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THE MORMON ORIGIN

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Even More On The History Of Mormonism
Even More On The Religious Puzzle
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
History Of Mormonism
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Introductory Remarks
Last Days At Kirtland
More On Mormonism Social Puzzle
More On The History Of Mormonism
More On The Religious Puzzle
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Mormonism The Political Puzzle
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Notes On The History Of Mormonism
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Political Puzzle
The Political Puzzle Continued
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Religious Puzzle
The Religious Puzzle Notes
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Social And Society Puzzle
The Social Puzzle
The Social Puzzle Notes
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts


The Story Of The Mormons

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts



The Smith Family








Among the families who settled in Ontario County, New York, in
1816, was that of one Joseph Smith. It consisted of himself, his
wife, and nine children. The fourth of these children, Joseph
Smith, Jr., became the Mormon prophet.

The Smiths are said to have been of Scotch ancestry. It was the
mother, however, who exercised the larger influence on her son's
life, and she has left very minute details of her own and her
father's family.* Her father, Solomon Mack, was a native of Lyme,
Connecticut. The daughter Lucy, who became Mrs. Joseph Smith,
Sr., was born in Gilsum, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, on July
8, 1776. Mr. Mack was remembered as a feeble old man, who rode
around the country on horseback, using a woman's saddle, and
selling his own autobiography. The "tramp" of those early days
often offered an autobiography, or what passed for one, and, as
books were then rare, if he could say that it contained an
account of actual adventures in the recent wars, he was certain
to find purchasers.

* "Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith and his Progenitors for
Many Generations," Lucy Smith.


One of the few copies of this book in existence lies before me.
It was printed at the author's expense about the year 1810. It is
wholly without interest as a narrative, telling of the poverty of
his parents, how he was bound, when four years old, to a farmer
who gave him no education and worked him like a slave; gives some
of his experiences in the campaigns against the French and
Indians in northern New York and in the war of the Revolution,
when he was in turn teamster, sutler, and privateer; describes
with minute detail many ordinary illnesses and accidents that
befell him; and closes with a recital of his religious awakening,
which was deferred until his seventy-sixth year, while he was
suffering with rheumatism. At that time it seemed to him that he
several times "saw a bright light in a dark night," and thought
he heard a voice calling to him. Twenty-two of the forty-eight
duodecimo pages that the book contains are devoted to hymns
"composed," the title-page says, "on the death of several of his
relatives," not all by himself. One of these may be quoted
entire:--

"My friends, I am on the ocean, So sweetly do I sail; Jesus is my
portion, He's given me a pleasant gale.

"The bruises sore, In harbor soon I'll be, And see my redeemer
there That died for you and me."

Mrs. Smith's family seem to have had a natural tendency to belief
in revelations. Her eldest brother, Jason, became a "Seeker"; the
"Seekers" of that day believed that the devout of their times
could, through prayer and faith, secure the "gifts" of the Gospel
which were granted to the ancient apostles.* He was one of the
early believers in faith-cure, and was, we are told, himself
cured by that means in 1835. One of Lucy's sisters had a
miraculous recovery from illness. After being an invalid for two
years she was "borne away to the world of spirits, "where she saw
the Saviour and received a message from Him for her earthly
friends.

* A sect called "Seekers," who arose in 1645, taught, like the
Mormons, that the Scriptures are defective, the true church lost,
and miracles necessary to faith.


Lucy herself came very exactly under the description given by
Ruth McEnery Stuart of one of her negro characters: "Duke's
mother was of the slighter intelligences, and hence much given to
convictions. Knowing few things, she 'believed in' a great many."
Lucy Smith had neither education nor natural intelligence that
would interfere with such "beliefs" as came to her from family
tradition, from her own literal interpretations of the Bible, or
from the workings of her imagination. She tells us that after her
marriage, when very ill, she made a covenant with God that she
would serve him if her recovery was granted; thereupon she heard
a voice giving her assurance that her prayer would be answered,
and she was better the next morning. Later, when anxious for the
safety of her husband's soul, she prayed in a grove (most of the
early Mormons' prayers were made in the woods), and saw a vision
indicating his coming conversion; later still, in Vermont, a
daughter was restored to health by her parent's prayers.

According to Mrs. Smith's account of their life in Vermont, they
were married on January 24, 1796, at Tunbridge, but soon moved to
Randolph, where Smith was engaged in "merchandise, "keeping a
store. Learning of the demand for crystallized ginseng in China,
he invested money in that product and made a shipment, but it
proved unprofitable, and, having in this way lost most of his
money, they moved back to a farm at Tunbridge. Thence they moved
to Royalton, and in a few months to Sharon, where, on December
23, 1805, Joseph Smith, Jr., their fourth child, was born.* Again
they moved to Tunbridge, and then back to Royalton (all these
places in Vermont). From there they went to Lebanon, New
Hampshire, thence to Norwich, Vermont, still "farming" without
success, until, after three years of crop failure, they decided
to move to New York State, arriving there in the summer of 1816.

* There is equally good authority for placing the house in which
Smith was born across the line in Royalton.


Less prejudiced testimony gives an even less favorable view than
this of the elder Smith's business career in Vermont. Judge
Daniel Woodward, of the county court of Windsor, Vermont, near
whose father's farm the Smiths lived, says that the elder Smith
while living there was a hunter for Captain Kidd's treasure, and
that" he also became implicated with one Jack Downing in
counterfeiting money, but turned state's evidence and escaped the
penalty."* He had in earlier life been a Universalist, but
afterward became a Methodist. His spiritual welfare gave his wife
much concern, but although he had "two visions "while living in
Vermont, she did not accept his change of heart. She admits,
however, that after their removal to New York her husband obeyed
the scriptural injunction, "your old men shall dream dreams," and
she mentions several of these dreams, the latest in 1819, giving
the particulars of some of them. One sample of these will
suffice. The dreamer found himself in a beautiful garden, with
wide walks and a main walk running through the centre." On each
side of this was a richly carved seat, and on each seat were
placed six wooden images, each of which was the size of a very
large man. When I came to the first image on the right side it
arose, bowed to me with much deference. I then turned to the one
which sat opposite to me, on the left side, and it arose and
bowed to me in the same manner as the first. I continued turning
first to the right and then to the left until the whole twelve
had made the obeisance, after which I was entirely healed (of a
lameness from which he then was suffering). I then asked my guide
the meaning of all this, but I awoke before I received an
answer."

* Historical Magazine, 1870.


A similar wakefulness always manifested itself at the critical
moment in these dreams. What the world lost by this insomnia of
the dreamer the world will never know.

The Smiths' first residence in New York State was in the village
of Palmyra. There the father displayed a sign, "Cake and Beer
Shop, "selling" gingerbread, pies, boiled eggs, root beer, and
other like notions, "and he and his sons did odd jobs, gardening,
harvesting, and well-digging, when they could get them.*

* Tucker's "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," p. 12.


They were very poor, and Mrs. Smith added to their income by
painting oilcloth table covers. After a residence of three years
and a half in Palmyra, the family took possession of a piece of
land two miles south of that place, on the border of Manchester.
They had no title to it, but as the owners were nonresident
minors they were not disturbed. There they put up a little log
house, with two rooms on the ground floor and two in the attic,
which sheltered them all. Later, the elder Smith contracted to
buy the property and erected a farmhouse on it; but he never
completed his title to it.

While classing themselves as farmers, the Smiths were regarded by
their neighbors as shiftless and untrustworthy. They sold
cordwood, vegetables, brooms of their own manufacture, and maple
sugar, continuing to vend cakes in the village when any special
occasion attracted a crowd. It may be remarked here that, while
Ontario County, New York, was regarded as "out West" by seaboard
and New England people in 1830, its population was then almost as
large as it is to-day (having 40,288 inhabitants according to the
census of 1830 and 48,453 according to the census of 1890). The
father and several of the boys could not read, and a good deal of
the time of the younger sons was spent in hunting, fishing, and
lounging around the village.

The son Joseph did not rise above the social standing of his
brothers. The best that a Mormon biographer, Orson Pratt, could
say of him as a youth was that "He could read without much
difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand, and had a very
limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic.
These were his highest and only attainments, while the rest of
those branches so universally taught in the common schools
throughout the United States were entirely unknown to him."* He
was "Joe Smith" to every one. Among the younger people he served
as a butt for jokes, and we are told that the boys who bought the
cakes that he peddled used to pay him in pewter twoshilling
pieces, and that when he called at the Palmyra Register office
for his father's weekly paper, the youngsters in the press room
thought it fun to blacken his face with the ink balls.

* "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," p. 16.


Here are two pictures of the young man drawn by persons who saw
him constantly in the days of his vagabondage. The first is from
Mr. Tucker's book:--

"At this period in the life and career of Joseph Smith, Jr., or
'Joe Smith,' as he was universally named, and the Smith family,
they were popularly regarded as an illiterate, whiskey-drinking,
shiftless, irreligious race of people--the first named, the chief
subject of this biography, being unanimously voted the laziest
and most worthless of the generation. From the age of twelve to
twenty years he is distinctly remembered as a dull-eyed,
flaxenhaired, prevaricating boy noted only for his indolent and
vagabondish character, and his habits of exaggeration and
untruthfulness. Taciturnity was among his characteristic
idiosyncrasies, and he seldom spoke to any one outside of his
intimate associates, except when first addressed by another; and
then, by reason of his extravagancies of statement, his word was
received with the least confidence by those who knew him best. He
could utter the most palpable exaggeration or marvellous
absurdity with the utmost apparent gravity. He nevertheless
evidenced the rapid development of a thinking, plodding,
evilbrewing mental composition--largely given to inventions of
low cunning, schemes of mischief and deception, and false and
mysterious pretensions. In his moral phrenology the professor
might have marked the organ of secretiveness as very large, and
that of conscientiousness omitted. He was, however, proverbially
good natured, very rarely, if ever, indulging in any combative
spirit toward any one, whatever might be the provocation, and yet
was never known to laugh. Albeit, he seemed to be the pride of
his indulgent father, who has been heard to boast of him as the
'genus of the family,' quoting his own expression."*

* "Remarkable Visions."


The second (drawn a little later) is by Daniel Hendrix, a
resident of Palmyra, New York, at the time of which he speaks,
and an assistant in setting the type and reading the proof of the
Mormon Bible:--

"Every one knew him as Joe Smith. He had lived in Palmyra a few
years previous to my going there from Rochester. Joe was the most
ragged, lazy fellow in the place, and that is saying a good deal.
He was about twenty-five years old. I can see him now in my
mind's eye, with his torn and patched trousers held to his form
by a pair of suspenders made out of sheeting, with his calico
shirt as dirty and black as the earth, and his uncombed hair
sticking through the holes in his old battered hat. In winter I
used to pity him, for his shoes were so old and worn out that he
must have suffered in the snow and slush; yet Joe had a jovial,
easy, don't-care way about him that made him a lot of warm
friends. He was a good talker, and would have made a fine stump
speaker if he had had the training. He was known among the young
men I associated with as a romancer of the first water. I never
knew so ignorant a man as Joe was to have such a fertile
imagination. He never could tell a common occurrence in his daily
life without embellishing the story with his imagination; yet I
remember that he was grieved one day when old Parson Reed told
Joe that he was going to hell for his lying habits."*

* San Jacinto, California, letter of February 2, 1897, to the St.
Louis Globe-Democrat.


To this testimony may be added the following declarations,
published in 1833, the year in which a mob drove the Mormons out
of Jackson County, Missouri. The first was signed by eleven of
the most prominent citizens of Manchester, New York, and the
second by sixty-two residents of Palmyra:--

"We, the undersigned, being personally acquainted with the family
of Joseph Smith, Sr., with whom the Gold Bible, so called,
originated, state: That they were not only a lazy, indolent set
of men, but also intemperate, and their word was not to be
depended upon; and that we are truly glad to dispense with their
society."

"We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family
for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we
have no hesitation in saying that we consider them destitute of
that moral character which ought to entitle them to the
confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for
visionary projects; spent much of their time in digging for money
which they pretended was hid in the earth, and to this day large
excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their
residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for
hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Sr., and his son Joseph were, in
particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and
addicted to vicious habits."*

* Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 261.


Finally may be quoted the following affidavit of Parley Chase:--

"Manchester, New York, December 2, 1833. I was acquainted with
the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., both before and since they
became Mormons, and feel free to state that not one of the male
members of the Smith family were entitled to any credit
whatsoever. They were lazy, intemperate, and worthless men, very
much addicted to lying. In this they frequently boasted their
skill. Digging for money was their principal employment. In
regard to their Gold Bible speculation, they scarcely ever told
two stories alike. The Mormon Bible is said to be a revelation
from God, through Joseph Smith, Jr., his Prophet, and this same
Joseph Smith, Jr., to my knowledge, bore the reputation among his
neighbors of being a liar."*

* Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 248.


The preposterousness of the claims of such a fellow as Smith to
prophetic powers and divinely revealed information were so
apparent to his local acquaintances that they gave them little
attention. One of these has remarked to me in recent years that
if they had had any idea of the acceptance of Joe's professions
by a permanent church, they would have put on record a much
fuller description of him and his family.





Next: How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger

Previous: Facility Of Human Belief



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