When last we left Joe, Ollie, Marty and the various “Holy Ghosts”, Joe had just finished “translating” the Book of Mormon and had gotten it copyrighted. (I guess they didn’t check for plagiarism.)
However, when it comes to having the BoM printed, there’s a slight problem. Printing books costs money and Joe’s previous scams haven’t been too financially successful, so he doesn’t have the loot to do it.
Fortunately. “God” comes to the rescue. Seems Big Daddy has a talk with Joe and tells him that Marty will suffer “GOD’S PUNISHMENT” if he doesn’t pony up the Benjamins to print the book. Doctrine & Covenants Section 19A few quick thoughts on the matter:
- Why is Big Daddy always broke? Hell, he can create gold by farting a certain way. Why does he always want ours? He can’t spend it. Maybe he eats it. Who knows?
- Isn’t it handy to be the only one B.D. chats up? I mean, who’s to say what you say isn’t what he said? A touch more on that later.
- I always thought extortion fell under the “sin” category. However, as we shall learn over the remaining posts, a sin isn’t a sin if Big D or his “prophet” commit it. And, laws aren’t laws unless Big Daddy and Joe approve of them.
(8/1829) Marty gives Joe $3,000 (A little shy of $64,000 in todays moolah.) to cover publishing costs of the BoM. To raise the money, Marty has to mortgage part of his farm, which is repossessed when he can’t pay it off. (So, Marty does what Big D demands, and Big D rewards him by having him lose part of his farm. What an asshole! This isn’t the last time B.D. screws someone for doing what he commands. We’ll run across multiple examples over the ensuing years.)
Before we get to more of the “latter-day” fun stuff, lets take a quick gander at the BoM.
It’s reputed to be the saga of various bands of Israelis that sailed boats (In one case, a submarine) from the Middle East, all the way to South America. It then traces the history of their descendants (aka “First Nations”, “Native Americans” or “Indians”).
Unfortunately, there are more than a few glaring errors in the narrative:
- First of all, it is not backed up by DNA evidence which clearly shows a direct descent from Eastern Asians, not Semitic Asians. FAIL!
- The BoM says that the descendents had chariots. FAIL! The wheel was unknown in the Western Hemisphere.
- The BoM’s 2nd Book of Nephi, which was supposedly written around 590 BCE, uses the word “Bible“. FAIL! There was no “Bible” in 590 BCE. The Pentateuch had barely been written around 621 BCE, but the Bible was still just a gleam in Big Daddy’s eyes.
- Ether 9:31-33 tells the tale of cattle-herding snakes. FAIL!
- The BoM claims horses were used as “beasts of burden”. FAIL! There were no horses in Pre-Columbian America, and hadn’t been since the Pleistocene Era.
- Speaking of non-existent animals, Ether 9:19 says elephants were also used. FAIL! There never were elephants in America. There had been mammoths and mastodons, but they’d been extinct for about 6,000 years.
- The BoM also mentions domestic cattle. FAIL! Not in the new world. (This is getting monotonous.)
- The BoM details fighting with steel swords. FAIL! There were no metal weapons of any kind used in the Western Hemisphere.
- The BoM says dark skin is a “loathsome” curse, because either you or one of your ancestors screwed up. However, righteous living will cause your skin to become white and “delightsome.” FAIL! FAIL! (and one more for good measure) FAIL!
- There are a lot more problems, inaccuracies, inconsistencies and downright lies, but I think you’ve got a handle on the situation.
There has been speculation that Joe “translated” the BoM for other than altruistic reasons. One reason for the speculation might be because he tried to sell the rights to the book, right after it was published. (However, nobody was buying his story.)
Can I get a witness?
(6/28/1829) Joe, Ollie, Marty and David Whitmer retire to the woods. (Them mushrooms ain’t gonna harvest themselves.) While there, they’re visited by another angel and he has the plates with him. I guess Joe had already given them back.
Afterwards, they all sign a statement titled “Testimony of Three Witnesses” (Tot3W) which is conveniently located at the beginning of every BoM.
(7/2/1829) Eight more people: Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joe Sr., Hyrum Smith, & Samuel Smith “witness” the plates. All eight are members of the Smith or Whitmer families. Page is a Whitmer Bro-in-law.
Mary Whitmer claims Moroni shows her the plates as well, but she’s just a woman, so I guess she doesn’t count. Mrs Joe claims she felt the plates through a cloth, although she never exactly saw them. (Seems she didn’t peek in the bean barrel. No Pandora, she.)
Unfortunately, a few problems with all this “witnessing” keep popping up.
For starters, if you’ve read the “Tot3W”, you’ll notice that it seems to insinuate that the plates were seen, but it really doesn’t say how they were seen. (Don’t laugh, this becomes important.) There are an incredible number of “weasel words” in there that allow you to draw whatever conclusion is convenient for your point of view.
And then, there’s the “I can’t seem to keep the story straight” problem.
Let’s start with Marty. You might remember that last post I compared Marty to my favorite bird. (If you’ve ever camped out by a northern alpine lake and listened to the haunting serenade of the loons, you’ll know why I love ’em.)But, actually, I was referring to the other usage of the word. You know, “crazy as a ……”
His belief in earthly visitations of angels and ghosts gives him the reputation of being a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Here’s what some of the people who know him have to say about Marty: “a great man for seeing spooks” (Lorenzo Saunders); “a visionary fanatic” (Jesse Townsend); “overbalanced by marvellousness” (Pomeroy Tucker). Pomeroy Tucker reminiscence, 1858, in Vogel 1996-2003, 3: 71
For instance, during a break in translation transcribing, Marty takes a 2 or 3 mile “walk & talk” with J.C.. Of course, J.C. is in the form of a deer, but “talking with him as familiarly as one man talks with another”. John A. Clark letter, August 31, 1840
Another time Marty has also seen the Devil, whom he describes as “a very sleek haired fellow with four feet, and a head like that of a Jack-ass.” Vogel,EMD 2: 271, note 32.
And, he always seems to know whenever YHWH (Big Daddy) or J.C. stops by to take in a Sunday sermon, even if nobody else can see them.
Then there’s the time when Marty encounters J.C. poised up on a roof beam. Ronald W. Walker, “Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Winter 1986): 34-35. I have absolutely no clue as to what J.C.’s doing on the roof . Maybe he heard the drinks were on the house? (Ooooh sorry. That was a bad one, even for me.)
Ok, I think you probably get the picture. Marty may not be the best choice for a credible witness. But, I guess you go with what you’ve got.
At one point, as the BoM is readied for printing, the typesetter (John Gilbert) asks him “Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” Marty replies “No, I saw them with a spiritual eye!” John H. Gilbert, “Memorandum,” 8 September 1892, in EMD, 2: 54 (I’m not into “magic mushrooms”, so I usually see “with a spiritual eye” after 5 or 6 heavy hits on the bong.)
Later, in 1838 he testifies in court that neither he, nor any of the other “witnesses” ever physically saw the plates. Stephen Burnett to Luke S. Johnson, 15 April 1838, in Joseph Smith’s Letterbook, Early Mormon Documents 2: 290-92 Three of the 12 Mormon Apostles promptly leave the church. (Lotsa juicy detail coming up down the timeline.)
By 1853, he crosses back over to “Saw’em-Touched’em” Land. He tells David Dille that he held the 40-60 lb plates on his knee for “an hour-and-a-half” and handled them “plate after plate” Martin Harris interview with David B. Dille, 15 September 1853
Other than being a few frogs shy of a flap jack, what possible motivation could he have had for this charade?
In the winter of 1828, Marty and his wife visit his sister-in-law, Abigail. This is how Abigail describes one conversation: “… Martin Harris and Lucy Harris, his wife, were at my house. In conversation with the Mormonites, she observed that she wished her husband would quit them, as she believed it all false and a delusion. To which I heard Mr. Harris reply: ‘What if it is a lie; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it!’ I was both an eye and ear witness of what has been above stated, which is now fresh in my memory, and I speak the truth and lie not, God being my witness.” Lucy is on record as confirming the conversation.
Now, if you think I’m picking on Marty, I’m just using him as an example. There are problems and conflicts with all the testimonies.
David Whitmer said he saw the plates “by the eye of faith” (aka Psilocybe liniformans?) Later, David said he found them lying in a field and even later said that they were laying on a table with other gold & brass plates, the Sword of Laban and our old friends, Urim & Thumim. Millennial Star, vol. XL, pp. 771-772
Joe publicly charged Ollie with lying, perjury and counterfeiting, among other crimes. Senate Document 189, Feb. 15, 1841, pp. 6-9 (And, of course, lots more on this coming up down the line.) However, everyone is supposed to believe him when he agrees with Joe?
Let me finish up on the “witnesses” with this little factoid: By 1847, all 11 “witnesses” leave the church. Not 1, not 3, but every last mother-humpin’ one of them. (Kinda tells you something right there!) Some come back later to enjoy their celebrity status or for some other non-altruistic reason, and some don’t.
Hi ho, hi ho, It’s off to church we go!
(3/26/1830) Joe publishes “The Book of Mormon.”
(4/6/1830) Eleven days later, starting with 30
suckers, I mean saints, Joe incorporates the “Church of Christ” in Fayette NY, or was it Manchester, NY? (Inquiring minds want to know.)
Nit picking time (Hey, they’re the church’s nits, not mine!) Part of the incorporation location confusion comes from the church claims prior to 1834 that it is in the Smith home in Manchester, (actually, the house is just north of the Palmyra town border) and then, after ’34, the official church version changes to the Peter Whitmer house in Fayette.
Complicating it even more is the fact that no legal records of church incorporation exist in the Palmyra/Manchester area, the Fayette area, or anywhere else in the state. It seems this may not be a legal organization.
Wherever it is, it seems everyone has a great time, speaking in tongues, having visions, prophesying and fainting. Joseph Smith History, 1839 draft Also, Joe and Ollie are both ordained “as an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church”. This later gets modified so that Joe becomes “1st Elder” and Ollie becomes “2nd Elder”. (And, the power struggle begins.)
2nd nit: According to the church (ala Nephi 27:3-8) Christ’s true church is required to have his name on it. That raises a bit of a “sticky wicket”. (Always wanted to use that phrase, and btw a sticky wicket is a damp, soft pitch in cricket. So, who says my posts aren’t educational?) By that reckoning, it seems that between May 3, 1834 and April 1838, J.C. didn’t have a true church. During that time period, the name was changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints”. (No Christ, nowhere, nohow)
(6/9/1830). Holy exorcism, Batman! Joe performs his 1st miracle! Yup, our boy Joe casts a devil “of uncommon size from a miserable man in the neighborhood of the ‘great bend’ of the Susquehannah.”. (At least that’s what he claims.)
Unfortunately this gets Joe hauled into court again. He’s charged with performing an exorcism, but he’s acquitted. Would love to be a fly on the wall during the trial. If Joe admits to the charge, that means he’s guilty. If he denies the charge, that means he’s either lying under oath or he lied about the exorcism. Since he’s acquitted, I think I know what his testimony is.
About the same time, Marty gives himself a promotion to Prophet. He claims in two years non-Mormonites will be stricken off the earth and Palmyra will become the New Jerusalem complete with streets of gold. Gilbert, John H. (September 8, 1892), Recollections of John H. Gilbert, Palmyra, New York
Obviously this does not go down well with Joe. (The “Prophet” part at least.) In September, Joe claims that B.D. tells him he’s the only Prophet and Marty is something else. While he’s at it, B.D. gives him the authority to issue commandments on any subject. (Wouldn’t that make him at least a demigod? Talk about inflated ego!)
Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876)
One of the early converts, Parley P. Pratt is sent to preach to the Lamanites (aka Indians). On his way, he stops by to visit his old Campbellite preacher, Sidney Rigdon. Sid reads the BoM and decides to convert.
(We’ll catch up with P.P.P. a bit later. Or rather, the husband of his 9th wife will. It doesn’t end well.)
After being baptized, Sid proceeds to convert hundreds of his old flock.
(12/1830) Shortly after, he pays a visit to Joe. As a preacher, Sid is a fiery orator and Joe needs one of those. He is immediately made the church’s flack hack. (spin doctor)
About this time, Big Daddy decides it’s time to relocate to greener pastures (and money). Since Sid already has hundreds of Mormonites in Ohio, that seems to be a good spot. B.D. tells Joe that a little farming village called Kirtland will be their new home. So, over the next year (1831) Joe & the gang set up shop in Kirtland.
Despite Marty’s earlier claims, B.D. tells Joe that Zion (New Jerusalem) is located in Independence, MO.
(6/7/1831) Joe takes a small group to check it out. (I’ve been to Independence, and other than being my idol “Give ’em Hell” Harry’s home town, it’s a long way from any fantasy of Zion, I ever had.) While there, they lay a cornerstone for a proposed temple. Within a year about 800 saints settle there.
If you’ve read “The Religious Wrong (pt 3: The Great(?) Awakening)“, you’ll recall that in this period, a lot of religious/cult groups’ idea of Utopia included “small c” communism, (with a healthy dose of sex on the side). Kirkland fit the pattern.
(2/9/1831) Joe has a “revelation” detailing the “Law of Consecration” or what he calls “The United Order of Enoch” Doctrine & Covenants 42:30-39 In short, “saints were to “consecrate” (give) their belongings to the church, and the church would give them what they need, keeping the extra for “good works”.
Sounds like “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” to me. (Mr Marx would be pleased. And, I ain’t talkin’ Groucho!)
(7/17/1831) As for the sex on the side? Joe has a revelation from Big Daddy recommending that he practice polygamy. (Or does he?) Joe neglects to tell anyone about it other than one brand new member (Willie Wine Phelps) who neglects to tell anyone else about it for 30 years. The rest of the Mormonites, don’t learn of B.D.’s current views on polygamy/polyandry until 1843. By that time, Joe is already screwing over a couple dozen “wives”.
What makes this even more interesting, is that Joe’s own “translation” of the BoM comes out strongly against the practice: “But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” Jacob 2:23-24
The appearance of Sid starts Ollie’s slide into insignificance. Sid takes over as scribe helping Joe re-translate the bible. However, Joe never quite finishes his translation, and strangely enough, none of the “Prophet, Seer & Revelators” that follow, pick up the ball.
Sid is named one of Joe’s two counselors and becomes a close partner in the operation. He’s even a guest of honor along with Joe at an informal “tar & feathers party”.
You get the tar, and I’ll get the feathers. Let’s get together and have a great time!
Listen, my children, and you shall hear the legend of the infamous “Tar & Feather Incident”. (3/24/1832) (This one’s kinda like the Boston Tea Party in that there are a lot of facts known, but as for the truth???)
Let’s start with the facts: A group of men drag Joe & Sid out of their respective houses. (Joe & Emma are lodging with the Johnsons and Sid’s bunked in with another family.) The mob beats them and strips them naked. They try to force some tar and acid down Joe’s throat, but the bottle evidently breaks. They slather hot tar on their bodies and dump feathers all over the sticky mess.There’s also a doctor in the group that has been brought along to castrate Joe. (But not Sid.) Fortunately(?) for a lot of Joe’s future bed buddies, the doctor gets cold feet.
According to the church, this is a drunken mob stirred up by some apostate Mormonites. The church’s spin is that these were petty and vindictive men who have left the church over minor issues. There are obviously some “apostates” in the mob. There are also some current members and the previously mentioned doctor.
As to another possible reason for the anger of both members and ex, remember back seven paragraphs, where I mentioned “The Law of Consecration”? Well, a lot of these folks have decided that they don’t want to give everything to Joe and let him decide what they get back. Seems to them Joe is fleecing the flock. Seems to me, that’s not a minor issue. As a side note (aka foreshadowing) later events prove they have a point.
And, then there’s the situation with the doctor. Now, dumping tar and acid down Joe’s throat, I can understand. It keeps him from preaching. However, cutting off Joe’s balls doesn’t stop him from preaching, it just means he’ll do it in a higher register. Soooo, why is he here? Also, why was Joe the only castration candidate?
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to 16-year-old Marinda Johnson. I mentioned current members being involved a couple of paragraphs back. Two of those members were Marinda’s brothers and Joe’s host’s sons. It seems Joe was either “getting frisky” with the girl, or was trying to. Considering castration is a rather extreme punishment, my money’s on the former.While you and I might consider this sort of a “rockstar-groupie” thing, I don’t think Marinda’s brothers saw it quite that way.
I’ve heard the church claim that this is not adultery, because Joe has already been given the go ahead by B.D.. Since nobody knows about that except for Willie Wine (And, I ain’t so sure about him.) that’s a piss poor excuse. Also, Joe’s track record (as we shall see) paints him as a bit of a sexual predator.
Btw, this is not the last we’ll see of darling Marinda. But that’s a story for later down the timeline.
Joe & Sid survive the experience obviously, and go on to greater low jinks. But, I have already exceeded (once again) my self-imposed word limit.
Next episode, we’ll continue the life and times of Mormonite Kirtland, including Joe’s next sexual conquest, “The Word of Wisdom”, the power struggles and (hopefully) the real reason Joe and the gang had to skip town.
In the meantime, if the Mormon missionaries knock on your door (and, they will, sooner or later), tell them you belong to the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or if in Oregon, the Church of Elvis. (Hey, those religions are just as valid as Mormonism.)
ps Here’s one for the road:
p.p..s.: If my ramblings don’t revolt you, check out my FaceBook page (“Grouchy’s Grumbles”) you might just enjoy it. Better yet, you might “like” it. I’d love it if you did.It’s free (and worth every cent) and almost completely painless (other than the usual bad jokes).