The Story of the Mormons: From the Date of their Origin to the Year 1901 by William Alexander Linn

Etext scanned by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona, and proofread by several PG volunteers. THE STORY OF THE MORMONS: FROM THE DATE OF THEIR ORIGIN TO THE YEAR 1901 by WILLIAM ALEXANDER LINN PREFACE No chapter of American history has remained so long unwritten as that which tells the story of the Mormons. There are
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Etext scanned by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona, and proofread by several PG volunteers.




No chapter of American history has remained so long unwritten as that which tells the story of the Mormons. There are many books on the subject, histories written under the auspices of the Mormon church, which are hopelessly biased as well as incomplete; more trustworthy works which cover only certain periods; and books in the nature of “exposures by former members of the church, which the Mormons attack as untruthful, and which rest, in the minds of the general reader, under a suspicion of personal bias. Mormonism, therefore, to-day suggests to most persons only one doctrine–polygamy–and only one leader–Brigham Young, who made his name familiar to the present generations. Joseph Smith, Jr., is known, where known at all, only in the most general way as the founder of the sect, while the real originator of the whole scheme for a new church and of its doctrines and government, Sidney Rigdon, is known to few persons even by name.

The object of the present work is to present a consecutive history of the Mormons, from the day of their origin to the present writing, and as a secular, not as a religious, narrative. The search has been for facts, not for moral deductions, except as these present themselves in the course of the story. Since the usual weapon which the heads of the Mormon church use to meet anything unfavorable regarding their organization or leaders is a general denial, this narrative has been made to rest largely on Mormon sources of information. It has been possible to follow this plan a long way because many of the original Mormons left sketches that have been preserved. Thus we have Mother Smith’s picture of her family and of the early days of the church; the Prophet’s own account of the revelation to him of the golden plates, of his followers’ early experiences, and of his own doings, almost day by day, to the date of his death, written with an egotist’s appreciation of his own part in the play; other autobiographies, like Parley P. Pratt’s and Lorenzo Snow’s; and, finally, the periodicals which the church issued in Ohio, in Missouri, in Illinois, and in England, and the official reports of the discourses preached in Utah,–all showing up, as in a mirror, the character of the persons who gave this Church of Latter Day Saints its being and its growth.

In regard to no period of Mormon history is there such a lack of accurate information as concerning that which covers their moves to Ohio, thence to Missouri, thence to Illinois, and thence to Utah. Their own excuse for all these moves is covered by the one word “persecution” (meaning persecution on account of their religious belief), and so little has the non-Mormon world known about the subject that this explanation has scarcely been challenged. Much space is given to these early migrations, as in this way alone can a knowledge be acquired of the real character of the constituency built up by Smith in Ohio, and led by him from place to place until his death, and then to Utah by Brigham Young.

Any study of the aims and objects of the Mormon leaders must rest on the Mormon Bible (“Book of Mormon”) and on the “Doctrine and Covenants,” the latter consisting principally of the “revelations” which directed the organization of the church and its secular movements. In these alone are spread out the original purpose of the migration to Missouri and the instructions of Smith to his followers regarding their assumed rights to the territory they were to occupy; and without a knowledge of these “revelations” no fair judgment can be formed of the justness of the objections of the people of Missouri and Illinois to their new neighbors. If the fraudulent character of the alleged revelation to Smith of golden plates can be established, the foundation of the whole church scheme crumbles. If Rigdon’s connection with Smith in the preparation of the Bible by the use of the “Spaulding manuscript” can be proved, the fraud itself is established. Considerable of the evidence on this point herein brought together is presented at least in new shape, and an adequate sketch of Sidney Rigdon is given for the first time. The probable service of Joachim’s “Everlasting Gospel,” as suggesting the story of the revelation of the plates, has been hitherto overlooked.

A few words with regard to some of the sources of information quoted:

“Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith and his Progenitors for Many Generations” (“Mother Smith’s History,” as this book has been generally called) was first published in 1853 by the Mormon press in Liverpool, with a preface by Orson Pratt recommending it; and the Millennial Star (Vol. XV, p. 682) said of it: “Being written by Lucy Smith, the mother of the Prophet, and mostly under his inspiration, will be ample guarantee for the authenticity of the narrative…. Altogether the work is one of the most interesting that has appeared in this latter dispensation.” Brigham Young, however, saw how many of its statements told against the church, and in a letter to the Millennial Star (Vol. XVII, p. 298), dated January 31, 1858, he declared that it contained “many mistakes,” and said that “should it ever be deemed best to publish these sketches, it will not be done until after they are carefully corrected.” The preface to the edition of 1890, published by the Reorganized Church at Plano, Illinois, says that Young ordered the suppression of the first edition, and that “under this order large numbers were destroyed, few being preserved, some of which fell into the hands of those now with the Reorganized Church. For this destruction we see no adequate reason. “James J. Strang, in a note to his pamphlet, “Prophetic Controversy,” says that Mrs. Corey (to whom the pamphlet is addressed) “wrote the history of the Smiths called ‘Mother Smith’s History.'” Mrs. Smith was herself quite incapable of putting her recollections into literary shape.

The autobiography of Joseph Smith, Jr., under the title “History of Joseph Smith,” began as a supplement to Volume XIV of the Millennial Star, and ran through successive volumes to Volume XXIV. The matter in the supplement and in the earlier numbers was revised and largely written by Rigdon. The preparation of the work began after he and Smith settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. In his last years Smith rid himself almost entirely of Rigdon’s counsel, and the part of the autobiography then written takes the form of a diary which unmasks Smith’s character as no one else could do. Most of the correspondence and official documents relating to the troubles in Missouri and Illinois are incorporated in this work.

Of the greatest value to the historian are the volumes of the Mormon publications issued at Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and Liverpool, England. The first of these, Evening and Morning Star (a monthly, twenty-four numbers), started at Independence and transferred to Kirtland, covers the period from June, 1832, to September, 1834; its successor, the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, was issued at Kirtland from 1834 to 1837. This was followed by the Elders’ journal, which was transferred from Kirtland to Far West, Missouri, and was discontinued when the Saints were compelled to leave that state. Times and Seasons was published at Nauvoo from 1839 to 1845. Files of these publications are very scarce, the volumes of the Times and Seasons having been suppressed, so far as possible, by Brigham Young’s order. The publication of the Millennial Star was begun in Liverpool in May, 1840, and is still continued. The early volumes contain the official epistles of the heads of the church to their followers, Smith’s autobiography, correspondence describing the early migrations and the experiences in Utah, and much other valuable material, the authenticity of which cannot be disputed by the Mormons. In the Journal of Discourses (issued primarily for circulation in Europe) are found official reports of the principal discourses (or sermons) delivered in Salt Lake City during Young’s regime. Without this official sponsor for the correctness of these reports, many of them would doubtless be disputed by the Mormons of to-day.

The earliest non-Mormon source of original information quoted is “Mormonism Unveiled,” by E. D. Howe (Painesville, Ohio, 1834). Mr. Howe, after a newspaper experience in New York State, founded the Cleveland (Ohio) Herald in 1819, and later the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph. Living near the scene of the Mormon activity in Ohio when they moved to that state, and desiring to ascertain the character of the men who were proclaiming a new Bible and a new church, he sent agents to secure such information among the Smiths’ old acquaintances in New York and Pennsylvania, and made inquiries on kindred subjects, like the “Spaulding manuscript.” His book was the first serious blow that Smith and his associates encountered, and their wrath against it and its author was fierce.

Pomeroy Tucker, the author of “Origin and Progress of the Mormons” (New York, 1867), was personally acquainted with the Smiths and with Harris and Cowdery before and after the appearance of the Mormon Bible. He read a good deal of the proof of the original edition of that book as it was going through the press, and was present during many of the negotiations with Grandin about its publication. His testimony in regard to early matters connected with the church is important.

Two non-Mormons who had an early view of the church in Utah and who put their observations in book form were B. G. Ferris (“Utah and the Mormons,” New York, 1854 and 1856) and Lieutenant J. W. Gunnison of the United States Topographical Engineers (“The Mormons,” Philadelphia, 1856). Both of these works contain interesting pictures of life in Utah in those early days.

There are three comprehensive histories of Utah,–H. H. Bancroft’s “History of Utah” (p. 889), Tullidge’s “History of Salt Lake City” (p. 886), and Orson F. Whitney’s “History of Utah,” in four volumes, three of which, dated respectively March, 1892, April, 1893, and January, 1898, have been issued. The Reorganized Church has also published a “History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” in three volumes. While Bancroft’s work professes to be written from a secular standpoint, it is really a church production, the preparation of the text having been confided to Mormon hands. “We furnished Mr. Bancroft with his material,” said a prominent Mormon church officer to me. Its plan is to give the Mormon view in the text, and to refer the reader for the other side to a mass of undigested notes, and its principal value to the student consists in its references to other authorities. Its general tone may be seen in its declaration that those who have joined the church to expose its secrets are “the most contemptible of all”; that those who have joined it honestly and, discovering what company they have got into, have given the information to the world, would far better have gone their way and said nothing about it; and, as to polygamy, that “those who waxed the hottest against” the practice “are not as a rule the purest of our people” (p. 361); and that the Edmunds Law of 1882 “capped the climax of absurdity” (p. 683).

Tullidge wrote his history after he had taken part in the “New Movement.” In it he brought together a great deal of information, including the text of important papers, which is necessary to an understanding of the growth and struggles of the church. The work was censored by a committee appointed by the Mormon authorities.

Bishop Whitney’s history presents the pro-Mormon view of the church throughout. It is therefore wholly untrustworthy as a guide to opinion on the subjects treated, but, like Tullidge’s, it supplies a good deal of material which is useful to the student who is prepared to estimate its statements at their true value.

The acquisition by the New York Public Library of the Berrian collection of books, early newspapers, and pamphlets on Mormonism, with the additions constantly made to this collection, places within the reach of the student all the material that is necessary for the formation of the fairest judgment on the subject.

W. A. L. HACKENSACK, N. J., 1901.



CHAPTER I. FACILITY OF HUMAN BELIEF: The Real Miracle of Mormon Success–Effrontery of the Leaders’ Professions–Attractiveness of Religious Beliefs to Man–Wherein the World does not make Progress–The Anglo-Saxon Appetite for Religious Novelties

CHAPTER II. THE SMITH FAMILY: Solomon Mack and his Autobiography –Religious Characteristics of the Prophet’s Mother–The Family Life in Vermont–Early Occupations in New York State–Pictures of the Prophet as a Youth–Recollections of the Smiths by their New York Neighbors

CHAPTER III. HOW JOSEPH SMITH BECAME A MONEY-DIGGER: His Use of a Divining Rod–His First Introduction to Crystal-gazing–Peeping after Hidden Treasure–How Joseph obtained his own “Peek-stone”– Methods of Midnight Money-digging

CHAPTER IV. FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE GOLDEN BIBLE: Variations in the Early Descriptions–Joseph’s Acquaintance with the Hales–His Elopement and Marriage–What he told a Neighbor about the Origin of his Bible Discovery–Early Anecdotes about the Book

CHAPTER V. THE DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS OF THE REVELATION OF THE BIBLE: The Versions about the Spanish Guardian–Important Statement by the Prophet’s Father–The Later Account in the Prophet’s Autobiography–The Angel Visitor and the Acquisition of the Plates–Mother Smith’s Version

CHAPTER VI. TRANSLATION AND PUBLICATION OF THE BIBLE: Martin Harris’s Connection with the Work–Smith’s Removal to Pennsylvania –How the Translation was carried on–Harris’s Visit to Professor Anthon–The Professor’s Account of his Visit–The Lost Pages–The Prophet’s Predicament and his Method of Escape–Oliver Cowdery as an Assistant Translator–Introduction of the Whitmers–The Printing and Proof–reading of the New Bible–Recollections of Survivors

CHAPTER VII. THE SPAULDING MANUSCRIPT: Solomon Spaulding’s Career–History of “The Manuscript Found”–Statements by Members of the Author’s Family–Testimony of Spaulding’s Ohio Neighbors about the Resemblance of his Story to the Book of Mormon–The Manuscript found in the Sandwich Islands

CHAPTER VIII. SIDNEY RIGDON: His Biography–Connection with the Campbells–Efficient Church Work in Ohio–His Jealousy of his Church Leaders–Disciples’ Beliefs and Mormon Doctrines– Intimations about a New Bible–Rigdon’s First Connection with Smith–The Rigdon-Smith Translation of the Scriptures–Rigdon’s Conversion to Mormonism

CHAPTER IX. “THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL”: Probable Origin of the Idea of a Bible on Plates–Cyril’s Gift from an Angel and Joachim’s Use of it–Where Rigdon could have obtained the Idea Prominence of the “Everlasting Gospel” in Mormon Writings

CHAPTER X. THE WITNESSES TO THE PLATES: Text of the Two “Testimonies”–The Prophet’s Explanation of the First–Early Reputation and Subsequent History of the Signers–The Truth about the Kinderhook Plates and Rafinesque’s Glyphs

CHAPTER XI. THE MORMON BIBLE: Some of its Errors and Absurdities–Facsimile of the First Edition Title-page–The Historical Narrative of the Book–Its Lack of Literary Style–Appropriated Chapters of the Scriptures–Specimen Anachronisms

CHAPTER XII. ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH: Smith’s Ordination by John the Baptist–The First Baptisms–Early Branches of the Church–The Revelation about Church Officers–Cowdery’s Ambition and How it was Repressed–Smith’s Title as Seer, Translator, and Prophet–His Arrest and Release–Arrival of Parley P. Platt and Rigdon in Palmyra–The Command to remove to Ohio

CHAPTER XIII. THE MORMONS’ BELIEFS AND DOCTRINES–CHURCH GOVERNMENT: Long Years of Apostasy–Origin of the Name “Mormon” –Original Titles of the Church–Belief in a Speedy Millennium– The Future Possession of the Earth–Smith’s Revelations and how they were obtained–The First Published Editions–Counterfeit Revealers–What is Taught of God–Brigham Young’s Adam Sermon– Baptism for the Dead–The Church Officers


CHAPTER I. THE FIRST CONVERTS AT KIRTLAND: Original Missionaries sent out to the Lamanites–Organization of a Church in Ohio– Effect of Rigdon’s Conversion–General Interest in the New Bible and Prophet–How Men of Education came to believe in Mormonism– Result of the Upturning of Religious Belief

CHAPTER II. WILD VAGARIES OF THE CONVERTS: Convulsions and Commissions–Common Religious Excitements of those Days– Description of the “Jerks”–Smith’s Repressing Influence

CHAPTER III. GROWTH OF THE CHURCH: The Appointment of Elders– Beginning of the Proselyting System–Smith’s Power Entrenched– His Temporal Provision–Repression of Rigdon–The Tarring and Feathering of Smith and Rigdon–Treatment of the Mormons and of Other New Denominations compared–Rigdon’s Punishment

CHAPTER IV. GIFTS OF TONGUES AND MIRACLES: How Persons “Spoke in Tongues”–Seeing the Lord Face to Face–Early Use of Miracles– The Story of the “Book of Abraham”–The Prophet as a Translator of Greek and Egyptian.

CHAPTER V. SMITH’S OHIO BUSINESS ENTERPRISES: Young’s Picture of the Prophet’s Experience as a Retail Merchant–The Land Speculation–Laying out of the City–Building of the Temple– Consecration of Property–How the Leaders looked out for themselves–Amusing Explanation of Section III of the “Doctrine and Covenants”–The Story of the Kirtland Bank–The Church View of its Responsibility for the Currency–The Business Crash and Smith’s Flight to Missouri

CHAPTER VI. LAST DAYS AT KIRTLAND: Pictures of the Prophet– Accusations against Church Leaders in Missouri–Serious Charge against the Prophet–W. W, Phelps’s Rebellion–Smith’s Description of Leading Lights of the Church–Charges concerning Smith’s Morality–The Church accused of practising Polygamy–A Lively Fight at a Church Service–Smith’s and Rigdon’s Defence of their Conduct–The Later History of Kirtland


CHAPTER I. THE DIRECTIONS TO THE SAINTS ABOUT THEIR ZION: Western Missouri in the Early Days–Pioneer Farming and Home-making–The Trip of the Four Mormon Missionaries–Direction about the Gathering of the Elect–How they were to possess the Land of Promise–Their Appropriation of the Good Things purchased of their Enemies

CHAPTER II. SMITH’S FIRST VISITS TO MISSOURI: Founding the City of Zion and the Temple–Marvellous Stories that were told– Dissatisfaction of Some of the Prophet’s Companions

CHAPTER III.THE EXPULSION FROM JACKSON COUNTY: Rapid Influx of Mormons–Result of the Publication of the Revelations–First Friction with their Non-Mormon Neighbors–Manifesto of the Mormons’ Opponents–Their Big Mass Meeting–Demands on the Mormons–Destruction of the Star Printing-office–The Mormons’ Agreement to leave–Smith’s Advice to his Flock–Repudiation of the Mormon Agreement and Renewal of Hostilities–The Battle at Big Blue–Evacuation of the County–March of the Army of Zion–An Inglorious Finale

CHAPTER IV. FRUITLESS NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE JACKSON COUNTY PEOPLE: A Fair Offer Rejected–The Mormon Counter Propositions– Governor Dunklin on the Situation

CHAPTER V. IN CLAY, CALDWELL, AND DAVIESS COUNTIES: Welcome of the Mormons by New Neighbors–Effect of their Claims about Possessing the Land–Ordered out of Clay County–Founding of Far West–A Welcome to Smith and Rigdon

CHAPTER VI. RADICAL DISSENSIONS IN THE CHURCH: Trial of Phelps and Whitmer–Conviction of Oliver Cowdery on Serious Charges– Expulsion of Leading Members–Origin of the Danites–Suggested by the Prophet at Kirtland–The Danite Constitution and Oath–Origin of the Tithing System

CHAPTER VII. BEGINNING OF ACTIVE HOSTILITIES: Result of Smith’s Domineering Course–Jealousy caused by the Scattering of the Saints–Founding of Adam-ondi-Ahman–Rigdon’s Famous Salt Sermon–Open Defiance of the Non-Mormons–The Mormons in Politics–An Election Day Row–Arrests and Threats

CHAPTER VIII. A STATE OF CIVIL WAR: Calling out of the Militia– Proposed Expulsion of the Mormons from Carroll County–The Siege of De Witt–The Prophet’s Defiance–Work of his “Fur Company”– Gentile Retaliation–The Battle of Crooked River–The Massacre at Hawn’s Mills–Governor Boggs’s “Order of Extermination”

CHAPTER IX. THE FINAL EXPULSION FROM THE STATE: General Lucas’s Terms to the Mormons–Surrender of Far West and Arrest of Mormon Leaders–General Clark’s Address to the Mormons–His Report to the Governor–General Wilson’s Picture of Adam-ondi-Ahman–Fate of the Mormon Prisoners–Testimony at their Trial–Smith’s Escape–Migration to Illinois


CHAPTER I. THE RECEPTION OF THE MORMONS: Incidents in the Early History of the State–Defiant Lawlessness–Politicians the First to Welcome the Newcomers–Landowners Among their First Friends

CHAPTER II. THE SETTLEMENT OF NAUVOO: Smith’s Leadership Illustrated–The Land Purchases–A Reconciliation of Conflicting Revelations–Smith’s Financiering–Shameful Misrepresentation to Immigrants

CHAPTER III. THE BUILDING UP OF THE CITY: Unhealthfulness of its Site–Rapid Growth of the Place–Early Pictures of it–Foreign Proselyting–Why England was a Good Field–Method of Work there– The Employment of Miracles–How the Converts were Sent Over

CHAPTER IV. THE NAUVOO CITY GOVERNMENT: Dr. Galland’s Suggestions–An Important Revelation–Church Buildings Ordered– Subserviency of the Legislature–Dr. John C. Bennett’s Efficient Aid–Authority granted to the City Government–The Nauvoo Legion –Bennett’s Welcome–The Temple and How it was Constructed

CHAPTER V. THE MORMONS IN POLITICS: Smith’s Decree against Van Buren–How the Prophet swung the Mormon Vote back to the Democrats–The Attempted Assassination of Governor Boggs–Smith’s Arrest and What Resulted from it–Defeat of a Whig Candidate by a Revelation

CHAPTER VI. SMITH A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His Letter to Clay and Calhoun–Their Replies and Smith’s Abusive Wrath–The Prophet’s Views on National Politics–Reform Measures that He Proposed–His Nomination by the Church Paper–Experiences of Missionaries sent out to Work Up his Campaign

CHAPTER VII. SOCIAL CONDITIONS IN NAUVOO: Character of its Population–Treatment of Immigrant Converts–Some Disreputable Gentile Neighbors–The Complaints of Mormon Stealings– Significant Admissions–Mormon Protection against Outsiders–The Whittlers

CHAPTER VIII. SMITH’S PICTURE OF HIMSELF AS AUTOCRAT: Glances at his Autobiography–Difficulties Connected with the Building Enterprises–A Plain Warning to Discontented Workmen–Trouble with Rigdon–Pressed by his Creditors–Transaction with Remick– Currency Law passed by his City Council–How Smith regarded himself as a Prophet–His Latest Prophecies

CHAPTER IX. SMITH’S FALLING OUT WITH BENNETT AND HIGBEE: Bennett’s Expulsion and the Explanations concerning it–His Attacks on his Late Companions–Charges against Nauvoo Morality– The Case of Nancy Rigdon–The Higbee Incident

CHAPTER X. THE INSTITUTION OF POLYGAMY: An Examination of its Origin–Its Conflict with the Teachings of the Mormon Bible and Revelations–Early Loosening of the Marriage View under Smith– Proof of the Practice of Polygamy in Nauvoo–Testimony of Eliza R. Snow–How her Brother Lorenzo shook off his Bachelorhood–John B. Lee as a Polygamist–Ebenezer Robinson’s Statement–Objects of “The Holy Order”–The Writing of the Revelation about Polygamy– Its First Public Announcement–Sidney Rigdon’s Innocence in the Matter

CHAPTER XI. PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DOCTRINE OF POLYGAMY: Text of the Revelation–Orson Pratt’s Presentation of it–The Doctrine of Sealing–Necessity of Sealing as a Means of Salvation–Attempt to show that Christ was a Polygamist

CHAPTER XII. THE SUPPRESSION OF THE EXPOSITOR: Dr. Foster and the Laws–Rebellion against Smith’s Teachings–Leading Features of the Expositor–Trial of the Paper and its Editors before the City Council–Destruction of the Press and Type–Smith’s Proclamation

CHAPTER XIII. UPRISING OF THE NON-MORMONS: Resolutions Adopted at Warsaw–Organizing and Arming of the People–Action of Governor Ford–Smith’s Arrest–Departure of the Prisoners for Carthage

CHAPTER XIV. THE MURDER OF THE PROPHET: Legal Proceedings after his Arrival in Carthage–The Governor and the Militia–The Carthage Jail and its Guards–Action of the Warsaw Regiment–The Attack on the Jail and the Killing of the Prophet and his Brother–Funeral Services in Nauvoo–Final Resting-place of the Bodies–Result of Indictments of the Alleged Murderers–Review of the Prophet’s Character

CHAPTER XV. AFTER SMITH’S DEATH: The People in a Panic–The Mormon Leaders for Peace–The Future Government of the Church– Brigham Young’s Victory–Rigdon’s Trial before the High Council– Verdict Against Him–His Church in Pennsylvania–His Ambition to be the Head of a Distinct Church–A Visit from Heavenly Messengers–His Last Days

CHAPTER XVI. RIVALRIES OVER THE SUCCESSION: The Claim of the Prophet’s Eldest Son–Trouble caused by the Prophet’s Widow–The Reorganized Church–Strang’s Church in Wisconsin–Lyman Wight’s Colony in Texas

CHAPTER XVII. BRIGHAM YOUNG: His Early Years–His Initiation into the Mormon Church–Fidelity to the Prophet–Embarrassments of his Position as Head of the Church–His View about Revelations–Plan for Home Mission Work–His Election as President

CHAPTER XVIII. RENEWED TROUBLE FOR THE MORMONS: More Charges of Stealing–Significant Admission by Young–Business Plight of Nauvoo–More Politics–Defiant Attitude of Mormon Leaders–An Editor’s View of Legal Rights–Stories about the Danites–Brother William on Brigham Young–The “Burnings”–Sheriff Backenstos’s Proclamations–Lieutenant Worrell’s Murder–Mormon Retaliation– Appointment of the Douglas-Hardin Commission

CHAPTER XIX. THE EXPULSION OF THE MORMONS: General Hardin’s Proclamation–County Meetings of Non-Mormons–Their Ultimatum– The Commission’s Negotiations–Non-Mormon Convention at Carthage–The Agreement for the Mormon Evacuation

CHAPTER XX. THE EVACUATION OF NAUVOO: Major Warren as a Peace Preserver–The Mormons’ Disposition of their Property–Departure of the Leaders hastened by Indictments–Arrival of New Citizens– Continued Hostility of the Non-Mormons–“The Last Mormon War”– Panic in Nauvoo–Plan for a March on the Mormon City–Fruitless Negotiations for a Compromise–The Advance against the City–The Battle and its Results–Terms of Peace–The Final Evacuation CHAPTER XXI. NAUVOO AFTER THE EXODUS: Arrival of Governor Ford– The Final Work on the Temple–The “Endowment” Ceremony and Oath– Futile Efforts to sell the Temple–Its Destruction by Fire and Wind–The Nauvoo of To-day


CHAPTER I. PREPARATIONS FOR THE LONG MARCH: Uncertainty of their Destination–Explanations to the People–Disposition of Real and Personal Property–Collection of Draft Animals–Activity in Wagon and Tent Making–The Old Charge of Counterfeiting–Pecuniary Sacrifices of the Mormons in Illinois

CHAPTER II. FROM THE MISSISSIPPI TO THE MISSOURI: The First Crossings of the River–Camp Arrangements–Sufferings from the Cold–The Story of the Westward March–Motley Make-up of the Procession–Expedients for obtaining Supplies–Terrible Sufferings of the Expelled Remnant–Privations at Mt. Pisgah

CHAPTER III. THE MORMON BATTALION: Extravagant Claims Regarding it Disproved–General Kearney’s Invitation–Source of the Initial Suggestion–How the Mormons profited by the Organization–The March to California–Colonel Thomas L. Kane’s Visit to the Missouri–His Intimate Relations with the Mormon Church

CHAPTER IV. THE CAMPS ON THE MISSOURI: Friendly Welcome of the Mormons by the Indians–The Site of Winter Quarters–Busy Scenes on the River Bank–Sickness and Death–The Building of a Temporary City

CHAPTER V. THE PIONEER TRIP ACROSS THE PLAINS: Early Views of the Unexplored West–The First White Visitors to that Country– Organization of the Pioneer Mormon Band–Rules observed on the March–Successful Buffalo Hunting–An Indian Alarm–Dearth of Forage–Post-offices of the Plains–A Profitable Ferry

CHAPTER VI. FROM THE ROCKIES TO SALT LAKE VALLEY: No Definite Stopping-place in View–Advice received on the Way–The Mormon Expedition to California by Way of Cape Horn–Brannan’s Fall from Grace–Westward from Green River–Advance Explorers through a Canon–First View of Great Salt Lake Valley–Irrigation and Crop Planting begun

CHAPTER VII. THE FOLLOWING COMPANIES: Their Leaders and Make-up –Young’s Return Trip–Last Days on the Missouri–Scheme for a Permanent Settlement in Iowa–Westward March of Large Companies


CHAPTER I. THE FOUNDING OF SALT LAKE CITY: Utah’s First White Explorers–First Mormon Services in the Valley–Young’s View of the Right to the Land–The First Buildings–Laying out the City–Early Crop Disappointment–Discomforts of the First Winter– Primitive Dwelling-places–The Visitation of Crickets–Glowing Accounts sent to England

CHAPTER II. PROGRESS OF THE SETTLEMENT: Schools and Manufactures –How the City appeared in 1849–Sufferings during the Winter of 1908–Immigration checked by the Lack of Food–Aid supplied by the California Goldseekers–Danger of a Mormon Exodus–Young’s Rebuke to his Gold-seeking Followers–The Crop Failure of 1855 and the Famine of the Following Winter–The Tabernacle and Temple

CHAPTER III. THE FOREIGN IMMIGRATION TO UTAH: The Commercial joint Stock Company Scandal–Deceptive Statements made to Foreign Converts–John Taylor’s Address to the Saints in Great Britain– Petition to Queen Victoria–Mormon Duplicity illustrated–Young’s Advice to Emigrants–Glowing Pictures of Salt Lake Valley–The Perpetual Emigrating Fund–Details of the Emigration System

CHAPTER IV. THE HAND-CART TRAGEDY: Young’s Scheme for Economy– His Responsibility for the Hand-cart Experiment–Details of the Arrangement–Delays at Iowa City–Unheeded Warnings–Privations by the Way–Early Lack of Provisions–Suffering caused by Insufficient Clothing–Deaths of the Old and Infirm–Horrors of the Camps in the Mountains–Frozen Corpses found at Daybreak– Sufferings of a Party at Devil’s Gate–Young’s Attempt to shift the Responsibility

CHAPTER V. EARLY POLITICAL HISTORY: The Aim at Independence– First Local Government–Adoption of a Constitution for the State of Deseret–Babbitt’s Application for Admission as a Delegate– Memorial opposing his Claim–His Rejection–The Territorial Government

CHAPTER VI. BRIGHAM YOUNG’S DESPOTISM: Causes that contributed to its Success–Helplessness of the New-comers from Europe– Influence of Superstition–Young’s Treatment of the Gladdenites– His Appropriation of Property Laws passed by the Mormon Legislature–Bishops as Ward Magistrates–A Mormon Currency and Alphabet–What Emigrants to California learned about Mormon Justice

CHAPTER VII. THE “REFORMATION”: Young’s Disclosures about the Character of his Flock–The Stealing from One Another–The Threat about “Laying Judgment to the Line”–Plain Declarations about the taking of Human Lives–First Steps of the “Reformation”–An Inquisition and Catechism–An Embarrassing Confession–Warning to those who would leave the Valley

CHAPTER VIII. SOME CHURCH-INSPIRED MURDERS: The Story of the Parrishes–Carrying out of a Cold-blooded Plot–Judge Cradlebaugh’s Effort to convict the Murderers–The Tragedy of the Aikin Party–The Story of Frederick Loba’s Escape

CHAPTER IX. BLOOD ATONEMENT: Early Intimations concerning it– Jedediah M. Grant’s Explanation of Human Sacrifices–Brigham Young’s Definition of “Laying Judgment to the Line”–Two of the Sacrifices described–“The Affair at San Pete”

CHAPTER X. TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT: Brigham Young the First Governor–Colonel Kane’s Part in his Appointment–Kane’s False Statements to President Fillmore–Welcome to the Non-Mormon Officers–Their Early Information about Young’s Influence–Pioneer Anniversary Speeches–Judge Brocchus’s Offence to the Mormons– Young’s Threatening and Abusive Reply–The Judge’s Alarm about his Personal Safety–Return of the Non-Mormon Federal Officers to Washington–Young’s Defence

CHAPTER XI. MORMON TREATMENT OF FEDERAL OFFICERS: A Territorial Election Law–Why Colonel Steptoe declined the Governorship– Young’s Assertion of his Authority–His Reappointment–Two Bad Judicial Appointments–Judge Stiles’s Trouble about the Marshals– Burning of his Books and Papers–How Judge Drummond’s Attempt at Independence was foiled–The Mormon View of Land Titles–Hostile Attitude toward the Government Surveyors–Reports of the Indian Agents

CHAPTER XII. THE MORMON “WAR”: What the Federal Authorities had learned about Mormonism–Declaration of the Republican National Convention of 1856–Striking Speech by Stephen A. Douglas– Alfred Cumming appointed Governor with a New Set of Judges– Statement in the President’s Message–Employment of a Military Force–The Kimball Mail Contract–Organization of the Troops– General Harney’s Letter of Instruction–Threats against the Advancing Foe–Mobilization of the Nauvoo Legion–Captain Van Vliet’s Mission to Salt Lake City–Young’s Defiance of the Government–His Proclamation to the Citizens of Utah–“General” Wells’s Order to his Officers–Capture and Burning of a Government Train–Colonel Alexander’s Futile March–Colonel Johnston’s Advance from Fort Laramie–Harrowing Experience of Lieutenant Colonel Cooke’s Command

CHAPTER XIII. THE MORMON PURPOSE: Correspondence between Colonel Alexander and Brigham Young–Illustration of Young’s Vituperative Powers–John Taylor’s Threat–Incendiary Teachings in Salt Lake City–A Warning to Saints who would Desert–The Army’s Winter Camp –Proclamation by Governor Cumming–Judge Eckles’s Court–Futile Preparations at Washington

CHAPTER XIV. COLONEL KANE’S MISSION: His Wily Proposition to President Buchanan–His Credentials from the President–Arrival in California under an Assumed Name–Visit to Camp Scott–General Johnston ignored–Reasons why both the Government and the Mormons desired Peace–Kane’s Success with Governor Cumming–The Governor’s Departure for Salt Lake City–Deceptions practiced on him in Echo Canon–His Reception in the City–Playing into Mormon Hands–The Governor’s Introduction to the People–Exodus of Mormons begun

CHAPTER XV. THE PEACE COMMISSION: President Buchanan’s Volte-face–A Proclamation of Pardon–Instructions to Two Peace Commissioners–Chagrin of the Military–Governor Cumming’s Misrepresentations–Conferences between the Commissioners and Young–Brother Dunbar’s Singing of “Zion”–Young’s Method of Surrender–Judge Eckles on Plural Marriages–The Terms made with the Mormons–March of the Federal Troops to the Deserted City– Return of the Mormons to their Homes

CHAPTER XVI. THE MOUNTAIN MEADOWS MASSACRE: Circumstances Indicative of Mormon Official Responsibility–The Make-up of the Arkansas Party–Motives for Mormon Hostility to them–Parley P. Pratt’s Shooting in Arkansas–Refusal of Food Supplies to the Party after leaving Salt Lake City–Their Plight before they were attacked–Successful Measures for Defence–Disarrangement of the Mormon Plans–John D. Lee’s Treacherous Mission–Pitiless Slaughter of Men, Women, and Children–Testimony given at Lee’s Trial–The Plundering of the Dead–Lee’s Account of the Planning of the Massacre–Responsibility of High Church Officers–Lee’s Report to Brigham Young and Brigham’s Instructions to him–The Disclosures by “Argus”–Lee’s Execution and Last Words

CHAPTER XVII. AFTER THE “WAR”: Judge Cradlebaugh’s Attempts to enforce the Law–Investigation of the Mountain Meadows Massacre– Governor Cumming’s Objections to the Use of Troops to assist the Court–A Washington Decision in Favor of Young’s Authority–The Story of a Counterfeit Plate–Five Thousand Men under Arms to protect Young from Arrest–Sudden Departure of Cumming–Governor Dawson’s Brief Term–His Shocking Treatment at Mormon Hands– Governor Harding’s Administration–The Morrisite Tragedy

CHAPTER XVIII. ATTITUDE OF THE MORMONS DURING THE SOUTHERN REBELLION: Press and Pulpit Utterances–Arrival of Colonel Connor’s Force–His March through Salt Lake City to Camp Douglas –Governor Harding’s Plain Message to the Legislature–Mormon Retaliation–The Governor and Two Judges requested to leave the Territory–Their Spirited Replies–How Young escaped Arrest by Colonel Connor’s Force–Another Yielding to Mormon Power at Washington

CHAPTER XIX. EASTERN VISITORS To SALT LAKE CITY: Schuyler Colfax’s Interviews with Young–Samuel Bowles’s Praise of the Mormons and his Speedy Correction of his Views–Repudiation of Colfax’s Plan to drop Polygamy–Two more Utah Murders–Colfax’s Second Visit

CHAPTER XX. GENTILE IRRUPTION AND MORMON SCHISM: Young’s Jealousy of Gentile Merchants–Organization of the Zion Cooperative Mercantile Institution–Inception of the “New Movement”–Its Leaders and Objects–The Peep o’ Day and the Utah Magazine– Articles that aroused Young’s Hostility–Visit of the Prophet’s Sons to Salt Lake City–Trial and Excommunication of Godbe and Harrison–Results of the “New Movement”.

CHAPTER XXI. THE LAST YEARS OF BRIGHAM YOUNG: New Governors– Shaffer’s Rebuke to the Nauvoo Legion–Conflict with the New Judges–Brigham Young and Others indicted–Young’s Temporary Imprisonment–A Supreme Court Decision in Favor of the Mormon Marshal and Attorney–Outside Influences affecting Utah Affairs– Grant’s Special Message to Congress–Failure of the Frelinghuysen Bill in the House–Signing of the Poland Bill–Ann Eliza Young’s Suit for Divorce–The Later Governors

CHAPTER XXII. BRIGHAM YOUNG’S DEATH: His Character–Explanation of his Dictatorial Power–Exaggerated Views of his Executive Ability–Overestimations by Contemporaries–Young’s Wealth and how he acquired it–His Revenue from Divorces–Unrestrained Control of the Church Property–His Will–Suit against his Executors–List of his Wives–His Houses in Salt Lake City

CHAPTER XXIII. SOCIAL ASPECTS OF POLYGAMY: Varied Provisions for Plural Wives–Home Accommodations of the Leaders–Horace Greeley’s Observation about Woman’s Place in Utah–Meaus of overcoming Female Jealousy–Young and Grant on the Unhappiness of Mormon Wives–Acceptance of Fanatical Teachings by Women–Kimball on a Fair Division of the Converts–Church Influence in Behalf of Plural Marriages–A Prussian Convert’s Dilemma–President Cleveland on the Evils of Polygamy

CHAPTER XXIV. THE FIGHT AGAINST POLYGAMY: First Measures introduced in Congress–The Act of 1862–The Cullom Bill of 1869 –Its Failure in the Senate–The United States Supreme Court Decision regarding Polygamy–Conviction of John Miles–Appeal of Women of Salt Lake City to Mrs. Hayes and the Women of the United States–President Hayes’s Drastic Recommendation to Congress– Recommendations of Presidents Garfield and Arthur–Passage of the Edmunds Bill–Its Provisions–The Edmunds-Tucker Amendment– Appointment of the Utah Commission–Determined Opposition of the Mormon Church–Placing their Flags at Half Mast–Convictions under the New Law–Leaders in Hiding or in Exile–Mormon Honors for those who took their Punishment–Congress asked to disfranchise All Polygamists–The Mormon Church brought to Bay– Woodruff’s Famous Proclamation–How it was explained to the Church–The Roberts Case and the Vetoed Act of 1901–How Statehood came

CHAPTER XXV. THE MORMONISM OF TO-DAY: Future Place of the Church in American History–Main Points of the Mormon Political Policy– Unbroken Power of the Priesthood–Fidelity of the Younger Members–Extension of the Membership over Adjoining States–Mission Work at Home and Abroad–Decreased Foreign Membership–Effect of False Promises to Converts–The Settlements in Canada and Mexico –Polygamy still a Living Doctrine–Reasons for its Hold on the Church–Its Appeal to the Female Members–Importance of a Federal Constitutional Amendment forbidding Polygamous Marriages–Scope of the Mormon Political Ambition




Summing up his observations of the Mormons as he found them in Utah while secretary of the territory, five years after their removal to the Great Salt Lake valley, B. G. Ferris wrote, “The real miracle [of their success] consists in so large a body of men and women, in a civilized land, and in the nineteenth century, being brought under, governed, and controlled by such gross religious imposture. “This statement presents, in concise form, the general view of the surprising features of the success of the Mormon leaders, in forming, augmenting, and keeping together their flock; but it is a mistaken view. To accept it would be to concede that, in a highly civilized nation like ours, and in so late a century, the acceptance of religious beliefs which, to the nonbelievers, seem gross superstitions, is so unusual that it may be classed with the miraculous. Investigation easily disproves this.

It is true that the effrontery which has characterized Mormonism from the start has been most daring. Its founder, a lad of low birth, very limited education, and uncertain morals; its beginnings so near burlesque that they drew down upon its originators the scoff of their neighbors,–the organization increased its membership as it was driven from one state to another, building up at last in an untried wilderness a population that has steadily augmented its wealth and numbers; doggedly defending its right to practise its peculiar beliefs and obey only the officers of the church, even when its course in this respect has brought it in conflict with the government of the United States. Professing only a desire to be let alone, it promulgated in polygamy a doctrine that was in conflict with the moral sentiment of the Christian world, making its practice not only a privilege, but a part of the religious duty of its members. When, in recent years, Congress legislated against this practice, the church fought for its peculiar institution to the last, its leading members accepting exile and imprisonment; and only the certainty of continued exclusion from the rights of citizenship, and the hopelessness of securing the long-desired prize of statehood for Utah, finally induced the church to bow to the inevitable, and to announce a form of release for its members from the duty of marrying more wives than one. Aside from this concession, the Mormon church is to-day as autocratic in its hold on its members, as aggressive in its proselyting, and as earnest in maintaining its individual religious and political power, as it has been in any previous time in its history.

In its material aspects we must concede to the Mormon church organization a remarkable success; to Joseph Smith, Jr., a leadership which would brook no rival; to Brigham Young the maintenance of an autocratic authority which enabled him to hold together and enlarge his church far beyond the limits that would have been deemed possible when they set out across the plains with all their possessions in their wagons. But it is no more surprising that the Mormons succeeded in establishing their church in the United States than it would have been if they had been equally successful in South America; no more surprising that this success should have been won in the nineteenth century than it would have been to record it in the twelfth.

In studying questions of this kind, we are, in the first place, entirely too apt to ignore the fact that man, while comparatively a “superior being,” is in simple fact one species of the animals that are found upon the earth; and that, as a species, he has traits which distinguish him characteristically just as certain well-known traits characterize those animals that we designate as “lower.” If a traveller from the Sun should print his observations of the inhabitants of the different planets, he would have to say of those of the Earth something like this: “One of Man’s leading traits is what is known as belief. He is a credulous creature, and is especially susceptible to appeals to his credulity in regard to matters affecting his existence after death.” Whatever explanation we may accept of the origin of the conception by this animal of his soul-existence, and of the evolution of shadowy beliefs into religious systems, we must concede that Man is possessed of a tendency to worship something, –a recognition, at least, of a higher power with which it behooves him to be on friendly terms,–and so long as the absolute correctness of any one belief or doctrine cannot be actually proved to him, he is constantly ready to inquire into, and perhaps give credence to, new doctrines that are presented for his consideration. The acceptance by Man of novelties in the way of religions is a characteristic that has marked his species ever since its record has been preserved. According to Max Matter, “every religion began simply as a matter of reason, and from this drifted into a superstition”; that is, into what non-believers in the new doctrine characterize as a superstition. Whenever one of these driftings has found a lodgement, there has been planted a new sect. There has never been a year in the Christian era when there have not been believers ready to accept any doctrine offered to them in the name of religion. As Shakespeare expresses it, in the words of Bassanio:–

“In religion, What damned error but some sober brow Will bless it, and approve it with a text, Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?”

In glancing at the cause of this unchanged susceptibility to religious credulity–unchanged while the world has been making such strides in the acquisition of exact information–we may find a summing up of the situation in Macaulay’s blunt declaration that “natural theology is not a progressive science; a Christian of the fifth century with a Bible is on a par with a Christian of the nineteenth century with a Bible. The “orthodox” believer in that Bible can only seek a better understanding of it by studying it himself and accepting the deductions of other students. Nothing, as the centuries have passed, has been added to his definite knowledge of his God or his own future existence. When, therefore, some one, like a Swedenborg or a Joseph Smith, appears with an announcement of an addition to the information on this subject, obtained by direct revelation from on high, he supplies one of the greatest desiderata that man is conscious of, and we ought, perhaps, to wonder that his followers are not so numerous, but so few. Progress in medical science would no longer permit any body like the College of the Physicians of London to recognize curative value in the skull of a person who had met with a violent death, as it did in the seventeenth century; but the physician of the seventeenth century with a pharmacopoeia was not “on a par with” a physician of the nineteenth century with a pharmacopoeia.

Nor has man changed in his mental susceptibilities as the centuries have advanced. It is a failure to recognize this fact which leads observers like Ferris to find it so marvellous that a belief like Mormonism should succeed in the nineteenth century. Draper’s studies of man’s intellectual development led him to declare that “man has ever been the same in his modes of thought and motives of action, “and to assert his purpose to” judge past occurrences in the same way as those of our own time.”* So Macaulay refused to accept the doctrine that “the world is constantly becoming more and more enlightened, “asserting that “the human mind, instead of marching, merely marks time. “Nothing offers stronger confirmation of the correctness of these views than the history of religious beliefs, and the teachings connected therewith since the death of Christ.

* “Intellectual Development of Europe,” Vol. II, Chap. 3.

The chain of these beliefs and teachings–including in the list only those which offer the boldest challenge to a sane man’s credulity–is uninterrupted down to our own day. A few of them may be mentioned by way of illustration. In one century we find Spanish priests demanding the suppression of the opera on the ground that this form of entertainment caused a drought, and a Pope issuing a bull against men and women having sexual intercourse with fiends. In another, we find an English tailor, unsuccessfully, allotting endless torments to all who would not accept his declaration that God was only six feet in height, at the same time that George Fox, who was successful in establishing the Quaker sect, denounced as unchristian adoration of Janus and Woden, any mention of a month as January or a day as Wednesday. Luther, the Protestant pioneer, believed that he had personal conferences with the devil; Wesley, the founder of Methodism, declared that “the giving up of (belief) in witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible. “Education and mental training have had no influence in shaping the declarations of the leaders of new religious sects.* The learned scientist, Swedenborg, told of seeing the Virgin Mary dressed in blue satin, and of spirits wearing hats, just as confidently as the ignorant Joseph Smith, Jr., described his angel as “a tall, slim, well-built, handsome man, with a bright pillar upon his head.”

* “The splendid gifts which make a seer are usually found among those whom society calls ‘common or unclean.’ These brutish beings are the chosen vessels in whom God has poured the elixirs which amaze humanity. Such beings have furnished the prophets, the St. Peters, the hermits of history.” BALZAC, in “Cousin Pons.”

The readiness with which even believers so strictly taught as are the Jews can be led astray by the announcement of a new teacher divinely inspired, is illustrated in the stories of their many false Messiahs. One illustration of this–from the pen of Zangwill –may be given:–

“From all the lands of the Exile, crowds of the devout came to do him homage and tender allegiance–Turkish Jews with red fez or saffron-yellow turban; Jerusalem Jews in striped cotton gowns and soft felt hats; Polish Jews with foxskin caps and long caftans; sallow German Jews, gigantic Russian Jews, highbred Spanish Jews; and with them often their wives and daughters– Jerusalem Jewesses with blue shirts and head-veils, Egyptian Jewesses with sweeping robes and black head-shawls, Jewesses from Ashdod and Gaza, with white visors fringed with gold coins; Polish Jewesses with glossy wigs; Syrian Jewesses with eyelashes black as though lined with kohl; fat Jewesses from Tunis, with clinging breeches interwoven with gold and silver.”

This homage to a man who turned Turk, and became a doorkeeper of the Sultan, to save himself from torture and death!

Savagery and civilization meet on this plane of religious credulity. The Indians of Canada believed not more implicitly in the demons who howled all over the Isles of Demons, than did the early French sailors and the priests whose protection the latter asked. The Jesuit priests of the seventeenth century accepted, and impressed upon their white followers in New France, belief in miracles which made a greater demand on credulity than did any of the exactions of the Indian medicine man. That the head of a white man, which the Iroquois carried to their village, spoke to them and scolded them for their perfidy, “found believers among the most intelligent men of the colony, “just as did the story of the conversion of a sick Huguenot immigrant, with whose gruel a Mother secretly mixed a little of the powdered bone of a Jesuit martyr.* And French Canada is to-day as “orthodox” in its belief in miracles as was the Canada of the seventeenth century. The church of St. Anne de Beaupre, below Quebec, attracts thousands annually, and is piled with the crutches which the miraculously cured have cast aside. Masses were said in 1899 in the church of Notre Dame de Bonsecours at Montreal, at the expense of a pilots’ association, to ward off wrecks in the treacherous St. Lawrence; and in the near-by provinces there were religious processions to check the attacks of caterpillars in the orchards.

* Parkman’s “Old Regime in Canada.”

Nor need we go to Catholic Quebec for modern illustrations of this kind of faith. “Bareheaded people stood out upon the corner in East 113th Street yesterday afternoon, “said a New York City newspaper of December 18, 1898, “because they were unable to get into the church of Our Lady Queen of Angels, where a relic of St. Anthony of Padua was exposed for veneration. “Describing a service in the church of St. Jean Baptiste in East 77th Street, New York, where a relic alleged to be a piece of a bone of the mother of the Virgin was exposed, a newspaper of that city, on July 24th, 1901, said: “There were five hundred persons, by actual count, in and around the crypt chapel of St. Anne when afternoon service stopped the rush of the sick and crippled at 4.30 o’clock yesterday. There were many more at the 8 o’clock evening Mass. What did these people seek at the shrine? Only the favor of St. Anne and a kiss and touch of the casket that, by church authority, contains bone of her body. “France has to-day its Grotto of Lourdes, Wales its St. Winefride’s Well, Mexico its “wonder-working doll” that makes the sick well and the childless mothers, and Moscow its “wonder-working picture of the Mother of God,” before which the Czar prostrates himself.

Not in recent years has the appetite for some novelty on which to fasten belief been more manifest in the United States than it was at the close of the nineteenth century. Old beliefs found new teachers, and promulgators of new ideas found followers. Instructors in Brahminism attracted considerable attention. A “Chapter of the College of Divine Sciences and Realization” instituted a revival of Druid sun-adoration on the shores of Lake Michigan. An organization has been formed of believers in the One-Over-At-Acre, a Persian who claimed to be the forerunner of the Millennium, and in whom, as Christ, it is said that more than three thousand persons in this country believe. We have among us also Jaorelites, who believe in the near date of the end of the world, and that they must make their ascent to heaven from a mountain in Scotland. The hold which the form of belief called Christian Science has obtained upon people of education and culture needs only be referred to. Along with this have come the “divine healers,” gaining patients in circles where it would be thought impossible for them to obtain even consideration, and one of them securing a clientage in a Western city which has enabled him to establish there a church of his own.

In fact, instead of finding in enlightened countries like the United States and England a poor field for the dissemination of new beliefs, the whole school of revealers find there their best opportunities. Discussing this susceptibility, Aliene Gorren, in her “Anglo-Saxons and Others,” reaches this conclusion: “Nowhere are so many persons of sound intelligence in all practical affairs so easily led to follow after crazy seers and seeresses as in England and the United States. The truth is that the mind of man refuses to be shut out absolutely from the world of the higher abstractions, and that, if it may not make its way thither under proper guidance, it will set off even at the tail of the first ragged street procession that passes.”

The “real miracle” in Mormonism, then,–the wonderful feature of its success,–is to be sought, not in the fact that it has been able to attract believers in a new prophet, and to find them at this date and in this country, but in its success in establishing and keeping together in a republic like ours a membership who acknowledge its supreme authority in politics as well as in religion, and who form a distinct organization which does not conceal its purpose to rule over the whole nation. Had Mormonism confined itself to its religious teachings, and been preached only to those who sought its instruction, instead of beating up the world for recruits and conveying them to its home, the Mormon church would probably to-day be attracting as little attention as do the Harmonists of Pennsylvania.


Among the families who settled in Ontario County, New York, in 1816, was that of one Joseph Smith. It consisted of himself, his wife, and nine children. The fourth of these children, Joseph Smith, Jr., became the Mormon prophet.

The Smiths are said to have been of Scotch ancestry. It was the mother, however, who exercised the larger influence on her son’s life, and she has left very minute details of her own and her father’s family.* Her father, Solomon Mack, was a native of Lyme, Connecticut. The daughter Lucy, who became Mrs. Joseph Smith, Sr., was born in Gilsum, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, on July 8, 1776. Mr. Mack was remembered as a feeble old man, who rode around the country on horseback, using a woman’s saddle, and selling his own autobiography. The “tramp” of those early days often offered an autobiography, or what passed for one, and, as books were then rare, if he could say that it contained an account of actual adventures in the recent wars, he was certain to find purchasers.

* “Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith and his Progenitors for Many Generations,” Lucy Smith.

One of the few copies of this book in existence lies before me. It was printed at the author’s expense about the year 1810. It is wholly without interest as a narrative, telling of the poverty of his parents, how he was bound, when four years old, to a farmer who gave him no education and worked him like a slave; gives some of his experiences in the campaigns against the French and Indians in northern New York and in the war of the Revolution, when he was in turn teamster, sutler, and privateer; describes with minute detail many ordinary illnesses and accidents that befell him; and closes with a recital of his religious awakening, which was deferred until his seventy-sixth year, while he was suffering with rheumatism. At that time it seemed to him that he several times “saw a bright light in a dark night,” and thought he heard a voice calling to him. Twenty-two of the forty-eight duodecimo pages that the book contains are devoted to hymns “composed,” the title-page says, “on the death of several of his relatives,” not all by himself. One of these may be quoted entire:–

“My friends, I am on the ocean, So sweetly do I sail; Jesus is my portion, He’s given me a pleasant gale.

“The bruises sore, In harbor soon I’ll be, And see my redeemer there That died for you and me.”

Mrs. Smith’s family seem to have had a natural tendency to belief in revelations. Her eldest brother, Jason, became a “Seeker”; the “Seekers” of that day believed that the devout of their times could, through prayer and faith, secure the “gifts” of the Gospel which were granted to the ancient apostles.* He was one of the early believers in faith-cure, and was, we are told, himself cured by that means in 1835. One of Lucy’s sisters had a miraculous recovery from illness. After being an invalid for two years she was “borne away to the world of spirits, “where she saw the Saviour and received a message from Him for her earthly friends.

* A sect called “Seekers,” who arose in 1645, taught, like the Mormons, that the Scriptures are defective, the true church lost, and miracles necessary to faith.

Lucy herself came very exactly under the description given by Ruth McEnery Stuart of one of her negro characters: “Duke’s mother was of the slighter intelligences, and hence much given to convictions. Knowing few things, she ‘believed in’ a great many.” Lucy Smith had neither education nor natural intelligence that would interfere with such “beliefs” as came to her from family tradition, from her own literal interpretations of the Bible, or from the workings of her imagination. She tells us that after her marriage, when very ill, she made a covenant with God that she would serve him if her recovery was granted; thereupon she heard a voice giving her assurance that her prayer would be answered, and she was better the next morning. Later, when anxious for the safety of her husband’s soul, she prayed in a grove (most of the early Mormons’ prayers were made in the woods), and saw a vision indicating his coming conversion; later still, in Vermont, a daughter was restored to health by her parent’s prayers.

According to Mrs. Smith’s account of their life in Vermont, they were married on January 24, 1796, at Tunbridge, but soon moved to Randolph, where Smith was engaged in “merchandise, “keeping a store. Learning of the demand for crystallized ginseng in China, he invested money in that product and made a shipment, but it proved unprofitable, and, having in this way lost most of his money, they moved back to a farm at Tunbridge. Thence they moved to Royalton, and in a few months to Sharon, where, on December 23, 1805, Joseph Smith, Jr., their fourth child, was born.* Again they moved to Tunbridge, and then back to Royalton (all these places in Vermont). From there they went to Lebanon, New Hampshire, thence to Norwich, Vermont, still “farming” without success, until, after three years of crop failure, they decided to move to New York State, arriving there in the summer of 1816.

* There is equally good authority for placing the house in which Smith was born across the line in Royalton.

Less prejudiced testimony gives an even less favorable view than this of the elder Smith’s business career in Vermont. Judge Daniel Woodward, of the county court of Windsor, Vermont, near whose father’s farm the Smiths lived, says that the elder Smith while living there was a hunter for Captain Kidd’s treasure, and that” he also became implicated with one Jack Downing in counterfeiting money, but turned state’s evidence and escaped the penalty.”* He had in earlier life been a Universalist, but afterward became a Methodist. His spiritual welfare gave his wife much concern, but although he had “two visions “while living in Vermont, she did not accept his change of heart. She admits, however, that after their removal to New York her husband obeyed the scriptural injunction, “your old men shall dream dreams,” and she mentions several of these dreams, the latest in 1819, giving the particulars of some of them. One sample of these will suffice. The dreamer found himself in a beautiful garden, with wide walks and a main walk running through the centre.” On each side of this was a richly carved seat, and on each seat were placed six wooden images, each of which was the size of a very large man. When I came to the first image on the right side it arose, bowed to me with much deference. I then turned to the one which sat opposite to me, on the left side, and it arose and bowed to me in the same manner as the first. I continued turning first to the right and then to the left until the whole twelve had made the obeisance, after which I was entirely healed (of a lameness from which he then was suffering). I then asked my guide the meaning of all this, but I awoke before I received an answer.”

* Historical Magazine, 1870.

A similar wakefulness always manifested itself at the critical moment in these dreams. What the world lost by this insomnia of the dreamer the world will never know.

The Smiths’ first residence in New York State was in the village of Palmyra. There the father displayed a sign, “Cake and Beer Shop, “selling” gingerbread, pies, boiled eggs, root beer, and other like notions, “and he and his sons did odd jobs, gardening, harvesting, and well-digging, when they could get them.*

* Tucker’s “Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism,” p. 12.

They were very poor, and Mrs. Smith added to their income by painting oilcloth table covers. After a residence of three years and a half in Palmyra, the family took possession of a piece of land two miles south of that place, on the border of Manchester. They had no title to it, but as the owners were nonresident minors they were not disturbed. There they put up a little log house, with two rooms on the ground floor and two in the attic, which sheltered them all. Later, the elder Smith contracted to buy the property and erected a farmhouse on it; but he never completed his title to it.

While classing themselves as farmers, the Smiths were regarded by their neighbors as shiftless and untrustworthy. They sold cordwood, vegetables, brooms of their own manufacture, and maple sugar, continuing to vend cakes in the village when any special occasion attracted a crowd. It may be remarked here that, while Ontario County, New York, was regarded as “out West” by seaboard and New England people in 1830, its population was then almost as large as it is to-day (having 40,288 inhabitants according to the census of 1830 and 48,453 according to the census of 1890). The father and several of the boys could not read, and a good deal of the time of the younger sons was spent in hunting, fishing, and lounging around the village.

The son Joseph did not rise above the social standing of his brothers. The best that a Mormon biographer, Orson Pratt, could say of him as a youth was that “He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand, and had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments, while the rest of those branches so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States were entirely unknown to him.”* He was “Joe Smith” to every one. Among the younger people he served as a butt for jokes, and we are told that the boys who bought the cakes that he peddled used to pay him in pewter twoshilling pieces, and that when he called at the Palmyra Register office for his father’s weekly paper, the youngsters in the press room thought it fun to blacken his face with the ink balls.

* “Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism,” p. 16.

Here are two pictures of the young man drawn by persons who saw him constantly in the days of his vagabondage. The first is from Mr. Tucker’s book:–

“At this period in the life and career of Joseph Smith, Jr., or ‘Joe Smith,’ as he was universally named, and the Smith family, they were popularly regarded as an illiterate, whiskey-drinking, shiftless, irreligious race of people–the first named, the chief subject of this biography, being unanimously voted the laziest and most worthless of the generation. From the age of twelve to twenty years he is distinctly remembered as a dull-eyed, flaxenhaired, prevaricating boy noted only for his indolent and vagabondish character, and his habits of exaggeration and untruthfulness. Taciturnity was among his characteristic idiosyncrasies, and he seldom spoke to any one outside of his intimate associates, except when first addressed by another; and then, by reason of his extravagancies of statement, his word was received with the least confidence by those who knew him best. He could utter the most palpable exaggeration or marvellous absurdity with the utmost apparent gravity. He nevertheless evidenced the rapid development of a thinking, plodding, evilbrewing mental composition–largely given to inventions of low cunning, schemes of mischief and deception, and false and mysterious pretensions. In his moral phrenology the professor might have marked the organ of secretiveness as very large, and that of conscientiousness omitted. He was, however, proverbially good natured, very rarely, if ever, indulging in any combative spirit toward any one, whatever might be the provocation, and yet was never known to laugh. Albeit, he seemed to be the pride of his indulgent father, who has been heard to boast of him as the ‘genus of the family,’ quoting his own expression.”*

* “Remarkable Visions.”

The second (drawn a little later) is by Daniel Hendrix, a resident of Palmyra, New York, at the time of which he speaks, and an assistant in setting the type and reading the proof of the Mormon Bible:–

“Every one knew him as Joe Smith. He had lived in Palmyra a few years previous to my going there from Rochester. Joe was the most ragged, lazy fellow in the place, and that is saying a good deal. He was about twenty-five years old. I can see him now in my mind’s eye, with his torn and patched trousers held to his form by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico shirt as dirty and black as the earth, and his uncombed hair sticking through the holes in his old battered hat. In winter I used to pity him, for his shoes were so old and worn out that he must have suffered in the snow and slush; yet Joe had a jovial, easy, don’t-care way about him that made him a lot of warm friends. He was a good talker, and would have made a fine stump speaker if he had had the training. He was known among the young men I associated with as a romancer of the first water. I never knew so ignorant a man as Joe was to have such a fertile imagination. He never could tell a common occurrence in his daily life without embellishing the story with his imagination; yet I remember that he was grieved one day when old Parson Reed told Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits.”*

* San Jacinto, California, letter of February 2, 1897, to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

To this testimony may be added the following declarations, published in 1833, the year in which a mob drove the Mormons out of Jackson County, Missouri. The first was signed by eleven of the most prominent citizens of Manchester, New York, and the second by sixty-two residents of Palmyra:–

“We, the undersigned, being personally acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., with whom the Gold Bible, so called, originated, state: That they were not only a lazy, indolent set of men, but also intemperate, and their word was not to be depended upon; and that we are truly glad to dispense with their society.”

“We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying that we consider them destitute of that moral character which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects; spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth, and to this day large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Sr., and his son Joseph were, in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits.”*

* Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 261.

Finally may be quoted the following affidavit of Parley Chase:–

“Manchester, New York, December 2, 1833. I was acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., both before and since they became Mormons, and feel free to state that not one of the male members of the Smith family were entitled to any credit whatsoever. They were lazy, intemperate, and worthless men, very much addicted to lying. In this they frequently boasted their skill. Digging for money was their principal employment. In regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation from God, through Joseph Smith, Jr., his Prophet, and this same Joseph Smith, Jr., to my knowledge, bore the reputation among his neighbors of being a liar.”*

* Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 248.

The preposterousness of the claims of such a fellow as Smith to prophetic powers and divinely revealed information were so apparent to his local acquaintances that they gave them little attention. One of these has remarked to me in recent years that if they had had any idea of the acceptance of Joe’s professions by a permanent church, they would have put on record a much fuller description of him and his family.


The elder Smith, as we have seen, was known as a money-digger while a resident of Vermont. Of course that subject as a matter of conversation in his family, and his sons were a character to share in his belief in the existence of hidden treasure. The territory around Palmyra was as good ground for their explorations as any in Vermont, and they soon let their neighbors know of a possibility of riches that lay within their reach.

The father, while a resident of Vermont, also claimed ability to locate an underground stream of water over which would be a good site for a well, by means of a forked hazel switch,* and in this way doubtless increased the demand for his services as a well-digger, but we have no testimonials to his success. The son Joseph, while still a young lad, professed to have his father’s gift in this respect, and he soon added to his accomplishments the power to locate hidden riches, and in this way began his career as a money-digger, which was so intimately connected with his professions as a prophet.

* The so-called “divining rod” has received a good deal of attention from persons engaged in psychical research. Vol. XIII, Part II, of the “Proceedings of the Society Of Psychical Research” is devoted to a discussion of the subject by Professor W. F. Barrett of the Royal College of Science for Ireland, in Dublin, and in March, 1890, a commission was appointed in France to study the matter.

Writers on the origin of the Mormon Bible, and the gradual development of Smith the Prophet from Smith the village loafer and money-seeker, have left their readers unsatisfied on many points. Many of these obscurities will be removed by a very careful examination of Joseph’s occupations and declarations during the years immediately preceding the announcement of the revelation and delivery to him of the golden plates.

The deciding event in Joe’s career was a trip to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, when he was a lad. It can be shown that it was there that he obtained an idea of vision-seeing nearly ten years before the date he gives in his autobiography as that of the delivery to him of the golden plates containing the Book of Mormon, and it was there probably that, in some way, he later formed the acquaintance of Sidney Rigdon. It can also be shown that the original version of his vision differed radically from the one presented, after the lapse of another ten years spent under Rigdon’s tutelage, in his autobiography. Each of these points is of great incidental value in establishing Rigdon’s connection with the conception of a new Bible, and the manner of its presentation to the public. Later Mormon authorities have shown a dislike to concede that Joe was a money-digger, but the fact is admitted both in his mother’s history of him and by himself. His own statement about it is as follows:–

“In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango County, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna County, State of Pennsylvania, and had, previous to my hiring with him, been digging in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him he took me, among the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging for it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a moneydigger.”*

* Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, Supt., p. 6.

Mother Smith’s account says, however, that Stoal “came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye”; thus showing that he had a reputation as a “gazer” before that date. It was such discrepancies as these which led Brigham Young to endeavor to suppress the mother’s narrative.

The “gazing” which Joe took up is one of the oldest–perhaps the oldest–form of alleged human divination, and has been called “mirror-gazing,” “crystal-gazing,” “crystal vision,” and the like. Its practice dates back certainly three thousand years, having been noted in all ages, and among nations uncivilized as well as civilized. Some students of the subject connect with such divination Joseph’s silver cup “whereby indeed he divineth” (Genesis xliv. 5). Others, long before the days of Smith and Rigdon, advanced the theory that the Urim and Thummim were clear crystals intended for “gazing” purposes. One writer remarks of the practice, “Aeschylus refers it to Prometheus, Cicero to the Assyrians and Etruscans, Zoroaster to Ahriman, Varro to the Persian Magi, and a very large class of authors, from the Christian Fathers and Schoolmen downward, to the devil.”* An act of James I (1736), against witchcraft in England, made it a crime to pretend to discover property “by any occult or crafty science. “As indicating the universal knowledge of “gazing,” it may be further noted that Varro mentions its practice among the Romans and Pausanias among the Greeks. It was known to the ancient Peruvians. It is practised to-day by East Indians, Africans (including Egyptians), Maoris, Siberians, by Australian, Polynesian, and Zulu savages, by many of the tribes of American Indians, and by persons of the highest culture in Europe and America.** Andrew Lang’s collection of testimony about visions seen in crystals by English women in 1897 might seem convincing to any one who has not had experience in weighing testimony in regard to spiritualistic manifestations, or brought this testimony alongside of that in behalf of the “occult phenomena” of Adept Brothers presented by Sinnett.***

* Recent Experiments in Crystal Vision,” Vol. V, “Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.”

** Lang’s “The Making of Religion,” Chap. V.

*** “The Occult World.”

“Gazers” use different methods. Some look into water contained in a vessel, some into a drop of blood, some into ink, some into a round opaque stone, some into mirrors, and many into some form of crystal or a glass ball. Indeed, the “gazer” seems to be quite independent as to the medium of his sight-seeing, so long as he has the “power.” This “power” is put also to a great variety of uses. Australian savages depend on it to foretell the outcome of an attack on their enemies; Apaches resort to it to discover the whereabouts of things lost or stolen; and Malagasies, Zulus, and Siberians” to see what will happen. “Perhaps its most general use has been to discover lost objects, and in this practice the seers “have very often been children, as we shall see was the case in the exhibition which gave Joe Smith his first idea on the subject. In the experiments cited by Lang, the seers usually saw distant persons or scenes, and he records his belief that “experiments have proved beyond doubt that a fair percentage of people, sane and healthy, can see vivid landscapes, and figures of persons in motion, in glass balls and other vehicles.”

It can easily be imagined how interested any member of the Smith family would have been in an exhibition like that of a “crystal-gazer,” and we are able to trace very consecutively Joe’s first introduction to the practice, and the use he made of the hint thus given.

Emily C. Blackman, in the appendix to her “History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania” (1873), supplies the needed important information about Joe’s visits to Pennsylvania in the years preceding the announcement of his Bible. She says that it is uncertain when he arrived at Harmony (now Oakland), “but it is certain he was here in 1825 and later. “A very circumstantial account of Joe’s first introduction to a “peep-stone” is given in a statement by J. B. Buck in this appendix. He says:–

“Joe Smith was here lumbering soon after my marriage, which was in 1818, some years before he took to ‘peeping’, and before diggings were commenced under his direction. These were ideas he gained later. The stone which he afterward used was in the possession of Jack Belcher of Gibson, who obtained it while at Salina, N. Y., engaged in drawing salt. Belcher bought it because it was said to be a ‘seeing-stone.’ I have often seen it. It was a green stone, with brown irregular spots on it. It was a little longer than a goose’s egg, and about the same thickness. When he brought it home and covered it with a hat, Belcher’s little boy was one of the first to look into the hat, and as he did so, he said he saw a candle. The second time he looked in he exclaimed, ‘I’ve found my hatchet’ (it had been lost two years), and immediately ran for it to the spot shown him through the stone, and it was there. The boy was soon beset by neighbors far and near to reveal to them hidden things, and he succeeded marvellously. Joe Smith, conceiving the idea of making a fortune through a similar process of ‘seeing,’ bought the stone of Belcher, and then began his operations in directing where hidden treasures could be found. His first diggings were near Capt. Buck’s sawmill, at Red Rock; but because the followers broke the rule of silence, ‘the enchantment removed the deposit.'”

One of many stories of Joe’s treasure-digging, current in that neighborhood, Miss Blackman narrates. Learning from a strolling Indian of a place where treasure was said to be buried, Joe induced a farmer named Harper to join him in digging for it and to spend a considerable sum of money in the enterprise. “After digging a great hole, that is still to be seen, “the story continues, “Harper got discouraged, and was about abandoning the enterprise. Joe now declared to Harper that there was an ‘enchantment’ about the place that was removing the treasure farther off; that Harper must get a perfectly white dog (some said a black one), and sprinkle his blood over the ground, and that would prevent the ‘enchantment’ from removing the treasure. Search was made all over the country, but no perfectly white dog could be found. “Then Joe said a white sheep would do as well; but when this was sacrificed and failed, he said “The Almighty was displeased with him for attempting to palm off on Him a white sheep for a white dog. This informant describes Joe at that time as “an imaginative enthusiast, constitutionally opposed to work, and a general favorite with the ladies.”

In confirmation of this, R. C. Doud asserted that “in 1822 he was employed, with thirteen others, by Oliver Harper to dig for gold under Joe’s direction on Joseph McKune’s land, and that Joe had begun operations the year previous.”

F. G. Mather obtained substantially the same particulars of Joe’s digging in connection with Harper from the widow of Joseph McKune about the year 1879, and he said that the owner of the farm at that time “for a number of years had been engaged in filling the holes with stone to protect his cattle, but the boys still use the northeast hole as a swimming pond in the summer.”*

* Lippincott’s Magazine, August, 1880.

Confirmation of the important parts of these statements has been furnished by Joseph’s father. When the reports of the discovery of a new Bible first gained local currency (in 1830), Fayette Lapham decided to visit the Smith family, and learn what he could on the subject. He found the elder Smith very communicative, and he wrote out a report of his conversation with him, “as near as I can repeat his words, “he says, and it was printed in the Historical Magazine for May, 1870. Father Smith made no concealment of his belief in witchcraft and other things supernatural, as well as in the existence of a vast amount of buried treasure. What he said of Joe’s initiation into “crystal-gazing” Mr. Lapham thus records:–

“His son Joseph, whom he called the illiterate,* when he was about fourteen years of age, happened to be where a man was looking into a dark stone, and telling people therefrom where to dig for money and other things. Joseph requested the privilege of looking into the stone, which he did by putting his face into the hat where the stone was. It proved to be not the right stone for him; but he could see some things, and among them he saw the stone, and where it was, in which he could see whatever he wished to see…. The place where he saw the stone was not far from their house, and under pretence of digging a well, they found water and the stone at a depth of twenty or twenty-two feet. After this, Joseph spent about two years looking into this stone, telling fortunes, where to find lost things, and where to dig for money and other hidden treasures.”

* Joe’s mother, describing Joe’s descriptions to the family, at their evening fireside, of the angel’s revelations concerning the golden plates, says (p. 84): “All giving the most profound attention to a boy eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life; he seemed much less inclined to the perusal of books than any of the rest of our children.”

If further confirmation of Joe’s early knowledge on this subject is required, we may cite the Rev. John A. Clark, D.D., who, writing in 1840 after careful local research, said: “Long before the idea of a golden Bible entered their [the Smiths’] minds, in their excursions for money-digging…. Joe used to be usually their guide, putting into a hat a peculiar stone he had, through which he looked to decide where they should begin to dig.”*

* “Gleanings by the Way” (1842), p. 225.

We come now to the history of Joe’s own “peek-stone” (as the family generally called it), that which his father says he discovered by using the one that he first saw. Willard Chase, of Manchester, New York, near Palmyra, employed Joe and his brother Alvin some time in the year 1822 (as he fixed the date in his affidavit)* to assist him in digging a well. “After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, “he says, “we discovered a singularly appearing stone which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat and then his face into the top of the hat. It has been said by Smith that he brought the stone from the well, but this is false. There was no one in the well but myself. The next morning he came to me and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of the community that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years. “Joseph’s brother Hyrum borrowed the stone some time in 1825, and Mr. Chase was unable to recover it afterward. Tucker describes it as resembling a child’s foot in shape, and “of a whitish, glassy appearance, though opaque.”**

* Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 240.

** Tucker closes his chapter about this stone with the declaration “that the origin [of Mormonism] is traceable to the insignificant little stone found in the digging of Mr. Chase’s well in 1822.” Tucker was evidently ignorant both of Joe’s previous experience with “crystal-gazing” in Pennsylvania and of “crystal-gazing” itself.

The Smiths at once began turning Chase’s stone to their own financial account, but no one at the time heard that it was giving them any information about revealed religion. For pay they offered to disclose by means of it the location of stolen property and of buried money. There seemed to be no limit to the exaggeration of their professions. They would point out the precise spot beneath which lay kegs, barrels, and even hogsheads of gold and silver in the shape of coin, bars, images, candlesticks, etc., and they even asserted that all the hills thereabout were the work of human bands, and that Joe, by using his “peek-stone,” could see the caverns beneath them.* Persons can always be found to give at least enough credence to such professions to desire to test them. It was so in this case. Joe not only secured small sums on the promise of discovering lost articles, but he raised money to enable him to dig for larger treasure which he was to locate by means of the stone. A Palmyra man, for instance, paid seventy-five cents to be sent by him on a fool’s errand to look for some stolen cloth.

* William Stafford’s affidavit, Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 237.

Certain ceremonies were always connected with these money-digging operations. Midnight was the favorite hour, a full moon was helpful, and Good Friday was the best date. Joe would sometimes stand by, directing the digging with a wand. The utmost silence was necessary to success. More than once, when the digging proved a failure, Joe explained to his associates that, just as the deposit was about to be reached, some one, tempted by the devil, spoke, causing the wished-for riches to disappear. Such an explanation of his failures was by no means original with Smith, the serious results of an untimely spoken word having been long associated with divers magic performances. Joe even tried on his New York victims the Pennsylvania device of requiring the sacrifice of a black sheep to overcome the evil spirit that guarded the treasure. William Stafford opportunely owned such an animal, and, as he puts it, “to gratify my curiosity, “he let the Smiths have it. But some new “mistake in the process” again resulted in disappointment. “This, I believe,” remarks the contributor of the sheep, “is the only time they ever made money-digging a profitable business. “The Smiths ate the sheep.

These money-seeking enterprises were continued from 1820 to 1827 (the year of the delivery to Smith of the golden plates). This period covers the years in which Joe, in his autobiography, confesses that he “displayed the corruption of human nature. “He explains that his father’s family were poor, and that they worked where they could find employment to their taste; “sometimes we were at home and sometimes abroad. “Some of these trips took them to Pennsylvania, and the stories of Joe’s “gazing” accomplishment may have reached Sidney Rigdon, and brought about their first interview. Susquehanna County was more thinly settled than the region around Palmyra, and Joe found persons who were ready to credit him with various “gifts”; and stories are still current there of his professed ability to perform miracles, to pray the frost away from a cornfield, and the like.*

* Lippincott’s Magazine, August, 1880.


Just when Smith’s attention was originally diverted from the discovery of buried money to the discovery of a buried Bible engraved on gold plates remains one of the unexplained points in his history. He was so much of a romancer that his own statements at the time, which were carefully collected by Howe, are contradictory. The description given of the buried volume itself changed from time to time, giving strength in this way to the theory that Rigdon was attracted to Smith by the rumor of his discovery, and afterward gave it shape. First the book was announced to be a secular history, says Dr. Clark; then a gold Bible; then golden plates engraved; and later metallic plates, stereotyped or embossed with golden letters.* Daniel Hendrix’s recollection was that for the first few months Joe did not claim the plates any new revelation or religious significance, but simply that they were a historical record of an ancient people. This would indicate that he had possession of the “Spaulding Manuscript” before it received any theological additions.

* “Gleanings by the Way,” p. 229.

The account of the revelation of the book by an angel, which is accepted by the Mormons, is the one elaborated in Smith’s autobiography, and was not written until 1838, when it was prepared under the direction of Rigdon (or by him). Before examining this later version of the story, we may follow a little farther Joe’s local history at the time.

While the Smiths were conducting their operations in Pennsylvania, and Joseph was “displaying the corruption of human nature, “they boarded for a time in the family of Isaac Hale, who is described as a “distinguished hunter, a zealous member of the Methodist church, “and (as later testified to by two judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County)” a man of excellent moral character and of undoubted veracity.”* Mr. Hale had three daughters, and Joe received enough encouragement to his addresses to Emma to induce him to ask her father’s consent to their marriage. This consent was flatly refused. Mr. Hale made a statement in 1834, covering his knowledge of Smith and the origin of the Mormon Bible.** When he became acquainted with the future prophet, in 1825, Joe was employed by the so-called “money- diggers,” using his “peek-stone.” Among the reasons which Mr. Hale gave for refusing consent to the marriage was that Smith was a stranger and followed a business which he could not approve.

* Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 266.

** Ibid., p. 262.

Joe thereupon induced Emma to consent to an elopement, and they were married on January 18, 1827, by a justice of the peace, just across the line in New York State. Not daring to return to the house of his father-in-law, Joe took his wife to his own home, near Palmyra, New York, where for some months he worked again with his father.

In the following August Joe hired a neighbor named Peter Ingersol to go with him to Pennsylvania to bring from there some household effects belonging to Emma. Of this trip Ingersol said, in an affidavit made in 1833:–

“When we arrived at Mr. Hale’s in Harmony, Pa., from which place he had taken his wife, a scene presented itself truly affecting. His father-in-law addressed Joseph in a flood of tears: ‘You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money–pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.’ Joseph wept and acknowledged that he could not see in a stone now nor never could, and that his former pretensions in that respect were false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones. Mr. Hale told Joseph, if he would move to Pennsylvania and work for a living, he would assist him in getting into business. Joseph acceded to this proposition, then returned with Joseph and his wife to Manchester….

“Joseph told me on his return that he intended to keep the promise which he had made to his father-in-law; ‘but,’ said he, it will he hard for me, for they [his family] will all oppose, as they want me to look in the stone for them to dig money’; and in fact it was as he predicted. They urged him day after day to resume his old practice of looking in the stone. He seemed much perplexed as to the course he should pursue. In this dilemma he made me his confidant, and told me what daily transpired in the family of Smiths.

“One day he came and greeted me with joyful countenance. Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: ‘As I was passing yesterday across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found in a hollow some beautiful white sand that had been washed up by the water. I took off my frock and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On entering the house I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment I happened to think about a history found in Canada, called a Golden Bible;* so I very gravely told them it was the Golden Bible. To my surprise they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the natural eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refused to see it and left the room. ‘Now,’ said Joe, ‘I have got the d–d fools fixed and will carry out the fun.’ Notwithstanding he told me he had no such book and believed there never was such book, he told me he actually went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest in which he might deposit the Golden Bible. But as Chase would not do it, he made the box himself of clapboards, and put it into a pillow-case, and allowed people only to lift it and feel of it through the case.”**

* The most careful inquiries bring no information that any such story was ever current in Canada.

** Howe’s “Mormonism Unveiled,” p. 234.

In line with this statement of Joe to Ingersol is a statement which somewhat later he made to his brother-in-law, Alva Hale, that “this ‘peeking’ was all d–d nonsense; that he intended to quit the business and labor for a livelihood.”*

* Ibid., p. 268.

Joe’s family were quite ready to accept his statement of his discovery of golden plates for more reasons than one. They saw in it, in the first place, a means of pecuniary gain. Abigail Harris in a statement (dated “11th mo., 28th, 1833”) of a talk she had with Joe’s father and mother at Martin Harris’s house, said:–

“They [the Smiths] said the plates Joe then had in possession were but an introduction to the Gold Bible; that all of them upon which the Bible was written were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart; that Joseph had also discerned by looking through his stone the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled; he also discovered in the bottom of the vessel three balls of gold, each as large as his fist. The old lady said also that after the book was translated, the plates were to be publicly exhibited, admission 25 cts.”*

* Ibid, p. 253.

But aside from this pecuniary view, the idea of a new Bible would have been eagerly accepted by a woman like Mrs. Smith, and a mere intimation by Joe of such a discovery would have given him, in her, an instigator to the carrying out of the plot. It is said that she had predicted that she was to be the mother of a prophet. She tells us that although, in Vermont, she was a diligent church attendant, she found all preachers unsatisfactory, and that she reached the conclusion that “there was not on earth the religion she sought. “Joe, in his description of his state of mind just before the first visit of the angel who told him about the plates, describes himself as distracted by the “war and tumult of opinions. “He doubtless heard this subject talked of by his mother in the home circle, but none of his acquaintances at the time had any reason to think that he was laboring under such mental distress.

The second person in the neighborhood whom Joe approached about his discovery was Willard Chase, in whose well the “peek-stone” was found. Mr. Chase in his statement (given at length by Howe) says that Joe applied to him, soon after the above quoted conversation with Ingersol, to make a chest in which to lock up his Gold Book, offering Chase an interest in it as compensation. He told Chase that the discovery of the book was due to the “peek-stone,” making no allusion whatever to an angel’s visit. He and Chase could not come to terms, and Joe accordingly made a box in which what he asserted were the plates were placed.

Reports of Joe’s discovery soon gained currency in the neighborhood through the family’s account of it, and neighbors who had accompanied them on the money-seeking expeditions came to hear about the new Bible, and to request permission to see it. Joe warded off these requests by reiterating that no man but him could look upon it and live. “Conflicting stories were afterward told,” says Tucker, “in regard to the manner of keeping the book in concealment and safety, which are not worth repeating, further than to mention that the first place of secretion was said to be under a heavy hearthstone in the Smith family mansion.”

Joe’s mother and Parley P. Pratt tell of determined efforts of mobs and individuals to secure possession of the plates; but their statements cannot be taken seriously, and are contradicted by Tucker from personal knowledge. Tucker relates that two local wags, William T. Hussey and Azel Vandruver, intimate acquaintances of Smith, on asking for a sight of the book and hearing Joe’s usual excuse, declared their readiness to risk their lives if that were the price of the privilege. Smith was not to be persuaded, but, the story continues, “they were permitted to go to the chest with its owner, and see WHERE the thing was, and observe its shape and size, concealed under a piece of thick canvas. Smith, with his accustomed solemnity of demeanor, positively persisting in his refusal to uncover it, Hussey became impetuous, and (suiting his action to his word) ejaculated, ‘Egad, I’ll see the critter, live or die,’ and stripping off the canvas, a large tile brick was exhibited. But Smith’s fertile imagination was equal to the emergency. He claimed that his friends had been sold by a trick of his.”*

* “Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism,” p. 31.

Mother Smith, in her book, gives an account of proceedings in court brought by the wife of Martin Harris to protect her husband’s property from Smith, on the plea that Smith was deceiving him in alleging the existence of golden plates; and she relates how one witness testified that Joe told him that “the box which he had contained nothing but sand, “that a second witness swore that Joe told him, “it was nothing but a box of lead, “and that a third witness declared that Joe had told him “there was nothing at all in the box. “When Joe had once started the story of his discovery, he elaborated it in his usual way. “I distinctly remember, “says Daniel Hendrix,” his sitting on some boxes in the store and telling a knot of men, who did not believe a word they heard, all about his vision and his find. But Joe went into such minute and careful details about the size, weight, and beauty of the carvings on the golden tablets, and strange characters and the ancient adornments, that I confess he made some of the smartest men in Palmyra rub their eyes in wonder.”


The precise date when Joe’s attention was first called to the