Welcome to the 13th episode of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me. We're slowly putting together the grandios jigsaw puzzle that makes up Joseph Smith, as we edge closer and closer to analyzing the Book of Mormon in all it's glory. Hopefully, you as the listener have learned at least one or two things about Joe that you didn't know, proir to listening to this podcast. What I've been trying to do for the past 12 episodes, is construct the environment around Joe to try and assess the influences that played into his world view, as well as get a taste for the type of person he really was. Well, I don't think this can ever be completed, but with every hour of information about him, we gain a more realistic perspective of his personality, and who he truly was. Well, I don't think we can dig much further into the prophet without understanding a little more about his daily activities, and the world view he was raised to have.
There were so many factors that went into Joe's treasure digging practice, that I feel like I could scarcely cover everything in a 24 hour brodcastathon, much less in these piddly little one hour segments. But, I'm damn sure gunna try. So today, we need to talk about Joe's roaming band of treasure diggers, and the impact they had on the community in Manchester, Harmony, and the surrounding areas.
In order to understand what I'm talking about, we have to suspend boring reality, and try to visualize the world from the perspective in an impoverished 19th century 13 person family. So, that's what I'm going to ask you to do this episode. Forget everything you ever knew about science, and geology, and anything relating to buried treasure, or lack thereof. Joe and his friends simply didn't have the knowledge, tools, or even the fancy science books we have today. In fact, I'm going to try and parallel Joe's upbringing and practices, with those of Charles Darwin, to try and dichotomize the two world views as much as possible. This might not make sense at the moment, but just hear me out on this. Darwin was a mere 4 years younger than Joe, so it may serve to make a better comparison with the two of them, instead of trying to shoehorn our own brains into Joe's head. Or maybe it'll just serve as a useful tool for trying to see the world from Joe's occult perspective, I don't know, regardless I think that there might be some interesting conclusions to draw by the end of today's episode.
So let's jump right in with a quick lesson on the young man, Charles Darwin. Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12 1809 (Joe on December 23, 1805), in Shrewsbury, England (Joe in Sharon, Vermont). Being the fifth of six children (Joe being fourth of 11) Darwin's parents were both Unitarian, which at the time had the belief of a very humanistic, and nebulous god that rejected the trinity. This is only slightly different than todays Unitarian beliefs, being the closest established beliefs system and church community to an atheistic or minimally deistic person today. Joe's parents were a bit different, in their belief system. Lucy Mack Smith was devoutly Methodist, and Big Daddy Cheese was a vague christian deist per se, that believed in mettling spirits and occult magic practices.
Fast forward almost twenty years, to October 1825 and Charles enters University of Edinburgh Medical School at the same time Joe is hired by Bossman Josiah Stowell to hunt for treasure, which would eventually lead to Joe's 'disorderly persons' trial, a mere 5 months later in March 1826.
I can't help but see a parallel here of divergent upbringings in homes of different education levels. Both of Charles parents were educated, and he lived in a stable household with a doctor's income. There were multiple opportunities that were opened up to him, not only for formal education, but he had access to circles of academia that Joe was unwittingly denied.
On a slightly deeper note here, I think we can compare the personalities of the two young men, in isolation of their environment. Quite obviously, both young men were quite smart and resourceful, but I think that might be where their personalities start to diverge. We know Joe to have been an off-the-cuff kind of guy with a lot of polarizing charisma, and a remarkable ability to persuade people. He was outgoing and assertive, and probably didn't mind asking for anything that he wanted, or felt entitled to, even when that came to other guy's wives. Joe was constantly telling people fantastic stories that he would make up on the spot. Or he would tell people that he was capable of performing amazing feats, or would claim he could see things that NO OTHER LIVING PERSON, EVER COULD.
Now, let's consider Darwin's personality and see where it leads us. In his early years, Darwin wasn't much for regular school learning, not unlike Joe. But, he did faithfully attend Rev. Samuel Butler's School in Shrewsbury for 8 years from the age of 9, until 1825. This school was very close to his home, so he was able to visit his family multiple times per week, even though it was a boys boarding school where he spent most of his time. He learned the basic curriculum: math, science, geography, etc., but he also studied ancient history and Greek. These were probably christian theology, and bible study classes, and he quite frankly loathed attending them, according to his autobiography anyway. His Greek studies mainly consisted of memorizing Greek phrases, and smashing them together to get a passing grade, once he passed, Darwin immediately forgot what each phrase meant. He was withdrawn from the school in 1825 due to laziness and poor grades, with none of his teachers or professors remarking on his abilities in any category whatsoever. He was fairly athletic, and spent a lot of time hiking or running, or just throwing rocks, but he was also a bit clumsy and gullible, and tended to learn slowly. That was, until he went to medical school.
Darwins father didn't know what to do with Charles after pulling him from the boarding school, so he decided to send him to the Medical University of Edinburgh in Scotland, to gain schooling as a doctor, and thus continue a long line of doctors in his family. During this 1825 summer, Darwin became his fathers assistant, helping old people around the hospital, caring for young sick children, or just doing whatever his father asked. To his father's surprise, Darwin really enjoyed helping people, and tended to learn quite quickly when he was learning by doing, as opposed to reading a textbook, or memorizing ancient greek manuscripts.
However, once Darwin started medical school, his grades never performed like his father had hoped. Darwin considered most of the classes a waste of time, but he did tend to accel in Prof. Thomas Hopes chemistry class. This was probably because Darwin and his older brother had spent countless hours during their youth, playing with a chemistry set in their back yard. Darwin couldn't seem to soak up enough hard science, whereas medicine seemed to bore him, and he loathed the sight of blood.
In February 1826, Darwin paid a freed slave named John Edmonstone, a Native of Guyana, South America, to teach him about stuffing animals, and proper taxidermy techniques for various kinds of animals. During this time Darwin was able to question Edmonstone about his homeland and the wild rainforests that populate so many millions of acres of South America. I think that this short period of time had more influence on the Darwin to be, than anything else leading up to this point in his life.
From this point on, Darwin studied as much nature as he could get his eyes on, and began a hobby of insatiable bug collecting. The more he learned, the more he had doors open for him. He met various mentors and scientists, and really started to take on his destiny as it slowly began manifesting itself.
Let's compare Darwin and his environment, to Joe in his environment leading up to the first few months of 1826. Joe's family was destitute and stretched pretty thin. The girls of the family spent most of their time doing the chores around the house. Alvin the eldest brother was the main source of income for the family leading up to his death in late 1823. Hyrum and Joe are best buddies, whose relationship was probably greatly strengthened when Alvin Died. The younger 4 brothers look up to Hyrum and Joe to be the heads of the household whenever Big Daddy Cheese was filling his time with liquor and shenanigans, which was apparently quite frequently. All 6 boys looked to their father for guidance and support, and even for schooling, as formal schooling was completely out of the question. Robert Darwin bought a chemistry lab for Erasmus and Charles to play with in their backyard. Big Daddy Cheese, made divining rods from witch hazelwood, and found really cool looking rocks to give Hyrum and Joe to play with in their backyard.
It almost seems like a social expirement that tests the differences of nature and nurture on two independent families across the ocean from each other. We know that Charles and Joe were both very intelligent once they happened upon their niche, but the tools they were given for examining the world around them, differed so oppositely. Charles had mentors of learned scientists, Joe had mentors of drunkard treasure hunters. Charles had access to a premier university, with a massive library, Joe had friends that formed his world view for him, and reinforced his confirmation biases whenever he made testable claims.
When Charles was young, his mom taught him about putting food coloring in plants water, to change the color of the leaves or pedals, which he formed into a testable claim and found it fascinating and true, and thus continued expirementing on the science of botany. Joe was told there was buried treasure that could be magically seen by putting a rock in a hat, but sometimes the guardian spirits of the treasure would move it right before you could dig to it. Joe formed this into a testable claim, and the group of people he ran with, cursed the fuckin ground gnomes as a daily occurence, solidifying Joe's confirmation biases. I'm going to suspend this little analogy for a while to get into the topic of todays episode.
Joe and company did A LOT of digging. When I say it was a daily occurrence, I'm not exaggerating, that's what they filled their days with, among other failed get-rich-quick schemes. One limitation of this being an audio podcast is, I can't properly show a map of the known dig sites, pictures of the digs, or how epic some of these holes were. But, I will leave links in the show notes for the videos I used for the source material for this show. During the hour of video, some old photos of the dig sites, and proper maps are shown and explained in much greater detail than I can provide right now, but I will try my best, however I do recommend watching those videos to get a true sense of these digs.
This is an article written in a newspaper authored and owned by James Gordon Bennet on Aug 31, 1831. We're only concerned with one part of it for now, which is when it talks about the holes they were digging. But, this guy says some great stuff that just can't be ignored, so I'll start at the beginning and read up to the important part.
"You have heard of MORMONISM. who has not? paragraph has followed paragraph in the newspapers recounting the movements detailing their opinions and surprising distant readers with the traits of a singularly new religious sect which had its origin in this state. mormonism is the latest device of roguery, ingenuity, ignorance, and religious excitement, combined and acting on materials prepared by those who ought to know better. it is one of the mental exhalations of western new york. The individuals who gave birth to this species of fanaticism, are very simple personages and not known until this thrust them into notice. they are the old and young joe smith, sam harris a farmer, ringdon a sort of preacher on general religion from ohio, together with several other persons equally infatuated, cunning, and hypocritic. the first of these persons, smith, resided on the borders of wayne and ontario counties on the road leading from canandaigua to palmyra. old joe smith had been a country pedlar in his younger days, and possessed all the shrewdness cunning and small intrigue which are generally and justly attributed to that description of persons. he was a great story teller, full of anecdotes picked up in his peregrinations, and possessed a tongue as smooth as oil and as quick as lightning. he had been quite a speculator in a small way in his younger days, but had been more fortunate in picking up materials for his tongue than stuff for the purse. of late years he picked up his living somewhere in the town of manchester by following a branch of the "american system" the manufacture of gingerbread and such like domestic wares. in this article he was a considerable speculator having on hand during a fall of price no less than two baskets full, and I believe his son, joe junior, was at times a partner in the concern. what their dividends were I could not learn, but they used considerable molasses, and were against the duty on that article. young joe, who afterwards figured so largely in the mormon religion, was at that period a careless, indolent, idle, and shiftless fellow. he hung round the villages and strolled round the taverns without any end or aim, without any positive defect or as little merit in his character. he was rather a stout able bodied fellow, and might have made a good living in such a country as this where any one who is willing to work, can soon get on in the world. he was however, the son of a speculative yankee pedlar and was brought up to live by his wits. Harris, also one of the fathers of mormonism was a substantial farmer near palmyra full of passages of the scriptures, rather wild and flighty in his talk, occasionally, but holding a very respectable character in his neighborhood for sobriety, sense, and hard working. A few years ago the smiths and others who were influenced by their notions, caught an idea that money was hid in several of the hills which give variety to the country between the canandaigua lake and palmyra on the erie canal. old smith had in his pedling excursions picked up many stories of men getting rich in new england by digging in certain places and stumbling upon chests of money. the fellow excited the imagination of his few auditors and made them all anxious to lay hold of the bilk axe and the shovel. As yet no fanatical or religious character had been assumed by the smith's. they exhibited the simple and ordinary desire of getting rich by some short cut if possible. with this view the smith's and their associates commenced digging in the numerous hills which diversify the face of the country in the town of manchester. the sensible country people paid slight attention to them at first. they knew them to be a thriftless set more addicted to exerting their wits than their industry, readier at inventing stories and tales, than attending church or engaging in any industrious trade. on the sides and in the slopes of several of these hills, these excavations are still to be seen. they would occasionally conceal their purposes and at other times reveal them by such snatches as might excite curiosity. they dug these holes by day, and at night talked and dreamed over the countless riches they should enjoy, if they could only hit upon an iron chest full of dollars. in excavating the grounds they began by taking up the green sod in the form of a circle of six feet diameter then would continue to dig to the depth of ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty feet.
That's the part we need to talk about right now. I'll finish reading that quote near the end of the episode because there's a bunch more fun stuff, but for now, let's talk about these holes. When you consider the size Benett describes, it might help to try and visualize the grandios nature of these holes. Let's perform an expirment to illustrate this in in real life. If you aren't in a place that this will make you look weird, I want you to stretch your arms out spread eagle as far as you possibly can. Fingertip to fingertip should be about the same measurement as your height, unless you're a knuckle dragger like me, with ape arms that total 5 inches wider than my height. Well picture a circular hole in a hillside that is about that diameter, give or take depending on the hole. Now, if you can, stand up at one end of the room you're in. Hopefully you have a lot of room, because it blew my mind when I just did it. Stretch out your arms as far as you can, and mark where your hand reaches to. Then, shuffle to continue measuring out 3 to 5 times your armspan. It's surprising how fast the distance adds up when you actually measure out 20 to 30 feet of digging into a hillside. They didn't just dig the tunnel that deep and end it either, one we have picture evidence of opened up into a larger chamber at the end of the passage with enough standing room for a few grown men swinging pickaxes. These projects were massive! They spent sooooo much time on digging around blindly, all under the direction of Joe, with revelation from Precious and Mr. Hat.
This one quote doesn't even scratch the surface for contemporary newspaper articles and journal entries of how many holes the company was digging for the roughly 3 years under Joe's direction.
This is an affidavit signed by 51 Palmyra residents on Dec 4 1833.
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, Senior, and his son Joseph, were in particular considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits.
That was printed in Mormonism Unveiled by E. D. Howe and like I said, signed by 51 of the Smith's closest neighbors in Palmyra.
Pomeroy Tucker wrote in 1867
"Numerous traces of the excavations left by Smith are yet remaining as evidences of his impostures and the folly of his dupes, though most of them have become obliterated by the clearing off and tilling of the lands where they were made."
Not only did Tucker tell us that the holes were still there 43 years after they were dug, but he also said there were 'numerous' of them. He goes on to expound.
"The pit-hole memorials of the treasure explorations were numerous in the surrounding fields and woodlands, attracting the inspection of the curious, and the wonder of the superstitious."
There is evidence for 11 total dig sites throughout Palmyra and Manchester all stemming from the Smith home. Each of the dig sites may have been one major hole, or lots of smaller holes ranging in size and distance apart.
I find it hilarious that people around town would be walking and see a bunch of holes in the middle of fields, and peppering the hillside. I just picture them being like "What the fuck is going on here? What kind of god-aweful creature does this town have a problem with?" The holes were fucking everywhere! Superstitious people in town probably thought crabpeople, or giant worms were about to take over. It's just so comical, that Smith and Co. thought they were inches away from their big break with each new hole they dug, while everybody else just thought they were a band of muddy fuckin window lickers, following the whims of an imposter.
The point is, this group of money diggers kept pretty busy with what they were doing. What's even more amazing is Joe seldom, if ever, participated in the digging himself. He was responsible for seeing, and correctly conjuring the treasure which was a fairly active job. It ocassionally involved lining up witch hazel sticks in a circle around the dig area to chase the guardian spirits away, or might require a blood sacrifice of a dog or something, all of which was handled by Joe. Most of the time, the job description was probably just staring into his hat for long periods of time while the actual diggers of the group, shoveled and pick-axed their way closer and closer to the elusive hidden treasure that only Joe could see.
Something else that amazes me so much is how many holes they dug without success, and still persisted in these countless unyielding endeavors. Joe must have made each failure look pretty damn good to have these people dig under his direction for 3 years, probably removing thousands of tons of dirt from hills around Palmyra and Manchester. But this wasn't the only main location, this was just the first area they tried because it was most convenient, being closest to where all the treasure diggers lived. Well, when Bossman Josiah Stowell visited his oldest son Simpson Stowell and met Joe for the first time, Joe would finally have the resources to open up a new branch of operation.
Bossman Joe became completely convinced of Joe's talents as a treasure seer, and financed Joe and the entire crew to move the operation down to the Susquehanna river on Joe's revelation of a silver mine being on the banks of the river. This was super-duper convenient because they could just load up the silver in boats and ship it down the river to the Philadelphia market. This was the situation that lead to Joe's trial in March 1826.
So let's talk about his digs around the Susquehanna river and on the farms of the surrounding areas. If you recall, Bossman Joe's testimony stated that they were digging "once to tell him about money buried in Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt spring;"
We can also tell from the other testimonies that there were probably as many as two other dig sites. One for Deacon Attleton ([sic] probably Charles Atherton), and one for a Mr. Bacon's money.
Using some historical tricks that involve census records, and time relevant maps, Dan Vogel has been able to map out the five locations listed in the trial. The largest of these dig sites was a hole that was 150' in circumference or a hole about 20' to 25' wide and 20' deep. This was on the property of Jacob I. Skinner along with 4 other smaller holes that were right by it. This field that they were digging in, was completely wrecked by the groups shenanigans. They never attempted to fill these in either, they just left them for the property owner to deal with.
Beyond the five dig sites listed in the trial, there are LOTS of records of people talking about the holes on their property, or on a property in the neighborhood they were living in. It was becoming a problem for the locals. It seems that as soon as one person became credulous enough of Joe's seeking abilities, they would consent to him and the group coming in and digging a bunch of holes, all while promising that they were going to find something sooner or later. Joe's like a really bad contractor. People would hire him out, not know what they were getting in to, and then Joe and company would destroy one of the owners fields, never find anything, and say well, we just need more time and money, and we're sure to get something. It's really a bit of an ingenious rackett they had going, and they were able to support a group of up to a dozen grown men with these endeavors, all done using the tools of showmanship and playing off of each other to make the client/target believe that they're getting closer to the big score with each passing day.
When all is said and done, the group has broken ground on hundreds of holes in probably more than 20 dig sites shared over two major areas, that even stretched past the NY, Pennsylvannia state line. There are 11 total sites we can prove in the Palmyra, Manchester NY area, and then as many as 10 or more along the Susquehanna River. These were in the townships of South Bainbridge, Colesville, and Windsor, NY, and then they crossed the state line into Harmony Pennsylvannia, the town that Joe dug on Bossman Joe's property, and met his wife to be Emma Hale. According to Emma, Samuel Lawrence, who was in the treasure digging group, even recommended that she marry Joe, making him the ultimate wingman. Joe was staying with Bossman Joe at the time, so he might have even borrowed one of Bossman Joe's suits for his first date with Emma, who knows. Maybe he used Samuel Lawrence's horse and carriage to go for a night ride with Emma up to makeout point on Monument hill, where the group was digging during the day. Who knows? I may be taking some liberties here, but it is kind of fun to speculate on, and it's entirely feasible.
Let me take a second to catch up Darwin to this point in his storyline. Darwin dropped out of the medical program at Edinburgh and went to the school of divinity at Cambridge. This may sound like he just started learning how to be a preacher, but it became so much more than that. Darwin had some of the best mentors possible during his years here. Spirited debates were constant throughout the halls of Cambridge, as studies of natural science were really starting to gain some publicity and traction. This intense learning environment fostered a deep love of natural science in the heart of Charles Darwin leading up to 1831, the year he boarded the HMS Beagle and made a 5 year circumnavigation science tour. Each port the ship stopped at, Darwin would research the plant and animal life, as well as the geology of the area, and send reports of his findings back to Europe. By the time the Beagle had landed back in England in 1836, Darwin had become a celebrity among academic circles for his findings. His father set up a research trust fund for Darwin to live off while he continued his research leading up to publishing "On the Origin of Species" in 1859.
During this 20 + year hiatus Darwin out scienced the entire world of biological and geological studies, up to that point. He would work for 18 hours straight all day, every day methodically documenting specimens that scientists from all over the world were sending him. Darwins lovely cousin/wife Emma Wedgewood (That's right) was basically Darwins caretaker throughout this endeavor, meaning we should all be grateful for her services to humanity. If not for this Emma, Darwin may not have been able to complete all the research that he did, from when they were married in January of 1839, to publishing the book in 1859.
Darwin became lauded and famed for his amazing discoveries, and the magnitude of his work. As controversial as the claim was, that humans were just another animal that had evolved along with everything else that exists in the world, the science that backed the claim stood up to criticism, and became the center of study and inquiry for generations to come.
I also find something else interesting about Darwin. He never really boasted about what he was going to do, or what he was in the middle of doing. What I mean is, he didn't set out into his schooling career, saying he was going to be the next scientific prophet, and bring about a revolution that was going to convert the hearts of men and their progenitors for generations to come, he just followed the evidence. Darwin made observations about the world around him, and compiled thousands of hypotheses, and answered each and every one, thus creating the theory of evolution by natural selection. Then he put everything he learned down in writing in a verifiable, and replicatable form, and published thousands of copies to universities, and scientists of every field. There had been some books published before this that talked about such a possible theory, but no scientist had ever undergone the project of cataloguing and publishing so many species of plant and animal, along with their similarities and differences to each other, in one volume.
This secured Charles Darwin's place in scientific academia, and gained him access to any social circle he could imagine, except for some church congregations of course. But the main theme to follow here, is one of humility on Darwin's part. He never boasted about his claims, he just studied nature, and let the science speak for itself. After publishing the book, Darwin missed no opportunity to blast anyone's argument that was challenging one of his claims in the book, because the science was on his side.
The thing is, Darwin made extraordinary claims, for which he needed to have extraordinary evidence, and he demonstrated that he had all the necessary evidence for the claims he made. 155 years after he published his book, Darwins claims still stand up to the harshest scrutiny and rigorous investigation. Not only that, but we've found many of his claims to be prophetic, concerning species he predicted existing, that nobody ever acquired a specimen of until many years later.
My big point that I'm trying to get to here is summed up in the Book of Mormon, 4 Nephi 1:34
"Nevertheless, the people did harden their hearts, for they were led by many priests and false prophets to build up many churches, and to do all manner of iniquity. And they did smite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again. And thus they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness, from year to year, until two hundred and thirty years had passed away."
What I'm trying to shine a spotlight on is the claim of false prophets. How do we identify a true or a false prophet? Well, we have to do it by qualifying the claims made by the supposed prophet as factual or errent. Darwin was and is lauded for his prophetic power when it came to predicting the niche that a certain specie lives in, and for predicting the very existence of theoretical species that had never been discovered or recorded. His biggest prophecy was the use of DNA for replication. Darwin hypothesized that there was some form of information vehicle that existed, that was passed on, during reproduction, to the offspring. DNA has been expiremented on since it's discovery in 1868, but it wasn't confirmed as the information carrier for reproduction until the 1952 Hershey-Chase expirement. Darwin made a prediction that took scientists 97 years after his book to prove as accurate. The list of verified prophecies that Darwin claims, makes up a pretty good rap sheet, rocketting him into the eschelons of the worlds premier scientific prophets.
Now, let's compare these claims, to those of Joseph Smith, that he claimed in his 1830 tome of knowledge, the Book of Mormon.
Let's first qualify the authenticity of the work each candidate endured before making the claims they each made. Darwin spent his entire growing up years researching, learning, and cataloguing nature. He spent 20 years in complete isolation to be able to complete his ulitmate masterpiece.
Joe, on the other hand, told some people about a book written by ancient people on golden plates that was buried in the hill by his house. When he got caught in his lie, he had to make a fake set of plates that he never let ANYBODY see. He concealed them at all times in a box wrapped up in a handkerchief, or pillowcase, and only let people feel them in the box, or through a cloth. Joe's research for the book consisted of staring into a rock in his hat, and dictating what he apparently saw on magic holographic parchment in the hat, to whoever was his scribe at the time.
When the charactors that are written on the plates, claimed to be reformed Egyptian, WHICH ISN'T A FUCKING THING, were taken to an educated expert of ancient Judeo-Christian language, by the primary investor of the book, NSSM, to verify the authenticity of the book, the expert said they were a steamy pile of cowshit and he thinks Marty is being preyed upon by rogues. The plates themselves were never seen or recorded about by any expert, and can be demonstrated as fabricated just by the sheer physical limitations of the set that Joe had.
We don't have the original plates that historians and archeaologists can study and verify as authentically ancient. We don't have a manuscript of the original transcript that was written by Oliver Cowdery, and 2 others hand's, all dictated by Joe. The only complete copy was buried in the cornerstone of the of the Nauvoo House in 1841. After the break-up of the factions of Mormons, when Joe was shot in his infamous gun fight, Emma and Major Lewis Bidamon opened up the cornerstone to take back the original and keep it with them, so they could claim closest accuracy to the original manuscript as possible. Unfortunately, water damage destroyed almost 75% of the manuscript, and the remaining 25% is locked up in RLDS Church archives. We have no possible way of knowing how much the original manuscript was changed once it went to print, because we don't have enough of the original to compare to our current prints.
The method that the information of the BoM was delivered in was supposedly divine revelation, meaning that it should be completely inerrent in it's original form. But, the church has made thousands of changes, to the book that the printer originally changed thousands of times from the handwritten original, just so it would be readable once it was in mass production. We simply cannot trust the current day little frankenstein Book of Mormon, if the original really was the most correct book of any on Earth.
Let's examine that claim, because it's something that Mormons assert all the time when it comes to their little pet book. They say it is the most accurate and true book in existence, no matter what the empirical evidence says about it's claims.
But the book does make some pretty extraordinary claims. One of which is that the Native Americans were originally descendants of Jerusalem. Then it was recently changed to say that the people of Jerusalem are one of the primary ancestors of the Native people of the American Continent. Well, both of those are dead WRONG! There is absolutely zero archeological or DNA evidence to support this claim.
The Book of Mormon claims that the more righteous a person becomes, the more white and delightsome their skin gets, like some straight up Michael Jackson shit! There is absolutely zero evidence for this claim being true, in fact all the evidence about skin darkness and melanin levels, has absolutely nothing to do with the actions of the person the attribute describes. This claim is disturbingly false and bigotted, yet it's still believed and considered scripture by Mormons today.
The book claims to have multiple massive battles, and countless small scuttles between warring Native American tribes, with swords, axes, shields, horses, and armor. One of the biggest battles was supposedly on Hill Cumorah right by Joe's house in which hundreds of thousands die. If we were allowed to excavate that hill, there would be untold glorious historical artifacts to be found, but we can't because the church owns the hill and wont permit any digging on it. Why the fuck else would this be, unless Joe was lying and his prophetic claim was false? The church just has to cover up as much as possible to plug as many little historical holes in the record like this, but they can't do it forever.
There are possibly as many as eleven times in the Book of Mormon that talk about the failures of false prophets, or tells people that their false prophet will lead them to their doom. Well, I can't help but think that is some good advice. I simply wish believing members today could figure that out.
Let's consider the fallout from both Darwin and Joe's publications. In most scientific realms, Darwin theory was altogether accepted by most of academia because of the mass of evidence backing the claims. The Book of Mormon was immediately marginalized by almost all educated people when it was authored and claimed as divine. Darwin stuck to his guns when people would challenge him on his claims, but the evidence sided with Darwin so he won by simple fact of being right. When people would challenge Joe or the claims in the Book of Mormon, the apologetics fell apart immediately under pressure, and Joe often resorted to violence, or death threats. Joe even authorized Orrin Porter Rockwell to shoot and kill a guy for dissenting. OPR did as he was told and shot the man 4 times, twice in the head, and twice in the abdomen, but, unfortunately for Joe, the mark survived his hit, and lived to tell the tale.
Darwin catapulted to the front of evolutionary biology studies, and lead debates at Cambridge, Oxford, and multiple other bastions of scientific knowledge, despite his being almost constantly sick after the publication of his book. He continued to publish book after book, study after study, all contributing to the body of knowledge that is now the theory of evolution. He wrote until the final year of his life, publishing his final research paper only 6 months before his death in April 1882 at age 73. Darwin was a great and honest man, and was revered in the highest of academic circles until his death, and he will forever carry the legacy of the primary evolutionary theory forerunner, and should be respected for his work.
Joseph Smith on the other end of the spectrum, should be codemned based on the merits of his actions. He made claims about history that are laughably false, he claimed divine standing, and being a conduit for god's revelation. He started up a cult following with ritualistic magical practices that he synthesized from multiple verifiable sources around him, including the Free-Masons, Catholics, Pentacostals, Campbellits, and dozens of other groups. This cult following gave him everything they had, and he got everything he wanted, just by providing divine revelation to a group that was willing to believe it. He ruled with an iron fist and had all his parishoners declare him the King of the New Jerusalem after he had been fucking all the hot women in the church, before he blew up the printing press that was going to publish testimonies of the Mormons being a polygamist cult, after which he got in a gunfight and was rightfully shot for being a rampaging fucking psychopath, in a jail cell in 1844. He died at the age of 38, in a pool of his own blood, because he walked down the path that he chose.
Joe had no problem claiming that he could do anything. He could solve any problem, perform any real estate deal, run any business, get any wife he wanted. He was a smooth talker and played his more gullible cohorts like lazy-eyed hunchbacks, and had anything he wanted, handed to him. We can see how this fast and loose, outlaw lifestyle can getcha fucked in the end, but that's just because Joe got caught off guard, and hadn't thought his plan through well enough. I always wonder what would've happened, if Joe had escaped that night from the Carthage, Illinois Jail, and lived to tell the tale to his followers. I wonder if it would have come out who was responsible for it, possibly spawning a war among leaders of the church. All of these possibilities stretch my imagination to the very end of my wits, wondering where the church would be now, had Joe been given just a little more time to hatch his bigger and better plans of taking over the government.
But the more I think about that, the more I actually start to feel sorry for Joe. If you're wondering why, it's because I'm backing those questions up even further. What if Joe would have been given a nurturing family life? What if Joe would have grown up in a stable home without an alcoholic dad, without the influence of delusional occult practices, without the famine of every possible resource? What if he would have gone to school, and found something that really exercised his mind in something useful, like science, or math? I just wonder these on a more philosophical level because, there's no way of knowing. But we do need to face the facts, Joe was something special in his time. He had a way of rallying people, and was incredibly intelligent. Could he have possibly been the next greatest philosopher, or mathematician, or scientist for that matter like Darwin? If Joe would have just had access to some better tools for analyzing the world around him, instead of what Big Daddy Cheese thought was true, humanity itself might have been better off for it. Instead, the cultish nature of the Mormon church that Joe created is still a massive influence on the minds of every believer, and ex-believer out there. When we ask questions like this, it seems pretty clear to me that there isn't any ambiguity in the resounding NO! When a person asks, does the church do any good in the world? Because, when you examine all the conflicting variables and factor in how much time we have wasted as a society, believing useless untestable claims, every single religion is responsible for untold perversion of the human species, and should be held accountable for the effects it's responsible for.
Thank you Darwin, and fuck you Joseph.
Let's talk about the next episode. There needs to be a new character introduction. Earlier on this episode I quoted James Gordon Bennet talking about the mormon church in an 1831 newspaper article. He launched us into the topic of the holes that the money diggers made around town, well he's going to set the topic of the next episode.
His newspaper article continues:
"at last, some person who joined them spoke of a person in ohio near Painesville, who had a particular felicity in finding out the spots of ground where money is hid and riches obtained. he related long stories how this person had been along shore in the east, how he had much experience in money digging how he dreamt of the very spots where it could be found. "can we get that man here?" asked the enthusiastic smiths. "Why", said the other. "I guess as how we could by going for him" "how far off" "I guess some two hundred miles" "I would go for him myself, but I want a little change to bear my expenses to work". the whole money digging crew went to get some money to pay the expenses of bringing on a man who could dream out the exact and particular spots where money in iron chests was hid under ground. old smith returned to his gingerbread factory, young smith to his financing faculties, and after some time by hook or by crook they contrived to scrape together a little change, sufficient to fetch on the money dreamer from ohio. after the lapse of some weeks, the expedition was completed and the famous ohio man made his appearance among them. this recruit was the most cunning, intelligent, and odd of the whole. he had been a preacher of almost every religion, a teacher of all sorts of morals. he was perfectly au fait with every species of prejudice, folly, or fanaticism, which governs the mass of enthusiasts in the course of his experience, he had attended all sorts of camp meetings prayer meetings anxious meetings and revival meetings. he knew every turn of the human mind in relation to these matters. he had a superior knowledge of human nature, considerable talent, great plausibility, and knew how to work the passions as exactly as a cape cod sailor knows how to work a whale ship. his name, I believe, is henry rangdon or ringdon, or some such word.
Close, but not quite. That's Sidney Rigdon my friends. Next episode, we're diving elbow deep into Sidney Rigdon, and introducing the Solomon Spalding theory for the authorship of the Book of Mormon. A lot of arguments can be made that Joe was just a puppet prophet and that the Mormon religion is all the brainchild of Sidney Rigdon. Well, we need to get a look at the real Sidney, and see what we can figure out about him. He has a huge piece to play throughout all of the church, and I can't wait to dive all the way in to his story.
Well that's it for the historical content of this episode, I did have one new NaMo Juvenile Delinquint to thank. Andrew G., I appreciate the patronage Andrew, thank you for your support. Good luck on your journey throughout the NaMo Outer Darkness ranks.
Just to let all the listeners know, at the time this episode aired, I'm $12 per episode away from having episodes that are 50% longer. If you want my next episode to make it past that threshold, you can go to patreon.com/nakedmormonism to make a per episode donation to help support the production of the show. You can even have a translation story written about you and read on air depending on your level of patronage.
There is something more sinister that I loathe to report. Outer Darkness has a new ultimate ruler. Whispers echo of the existence of such a being in the realm, but nothing can be truly known about it. One of the four revered spaces at the highest level of the NaMo kingdom, has been locked down by something that lurks in the shadows that surround Outer Darkness. It's not even something that I yet understand, and I plan on doing research on this horrifying force and coming to you at the end of each episode with a brief report on my findings. Wish me luck in my research endeavors, I hope to survive the journey, and I hope that the fear of the unknown doesn't overcome my very soul. I hope to be in touch with you soon Preston.
Next, I figured I would do a really quick listener mail segment, to answer an email that I got from Hal in Michigan. Hal has been a listener from the beginning and has been one of the most active email correspondents that I have had the pleasure of exchanging historical church fun with. Well, Hal decided to email me and call into question my claims of Emma getting frisky with Sidney Rigdon, or with anybody for that matter. I feel like he made a good argument, and I don't want to misrepresent him so I'm just going to read his email and my reply, as I feel confident that the correspondence was positive, and informative on both sides.
Episode 12. Good episode.
Just a comment regarding one aspect of your characterization of Emma as a mafia wife. One of the cardinal mafia rules is that wives can *never* mess around without dire consequences (see the films and books Casino and The Valachi Papers).
Yes, Emma was a mafia wife. As such, I'm skeptical of the claim that Rigdon was shagging her at Joe's behest. Considering Rigdon's intense opposition to polygamy, I suspect it wasn't in his nature and couldn't cope with such behavior (he wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box).
Emma was strong (likely the most intelligent of the lot) and wanted to maintain her status as Mother of the Church and First Wife of the Prophet. She must of known bedding Rigdon would not be in her best interest and surely such an action was contrary to her nature. Even though she gave in to Joe's polygamy revelation, I suspect she would have defied him in his efforts to be her pimp. Besides, Joe was getting enough elsewhere and he had Emma's (at least) implicit approval. He got what he wanted. Why risk a rift with her and those loyal to her?
Most importantly, it was not in Joe's character to be a sharing kinda guy when it came to his wives, in general, and Emma, in particular. But perhaps I'm giving them all too much credit.
Just a few disjointed thoughts and unsubstantiated opinions on the matter.
I think he did make a few good arguments there, but I do wonder if his view isn't clouded by the teachings that he knows of Emma and Sidney? I try to explain my reasoning and the evidence for my claim in my reply email.
It's good to hear from you again, and thanks for the banter. I don't often receive arguments posed against my claims no matter how outlandish they seem, so thank you for taking the time to correct/wit-fully oppose me.
You are right when it comes to most mafia wife situations. It didn't really occur to me that dire consequences are usually the fallout from an unfaithful mafia wife, and I will openly admit that it's probably due to my lack of mafia movie experience. When I call Emma a mafia wife, I'm really only trying to apply a "don't ask, don't tell" mindset to her personality, in reality, she was much more dynamic and nuanced than the cardboard cutout this portrays.
But, when I made the claim that I think Emma fucked Sidney, I didn't do so in a vacuum. I still do believe that this is what happened. Even if you just consider D&C 132 51-54 alone without the other quote I gave, it raises some suspicion.
**51 **Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
**52 **And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
**53 **For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
**54 **And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
Joe liked to use revelation to settle disputes, not only with fellow church members, but with his wife/wives as well. The simple fact that this revelation was given after Joe had taken over 20 wives and, probably had 4 children not by Emma, does need to be taken into account when reading the exact verbiage of the above verses. We also need to consider the W.R. Hine quote that I gave at the end of Episode 12, and wrap it together with the situation in 1842-44 with William and Jane Law.
The picture that everybody paints of Emma today is one of stoic level-headedness, with an occasional propensity to lash out against Joe's wives. Well, I think she was a little more multi-faceted than this caricature provides. She was smart and strong willed, and I'm willing to bet that she wouldn't just deal with Joe fooling around, she would have pushed back. D&C 132 wasn't revealed out of thin air, polygamy was obviously an ongoing conversation between Emma and Joe. I wonder if her strong will didn't drive the proto-doctrine of polygamy, before being written in Jul of 1843, to be more of a polyandrous sex circle throughout the Mormon higher ups. I come to this conclusion based on the culmination of multiple independent news reports saying that the Mormonites were very open sexually, coupled with the other 3 sources I listed (D&C 132, W.R. Hine, William and Jane Law).
Emma seems like a hardass about adultery, but I think the Naked Mormonism view should be a little more nuanced. Let's take this example from William Clayton, who you may know as Joe's personal scribe for quite some time. This is his journal entry and I'll leave a citation to an article in the show notes. The entire article is well worth the read.
"It is well documented that Joseph Smith took at least thirty-three plural wives between 1841 and 1843. By June 23, 1843, Joseph Smith had already married twenty-one women, including a number of married women and several young teen wives. Because of these activities Emma Smith was not happy in her marriage with Joseph. William Clayton, Smith's personal secretary, recorded a conversation in his journal on this date that Joseph Smith had with his wife: "He [Joseph Smith] knew she [Emma] was disposed to be revenged on him [Joseph] for some things. She [Emma] thought that if he [Joseph] would indulge himself she [Emma] would too." Joseph Jackson supported William Clayton's private entry. Jackson said that Joseph told him: "Emma wanted [William] Law for a spiritual husband, and she urged as a reason that as he had so many spiritual wives, she thought it but fair that she should at least have one man ... and that she wanted Law, because he was such a 'sweet little man."
Are we to believe that this was Emma's very first consideration of partaking in the holy sacrament of polygamy? Had she and Joe NEVER talked about this before? Something else to consider is the date of the journal entry, June 23, 1843, less than a month before D&C 132 came as a revelation(July 12, 1843). Shortly after the revelation, William and Jane Law left the Mormon church and said good bye to $30,000 of personal wealth in doing so.
Taking all considerations into account, I personally think that Emma was pissed about Joe's wives, and Joe gave her the green light on having a fling or two of her own (William Law, Sidney Rigdon). Once Joe saw, and finally understood that she wasn't bluffing this time, after she had finally followed through with it, Joe birthed D&C 132 vs. 54 to tell Emma that he can have all the women he wants, but she has to stick with him and only him, no matter what.
If you're wondering how I can insert Sidney Rigdon in there as well, it's not just from the quote at the end of episode 12. It's also loosely substantiated by the fact that Joe called a special meeting, calling Sidney's character into question in October of 1843, seemingly out of the blue. The charges are vague but the overall point of the conference was to evaluate "the case and standing of Elder Rigdon". This seems to be a historical red flag in my opinion, possibly eluding to some deeper issues between Joe and Sidney, during a time of otherwise peace between them. But, I did say that the evidence only "loosely" substantiates my claims, nothing is for certain when we are talking about such controversial things so long ago.
Hopefully this serves to provide a historical argument for my claim at the end of episode 12. "I think Emma fucked Sidney" are 5 very loaded words for any ex-Mormon to hear or say. But, I spoke carefully and meant every word of it, 'I think' meaning my opinion, not historical fact 'Emma fucked Sidney', not the other way around, because she had permission from Joe, and Sidney had to be slightly coerced by Emma.
That was basically the end of my reply. I actually wanted to address this because I saw on Facebook that somebody else wondered if I really thought that Emma and 'That Guy' hooked up. I just wanted to provide the evidence I had for making such a claim.
If any of you have any other questions, or want to challenge my claims, I'll be happy to answer/defend anything reasonable that's brought up, and I'll try to do so on the next episode after the email is sent. So, thank you Hal for that good fun, and I really hope to hear from anybody that has something to say. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the website or FB page to get more ways to contact me.
I suppose this episode is all wrapped up, I hope to talk at ya again, here on the Naked Mormonism podcast.
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