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 so we can know where it really came from, and compare it to the current teachings of the church. I'm looking to build a body of knowledge, hopefully with your help, about the LDS church in it's factual entirety so listeners can understand what this thing really is. I also want to call out Oliver Cowdery on his devilishly seductive countenance, lies of omission, and fuckwitted divination, 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.
Welcome back, the last couple of weeks we have been studying Martin Harris, aka NSSM. We found out he was a visionary man that was highly susceptable to the power of suggestion from on high. We watched him get swindled out of his money for the print of the BOM, get in fights with his wife about money during which he beat the hell out of her multiple times and kicked her out of his house. We watched his marriage spiral into divorce after an affair with the neighbors wife which he didn't even try to hide from his wife, Lucy, and that was pretty much where we left off.
While there is a lot more to cover when it comes to Marty, we can't get too caught up in it for now. We will see his character develop more and more as the timeline continues, but if we keep going with him, we advance the timeline past other much more prominent character introductions, and that is unacceptable. So, we'll close off the Marty line for now in an effort to examine the next big hitter in the foundation of the church. Oliver Cowdery or as we'll come to know him, Cowdung Allover, or just Cowdung for short...
Before we talk about Cowdung himself, we need to bring up a whole new subject as it offers some background on the connection between the Cowdery family and the Smith family. We will set our scene in Southwest VT in the 1790's. Our focus momentarily lies on a radical Zionist sect called 'The New Isrealites' which was founded by Nathaniel Wood in Rutland, VT. This is from wikipedia: Wood declared his followers "modern Israelites," and the group practiced a strict dietary code as they understood to be instructed in the Law of Moses. Like most radical sects, the group displayed spiritual gifts and made prophecies. At one point the group began building a temple, although the project was eventually abandoned. They also believed in speaking in the angelic tongue which meant babbling what they thought was "ancient hebrew". They engaged in polygamy, using dowsing rods to hunt for treasure, and divination to recieve divine revelation.... Seem familiar? Well, William Cowdery, Cowdung 's dad, and Big Daddy Cheese, Joseph Smith's dad, were both members of this radical sect. In fact Big Daddy Cheese was one of the 'leading rods-men' in the sect, meaning people there looked up to him because, somehow, his magic vision was better than everybody else's magic vision. He may have even taught William Cowdery a thing or two in the world of scrying while they were out hunting for treasure in this cult.
So what does this connection mean?First off, Lucy Mack Smith, Joe's Mother was third cousins with Cowdung. Lucy, and Big Daddy Cheese didn't even know each other before this time, as they would be married in 1796. However, Lucy was living a mere 50 miles away in the same small town as William Cowdery's uncle and Big Daddy Chese. It isn't necessarily documented this way, partly because so few documents exist during this time, but I believe that William Cowdery set up Lucy Mack and Big Daddy Cheese on one of their dowsing outings near Turnbridge Vermont where they was living. It is documented however that the Smiths and the Cowderys both attended a congressional church in Poultney Vermont after this radical sect broke up in 1802.
All of that information may seem insignificant at the moment, but eventually it will matter when it comes to the authorship of the BOM. So now that we have established an initial connection between the Smith's and Cowdery's let's talk about the man of the hour.
Cowdung Allover was born on October 3, 1806, so he was just barely a year younger than Joseph Smith. He was born in Wells, Vermont to William and Rebecca Fuller Cowdery, into a family of 8 siblings at the time. His mother, Rebecca, died when Cowdung was just 2 leaving the family traumatized and motherless. Luckily, William was q uick on the rebound and married a widow by the name of Keziah Pierce who had a son of her own at the time. She had been married to her husband, previous to William, for 3 years and he died soon after the birth of their first and only son, so this was a widow-widower match made in untimely spouse death hell I suppose. The new happy couple had 3 more kids while the oldest kids were periodically moving away to be on their own, and this is where the story of Cowdung comes to fruition.
Cowdung Allover was a very bright young child, who reportedly began going to school in 1813. While it may not have been a formal schooling, it was at very least a literary-heavy apprenticeship that he used the knowledge from later on in his life. He eventually landed a couple of jobs in NY as a typesetter in a couple of printing presses for some quick cash, that was during the years 1822-1824. He was known to be quite charismatic, as well as intelligent and steeped in the bible during his prime years.
It can be speculated that Cowdung spent some time living in the Smith household during his time typesetting. The speculation is drawn from the fact that his parents were very possibly familiar with the Smiths, prior to his time as a typesetter, and that Cowdung was working in Canandaigua, Ontario, NY which was less than 10 miles from where the Smith family lived at this time. I believe that Joe and Cowdung became quite well acquianted at this time even though there isn't any documentation explicitly detailing interactions between the two.
But the thing that is most intriguing, is Cowdung's job previous to typesetting in NY. Before he moved to Canandaigua, he was living in Poultney, VT with his family and working as a printer's devil/assistant typesetter at a company called the Poultney Gazette. The Poultney Gazette was a fairly successful printing/publishing company that had recently taken a job from a Minister named Ethan Smith, to publish a book he had recently written. The book was called View of the Hebrews, and there is strong evidence that Cowdung was one of the workers at the press during the time it was published.
I can't really get into the rabbit hole of View of the Hebrews as it will be a large discussion by itself in a soon to come episode, beside's the fact that it would derail the whole Cowdung Allover subject, which is much more important right now. But what you need to know right now, is Ethan Smith published View of the Hebrews in 1823 which is a book detailing the origins of the native americans as having emmigrated from Isreal. Not only that, but Ethan Smith was also the Minister for the Cowdery's church at the time, and had been for two years prior. Quite soon after the book was published, Cowdung moved to Canadaigua, NY, in the late 1823, and here is where our story continues.
Cowdung Allover was typesetter in the burned-over district in NY through 1824. We brushed over this when we talked about Joseph Smith, but just to recap, this was a time of constant religious awakenings and revivals. Luckily, for local publishing companies, all the religous sects that were cropping up, had information they needed printed and distributed. In those days, if a typesetter wasn't making enough money at his job, he could supplement his income, by taking small payments from the people who were paying to publish documents, and distributing them for a small fee. This was also a great way to meet a lot of people and get your name and profession out there. They didn't exactly have monster.com so networking was a much more arduous and time consuming task.
Well, that's what Cowdung did. He made a comission from selling religious pamphlets and books to people, not only in NY, but also south to Pennsylvania and west to Ohio. One of the main areas Cowdung may have spent time in was Pittsburgh, as it was a burgening city and trading hub connecting the east coast to the currently settling Ohio. Sidney Rigdon was the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pittsburgh when Cowdung would have been visiting the city's holy folk to distribute Jesus Propoganda.
I just mentioned a name for the first time, Sidney Rigdon. This guy...... I should be doing the entire podcast about just him, because he almost plays a larger role than Joe in the foundation of the church. But alas, the podcast is about Mormonism in general so I will have to reserve talking about him until the time is right. All we need to understand now is Cowdung very possibly met this man, Sidney Rigdon, in Pittsburgh around 1824-1825. Not to mention that Erastus, Cowdung's older brother, lived a mere 9 miles away from Rigdon from 1820-1822, probably attending the same church as Rigdon, illustrating another possible connection between the Cowdung and Sidney Rigdon.
Rigdon aside, let's continue talking about Cowdung. After his job as a printer/distributor of Jesus papers, he kind of floated around for a year attending multiple religious revivals in Palmyra. It's highly likely that Joe was attending a lot of these as well which is something I will provide evidence for when we get into the authorship of the BOM. It was also possible that Sidney Rigdon was at some of these revivals because he was gaining some notoriety in the area for his pastoral works, and with the opening of the Erie Canal, Pittsburgh, where Rigdon was living, and Palmyra, near where Joe was living at the time, were barely two days of travel apart giving Sidney, Cowdung and Joe relatively easy access to each other.
Cowdung must have ran short on cash because his time of jobless spiritual seeking was overturned by the need for a living, so he allegedly worked to prepare a printers manuscript, for a man by the name of William Morgan in late 1825 to mid 1826 at the Batavia Advocate. William Morgan was an author who was trying to publish a book that revealed a lot of the secrets of Free Masonry entitled 'Illustrations of Masonry'. It's very possible that Cowdung introduced Joe and William to each other around this time as he was possibly becoming well acquainted with both of them. This connection will come to play a part much later with Joe, so tuck it in the back of your mind for now.
The Mason's in the area must not have liked this William Morgan character, and the slander he was trying to print, because he was arrested on September 11, 1826, and went missing 8 days later. His body was never discovered, but what happened, isn't much of a mystery, especially because the Batavia Advocate was burned to the ground while it was printing the book, in August, before William was arrested. So the Masons had a pretty powerful influence at the time if they took a man from state custody and just made him disappear.
That being said, Cowdung learned everything there was to know about the Masons during his time working for William Morgan. Preparing a printers copy of a book is a very arduous task. The typesetter must read every single line multiple times to proof-read and eliminate any errors the author may not have already caught. So, Cowdung not only knew what was in this book, but he also had to talk with the author on a daily occasion to make sure he wasn't changing the context of anything the book contained.
While this seems like a moot point to anybody that doesn't know the true history of the church, it does come to play a massive role later on. In my introductory episode, I listed a bunch of things that Joseph was, as quoted by D. Michael Quinn, one of those points was '(Joseph) was an anti-mason turned master mason'. The similarities between Free Masonry and The LDS Church are absolutely unbelievable, but that isn't something we can dive into just yet, as it will be an episode all by itself.
Anyway, so this William Morgan guy probably gets his throat cut and dropped in the river and Cowdung is out of work. So in late 1826, early 1827 Cowdung goes to work as a lowly store clerk making barely minimum wage at the time. He probably went from 12 cents an hour to 7 cents an hour or something to that effect.
Anybody that goes from a think tank position like editor to a cashier at a store doesn't want to stay there long, and this is what happened to Cowdung. The Manchester NY school board of trustee's needed a schoolmaster position filled. Conveniently enough, Hyrum Smith, Joe's brother and bestest buddy, was on the board of trustee's. Originally, Lyman Cowdery, Cowdung's brother, was offered the position. He reportedly accepted the position but then immediately declined in lieu of Cowdung taking over the position, and that is exactly what happened. Cowdung became Schoolmaster in late 1828 at which time he moved in with the Smith family.
When I say the Smith family, I only mean Lucy, Big Daddy Cheese, and the remaining siblings at home, Joe and Emma were living in Pennsylvania during this time. But, while Cowdung Allover is staying in their home, Big Daddy Cheese takes this lovely opportunity to tell Cowdung all about the plates.
Once Cowdung learns all about this book he reporteldly asks the lord if this is the work he should have Cowdung do, and we can speculate that he received a positive answer. During the time Cowdung was staying with the Smith family, Joe acutally visited home. He was in Pennsylvania with his new wife trying to translate with some makeshift scribes, but decided on a whim to come visit home while Cowdung was staying there. This was arguably the occasion that Lucy Smith, Joe's Mom, asked Abigail Harris, Marty's cousin for some money so Joe could take the coach home to visit. We talked about that in episode 3 before we read Lucy, Marty's wife's, testimony on the situation, and while there is no documentation directly backing that connection up, the timeline does fit perfectly.
I want to interject my own understanding of the situation here, because we have been slogging through a lot of information and there are a lot of conclusions that can be drawn up to this point. The reported church history has Cowdung entering right here with no prior mention. They merely report that he was a school teacher looking for his true calling in life. When I was doing the research for this episode, I watched a clip from the Joseph Smith movie that is currently playing in the Joseph Smith center in Salt Lake City. The clip illustrated Cowdung approaching Big Daddy Cheese out of the blue and asking him about the work Joe is up to. Big Daddy Cheese tells him that Joe is doing Gods work, translating an ancient record, and is in need of a scribe. Cowdung tells Daddy Cheese that he feels like God has impressed it upon his soul, that this should be his calling in the restoration of the true gospel. And Big DaddyCheese responds with if this is truly what the Lord wants for you, he will make in known, and then it pretty much just cuts to Cowdung praying in his room.
After the scene in the room, the movie sort of ambles towards a scene that shows Cowdung approaching Joe out of the blue, saying the Lord has told me that I should serve as your scribe. This seems to be completely unfounded, I mean if some random guy walking in the desert shows up to the mouth of the cave Muhammed is in when he's trippin balls and revelating the Qu'ran into existence, and that weird motherfucker says 'Hey you need any help in there??!!' I kinda doubt Muhammed would've just said 'ok come write down some of this crazy shit that's falling out of my mouth'. But in the movie, after Cowdung approaches Joe, the next scene has them both sitting at a table with the plates out in plain sight and Joe says 'alright, I think that is enough for today'. The church film says nothing about Lucy Smith and Cowdung being 3rd cousins and seems to actively report that Cowdung and Joe didn't know each other until early April 1829, when this scene transpires.
But what of all this previous history that the Cowdery and the Smith family had together? We have record of the two families being in close proximity on multiple occasions during Joe and Cowdung's upbringing, and the two families even attended the same church for a time. Additionally, the fathers of the families were in the same scrying and divination cult for a little while, Big Daddy Cheese was even revered as a bit of a higher up in the cult because his dowsing and scrying were so accurate allegedly.
Cowdung and Joe may have even attended some of the same religious revivals in Palmyra and Rochester in their late teens-early twenties. They have plenty more meetings that we can speculate on but can't necessarily prove as fact, but why would the church divorce Joe and Cowdung prior to 1829? I would offer that it's because something is being disguised.
Now I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist here, so hear me out. Since the beginning of this episode, I have tried to provide enough evidence to show that there were multiple times that Cowdung and Joe could have come together for collusion at some level. And let's consider the evidence for and against Joe's access to the book, 'View of the Hebrews'. I plan on showing, in later episodes, a strong correlation between the content of View of the Hebrews and the BOM but let's just consider the basic storyline.
Ethan Smith wrote about the lost tribes of Isreal being the primary ancestors of the Native Americans as well as dozens of other similarities when his book and the book of mormon are juxtaposed. But his book was published in 1823, and it was even underwent a second edition of print, meaning it was quite a popular book in the whole northeast region.
My point is, I believe Cowdung knew Joe, and might have even given him the book by Ethan Smith. But, just in case he didn't, it seems like 'The View of the Hebrews' was made available to most consumers by mid 1823 giving Joe 4 years, until he started translating, to read it and synthesize his own story from its pages.
So maybe Joe did receive divine revelation, about an idea that was fairly popular around the area at the time. In fact, Joe announced he had received revelation from God about the ancient inhabitants of this continent a mere 101 days after the release of the View of the Hebrews. That seems oddly coincidental, doesn't it?
Remember how I mentioned earlier that the church today teaches that Joe and Cowdung didn't know each other, whatsoever, before they officially met and started translating in 1829? Let's answer why that is.... Because that's what Joe and Cowdung Claim. Let me tell you what I mean; this is straight from the LDS.org website
After Joseph Smith allowed Martin Harris to take the 116 Book of Mormon manuscript pages, which Martin lost, the plates and Joseph’s gift to translate were taken from him. After repenting and humbling himself in prayer, the plates were returned to him with a promise that someone would come to help him with the translation.
On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery came to my house. … He stated to me that [while] teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided, … [my] family related to him the circumstance of my having received the plates, and accordingly he had come to make inquiries of me. Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery … I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.
There is no mention of them making acquaintences any time before then, nothing about the same bloodline, nothing. Let's hear what Cowdung has to say about April 5th 1829.
"This was the afternoon when my natural eyes, for the first time beheld this brother[Joseph Smith, Jr]..." at the Isaac Hale farm in Harmony, Susquehanna, PA.
Now, I'm not a parent, but I remember being a kid. If my parents asked if I did something wrong I would say 'No mom I didn't throw the cat down the stairs', and they would know to check the cat for broken bones. In much the same way, during the Emma interview in episode 2, remember this question?
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.
And we know for a fact that, both mormons and non-mormons, were well aware that mormons were a very sexually open community at this time. This is bold-faced denial and it's completely cardboard. I believe that Joe and Cowdung were doing the same thing about their relationship prior to translation.
The simple fact that Cowdung's old pastor was the author of View of the Hebrews, was a damning enough connection that Joe and Cowdung didn't want the general populus making that connection. If somebody in that day could prove that the BOM was plagerised from the View of the Hebrews, it would be the death of the early Mormon church. But, most people in that time would perhaps buy one book a year. Apparently, not enough people read the books side by side to compare, because not a single person today has heard of the View of the Hebrews unless they are studying anti-mormon literature... Whereas, for some reason, most people in technology driven today's society have at very least heard of the Mormons and their special bible, even if it was just in reference to good ol' Mitt Romney. Unfortunately for Ethan Smith, he wasn't radical or polarizing enough, nor was his book, to get the worlds attention, but Joe and the BOM were, and here we are today, 185 years later trying to debunk the most capitalistic new world religion in all it's festering glory.
All I can say is look at the evidence and see if you come to the same conclusion that I do. Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith knew all along what the source material for the BOM would be and they never thought enough people would have read the View of the Hebrews to call them out on their plagerism. So Joe and Cowdung cooked up a new version with enough original content to obscure the origin of the storyline. That is the conclusion that follows the facts and doesn't require divine revelation from God to explain the authorship of the BOM, in the way the 'gold plates' version of the story does.
Let's look at somemore evidence. Joe and Emma had recently married, and NSSM had paid to move them to Emma's parent's house. They later moved into their own small cabin on an adjacent property to the Hale's house, and it's here, in this cabin in Harmony PA, that Cowdung became the chief scribe for Joe. It's a good thing that Cowdung knew how to read and write at a professional level, because the translation up to that point had been trudging along at about a half to one page per day. Slower than cold shit on a winter morning. When Cowdung came to live with Joe and Emma, they were suddenly translating 5-8 pages per day. That slow winter morning shit just became angry mexican food shit, and the BOM was 'translated' aka authored in about 2 months once Cowdung came along.
Cowdung and Joe reportedly began their translation, after the account of Lehi, which was the lost 116 pages. What I mean is, they started part way through, after where Joe had translated with NSSM, then went all the way to the end. After they were done, they went back and translated the account of Nephi which became the replacement for the lost 116 pages at the very end of their time translating. I believe they did this to make the story of Lehi, which Marty and Joe translated, fit in with the rest of the narrative. Also, they were probably trying to gain their collective writing style so it could be consistent when they did re-write Lehi into Nephi from Joe's memory.
It's really hard to try and paint a picture of exactly how the BOM was getting translated at this time, however we do know a few things. One, Joe had Cowdung and David Whitmer as scribes during this time. I know that we haven't talked about David Whitmer much, but next episode will be all about him. We'll do a similar analysis of him that we've done of Cowdung for this episode, and we will find out how he fits into the authorship of the BOM.
But back to the translation, the second thing we know about it, is the speed of translation greatly increased when Cowdung and David came to help Joe scribe. Up to this point, Emma, her brother, and Joe's brother, Hyrum, were scribes, and the translation was not going fast enough. Once the dream team came in, they wrote 350 some pages in a roughly 60 day period. This sudden burst of inspiration in the translation has to be explained somehow. A believing mormon might say, that Joe just had to be rightous enough to receive the proper scribes that were truly called of God. Or that it was all part of God's plan because he works in mysterious ways and whatnot. I don't think so.... In my opinion, Joe finally had the wingmen he needed to bust out a working copy of the BOM. He needed some people that could keep up with his wit and imagination, and also believed all the same crazy shit he did, and that is exactly what he found in Cowdung and David Whitmer.
And thirdly, Martin Harris wasn't involved at all with the translation at this point, however, he was bank-rolling the whole thing and even gave Joe and Emma some money to cover living expenses while Joe was translating in lieu of working. This may only seem like free-loading now, but when it comes time for Marty to throw the farm in hock for the printing fee, this becomes a bit of an issue. This issue, barely gets resolved using the other 10 witnesses of the plates, which Marty becomes convinced with, and follows through with funding the print of the BOM.
Alright, onto the next topic with respect to Cowdung and Joe. Earlier we read from the Joseph Smith History about them starting the translation on April 7th 1829, well there is a bit more after it that I think is worth reading.
Basically, that just detailed an account of how the priesthood was restored to the earth. For listeners unfamiliar with the mormon jargon of 'priesthood', it doesn't mean being a member of the church hiearchy. The priesthood is something that every twelve year old gets in the church, that's the Aaronic priesthood anyway. That's the priesthood that we have explicit detail, from the JSH, of the angel of John the baptist conferring it on Joe and Cowdung.
However, we don't really have this level of detail when it comes to the Melchizedek priesthood being restored. The M Priesthod is the one that young men usually receive when they turn 18. The year from 18 to 19 in the Mormon church used to be a year of intense spiritual and monetary preparation for young men about to turn missionary, that was until recently when the missionary age was lowered to 18. But one big part of the preparation, is recieving the M priesthood so you can do all the ordinances necessary while on your mission. That was just an explanatory sidenote about the 2 different levels of priesthood in the Mormon church, the Aaronic and Melchizedek. The only thing we know about the restoration of the M priesthood, is Joe recorded that he and Cowdung would be ordained with it later, which most historians assume to be within the following 2 weeks after they received the Aaronic and baptized each other. Once again we run into some problems with the claims being made. I'm going to string out a series of quotes from people you may or may not recognize, but I'll summarize it after.
This is David Whitmer in an interview with Zenas H. Gurly in 1885
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That really couldn't have been much more clear. Earlier than this interview, Orson Pratt asked David Whitmer in an 1878 interview if he could recall the details of the bestowel of the apostleship on Joe and Cowdung by the apostles Peter, James, and John, he said
"I do not know, Joseph never told me. I can only tell you what I know, for I will not testify to anything I do not know." A little emphatic wasn't he? And that was from David Whitmer, one of the 3 witnesses of the plates who had also been ordained an apostle with the Melchizedek priesthood, HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THE ORIGINS OF IT!
This was a letter written by Edward Stevenson to apostle Franklin D. Richards, and is cited in "Stevenson Family History" 1955 by Joseph Grant Stevenson. The letter is kind of long but I will only be highlighting the important parts and including other points that help to tie the storyline together.
"Dear Brother F.D. Richards, I take pleasure in addressing a few lines to you. My journey to this place has been attended with blessings.
I called on David Whitmer soon after breakfast at the Huggins House and spent until 2 PM. I took dinner with David, and his only son, David, and a son of one of the eight witnesses, by name of Page.
David seemed quite pleased to receive me, and asked me to ask a blessing on the food. Of course he bore a very strong testimony; and although very feeble in body, he was talkative; but said many things were not to go out to the world, that he talked about. UGH! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation!
He said the 'signs of the time' to him indicated great events. He has no sympathy with the 'Josephites' or others."
The term 'Josephites' probably doesn't make a lot of sense right now, but when we cover the breakup of all the factions of mormonism, that will have a little more context.
It continues "I enquired of David and young David; also of Philander A. Page, aged 54, son of Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses; also John [Whitmer], in whose hands the records are; all (and separately) who say that they do not have any knowledge of, neither do the records show, concerning Peter, James, and John's coming to the Prophet Joseph. On this and also on the John the Baptist's mission, they seem, all of them, very ignorant. David said the Prophet of God received the command from God, and that was sufficient authority. He did not seem to understand the necessity of the connecting link of ordination.
They are very dark on the subject of the sealing power as also baptism for the dead." When he says sealing and baptisms for the dead, he is referring to currently practiced Mormon rituals performed inside mormon temples, apparently everybody here was completely ignorant on both of those subjects even though they were supposedly founding doctrines of the church. This all hearkens to the splitting of the various factions before and after Joe died, because, remember this interview was in 1878, 34 years after Joe died.
The letter continues, "He showed me again the manuscript and the copy of the characters of the plates as copied, and says they are the identical ones taken by Martin to Prof. Anthon." This just affirmed that, the caractors manuscript we talked about last episode, was indeed authentic.
The letter goes on to describe David Whitmer being nearly on his death bed for this interview, which we will probably finish covering next episode when we actually talk about David.
The next person I'm going to quote is William E. McLellin, he was an early convert to the church in 1831, but he later became one of the original 12 apostles in 1835, and was excommunicated in 1838 for blaspheming against church leaders. This is in "An insiders view of mormon origins" by Grant palmer on page 244.
"I joined the church in 1831. For years I have never heard of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver. I heard not of James, Peter, and John doing so. I heard Joseph tell his experience of his ordination, by Cowdery, and the organization of the church, probably more than twenty times, to persons who, near the rise of the church, wished to know and hear about it. I never heard of Moroni, John, or Peter, James and John at the ordination till it was told some years later afterward in Ohio." He was later quoted saying "altho I carefully noticed things that were said, today I do not believe the story."
Well, we have two sides to the story of how the priesthood authority was bestowed on the founding members of the church. We have Joe claiming that he and Cowdung recieved the Aaronic priesthood from John the baptist, and following that ordination, Joe and Cowdung baptized each other. Some unknown and unrecorded time after that, believed to be within the following two weeks, Joe and Cowdung received the Holy Melchizedek priesthood and began to set up the church with the proper keys and authority.
On the flip side, we don't have a single other record substantiating Joe's claim. But, we do have a lot of claims from multiple people saying the opposite. We have 6 people claiming that Joe fabricated the story later on, which seems to comport with the available evidence.
But why would Joe do this? We can't be sure, but I can surely guess..... I would argue that Joe was flying by the seat of his pants when the church was first founded. He didn't even form the apostleship until 4 years after the first meeting of the church in 1830. I bet there were power struggles going on. Joe was slowly gaining more and more followers which all had different opinions of how they thought the church would be, so, probably in a panic, Joe said there needs to be 12 apostles in the church all ordained with the highest priesthood. Everybody else just had to shut up and deal with what the twelve apostles and prophet had to say. Oh and the only way that someone could be an apostle is if Joe said they could. When the lower elders, that had just been uprooted, invariably asked why did they just get arbitrarily demoted? Joe dropped a revalation on their face and came up with a story of an angel ordaining him, and Cowdung, with the super-dee-duper special fairy dust, while they were translating the BOM. Nobody could refute it and it was an order that came from the prophet, so everybody had to either accept it or they were exiled for heresy.
This is something that a theocratic tyrant personality type would do. Now I'm not saying that 'tyrant' isn't God's calling card because it perfectly describes the God of the Bible, but I am saying that doesn't really seem like revelation from on high, nor is it similar to any of the prophets of the bible. Jesus was the only Holy person in the bible that ever had a hierarchy structured following. For the most part, the other prophets in the bible are considered outcasts, or unilateral leaders of groups that are outcasts. Does this seem like a revelation consistent with the God of the bible. I don't think so, primarily because Joseph Smith fits so perfectly into the cult leader persona, much like Jesus himself, even without the influences of Yahweh. So I have to wonder, did it hurt when Joe revelated all of the stuff about the priesthood and apostles out of his ass in 1834? Or was his asshole so accustomed to having things like this ripped out of it day after day, for years, that it just didn't care anymore? Try asking a missionary that question....
We are going to do an entire episode on just the restoration of the priesthood, but for now, what can we glean from all of this? You know, I'm not really sure.... We have only been introduced to a small handful of characters in this massive story so far, and we've only spent a single episode on the founding prophet himself. Our narrative basically halted after episode one when Joe pulled the plates from the ground. After that we only talked about the next three integral characters that play a big part in the authorship of the BOM.
Let's review the important characters, aside from Joseph Smith himself, up to this point. In episode 2 we talked about his wife, the lovely Emma. She is tall, suave, and very mild and will later come to be known as Sister Emma, and then Mother Emma after that, both, for her formative role in a split off faction of Mormonism, and because of her maternal attitude towards the saints in the towns they lived in. She obviously cared for people and loved humanity so very much, almost as much as she loved Joe. Even when she was on her death bed, she refused to besmirch the name and work of her husband by telling the truth about the polygamy charges, even though it was well after his death. Emma Smith provides the Moral support beam and safety net for Joe, regardless of what he gets in to. Whether that meant looking the other way when he was blatantly plagerising the contents of a currently printed book, for the contents of the BOM, or peeling dried hot tar and feathers off Joe's burned skin during the church's multiple persecutions and exodus'. She held him up, right until the gunfight that ended in his death that left her pregnant and widowed.
After that we talked about Martin Harris. We call him Not So Smarty Marty because quite frankly, his credulity makes him a fuckin idiot. He was a stern but honest man in all his business dealings, but had quite the predisposition toward anything spiritual or relating to God. He also owned a fairly large, and relatively sucessful farm of some 240 acres, until he met Joe at least, the value of which was estimated to be about $5-7,000, this farm was primarily purchased with a large sum inheritence that Marty built his entire financial profile on. Altogether, the man was worth an estimated $10,000 including all his assets and interests, that's close to a quarter of a million today, but all that money can attract a lot of unwanted snake oil salesmen.
Joe was the first one to finally sink his teeth into Marty's wallet, and he sucked the poor thing dry! Before the BOM was printed, and after Marty agreed to invest in Joe, he fought constantly with his wife, beating her black and blue with a bullwhip on one documented occassion, even though it was probably a pretty frequent occurence. He had an affair with another woman that was living in his neighborhood at the time according to his wife collaborated with the New york Census, an affair which he didn't even seem terribly apologetic about. This affair led to a divorce around the same time the note came due to pay the printer for publishing the BOM, and Marty lost everything he had. The farm, his wife, his rich friends in the area, everything he knew was gone, and Marty was offically distitute. He resolved to trying to sell the plates to a scholar we knew as Not-So-Smarty-Marty's-Super-Study-Smarty-Party-Pooper-Pal Charlie Anthon, which was the same scholar that looked at a copy of some of the inscriptions that were supposedly on the plates, called the caractors manuscript, and Charlie basically laughed Marty out of his house.
In this episode we talked about Oliver Cowdery, aka Cowdung Allover. Not only was he slender, with dark wavy hair, and piercing eyes, and a chisled-jaw(description taken from ldsces.org), but he also had a charming, and collected personality. He was also Joe's mom's third cousin and we can resonably assume that Cowdung and Joe knew each other growing up. Cowdung was quick as a whip and was a man "whose wit was seldom matched in a debate". He was barely a year younger than Joe and had a lot of charisma and drive for Jesus. He just so happened to know the in's and out's of the printing business, which made him a fine scribe and editor for really cheap. Luckily for Joe, not only did he love him some Jesus, but he also loved him some scrying and dowsing, which is something they shared in common. Cowdung's dad, and Joe's dad, were part of the same treasure hunting cult so it's really no wonder where Joe and Cowdung picked it up from, nor is it any sort of mystery how Joe and Cowdung 'miraculously' came together to 'translate the plates'. This led to Cowdung and Joe being the first supposed possesors of the priesthood that was allegedly ordained by Peter James and John, and John the Baptist
The next people we will talk about will be David Whitmer, and Sidney Rigdon. We can't finish up the translation in our actual narrative until they are introduced. After we do in depth analysis' of these two gents, we will pick up where the narrative officially left off at the end of episode one, Emma praying in the carriage while Joe digs up the plates and hides them in a tree. We will try to cover the entire translation as it possibly happened and I will try to include as much material as possible relating to the source information for the BOM. I have said before that Joseph Smith was a great sythesizer of information. He had an uncanny ability to draw information from multiple sources and put his own twist on it, so as not to betray it's source, so the places he took the information for the BOM from, are vary far and wide.
I hope that I'll be able to shock you with some of the comparisons that are drawn, from material that was available to Joe at the time, to the BOM, once we finally dive in to the analysis of it. Mormons love to say that there is no way that Joe could've had the mental capacity to author such a book in such a short amount of time. But when we examine the source material he could have used, and compare it with an actual timeline of when Joe could have been writing this book, we'll be able to make our own judgement of this popular claim.
I hope this episode was stimulating enough. We didn't really have as much information about Cowdung Allover to go on as we did about the others we have analyzed, but the time before he was scribe, is nowhere near as important as his time during and after the translation, that's when things start to get fun. I know that these biography episodes are probably excruciating, but please bear with me. In the grand scheme of things, our narrative hasn't even begun. I so desperately want to tell you about so many crazy things that happen, but it's simply untimely to do so right now. But, I guess that's about all I have for this episode, talk at ya next time, here on the Naked Mormonism Podcast.
Read JSH 73
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