Welcome to the Naked Mormonism podcast, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me. Here, we study the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or LDS Church). Not the sugar coated PR friendly history that the church itself teaches, but the real history from the people that experienced it themselves. We need to know where the Church really came from, and compare it's reported history to the factual history. I'm looking to build a body of knowledge, hopefully with your help, about the LDS church, in it's entirety, so listeners can understand what this church really is. I also want to call out Joseph Smith on his willful deceit, con-artistry, dodging of the law, and hypocritical fucking practices with almost 3 dozen women, so if any of that offended you, then you should either shut it off, or, open your mind, give it a listen and try to reconcile why the facts offend you.
Before we begin talking about how the translation of the Book of Mormon came about, or the founding of the church itself, we need to talk about all of the people involved and how they were involved. The first person that we will talk about in this respect is Joseph Smith's wife, Emma Hale Smith, who later became Emma Hale Bidamon, after Joe died in a gunfight in Carthage, Illinois. While she wasn't a particularly large player in the church itself, she was the moral support beam that Joe often needed to carry on, and there's no doubt that she was a strong driving force behind the formation Joseph's church.
Let's begin with how Joe met Emma. Joe and big daddy cheese were actually staying with the Hale family while under the employ of a man named Josiah Stowell or as we'll call him Bossman Joe. Guess what he was hiring them for.... You got it treasure hunting with seer stones. So this hat-trick of superstitious Joes were looking for a silver mine that Josiah Stowell had the capital to fund a mining operation on. Quite obviously, these men had no sense of Scientific Geology as we understand it today, or how probing for minerals works beyond just digging until you get lucky, they were just one rich dood and father son con-man dynamic duo stabbing randomly in the dark. Joe and big daddy cheese would put their lucky stones in their respective lucky hats and walk around looking at the ground through these magical fairy dust monoculars and would say “I SEE SOME SILVER OVER THERE” Or as Joseph would probably say “The Lord has made it known unto me that,.... being the intelligent and large statured, obedient, highly favored in the sight of the lord, young man that I am, there be-eth silver treasure that lieth beyond that mound of earth that is by the side of that tree”.... maybe not quite that narcissistic, but you get the idea..... Once they determined their next sample site, they would maniacally dig in a effort to out-dig the cleverness of the magical gnomes that lived underground that would move the treasure once they started digging. That way if they didn't find anything they could say “AWWW DAMMIT the FUCKIN GROUND GNOMES MOVED ALL THE SILVER AGAIN!!!” Apparently that song and dance wears thin after one month of a big fat bagel in the results department, but we'll talk about that later. Just remember the name Josiah Stowell alias “Bossman Joe”.
While the Joe and big daddy cheese were working for Bossman Joe, they stayed with the Hale family; late pubescent 20 year old Joe took a liking to post pubescent 21 year old Emma, and romance was in the air. Luckily she liked him back, so he was in there like swim wear. While Joe was seeing emma, being lovestruck by her tall, dark, and exotic features, he had this to say to his mother Lucy “Emma would be my choice and preference over any other that I have seen”. Emma was later quoted telling her son “My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father (Joseph), aided by Mr. Stowell (Bossman Joe), who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him to any other man I knew, I consented (to eloping)”. So at least they liked each other. Emma's father Isaac Hale, didn't give a shit and had this to say about Joe during the following two years of their somewhat frequent courtship “He was a stranger and followed a business of which I could not approve” and ended up barring the marriage.
I'm going to take as sidenote for a second here. I seem to be having some level of cognitive dissonance. I clearly remember how important it is in the church to have the fathers consent for marriage. I know somebody that had a symbolic confetti-shotgun wedding in an effort to illustrate how important the structure of the family is. In most faithful mormon households, returned missionary, eagle scout, and never having been exposed to unholy fucking is a list of no-exceptions requirements for the family of the bride to approve and accept a potential husband. More and more lately it is also becoming about schooling as well, the man has to have his head on straight for pappa in law to give up his little girl. This of course leads to temple marriage and the “sealing” temple ritual, which is a pretty crazy ass Masonic ritual that we will talk about in later episodes, and the sealing is done for one man and one woman to their family for “time and all eternity”. (Sealing is a little more complicated than that but we'll discuss that in much later episodes)
I also clearly recall singing in primary class, that's children up to the age of 12 if I remember correctly, a song called “Follow the prophets” meaning follow their example and teachings. This seems to stand in pretty sharp contrast to the eloping, statutory nuptuals, and polygamy exhibited by the FOUDING FUCKING PROPHET OF THE CHURCH!!!! At least when a muslim marries a nine year old girl in Saudi Arabia and says it's for love, he is following Muhammeds example. Mormons today just completely overlook the example their holiest prophet laid out for them!!
After they eloped, and upon their first visitation to Emma's parents as a married couple, Isaac, Emma's father, rebuked joseph and told Emma “I would rather follow you to the grave, than have you married to joseph” Joseph of course told him that “his treasure seeking days were over and he was willing to work hard”
Joe must have turned the charm up to 11 because they soon moved in with the Hale family and joseph even translated some of the plates while they were staying there.
After examining that bit of evidence isn't it clear to say that Joe was delightfully charismatic and at very least diabolically intelligent. His father in law hated the thought of him and his superstitious ways, and justifiably banned Emma from marrying him. They hopped the state line, directly disobeyed her fathers command, and got married in South Bainbridge, New York On January 17, 1827. When they got back to Pennsylvania Isaac Hale screamed at them for getting married and Emma probably screamed “But DADDY I LOVE HIM!!!” and then he gave them a place to live. It's just like an episode of This American Life or something. Or better yet, it serves as a great analog to lot's of fundamentalist believing families. Teenagers and young adults wanna fuck! It's natural, it's gene driven and it should be allowed, embraced and viewed differently in society than it is today... for EVERYBODYS sake! If Emma would have courted Joe for a while before marrying him, she might have figured out he was a snake in the grass and left his visionary ass in Palmyra. No instead she became one of 32 other wives in a sociopathic genius's horde of concubines, and a pregnant widow at the age of 40. How many times does that happen in today's fundamentalist families?.... well, maybe this is an extreme example, but you get the idea... How often does stuff like this happen in believing families because unresponsible, sexually maturing young adults are sooooo motivated to fuck but don't want to break the covenants they made that unlock a golden seat at the highest level of heaven. Whereas if they were educated about sex and love and proper courtship they might have a successful relationship that doesn't end something like Emma and Joe's!
Anyway, back to my point. Joseph must have been quite the convincing wordsmith to get his fuming father in law to be cool with the newlyweds living under his roof and then TRANSLATE THE NON-EXISTENT PLATES USING DIVINE REVELATION IN THEIR BEDROOM!!!”
Onto a new but related topic, why did Isaac hate Joe so much? Prior to marrying Emma, Joe had just stayed the one month with the family and had made a few visitations to Emma on a handful of later occasions to try and get sum. But was there an underlying cause? Remember Bossman Joe Stowell? He'd hired Joe and big daddy cheese to find a silver mine with their glass looking. Turns out, the Joe con-sandwich was unsuccessful in finding anything of value and Bossman Joe filed criminal charges against them. The criminal records refer to Joe as “The Glass Looker” and he was convicted of fraud, however, the details of the punishment, or if there was some sort of acquittal, are a little fuzzy beyond that court record. I think it's reasonable to assume that Joe fucked off after the court date and it wasn't anything that the local law enforcement cared to follow through with, because it was such a seemingly minor offense.
That's right. The most holy man that wasn't Jesus that ever lived, founder and first prophet seer and revelator of the LDS church was convicted of fraud in the years he was “Translating the book of mormon”. In case any never-mormon people are listening, that is not taught in any of the history. Luckily, with the recent advent of the internet, coupled with the intellectual and theatrical contributions from matt stone and trey parker, this information will hopefully never be buried.
This isn't the only crime Joe was convicted for, but it is the first we have record of. We will get to the other convictions when they become relevant in the story. For now, let's get back to Emma.
I want to finish this episode with the best way I could think of to bring us in to a proper understanding of who Emma really was and what her relationship with Joe was like. This is an interview of Emma Bidamon conducted by her son Joseph Smith III in 1879 and it's known as the last testimony of Sister Emma.
LAST TESTIMONY OF SISTER EMMA.
In a conversation held in the Herald office during the early days of the present year, between Bishop Rogers, Elders W. W. Blair, H. A. Stebbins and a few others, leading minds in the Church, it was thought advisable to secure from Mother Bidamon, (Sister Emma Smith), her testimony upon certain points upon which various opinions existed; and to do this, it was decided to present to her a few prominent questions, which were penned and agreed upon, the answers to which might, so far as she was concerned, settle these differences of opinion.
Our thought was, that if we had lacked courage to ask her, because we feared the answers she might give, we would put aside that fear; and, whatever the worst might be, we would hear it. The result is given below; it having been decided to give the statements to the readers of the Herald, in view of the death of Sister Emma having occurred so soon after she made them, thus giving them the character of a last testimony.
It is intended to incorporate these questions and answers in the forthcoming history of the reorganization.
We apologized to our mother for putting the questions respecting polygamy and plural wives, as we felt we ought to do.
Question. Who performed the marriage ceremony for Joseph Smith and Emma
Hale? When? Where?
Answer. I was married at South Bainbridge, New York; at the house of Squire Tarbell, by him, when I was in my 22d or 23d year.
We here suggested that Mother Smith's history gave the date of the
marriage as January 18, 1827. To this she replied:
I think the date correct. My certificate of marriage was lost many years ago, in some of the marches we were forced to make.
In answer to a suggestion by us that she might mistake about who married
father and herself; and that it was rumored that it was Sidney Rigdon,
or a Presbyterian clergyman, she stated:
It was not Sidney Rigdon, for I did not see him for years after that. It was not a Presbyterian clergyman. I was visiting at Mr. Stowell's who lived in Bainbridge, and saw your father there. I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell's, your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, sided by Mr. Stowell, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him (than) to any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire Tarbell's and were married. Afterward, when father found that I was married, he sent for us. The account in Mother Smith's history is substantially correct as to date and place. Your father bought your Uncle Jesse's (Hale) place, off father's farm, and we lived there until the Book of Mormon was translated; and I think published. I was not in Palmyra long.
Question. How many children did you lose, mother, before I was born?
Answer. There were three. I buried one in Pennsylvania, and a pair of twins in Ohio.
Question. Who were the twins that died?
Answer. They were not named.
Question. Who were the twins whom you took to raise?
Answer. I lost twins. Mrs. Murdock had twins and died. Brother Murdock came to me and asked me to take them, and I took the babes. Joseph died at 11 months. They were both sick when your father was mobbed. The mob who tarred and feathered him, left the door open when they went out with him, the child relapsed and died. Julia lived, though weaker than the boy.
Question. When did you first know Sidney Rigdon? Where?
Answer. I was residing at father Whitmer's when I first saw Sidney Rigdon. I think he came there.
Question. Was this before or after the publication of the Book of
Answer. The Book of Mormon had been translated and published some time before. Parley P. Pratt had united with the Church before I knew Sidney Rigdon, or heard of him. At the time of Book of Mormon was translated there was no church organized, and Rigdon did not become acquainted with Joseph and me till after the Church was established in 1830. How long after that I do not know, but it was some time.
Question. Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of
Answer. Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother Reuben Hale.
Question. Was Alva Hale one?
Answer. I think not. He may have written some; but if he did, I do not remember it.
Question. What about the revelation on polygamy? Did Joseph Smith have
anything like it? What of spiritual wifery?
Answer. There was no revelation on either polygamy or spiritual wives. There were some rumors of something of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it was, that, in a chat about plural wives, he had said, "Well, such a system might possibly be, if everybody was agreed to it, and would behave as they should; but they would not; and besides, it was contrary to the will of heaven." No such thing as polygamy or spiritual wifery was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband's death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of.
Question. Did he not have other wives than yourself?
Answer. He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have.
Question. Did he not hold marital relations with women other
Answer. He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.
Question. Was there nothing about spiritual wives that you recollect?
Answer. At one time my husband came to me and asked me if I had heard certain rumors about spiritual marriages, or anything of the kind; and assured me that if I had, that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine, and never should be with his knowledge or consent. I know that he had no other wife or wives than myself, in any sense, either spiritual or otherwise.
Question. What of the truth of Mormonism?
Answer. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the Church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Question. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or
dictated to you?
Answer. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.
Question. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
Answer. If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Question. Are you sure that he had the plates at the time you were
writing for him?
Answer. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.
Question. Where did father and Oliver Cowdery write?
Answer. Oliver Cowdery and your father wrote in the room where I was at work.
Question. Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you,
Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first
written it, or having first read it out of some book?
Answer. Joseph Smith (and for the first time she used his name direct, having usually used the words, "your father" or "my husband") could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, "a marvel and a wonder," as much so as to anyone else.
Question. I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and
Answer. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;
Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?
Answer. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.
Question. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin,
of the Book of Mormon?
Answer. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity - I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.
Question. What was the condition of feeling between you and father?
Answer. It was good.
Question. Were you in the habit of quarreling?
Answer. No. There was no necessity for any quarreling. He knew that I wished for nothing but what was right; and, as he wished for nothing else, we did not disagree. He usually gave some heed to what I had to say. It was quite a grievous thing to many that I had any influence with him.
Question. What do you think of David Whitmer?
Answer. David Whitmer I believe to be an honest and truthful man. I think what he states may be relied on.
Question. It has been stated sometimes that you apostatized at father's
death, and joined the Methodist Church. What do you say to this?
Answer. I have been called apostate; but I have never apostatized nor forsaken the faith I at first accepted; but was called so because I would not accept their new-fangled notion.
Question. By whom were you baptized? Do you remember?
Answer. I think by Oliver Cowdery, at Bainbridge.
Question. You say that you were married at South Bainbridge, and have
used the word Bainbridge. Were they one and the same town?
Answer. No. There was Bainbridge and South Bainbridge; some distance apart, how far I don't know. I was in South Bainbridge.
These questions and the answers she had given to them were read to my
mother by me, the day before my leaving Nauvoo for home, and were
affirmed by her. Major Bidamon stated that he had frequently conversed
with her on the subject of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and
her present answers were substantially what she had always stated in
regard to it.
Well the one clear thing throughout the entire interview that was abundantly clear is she loved Joseph. She really really did. She stayed with the church of christ in Illinois after his death instead of going out west with Brigham Young and the “New-fangled notion” and was called an apostate for it. It seems so sad that she was madly in love with such an ambitious yet devious intellect. She was undeservedly left a pregnant widow after the selfish acts of lots of men with clashing views, all because she couldn't wake up and realize what Joe really was.
I think it's time to be done talking about Emma. It seems the more I think about her the sadder I get, when I consider all the shit Joe put her through. But oh well, we will march on, like I said, there is a large body of knowledge that needs to be consumed, metabolized, and converted to a format that is both entertaining and educational. However, we are only barely scratching the surface of what's out there. I'm really trying to fine tune to the perfect amount of digestible information per episode, to offer just enough that you enjoy it but don't get bored with what's offered. I understand that some of this is pretty boring, but it is foundational information that, if we cover now, will greatly benefit us in the future for understanding the whole picture of Joseph and the church. Please bear with me on this, because, trust me, it's going to get really fucking crazy in lots of different ways in coming episodes, I promise. Thanks for tuning in and sharing in the community and I hope to borrow your ears again next week here on the Naked Mormonism podcast.
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