Hello, and welcome to the 12th episode of the Naked Mormonism podcast, I'm Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me. I have to admit, last episode kind of disappointed me. Like I said, the rabbit holes are plentiful and deep when it comes to Joseph Smith's 1826 trial for being a disorderly person and an imposter. The episode seemed fairly well received, but I feel like I shortchanged everybody when it came to what I said I was going to cover, compared to what I actually was able to cover in the usual hour long monologue.
I was able to cover all the witness testimonies that we have record of, and briefly touched on how we have the records, but I didn't even dive that deep into addressing the controversy that surrounds the topic, I just stated that it is indeed, controversial. Well, I want to cover in this episode, what I couldn't get to in the last episode.
Let me start off by talking about the scholarship surrounding the trial, and how we know about it, and how we can trust the accuracy of the Justice Albert Neeley account. The court document that I read last episode is granted as accurate by pretty much all Mormon historians, whether or not they are Mormon themselves. Let's talk about why that's accurate, and the rigorous gauntlet of analysis and peer review that a historical claim needs stand up against, to be considered accurate history, as far as we can conclude anyway. When we're talking about a document like a court manuscript from 189 years ago, it would be really nice to have the document itself in legible condition in a plastic sleeve in some library or museum somewhere. But when it comes to this original document, we don't have that luxury. Like I said last episode, Emily Pearsall ripped the court document from her uncle Justice Albert Neeley's dockett book, and that original is nowhere to be found. We believe that Daniel S. Tuttle had it when Emily died, but we aren't 100% sure of that, and we have no idea where it could have gone since then. Last episode I said that we believe Albert Neeley to be in possession of it last we knew of, but I was completely inaccurate when I said that, and I need to make the correction. The person who probably had the manuscript last, was Tuttle, and we'll see how we know that and why very soon.
Hopefully you'll recall why Emily ripped these pages from the book, as I said last episode. Emily was on a mission to Utah under the authority of Episcopalian bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, to try and tell all the Mormons that they were worshipping a fraudulent man as their founder, and that they should only worship Jesus alone. As religious zealots often do, Emily didn't consider the long term ramifications of separating those documents from their home, if only for the sheer sake of historic sanctity. She had no idea that they would need to be used and examined later for authenticity by historians long after her death, she just wanted to prove the Mormons wrong, no matter what the consequences were.
As annoying as such a selfish act can be, we are talking about it today, so the documents were publcized before they were lost. Think about it, if she were to have lost the pages on her journey to Utah, or if they were stolen by a Mormon zealot or Danite and destroyed, we wouldn't be talking about this today, and Joe never would have lost the credibility he did upon the revelation of the documents. Emily did the right thing upon arriving to Utah, she showed the pages to anybody that was willing to see them, or debate her on the factual basis of the claims. This means a lot of people were talking about it, and a few people wrote about it and published copies.
From a retrospective look, we can do nothing but thank Emily for her tireless efforts to expose Joseph for what he was. We've been able to reconstruct the court document from three independent sources, from different times that include a lot of similar information. The first and most useful, is a February 1873 publication of Fraser's magazine, in which almost the entirety of the document is enclosed. That's actually where I read the testimony of Joseph Smith Jr., and the other 4 credible witnesses from last episode. I did use an operative phrase there, 'Credible witnesses'. If you listened to last episode, you know that we have record of two other witness testimonies that were primarily recorded from a William D. Purple and the later publication of the Neely account in the Christian advocate. Fraser's Magazine already weeded out the less credible witnesses for us, they probably considered the testimony of Horace Stowell not worth documenting, because he didn't bring any new information to the table. Then it seems that it didn't record BDC's testimony because it wasn't included in the Neely account. But, it is worth noting that the Christian advocate published Horace Stowell's testimony as noted by Neely, which leads us to believe that the Christian Advocate publication was copied from the original even though it was published in 1886, 13 years after the Fraser's publication.
We also have Big Daddy Cheese's testimony from William D. Purple, but his testimony wasn't recorded in the Justice Neely account. Purple kind of made him out to be a crazy old coot, that was an alcoholic vagabond. Justice Neeley decided, for whatever reason, to discredit BDC's testimony, and likely the testimony of the mystery seventh witness for similar reasons, and opted to not include them in his own record of the court documents, which was probably for the best. I'm not sure if I prefer this on a personal level, as I like to have all the facts and testimonies in front of me, and try to examine them based off their own merits, and the context they were given in. However, this was probably fairly common legal procedure back then, as it is now, and Neely probably thought he was doing the public a favor in not including the wackiest of the testimonies.
One of the primary jobs of a lawyer, is to discredit the opposing side's witnesses, and bolster the accuracy of their own witness' statements. Successful lawyers do this with a combination of examining the facts, and applying their own perspective to any given testimony. As soon as a witness is discredited for any reason, we can instantly treat any claim they make in their statment, with an increased level of scrutiny. But, the discredited testimony does tend to muddy the water when we're teasing out the truth of the situation. Well, I'm just glad we have record of the discredited witness statements from sources other than Fraser's magazine, even if it is a recording from just one other person, Purple in this case. I like to judge the testimonies of all the witnesses, and judge the weight of the testimony of the person stating it, and their connection to the defendant, it seems to provide a much more wholistic approach to the evidence.
In Purple's account, BDC told us that he strongly believed in Joe's abilities to see things that couldn't be observed by the naked eye. He also said that he was basically ashamed that Joe's god given talents were being used for "filthy lucre, or it's equivalent in earthly treasures", his words not mine. In fact, BDC only served to further condemn Joe with his testimony, yet it was still stricken from Justice Neeley's actual record, possibly because it was too biased, possibly for other reasons, we aren't sure why. Regardless of why, two testimonies were struck from the record, and that is the account that we read last episode from Fraser's magazine.
But, there were two other sources for similar documents that we'll need to briefly cover. You see, when it comes to any historical analysis, we have to try and tease out the real history. Like I said last episode, when there are conflicting testimonies of a single circumstance, we need to consider them as a whole, and consider the credibility of the sources of the information. Instead of mapping this to an analogy of a bully and a nerd on the playground, let's examine some historical claims for Jesus of Nazareth, and compare them to what we have about this court document concerning Joe.
If we were to set up two parallel courtrooms that were trying to determine the accuracy of the miracles the historical Jesus performed, in comparison to Joe's seeing treasure in a hat, I think that there's a lesson to be gleaned.
This might be a bit of a stretch, but follow me for a minute here. When we're talking about the historical Jesus, there is a massive recurring theme when it comes to scholarship. Time is on Jesus' side. New manuscript evidence of the gospels or Pauline letters hasn't been discovered in decades. Yes, new manuscripts themselves have been found and catalogued as recently as 2013, but we weren't able to glean any new evidence from these, as they were later transcripts and copies that are near worthless when it comes to getting closer to the historical Jesus. The earliest verifiable writing we have containing anything christianity is manuscript p52 which contains a very small fragment of John's gospel. This manuscript was discovered in 1934 and dates back to about 125 c.e., and it's smaller than a fucking credit card. It doesn't reveal any new information about Jesus that we didn't know before, it hasn't been beneficial to us in any way shape or form from a scholarly perspective, it's just an old piece of paper, with some stuff written on it that we already have hundreds of exact copies of. When we are trying to make a historical assessment of who Jesus was, or what people claimed he did, he's so far away, and so many years apart from any writings about him, not to mention, an entire language separated from anything written about him (Aramaic vs. Greek) It's truly impossible to determine if Jesus Christ even existed, much less did everything that people wrote about him doing.
The problem with any historical analysis is the fact that the further we age beyond the event or person in question, the more challenging it is to understand the facts, thus, time is on the historical Jesus' side.
Well, the reason I bring this up, is to contrast it with the historicity of Joseph Smith's court trial. I've said countless times now that I love how recent the birth of the LDS church is, because of the relatively young evidence against it, that there's a proponderance of, recorded within it's own history. If we were to hypothetically pit the authenticity of Jesus' miracle claims, vs that of Joseph's claims to see things with Precious in Mr. Hat that nobody else could see, we can instantly codemn Joseph Smith for his actions. We can see how plausible it is that Joe was a complete fraud, and most people around him at the time considered him such. As far as I'm concerned, time isn't on Joes side, because we're finding new things out about Joe and new manuscripts are being discovered that discredit him all the time.
But, condemning Joe based on the court appearance alone depends a lot on the authenticity of the trial document itself, so let's talk about the credibility of the court document. Like I said before, the earliest record we have of the it ,was in Fraser's magazine in 1873, 47 years after the supposed incident occurred. This includes all but BDC and Horace Stowell's testimonies. The next record we have of the hearing, was written by Episcopelian Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle.
Tuttle is an interesting cookie and an integral character in the normalizing of the Utah territory. He oversaw the construction of St. Marks Cathedral in SLC, which was the first non-Mormon religious structure in Utah. He also helped to construct a couple of Christian schools, and St. Mark's hospital which still stands in SLC. I'm pretty sure that's actually the hospital I was born in. All of this random trivia aside, Tuttle was the Protestant missionary president in Utah, for anybody that was willing to come to Utah, to try to convert those crazy Mormons. Well, Emily Pearsall was one of the crazy zealots that answered his call, and brought the court documents torn from her uncle's docket book with her. We believe Tuttle's record to be directly from the manuscript, as opposed to just being copied from the Fraser's magazine article, for a couple of reasons.
Tuttle wrote in his memiors that Pearsall left the documents with him before she died in Salt Lake. Also, Tuttle's account written in 1883 details the testimony of Horace Stowell, which isn't included in the 1873 magazine article, meaning he had access to information that the general public didn't have up to this point. And, for the final kicker, Fraser's magazine was published in London, England. Pretty much nobody in the Utah territory knew about the existence of the magazine, much less the existence of the article that included Joe's trial. It's unclear whether or not Tuttle would have had access to the article, but even if he did, the extra evidence that he puts forth, vindicates the authenticity of his report of the trial.
So, for these reasons, we can consider the two accounts to be independent and verifiable as historically accurate, but let's get to the third construction of the trial which was reported in the newspaper "The Utah Christian Advocate" in 1886.
We have reason to believe that this is the most carefully recorded of all the accounts, and was copied from the original, as opposed to copied from one of the other two sources listed. It may be the latest, but it is the most complete and most detailed, and contains the itemized breakdown of charges, that Neely collected for his services, totalling $2.68.
Alright, so we have the three separate and independent accounts. But, a mormon apologist or critic of historical texts might say that we don't have anything to bolster these findings, or to verify that there was indeed a trial, this whole court document could have been cut from whole cloth, and copied by multiple people and that's all we have access to today, right? No... not at all.... You see, while these are verifiable as independent copies of a single source text, there is other concurring evidence that we can pile on top of these 3 records. But before getting to that, we need to examine the controversy, and what some Mormon apologists say about the trial itself.
First off, how did this trial come out in recent history? The information was out there, and has been since 1873, but who found it, and put the spotlight on it, until it burned it's way into the history of Mormon scholarship and apologetics? We have a dead author to thank for that. Fawn Brodie.
The name Fawn Brodie will often cause the hair on the back of believer's neck to raise, because she wrote the first non-hagiographic biography of Joseph Smith, meaning a heretics guide to Joe. She wrote the first book that ever took a skeptical look at the prophet and called into question a lot of his practices and occult world views. The book I'm refferring to is, of course, "No Man Knows My History" (1945). She considered Joe to be a "fraudulent genius of improvisation", which is very easy to conclude based off the available history.
Just as a little aside here, Fawn enjoyed bucking the status quo, and did so very successfully. She was born into an impoverished Ogden, Utah home, and was known as Fawn McKay. She became quite the historical scholar and was one of the first tenured female professors of history at UCLA. She is best known for 5 biographies, one of which is NMKMH, another of which is, "Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History" wherein she controversially concludes that Jefferson took one of his slaves as a concubine.
An aside from the aside here for just a second. I see where my listenership hits, and I know for a fact that Utah alone is responsible for a fairly significant portion of downloads this show gets. So I know that there are native Utahn current believeing mormons, questioning mormons, and plenty of ex-mo's that listen to this show. Did any of you guys recognize McKay as a familiar name? If I were to say the last names of Allred, Parrish, Kimball, Pratt, Lyman, Taylor, Lee, Cannon, Grant, Richards, Hardy, Morgan, Hanks, or Udall, would any of those last names ring a bell with somebody that you know today? Is your last name one of the ones I listed? If so, chances are, somewhere in your lineage, there was polygamy. For some of you, the split off from polygamist family lines will be more recent than others. I can't verify this for certain without taking a lot of time to research Fawn Mckay's line, but I'm fairly certain that not far back in her lineage, her parents or grandparents came from a polygamist family. That's how recent the history of the church is. I only listed a few names in my list. There are hundreds of names through all of Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and even stretching to mexico, and Canada, that were at some point, part of a polygamist Mormonite family. If any of you have the time or curiousity, you should look up your ancestry to see how many generations removed from Joseph Smith's divinely revealed polygamy you are, it may shock you to see how close you are.
Anyway, back to my original aside. Fawn McKay, who became Fawn Brodie, got BLASTED for her scholarship about the 1826 trial, by apologists, Mormon historians, and TBM's in denial everywhere. However, the more telling thing, was everybody else's reaction to the biography. People loved it. Newsweek* called Brodie's book "a definitive biography in the finest sense of the word," and Time magazine *praised the author for her "skill and scholarship and admirable detachment."
But let's hear specifically what Mormon apologists and historians had to say about it when the book was published in '45.
The Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe bluntly stated:
"...Joseph Smith is made to confess to all his errors, including treasure hunting, peepstone practices, etc., etc. In fact, it is such a complete self-confession as to throw immediate doubt upon the genuineness of the document. Joseph Smith was not a fool.... There is no existing proof that such a trial was ever held." (Joseph Smith — Seeker After Truth, 1951, page 78)
The Mormon Church's Deseret News called it a "spurious" record:
"But the alleged find is no discovery at all, for the purported record has been included in other books... after all her puffing and promise the author produces no court record at all, though persistently calling it such.... This alleged record is obviously spurious... It is patently a fabrication of unknown authorship and [was] never in the court records at all." (Deseret News, Church Section, May 11, 1946, as cited in A New Witness For Christ in America, enlarged edition, pages 430-431)
Although No Man Knows My History criticized many foundational Mormon beliefs about Joseph Smith, the Church was slow to condemn the work, even as the book went into a second printing. In 1946, The Improvement Era, an official magazine produced by the Church, said that many of the book's citations arose from doubtful sources and that the biography was "of no interest to Latter-day Saints who have correct knowledge of the history of Joseph Smith." Isn't the brainwashing of it almost palpable?
The "Church News" section of the Deseret News had a lengthy critique: it praised the biography's "fine literary style" and denounced it as "a composite of all anti-Mormon books that have gone before."
Anytime that something is labeled anti mormon, it's pretty much instantly written off in the mind of any TBM's. This has been quite an effective tool for a long time, and it's exactly why my parents dislike this show. It seems like the truth should be able to stand up on it's own merits, and if something is false it should be removed from a persons belief system. But as soon as the 'Anti-Mormon' word gets thrown out, an impenetrable defensive shield is immediately in place, and it takes a lot of information to slowly wear it down into submission to the facts. Keeping members away from information that's contrary to the belief system they are in, is nothing but a scare tactic of propaganda to control the Sheeple, and the Mormon church is one of the best at it.
In the booklet, "No, Ma'am, That's Not History", the BYU professor and LDS historian and apologist Hugh Nibley challenged Brodie's claims. He asserted that she had cited sources supportive only of her conclusions while conveniently ignoring others. Brodie described the Deseret news article from before as "a well-written, clever piece of Mormon propaganda," but she dismissed the more popular "No, Ma'am, That's Not History" as "a flippant and shallow piece."
In May 1946, the LDS Church excommunicated Brodie. She never tried to regain her membership. Brodie once wrote to a friend that what she suffered from her disillusionment with Mormonism "had to do with the pain I caused my family. The disillusionment itself was...a liberating experience." Before No Man Knows My History was published, Brodie sought to comfort her parents, "You brought us all up to revere the truth, which is the noblest ideal a parent can instill in his children, and the fact that we come out on somewhat different roads certainly is no reflection on you." Brodie's mother and three sisters were enthusiastic about the book, but Thomas McKay refused to read it.
Information is a powerful thing. I become depressed when I see people in fear of information for the simple fact that it may come in contradiction with their beliefs. That's exactly what this is an example of, and that's why we have the Brodie awards today. It's awarded to various websites, or blogs that distinguish themselves as beneficial to a largely ex-mormon online group. I do want to congratulate David Michael on earning Brodie awards in two categories for his My Book of Mormon Podcast. Good job, and congratulations to you good sir.
Now that we know who Fawn Brodie is, and why her claims were so controversial, we can examine how we were able to venerate her claims. Apologists said there was no factual basis for it, and that the original sources that we covered earlier were complete forgeries. But historians don't want to side with either Mormon, or anti-Mormon claims, they just want the truth. When Fawn tried to dig in to the history, to back up her claims about the trial, she was chastised, and chased off by her uncle David O. McKay who would soon be prophet and president of the church, a mere six years after Fawn's book was published.
So Fawn's hands were tied and she needed another historian to take the reigns on backing up the court documents with other verifiable document evidence. Here enters Wesley P. Walters in 1971. This man was on a mission to find irrefutable evidence to support the reported trial. Well, he did. Remember when I read the very last line in the court document that was the breakdown of Justice Neely's bill for services rendered, totalling in $2.68? Well, this is where that becomes important for a few reasons.
When you are evaluating an authentic document as opposed to a fraudulent one, you don't just study the frauds, you also become very familiar with the signs of authentic documents. When we are talking about historical documents about Joseph Smith, forgeries are a dime a dozen. Most of these in recent history were created and traded by convicted murderer and fraud, Mark Hoffman, but there have been plenty of others.
When we see a fraudulent document, we can distinguish it from authentic documents with a few tell-tale signs. We can examine the handwriting, compare the document to others like it at the time that we know are authentic, or we find out that there isn't any concurring evidence for the document in question, which makes it stand out like a sore thumb in contrast to authentic documents. Well, what Wesley Walters found was the exact hingepin of document evidence that we needed to prove that the trial did indeed happen, and that it wasn't a forgery. Ironically, a Mormon historian did try to plagerize and change the document that Walters found, but we'll get into that after talking about the document itself and where it was found.
Walters was painstakingly searching for this document, or others like it, but the circumstances weren't on his side. The document he found is called 'Albert Neely, bill of costs, 1826' pretty simple right? Well, it was found in the basement of the Chenango county office building/jail, in Norwich N.Y. This little document contains Neely's bill for nine separate court cases that he heard in 1826. The fifth entry on the page was on March 20, 1826, for "Joseph Smith, The Glass Looker", and detailed the $2.68 that he charged the county for his services.
The fact that this authentic old document was discovered calling Joe by a derrogatory name that fit with the ruling of the court, that also confirmed the dollar amount Neely charged which fit right in line with the original trial document, completely annhilated any scholarly opposition to the facts. This drove most apologists into silent acceptance of the facts.
But some wouldn't go down quite so easily, and just accept this beautiful piece of evidence that was attained. Thus a modern day forgery surfaced to try and discredit Walter's finding. Mormon historian, from lovely little Bountiful Utah Ronald Jackson, reported finding a copy of the document that Walters supposedly found, but instead of saying Joseph Smith, it said Josiah Stowell, Glass Looker. When the claim was first made in 1976, apologists quickly latched on, because this could exonerate Joe's misdeeds, and the TBM historians breathed a hasty sigh of relief.
Unfortunately for Jackson, the simple fact that it was a forgery, and a very poor one at that, was brought to light, almost as soon as the claim was made. If you have the time, I recommend looking at the 1826 trial article on UTLM.ORG because it contains detailed information about everything that happened, with picture comparisons of the authentic vs the forgery, and covers the controversy surrounding it. Regardless, what we have here is a textbook case of lying for the lord. Ronald Jackson thought it would be a good idea to try, by any means necessary, to excorcise Joseph's historical demons, and he lost all his own credibility in a fit of poetic justice for his crimes. But this does go to show you, when you are examining something that has this much evidence surrounding it, you can't just alter some small detail without creating larger disturbances further up the pipeline of events.
What I mean is, as soon as we try to harmonize Bossman Josiah Stowell being the defendant on the stand, with the rest of the history that we can verify, legitimate historical connections completely fall apart, and we're left with asking deeper, and unanswerable questions, to try and make things fit. For instance, if Josiah Stowell was indeed the defendant in question, and it was just a pre-trial examination, why would Joseph Smith be there, and what would Joe have to do with any of it? Why would Joe have been the first one to give a testimony, and why would he give one at all? Why would Peter G. Bridgeman be filing the lawsuit in the first place to try and determine guilt against his uncle Josiah Stowell? What would be the purpose, if not for money's sake, because money exchanging hands is never discussed in the trial? If Bossman Joe was the glass looker, why would Joe be the one to show his own stone to the court as an exhibit? Why would BDC be testifying on behalf of Bossman Joe while defending the scrying abilities of his son Joe? You see, when you bring in a forgery, it fucks up everything else in the timeline, and simply raises more questions than it answers.
But, as soon as we get rid of the forgery, everything falls right back into sync with the sequence of events. Well, this wasn't the only thing that Walters found in the basement of the Chenango county jail, there was also an 1826 bill of costs from a man named Phillip DeZeng that was found near Neely's bill.
Phillip DeZeng was the constable in 1826 and he billed the county for arresting Joe and a mittimus, which is just legal jargon for a document telling a jailer to take a convict to a cell and keep them there for a given amount of time. This is the exact wording of the important part of his Phillip's bill.
serving warrant on joseph smith of chenango Chenango co subpoening 12 witnesses & travel attendance with prisoner two days & 1 night notifying two justices 10 miles travel with mittimus to take him
Wesley Walters finding these two documents, was a knock out of the park compared to most historical finds. Walters found everything needed to substantiate the published trial documents, with concurring authentic documents from other public officials at the time, which is something that's expected when it comes to court documents.
Do you remember when I said earlier that time is on Jesus' side when we are talking strictly about the historical Jesus? Well, that's only because the possiblity of finding any new information about him, is pretty slim. We've pretty much found everything out about him that we possibly can from historical texts, and all we can do now is analyze and hypothesize about him based off the available information. Well, that isn't so much the case with Joseph Smith and the LDS church.
There are mountains of information out there about everything that I've covered, and I only just scrape the surface of the things I present. The field of Mormon scholarship about the church has new-comers everyday, and there is new evidence for us to take into account that surfaces quite frequently. There are possibly thousands of documents that no historian knows about when it comes to Joe and the church, that just haven't been incorporated into the puzzle yet, and I look forward to the revelation of each and every one of them. The more time we spend looking at Joseph Smith the more we see just how much time isn't on his side.
The reason I bring this up again, is to bury the controversy with even more facts and authentic documents. Wesley P. Walters passed away in 1990, and was unable to continue his research due to illness before that, but he was kind enough to pass his legacy of research down to H. Michael Marquardt, who is one of todays most prominent ex-mormon historians. Well, Marquardt did a little bit of digging around in county buildings himself to find more substantiating evidence for the trial. It wasn't because the proponderance of evidence up to that point wasn't sufficient to condemn Joseph, it was just a scholarly effort to further deepen the pool of knowlege about Joe, and fortify the walls of damning evidence that are slowly closing in on the historical Joseph Smith.
H. Michael Marquardt is one of my main sources of information for early mormonism and Smith history leading up to it. One of his best tomes of knowlege is "The Rise of Mormonism 1816-1844". Almost 700 pages of well cited and corroborated historical facts contains a lot of crazy fuckshit that Joe spawned, and I highly recommend checking out the book. I haven't read it all the way through, as it almost reads like a historical textbook in a linear timeline, but it's easy to pick up and easily find exactly what I'm looking for and I fucking love it. Well, Marquardt is responsible for more court document finds that we are concerned with in 1988.
The reason we are concerned with the his findings, is the detail of what the trial was really classified as. This is controversial, and I don't know why. Apparently Mormon apologists have tried to argue that this was a court of special sessions whereas the facts point to it being an examination before a formal trial is convened, to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. The main argument here, is that a court of special sessions would have had 3 justices overseeing and taking notes of the trial, and we couldn't find any concurring evidence to support that this court of special sessions took place, therefore it's likely that the Neely account is a forgery. That's the apologetic anyway. One thing that bolsters this argument is the order in which the witness testimonies are given, due to it's unconventional nature. Normally the prosecution would make a case, and the defense would present their side, then all witnesses would be examined and cross examined. This Neely account doesn't follow this format at all, and this was used as evidence against the authenticity of the entire trial document. Well, Neely includes in his record the use of the word 'examination' which is an operative word, when describing a legal proceeding.
Usually pre-trial examinations were heard by one judge, and the defendant would tell their version of the events, then all the witness testimonies would follow soon after. Well from all the available evidence, we can surmise that a simple examination was what happened here.
Marquardt is responsible for finding the bills of the other three judges in the area at the time, to see if they had been present for the hearing, which would indicate a court of special sessions. The bills of Justices Levi Bigelow, Zachariah Tarble, and Justice Humphrey, all indicate that none of them had any direct hand in the examination of Joe, which further bolsters the claim that it was a pre-trial examination, and Justice Neely's account is accurate. If we accept this conclusion, everything that follows begins to make sense.
Let's bring this all together, and try to make sense of it, and maybe we'll be able to figure out the circumstances after the 'guilty' verdict was given by Neely.
Picture yourself there, feel free to take some imaginative liberties when constructing your perspective, because that's what I'm about to do. Joe and all the witnesses have just finished giving their testimonies. Justice Neely is on the stand and constable Phillip DeZeng is the attending bailiff. DeZeng is the constable in charge of the 21 year old prisoner Joe, and has gotten to know him a little by this time, having spent a couple days with him by now. The final testimony was a powerful speech given by Joseph Smith Sr. in defense of Joe's mystical, god-given powers. Joe and his father are both dressed in rags, dirty, and altogether uneducated and destitute. BDC is known as being a flagrant drunkard, and Joe is known to hold his liqour in public a bit poorly himself. Neither of the men have any money with which to repay Bossman Joe back, for the time he employed them in failed treasure digging, and everybody in attendance knows, this is largely a ceremonial trial, because the defendant is obviously guilty on the charges leveled against him.
Justice Neely comes back from his office after having decided the verdict, and announces to the crowd, that Joe is indeed guilty of the evidence put forth in the testimonies, and that a formal trial will be needed to determine the severity of the crime and sentencing. Neely reads off the legal fees for services rendered and constable DeZeng tacks on an extra 19c mittimus to take Joe to jail until a formal trial can be convened.
Just as DeZeng is about to place the handcuffs back on Joe, Neely calls DeZeng up to him at the stand, and whispers quietly, without anybody else knowing, "I wouldn't mind if you lost this one". DeZeng fires back a quick wink and resumes his task of handcuffing Joe and escorting him out of the room with authoritative force.
DeZeng walks Joe through the halls of the courthouse, all the while scolding him for his actions as a vagrant and lazy young man. He takes Joe to the jail cell he's about to throw him in, and says, "Now son, you wanna spend your life here! Do you want these brick walls and iron bars to be your home forever?!"
Joe, like anybody would do at a time like this, is drowning in his remorse and tears. He knows he could be facing a fine, or prison time, and yet had so much in life to experience before spending any amount of his life behind bars. The constable has done this to countless wayward youth by this time in his career, and is expecting everything that's about to come out of Joe's mouth.
"I'm sorry sir, I didn't know I was doing anything wrong. I'll never use my powers to look for treasure again, I promise!" tears are streaming down his Joe's cheeks.
DeZeng grabs Joe's handcuffed wrists and shakes them, making them clang in an ominous tone, and effectively shattering Joe's concentration on the next line he'll formulate, to try and talk his way out of this hole he dug himself into. "Do you ever want these things around yer wrists ever again?!"
Joe sees that the possibility is open, if he just says exactly what the constable wants him to say. "No, sir" collecting himself and choking back tears.
DeZeng pulls the keys out of his pocket, and unlocks the handcuffs that symbolically imprisoned the smooth criminal, and signified something much more than just giving Joe free use of his hands. "If we ever go through this again, you won't see the light of day, do you understand me?!" Dezeng asserts.
Joe, fully understanding all the implications of what just happened, got a new lease on life. He nods in silence, which is met by a stern, and authoritative stare from DeZeng. Joe turns and walks out of the jail a free man, in effect taking his "leg bail".
I definitely took some artistic liberties there, but it does provide a naturalistic explanation, and adds the human element to the situation. Everybody knew that Joe had done what he was convicted for. He deserved punishment for deceiving honest men on multiple accounts, but it was just accepted fact that it would be a wasted punishment, and wasted money, on a vagrant that would be getting 3 state sponsered meals a day. Joe didn't have the money to pay any fines, and if it was assigned as a public service punishment, nobody could force such a person to carry out the sentence. So Constable Phillip DeZeng did the most logical thing. He let Joe walk.
Now, I pose to you an ethical question. We know that Joe was a fraud and cheated people out of their money, and was therefore responsible for the damages done to these honest people he defrauded. But, had he gone through a full trial process with admitted exhibits of evidence, and confessed under oath, as opposed to admitting his wrongdoings in an examination like he did, he probably would've ended up in prison for lack of paying his fines. Was it better for Joe to be a drain on the scarce resources of the Chenango County government for years to come, or was it better for everybody, for him to get a slap on the wrists and walk?
I don't know, I'm not sure where I'd fall on this question. On the one hand, I think that education could have been the solution here, maybe give Joe an apprenticeship with an actual vocation that he could make a living on, but that's a perfect world solution, and there's no way to uphold something like that. Joe probably would have dipped out on that too, so I guess that probably wouldn't have worked.
I guess I can pose the question a different way, if Joe did end up being punished for his actions, maybe he received a $25 dollar fine that he could never pay. He would be hounded and badgered by the local officials or the Stowell family until he could pay back what he owed to them in legal damages. This possibly would've slowly devolved into interest being assessed, and jail time once the amount became too high. I would certainly hope that once Joe emerged from a possible 2 or 3, or maybe even more, month jail sentence, it might just occur to him, that breaking the law isn't always worth it. Maybe he would have rehabilitated, maybe he would have changed his ways. There's no possible way of knowing. But one thing we can be sure of, Joe realized that mind tricks and telling people what they want to hear, could get him out of any situation, no matter how bleak the outcome. I would argue that Constable Phillip DeZeng was a very good teacher for Joe. Not because of the slap on the wrists speech he hypothetically gave, but for teaching Joe, just how far he could bend the rules, and how to subvert any and all authority, and opposition.
This seems made apparent by the other accounts we have of the trial happening, recalled by A.W. Benton, and Oliver Cowdery (Cowdung Allover).
This is A.W. Benton's recollection of the unique character Joseph Smith, written in 1831, making it the earliest reference we have to the trial.
Messrs. Editors--In the sixth number of your paper, I saw a notice of a sect of people called Mormonites; and thinking that fuller history of their founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., might be interesting to community, and particularly to your correspondent in Ohio, where, perhaps, the truth concerning him may be hard to come at, I will take the trouble to make a few remarks on the character of the infamous imposter. For several years preceding the appearance of his book, he was about the country in the character of a glass-looker; pretending, by means of a certain stone, or glass, which he put in a hat, to be able to discover lost goods, hidden treasures, mines of gold and silver, etc.
Although he constantly failed in his pretensions, still he had his dupes who put implicit confidence in all his words. In this town a wealthy farmer, named Josiah Stowell, together with others, spent large sums of money in digging for hidden money which this Smith pretended he could see, and told them where to dig; but they never found their treasure. **At length the public, becoming wearied with the base imposition which he was palming upon the credulity of the ignorant, for the purpose of sponging his living from their earnings, had him arrested as a disorderly person, **tried and condemned before a court of justice. But, considering his youth, (he then being a minor), thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape.
This was four or five years ago.
Then we move to Cowdung's version that was used by Mormon apologists for a long time before all the pieces of evidence of the trial were put together. This is from a letter written by Cowdung, to W. W. Phelps in 1835 known as letter 8. It's a fairly praiseworthy letter about the church and Joe, but this comprises the final paragraph of the letter.
On the private character of our brother I need add nothing further at present, previous to his obtaining the records of the Nephites, only that while in that country, some very officious person complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the county; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquitted. From this time forward he continued to receive instruction concerning the coming forth of the fulness of the gospel, from the mouth of the heavenly messenger, until he was directed to visit again the place where the records was deposited.
It may have taken a while, but the more faithful people were to Joseph, the more willing they were to overlook everything bad that he did. By 1835, 9 years after the court appearance, Joe's right hand shit-sniffer had already learned to deflect the conversation, when it came to the subject of Joe's court appearances. Now, people claim that Joe was acquitted from his 1826 trial, therefore it doesn't matter, and doesn't change the fact, yes fact, that Joe was a prophet of god. If anybody ever tries to make that claim, they are severely uninformed on the subject, and are committing the same fallacy as Cowdung did 180 years ago. If there is one piece of damning evidence anybody has against Joe, it's this court document. The evidence is so abundant, and verifiable, and has stood up to years of harsh critique. Joe was a fraud, and he admitted it himself. He used the same method to write the BoM, as he used to unsucessfully look for treasure, buried by the ancient inhabitants of the continent, that were guarded by magic spirits that would move the treasure as they dug for it.
It will never cease to amaze me that I used to revere this man as a holy prophet of god. I feel like I've done a disservice to my own intelligence, and almost feel like I'm responsible for wasting 17 years of belief in such a massive fraud. But, honestly, I don't think it's right to solely blame myself for it.
Don't get me wrong, I never took the time as a believing Mormon to investigate the claims. I had done a fantastic job of compartmentalizing my belief away from my skeptical mind. But, was my continued attendance really my fault? I would argue that it was only mostly, because I was never told about this by the church, so I could go research it, so I could decide for myself if the church was worth investing belief into.
I have a theory why I wasn't told about it. Because the church leadership is made up of people that were just like me. I'm not talking about the conglomeration that makes billion dollar business deals every year with one of the highest donation bases compared to any other religion. I'm talking about the ward that's run on a local level. The people in each small community are what really make up the body of the church, and it's ranks are filled with good, gentle-hearted people. But these people know what they believe, and have no reason to question it, nor do they encourage anybody else to question. They have the truth and they're content. I'm trying to figure out what the reason for this is. I want to know what the secret key is to unlock people's minds to skeptical inquiry of their own beliefs.
You know, I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I've been wrestling with a very challenging question lately, and I think I might have the best and most satisfactory answer for it, at least until a better answer comes along. The question is, "Why are you doing this podcast?" I've been asked that multiple times now by TBM's and others, and I just keep stumbling around on the fly, trying to find the best answer for it.
Well, I think I finally have the best way to answer it, with a return question, "Why does the church have a missionary force that's twice the population of my hometown (roughly 80-90,000)?" Because when you have the truth, you want to share it.
We may all have different things that we call truth, but whatever the truth really is, will stand up on it's own against scrutiny and critique, and that's all we can expect from the truth. We can't get mad at it, we can't rationalize it away, we have to accept it as fact and move on. I just wish somebody would have confronted me a little more forcefully about my beliefs, and given me a speech like that while I was a younger believer, and I might not have used so much energy and so many years believing in something, that can be demonstrated as laughably, and histerically false.
Samuel Aldrich is a very kind and caring individual, who takes a lot of pride in his most prized possessions. Sam has a good job and no wife or children, so he has a lot of spendable cash for his sweet ass one-ton pick up truck. Lately, Sam has been feeling a bit of a void in his life, which he's been trying to fill by pouring more and more money into making this truck some seriously bad shit. Unfortunately, no matter how much he enjoyed spending his time and money on this truck, the void never seemed to be filled for more than a few hours after the newest shiny chrome piece or performance part is installed. Well, Sam's fateful translation day is nigh. He had just been dropped off by a coworker at the tire shop where the truck was getting some new shoes, and was now on his way home. It's easy to see how content Sam is in the cab of the new meatier version of his truck, but the void inside is reaching an event horizon that is set to consume his very sanity, if he doesn't find some way to satisfy the blackness. All day Sam has been contemplating why he's here on earth, and where he's going after he dies. With his lifted spirits dampened by the gravity of these questions, Sam autopilots to a stop behind a minivan at a railroad crossing. He's so lost in his thoughts, that nothing seems real to him right now. The world is just a haze around him, and everything that's happening, is going by as a blur. Sam's gaze slowly drifts to the people in the van in front of him, and what he sees snaps him back to reality instantly. The mother with 4 children in the van aren't just sitting at the RR crossing intersection, the van has stalled out on the tracks, and panic and chaos, are overcoming logic and solutions among the distressed occupants. Sam sees why everybody in the van is freaking out, just as the alarms for the crossing, start to chime. A massive freight train is bearing down on the helpless people inside the inert minivan, at a deadly unstoppable speed, but it's only indicated by the sound of the ominous train horns blowing getting louder and louder. Sam calculates how much time the family has before the train comes around the bend, and smashes the van into a crumpled soda can, exterminating any life inside. Sam's adrenal gland opens the floodgates into his bloodstream, and the whole world becomes like a slow motion movie. He realizes something that has never occured to him before. Life is the most important thing in life, and each life is just as precious as any other life is. There are no saints or sinners, no catholics and protestants, no christians and muslims, and neither heaven, nor hell has a seat saved for anybody. Life is all we have, and all we can strive to preserve in the long run, but when life can be saved immediately, it takes a true hero to sieze the opportunity.
Sam sees the opportunity to preserve life right now, but it isn't without cost. As triangle of headlights emerges around the bend, Sam is posed with a tough choice. He looks at the gauges on his truck, and thinks about how much he loves what he has, but also sees the children screaming in terror in the back seat. He knows what needs to be done. Sam reaches down and slams the truck into 4-wheel drive, and rapps up the engine. He drops the clutch and plows through the crossing arm and rams his truck into the back of the van. There is a sickening crunch as the two vehicles collide as the trucks tires squeal in agony to move the van from its place of certain destruction. The train brakes were letting out an earsplitting screetch, but there was no of stopping what was about to happen. The minivan sluggishly groans out of the way under the sheer brute force of Sam's massive diesel, just as the train reaches the intersection. Time comes to a stop. This act of altruism and humanity has earned Sam a rightful place in the NaMo Outer Darkness realm, and Demon George and Josh know it. In fact, they saw the entire thing. Their presence couldn't be seen by any mere mortal, but they were with Sam in the truck the entire time to see if he would come forward as the next worthy prospect. George and Josh come to agreement that Sam is to enter at this moment, and they quickly place Sam's translation talisman on the center of the trucks steering wheel. Sam sees the glinting trinket covering the emblem on the wheel, and only has time to grab it right as the train plows into the truck and it explodes into a fireball of twisted metal. Very back of the minivan gets clipped by the train and it spins around violently, but comes to a rest with all inhabitants rattled, but safe. There is nothing recognizable left of the truck, now in two main pieces on either side of the train, with millions of smaller pieces still on fire, littering the crossing. Any spectator knows that Sam is in multiple pieces himself, but the investigation would turn out to find the body altogether missing, but there will always be the outline of his body burned into the leather seats from his perfectly timed translation. Sam wakes up, not in his truck but in some place new. There's complete silence, and only three other Demons roaming around the outer darkness realm. Welcome to the ranks of the Demons in the NaMo outer darkness kingdom Sam. I hope you enjoy the extra content that comes with your subscription, and I really want to thank you for your support. Each recurring donation keeps the show going, and I feel like I can't thank you enough.
Well, that's it for today's episode, thank you for joining me. Next episode, we're going to talk about how much of a problem Joe and his fellow treasure diggers were around town. Seriously, they made problems with the holes they dug, and we're going to try and put an estimate on just how many holes they may have dug, and where they were. Some of them are even visible today, albiet overgrown with foliage. I hope to talk at ya again, here on the Naked Mormonism Podcast.
W. R. Hine who was the feature of last episode's bonus content, has another little gem for us later on in the same interview that I took last episodes bonus from. I had to do a little digging to find out who he was, because the church doesn't even acknowledge his existence. Turns out, he is another neighbor of the Smiths in New York during Joe's growing up years, much like Peter ingersoll, who has made an appearance or two. Well, here it is, and I'll tie it in with something afterwards.
One day while I was at the Flats, a meeting was held in which the Spiritual Wife Doctrine was discussed. Rigdon said if he had got to go into it he might as well begin. He put Emma, Jo Smith's wife, on the bed and got on himself. Jo became angry. It was in everybody's mouth for miles about Kirtland.
After hearing that, let's reflect on the D&C 132, to try and ascertain the truth here.
**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.
**55 **But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal livesin the eternal worlds.
I will tell you that I don't think the timelines match up with these two, so I don't think they were related incidences, but I will just say.... Mafia wives aren't usually known for their chastity...
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