suggests that Joseph's use of a rod preceded his use of seer stones. This, in turn, suggests that Joseph began dowsing by mid-1819 at the latest.

How early could Joseph Smith have begun using a rod? D. Michael Quinn asserts that Joseph's old neighbors "indicated that this occurred during the first stages of his father's treasure digging in the Palmyra area." [46] Actually, former neighbors indicated that young Joseph initially took up the rod as a water-dowser in imitation of his father. James H. Kennedy inferred that this occurred in

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43 Mcintosh, History of Wayne County, New York, 149. Mcintosh calculated that the family moved from the village in 1818, but Joseph Smith Senior did not arrive in the village until late 1816 and the family came even later.

44 EMD, 1:273 n.69, 275 n.73.

45 Enders, "The Joseph Smith, Sr., Family," 215-16.

46 Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 33.




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the early New York years and prior to his father's treasure dowsing. [47] Joseph probably began using a rod in association with the well-digging that characterized the Smith males' work between early 1817 and mid-1819. [48]

Kennedy writes that Joseph began water witching by "successfully locating some hidden streams." Then, driven by ambition, he developed the ability to find underground water. Next came treasure: "From locating subterranean veins of water he advanced to the discovery of hidden riches...." [49]

Kennedy presents a plausible sequence for Joseph's divinatory development, but it may derive more from an "evolution at all costs" interpretation than from his New York interviews. Mather, based perhaps on his interview with Orlando Saunders, asserted a similar progression: "The profession of a water-witch did not bring enough ducats to the Smith family; so the attempt was made to find hidden treasures." [50]

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47 Kennedy, Early Days of Moormonism, 19.

48 Quinn dates Joseph's initial use of a rod to sometime between 1817 and 1819 (33). While I agree with this periodization, I arrive at it for different reasons. Quinn writes that neighbors implied Joseph began dowsing with his father when his father began treasure hunting in Palmyra. However, Joseph Smith Senior probably did not start treasure hunting or treasure dowsing until 1820. Old neighbors actually associate Joseph Junior's initial dowsing with his father's water witching. This did occur as early as 1817. Quinn states that Joseph began dowsing by 1819, when he found his first seer stone. Here he relies on Pomeroy Tucker's dating, which is probably inaccurate. Actually, Joseph probably found his first seer stone in late 1821 or early 1822. However, Joseph began using a neighbor's seer stone in or before the summer of 1819. Therefore, since his ability to use a rod seems to have preceded his ability to see in stones, Joseph [---] probably had begun dowsing by 1819.

49 Kennedy, Early Days of Mormonism, 19.

50 Mather, "The Early Days of Mormonism." Lippincott's Magazine, August 1980, p. 198, col. 2. For examples of twentieth-century dowsers who expanded their gift from water witching to mineral dowsing, see Wyman, Witching for Water, Oil, Pipes, and Precious Mintrals, 48, 53. At the turn of the century, Texan Guy Findlay moved from water witching to doodlebugging oil (Mody Boatright, Folklore of The Oil Industry (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), 17-20.




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New York neighbors affirmed that Joseph did use a rod to find buried treasure. Daniel Hendrix remembered that Joe, in his excursion after gold, carried a divining rod to tell him where there was hidden treasure...." [51]

Christopher M. Stafford, who had lived down the road from Joseph, stated that "Jo claimed he could tell where money was buried with a witch hazel consisting of a forked stick of hazel. He held it one fork in each hand and claimed the upper end was attracted by the money." [52] This ubiquitous method of dowsing, originally documented by Georgius Agricola in the Harz mountains of Germany, has persisted down to the present time. [53]

Residents of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, where the Church of Christ would later be organized, remembered Joseph Smith dowsing in that area. Joseph and his brother Hyrum had hired out in this area as day laborers around 1820. [54] After reading Daniel Hendrix's newspaper interview, Diedrich Willers

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51 Daniel Hendrix, interviewed by Henry G. Tinsley, in Tinsley, "Origin of Mormonism," San Francisco Chronicle, 14 May 1893, p. 12, col. 1.

52 C[hristopher] M. Stafford, statement, Auburn, Ohio, 23 March 1885, quoted in Arthur B. Deming, "Mormon Prophet," Naked Truths about Mormonism, April 1888, p. 1, col. 1.

53 Ellen E. Dickinson wrote that an "old man" from New York's Onandaga Valley claimed Joseph Smith had used his rod and stone there to find water and treasure around 1817-1826 (New Light on Mormonism, 21,31). Joseph did hire out for labor to other areas of New York. but there are a number of other Joseph Smiths in New York, a number of other dowsers and scryers, and this source is second-hand. More problematic is that this report seems to be motivated by an attempt to establish the now discredited Spalding theory for the origins of the Book of Mormon. Solomon Spaulding's widow lived for a time in the Onondaga Valley. See Bush, "The Spalding Theory Then and Now," 40-69.

54 Daniel S. Kendig, of Fayette, inferred that this occurred prior to his 1823 discovery of the golden plates (History of Seneca Co., New York, with Illustrations Descriptive of Its Scenery, Palatial Residences, Public Buildings, Fine Blocks, and Important Manufactories, from Original Sketches by Artists of the Highest Ability, 1786-1876 [Philadelphia: Everts, Ensign & Everts, 1876], 129). Kendig further specified that Smith was in the area "about the year 1820," a fact confirmed by local postal notices in 1819 and 1820 for he and Hyrum. (Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 51, 397 n.185).




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wrote to him, "I have heard of him as a day laborer in this county [Seneca] for a couple of years prior to 1830, when he used to used a rod of some kind in pretending to hunt water for farmer wells. {or minerals.}" [55] Daniel S. Kendig, another resident of Seneca County, remembered Joseph working for Jacob Chamberlain and others, "when not engaged with his mineral rods digging for gold in various places." [56]

In addition to subterranean water, minerals, and treasure, Joseph's rod served other purposes. Both Isaac Butts and Sarah Anderick stated that Joseph used it to find "hidden things." He may also have used a rod to find stray livestock, as his father did.

Rod, God, and Rodsman

Exploring the system of belief held by early American rodsmen offers possible insights into the Smith's use of divining rods. A dowser's success could depend on three ingredients: the quality of his rod, his degree of dowsing talent, and the grace of God. About 1824, the "Commodore," who hunted zealously for buried treasure, found that "it was necessary to be provided with a rod, constructed by someone versed in the true principles of the art" [57] A half-century earlier, the notorious treasure-seeking con-man Ransford Rogers promised to

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55 D. Willers, Fayette, New York, to Daniel Hendrix, Ontario, California, 27 July 1895, (apparently a retained copy), Diedrich Willers Papers, Seneca Falls Historical Society, Box 4, folder 2; photocopy in the H. Michael Marquardt Papers, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Box 149, folder 25, item 5.

56 History of Seneca Co., New York..., 129.

57 "A History of the Divining Rod," 224.




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find the gold buried in Exeter, New Hampshire. Local residents later told the story of Rogers explaining that finding the treasure would require "a particular kind of divining-rod. It must be made of dear materials, but it was infallibly sure of doing the business." Rogers collected money to purchase the rod, left town to get it, and was never seen again. [58] His scam took advantage of a widespread belief that special rods divined more effectively than any old branch. By 1851, some rods were elaborately constructed. In that year, when a young man asked Rochester seer Mary Lambert to help him locate mineral wealth, she made him a special rod for five dollars. 'It consisted of two pieces of whalebone bent round a small piece of wood enclosing a small vial of mercury. The whole covered with a piece of old silk." [59] Special preparations such as these invested the rod with power. [60]

Dowsers could also increase the effectiveness of their rods by maximizing the sympathetic principles that governed their operation. Rodsmen at the

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58 Bell, History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire, 413.

59 George G. Cooper, "A Green 'Un Done For," Rochester Daily Times, 4 May 1851, p. (2), col. 3.

60 The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi used a device called the "Liahona" when travelling through the wilderness. It was described as a ball-shaped compass, which had two spindles. Apparently, one spindle directed their journey to the promised land, while the other spindle pointed them to food sources. The Liahona only worked when the Lehites were righteous. See 1 Nephi 16:10, 16; 18:12, 21; 2 Nephi 5:12; Alma 37:38-44. A mid-twentieth-century folklorist spoke with one informant in or from the South who described a divining instrument somewhat similar to the Liahona: "Its a round thing like a clock and has three points sticking out. One was set for gold, one for silver and the other for brass. It has two handles of hickory. You hold them two handles and walk along like you witch for water" (Harry Middleton Hyatt, Hoodoo-Conjuration-Witchcraft-Rootwork: Beliefs Accepted by Many Negroes and White Persons These Being Orally Recorded Among Blacks and Whites ["Printed in the U.s.A., for Harry Middleton Hyatt, by Western Publishing, Inc., Hannibal, Missouri," 1970], vol. 1, p. 120, item 402 [emphasis in original]). There is no historical connection between this device and the Liahona. However, this device exemplifies the tendancy of some diviners to create superior dowsing instruments. It shows how Joseph Smith could have appreciated the Book of Mormon's descriptions of the Liahona.




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Ephrata Commune on the banks of Pennsylvania's Wissahickon River followed this course of action. "When it was desired to locate special metals, small nails made of the metals sought for were introduced into the long end of the rod." [61] In the sixteenth century Georgius Agricola documented the practice of using hazel rods to find silver and iron rods to find gold. [62] Just as a "fresh twig" could find water, some early Americans used metal rods called "mineral rods" to find precious ores and treasure. [63]

Consecration bridged the idea of power internal to the rod and God's grace; by consecrating a rod, a dowser could ask the Lord to empower it. For example, in a sixteenth-century cutting formula, the rodsman prayed, "I ask you, o great Adonay, Elohim, Ariel, and Jehova, to give this rod the force and virtue of those of Jacob, Moses, and the great Joshua." [64] One Pennsylvanian German dowser explained, "I call on him [God] to make her successful, when I cuts her, and so she must be true." [65] James Brewster remembered a group of Kirtland diviners to which Joseph Smith Senior belonged anointing their rods and praying over them. Even with God's favor and a good rod, however, one could not "work" a rod without the gift to do so.

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61 Julius Friedrich Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1895), 113.

62 Agricola, De Re Metallica, 39.

63 "A History of the Divining Rod," 218.

64 Le Dragon Rouge ou L'Art de Commander les Esprits (1521; Nismes, France: Celestes, 1823, quoted in Bird, The Divining Hand, 69.

65 Frederick Starr, "Some Pennsylvania German Lore," Journal of American Folklore 4 (1891): 323.




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Most Americans who believed in dowsing probably would have agreed that not all dowsers had been created equal. An 1825 article informed its readers that the "inclination is much more free when the twig is in the hands of some individuals than others." [66] The "Commodore" was well known as a "master of the divining rod." He could not only locate subterranean water and tell how deep it was, but discern its direction of flow. [67] Joseph Knight, one of the first Mormon believers, described Alvah Beaman, one of Joseph Smith's former treasure-seeking companions, as "a grate rodsman." [68] Lucy Mack Smith remembered Beaman as "a man in whom we reposed much confidence, and who was well worthy of the same." [69]

What made for a great rodsman? Twentieth-century sources suggest that highly gifted dowsers are able to internalize the gift. While dowsers always use rods when they first learn their art, some eventually reach the point when they no longer need them. Lloyd Farley of Ohio and Evelyn Penrose of England provide two examples of this level of achievement. They dowsed with their outstretched arms. [70] Penrose prided herself on her highly developed gift, but found "bare hands" dowsing quite exhausting. She usually used a rod and

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66 "The Divining Rod," The Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal, October 1825, 29.

67 "A History of the Divining Rod," 219.

68 Dean Jessee, "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies 17, no. 1 (autumn 1976): 33.

69 Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progmitors for Many Generations, 67. For more on Beaman, see Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 39.

70 Lloyd, "Folklore, Foodways, and the Supernatural," 61-62; Evelyn Penrose, Adventure Unlimited: A Diviner Travels the World (London: Neville Spearman, 1958), frontispiece. See also Mody Boatright, Folklore of the Oil Industry, 17-20; Bird, The Divining Hand, 109.




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pendulum because they made dowsing easier. As Lloyd Farley, another twentieth-century water witch, explains, the rod is just "something to hold on to." [71] Most rodspersons first experience dowsing as movement of the rod. Some may begin to feel the movement in their arms or hands. "Particularly sensitive persons" may even come to feel the pull of water in their internal organs. [72]

Most water witches have used a forked rod because it gives them two handles "to hold on to." An article on divining rods that appeared in an early American historical journal prioritized three types of rods.
A fresh twig taken from any tree will diverge from a perpendicular, or dip below a horizontal line, by a greater or less angle with its first position, when brought directly over, or in the near vicinity of a vein of metal or water. The effect is more perceptible when two twigs are taken and brought closely in contact at the cut extremities. When a forked branch is used, the degree of diverging is much greater than with the single or double sticks. [73]
While a good divining rod made for good dowsing, a great rodsman could dowse with less reliance on gadgetry.

Early Mormon revelations addressed all three ingredients of the dowsing formula: rod, God, and dowser. The Book of Mormon included a revelation received by Joseph of Egypt promising him that God would some day raise up a Moses for his people and would "give power unto him in a rod." [74] The revelations to Oliver Cowdery regarding his "gift of working with the rod"

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71 Wyman, Witching for Water, Oil, Pipes, and Precious Minerals, 12.

72 Bird, The Divining Hand, 4. See also Barrett and Besterman, The Divining Rod, xxi.

73 "The Divining Rod, Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal, October 1825, 28.

74 2 Nephi 3:17 (emphasis mine).




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stressed that this gift came from God and reminded, "without faith you can do nothing." [75]

Early American and early Mormon beliefs about water witching and mineral dowsing may explain Joseph Smith Junior's switch from the traditional forked rod to a straight stick or staff. Palmyran Pomeroy Tucker wrote that Joseph Smith began divining for treasure in 1820 with his newly discovered seer stone and "some sort of wand" held in only one hand. [76] Anna Eaton wrote that this wand was witch-hazel. [77] This indicates that Joseph had developed his dowsing abilities to the point that he could use a straight stick or staff and no longer required the more effective forked branch so commonly used.

Joseph Smith Senior also developed this ability. According to Peter Ingersoll, sometime between 1822 and 1827 Joseph Smith Senior found their stray cattle with "a small stick in his hand" and showed Ingersoll how to hold a rod single-handedly. [78] Jesse Smith's 1829 letter compared Joseph Senior's rod to the rods of Jannes and Jambres. Their rods and the rod of Aaron turned into snakes -- implying that they were one-dimensional staffs. Based on his biblical allusion or what he had heard of his brother's rod, Jesse referred to it as a "wand." "Black Dinah Rollins," treasure-seeker of Portsmouth, New Hampshire,

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75 Book of Commandments 7:4.

76 Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 19-22.

77 Eaton, The Origin of Mormonism, 2.

78 Peter Ingersoll, statement, Palmyra, New York, 2 December 1833, quoted in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 232-34.




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used a straight rod that "resembled a common walking-cane." [79] Arguing that Oliver Cowdery's rod was forked, D. Michael Quinn notes that aside from the staff used by Vermont Prophet Isaac Bullard, "a straight rod of divination was apparently unknown in Joseph Smith's America." [80] Tucker, Ingersoll, and Jesse Smith, therefore, indicate that Joseph Smith and his father had advanced into rare position. Similar to Joseph Senior's instruction in single-handed dowsing, Joseph Junior gave his disciples Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball straight rods. Joseph's ability to internalize a degree of dowsing power foreshadowed his later ability to see visions without the aid of a seer stone.

Jesse's letter to Hyrum and Joseph Smith's revision of the revelation he received concerning Oliver Cowdery's rodding gift imply that the Smiths viewed their rods in terms of the rods used by Moses and Aaron. Richard Lloyd Anderson argues that this suggests a straight stick of Wood. [81] In response, D. Michael Quinn notes that rod diviners applied the terms "Rod of Aaron" and "Mosaical rod" to their forked branches. [82] In the book of Exodus itself, Moses' rod is his shepherd's staff, the rods of Moses and Aaron turn into serpents (suggesting uni-dimensionality), and are held in one hand. However, in the

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79 Geo. Alex Emery, Ancient City of Gorgeana and Modern Town of York (Maine): From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 2d. ed., rev. and ed. (Boston: C. Alex Emery, 1874), 202-4. "Black Dinah Rollins" is the only female dowser I have encountered for this time period. She was considered a witch.

80 Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 38.

81 Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," 521-32.

82 Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 38. Aaron's rod served as a symbol that he was Moses's spokesman. The text and historical context of revelations regarding Oliver Cowdery's rod also include the concept of delegated authority. Anderson therefore stresses that




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folkway and folksay of early American dowsing, this did not pose a problem. Nevertheless, Joseph Smith may have come to interpret the rods of Moses and Aaron as straight staffs based on a study of the biblical text.

As Philip Barlow writes, "Joseph Smith grew up in a Bible-drenched society and he showed it" [83] His family seems to have regularly read from the good book. William Smith recalled, "we always had family prayer since I can remember. I well remember father used to carry his spectacles in his vest pocked [pocket]... and when us boys saw him feel for his specks, we knew that was a signal to get ready for prayer...." [84] Of course, one does not need glasses to close their eyes in prayer. WIlliam also mentions them singing an evening hymn, but it was always the same hymn, so there was no need to read a hymnal. Apparently, the Smiths followed a common American practice of daily evening worship consisting of reading a passage from the Bible, singing a hymn, and praying. When Joseph Senior reached for his glasses, the family knew it was time to read the Bible. Neighbor John Stafford remembered that the Smiths "studied their Bible." [85]

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terminology "is not the issue but the authentic context of delegated power" (Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," 530). Quinn does not respond to this argument.

83 Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 11. Barlow writes of Joseph's early study of the Bible in chap. 1: "Before Mormonism: Joseph Smith and the Bible, 1820-1830," 11-42.

84 "W[illiam]. B. Smith's last Statement," Zion's Ensign (Independence, Missouri), 13 January 1894, p. 6, col. 2.

85 John Stafford, interviewed by William R and Edmund L. Kelley, Rochester, New York, 6 March 1881, in William Kelley, Notebook no. 5, William H. Kelley Papers, RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri, p. 15, in EMD, 2:87; c.f., Kelley, "The Hill Cumorah and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald, 1 June 1881, p. 167, col. 1.




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In addition to family study, Joseph apparently would read the Bible in solitude for hours at a time. Lucy remembered Joseph telling her, "I can take my Bible, and go into the woods, and learn more in two hours, than you can learn at meeting in two years, if you should go all the time." [86] Joseph wrote that he began "searching the scriptures" in 1818 -- a year or more into the period of time in which he would have taken up the rod. [87] Reading the Bible accounts of Moses' and Aaron's rods turning into snakes and being held in one hand may have prompted Joseph's advancement within this mode of divination.

The Joseph Smith cane on display in the "Presidents of the Church" exhibit in the LDS Museum of Church History and Art confirms that Joseph Smith owned a straight staff and that he associated it with the rod of Moses or Aaron. The handle of the cane has been carved to represent a serpent. Scales cover the curve of the handle, which terminates with the serpent's head. This staff turns into a snake and coils down to form a cane handle." [88] There is no

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86 Lucy Smith, Biographical Skeches of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and his Progenitors for Many Generations, 90.

87 Joseph Smith Junior, "A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr.," in Joseph Smith Letterbook 1, Ms, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives, p. 2, in PJS, 1:5.

88 Joseph Smith cane, on exhibit in the "Joseph Smith Jr. -- panel of the perpetual "Presidents of the Church" exhibit, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Museum of Church History and Art, Salt Lake City. Noting the astrolOgical association between Jupiter and snakes, D. Michael Quinn forwards a magical interpretation of this cane that explidtly excludes a Christian interpretation (Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 90). Considering possible magical parallels is one thing. Excluding religious interpretations is quite another. --- The Martin Harris cane terminates with the carved head of a ram whose throat has been cut. Scott Harris, past president of the Martin Harris Family Organization, informs me that he believes Martin carved the cane himself because the Harris family once owned a quilt made by Martin that featured a ram. This quilt was lost in the Teton Dam flood. As Harris partidpated in at least one treasure-dig with the Smiths (Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 60-62), and as the Smith's neighbors told stories of them sacrificing animals to propitiate treasure guardians (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "Joseph Smith's Use of Magic Circles and Animal Sacrifice," Salt Lake City Messenger no. 50 [March 1983]: 8-12), it might tempt some to interpret the




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evidence that Joseph ever used this cane for divining. If he did, there is no way to determine when this would have occurred. The cane merely confirms Joseph's (eventual) belief that the rods of Aaron and Moses were straight.

Whereas the Smiths used forked hazel rods to find water in their early New York years, they may have used mineral rods when they began treasure divining. In 1842, New York historians John W. Barber and Henry Howe wrote that Joseph and his father "at one time procured a mineral rod, and dug in various places for money." [89] Daniel S. Kendig of Seneca County remembered Joseph using "mineral rods" while laboring there in the summer of 1820. James C. Brewster wrote that the Kirtland treasure seekers used "mineral rods." [90] Early American rodsman Nathaniel Sartell, of Groton, Massachusetts, found water, silver veins, and Captain Kidd's treasure with rods of witch hazel and steel. [91] William Stafford, who accompanied the Smiths on one treasure hunt, recounted that after the treasure had been located,

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Martin Harris cane in a treasure-seeking context. However, even if the stories have some truth to them, no one ever claimed that the Smiths sacrificed rams. As with Joseph's serpent cane, an Old Testament interpretation is more legitimate. God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in the place of his son Isaac (Genesis 22:13). The ram symbolizes God's providence. Members of the Harris family often exhibit the cane at the Martin Harris gravesite in Clarkston, Utah, during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints's annual "Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew" pageant. The pageant is held in the summer adjacent to the Clarkston cemetery where Harris is buried. The cane was shown to me by its current caretaker, Scott Harris, of Logan, Utah. For a photograph of Martin Harris holding this cane, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 106.

89 Barber and Howe, Historical Collections of the State of New York, 580.

90 Brewster, Very Important! To the Mormon Money Diggers, 2. Peter Ingersoll stated that the Smiths used a "mineral rod," but he mistakenly applied this term to a wooden rod (Peter Ingersoll, statement, Palmyra, New York, 2 December 1833, quoted in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 232). Howe wrote that the Smiths used a "mineral rod" (31-32), but this was probably based on the Ingersoll statement.

91 Caleb Butler, History of the Town of Groton, Including Pepperell and Shirley, from the First Grant of Groton Plantation in 1655 (Boston: Press of T. R. Marvin, 1848), 256 n6.




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Joseph Sen. first made a circle, twelve or fourteen feet in diameter. This circle, said he, contains the treasure. He then stuck in the ground a row of witch hazel sticks, around the said circle.... Within this circle he made another, of about eight or ten feet in diameter. He walked around three times on the periphery of the last circle... He next stuck a steel rod in the centre of the circles.... [92]
As the Smiths used hazel sticks for dowsing, they may also have used the steel rod mentioned by Stafford. This treasure venture took place between 1821 and 1827. [92] If Joseph did use a mineral rod, he had a superior dowsing device.

From Dowser to Seer

When Joseph began using a seer stone, he made an even greater qualitative advance. Historian Alan Taylor documents a number of early American treasure quests and analyzes the use of divining rods and seer stones for treasure hunting. As Joseph Smith used both rods and stones to find treasure, the American treasure-hunting scene described by Taylor provides an appropriate context in which to understand the meaning of Joseph Smith's advancement from rodsman to seer.

Taylor outlines two struggles the treasure seekers had to face. During the night, they struggled with the spirit who guarded the treasures they sought. During the day, they faced the ridicule of genteel neighbors who considered

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92 William Stafford, statement, Manchester, New York, 8 December 1833, quoted in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 238. On staked circles, see Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 46-47.




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treasure seeking a superstitious tradition incompatible with the achievements of their enlightened age. The treasure seekers themselves saw their practice as a rational science of its own and yet it yielded no rewards. The successful recovery of an impressive hoard would convince their neighbors of their beliefs validity.

Taylor shows that the dynamic caused by these two struggles produced an increased attention to the rules of treasure seeking. [93] With magical circles properly circumscribed, and incantations properly quoted, the guardian spirit would not be able to move the treasure to a new location or intimidate its seekers. Increased focus on the theology of treasure seeking is what had caused the creation of more elaborate divining rods during the early nineteenth century.

It also accounts for an increased usage of seer stones. A seer stone functioned as a subterranean searchlight. Knowing that the treasure had actually been seen (albeit in vision) encouraged its seekers more than watching a rod point out where to begin shoveling. By the 1820s, using a seer stone to find treasure was as common as dowsing for it (see figure 1). However, because of the prevalence of ordinary water dowsers, those who had developed the ability to use seer stones stood out as superior diviners.

Whereas treasure diviners in Vermont and the other New England states overwhelmingly used divining rods, their counterparts in New York and throughout the old Northwest were as likely to use seer stones (see table 1). The

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93 Stafford stated that the treasure had been located by Joseph Junior with his seer stone. This dates the venture to 1821 or later. Stafford also states that this occurred before Joseph obtained the golden plates.

94 Taylor, "Rediscovering the Context of Joseph Smith's Treasure Seeking," 141-53.


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