Ep 33 – Ancient Papyri and Joe Tappin' Dat Fanny
On this episode, we jump back into the historical timeline! We start off with the wiles of a Michael H. Chandler, and how he made $2400 off Joe's fascination with ancient artifacts, then, the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants are voted in as scripture by every member of the church. After that, Big Daddy Cheese is given a living stipend and fees for giving patriarchal blessings, and we talk about another first vision account, only this one is taken from Joe's own diary. To finish out the episode, we read a couple of autobiographical accounts covering the end of 1835, and leading into 1836, the second of which takes us into talking about the first real sex-scandal we have good evidence for, the one between 18 year-old Fanny Alger, and 30 year-old Joseph Smith. We don't run short on crazy for this episode, so strap in and enjoy!
Outro music Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
BoC D&C comparison by Joel
Autobiography of Jonathan Crosby
Autobiography of Benjamin F. Johnson
Brian Hales on Fanny Alger
Oliver Cowdery to Warren A. Cowdery (Dirty, nasty, filthy scrape)
Mormon Think Book of Abraham Article:
Welcome to Episode 33 of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is Thursday May 27, 2016, my name is Bryce Blankenagel, and thank you for joining me. It's been a while since we've done an historical timeline episode, so let's get a quick refresher course. I must give my sincerest apologies for the hiatus of historical timeline episodes, but they take a monumental amount of work to put together, and it just wasn't feasible with my schedule for the last month. But today, we're back on track, and in desperate need of reviving the timeline to move forward.
Last historical episode we talked about the aftermath of Zion's camp upon its return to Kirtland, Ohio. I know it must seem like forever ago that we talked about this, but we discussed the allegations that Sylvester Smith raised against Joseph Smith for "Conduct unbecoming of a prophet of God," whatever that means. We read through the entire court proceedings as recounted in the History of the Church vols 2, and found some peculiarities in the testimonies. First off, there were no witness testimonies on behalf of Sylvester, the witness stand was completely whitewashed with friends and supporters of Joe. This amounted to any problems that happened, during Zion's camp, being pinned on the unrighteousness of the group, most of which was heaped on Sylvester Smith. Now, it's pretty easy to see that Sylvester was more of a whipping boy than the actual inciter to madness here. Obviously there were quite a few men in the march of Zion's camp that weren't quite so ecstatic about being out there and following Joe's every command, but Sylvester sort of became the poster boy for all conflict in the camp. There were a few incidents like Joe's dog biting Sylvester, and Joe throwing a trumpet at or near Sylvester that were obviously not Joe's fault, but all Sylvester's fault, cuz HE was the asshole. Take the testimonies how you will, but when all was said and done, Sylvester signed a statement claiming responsibility for everything that went wrong, and underneath his signature it was written "Signed for fear of punishment," which seems to incpasulate everything that we talked about the entire episode. This was the equivalent of under ecclesiastical duress or something, Sylvester could either sign it, or be punished with excommunication, or possibly something worse... like a visit from Ol' Pistol Packin Porter Rockwell... who knows.
After the Smith v. Smith trial, we pretty much wrapped up 1835 with a discussion about the organization of the quorum of the twelve apostles, the newest school of the prophets endorsed by Professor Bill, William E. McLellin, and one of the first vision accounts. Last historical episode was packed, so it may not be a bad idea to go back and listen, for a refresher, before consuming today's episode.
That pretty much sums up what we discussed last historical episode, and it takes us into the meat of today's episode. We're going to put 1835 completely to bed, and attempt to launch into 1836. To get us started with today's episode, we need to discuss a man named Antonio Lebolo. Antonio Lebolo was superintendent of Egyptian archaeological digs for a wealthy financier named Bernardino Drovetti between 1818 and 1822. This was during a time when Egyptian archaeology was in full swing. The Rosetta stone had been found by Pierre Francois Bouchard of the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in 1799, less than one generation before the time we're discussing right now, and the Rosetta Stone had only been completely deciphered by Jean Francois Champollion in 1822, but wouldn't be very well published and understood until at least 1850 after Champollion's death. The entire world was buzzing with headlines about this huge discovery in ancient language and the rivalry in deciphering the Rosetta Stone had between Champollion and Thomas Young, which seemed to engender much fascination with ancient Egyptian artifacts. It was during this time that Joe decided that the Gold Plates were inscribed with ancient reformed Egyptian heiroglyphs, because it's something that most people had heard of, but didn't know anything about. It seemed to lend some kind of legitimacy to the gold plate story being of Semitic origins.
Back to Lebolo. He was the superintendent over a huge archaeological dig site in Egypt, and was tasked with coordinating the artifacts. A lot of these were absorbed into the estate of the financier, Drovetti, but the vast majority of them were sold to museums and artifact collectors around the world. Here enters a man named Michael Chandler. Lebolo amassed a large collection of Egyptian Papyri and mummies to be shipped to a collector in New York, where Michael Chandler was able to purchase a bunch of these from. Chandler paraded these mummies and Papyri around the east coast from 1833 to 1835, selling some of them, and charging people to view others. This was a time in America where things like this were happening constantly, whether it was with ancient Egyptian artifacts, or pygmies of the deepest parts of Africa, Americans loved them some other world culture to look at. Chandler made a pretty good living on the road with these artifacts, but his biggest score was awaiting him in Kirtland, Ohio. While Chandler was charging 25 cents for adults to view the artifacts, and a shilling for children, he would soon be given $2400 for the purchase of all the remaining artifacts in his possession -- thats about $62,000 today.
This is a newspaper clipping from the U.S. Gazette, April 3, 1833 in Philadelphia, and I took this from the Rise of Mormonism by H. Michael Marquardt pp 387
"The largest collection of EGYPTIAN MUMMIES ever exhibited in this city, is now to be seen at the Masonic Hall in the [sic; on] Ches[t]nut Street above Seventh. They were found in the vicinity of Thebes, by the celebrated traveler Antonio Lebolo and Chevalier Drovetti, General Council of France in Egypt. Some writings on Papirus with the Mummies, can also be seen, and will afford, no doubt, much satisfaction to Amateurs of Antiquities."
People everywhere were talking about Chandler and his ancient artifacts. Chandler sold a few of the mummies to schools to be dissected, as well as to some other collectors, but on July 3rd, 1835, he found his way to Kirtland. There was a report very soon before July 1835 in the Painesville Telegraph, talking about Chandler, and remember, Painesville is a mere day's walk from Kirtland, so Chandler may have been tipped off about Joseph Smith, and his amazing deciphering abilities while in Painesville, or even the Cleveland area.
This is taken from the History of the Church vols 2 pp 235
"On the 3rd of July, Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland to exhibit some Egyptian mummies. There were four human figures, together with some two or more rolls of papyrus covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices. As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate them, he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation, and like a gentleman, he gave me the following certificate:
Kirtland, July 6, 1835
This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and, from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I find that of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., to correspond in the most minute matter.
Michael H. Chandler
Traveling with, and proprietor of, Egyptian mummies.
Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with WW. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,-- a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth."
And that is all that merits mention in the History of the Church concerning this amazing acquisition. Two pages later it mentions that Joe was busy with compiling an alphabet from the book of Abraham as practiced by the ancients, but that's basically all the mention that this gets from the History of the Church during this time. Luckily, H. Michael Marquardt does a much better job of covering the events surrounding these artifacts in "The Rise of Mormonism". I'll need to do a CC episode on the Book of Abraham in the future, because there is so much more that I won't take the time to talk about right now, because it would interfere with the actual progression of the timeline, but suffice it to say, this is some really insane shit! Chandler had a little placard with him describing the mummies saying, "may have lived in the days of Jacob, Moses, or David" and that figures and hieroglyphic character upon papyrus "will be exhibited with the Mummies." which was taken directly from a "Times and Seasons" article titled "Egyptian Antiquities".
When Chandler and Joe met, Joe was completely enraptured by the Papyri. He wasn't so much amused by the actual mummies, but the ancient Papyri from 2-3000 years ago with Egyptian writing completely mezmerized Joe. I just try to picture his face when he first touched the Papyrus and saw the ancient writing. I mean, I have a couple of books from the mid 1800's, and they are pretty fuckin amazing. The feel of the old paper against my fingertips, and the smell of the old book bindings can keep my gazed locked onto the pages of the book for hours without reading a single word. There's just something indescribable about old books that just enchants me, and leaves me in awe of what's in my hand. Of course, I've never held a book that's more that 300 years old, and every one of those old books I've held have been in english, so they're perfectly understandable by my feeble mind. I just love old books so much, and I think Joe did too. Now just consider my fascination with the old english books that I've held, and magnify it by some incomprehensible infinite number, and that might be close to what Joe felt when he first held this Papyri in his hands.
He must have been awestruck, dumfounded, and enamored to the mystical ancient allure that must have seeped from the pages of ancient writing in his hands. I only imagine he must have held them in his hands with his closest friends and colleagues surrounding him, with Chandler standing directly in front of Joe, waiting to hear Joe's reaction to the artifacts. Joe must have gone silent for quite some time as the gravity of the situation gripped his consciousness and took his mind to places it had never before traversed. The neurons in his prefrontal cortex must have been exploding into infinitude, igniting the visual cortex and spreading throughout all parts of Joe's brain that control vision and imagination, enchanting him into a spell of complete silence as everybody stared at the 29 year old prophet's elation.
The Rise of Mormonism enlightens us as to what must have been going through Joseph's mind when this happened, starting on page 389.
"Joseph Smith had more interest in the papyri than in the four Egyptian mummies. Smith took the records and went to his translating room in his home. It was reported by William W. Phelps, a clerk and scribe for Joseph, that Smith considered one record to be of Joseph of Egypt and another roll as that of his great grandfather Abraham who lived for a time in Egypt. It was revelated that these papyri were related to the biblical Joseph and Abraham. Smith showed considerable interest in obtaining these ancient writings in order to work out a translation."
And that was the point, Joe was so amazed by these papyri that Chandler had presented, that he employed any means necessary to obtain them. Thus, the mummies and Papyri were purchased for $2400 and Michael Chandler gave Joe the certificate we read earlier, and left Kirtland with a smile on his face.
Like I said earlier, I'll have to do a CC episode on the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Papyri, because I could spend this entire episode talking about all of it, but that would freeze up our timeline, and we need to advance further into 1835.
To move us forward, we need to remember to the end of last historical episode. We discussed the new school of the prophets that Ollie Cowdung and Hingepin Rigdon had started. They were teaching some basic literacy, arithmetic, and geography, along with some other studies. William E. McLellin, or as we call him, Professor Bill, gave a shining review of how great the school is, and how priveleged a person would be to attend such a fine institution. Well, On August 4th, a mere 6 months after such a fantastic endorsement, Orson Hyde, and Professor Bill had their fellowship to the church withdrawn because of their criticisms of the school. Now, I'm not sure what would facilitate such a 180 degree shift, but it was apparently serious enough to merit disfellowship for.
Nearly two months later, on September 26, both Hyde and Professor Bill were forgiven for their criticisms, and refellowshipped into the church. I guess they must have worked everything out, but who knows what went on behind the scenes during this time, but similar to every other problem, Joe must have worked his magic and fixed the issue.
Moving on, something very important to the church scripture happened on August 17 1835. We know that the Book of Commandments had been printed in very limited numbers by WW Phelps in Independence before the printing press was destroyed by the Missouri mob, but it had been out of print for two years since that had happened in 1833. On August 17th, 1835, Ollie Cowdung brought the new and improved version of the Book of Commandments to a meeting of some of the quorum of the 12 apostles, and presented it for all to discuss and vote on. This was a huge step forward that Joe had been counting on for quite some time now, and Ollie finally delivered.
I've talked about this before, but just a quick refresher course for anybody not aware of the difference between 1833 The Book of Commandments, and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants that Ollie presented in August of 1835 that we're talking about. The 1833 Book of Commandments was a compilation of Joe's revelations up to late 1832. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants had the addition of a bunch of new revelations, as well as the Lectures on Faith. The Lectures on Faith were taught in the school of the Elders in 1833, which constitute the Doctrine part of the Doctrine and Covenants, while the revelations were the Covenants part of the Doctrine and Covenants. Thus we have the name of the book that Ollie presented to the leadership in August of 1835, and then eventually to the entire congregation, that was later voted on and added as scriptural canon as the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter-day Saints.
This is taken from the History of the Church Vols. 2 pp 244
"Afternoon: A hymn was sung, when President Rigdon arose and rebuked some of the authorities for not being in their seats at the time appointed.
President Cowdery arose and introduced the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter-day Saints," in behalf of the committee. He was followed by President Rigdon, who explained the manner by which they intended to obtain the voice of the assembly for or against said book.
According to said arrangement, W.W. Phelps bore record that the book presented to the assembly was true. President John Whitmer, also, rose and testified that it was true.
Elder John Smith, taking the lead of the High Council in Kirtland, bore record that the revelations in said book were true, and that the lectures were judiciously arranged and compiled, and were profitable for doctrine. Whereupon, the High Council of Kirtland accepted and acknowledged them as the doctrine and covenants of their faith by a unanimous vote. . .
. . .
TESTIMONY OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES TO THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK OF DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS
"The testimony of the Witnesses to the Book of the Lord's Commandments, which commandments He gave to His church through Joseph Smith, Jun., who was appointed by the voice of the Church, for this purpose.
"We therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these Commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing this testimony unto the world, in the which we rejoice exceedingly, praying the Lord always that the children of men may be profited thereby.
Thomas B. Marsh
David W. Patten
Heber C. Kimball
Wm E. M'Lellin
Parley P. Pratt
Luke S. Johnson
John F. Boynton
Lyman E. Johnson"
Let me just take a second to talk/rant about this for a second. If you've listened to My Book of Mormon podcast while David and I have been reading through the Doctrine and Covenants, we've discussed this many times, and I probably won't offer any information here that you haven't already heard during our discussion on that show. But, for anybody that hasn't listened to that show, or doesn't know the point that I'm about to make, strap in, because this shit pisses me off.
What we just read was from the council minutes of the August 1835 meeting where they voted on adopting the Doctrine and Covenants as official church canon. That's scripture MUTHERFUCKER! A few pages later in the History of the Church, it even gives us the preface of the D&C, wherein it says something along the lines of, "Some may not like that these revelations are compiled into one location, but just because these things are printed, doesn't make them false, and just because some things are not printed, doesn't make them false either." This is holy religious canon we're talking about here and it was revealed through Joseph Smith, the so-called prophet of the restoration. God supposedly spoke these things directly into Joe's brain, and Joe barked them to a scribe that wrote them down immediately afterwards. The revelations that were given in the original Book of Commandments, and D&C, are wisdom passed down to us, by God, through his one true prophet.
I cannot stress this point enough, these revelations in their original form were revelations from the ALMIGHTY GOD of the Mormon universe! That's the key point I'm getting at, in their ORIGINAL FORM! On last week's episode, during the listener mail segment, I read an email from a guy named Joel who has done an emmense amount of work in compiling a website that has multiple different version of the D&C, all the way from the 1833 BoC, to the 2013 D&C as hosted on LDS.org. The point of the website, which will be linked in the show notes, and I highly recommend you check out, is to point out the differences in the various versions of these books. He has the entirety of each book in a side-by-side comparison with each difference highlighted, and a little drink symbol next to every single "verily, behold, it came to pass, and yea". It's truly an amazing feat of textual criticism, and I can't wait to use the website for the future of the MyBoM podcast.
The point I'm trying to get at, is the thousands and thousands of differences in the versions of the books. Starting with the very first page of the Book of Commandments, there are major differences between it and the 2013 version of the D&C, they even change the order the revelations are given in.
Now I refer you back to what we just read from the History of the Church. "We therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these Commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true."
Not only that, but before reading that statement from the quorum of the twelve, signed by each individual member of the quorum, there were multiple testimonies from people declaring that these revelations and doctrine contained in the D&C are true in their current form, and handed down to them by revelation from God, IN THEIR CURRENT FORM!!! It said nothing about, these are revelations given by God and they are almost correct but will need major reform in the coming centuries to be 100% correct. None of those testimonies say that it's true except for all the Oxford commas that are missing only to be added later. None of them said that the revelations are correct, but we're going to add a whole bunch of stuff later to make them even more correcter. Not a single testimony given by any of these members leave any wiggle room for the revelations being changed, yet I have no problem in declaring that there isn't a single page from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants that is EXACTLY the same as today's D&C.
Show me one page that hasn't been edited a single time and I'll retract that statement. Show me a single page where every single comma, verse break, italicized word, and section heading are preserved in their perfect form from 1835 to today, and I'll retract that statement, but I assert you would be VERY hard pressed to find one, and I doubt that a single page like that even exists. That's how much these divine revelations from god have been changed from their original form.
Consider the implications of this assertion that I'm claiming as fact. Consider the fact that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and every single member of the quorum of the twelve apostles, AND EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THE CHURCH voted that the 1835 D&C is the perfect word of God in its present form, and try to reconcile these changes. What does this mean?
I don't know.... I don't know what it means.... If somebody is given the words of God, and those words are changed over time, what does that mean? I can only put myself in God's shoes and think about it from that perspective. If I'm God, and I'm communicating to these lowly little homo-sapiens on planet earth from across all time, space, and eternity through some random guy that I called to be my prophet, I'd be pretty fucking pissed if somebody changed my words. These words in the D&C are immutable truths meant to be passed down through generations of believers in me, and they have the fuckin chrome plated balls to edit what I SAID!?!? How dare these little miscreants think themselves wiser than me, and capable of changing the words that came from my mind!? How dare they be so arrogant to alter what the one almighty creator has inspired them to write as divine revelation?! I gave them a burning in their bosom when Ollie stood up on the stand and asked them to testify of the truth of these revelations, and now they want to change what I said!? I went to all the work of raising up Joseph Smith through generations of disgusting little humans, and I was even nice enough to communicate with him in ENGLISH, and they change the words that I put into his BRAIN?!
As if I needed a bigger head, right? Picturing oneself as god is fun, but it also illustrates my point! Joseph Smith, and hundreds of other men throughout the 183 years since the BoC was first produced have made hundreds of thousands of changes to the divine revelations, divinely revealed to Joseph Smith, by the one Divine God of the universe. How can a person claim that the bastardized version of the Book of Covenants that we read today is still religious scripture canonized by the founding fathers of the Mormon religion?! There is no way to square this circle. There is no excuse for these changes! There is no reconciling the different versions of the D&C and still call it divine revelation!
Forgive me if this is a bit redundant of points I've made in the past, but it gets to the bottom of one HUUUUGE issue I have with the church, revisionism. If you claim to have the one truth you should never have to revise it at any point to me more TRUTHY! If we're talking about the history of the one true church, then nothing in the history of the church should ever be changed, and it should lead people to be members of the church, not chase them away from it. Truth doesn't change when it comes from God. Truth isn't something you can fuck with and expect nobody to notice. I can't claim that I'm the mouthpiece of God without speaking some immutable truths that never require changing to always be true. I can't claim that I am a prophet of Almighty God, and then speak a false prophecy! No church can claim to be the one true church, and have changed it's scripture millions of times to read like it does today! Yes MILLIONS OF TIMES! If we count every single misspelling, every comma, every verse break, every single word addition or subtraction from every single piece of Mormon text, spanning from the History of the Church, to the D&C, to the Journal of Discourses, we are talking about MILLIONS of changes to these texts of the ONE TRUE CHURCH!
At some point you have to ask. . . What the fuck does the word "true" mean, right? What does it mean when a Mormon says "The Book of Mormon is the most correct or true of any book on the earth"? If the word truth holds so little meaning that it can be applied to basically anything, then I'm going to apply it to something and stick to my guns, just like the church does. This podcast is the most true and correct Mormon history podcast. This is the one true Mormon history podcast, and all other podcasts about Mormon history are given by false prophets that are persecuting this podcast! If anybody dare dispute me on that point by citing factual inaccuracies that I've said in the past, fuck off, because obviously the words truth and correct don't mean shit anymore! Now I'll have to set up a PR department with unpaid clergy called by unpaid bishops to handle my inbox after that rant! If only I were a religious non-prophet and could afford an unpaid workforce....
Like I said, forgive me if that was harping on an old topic of frustration, but it's a point that can't be harped on enough. The church has to answer for these differences in their books. We have to hold their feet to the fire on being honest with their fellow men. Before I devolve into continuing to rant about this topic, or putting myself in god's shoes again, we should move on to the next thing in the timeline to get off this ol' dead horse.
The next thing in the history is liable to send me off on another rant about church policy, and that happened on September 14th 1835. The church presidency voted to give Big Daddy Cheese Joseph Smith Sr., a living stipend of $10/week, plus fees for giving patriarchal blessings. I assume ex-mos are somewhat baffled at the fact that patriarchal blessings were initially created as an excuse to give Big Daddy Cheese some money, the epitome of priestcrafting, because that's nothing like how they're perceived now.
This is taken from the History of the Church vols. 2 pp 273
"In a meeting of a High Council and the Presidency at Kirtland, it was decided that , as the laborer is worthy of his hire, whenever President Joseph Smith, Sen., is called upon to pronounce Patriarchal blessings upon the Church, he be paid for his services at the rate of ten dollars per week and his expenses."
Ignoring the fact that this is blatant priestcrafting, or paying clergy, which today's Mormon church is VIOLENTLY opposed to now, let me take a second to describe patriarchal blessings to any never-mos listening, because they're a big deal in the church, and I'll be talking about them at the end of the episode. Basically when you're growing up in the church, there are a few milestones to reach. Baptism at 8, mission at 18, marriage at 20, 6 months after returning from your mission, etc. One of these milestones that happens sometime in your teenage years is getting your patriarchal blessing. It's different for everybody, and dependent upon the household you live in, that determines when you're ready to get your patriarchal blessing. It usually involves a meeting with the bishop to determine if you're worthy, and a day or two of fasting before, to get you in the right, spiritual, mindset, and then you go to see the stake patriarch. There's just one patriarch per stake in the church, and once called to that position, he serves as patriarch his entire life, until physically or mentally unable, at which point a new patriarch is called. Once called to the calling of patriarch, the man can't hold any other possible office, he's like a supreme court justice, in it for life.
A patriarchal blessing is basically the Mormon equivalent of a horoscope, only it doesn't need to be quite as accurate. Often times blessings are promised if the person is faithful, such as children, non-specific leadership positions, or even worlds without number after exaltation. The cool thing about these blessings or gifts is they can't ever be disputed. If you read a horoscope in the paper, it may sound kind of like something about you, but the wording may not match up perfectly, so it might not be all that convincing. Well, when it comes to one of these blessings or gifts in the Patriarchal blessing, it could be talking about your current life, your pre-mortal existence, or even your life in heaven after death. So if something seems a little off about your blessing, then it can be said that it only applies to you in the celestial kingdom, or that blessing is regarding something that happened in the pre-mortal existence.
I'll give you an example. In my patriarchal blessing, it says that I'll be given a white stone. It doesn't say when, like when I die, or when I ascend to the celestial kingdom, or future past-tense talking about my pre-mortal life, it doesn't even say if I'll get it when I become prophet of the church, but any of these options are possible. I did a little research into scripture to find out just what the hell that means, and it comes from the book of Revelation 2:17.
"To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it."
New Name? Hidden manna? One who is victorious? WTF Mayte? A quick look in the D&C section 130:11 adds some much needed clarification.
"Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;
And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word."
So, either, I'll get a white stone with a name on it that's my password to heaven, which is just a temple name, which I never got, or I'll become a prophet, and have my own Urim and Thummim just like Ol' Joe to prophecy and treasure hunt with! I thought this was a really cool blessing until I realized that it could just be referring to my temple name that I'll get if I ever take out my endowments in the temple. But hey, maybe I'll become the prophet one day and get a white stone to prophesy from. Or, maybe, when I get to heaven, I'll be handed a stone with my temple name engraved on it, that only I can see by magic powers or something... Who the fuck knows, you see the problem with the Mormon horoscopes?! There's no way to test them. The wording is so ambiguous and it can apply to any point in eternity so they don't hold any actual definition. There's no way to prove or disprove it, it's the worst fucking horoscope ever!
These are all things that are talked about after the main point of the blessing is conveyed, and that main point is declaring your lineage. Lineage is important in Mormonism, which is why priesthood holders track their line of authority to Joseph. Well, the main point of the patriarchal blessing is to determine which tribe of Israel you hail from, because apparently everybody in the world is Jewish. Most Americans hail from Ephraim or Manasseh, while people in other countries coincidentally hail from different lineages. I personally come from Ephraim, so I'm totally Jewish apparently. My DNA would argue with that, but DNA doesn't matter to the Mormon church, so I'm from Hebrew descent dammit!
That took a bit to explain, but Patriarchal blessings are an important part of the Mormon experience, and they're worth talking about. The origination for these patriarchal blessings was Joe's patriarch, Big Daddy Cheese, needing a living stipend, so Joe gave him a job in the church that he could get paid for. The impetus behind every member getting their patriarchal blessing today, originated with a way for Big Daddy Cheese to embezzle money from the church in 1835, priestcrafting since the beginning.
I can't ignore some of the negative implications of a patriarchal blessing though. It is often said in patriarchal blessings that the person will have a child, or children, and sometimes couples in the church will compare blessings to see if they match up. If one of their blessings says they will have many children, and the other's blessing says they will have no children, or one child, those people may see that as a sign that they aren't compatible in god's eyes, and break up because of it, regardless of how compatible they really are. These blessings have been responsible for ripping apart many many couple throughout the history of the church. Beyond that, they can be used as a chastizement tool.
I remember speaking with my good friend Tim, and he told me all about his Patriarcal blessing experience. Tim was a convert to the church in his mid 30's, if I remember correctly. Now, I'm recounting this story from memory, so sorry Tim if I mess up some of the details. But the point behind the story was, Tim was getting his blessing soon after converting to the church. He was quite educated, holding multiple degrees, having spent many years in higher education. Unfortunately for him, when he went to get his blessing, the patriarch must not have liked him, because he had long hair, and he kinda looked like a ruffian. Apparently the patriarch kept harping on the need for an education, and getting a solid career during the blessing, which kinda set off Tim's bullshit radar, because Tim was probably more educated than the patriarch. Tim's Mormon horoscope didn't match up very well.
Tim was in his 30's so he was already partially innoculated to the bullshit, but picture a patriarch giving that blessing to a teenage girl. Maybe this patriarch has seen her wear a shirt with REEEAALLY short sleeves in church, and he thinks she might be acting or looking a little slutty or something like that. Imagine how that could color what he says in the blessing to this impressionable and self-conscious 15 year old girl. Think of what might go through her mind if she sincerely believes that the blessing is coming straight from God through that patriarch, and God is chastizing her for wearing a skirt that's too high on the knee, or sleeves that are too short.
My point is, horoscopes are nearly harmless. But when a person thinks a horoscope has power over them, they tend to alter their behavior slightly. But, if that horoscope is given to them by a man speaking for God, and it has eternal implications, that nearly harmless horoscope can turn into a legitimate psychologically damaging experience in a teenager's impressionable life. I didn't much care for mine, I thought it was mostly bullshit as soon as I left, but the vast majority of members in the church hold their blessing up as something special, and sacred, and not to be shared with anybody but your closest relatives, and maybe your spouse. That's how much power these fucking things have over members, and it's no small thing to trifle with. It's like a temple name, there are ex-mos today who won't share their temple name with anybody because it's so holy and taboo, and a patriarchal blessing is just like that.
I just find it laughable that something that holds so much reverence now, was only created so that Big Daddy Cheese could make a little money on the side. The irony of non-paid clergy being violated at this high of a level, this early on in the church, is so damn tasty. I love it!
The next prominent thing that happened nearing the end of 1835 was another first vision account. We talked about the 1834 first vision account in the last episode, but this is another one taken from the journal of Joseph Smith. It's pretty hard to dispute the accuracy of this account. It's much shorter than the last one we read, so I'm going to read it and briefly discuss some of the differences between it and today's version in the JSH, that the church claims to be truth... there's that word again... truth.... only this time the truth regards a visitation from God and Jesus in person.
"being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and I considered it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequ[e]nces; being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bow[e]d down before the Lord … I called upon the Lord for the first time, in the place above stated or in other words I made a fruitless attempt to p[r]ay … I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon me, and filled me with Joy unspeakable, a personage appeard in the midst of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeared like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testified unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision> I was about 14 years old when I received this first communication; When I was about 17 years old I saw another vision of angels in the night season after I had retired to bed …"
Alright, the first thing we notice that differs from today's JSH version is Joe calling it the silent grove, whereas it's called the sacred grove today. Also, Joe just prayed to God respecting the subject of religion, to know who was right or who was wrong, and immediately during his praying, a pillar of fire appears to Joe. It says nothing of the struggle within Joe, or fighting with the adversary, or his tongue being siezed by a demonic spirit, he's just praying, and then BOOM, a pillar of fire. Then we see one personage appearing in the pillar of flame that didn't seem to consume anything, and soon after that, another personage appeared. The first personage was apparently silent because it only refers to the second personage telling Joe his sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the personage never claimed to be Jesus or God. It also mentions in passing (and I saw many angels in this vision), that were apparently too amazing to describe or merit any amount of literature, but they were totally there, and then Joe concludes the account with saying he was 14 when this happened, and 17 when the other vision occured after he had retired to bed.
The thing that strikes me as so anomalous is the fact that these personages are not named, the first personage never said anything about this is my beloved son, hear him, while pointing to the other personage. And most importantly, the second personage merely told Joe that Jesus is the Son of God, not "I am Jesus, the son of God," which would be expected if it were actually Jesus, right? It neglects to mention that the personages were God and Jesus, which is a pretty important detail, and this account even adds a detail that seems absent in the currently accepted account of Joe seeing many angels in this VISION!!! It calls the whole thing a vision! Which is a huge departure from how it's described in the JSH. In the current version, there are no angels, the personages are described very strongly as God and Jesus incarnate, and it makes absolutely NOOO mention of this being a vision, it's interpretted as a completely real experience. The same evolution occured with the 1823 vision of the angel that was later called Nephi, and then changed to Moroni. It doesn't claim to be a visionary account, but rather a very real experience after hours of praying.
The issue I'm trying to point out here is the evolution of a legend. If what is recounted in the JSH actually happened the way it did, then why didn't the story start out that way? Why did the story change and evolve, and get more epic as the years passed, and finally the one that we use today was published 22 years after the supposed occurence, and only 2 years before Joe's gunfight death? This is exactly what we would expect from somebody telling a story with little to no grounding in reality. If we put Joe on the witness stand and brought these three different version of the first vision account to trial, he would be identified as embellishing the story, or outright lying on the stand. . . But at least he was a prophet of God, so none of these contradictory facts matter, right?
Let's move on to the end of 1835 here. We have an entry from the autobiography of a man named Jonathan Crosby that tells of his first meeting with Joe. It's a really fascinating autobiography, hosted on the BYU early documents database, and I really recommend you check it out, there will be a link for it in the show notes.
The most remarkable thing about the autobiography is how Joe's personality shines through. We can really get a sense for who Joe was, as seen through the eyes of Crosby. The secondary reason I'm reading this is to point out that Joe was taking this time after buying the Papyri and mummies to translate them and create an Egyptian alphabet. Joe also explicitly claims that the Papyri were written in the same language as the Book of Mormon, which is an important detail to point out.
"Soon after our arrival at Brother and Sister Pratt's, I left my wife there with her sister and took our horse and rode to Kirtland to look out a dwelling place. When I arrived in town it was nearly dark. I put up my horse at the tavern, which was kept by a Brother Johnson, father of Luke and Lyman Johnson. Then I determined to go and see the prophet of God first of all, as it was my strongest desire. I was told where he lived, and went there, rapped on the door, and the prophet himself opened it, and bid me come in and be seated. He then asked me a few questions concerning my nativity, and of my coming into the Church, and made me welcome.
He had the company of several persons that evening beside myself. There were his brother Hyrum, Reynolds Cahoon, Martin Harris, John Carle (the architect of the Temple), George A. Smith, and perhaps others. We had a very pleasant time. He treated his company with cider and pepper?, and had supper served up. I thought he was a queer man for a prophet of God. He did not appear as I expected him to, however I was not stumbled at all. I found him to be a friendly, cheerful agreeable man, I could not help liking him. I stopped overnight, and took breakfast there in the morning. He showed me the records of the mummies and explained them to me. He could read them, they [being] written in language of the Book of Mormon on the plates, and were very interesting.
I paid for the entertaiment, and then walked about town and went to the [Kirtland] temple; it was not finished. This was Christmas Day and I was invited to a feast. Patriarch Smith, the father of the Prophet was there giving blessings, and told me when I got moved there with my wife he would give us blessings. After two or three days spent very agreeably, I returned (having found a chance to live with Brother Parley P. Pratt) to Ripley to Brother Pratt's place, and found my wife had been unwell, had met with a loss, but was then better. So we fixed up, and went on to Kirtland, arrived there on the twelfth day of January, 1836 and went to living with Brother Parley P. Pratt and family. I then worked on the temple to pay for our board, and continued working there till the temple was dedicated. I was only a teacher when we arrived in Kirtland, but soon after, they ordained me an elder, and again soon after that I was put into the Second Quorum of Seventies."
This is what I'm referring to with Joe's personality coming through this autobiography. "I thought he was a queer man for a prophet of God. He did not appear as I expected him to, however I was not stumbled at all. I found him to be a friendly, cheerful agreeable man, I could not help liking him." This is the magnetism and charisma that Joe seeped from every pore. People couldn't help but like him, and when he got you alone, he could convice you of just about anything. Put yourself in Jonathan Crosby's shoes here and picture this situation. Follow me down hypothetical road, and let me paint a picture for you.
You're a recent convert to the church, and you're making the journey to Kirtland to be as close to the church as possible, probably fleeing persecution from your friends and family for joining the Mormonites in the first place. You're wife is pregnant, so you leave her and her sister at the home of the Pratt's in Ripley, almost 300 miles from Kirtland, so you can go scout out a place to live in the heart of Mormon HQ. The first thing you do upon arrival to Kirtland is meet this much revered prophet, and see if he's everything the rumors painted him to be. It's late December in Ohio, and the bitter cold is matched in uncomfort only by the non-stop wind that chills you to your very core.
After days of travel on horseback, you arrive to Kirtland in the late evening and ask a local where you can find the house of the prophet, for it is your motivation to meet such a man, and the local points to the biggest house in Kirtland and says, the great prophet resides there with his wife and young woman servant. You slowly walk your exhausted horse to the local tavern and pay to board it there for the night, saving the majestic beast from the howling wind and biting snow storm that simply refuses to cease. You bundle up as tightly as humanly possible to shield yourself from the onslaught of frozen air, and walk a mile and a half from the tavern to the well lit home of the prophet, with smoke billowing from the chimney.
You pause on the doorstep to think about how much you've sacrificed to become a member of this church, and how strong you are in your faith and convictions. This prophet must be quite an amazing man to convince so many people just like yourself to sacrifice so much to be a member of this one true church. What does he look like? Is he an old man with a long beard and years of wisdom rolling around in his mind? Is he a well educated man, deeply knowledgeable in the finer points of bible doctrine and tenets? Maybe he's a crazy-man? The only way to arrest your anxiety is by knocking on the door and meeting him for yourself.
You rap your frozen knuckles on the frigid wooden door, and the sting of freezing air penetrates the skin of your hand. You regret the fact that there wasn't a door knocker you could employ, but the knocking aroused voices on the other end of the door, so the knock was received. You hear 3 possibly 4 voices conversing on the other side of the door, and after a brief pause, a 30 year old man with an evening suit and turned up lapels answers the door.
You say, I'm looking for the prophet, Jo Smith, am I at the correct residence?
The man who answered the door says, "I am the prophet, to whom do I owe
"My name is Jonathan Crosby, I've travelled many miles in the winter snow to meet you"
"Oh please, do come in, rest your weary feet traveller."
Joe is nothing like you expected, but he's soft, and hospitable, and most of all, he won't stop looking at you with his big beautiful blue eyes. His gaze is almost mesmerizing, and his conversation locks you in, and drowns out the rest of the world. There could be 7 other people in the room, or 50 other people, but when the prophet speaks to you, nothing else in the world exists.
Joe asks about your family, and you tell him of your pregnant wife and her sister that are staying with brother Parley Pratt in Ripley. You relate the struggles necessary to get to Kirtland, and Joe asks you to share your testimony with the 7 other church leaders seated in the room.
After an evening of conversation and relaxing, the other elders in the room leave, and you are left alone with the prophet and his wife, and young Fanny, the house servant, and you and Joe stay up for hours talking about religion, politics, ancient antiquities, and everything in the world that interests you both, solidifying this deep interpersonal connection that you've been seeking with a holy prophet of God for so long.
The next morning, Fanny and Emma make up a huge breakfast of ham, bacon, toast, sausage, and milk for you and the prophet to eat, and you pick up conversation just like you're old friends. After breakfast when you and Joe are sipping on coffee, he tells you about some artifacts that he's recently acquired, and shows you some Egyptian Papyri and mummies the church just bought. He tells you all about the language written on the papyri, and says that it's the same that was on the golden plates, and he's working on translating the characters. He also says that he normally charges $.25 to show these to people, but won't worry about it this time because he likes you. You insist on paying fair price for the entertainment, and give him the $.25, and say you must get back to your wife at brother Pratt's house. It's been a pleasure to have such a good evening with such a hostpitable and personal man such as the prophet, and you look forward to living in Kirtland nearby this energetic and charismatic holy leader. After a brief god be with you, you take your leave on Christmas day to mingle with the rest of the wonderful people in Kirtland.
Given such a hypothetical based off this autobiography, how could you not like Joe?! He had the power to connect on such a personal level with people, and strip away any previous misconceptions. Even Jonathan here said that he thought Joe was a queer man for a prophet of God, but Joe was able to smash right through that bias, and convince Jonathan to be a faithful member of the church. Jonathan was merely a teacher in the priesthood when him and his wife first moved to Kirtland, but soon after that, he quickly rose through the ranks of priest and elder, and was ordained to the Second Quorum of the Seventies. Joe had this amazing talent of dispelling unbelief, and instilling obedience and loyalty to any one person he had a mark on, and we just read a perfect example of this, through the eyes of Jonathan Crosby.
This was only one point in the autobiography that captured the personality of Joe, and there are plenty more examples in there, so I once again recommend checking it out, and it will be linked in the show notes. Jonathan Crosby was definitely an interesting chronicler of events.
The next thing that moves us to the absolute finish of 1835 and launches us into 1836 is another autobiography by a man named Benjamin F. Johnson. This autobiography will be linked in the show notes as well, and it's just as compelling and fascinating as Crosby's that we just read, only it's like 3 times as long. There is just one excerpt from this autobiography of Johnson that I need to read, but the whole thing will be linked in the show notes, so be sure to read it for much further information.
"There were, dear brother, other teachings to that council, of which I am not at full liberty to write, but if I had your ear, I would remember that the Prophet once said to me: "Benjamin, in regard to those things I have taught you privately, that are not yet for the public, I give you the right when you are so led, to commit them to others, for you will not be led wrong in discerning those worthy of your confidence."
And now to your question, "How early did the Prophet Joseph practice polygamy?" I hardly know how wisely to reply, for the truth at times may be better withheld; but as what I am writing is to be published only under strict scrutiny of the wisest, I will say, that the revelation [D&C 132] to the Church at Nauvoo, July 21, 1843, on the Eternity of the Marriage Covenant and the Law of Plural Marriage, was not the first revelation of the law received and practiced by the Prophet. In 1835, at Kirtland, I learned from my sister's husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, "that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church." This at the time, did not impress my mind deeply, although there then lived with his family a neighbor's daughter, Fannie [Fanny] Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial for the amiability of her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her. After this, there was some trouble with Jared Carter, and through Brother Sherman I learned that "as he had built himself a new house, he now wanted another wife", which Joseph would not permit.
And then there was some trouble with Oliver Cowdery, and whisper said it was relating to a girl then living in his family; and I was afterwards told by Warren Parish, that he himself and Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fannie [Fanny] Alger as a wife, for they were spied upon and found together. And I can now see that as at Nauvoo, so at Kirtland, that the suspicion or knowledge of the Prophet's plural relation was one of the causes of apostasy and disruption at Kirtland although at the time there was little said publicly on the subject.
Soon after the Prophet's flight in winter of 1837 and 1838, the Alger family left for the West and stopping in Indiana for a time Fannie [Fanny] soon married to one of the citizens there, and although she never left the state, she did not turn from the Church nor from her friendship with the Prophet while she lived."
Alright, so what just happened there? First off, in response to a question about polygamy and when it was first practiced, Johnson relayed what he heard from a man named Lyman R. Sherman about the first revelation of polygamy being practiced. This coincides with the WW Phelps recounting of Joe telling the men in the early 1830's to take the Lamanite women as wives, in the same way as Moses, Solomon, and other biblical prophets. When Sherman quoted Joe in saying " that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.," that was the very first revelation of polygamy in all church history. There is some fleeting evidence that Joe was getting busy with other women as early as 1827, but this constitutes some of the earliest hard evidence of polygamy being practiced.
We are now officially talking about the first real sex scandal in the early church between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger. Don't forget that Lyman R. Sherman guy, because he's important once 1837 rolls around regarding the printing press in Kirtland, but for now, let's dig in to Fanny Alger. This topic will close up 1835, and launch us into 1836, because that is when this sex scandal first became an issue, and people became aware of the... ahem... extra-marital relations between Joe and Fanny.
Let's take a step back and catch Fanny Alger up in our storyline to see where she came from. She was born on September 20, 1816 in Massachusetts to Samuel Alger and Clarissa Hancock, the fourth of ten children. In 1830, the Algers converted, and were baptized, being some of the earliest members to join in Ohio. Around 1832, the Smiths took Fanny in to teach her home-making and get her help around the Kirtland Store, in which the Smiths were living until 1834. Once 1834 rolled around, that's when Joe and Emma moved to their own home, and Fanny came to live with them there. Some scholars will assert that the relationship between Joe and Fanny began as early as 1832, when Fanny first began living with the Smith's but that would be hard to prove, given the reactions of people, especially Emma, when this information came to light in 1836.
This affair may have been going on for 4 years before 1836, but there is simply no way of proving that it did, and the vast majority of Mormon historians believe it to have started sometime in late 1835, and been discovered by Emma in 1836. I should point out, I'm taking most of this information about Fanny from JosephSmithsPolygamy.org, a website run by Dr. Brian Hales, a fantastic Mormon historian (sort of) who is also an anesthesiologist, and shitty Mormon apologist. He was the guy who wrote the two volume bookset on Joseph's Polygamy, released in 2013 and 2015, and he is really an impressive historian. Nothing of what I'm reporting here can be construed as anti-Mormon propaganda, but should be discussed in the realm of real historianship. There will be a link to his article about Fanny Alger in the show notes, and I must say that I agree with 95% of the information and conclusions Hales comes to regarding the filthy affair.
First off, let's talk about how people came to know about the Fanny affair. It was in spring of 1836 that Emma first found out about Fanny and Joe having extra-marital relations. Various people, including Eliza R. Snow found it to be peculiar when Emma turned Fanny out of the house. We don't know the actual situation, whether that meant literally kicking her out of the house, or finding out and telling Fanny to pack up her shit and be out by the end of the day. Regardless, people knew that Fanny and Emma were very close, and suddenly something happened that made Emma hate Fanny, and caused the Algers to leave Kirtland in the summer of 1836. This was the most remarkable turn around in Emma's attitude towards a fellow woman in the house that anybody had ever seen, which must have spawned a fair amount of suspicion. Keep in mind, this all went down in 1836, 7 years before the revelation on polygamy became an actual thing.
A man named Don Bradly in 1887 attempted to construct a list of Joe's polygamist wives. During his time of research, he interviewed two of Joe's surviving wives, Malissa Lott and Eliza R. Snow. Eliza Snow was a very important wife to Joe, and she is the woman that carries the story of being kicked down the stairs by Emma in her history. Most historians think that this didn't actually happen, but that the stairs story was merely a rumor that gained traction. Regardless, Eliza Snow is somebody that we'll talk about in the timeline very soon.
Anyway, Bradley interviewed Snow about Joe's wives, and he wrote this while speaking with her.
Joseph Smiths wife
one of the first wives Joseph married, (Emma made such a fuss about<strikethrough>)
Sister \E R./ Snow was well acquainted with her \as she/ (and<strikethrough>) lived with the Prophet at the time She afterwards married in Indiana where she became the Mother of a large family
A brother Alger lives in St. Georg
Write to Pres. McAllister"
Those were just quick conversation notes like any reporter does without recording equipment. But this was a monumental meeting between Bradley and Snow. While Bradley was interviewing Snow, he showed her a list of Joe's wives that he knew about which had 13 names on it, many of which were dead by this time. When Bradley showed the list to Eliza Snow, she took the list from him and added 13 more names in her own handwriting that Bradley was unaware of. We have this document and we can see the list in both person's handwriting. This is all included on Brian Hales' JosephSmithPolygamy.org article about Fanny Alger, and I encourage you to follow the link in the show notes to see a photocopy of this document for yourself. This must have blown Bradley's mind to see his list of names double in size with one interview, and this is one primary source many historians use to substantiate the wives of Joseph Smith.
To keep digging in the vein of Fanny, there was another account from Ann Eliza Webb Young that enlightens us a little bit more on the polar shift that Emma made, when she found out about Joe and Fanny.
"Mrs. Smith had an adopted daughter, a very pretty, pleasing young girl, about seventeen years old. She was extremely fond of her; no own mother could be more devoted, and their affection for each other was a constant object of remark, so absorbing and genuine did it seem. Consequently it was with a shocked surprise that the people heard that sister Emma had turned Fanny out of the house.
This sudden movement was incomprehensible, since Emma was known to be a just woman, not given to freaks or caprices, and it was felt that she certainly must have had some very good reason for her action. By degrees it became whispered about that Joseph’s love for his adopted daughter was by no means a paternal affection, and his wife, discovering the fact, at once took measures to place the girl beyond his reach.
Angered at finding the two persons whom she loved most playing such a treacherous part towards her, she by no means spared her reproaches, and, finally, the storm became so furious, that Joseph was obliged to send, at midnight, for Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, to come and endeavor to settle matters between them."
This was reported by Professor Bill E. McLellin, regarding Emma's discovering the incident.
"Emma discovered the sexual affair between Smith and Fanny and exploded in anger. Caught with his hand in Fanny's cookie jar, Smith confessed. A noticeably pregnant Fanny eventually was kicked out of the house by Emma, as reported thusly:
“Former Mormon apostle William McLellin later wrote that Emma Smith substantiated the Smith-Alger affair. According to McLellin, Emma was searching for her husband and Alger one evening when through a crack in the barn door she saw 'him and Fanny in the barn together alone' on the hay mow. McLellin, in a letter to one of Smith's sons, added that the ensuing confrontation between Emma and her husband grew so heated that Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery had to mediate the situation."
Van Wagoner, "Mormon Polygamy: A History" pp. 8
Emma quite literally caught Joe with his pants down, and she reacted expectedly. Ironically, or expectedly when it came to Joe, right after this, Eliza R. Snow, another of Emma's good friends, moved in to the Smith household and taught Joe and Emma's children in the back portion of the house. Eliza and Joe would start fucking soon after that, and that's when the story comes along of Emma kicking a pregnant Eliza down the stairs causing a miscarriage. This is all tightly intertwined, and we'll talk about Eliza soon, like I said, but let's finish up with Fanny Alger, and discuss the backlash from it.
Only months after this affair became public, the Alger family decided to move, which probably had something to do with Emma. Joe tried to convince the 19 year old Fanny to go with her uncle to settle in Nauvoo, probably because he would be there soon, and there they could reunite. The decision was made, and Fanny, instead, accompanied her parents to Indiana, where she met and married her husband, Solomon Custer, 2 months later in November of 1836.
The backlash from this is important to talk about. Not only did these rumors spread like wildfire, and cause a lot of people to question Joe, but this affair was one of the biggest sticking points on Defection Day in 1838, when a significant number of church leaders left the church. Most of them cited the prophet's affair with Fanny Alger as one of the evidences that the keys to the kingdom had been lost, and Joe was no longer a true prophet of God. This affair, coupled with the fact that the Kirtland Anti-Bank-ing society was amidst a major collapse, thus taking the entire Mormon economy with it, and it's easy to see that these people left the church for good reasons.
One of the most prominent people to leave on Defection Day was our best buddy Ollie Cowdung. He must have been really pissed at Joe and his dickhappy shenanigans, and this eventually caused him to leave. Of course, we'll get to that when the timeline gets to 1838, but I do need to bring this up to help explain the excerpt I'm about to read.
On January 21, 1838, Ollie wrote a letter to his brother Warren A. Cowdery. This letter was in reply to an earlier letter that Warren had written to Ollie asking about his position in the church, and their position with respect to each other. In Ollie's letter reply, he clarifies his thoughts on a few things including the whole Fanny thing. This is taken from a different page on JosephSmithPolygamy.org with a photocopy of the handwritten letter, and it will be linked in the show notes.
"I never confessed intimated or admitted/ that I ever willfully lied about him [Joseph Smith]. When he was here we had some conversation in which in every instance, I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape[“affair” is overwritten in Warren F. Cowdery’s handwriting] of his and Fanny Algers was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself."
I have to talk on that scrape/affair change really quick. Hales claims that "scrape" was written over in Warren Cowdery's handwriting, but most other scholarship sources I found, credit Ollie with changing his own word from scrape to affair. I'm not qualified to speculate on that, because I don't know their handwriting, nor am I an Ollie Cowdung handwriting expert, but it is worth pointing out that Brian Hales seems to be in the minority of scholars that think the change was made by Warren Cowdery as opposed to Ollie Cowdery. For clarification, Hales asserts that Cowdery never called it an affair, because that is conduct unbecoming of the prophet, but rather, it was just a scrape. I think Hales is barking up the wrong tree here, because in a later 1838 letter, Ollie clarifies his position again and refers to the whole thing as the "adultery scrape". Whoever did change the word from scrape to affair, I don't think it really matters, this was an extra-marital affair. Joe was porkin Fanny, and Emma, Ollie, and Rigdon were pissed about it.
Back to Ollie, regardless of the specific wording, the implications of this letter being sent were damning to Ollie. This terminology of "A dirty, nasty, filthy affair," was used as almost a final nail in the coffin for Ollie's membership. I can't divulge too much information on that yet, because I haven't quite arrived there in my own research, and I don't want to misspeak. When we talk about Defection Day, we'll go over some of the details I'm eluding to right now with Ollie.
The main point to keep in mind, is the fact that any reaction from anybody we have documentary evidence of, is nothing even remotely close to how Emma must have reacted in person. She was fucking FURIOUS with Joe! This nearly caused a split in their marriage, which would have created a huge obstacle for the prophet to overcome. Arguably, if the rumor spread that Joe was porkin one of the housemaids, and Emma moved out and got a divorce, Joe would have had to work some mad, PR magician shit to get himself out of this bucket of syrup! I'm not saying that it couldn't be done, but I am saying it would have been his greatest challenge yet. If he wasn't able to spin it into some kind of persecution from Emma, or something like that, it could have started the collapse of Joseph and the church, or at very least been a huge obstacle for the church to stumble over.
The thing I find most remarkable about this situation, is how Joe and Emma's relationship changed as soon as this incident occurred. Emma had a decision to make when she caught Joe and Fanny in the barn; she could either forgive Joe, and passive-aggressively punish him in her evil womanly ways, or she could call it quits and move on, leaving Joe in her powerful womanly wake.
Let's look at this honestly, people have affairs all the time. Whether it's with a co-worker, neighbor, an in-law, or a good friend from before the relationship was a thing, affairs just happen. They are a construct of us forcing ourselves into monogamy when it isn't always in our own best interest or our DNA. People want to sleep with people other than their significant other. This can be manifest by an actual affair, or by simply remarking what a nice body that guy has, or how hot some girl is. Humans just wanna have fuckin fun, in every sense of the phrase. The problem arises when we consider the source in this situation. I'm well aware that men and women cheat all the time, but when a person, like Joseph Smith, is upheld in the community as a chaste and moral leader, and does this shit behind closed doors, we're talking about a completely different situation riddled with hypocrisy.
Have you ever watched a cop run a stop sign? Everybody's seen a cop car blow through an intersection with their lights on, but I'm just talking about a cop car driving around town that doesn't make a complete stop at a stop sign, and goes on to pull somebody over and ticket them for doing the same? Doesn't that just make you mad? These people are in the public service job they have, because we can trust them to be held to a higher standard than the average citizen. Of course, this is idealistic, and I'm sure a lot of listeners would love to bichor over the fact that cops break laws all the time, and corruption is hugely influential in many police departments across the world, and I get that, so this is very idealistic. But, isn't an officer that has their job to enforce the laws we agree on, supposed to be held to at least follow those laws, and if possible to exceed those laws?
This same principle applies to religious leaders, especially self-proclaimed ones like Joe, and the same arguments about corruption are often made against them. If a person has a job of telling people not to fuck anybody other than their husband or wife, he should be held to that same standard, if not a higher one. This is the idea behind celibacy for the clergy that creates so many problems in the catholic church. These men are supposed to be the moral leaders of their communities, and they can't be that with the human desires of sex and carnality, so they must take a vow to never fuck anybody ever. Well, we see where that leads, and now the Catholic church is the center for child-fucking in the world, and they somehow get off scott free. The point I'm getting at is hypocrisy. Often times, the people that preach the most against some temptation or sin, struggle with that temptation more than the vast majority of their parishoners.
When a preacher is the most homophobic, angry, bigotted piece of shit that money can buy, he might be wrestling with feelings of sexual confusion, and projects that confusion in his sermons. It's not uncommon to hear of anti-gay pastors being caught with a gay prostitute, or molesting his parishoners, or something fucked up like that, and we act all surprised about it when it happens, but is it really all that surprising? Listen to the "In the Name of God Podcast" to hear weekly stories just like this from all over the country. Matthew the Apostle does a great job of exposing these atrocities of dramatic irony from these so-called moral leaders, showing that they explicitly are no better than any one of their congregants. But that's not how this is supposed to work.
And that's where my idealist perspective comes in. If you're going to rally against something, or preach something, don't be a dick about it, and definitely don't be a fuckin hypocrite! That's what people hate so much is a liar, or a hypocrite they can't trust. Joe was held up in his community as a moral leader of chastity and piety, yet he turned around and violated the trust of Emma, and many of his parishoners and various underlings. The church nearly collapsed from the propogation of this true rumor of Joe and Fanny.
And that's what's so amazing, Joe had come sooo close to collapsing the church many times before this. . . I mean the majority of the historical shows we've done are focused on nothing but fuck-ups that Joe was so prone to make. I just find it so astounding that the church never did collapse. The church was on a constant knife edge, and Joe threw off the balance so many times, that it's remarkable there was even a knife at all. And I suppose my point is that it didn't have to operate on the edge of a knife. So many things didn't need to hang in the balance like they did, yet Joe just kept fuckin with things to see how far he could push the envelope. Any time the church seemed like it was going along swimmingly, he just had to do something that threw over the chess board and pushed the church even closer to the brink of collapse or schism, it was like a guilty pleasure for Joe.
This affair is a good example, but take something we talked about earlier in the episode, what about the whole thing with Chandler and the Egyptian artifacts? When Chandler came rolling through town, Joe could have looked at the mummies and papyri, given Chandler the $.50 for Emma and Joe to view it, said "that was cool," and gone on his merry way. Of course, some people would have asked him, well you're the prophet, ask god what it says, or something along those lines, and they could have raised a few questions, but Joe could easily answer those questions with some bullshit line like "it isn't expedient in the lord for me to translate this right now," and gotten off the hook scott free. He could have deflected and straw-manned, and deferred "translating" the Papyri forever.
Instead of avoiding translating the Papyri, he couldn't wait to get his hands on them and squirell them away in his study only to bring about the Book of Abraham, and the Facsimilies that would be published in the Pearl of Great Price after his death. Joe couldn't wait to lie to everybody about what was on the Papyri! He couldn't wait to deliver more scripture from his own proprietary reformed Egyptian, no matter what the source was. He could have just gone with the flow, and let Chandler pass through town without having sold the Egyptian artifacts to the church for an exorbitant amount of money. Joe could have looked at the artifacts, and remarked at how amazing these tokens of antiquity were, and called it a day. Instead, he decided to push the church a little bit to one side of that proverbial knife edge to see just how far it could go before toppling over and collapsing.
You have to wonder what his reasoning behind this was. . . I mean, he had to have a reason for doing this, or else Joe was inciting madness without a cause. I've contemplated it for a while, and I think it was just because Joe enjoyed being in the spotlight. As soon as things got a little too boring, he kicked against the pricks to see what would happen. That Alfred line comes to mind when talking about the Joker, "Some men just wanna watch the world burn". I think Joe had this spirit of arsonism buried deep inside, and just wanted to upset the established order. I think Joe took pleasure in fucking with stuff. Of course, these are merely my speculations, but I think they're completely founded in what we've discussed in numerous episodes. Joe like to make one decision against his better judgment, and see how everything played out in the wash.
The term "butterfly effect" comes to mind as I think about this. I've spoken with so many ex-mos now that say, well I had questions about the church, then I looked up the Book of Abraham, and that did it, I knew the church was full of shit, and Joe was lying. In fact, I would wager to say that there is scarcely one single topic that has lead people away from the church more, than the Book of Abraham. It takes a very cursory search to understand that Joe had a page called "The Breathing Permit of Hor," which includes facsimile 1 of the guy standing over the other guy that's laying on the table, and chapter 125 of the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," along with a bunch of other facsimilies. Joseph even translated the characters, and created an alphabet of translated Egyptian hieroglyphs for the decipherment of any other Papyri that may come along.
Thanks to Champollion's work on the Rosetta Stone, as well as some others down the line, we can translate ancient Egyptian, and know these Joseph Smith translations to be laughably false. They're so far from what the actual Papyri say that they can be considered "not even wrong," which is my favorite scientific phrase. That phrase is reserved for something that is so far down on the wrong scale, that it's not even in the same universe as right. Joe didn't even get close enough to being right or wrong, that he could be considered wrong, he was just not even wrong. That's how far from reality Joe's translation of the Book of Abraham and the facsimilies is, he simply fucked up that much, and blatantly and unrepentantly lied about what he claimed to know. This man is supposed to be held to a higher moral standard than the every-day man, but he knowingly lied about so much during his time, so much that we can demonstrably prove all the way back to the Book of Mormon and before, it's just not even funny at how not even wrong Joe was about so many things.
And that's why I bring up the butterfly effect. Joe had a quick decision to make in 1835, he could have let the church continue in it's ways and not made the ridiculous purchase of these Egyptian artifacts, or he could purchase them and claim to know what they said. He chose the latter, and that one decision has cost the church millions of members over the 180 years since he made that fateful decision. The church tries to distance itself from the Book of Abraham today, and it's understandable why. There are plenty of people I know today that probably would still believe in the church if it didn't have the damning skeleton of the Book of Abraham trolling around in it's historical closet. That one bad decision by Joe has cost the church millions of members, and probably billions in tithing revenue. Joe's arsonist decision to buy and translate the Papyri, is a great example of the butterfly effect, where the flap of a butterfly's wings in Australia can equate to a metaphorical hurricane on the other side of the planet.
Buying these Egyptian artifacts was Joe's butterfly effect. If he wouldn't have taken the path he did, many people wouldn't have left the church citing the Book of Abraham as the reason why. I'll leave a link to the MormonThink article that deconstructs the entire Book of Abraham. There's simply too much information there to cover in a single timeline episode, but maybe the information will merit its own CC episode in the future. This article has all the actual translations, on the Papyri, juxtaposed to Joe's translations, and he gets one of the many sort of almost in the ballpark of right, the rest, he completely fucks up. Just check it out for yourself, it'll be the last link in this episode's show notes.
Let's apply this idea of the butterfly effect to Emma here. Like I said, Joe had a bad habit of throwing things off balance with his incessant play-time and socially anomalous shenanigans, but what about Emma. She made a decision in 1836 when she peaked through the cracks between the wood of the Smith barn, discovering Joe and Fanny Alger together. She could have left Joe and the church behind, and began a new chapter in her life, possibly throwing the church and Joe into a tailspin, sentencing it to die in the annals of American history, or she could have decided to forgive him and move on, thus giving Joe carte blanch to keep cheating, and eventually manufacture scriptural justification for polygamy.
If Emma would have cut off the head of this snake at the beginning, and punished Joe for his actions to the point that he stopped or curtailed them, who knows where the church would be today. The revelation on polygamy may never have been fabricated. Joe may have had some other affairs that were kept silent throughout the history of the Church. Defection Day may never have occurred. John C. Bennet would never have been credited with issuing abortions on behalf of Joe's little encounters, and he may have been the next prophet after Joe died, and yes, he was that close to the throne. Brigham Young may never have become the second prophet, and had some 56 wives himself. All of the pain and frustration that the doctrine of polygamy caused in the early days of the church, and continues to cause today, may have been completely averted, if only Emma would have held Joe responsible for his actions.
Instead, she ignored and ignored until she was confronted with irrefutable evidence that an affair was happening, then she would lash out at the women, instead of Joe who was responsible for it all. Her butterfly effect decision caused her and thousands of other women untold pain from living in polygamist relationships against their own will and better judgement. Her lack of action caused little 14 year old Helen Mar Kimball to be basically raped by Joe, and when you read Todd Compton's book "In Sacred Lonliness," you can read Helen Kimball's diary and you really feel the fear and loathing she had for marrying the prophet. . . It's just amazing to think about how much things could be different with one little decision change.
What I'm doing right now, some people like Dan Carlin may call "crying over historical spilt milk," which is essentially wishing that something different would have happened in history so that things didn't go the way they did. It's the same as Bo Burnham singing the lyric that Hitler's father needed to learn to pull-out, because WWII probably wouldn't have happened, nor would the holocaust, and all kinds of other horrible things, and I suppose it could be argued that I'm doing that with the whole Fanny Alger, or Michael Chandler butterfly effect decisions that Emma and Joe made.
But I don't see it that way. While my language may lead someone to believe that I'm crying over historical spilt milk, I'm merely hypotheticalizing the situation. I love being a fan of history, instead of an actual historian, because I feel like I can fantasize about these things without risking any actual credibility, right? These butterfly effect decisions can have rippling effects that last for hundreds, or even thousands of years, and it's fun to think about how things would be different if one little decision were made differently. It's merely posing hypotheticals and playing with the outcomes, a mental exercise at worst, and historical philosophy at best.
Our timeline this episode covered the rest of 1835, and dipped into the very beginning of 1836. I said earlier that we'll discuss one more thing in 1835, and sow it up to launch us into 1836. Well, there is one more significant event that occured in 1835 that I didn't mention. It may seem very insignificant to most, so I would pose the question, who is it event significant to?
At the end of 1833, a man named Abraham Palmer was on a boat on Lake Champlain. He was sitting down reading his bible, when a man came up to him and asked if he understood his bible. Abraham replied, "No," to which the other man began to converse with him for an hour or two. At the end of the conversation, the man stood up and said, "You will hear about me a year from today." The man walked away leaving Abraham Palmer in a state of confusion. After sitting stunned for a while Abraham went back to reading his bible, and had another question for the man. He stood up and began searching the boat. He asked around to everybody he could find, and nobody had seen a man that fit the description Abraham was giving.
One year later to the day, and this is taken from the records of his granddaughter Leslie L. Palmer, so take that for what it's worth, two missionaries showed up to Abraham Palmer's home, and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. He opened the Book up to a random spot that told of the three Nephites that still wander the earth, and he was convinced that the bible man on the boat a year before was one of the three Nephites. This was enough to convince Abraham that the Mormon church was true, and in 1835, Abraham Palmer was baptized and converted into the church, received his patriarchal blessing from Big Daddy Cheese in 1836, and would later be called to the quorum of the Seventies in the first conference ever held in Nauvoo. He would also be the bodyguard for Joseph for nearly 10 years, leading up to Joe's death in mid 1844, I guess he wasn't so good at his job on that particular day.
You may be wondering why I'm bringing up such an individual so late in the show, or why I'm even focusing on this guy, or why he's significant to talk about. Well, let's talk about that, to whom is Abraham Palmer's conversion significant to? I wouldn't talk about somebody in the storyline unless they were important or significant in some way, or else we would spend every episode talking about dozens of random people that converted or were excommunicated during the given timespan.
That's the question, who is Palmer's conversion significant to? There were thousands of members by this point, and he was just another dude that converted, but this conversion is very significant to me, because he's my 3rd great grandfather. His son was William Moroni Palmer, born in Winter Quarters Iowa, whose granddaughter is my currently living grandmother. This is the point in the timeline where my family enters the Mormon church. Abraham Palmer's single butterfly effect decision, has rippled for 180 years, and lead me to grow up in the church, pull away 8 years ago, and start a podcast about the LDS church. I'm not crying over historical spilt milk, I'm coming to grips with the real world implications of small historical decisions, small decisions that have lead us to where we are today. . . I wouldn't be the person I am today, and be doing what I'm doing right now if not for that butterfly effect decision by Abraham Palmer 180 years ago, and that's simply the reality of his decision to convert.
There's no wishing or hoping that it would have been a different outcome, just realization of truth. It makes so much sense to me now. I don't blame these people for making these decisions, I just seek to understand why they made them. Joe made the decision to buy the artifacts from Chandler because he loved to lie to or bamboozle people, and was in his element when people saw him as the ultimate authority on something. Emma didn't kick Joe to the curb when she caught him and Fanny together because she loved Joe, and didn't want to see anything bad happen to him, or hurt him in some way. Abraham Palmer joined the church because he was hungry for answers, and he believed that he was visited by one of the three Nephites while studying his bible. For a very short time, Abraham Palmer even had two wives, so polygamy has a direct effect on my family tree. These decisions made by people we know and can study, have real world implications. There's no separating out the history of the church from the decisions made by the people in that history, and that's something I'm endlessly fascinated by.
When I found out my connection to Mormon history, it was one of the most stunning realizations of my entire life, because that was the hingepin point that lead my family to where it is today. That was the one decision that forever wove the fabric of the Palmer line, and lead that line to intertwine through marriage with the Blankenagel line in the 1940's. I'm not sad, angry, or frustrated by this decision, I'm liberated by the knowledge of it. My mind can reconcile why my family is Mormon. I now have a naturalistic explanation for why my family has believed in the church for so long, and it has nothing to do with how true the church is. It all comes down to this one butterfly effect decision by my 3rd great grandpa, Abraham Palmer. His son, William Moroni Palmer, my 2nd great grandfather would become the first patriarch in Alberta, experience an amazing sight restoring miracle, and would be known as the walking bible, because he knew it so well.
Understanding this event, and appreciating the personal significant of it, gives me a whole new level of understanding about the church, and my family history. I would wager to say that many ex-Mormon listeners right now probably have similar stories in their family history, and I encourage everybody to find that out. A lot of Utah Mormons' family lines tie in with the history that we're talking about right now. Many of you ex-mo's out there probably had a relative join the church by 1836, or will soon after this in our timeline. We have a natural explanation for why our ancestors believed, and why our current families still believe in the church. That's pure liberation for me, and I love it. It shows me that my family doesn't believe in the church because it's immutably and incontrovertably true, rather, it shows that we are all products of our upbringing, and subject to the life decisions of our parents and further ancestors.
I don't want to end this show with an angry rant, I'm in too good of a mood from this personal history to end with some epic final line that points out the absurdity of Mormonism. But what I do want to end with is that final thought, that if we look at our own history, often times, the things that perplex us today, come into focus. We can see why something is the way it is when we dig into our history. There's that tired old line of those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, but Dan Carlin adds an extra piece to that quote. He says, those who think history is the predictor of the future are destined to be wrong, that's not an exact quote of course, but you get the idea. If we understand our history, we can break the chains that shackle us to antiquated beliefs. We can change our future by making informed decisions that take into account our past. But to wrap this together, and apply the second quote I heard from Dan Carlin, if you think that the past success of the church during trying times is any predictor of it's future success, you might just be wrong. . . And that's something we can all look forward to.
Copyright Ground Gnomes LLC subject to fair use. Citation example: "Naked Mormonism Podcast (or NMP), Ep #, original air date 05/27/2016"