H. Michael Marquardt & Wesley P. Walters
The Palmyra Revival
When Joseph Smith, Jr., described his first vision in his 1838-39 account, he dated it to the spring of 1820 and affirmed that this vision was the result of a religious revival, “an unusual excitement on the subject of religion” which took place “in the place where we lived.” But he also dated it “sometime in the second year after our removal to Manchester.” As shown in the previous chapter, the Smith family did not move onto their Manchester farm until 1822. The second year after this move would have been 1824, not 1820. An examination of newspaper accounts, religious periodicals, church records, and personal narratives shows that there were no significant gains in church memberships or any other signs of revival in Palmyra in 1820. There was a stirring and momentous revival there with all the features that Joseph Smith’s history mentions during the fall and winter of 1824-25.
Smith stated that the revival that stirred him also led his mother, sister, and two brothers to join the Presbyterian church, while he was drawn to the Methodists.1 In the preliminary draft of his mother’s history, Lucy adds details which suggest an 1824 date for the revival as well. She begins by linking the revival to the death of her son Alvin. After relating the family’s sorrow after his death, when “we could not be comforted because he was not,” she adds a short statement, subsequently crossed out: “About this time their [there] was a great revival in religion and the whole neighborhood was very much aroused to the subject, and we among the rest flocked to the meeting house to see if their [there] was a word of comfort for us that might [p.16]releive [relieve] our over charged feelings.”2 Her “over-charged feelings” were the result of her oldest son Alvin dying suddenly the previous year (1823).
A year after this event she was still seeking consolation for her wounded soul and hoped to find it at the town meeting house where the revival was in full progress and frequent meetings held. Her manuscript continues:
There was <at this time> a man then laboring in that place to effect a union of all the churches, that all denominations might be agreed to worship God with one mind, and one heart. This I thought looked right, and tried to persuade my Husband to join with them as I wished to do so myself and it was the inclination of them all [her children] except Joseph. He refused from the first to attend the meeting with us. He would say, Mother, I do not wish to prevent you from going to meeting or joining any church you like or any of the Family who desire the like, only do not ask me to <do so> for I do not wish to go. But I will take my Bible and go out into the woods and learn more in two hours than you could if you were to go to meeting two years. My husband also declined attending the meetings after the first but did not object to myself and such of the children as chose <going or becoming> church members.
Lucy notes that Joseph warned her about those involved, and her description of his warning suggests that the church she was intending to join was indeed the local Presbyterian church:
Now you look at deacon <Jessup>… . suppose that (one of his poor neighbors) owed him the value of one cow. This man has eight small children; suppose the poor man should be taken sick & die leaving his wife with one cow but destitute of every means of support for herself and family. Now I tell you that deacon Jess<u>p, <religious> as he is, would not hesitate to take the last cow from the widow and orphans rather than loose the debt.3
Henry Jessup was a long-time Presbyterian, one of the original trustees of the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra at its incorporation on 18 March 1817.4
According to Joseph, his older brother Hyrum joined the Presbyterian church along with his mother as a result of the revival. Willard [p.17]Chase, a neighbor, mentioned that in 1825 Hyrum asked to borrow his seer stone. Though reluctant to let the stone go, Chase said he honored Hyrum’s request because Hyrum “had made a profession of religion” and Chase felt he could now be trusted to return it.5
In his 1838-39 account Joseph Smith remembered that great multitudes joined the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches during the revival. Church membership rolls are carefully kept, and in most cases can still be traced.
Membership rolls of “the first Baptized Church in Palmyra,” which had a frame meetinghouse west of the village of Palmyra in Macedon township, reveal that during the entire year of 1820 only eight people were received on profession of faith and baptized. However during the period between October 1824 and April 1825, even though the church was without a pastor at the time, 94 individuals were baptized and added to the membership roll.
For Baptists the awakening began on 20 October 1824, when church minutes show that “Michael Egleston, Erastus Spear, Lorenzo Spear, Abagail Spear, Belena Byxbe, Minerva Titus, Sophia Rogers, and Harriot Rogers told their Christian experience to the Church and were fellowshipped by the Church and on Thursday following were Baptized by Elder Bradley and Received into the Church.” The minutes of 20 November mentioned eight more individuals baptized; the 24 November minutes name an additional twelve. In December nineteen more were added by conversion. In the first four months of 1825 there were forty-five additional baptisms. For the one year period from October 1824 to the end of September 1825 there were a total of 94 persons baptized, an increase of 87 members. Membership increased from 132 to 219 (65 percent).6
The same pattern characterizes Methodist membership records, which give the total membership of the dozen or so preaching points serviced by a circuit-riding preacher. The increase of 208 reported in the summer of 1825 for the previous year demonstrates that this had proved to be a banner year for the Ontario circuit on which Palmyra was located. In contrast, the circuit had constantly lost members during the period between 1819 and 1821—twenty-six in 1819, six in 1820, and forty-nine in 1821.7
Presbyterian membership rolls paint an identical picture. Al-[p.18]though the first volume of the local church’s minutes is missing, records of the Geneva Presbytery to which the church belonged and reported are still extant, and these clearly reflect the revival in the congregation in Palmyra. The minutes show that by 21 September 1825 when figures were in for a revival over the winter of 1824-25 “99 have been admitted on examination.” As early as February 1825 the Presbytery was called on, in glowing terms, to
bless the Lord for the displays of sovereign grace which have been made <within our boundaries> during the past year. In the congregation of Palmyra, the Lord has appeared in his glory to build up Zion. More than a hundred have been hopefully brought into the kingdom of the Redeemer. The distinguishing doctrines of grace have proved eminently the sword of the Spirit, by which the rebellion of man’s heart has been slain. The fruits of holiness in this revival even now are conspicuous. The exertions for the promotion of divine knowledge are greater than formerly. Sabbath Schools, Bible classes, Missionary & Tract Societies are receiving unusual attention, & their salutary influence is apparent.8
Presbytery records for 1820 suggest some anticipation of a revival in the church of Phelps (located at Oaks Corners some fourteen miles from Palmyra) and at Canandaigua (some thirteen miles away), neither of which materialized, but nothing for the Palmyra church. Newly discovered evidence in the “Presbyterial Reports to the Synod of Geneva” confirms the scarcity of converts in the conference year of 1820. The presbytery reported to synod only fourteen additions to the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra for the period between February 1820 and March 1821. If four Smiths joined that year, this left only ten others to join all year.9
This pattern of growth is confirmed by Reverend James Hotchkin, who in 1845 began writing the official history of the rise of the Presbyterian denomination in western New York. The Synod of New York backed this effort and requested all the churches to open their records to him. Hotchkin was especially interested in revivals. His account for the Palmyra church shows revivals in 1817 and in 1824 but nothing in the intervening years.10
The revival over the winter of 1816-17, which affected mainly the [p.19]Presbyterian church of Palmyra, received coverage in at least a dozen periodicals, including among others the Christian Herald and Seaman’s Magazine, the Religious Remembrancer, the American Baptist Magazine, and the Boston Recorder.11
The 1824-25 revival likewise received enthusiastic write-ups in an equal number of publications.12 But there is total silence in these same periodicals about any revival in Palmyra between 1819 and 1821.13
The 1824-25 date can also be confirmed by checking the names of reported participants. William Smith, Joseph’s brother, was interviewed in June 1841 by James Murdock, who read back his notes for correction. William recalled that “About the year 1823, there was a revival of religion in that region, and Joseph was one of several hopeful converts.”14 In his own book, William Smith on Mormonism, published in 1883, William wrote, “In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. Lane, an Elder of the Methodist Church, and celebrated throughout the country as a `great revival preacher.'”15 In addition to Lane, William recalled the involvement of Benjamin Stockton:
Rev. Stockton was the president of the meeting and suggested that it was their meeting and under their care and they had a church there and they [the Smiths] ought to join the Presbyterians, but as father did not like Rev. Stockton very well, our folks hesitated and the next evening a Rev. Mr. Lane of the Methodists preached a sermon on “what church shall I join?” And the burden of his discourse was to ask God, using as a text, “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally.”16
William’s description of the revival fits the pattern of the period. Once a revival had broken out, regular and frequent meetings would be scheduled at the town meetinghouse to advance it. Since Presbyterians were dominant in Palmyra, one could well expect Reverend Benjamin Stockton, their pastor, to preside and to expect the converts to join the church located in the village itself. The Baptist building was about a mile west of the center of the village, and Methodists were a mile east on Vienna Road, so Joseph Smith’s [p.20]expression of the revivals in his “region of country” was a good way to describe the situation.
It is important to note that any extended series of revival meetings at which Stockton presided must fall in 1824 or later because he did not become pastor of the Palmyra Presbyterian church until 18 February 1824.17 Reverend James Hotchkin in cataloging the revivals in the churches of Geneva Presbytery wrote of the Palmyra church that a “copious shower of grace passed over this region in 1824 under the labors of Mr. Stockton, and a large number were gathered into the church, some of whom are now pillars in Christ’s house.”18
Stockton was pastor of the Skaneateles church in central New York from 4 March 1818 until 30 June 1822.19 He visited Palmyra for a speech to the Youth Missionary Society in October 1822, and the newspaper described him then as “Rev. Stockton of Skaneateles.”20 He appeared again in the Palmyra paper when he performed a wedding on 26 November 1823, just a week after Alvin’s death.21 According to William Smith, Stockton was present the previous week and preached Alvin’s funeral sermon. In this sermon Stockton implied that Alvin “had gone to hell, for Alvin was not a church member, but he was a good boy and my [William’s] father did not like it.”22 William noted that when the revival meetings closed and Stockton insisted that the converts join the Presbyterian church, “our folks hesitated” because of his insinuation about Alvin.
“Rev. Mr. Lane,” the other person mentioned by William Smith as participating in the revival, is George Lane, a talented Methodist preacher.23 Lane is also mentioned by Oliver Cowdery, who worked with Joseph Smith beginning in 1829. In the Mormon periodical, Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Cowdery commenced a “full history of the rise of the church of Latter Day Saints,” published during 1834-35. For details of this account he said he relied on information furnished by Joseph Smith.24 Cowdery begins with Smith as a young man of seventeen who is stirred by a revival in 1823 through the preaching of Lane:
One Mr. Lane, a presiding Elder of the Methodist church, visited Palmyra, and vicinity. Elder Lane was a tallented man possessing a good share of literary endowments, and apparent humility. There [p.21]was a great awakening, or excitement raised on the subject of religion, and much enquiry for the word of life. Large additions were made to the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches.—Mr. Lane’s manner of communication was peculiarly calculated to awaken the intellect of the hearer, and arouse the sinner to look about him for safety—much good instruction was always drawn from his discourses on the scriptures, and in common with others, our brother’s mind became awakened. For a length of time the reformation seemed to move in a harmonious manner, but, as the excitement ceased … a general struggle was made by the leading characters of the different sects, for proselytes… . In this general strife for followers, his mother, one sister, and two of his natural brothers, were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians… . After strong solicitations to unite with one of those different societies, and seeing the apparent proselyting disposition manifested with equal warmth for each, his mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind.25
That Cowdery has not overdrawn the effectiveness of Lane’s preaching is evident from the comments of a fellow minister in the Methodist Genesee Conference, George Peck:
As a preacher he [Rev. George Lane] was thoroughly orthodox, systematic, and earnest. His sermons exhibited a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures and with the human heart. In the palmy days of his itinerancy he was often overwhelmingly eloquent. Sometimes under his powerful appeals vast congregations were moved like the trees of the forest before a mighty wind. Many a stout-hearted sinner was broken down, and cried aloud for mercy under his all but irresistible appeals. His language was unstudied, but chaste, correct, simple, and forcible.26
In 1823 Lane was living in the area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was not appointed presiding elder of the Ontario District in which Palmyra was located until July 1824.27 He presided only until January 1825 when illness in his family forced him temporarily to leave the ministry.28
As presiding elder Lane was responsible to ride from circuit to circuit in the Ontario District and hold the quarterly business meetings for each circuit. Each preaching point or congregation on the [p.22]circuit sent delegates to the quarterly meeting, and at its conclusion the presiding elder would travel on to the next circuit of the district to preside at its quarterly meeting.
According to Lane’s report, published in the Methodist Magazine (Apr. 1825), the Lord’s work in Palmyra and vicinity “commenced in the spring, and progressed moderately until the time of the quarterly meeting, which was held on the 25th and 26th of September” 1824.29 A note in the local Palmyra newspaper of 15 September showed the progress of the work over the spring and summer, shortly before Lane came on the scene at the September conference: “A reformation is going on in this town to a great extent. The love of God has been shed abroad in the hearts of many, and the outpouring of the Spirit seems to have taken a strong hold. About twenty-five have recently obtained a hope in the Lord, and joined the Methodist Church, and many more are desirous of becoming members.”30
This verifies Joseph Smith’s description of the revival as having “commenced with the Methodists.” By September the revival had not yet touched the Baptist church, for at the annual meeting of the Ontario Baptist Association held on 22 September, the church reported only two baptisms for the entire previous year.31 Similarly the local Presbyterian church remained untouched, for the report of the Presbytery for 8 September stated, “there has been no remarkable revival of religion within our bounds.”32
Lane’s personal report dated 25 January 1825 presents a detailed account of the revival’s progress. He describes events occurring in the vicinity of Palmyra, focusing on how youth were especially affected:
From Catharine [circuit] I went to Ontario circuit, where the Lord had already begun a gracious work in Palmyra… . About this time [25 and 26 September 1824] it appeared to break out afresh. Monday evening, after the quarterly meeting, there were four converted, and on the following evening, at a prayer meeting at Dr. Chase’s, there were seven. Among these was a young woman by the name of Lucy Stoddard.
Nineteen-year-old Lucy Stoddard was a cousin of Calvin Stoddard, who would later marry Smith’s sister Sophronia and who would a few months after this also be touched by the revival.33
[p.23]From this point Lane’s account is largely taken up with Lucy Stoddard’s conversion experience. Her calm and joyful acceptance of illness and death, just a few weeks after her conversion the last week of September 1824, helped fan the flames of revival among the young people of the village:
The great deep of her heart was broken up; she saw clearly that she was a child of wrath, and in danger of hell. With this view of her sad condition, she fell prostrate at the feet of her offended sovereign, and in the bitterest anguish cried for mercy. In this situation, however, she was not suffered long to continue before she obtained a most satisfactory evidence of her acceptance with God through the merits of Jesus Christ. Her soul was unspeakably happy, and with great emphasis she exhorted others to come and share with her the inestimable blessing.
A week after her conversion she married Hiram Wilcox. Lane continues:
The same week she was married she was attacked by a bilious remittent fever, which terminated in a typhus fever… . at length, her disorder took such a turn as to convince her and others, that her stay in this world would be but short. The patience with which she endured her afflictions, which were sometimes very severe, was remarkable; not a murmur was heard to escape her lips… . From Saturday night to the time of her dissolution, which took place on Monday following, she seemed wholly swallowed up in God.
Lane describes her dying moments and the dramatic impression left on her friends. He reports that
when life appeared almost extinct, she raised her trembling hands, and clapped them three times, crying, “Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! glory to God in the highest!” From this time she lay in perfect composure until twelve o’clock on Monday, November 1st, when she breathed her last without a struggle or a groan, after an illness of three weeks and two days, and just five weeks from the time of her conversion. The effect produced by this death was the happiest. While it confounded the infidel, it greatly strengthened believers, especially young converts.34
[p.24]Stoddard was not the only one whose death challenged friends to prepare for heaven. In Manchester township, which joined Palmyra on the south, a deadly epidemic broke out and spread through Phelps township to the east. This “sweeping mortality,” as it was called by Benjamin Farley, a Christian-Connection preacher, was regarded by him as an act of God to prepare people’s hearts to seek salvation. Writing from Phelps, he reported in a letter to the Gospel Luminary dated 28 January 1825:
It has been a great time of lament[a]tion and mourning; children removed from parents, and parents from children. The scene has been truly alarming… . I was called upon almost every day to attend on funeral solemnities, and often two in a day; until I was attacked myself with the same fatal disorder, which brought me near to the grave.
Such widespread death inevitably made people think of the need to prepare for eternity. Farley continued:
Since those d[a]ys of death and mourning, the Lord has graciously visited this place in mercy. Many have been brought to sing the new song, while scores are enquiring what they must do to be saved. The work is not confined to one neighborhood, but is becoming general. In Palmyra it is judged that more than one hundred have recently experienced salvation; and in the vicinity of Sulphur Springs [now Clifton Springs, Manchester township] about the same number. The work in the above mentioned places is among the methodists and presbyterians. Congregations are uncommonly large and attentive…the harvest truly is great.35
The actual numbers of converts in Palmyra may have been larger than Farley’s January 1825 letter estimated, for two months previously the Western Recorder had already reported “one hundred or more” converts for Palmyra: “A revival of religion has lately commenced in the town of Palmyra, N.Y. It is stated by one of the subjects of this glorious work, that one hundred or more persons, it is thought, have lately been brought out of darkness into marvelous light. — Persons of all ages and classes are the subjects of this work of grace.”36
By mid-December the number was said to have swelled to near [p.25]two hundred. Reverend Reuben Winchell in a letter dated “Dec 20th, 1824” written from Avon, New York, reported that while he was recently preaching at West Bloomfield he heard that the number of converts was about two hundred. He wrote: “In Palmyra, a town about 30 miles North East of this, God has triumphed gloriously. About 200, as I am informed, are sharers in this great and precious work.”37
Even these figures may be too conservative, for Lane placed the number of Methodist converts alone at “upward of one hundred and fifty” by mid-December:
December 11th and 12th our quarterly meeting for Ontario circuit was held in Ontario… . Here I found that the work which had for some time been going on in Palmyra, had broken out from the village like a mighty flame, and was spreading in every direction. When I left the place, December 22[n]d, there had, in the village and its vicinity, upward of one hundred and fifty joined the [Methodist] society, besides a number that had joined other churches, and many that had joined no church.38
By the time Lane left the area the third week in December, many people needed only an invitation in order to be baptized. On Christmas day a Baptist preacher wrote to a friend that “As I came on my journey this way, I tarried a few days, and baptized eight.”39
Meanwhile revivals were spreading as well in the neighboring towns. By February revivals were reported in Williamson and Ontario to the north, in Manchester, Sulphur Springs, and Vienna to the southeast, in Lyons to the east, and in Macedon to the west. Even towns at a greater distance from Palmyra began to experience revival fires, with Mendon to the west and Geneva to the southeast sharing in the divine outpouring.
A steady stream of reports of the spreading revival continued to flow from the papers and periodicals in early 1825. On 13 January Methodist preacher J. B. Alverson wrote from Canandaigua about Methodist gains:
In Geneva the work has increased considerably… . On Ontario circuit … the prospects are very promising. Two hundred have been added since conference [i.e. July 1824]. On Lyons [circuit] the Lord [p.26]continues to visit the people in great mercy. At Clyde the prospect is great … Sixty-one have experienced religion since this revival commenced, and forty-one have joined the society.40
By February townships bordering on Lake Ontario were described as touched by revival fires. According to West Bloomfield’s Gospel Luminary for February 1825, “We learn that a powerful reformation has been spreading for several months past, in the towns of Palmyra, Williamson and Ontario. The work we are informed still continues in those places.”41
West Bloomfield itself was tasting the reformation blessing. “It has been a gr[ad]ual scene of reform[a]tion with us ever since April last” (1824), wrote David Millard in a communication dated 25 February 1825. Though not as powerful as the revival had been, still he found that “Our meetings are yet crowded and solemn, and some appear to be seeking the one thing nee[d]ful. On the 11th, inst. I baptized twenty happy converts… . On the 19th I baptized five more. Several others are expected to go forward in this ordinance soon.” Millard, who had been preaching at West Bloomfield since 1817, closed his report by noting: “Such a season of extensive and powerful revivals, was probably never known in this western country, since its first settlement.”42
By March the work was subsiding in the village of Palmyra, but it continued to spread in adjacent towns. Gorham, considerably south of Vienna, was followed by the area of Clyde, farther east beyond Lyons, where during the first part of May about 150 were reported converted. By this time “no recent cases of conviction” were reported from Palmyra itself, but the work was advancing in the Sulphur Springs area and still continuing at Geneva, twenty-five miles distant.43 This generalized 1824-25 revival activity fits completely Joseph Smith’s statement that the revival occurred not only in the place where he lived but “became general among all the sects in that region of country” and that “the whole district of country seemed affected by it.”
As converts began filling churches, leaders took stock of their numbers. By January Methodists estimated that on their Ontario circuit two hundred had joined their society. A Baptist pastor in [p.27]Bristol, New York, reported to a friend under the date of 9 March 1825 that in the immediate area of Palmyra, “Multitudes have abandoned their false hopes and false schemes… . About three hundred have united with the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches; and to each in about equal numbers.”44
The Palmyra newspaper for 2 March 1825 reprinted a report from the Religious Advocate of Rochester:
More than two hundred souls have become the hopeful subjects of divine grace in Palmyra, Macedon, Manchester, Phelps, Lyons, and Ontario, since the late revival commenced.—This is a powerful work; it is among old and young, but mostly among young people. Many are ready to exclaim, “what hath God wrought!” “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” The cry is yet from various parts, “come over and help us.” There are large and attentive congregations in every part, who hear as for their lives. Such intelligence must be pleasing to every child of God, who rightly estimate the value of immortal souls, and wishes well to the cause of Zion.
Since the Religious Advocate was a Presbyterian-related periodical, the figures undoubtedly reflect Presbyterian gains. A note in the same issue of the Palmyra paper adds this balancing information: “It may be added, that in Palmyra and Macedon, including Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, more than 400 have already testified that the Lord is good. The work is still progressing. In the neighboring towns, the number is great and fast increasing.”45
By September 1825 the results of the revival for Palmyra had become a matter of record. The Presbyterian church reported 99 admitted on examination; Baptists had received 94 by profession of faith and baptism; the Methodist circuit showed an increase of 208. Cowdery’s claim of “large additions” and Smith’s statement that “great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties” were scarcely overstatements. Thus the revival matching the detailed descriptions of both Cowdery and Smith took place during the fall of 1824 through the spring of 1825 both “in Palmyra” (Cowdery) and “the neighborhood” where Smith lived (Smith), as well as in the surrounding “vicinity,” “region,” and “whole district of country.”
[p.28]Despite such evidence supporting the 1824-25 date, two main lines of argument have been advanced to confirm Smith’s 1820 revival date. The first maintains that Smith was merely alluding to revivals which were common in western New York state at this period. Proponents of this theory point out that he was in Missouri when he wrote his 1838-39 account. Thus when he spoke of a revival “in the place where we lived,” he was designating the whole of western New York. In support of this apologists point to a number of revivals or substantial membership increases occurring during 1820 in towns close enough for Smith to reach on foot. They point to David Marks who, as a teenager, attended revivals up to thirty miles from his home. Since Smith was a robust lad, he could have done the same. In 1969 Brigham Young University Studies published a map showing nine revival sites which Smith could have visited in 1820, with distances from the Smith homestead shown in five-mile increments.46 However, the map is flawed, with four villages placed significantly closer than they appear on accurate maps of the area and other sites listed where there was no religious excitement at all.47
However, this argument overlooks—and negates—Cowdery’s and Smith’s own assertion of a revival “in Palmyra” and “vicinity,” as well as the names of pastors responsible for the development. Smith in an 1843 interview with a reporter for the New York Spectator stated that it was “among the different religious denominations in the neighborhood where I lived.”48 Lucy says that she and her children in company with their whole neighborhood “flocked to the meeting house.” This description does not suggest a ten-to-fifteen-mile walk.
The definitive indication that the revival was local comes in Smith’s remarks about the “great confusion and bad feelings” ensuing at the end of the meetings. Even the most ardent defenders of an 1820 date recognize that this strife over converts was local, resulting in Smith’s family being proselyted to the local Presbyterian church.
The second line of argument seeks to establish one specific revival, characterized by several of the features his account describes, close enough to his home he could have attended. According to this argument, an awakening took place at the village of Vienna, some eleven miles from Palmyra, between the summer of 1819 and the [p.29]summer of 1820. The features seen as echoing Smith’s account include: the presence of George Lane at Vienna, a camp meeting in the area, and a substantial membership increase.49 However, there is no evidence that such a revival ever occurred.
Lane was at Vienna in July 1819 attending the annual meeting of the Methodist Genesee Conference, at which he was appointed to serve in Pennsylvania.50 There is no record that he preached or that a camp meeting was held in connection with this conference. In 1826, when a camp meeting was actually held, the conference minutes contain reference to the ministers who were put in charge of the arrangements for the meeting. No indication of any such arrangements appears in the 1819 minutes.
The idea of a revival at Vienna comes from a misreading and subsequent joining of two unrelated sources. The first statement comes from journalist Orsamus Turner, who from 1818 to 1822 was apprenticed in the office of the Palmyra newspaper. In his reminiscences published thirty years later, Turner remembered attending the local debating society with Smith. He also recalled that “after catching a spark of Methodism in the camp meeting, away down in the woods, on the Vienna road, he [Smith] was a very passable exhorter in evening meetings.”51
The reference to “camp meeting” alludes to a camp grounds site used by Methodists at that time. This camp was about a mile outside the village of Palmyra, “away down in the woods” on the road running southeast to Vienna. At this site in 1822, Methodists built their first house of worship. Much later, in 1826, about a mile southeast of this chapel a camp meeting was held by the conference which drew a crowd of 10,000 people. It was undoubtedly this camp meeting site which also received mention in the Palmyra paper during the last week of June 1820, not for a crowd of 10,000, but for a man who died from consuming too much alcohol purchased at “the grog-shops” on the edge of the campgrounds.52 Camp meetings were often held by Methodists but did not often spark a significant revival. When revivals did occur, they were customarily reported in the Methodist Magazine.
However, Turner’s comment has been misread as referring to a camp meeting at the village of Vienna itself which touched off a [p.30]whirlwind revival. This conclusion requires uniting Turner’s comment with an unrelated and misdated event first mentioned in 1886. In that year M. P. Blakeslee, pastor of the Methodist church in Phelps village (until 1855 called Vienna), attempted to write “Notes for a History of Methodism in Phelps.”53 He had been in touch with Serepta March Baker, the widow of a Methodist preacher, and with Harry Sarsnett, a black man, both of whom had been converted in the same revival. Blakeslee described this revival some sixty years after the event:
For 1820, Loring Grant and John Baggerly were the preachers… . In some way the name of Elisha House, an ordained local preacher of ability, became associated with the circuit. Our venerable colored citizen, Mr. Harry Sarsnett, remembers a camp-meeting held by him on the Granger camp-ground, situated on the rise of land south of the railroad, on the farm of V. W. Gates. The year was one flaming spiritual advance. Mrs. Baker says the revival was a religious cyclone which swept over the whole region round about and the kingdom of darkness was terribly shaken. The membership of the circuit arose [sic] from three hundred and seventy-six to six hundred and fifty [correct figures are 374 to 654].54
A careful reading of Blakeslee’s narrative reveals three important points. First, Blakeslee is not referring to the campground on the Vienna road, since the Vienna road from Palmyra enters the village of Vienna at its northwest side, north of the railroad. The Granger campground was located south of the railroad and southeast of Vienna towards Oaks Corners.55
Second, when Blakeslee speaks of the year 1820 he does not mean the calendar year 1820 but the conference year 1820, which began at the annual meeting in either July or August and ran to the following summer’s meeting. This is evident from his statement that “For 1820, Loring Grant and John Baggerly were the preachers.” The published Minutes shows that these two preachers were not assigned to the Lyons circuit until 20 July 1820 and served until July 1821, too late for a spring 1820 revival. Thus the time Lane was at Vienna and supposedly conducting a camp meeting during July 1819 was an entire year earlier than the revival period picked by Blakeslee, which [p.31]came in the year following July 1820. It is also significant that the preachers Blakeslee names were not identified with the revival by the man who was converted.
Third, it seems evident that Blakeslee places this flaming revival in 1820 because he noted from the conference’s published minutes that in that year the Lyons circuit, which included Vienna, increased its membership by 274. The conference minutes show that as of July 1819 membership on the circuit stood at 673, dropped by 299 to 374 by July 1820, only to rise again by some 280 members to 654 by July 1821. These fluctuations most likely resulted from a typographical error in the printed text for 1820.
This possibility seems especially likely when these apparent gains are compared with the experience of Abner Chase who was appointed presiding elder over the Lyons circuit at the July 1820 conference and served for the next four years. He reports only discouragment until 1823. Chase began his supervision of the Ontario District (of which both Palmyra township and Lyons circuit were a part) on 20 July 1820. This was the very period for which Blakeslee, on the basis of the published membership figures, suggested that a revival swept through the area around Vienna, converting almost three hundred new members. Yet Chase, who was making quarterly visits to the Lyons circuit, knows nothing of such a revival between July 1820 and July 1821. On 1 July 1824 he summarizes his four-year supervision over this district:
The Lord has been pleased to visit this District (Ontario) in mercy the present year [July 1823-July 1824]… . Four years since, Unitarianism or Arianism, seemed to threaten the entire overthrow of the work of God in some Circuits on this District, and on some others, divisions and wild and ranting fanatics, caused the spirits of the faithful in a degree to sink. But the Lord has turned again the captivity of Zion, and made us to rejoice. Though for two or three years [July 1820-July 1823] we saw no great awakenings, yet we saw that truth and rational scriptural piety were evidently gaining ground.
The present year [July 1823-July 1824] we have had some glorious revivals… .
Chase cites an awakening on Catherine circuit during “the last year” [p.32](July 1823-July 1824), with more than one hundred added and a meeting house built, but adds that “the greatest and best news” comes from the Lyons circuit. He then reports:
From the annual Conference [July 1823] where we received our appointment to this [Lyons] circuit, we came directly to our work, in the name of the Lord, hoping and praying for a revival… .
We soon perceived the serious attention of the listening multitudes to the word preached, accompanied with tears and cries for salvation in Jesus’ name. Nor were they turned empty away. In our prayer-meetings scores of these deeply penitent mourners, witnessed the power of Christ to save.
After reporting that entire families were touched, he continues: “How many have been converted cannot now be easily ascertained; about two hundred and eighty have joined the different societies, on the circuit the present year [July 1823-July 1824]. The work has been gradually progressing for eight or ten months… . Indeed we have been all year harvesting, and are yet in the midst thereof.” Finally Presiding Elder Chase concludes his 1 July 1824 report by contrasting the fruitlessness of the previous years with the bounty of the present: “This account may appear small when compared with some from larger fields and abler pens, but to us it appears great, who have been so long combatting the enemy, without winning much spoil.”56 Thus Chase’s report makes it clear that Blakeslee, writing sixty-two years later, places the revival on the Lyons circuit three years too early. Rather the revival began in the fall of 1823 and was continuing in the summer of 1824.57
Contemporary evidence thus requires an 1824-25 date for the revival Smith describes in his 1838-39 official history. Certainly memory at times conflates events, and perhaps Smith in retrospect blended in his mind events from 1820 with a revival occurring four years later. But the problems caused by the dating discrepancy are fundamental ones. That date for the revival provides the circumstances and motivation leading to the first vision and allows the four annual visits to the hill Cumorah, beginning in September 1823 and leading to Smith’s obtaining the plates in September 1827. A revival in the spring of 1825 would place the first visit to the hill Cumorah [p.33]in September 1825 and allow only one visit before Smith finally received the plates.
One historian maintains that the story may have been altered by Smith himself. Marvin S. Hill concluded that the 1838-39 account was “streamlined for publication,” making the story “more logical and compelling.”58 Hill concludes this because Smith in 1832 had handwritten an earlier account of his religious experiences into a ledger book.59 This earlier version varies at several significant points from the later 1838-39 account. It presents Smith’s motivation for seeking God in prayer due to his reading the Bible from “age of twelve to fifteen.” From this Bible reading he had already concluded that “there was no society or denomination that [was] built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament.” In contrast, the 1838-39 account states that prior to his prayer, “it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong.”60
The absence of a motivating 1824-25 revival from the 1832 account relieves apologists of a serious chronological conflict. Hill, who recognized that the 1838-39 narrative describes the 1824 revival, notes that “an 1824 revival creates problems for the 1838 account” but not for the 1832 account.61 Hill’s point is that we should give priority to the 1832 account as closer to Smith’s experience. It is to this earlier account, as well as other evidence, that we now turn in considering Smith’s early educational and religious experiences.
1. See Manuscript History, Book A-1: 1-2, archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives); JS-H 1:5, 7-8, PGP; Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), 1:269-70.
2. Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Manuscript (MS), “History of Lucy Smith,” 55, LDS archives (page numbering corresponds with a typed transcript in LDS archives and with the page numbers in the photocopy of the manuscript).
3. Ibid., 55-56; Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for Orson Pratt by S.W. Richards, 1853), 90-91, hereafter as Biographical Sketches; Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith (Salt [p.34]Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 90-91, hereafter as History of Joseph Smith. In the 1853 edition Joseph Smith’s Times and Seasons account was inserted into Lucy’s history (74-78), making it contain two accounts of the same revival but with different dates.
4. Incorporation papers of the Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra, 18 Mar. 1817, in Miscellaneous Records, Book C:209, Ontario County Clerk’s Office, Canandaigua, New York. Henry Jessup was referred to as Deacon Jessup; see Western Farmer 1 (12 Dec. 1821): 4.
6. For 1820, see Minutes of the Palmyra Baptist church under the dates of 18 Mar., 17 June, and 19 Aug. 1820. For 1824-25, see the Minutes of the Palmyra Baptist church, 16 Oct., 20, 24 Nov., 4, 5, 18 Dec. 1824; 1, 15, 29 Jan., 19 Feb., 5, 19 Mar., and 3 Apr. 1825. See Minutes of the Ontario Baptist Association (Rochester: Printed by Everard Peck, 1825), 5, for published membership figures for the conference year 1824-25.
The records of “The First Baptized [sic] Church in Palmyra” are now in the American Baptist Historical Society in Rochester, New York. In 1835, when part of the congregation organized the Baptist church within the village of Palmyra itself, the original records remained with the part of the church that would eventually become the Macedon Baptist church in the next township to the west.
7. Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1773-1828), published in 1840, report: 446 (1824), 471 (1825), 330 (1819), 345 (1820), and 366 (1821). The records of the Palmyra Methodist church were burned in a fire at Rochester, New York, in 1933.
8. Geneva Presbytery “Records,” 21 Sept. 1825, Book D:40; Geneva Synod “Records,” 6 Oct. 1825, 431, both in the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the Presbytery’s Report to Synod, the Palmyra church reported for the year between 10 September 1824 and 23 September 1825 additions of 103 members and a membership jump from seventy-nine to 178 (130 percent) with forty adult baptisms. See “Presbyterial Reports to the Synod of Geneva,” Presbyterian Historical Society.
For the quote, see Geneva Presbytery “Records,” 2 Feb. 1825, Book D:27-28.
Evidence of the increase of “Sabbath Schools, Bible Classes, Missionary & Tract Societies” also can be seen in the following three excerpts appearing in the local Wayne Sentinel for 15 December 1824:
Messrs. Editors—Please to allow the subscriber…the privilege of [p.35]expressing his gratitude to God, for what He is doing for the people of Palmyra, and likewise his thanks to a number of friends in that village, for assisting him in printing Tracts, and in setting up Sabbath Schools.
The collection taken up on the Sabbath evening, amounting to $7[.]72, by the recommendation of the Rev. Mr. STOCKTON, will afford the subscriber some assistance, and it being divided and partly appropriated to a Juvenile Library, for a Sunday School in Palmyra, it will probably be the means of commencing a Library there for the benefit of the rising generation….
By a Sabbath School Society is meant an institution for collecting the children and youth, of all denominations, whenever most convenient, for the purpose of giving them instructions from the word of God without any attempt to build up any peculiar sect or party. Such parts of the Holy Scriptures ought to be committed to memory as are of the most practical nature, and such as may be considered most useful in pointing out the duty of man to his Maker, and to his fellow creatures; such, for instance, as the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the xii. of Romans, iii. of Colossians, and iv. of Ephesians….
A MEETING will be held in the Presbyterian house of worship, in this village, on Thursday evening, the 16th inst. at half-past 6 o’clock, for the purpose of organizing a RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY. All who feel disposed to encourage the circulation of Scripture truth in the form of small and familiar publications, are invited to attend.
9. Geneva Presbytery “Records,” 2 Feb. 1820, Book C:37, and “Presbyterial Reports to the Synod of Geneva.” The membership for Palmyra shows an increase over the previous year’s report from sixty-one to seventy-one members. This figure includes those who transferred in by letter of recommendation from another congregation as well as those joining upon profession of faith, off-set by those transferring out and those who either died or were dropped from membership.
10. James H. Hotchkin, A History of the Purchase and Settlement of Western New York, and the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Presbyterian Church in that Section (New York: Published by M. W. Dodd, 1848), 378.
11. See accounts in The Christian Herald and Seaman’s Magazine (28 Sept. 1816; 10 May, 7 June 1817): 2:16; 3:103f, 164; Religious Remembrancer (5 Oct., 2 Nov. 1816; 17 May 1817), 4th Series, 24, 39, 151f; American Baptist Magazine (July 1817) 1:153; and Boston Recorder (17 Sept. 1816; 13 May, 21 Oct. 1817): [p.36]1:151; 2:88, 180. See also Joshua Bradley, Accounts of the Religious Revivals…from 1815 to 1818 (1819), 223.
12. Accounts of the revival in Palmyra during 1824-25 are reported in New-York Religious Chronicle 2 (20 Nov. 1824): 154; 3 (9 Apr. 1825): 58; Western New York Baptist Magazine 4 (Feb. 1825): 284; Western Recorder 1 (9 Nov. 1824): 90; 2 (29 Mar. 1825): 50; Boston Recorder 10 (29 Apr. 1825), 70; 10 (20 May 1825): 82; The Christian Herald 8 (Portsmouth, Mar. 1825): 7 (this last publication is the organ of the Christian-Connection church and should not be confused with The Christian Herald of Presbyterian affiliation); Christian Watchman 5 (20 Nov. 1824): 199; Baptist Register (Utica), 3 Dec. 1824; 11 Mar. 1825, 7; American Baptist, Feb. 1825; Zion’s Herald 3 (9 Feb., 11 May 1825), a Methodist weekly in Boston; American Baptist Magazine 5 (Apr. 1825): 124-25; and the New York Observer, 7 May 1825.
13. The following periodicals were examined without finding a single reference to a Palmyra revival: Baptist: American Baptist Magazine (Jan. 1819-Nov. 1821); Latter-day Luminary (Feb. 1818-Nov. 1821); Western New York Baptist Magazine (Feb. 1819-Nov. 1821). Presbyterian: Religious Remembrancer (Jan. 1818-18 Aug. 1821); The Christian Herald and Seaman’s Magazine (2 Jan. 1819-6 Jan. 1821); Evangelical Recorder (5 June 1819-8 Sept. 1821). Methodist: The Methodist Magazine (Jan. 1818-Dec. 1821). Congregational: Religious Intelligencer (Jan. 1819-May 1821). Christian-Connection: The Christian Herald (May 1818-25 May 1821). Other: Boston Recorder (Jan. 1818-Dec. 1821); Palmyra Register (13 Jan. 1819-27 Dec. 1820). The Palmyra Register has revivals reported in the state of New York but not in Palmyra (7 June, 16 Aug., 13 Sept., 4 Oct. 1820). Even when it describes a Methodist camp meeting in the vicinity of the village, it reports only that a man got drunk at the grog shops on the edge of the campground and died the next morning (3 [28 June; 5 July 1820]: 2).
14. Letter of Rev. James Murdock, dated New Haven, 19 June 1841, to the Congregational Observer, Hartford and New-Haven, Connecticut, 2 (3 July 1841): 1. Interview of William Smith aboard an Ohio River boat on 18 April 1841. Original of The Congregational Observer is located in the Connecticut State Historical Society, Hartford. This interview was republished in the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazette 5 (3 Sept. 1841).
16. Interview of William Smith by E. C. Briggs as reported by J. W. Petersen to Zion’s Ensign 5 (13 Jan. 1894): 6, Independence, Missouri; see also, with minor inaccuracies, Deseret Evening News 27 (20 Jan. 1894): 11; Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 56 (26 Feb. 1894): 133-34; Church News, 16 [p.37]Mar. 1968, 11. William stated that “Hyrum, Samuel, Katharine [Sophronia] and mother were members of the Presbyterian church” (Zion’s Ensign 5:6), which he described as the “Church, of whome the Rev. Mr. Stoc[k]ton was the Presiding Paster” (William Smith, “Notes Written on `Chamber’s Life of Joseph Smith’ by William Smith,” typescript, 18, LDS archives).
The fact that the names of Smith’s mother and brothers appear later as members of the Palmyra Presbyterian church who were dropped for nonattendance is further evidence that the revival Smith had in view affected the local Presbyterian church. See Western Presbyterian Church of Palmyra, “Session Records,” 2:11-12. Volume 1, which would have shown the exact date the Smiths joined, has been missing since at least 1932.
17. For his installation, see Wayne Sentinel 1 (18 Feb. 1824): 3; (25 Feb. 1824): 2. Also Geneva Presbytery “Records” C:252-54, 274; and Hotchkin History, 377. Stockton asked for permission to resign on 5 September 1827 (Geneva Presbytery “Records” D:83) which was agreed to by the local congregation on 18 September (D:85).
19. For his installation date, see Evangelical Recorder 1 (7 Mar. 1819): 111; or Religious Intelligencer 2 (2 May 1818): 800. On the terminal date, see Hotchkin, History, 341. Stockton remained a member of Cayuga Presbytery, which included Skaneateles, through 1823 (see Geneva Synod “Records,” 1:211, 238, 258, 374) until he transferred to Geneva Presbytery on 3 February 1824 (see Geneva Presbytery “Records” C:252). The Presbytery and Synod records are in the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.
23. For sketches of Lane’s life, see Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church 8 (1860): 40-41; William Sprague, Annals of the American Methodist Pulpit 7 (1861): 810-11; Hendrick B. Wright, Historical Sketches of Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Penna. (Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson & Brothers, 1873), 309, 346ff; Oscar Jewell Harvey, The Harvey Book (1899), 128-34; George Peck, The Life and Times of Rev. George Peck, D.D. (New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1874), 96-97, 104, 108-9; George Peck, Early Methodism Within the Bounds of the Old Genesee Conference from 1788 to 1828 (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1860), 492-95, and scattered references 166-67, 235-38, 309, 346, 428, 431, 441-42, 447-49, 509. Lane’s portrait appears in The Methodist Magazine 9 (Apr. 1826), and later in H. Wright, Historical Sketches, facing 346.
That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. SMITH jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible [sic]. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.
Cowdery’s eight installments which appeared in the Messenger and Advocate were recopied about October-November 1835 and are located in Manuscript History, Book A-1: 46-103 [a separate section], LDS archives. See Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:26-96. Besides being republished in the Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, IL), the letters also appeared in The Gospel Reflector (Philadelphia), were published as a pamphlet in Liverpool, England (1844), and were included in The Prophet (New York) in 1844.
25. Messenger and Advocate 1 (Dec. 1834): 42-43, emphasis in original. When Cowdery first published this account, he gave Smith’s age as the “15th year of his life.” He corrected this in his next letter, and said that in his previous letter the time of the religious excitement should have been in Smith’s seventeenth year: “You will recollect that I mentioned the time of a religious excitement, in Palmyra and vicinity to have been in the 15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr.’s, age—that was an error in the type—it should have been in the 17th.—You will please remember this correction, as it will be necessary for the full understanding of what will follow in time. This would bring the date down to the year 1823” (1 [Feb. 1835]: 78). Cowdery’s correction of the date to the year 1823 still presents a problem since Lane was not the presiding elder of the local Methodist circuit until he was appointed a year later in 1824. Smith’s 1823 excitement, as Cowdery reported it, was placed prior to the reported first appearance (September 1823) of the angel who guarded the golden plates of the Book of Mormon.
27. For official confirmation of Lane’s assigned field of labor, see Minutes of the Annual Conferences (1773-1828), 1:337, 352, 373, 392, 418, 446. In 1823 Lane was serving in the Susquehanna District in central Pennsylvania. In July 1819 Lane went with Reverend George Peck to the annual eight-day business meeting of the Genesee Annual Conference. This was held at Vienna (now Phelps), a village some fifteen miles from the Smith home. The “Journal” of [p.39]the conference does not indicate that any preaching services were held, and there is no indication of any revival touched off at Vienna or Palmyra.
33. Calvin W. Stoddard, twenty-three years old at the time, was baptized by Elder Malby of the Palmyra Baptist church on Sunday, 3 April 1825, along with his sister Bathsheba. His parents (Silas and Bathsheba), who were in their sixties, had been baptized the month before (Minutes of the Palmyra Baptist Church, 5 Mar. and 3 Apr. 1825). Calvin Stoddard worked for Lemuel Durfee, Sr., as is recorded in Durfee’s account books. In 1824 his wage was set at $8.50 per month and later increased to $10 a month for a period of eight months (Lemuel Durfee Account Book, 1813-29, Ontario County Historical Society, Canandaigua, New York). Stoddard married Sophronia Smith, who was then a member of the Palmyra Presbyterian church, on 30 December 1827. There were difficulties with Stoddard regarding open communion, and on 16 August 1828 a committee sent from the church to visit Stoddard reported that he said “that many of them were Devils.” He was excluded from the Palmyra Baptist church (Palmyra Baptist Church Minutes, 19 July, 16 Aug. 1828). He later joined the Mormon church.
45. Wayne Sentinel 2 (2 Mar. 1825): 3, 4. Unfortunately these reports have been mistakenly misdated to 1820 and used in several Mormon publications to establish an 1820 revival. However, the Religious Advocate did not begin publication at Rochester until about 1825, and its account quoted above [p.40]refers to the 1824-25 revival. For examples of this account being used to support an 1820 revival date, see Willard Bean, A.B.C. History of Palmyra and the Beginning of “Mormonism” (Palmyra, NY: Palmyra Courier Co., 1938), 22; Preston Nibley, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1946), 21-22; and Gordon B. Hinckley, Truth Restored: A Short History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979), 1-2.
47. Manchester, shown at about four miles distant from Palmyra, is actually five; Canandaigua, shown at ten miles, is actually twelve; Junius, shown as fifteen, is more than half a mile farther, and West Bloomfield, shown as fifteen miles, is nearly eighteen miles.
The two sites which should be eliminated are Victor and Phelps. Phelps and Oaks Corners met as one congregation and had only “prospects” of a revival. Victor should be omitted because the revival there occurred in 1830, not 1820. The History of Ontario Co. New York (1876) mistakenly reports a revival in Victor “in the winter of 1820-21, conducted by Reverends Philo Woodworth, Daniel Anderson, and Thomas Carlton.” It was not until the summer of 1830 that these three were assigned to the Victor charge. Carlton did not even join the Methodist Church until 1825 and was only twelve years old in 1820. See [W.H. McIntosh] History of Ontario Co. New York (Philadelphia: Everts, Ensign, & Everts, 1876), 203. For assignment of Woodworth, Anderson, and Carlton to Victor, see Minutes of the Annual Conferences 2:73; for Carlton joining the Methodist church in 1825, see Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism (Philadelphia: Everts & Stewart, 1878), 167.
51. O[rsamus]. Turner, History of The Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase (Rochester, NY: William Alling, 1851), 214, 400. There was a letter waiting for Turner in the Palmyra Post Office, see listing of 30 June 1821 in Western Farmer 1 (4 July 1821): 3.
55. Mabel E. Oaks, town historian for the Township of Phelps, explained to Wesley P. Walters on 22 December 1969: “As to Turner’s reference to the `woods away down on the Vienna Road,’ I fully believe now I was in error in interpreting it to mean our Town of Phelps village of Vienna…am afraid it was a bit of subconscious wishful thinking, tho I sincerely believed it at the time. I believe now Turner was referring to Palmyra camp grounds.”
57. For discussions concerning Smith’s first vision and the revival, and responses, see Wesley P. Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from the Palmyra (N.Y.) Revival,” Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 10 (Fall 1967): 227-44; revised and enlarged in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Spring 1969): 60-81; reply by Richard L. Bushman, “The First Vision Story Revived,” ibid.: 82-93; Wesley P. Walters, “A Reply to Dr. Bushman,” ibid.: 94-100. For a detailed discussion of Backman’s attempt in Joseph Smith’s First Vision to place an 1819-20 revival at Vienna, see Wesley P. Walters, “Joseph Smith’s First Vision Story Revisited,” Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 (1980): 92-109.
60. Earlier in this account Smith said that he often wondered about the churches of his day, whether they were “all wrong together,” which contradicted his later statement that such an idea “never entered into my heart” (Manuscript History A-1: 3; JS-H 1:18, PGP; Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:273).
61. Hill, “The First Vision Controversy,” 40. Hill later commented, “When Smith dictated a more polished version in 1838, it was altered in many details and more elaborate” (Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989], 9).